So, last week, my latest DarkFuse novella, I Am the New God, was released. If you haven’t already gotten it, I encourage you to check it out over at Amazon.com. See what readers are saying about over at Goodreads.com, too. Overall, I’m pleased by the reception and feel that the book had a stronger first week than my previous work, Children of No One did. I find that encouraging. It means my readership is growing. Things are moving in the right direction. Thank you, readers, for being a part of all of this. As always, I’m grateful for your support, and thrilled to be able to bring you something new, entertaining and — hopefully — thought-provoking.
My hubbie filmed several of our stops on the road. There are Youtube videos up, documenting our reading/Q&A session in Indianapolis, as well as a reading shot at Calvert Cliffs (an actual state park on the shore of Chesapeake Bay, used as a setting in the book). I’m hoping to upload some additional videos today.
I’ve also appeared on several podcasts during the last week or two (all part of getting the word out). Miskatonic Musings had me on to discuss the work of Thomas Ligotti. Dread Media did an interview with me that debuted last week (look for it in episode 345). I returned to the internet radio program A Book & A Chat. Though I was still getting over my head cold (and hacking up a storm), y’all will probably still find the interview quite nifty. And, just yesterday, I appeared as a guest on Jeremy Maddux’s Surreal Grotesque podcast (along with fellow-guest, Andre Duza).
It’s been a hectic pace. But it’s not work. I love writing and I’m beginning to love the whole act of sharing what I’ve written with all of you.
More updates, soon, kiddos. In the meantime, have fun exploring the linky-links.
Thursday, April 3rd 7:00-8:30 p.m.
I Am the New God Book Tour Kick-Off Event
350 Canal Walk, Suite A
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202
This event is free and open to the public
Friday, April 4th, 12:00–2:00 p.m.
Reading and signing event
2250 N. High St.
Columbus, OH 43201
This event is free and open to the public
Saturday, April 5th, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
KrallCon Music and Author Event
Freehold Elks Lodge
73 E Main St., Freehold, NJ
Requested $5 contribution at the door
Come on out. Would love to hang out with y’all.
Originally, I was planning to tack on additional stops along the tour. But instead, I’ll be visiting my ailing father and recording some video for little Youtube mini-documentaries. (The plan right now is to essentially re-trace the path of I Am the New God‘s antihero, Greg Bryce, as he fled from the police in southern Maryland and went to join the hierophant in southern Indiana). I’ll also be shooting video at some of the actual locations, such as Calvert Cliffs State Park, that I used fictionally in the book. I’m particularly looking forward to that.
I’ll also be recording various podcast appearances and taking part in the I Am the New God online release party on April 8th. Honestly, it’s going to be a crazy-hectic time. I’m looking forward to it, though. I Am the New God is a book that came from the marrow of my bones, and sharing it with others is something that’s important to me. A privilege, not a burden.
Last evening, I had to purchase a professional reference book that wasn’t available on Kindle, so I went to visit my local Barnes & Noble. But I didn’t just grab the book and run, because in addition to holding my day job, I’m an author. (Specifically, an author who has just finished a first novel).
It had been awhile since I’d been inside a B&N. Like many others in the industry, I’m a little obsessed about the future of book retailing. Can B&N survive? How long does it have left? Do brick and mortar stores really enhance discoverability? Should I focus my novel submissions on those publishers who can get me into brick and mortar stores?
So, with those questions in mind, I strolled around the place. Took (mental) notes and a photograph or two. Here ‘s what I took away from my visit.
Observation #1: The inescapable Nook display at the entrance of the store is still there, but it was no longer staffed. Granted, I visited on a Monday evening, so that might have had something to do with it. Hell, maybe the guy (or gal…but whenever I visited it was a guy) just called in sick. But, in any event, I was a little relieved to see the Nook display wasn’t equipped with a Nook-pusher. Sometimes they can be a little hard-sell.
Observation #2: I paid close attention to the amount of shelf space devoted to adult prose fiction. (And by “adult prose fiction”, I don’t mean erotica, but simply fiction for grown-ups. The kind of stuff I write; fiction not shelved in the — massive — children’s section, teen section, graphic novel or manga sections). Obviously, I couldn’t get out measuring tape and obtain a precise measurement of the percent of floor space devoted to adult fiction. But my rough estimate was somewhere in the neighborhood of just 25% (and that might even be on the generous side). There was a huge music and movie section (that had absolutely no customers in it, when I visited), and a huge children’s section. There were massive non-fiction sections. They still had a significant amount of shelf space devoted to magazines. Toys and games intruded quite a bit, too.
This makes sense. When C.E.O. Michael P. Huseby, reported B&N’s holiday sales numbers, he attributed the (relatively) stable brick-and-mortar sales to (among other things) “strong increases in our Juvenile, Gift and Toys & Games categories”.
