A free short story, just for you.

For those who don’t know…

I am Paul White, a multi-genre author of fiction, non-fiction, and semi-fiction.

Many of my short stories are available under the ‘Electric Eclectic’ brand, some are eBooks, others paperback collections, while a growing number are those wonderful Pocketbook Paperbacks that are increasingly popular because of their size, as they really do fit into your pocket. Perfect for reading while commuting or away on vacation.

You can find my books on Amazon and many other bookstores. All are shown on my website

Now, on with the story.

This one is titled ‘Free Spirit’, enjoy.


FREE SPIRIT

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When I walked into the apartment, I knew this project was going to be fraught with difficulties.

Firstly, the place has been unoccupied for some time; a musty dampness prevailed its entirety. I sensed this staleness was not simply neglect but an ethereal odour of others’ lives, of previous tenants.

Secondly, there were many pieces of furniture still in situ; old, dusty brocade curtains hanging at the windows, personal effects, a small trinket box sitting on the dark wooden sideboard, a silver-backed hand mirror laid on the dresser, and a time-worn leather-bound book on a side table, near the musty, torn chintz-covered armchair, all emitting a staleness of abandonment.

Before I could start the repairs and redecoration, I would have to clear all this old junk from the building. That would involve putting in some extra hours, late nights I had not planned. I was sure the extra effort would be worth it in the end because it is not often one can find such a large home for such a low rent in a neighbourhood of this stature.

On Friday, after work, I hurried to the apartment, eager to begin the clear-out and clean-up.

Once achieved, I could start on the repairs. Tearing off the old wallpaper, ripping up the musty carpets, filling the holes where pictures once hung, all that sort of stuff.

Then I would be in the position to begin to decorate what was to be my new home, my first home.

Fresh paint, light colours on the walls, modern, sleek, designer-style furniture, new light fittings, and mirrors. I like mirrors, they lighten even the dullest corners. I wanted the place to be what I can only describe as understated urban chich.

I was excited.

Tonight, I would be alone. My friends, the ones who offered to help, were all out on the town, or so they said. I don’t blame them for not being here today, after all, it was a Friday night.

Tomorrow, I had promises, commitments from them. I would have a small troop of workers grafting away all day in return for cold beer and snacks, oh, and pizza at the end of the day.

But tonight, it was just me.

My first task was to wrestle the largest items of furniture into a group by the lounge door, so my team of workers could easily carry them out to the skip, which was due by eight o’clock in the morning.

I was surprised by the weight of the old furniture. I’m uncertain if it was Mahogany or Oak, but it took all my effort to ‘waltz’ it across the room. No wonder the previous occupiers had left it where it stood.

By the time I had shifted all the pieces, I was sweating from the effort.

Opening the window did not cool me down. The air was too heavy and humid, and too weak to do more than slightly move those heavy curtains.

It was now midnight, but before I finished for the day, I wanted all the drapes removed, the litter from the floors swept and binned. I wanted this room ready for paper stripping, and carpet removal.

By the end of the weekend, I would be happy if this room and the hallway were ready for my creative attention. If I could get at least one of the two bedrooms stripped too, well, that would be a bonus.

Right now, my stomach was grumbling. I needed to eat. Anyway, it was time to take a break. A stroll to the all-night cafe on the corner, where I could grab a coke, a sandwich, a pork pie, or toasted sandwich. It would do me the world of good to eat something.

Once in the café, I decided I would be wasting time if I stayed to eat, so I carried my refreshments back to the apartment.

Wearily lowering myself into the tatty chintz armchair, I froze. Looking around the room in disbelief. The coke slipped from my grasp, spilling over the threadbare carpet.

The furniture, and I mean all the furniture I spent the last few hours moving into a group close to the doorway, was now back in its original position.

It was as if I had not moved a single item.

The window was closed, the curtains still, the lingering scent of neglect somehow stronger than before.

There was something more.

I could hear a faint melody floating into the room. Trumpets, brass. Smooth music. Perhaps a nineteen-forties swing band?

I shook my head, trying to gather my thoughts. This was not possible.

I moved the furniture. Placed it by the door.

I was trying to convince myself I had not, purely for my sanity.

The music was playing softly.

Surely it was coming from another apartment. Yet it sounded far closer, emanating from somewhere in this apartment.

Maybe I was overtired. Whatever; I needed to get a grip on myself.

