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01 February 2010 @ 11:25 pm
“Hot Time” novella for sale!  
Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight
a story of the Old Races

“Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” was and is an experiment in direct-market story sales and sustainable income models for writers. Commissioned in June 2009 by some fifty contributors, the planned 7500 word short story grew to a 23,000 word novella centered around Janx and Daisani, two of the most popular characters from my Negotiator Trilogy. It’s also a sequel to the online short story Five Card Draw, and part of a longer sequence of planned short stories and novellas.

For a minimum $10 buy-in, patrons received exclusive access to the novella in September 2009. A second opportunity to become a patron for the same minimum $10 buy-in is now available through the month of February, 2010. At the end of February, “Hot Time” will be off the market until such a time as it finds a traditional publisher.

Cover art by Lanny Liu.

an excerpt from “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”:

    She was too young, even for a man with no age, but she caught his eye. Slim, dark-haired, with long fingers caught in the skirt of a shapeless dress, she was clearly not a child of wealth. She no doubt belonged to the riverboat upon which she stood, a shabby thing that had seen better days. Even so, in the fire’s light they both bent toward beauty.

    It was her gaze, fixed on the sky, which arrested him. Others watched the fire, drawn in by its glow and movement, but she looked upward as though she could see what soared above the smoke. That was quite impossible: even knowing who danced there, Daisani could barely see them himself, but the girl watched as if she knew. Such seeing eyes were enough that he might have gone to her then, despite her youth, but tonight; tonight Chicago was burning.

#

New York, 1923
    Flame trembled, danced, then fell into darkness. Vanessa murmured a sound of impatience and rose to find matches. Her lush speakeasy refuge had electric lighting, but she preferred the warmth of fire. She had since childhood, though there’d been no electricity then to weigh it against. Then, she had loved its power, even when it destroyed, even when it haunted her dreams; now, she loved its gentleness on her eyes, on the lines of her face, though she, of all women, had little cause to worry in that regard. Still, she read and played chess and cards by candle-light, and the flame that had died left the room just that much too dim.

    A spark; a scent of sulfur; and an idle thought that the guttering candle would have been better served with the living flame from another rather than the recalcitrant matches. A second strike woke a second spark, but no blaze caught. “For pity’s sake.”

    “Allow me.” A man’s voice where there’d been no one a moment before, first startling and then waking a whole new level of impatience. He stood behind her, close enough to be a lover, and folded long cool fingers over hers, as though he’d strike a new match himself. He didn’t: a scrape of his thumbnail against his fingerpad brought flame to life, and the candle’s glow warmed the cup of her palm as he guided her hand to light it. “There,” he said with evident satisfaction. “Much better, isn’t it?”

    “It might have been, if your arrival hadn’t blown it out in the first place.” Vanessa turned in his arms and put her fingertips against his chest, pushing him away. He fell back one step, expression all jade-eyed injury, and was obliged to step backward again as Vanessa returned to her chair.

    Well: not obliged, perhaps. She had known the red-haired man more than thirty years, and if obligation had ever sat on his shoulders at all, it had done so lightly indeed. Book in hand, seat re-taken, she turned a deliberately piqued gaze on him. “What on earth do you want, Janx? Eliseo isn’t here.”

    “My dear Miss Grey.” Janx cut a more extravagant bow than usual, then fell into the chaise lounge across from her and cocked a knee up, fingers spread wide in supplication. “It’s not Eliseo I want at all. Surely you know that by now.”

    It wouldn’t do to laugh; it would never do to laugh at Janx’s theatrics. He had everything Eliseo Daisani lacked: fire, vitality, humor; a face which would see him beloved in the moving pictures, if he were fool enough to take vanity that far. He was not, though, a fool. A fop, yes; a showman, without question. But never a fool, and Vanessa dragged her gaze from him to the surrounding walls, the better to remind herself of who and what else he was.

    No one else–no one else human, at least–had ever seen the tapestries from whence the speakeasy’s abstract glass windows came. Curved to fit into subway walls, as they stood they were beautiful rushes of color, lit from behind because this room was buried, a secret meeting place for a handful of men who were not human at all.

    Men who had, as it happened, lost its ownership to Vanessa herself, and who now came and went from it only at her whim. Largely, at least; Janx was ever disinclined to follow someone else’s strictures. Truthfully, she was surprised any of them obliged her winnings and her privacy as much as they did. She was only human, and a clever bit of card-play could hardly stop them if they chose to make this place their own again. But Eliseo and Janx admired cleverness, and what they deigned to accept, the others tended to follow.

    Unless the chosen object was a thing one of them had chosen to accept, and by doing so left the other to want it. “You don’t want me, Janx. You only want what Eliseo has.”

    “And are the two not one and the same?”

    “Not,” Vanessa said with a faint smile, “from where I’m sitting. I doubt you came down here alone to try to seduce me. Half your entertainment comes from doing that in front of Eliseo. So what do you want?”

