I am not a vending machine. You can't put a quarter in me to get free stuff exactly when you want it. You can't actually put a quarter in me at all. You can give me a quarter--I like quarters--but I am not a coin-operated story dispenser. I am a people.
I give away a lot of free fiction around here, both via my website (InCryptid shorts, Toby Daye shorts) and via this blog (Velveteen stories). In the case of the website shorts, they represent a lot more than just my writing time. I commission (and pay for) the story covers. In order to make the reading experience as easy and pleasant as possible, I have to ask my friend Will to convert the text files to ePub, MOBI, and PDF (which is, by the way, why I tend to shrug when people report typos; they're free, and the conversion is done on a volunteer basis, which means I am not going to ask him to completely reformat a file unless the error is so catastrophically large as to make the story unreadable). Once the stories are prepared, all the uploading and formatting on my website is done by hand, by me.
There is a lot of invisible back-end labor involved with bringing you a free treat. That's part of why I do the tip jars: they don't just justify my making time to write the stories, even if it means I might have to pass on an anthology. They pay for the covers, and for the administrative time I have to take away from writing in order to make sure everything is working correctly.
This is not me gearing up to asking for money, by the way: there was no tip jar in October, in part because one of the stories funded by the last tip jar has not been posted yet. Because even a "prioritized" story has to fit in around all my other publications and commitments, all the release dates I have to promote, all the conventions I have to attend. Because at the end of the day, while I want to tell you these stories as much as you want to hear them, I still have to be able to tell my publishers that they will come first. They pay my bills. They keep my main series going. They have to come before the freebies.
So why am I saying all this?
Because people keep emailing me going "hey when do we get the next free story." And this makes me feel terrible. It makes me feel like a party trick, like a vending machine, like I have no value apart from what I give away for free. I released a novel in November! I had several short stories come out, in several different genres! But when is the next free story. When is the next free story. Why don't we have it yet. Why aren't you doing it.
I understand eagerness. I genuinely do. I understand wanting to know what happens next now. I used to follow Kelley Armstrong's free fiction, back when she posted it regularly on her website; I get frustrated when my favorite fanfic writers don't publish chapters on schedule. But I am so outnumbered, and when all I hear is "why aren't you giving us more," it's really demoralizing. It kills my desire to give things away for free, and it makes it harder to keep working on those stories.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. But please, remember that I am a person, not a vending machine; I am not just here to give things away. And if I'm not posting something new, it's probably because I'm working my ass off at the things that keep the lights on, not because I'm lounging on a beach somewhere. Please have patience.