I followed the sound, walking slowly along the hallway until I was outside the room where the music was coming from.

Someone was playing a joke on me. My friends have seen me leave, deciding it would be funny to mess with my head.

Angrily I snatched open the door, ready to yell at whoever was doing this, whoever found it funny to try and scare me.

The volume from the gramophone blasted out a crackling version of Chattanooga Choo Choo as I stepped into the room.

I halted, standing stock still.

I could not comprehend what I was seeing. This room was perfect. A nineteen-forties parlour. No damp, no faded wallpaper, no rotting furniture.

It was bright, new, perfect.

“Come in, David,” she said, “sit yourself down. I have been waiting for you.”

To my right, I saw a handsome-looking woman. She was wearing a flowing evening gown, long white gloves, and a pearl necklace.

In front of me, a well-ordered room, brightly lit and warm. Behind me, a cold dank hallway, the discoloured wallpaper peeling from the walls.

This was surreal.

“Don’t be shy,” she said, “come, sit, enjoy some champagne.”

She was holding out a wide-rimmed coupe glass at arm’s length. Hesitantly, feeling I had little option, I took the glass from her hand.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Oh, you young people, you are always in such a hurry,” she replied, smiling, and lifting her glass towards mine.

We touched glasses. Automatically I said, “Cheers.”

She smiled at me again, replying with a “Chin, chin.” She sipped her champagne without wetting her dark red lips.

I sat, bolt upright, in a small chair, and as nervous as hell. She lay back, relaxing on a chaise lounge opposite my chair.

If I were dreaming, this was far too real.

The woman spoke. “So, you want to move into my home, to come and live with me. Do you, David?” Her eyes were firmly focused on mine.

“There must be some confusion,” I said, “I have just bought this apartment, it’s mine.”

“Oh no, David,” she answered, shaking her head, “It will never be yours, it belongs to me, and forever will.”

 “I don’t understand,” I replied.

 She nodded understandingly, reaching out, placing a gloved hand on my knee, patting me like a reassuring aunt.

“My husband built this building back in the early 1930s. I have lived here ever since the day it was completed. I shall never leave. Now, I like you, David. You are a fine young man, so I am willing to let you stay if you wish to share my home with me?”  She left the sentence hanging.

I sat motionlessly, my mouth ajar. I did not know what to say.

“Well, David” she prompted, “what have you to say?”

“This place, it’s a mess, all old and rotting. I need to clean it up, do repairs, redecorate, get new furniture… except this room, your room, its lovely, I mean it’s really nice.” I knew I was gabbling, the words tumbling from my mouth faster than I could think.

“Oh, David.” She said, “don’t worry about that for now, just tell me if you will be happy sharing my home.”

“But when people come, my friends, family. How do I explain this room, or you?” I asked.

She smiled like an understanding aunt looking at a child. Patting my knee again she said, “No one will know, David. No one except you.”

“But this room, when people look around, they’ll…”

She interrupted me. “More Champagne. You look pale, you’re shaking. A good drink will settle your nerves.” She continued, “Think, David. This apartment, how many rooms are there? Don’t answer, but this room is not one of them, is it?”

I was mentally counting, walking through the apartment. She was right, this room was not one of them. This room did not exist.

My mind was in a whirl. “I, I, I don’t know. The furniture, I moved it. I put it by the door, now it is all back where it was. Then I heard the music and… and, I followed the sound. It led me to this room.”

Her laughter filled the room, “Oh my dear boy,” she said, “I have thrown you into a right tizzy, haven’t I?”

I gulped the last of my champagne.

“I have something stronger if you prefer?” she said, “a whisky, perhaps. I know what you men are like.”

I was nodding. It was an almost unconscious action as my mind was whirring. Random pieces of thoughts flew through my mind.

“Do not fear. You may decorate the apartment as you wish. I will not stop you, David. That is, if you want to live here? Now, before you worry too much, I don’t leave this room, well, only when the need arises, and I am sure I‘ll have no reason to venture out while you’re here.”

“I would like to live here but, who are you?”

“Oh, my. I have been remiss, haven’t I? How rude of me for not introducing myself. My name is Evelyn, Evelyn Keyes-Johnson.” She held her hand towards me. “So, David, are we friends. Shall you be sharing my home?”

I took her hand and shook it, although slight, Evelyn had a firm grip.