    “I want to know how you won this place.” Janx spread his arms, encompassing the room’s curved walls, the rich carpets and heavy, warm furnishings. “I want to know how you managed to cheat us. Oh, I don’t care, I’m not going to eat you.” Fluttering hands made light of the way her heart lurched. “It’s simply curiosity, my dear, and I’m so much like a cat. My curiosity shall kill me.”

    “My concern is that it shan’t kill me.”

    He gave her a smile, candle-light never dim enough to hide the too-long curvature of his canines, or their too-sharp points. “Of course not. Not if it finds an answer.”

    She doubted he would do it. Not for any love he had for her, but because of the delicate dance between himself and Eliseo. If she were to die here, in the speakeasy she’d won as her own, Eliseo would have no doubt as to her murderer. It would lack subtlety, and Janx was too much a master of their game for that.

    And yet it wasn’t a bluff to call. Not so obviously, at least, as by refusing him. Vanessa set her book aside, studying the lanky red-head across from her. The firelight was good to him, making his skin gold, bringing life to his reposed form. Living shadow danced where light would not fall and brought with it memories so long occluded she could only half believe they were real. No: more than half, now, and for a long time since, but there were questions she had never dared lay at the feet of the men she’d come to know.

    Questions which now, unexpectedly, had an opportunity to be asked. “A curiosity for a curiosity, Janx. I’ll tell you for a price.”

    He sat up in an explosion of movement, interest brightening his jade eyes. “You surprise me, my dear. Name your price, and we shall see if I’ll play your game.”

    “No.” She knew better: neither Janx nor Daisani, nor any of the others she’d met, were men with whom to settle the details of a bet after the fact. “This is the game. One of your curiosities satisfied in exchange for one of mine, or we both go away unsatisfied.”

    The impulse for low-brow humor scampered across his face, but she’d been right, before: it was only in Eliseo’s presence that Janx truly enjoyed flirting with her. His humor was replaced by petulance and he waved a hand sullenly. “Oh, very well. What do you want to know?”

    Triumph spattered through her. “Tell me what happened in Chicago.”

    Janx’s silence was so complete, so still, that it seemed the candle-light had died. That Vanessa was alone in the dark, with no companion but her heartbeat, and then he said, oh so softly, “Her name was Susannah, and like the best of you, she was only human.”

From Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight</p> (x-posted from the essential kit)
 
 
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Anna the Piperannathepiper on February 2nd, 2010 02:03 am (UTC)
Yay! I just threw you payment. ^_^
kitmizkit on February 2nd, 2010 06:28 am (UTC)
and did you get an automagic download? That's what's *supposed* to happen, but if it didn't I need to email everybody the file! :)
Anna the Piperannathepiper on February 2nd, 2010 12:22 pm (UTC)
No automagic download, I fear! Paypal acknowledged the payment but I got no mail about a download link. Or should I have clicked that button that said "return to merchant"? I didn't, and might have missed a file that way?
kitmizkit on February 2nd, 2010 01:20 pm (UTC)
Oh,yes, that would have been the thing to do. It would've brought you to the download page. I'll email you a copy. :)
Anna the Piperannathepiper on February 2nd, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
Oh okay! Thanks! Hurray, shiny Kitminibook! ^_^
Indigo: Ooo... Shinyanindigomind on February 2nd, 2010 10:43 am (UTC)
Yay! I've been waiting for this! I missed it the first time around. ^^; It downloaded fine for me.
kitmizkit on February 2nd, 2010 10:51 am (UTC)
Excellent! Enjoy!
Cally Beck: kittyeldestmuse on February 2nd, 2010 10:59 am (UTC)
Sustainable Funding Models
I tried to paypal donate from your website for the Five Card Draw short story, and got the following error:

We were unable to decrypt the certificate id.

:(
kitmizkit on February 2nd, 2010 11:02 am (UTC)
Re: Sustainable Funding Models
Oh, hm. Those are older buttons. I'll replace them! In the meantime, er, my Paypal email address is open AT mizkit DOT com, which information seems sort of crass to tell you. :)
Cally Beck: kittyeldestmuse on February 2nd, 2010 11:17 am (UTC)
Re: Sustainable Funding Models
Pft. You deserve to be compensated for your time! Payment for service isn't crass--any more than a plumber telling me where I can make his check out to :D

I'm not sure I can figure out how to work paypal with an e-mail address, but I will try!
pgwfolcpgwfolc on February 2nd, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link to Five Card Draw. I'm sorry I missed seeing that before.

I'm interested in this novella, but I'm curious about what you mean by "patron" and "minimum buy-in." Exactly what would I be a patron of, and what would I be buying into?

Also, if you don't mind my asking... How'd you come to the price? $10 is what I'd pay at Amazon for a full-length novel. It's what they're charging for paperback or Kindle editions of the Negotiator Trilogy books. And you only get a fraction of that. I'm not disputing your right to charge what you deem appropriate. Nor am I suggesting at this point that you lower the price when others have already bought in at that level. I'm just trying to understand what's behind the number.