“I would like to stay, and I would be happy sharing with you,” I said, although I had not totally convinced myself. “I do have a question though.”

“Ask away, young man.”

“Are you a ghost?”

Her laughter filled the room with lightness. She smiled a wide, bright grin.

“As I died many years ago some people may call me that,” she said, “but I prefer to consider myself a free spirit.”

END.

Free Spirit©PaulWhite2022

FREE is killing indie. (An urgent warning)

If you have been following Ramblings from a Writers Mind, or if you have scrolled down, looking and reading many of the posts, you will notice they fall into two main categories.

The first, those where I share my experience and attempt, in my rather haphazard way, to impart and to clarify certain aspects of wordsmithing, along with tips and ideas you may wish to try or adopt.

The second Rambling posts are ones where I express my opinions and beliefs about being an indie author. Many of these articles create controversy amongst the varying schools of thought running through the indie community. I do not see this as a bad thing, but one which stimulates discussion and debate, a great platform to exchange views and examine convictions.

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This is the first of two posts regarding two current controversial topics.

This one is about giving away free books, an activity which is damaging the entire indie book market and something I am adamantly against.

So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into this wonderfully heated issue of free books.

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When Amazon’s algorithms changed some time ago, giving less weight in rating terms to giveaways as opposed to paid-for copies, many authors became less enthusiastic.

However, the advent of new players in the giveaway frame, such as BookFunnel and Instafreebie, has added a new way of distributing free books and a new purpose: to build your author database by effectively trading email addresses for free books.

While the jury’s still out on the long-term benefits we discover how many of these subscribers unsubscribe – as is their legal right – or not bother to read their freebies.

As with any decision, we should evaluate any potential short-term benefits alongside the long-term effects on the mindset of our customers/readership.

 The vast (vast, vast) majority of free downloads never get read, so giveaways don’t accomplish what they’re intended to do: spread the word, get reviews.

On top of that, many authors pay money to advertise these giveaways, and spring for shipping in the case of hard copies, so they’re actually paying people to get a free copy and not read it.

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Why buy the cow when the milk is free?

We’ve all heard that saying. Basically, the meaning behind it is that someone isn’t going to pay for something that is offered for free.

Whether it’s your virtue or your book, the issue is still the same.

When a writer devalues their work to the point of giving away their book, what are they really doing? Giving it away as if it were nothing?

It begs the question, are those authors so desperate to have someone, anyone, read their book, that they are willing to pass them out like pamphlets on the street corner.

Is the book so bad they think no one would or should pay for it?

What about the months, maybe even years, the author spent pounding away at the keyboard creating the book? What about the lost hours spent editing and reworking it to perfection?

Most authors sacrifice a lot to write a book. They give up any and all free time in exchange for getting the story on paper. That must be worth something; certainly, more than a freebie.

Authors tell me it’s a promotional ploy.

Promotion is great and today we must constantly try new angles and ideas to draw in readers. I have no issue with giving away a chapter to entice a reader to purchase the rest of the book, but give away the whole book?

It does not make any sense.

Many, often new or struggling authors, hope by giving away a book, readers will buy more of them or will buy the next book they release.

Unfortunately, it does not work that way. Readers are a very frugal bunch. If they can get free books, why would they pay for yours? They will simply pick up someone else’s free book tomorrow, and someone else’s the next day, and so forth.

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The numbers don’t lie

You may disagree with me — maybe your experience is different — but as a publisher, I have to tell you the sales numbers don’t lie.

While a select small number of authors may have seen book giveaways as a clever promotion to boost the sales of their next book, it is rare. Giving books away isn’t making sales numbers climb.

How could it? Free doesn’t equal bigger royalty checks.

Meanwhile, authors have devalued their craft to the point where even they don’t think it should cost anything.

I’ve been to a lot of craft shows the past couple of months. I’m amazed at the price of the handmade pieces people are selling. Then I think about the hours and hours of hard work these artists put into each piece and I must admit, it’s probably a bargain.

Are not authors the same as these other artists? Aren’t authors creators of their craft and shouldn’t they value their work as much as a woodcarver or a glassblower does?

“It’s a tough time in publishing for authors but the answer isn’t giving it away. To me, that’s the same as giving up.”

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People who get a free copy of your book will not convert to buyers.

You see there are two distinct markets when it comes to anything really: the buyers and the freebie hunters.

I know if I go to Amazon and I’m searching for a book about dogs I click on the top free category, I’m not leaving the free category. It’s already in my mind to not pay for something like that. Even if it’s an absolute hobby of mine, I already have a wealth of knowledge resources I can snag for free.

For instance, there are hundreds of new adult fiction books published every day on Amazon. Hundreds of those books are put into KDP Select and are set to a 5-day free promotion every day. If I’m an avid reader of literary porn and I know I can get new quality erotic stories for free every day, why would I pay for it?

Hell, most of them probably won’t even read the book, depending on the genre.

There was a time when I would go to Reddit’s free eBook page and go on download sprees. I Never read any more than 2% of those books and they were deleted from my Kindle library with the same quickness they were uploaded.

It did not matter, they were free. They held no value.

Your e-mail list isn’t going to grow substantially by giving away a book. Even if you offer another free book for signing up, your list will merely be tainted by freebie chasers. They will hop on your mailing list, snag the download, then unsubscribe.

I can’t help but laugh at self-publishing authors who brag about how many books they gave away in their most recent promotion.

Last time I checked, free never paid the bills.

2,000 free downloads of your sub-par eBook do not indicate any level of success.

If it was not selling more than a copy a week, then you gave it away for a few days before it sprang to a few copies a day, I would say it was worth it.

But no… it never happened, did it?

You see, when you discount your book to zero, it devalues mine too, in fact, it devalues every author’s book by undervaluing and diminishing the entire marketplace.

Please, don’t devalue our publishing world.

Giving away one free book can equal a part of an author’s mortgage payment, one of their children’s meals, maybe a new pair of shoes they shall now never own.

The thousands of free books given away mean many thousands of pounds/dollars/euros which should have supported an author and their family has been taken from them.

Giving books away is little different from stealing from your fellow writer’s pockets.

Remember, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

So, okay when would I, if pushed, ever do a giveaway?

Personally, never… but….

It seems to me that the only time to do a giveaway is to brand new authors and salty seasoned veterans.

Even if you have written ten books, but you get no sales, you’re still new.

The only, vaguely possible benefit, of ever doing a giveaway is most major eBook storefronts have an ‘also bought‘ section that shows which ‘other’ books customers also bought.

This is the ONLY possible ‘money shot’ when doing a free book offer (and ONLY for new authors). The population of this ‘also bought’ section will link your book to other books, (& vice versa) so someone searching for a book on a similar subject may stumble onto your book.

So, there you have it, folks. You might give one eBook away for free when you are a brand spanking new author, or perhaps when you have such a massive following and sell millions of books each month, that giving away a book that was once an all-time bestseller, possibly twenty years ago, does not matter a single jot anymore.

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….This is where too many indie authors fall into the FREEBIE TRAP.

Trying to emulate the marketing and promotional actions of major mainstream publishers who market the books of authors who are household names.

The truth is you do not know what teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy part of the publisher’s overall strategy their giveaway forms part of. It is definitely NOT a stand-alone, individual, and isolated ploy, but a small cog of an overall strategy, planned with experts as part of a long-term stratagem focused on future markets and indicated customer trends. A fact every individual indie author I have discussed this subject with, was either not aware of, or did not take into consideration.

My advice, leave it alone.

There are MANY better ways to generate interest in your works.

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Take Electric Eclectic books as an example.

Electric Eclectic is where you take a short story, one you may have forgotten and is lying unused and unloved in your files, or maybe you have one which you published in an anthology some years ago. The point is, where your story comes from is not really important.

What is important is your tale must be between 6k and 20K words, a story which you can turn into a Kindle eBook or paperback pocketbook. Publishing your short story as a novelette under the Electric Eclectic brand enables you to benefit from the brand’s extensive promotions and marketing initiatives, many which reach markets way beyond the regular social media platforms.

While there is a small, one-off licence branding fee for each book, you keep all the royalties and rights… but that is only the beginning. The true advantage of being part of the Electric Eclectic brand is that each Novelette works as your own marketing tool, leading your readers to your prime books and novels.

So, instead of giving your prime books away, or worse still, paying someone else to give them away, your promotional tool, (your Electric Eclectic book) is earning you royalties while gaining you potential readers for those main works. It’s a win, win situation.

It’s time to stop devaluing your books and yourself, make your promotions work for you.

To find out more email EEbookbranding@mail.com