I guess what I'm really asking in both cases is this: You say it's an experiment designed to test a new sustainable model, which is admirable and something I feel I could get behind. But... could you actually explain the model?
kitmizkit on February 2nd, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
Well, last summer I did this thing where I basically said, "Want to be a short story patron?" and asked people to buy in to Hot Time. If I reached my minimum fundraising goal, which was a little over $800, I'd write the short story (except it turned out to be a novella, when I did write it, so frankly they got a bargain--I'd have been paid about $4K by my Old Races publisher for the novella) and make it available to the people who were my patrons for the piece. It's essentially a modern day way of becoming a patron of the arts, I suppose you'd say; you buy in and commission a story, to which you then get exclusive access. I made it clear at the time that it was not a permanent exclusivity; I was pretty much always going to offer a second opportunity to buy in, and then, as it says above, the story goes off the market until I find a traditional publisher for it. So the exclusivity remains pretty high, if not *as* high as it was with only a single buy-in opportunity.

The price was entirely set by the fact that the site I used, fundable.com (which is now defunct) had a minimum $10 buy-in level, so everybody who became a patron/commissioned the story/whatever you want to call it back in June/July had to pay at least that much, so it seemed only fair to leave it at that level.

The whole thing overall is an experiment in crowdfunding/direct market sales. From an writer's perspective, it's a way to offer stories for cash in a comparatively short turnaround, which is not generally how I see money. :) The direct market aspect makes a whole lot of difference to me financially: yeah, the Kindle books are $9.99, and it's a full-length book, but I see about $.75 from each of those sales somewhere between four and six months (at the speediest end) after the purchase, as opposed to the whole ten bucks more or less immediately. It's a better deal for me financially, and you could very reasonably look at it as a rip-off from a buyer's point of view, but on the other hand, me being able to pay bills without panicking goes a long way toward helping get the next book out on time. It's just different ways to consider the whole artistic funding model.
pgwfolcpgwfolc on February 2nd, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the explanation. Makes a lot more sense now.

Like I said, I can get behind a crowdsourcing model. I appreciate your work and would like to support you as an artist in exchange for the enjoyment your work brings. I'm also all for direct funding. Who needs the middlemen? Especially when they're entire corporations taking more than their fair share?

I mean... I have a friend who sometimes works as a contractor through a larger company. Their price is 50% of her gross earnings. Granted, that buys the use of their building, services of the staff, the stamp of legitimacy the company represents, etc. A fair cut is justified. Still, when you get down to it... she does the work and they take half the money? Seems like a rip-off to me. And here you're talking about doing all the work and getting less than 10% of the money? What kind of deal is that?

So... yeah. I like this idea. You still need the servers and the PayPal fee and some method of advertising, but you end up with a much better percentage. And you have more flexibility in how you go about getting those things.

Which just leaves the question of price. Though if the minimum was set for you, that makes sense. (And if I do my math right, it looks like some people went above the minimum in the first wave, paying an average of $16. Good for them. And for you, come to that.) Worth it to help the experiment see success, in any case.

Also... Hey! New Old Races story! W00t!
kitmizkit on February 3rd, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
I'll put together a blog post on the topic sometime this week, since it's probably worth reiterating and I'm sure there were others not around while I was running the initial commission structure.

Largely, I have no issue at *all* with a publisher doing all the heavy lifting for publication and promotion--I do the creative work, it's true, but they do everything else--and I would not be able to successfully run a crowdfunding project without the name recognition I've been granted by my publisher*, so while I would love, over the long term, to do several patron-based projects, I'll never step away from my traditional publishers. I love 'em too much. :)

The first wave had people join up at anywhere from $10 to $100, really--some very generous souls out there! I'd have probably set a minimum buy-in of $5, myself, but since it wasn't a choice at the time, for this story, at least, the buy-in is and remains $10. Maybe next time I'll be able to do a $5 patronage.

*not, at least, without declaring financial emergencies, which does seem to be an effective way to get crowdfunding...
pgwfolcpgwfolc on February 3rd, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I recognize that they do their share, and that you need their infrastructure. Still, a 90% cut* seems rather steep. Especially when we're talking about electronic publishing, where you no longer have the costs of producing and distributing physical copies.

As for the price... It's funny. $5 seems a little on the cheap side. Although reasonable for a short story. But then $7 seems an odd number (no pun intended). I don't know.

And now I'm wondering whatever happened with that experiment by Radiohead, where they released a song free on their website and let people pay what they thought it was worth. I heard it was happening, but no one mentioned the results. (Hmm. Now the Wiki article about the song and the band's blog post don't mention anything about payment...)

Anyway... Looking forward to reading the story. (I bought it, but I'd already started something else. It's in the queue.) Thanks again for the answers. Good luck with future endeavors.

*Though I suppose it's somewhat less if you factor in the advance.