The take-away here is that for a national brick-and-mortar book store to keep its head above water, it will have to stop trying to sell so many…well…BOOKS and start selling…well…CRAP! This isn’t just a trend at B&N. I also have noticed it when I’ve taken similar field trips to my local Books-a-Million store. If I recall correctly, they may have had slightly more floor space devoted to adult prose fiction, but were also integrating a vast array of toy, game, and novelty products. (Including lots of obnoxious Duck Dynasty products). In fact, if you’ve been observing closely, you’ve already seen that Books-a-Million is engaged in a subtle (or not-so-subtle) rebranding of itself as BAM! and touting toys and electronics, not just books, in their logo.
I want to emphasize this, because I think this is probably one of the most under-reported aspects of changes in bricks-and-mortar bookselling. The big question is not: “Can B&N survive?”. The question is: “What direction is B&N’s adult prose fiction shelf space going, up or down?” A B&N that survives, but only as a result of steadily decreasing the shelf space devoted to adult prose fiction titles is little better than a dead B&N, for an author like me.
Observation #3: I write
dark fiction, I mean weird fiction, I mean thrillers, I mean horror, and B&N isn’t exactly friendly to my genre. Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. Many bricks-and-mortar stores chucked their horror sections after the bust of the horror boom, in the ’90s. But, since it’s my genre, I think it’s a legit gripe. I think it’s also important to mention, because it gets to the heart of the debate over one of the advantages bricks-and-mortar stores allege to hold over online retailers: discoverability.
If I’m a horror reader going to visit my local B&N, I’ll find…
And, most confusing of all…
The novelization of The Lords of Salem and a handful of horror anthologies in…of all places…the Westerns section! (Alongside conservative commentator Bill Bennett’s The Book of Virtues , Amy Hempel’s New Stories from the South , and…erotica titles. Note: I posted this photo on Facebook earlier, and a bookseller friend of mine commented that what I was seeing was likely the end of the African American fiction section, followed by the anthology section, and then the Westerns section underneath. And, to be fair, I do remember seeing some actual Westerns on the lower shelves of the Westerns section. But it is confusing. And it still doesn’t explain the shelving of The Lords of Salem – apparently someone (customer or staff) thought it belonged there.
This same friend commented that Amazon had miscategorized his horror title as erotic fiction. So, yes, those mistakes don’t just happen at B&N. But at least he was able to catch the mistake and fix it. Here, though, we have a shelving scheme that by design scatters my genre’s titles throughout the store. And, short of a decision by corporate bigwigs, there likely is no fixing it.
Obviously, the conclusions that can be drawn from this little field trip are limited by the fact that we’re dealing with a sample size of one. This isn’t going to convince me to ignore traditional New York publishing as a possible career strategy. But it is another data point.
The I Am the New God Book Tour
The first three dates of this book tour have now been confirmed.
Indianapolis, IN Thursday April 3rd 7:00 p.m. at The Center for Inquiry (350 Canal Walk , Indianapolis, IN 46202) I Am the New God book tour kick-off event
Columbus, OH Friday, April 4th 12:00 p.m. at Kafe Kerouac (2250 North High St Columbus, Oh 43201) ; Reading and signing event
East Brunswick, NJ Friday April 4th and/or Saturday April 5th ; KrallCon (East Brunswick, NJ)
Several more Mid-Atlantic area stops are likely to be announced in the coming weeks. Watch this blog for updates as they occur.
DarkFuse has just placed my novella I Am the New God up on the Amazon Kindle store for pre-order. The pre-order price ($2.99 in the U.S.) is one dollar off the price on release day (April 8th). So get it now to save a buck!
“Audacious, original and gleefully offensive, a broadside against the entire notion of divinity, with an ending you’ll never see coming. Nicole Cushing is somebody to watch.”
– Jack Ketchum
Only a few in the world know the real truth about what happened more than two decades ago. While religions continue to covet their chosen deities, the gods we once worshipped were destroyed in the fall of 1989.
In their place, a troubled teenager named Greg Bryce assumed control—and he’s been presiding over and judging humanity ever since.
This is the tale of what happened before the world as we knew it came to an end, how Greg was driven by truth and lies, divinity and insanity, punishment and mercy, resurrection and murder, to assume his rightful place as The New God.
Pre-order link, U.S. : http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I8V0IVY
My novella, Children of No One was published, and earned a fair bit of praise (including a strong blurb from my literary hero, Thomas Ligotti, and a favorable review from Black Static‘s Peter Tennant — who compared it to John Fowles’s The Magus). A Horror World review compared it to the early work Clive Barker. There was even a positive review up — for a while — on the Famous Monsters of Filmland website.
And then…there were the reviews on Goodreads. These were a bit more polarized. There was very little middle ground. Readers either loved it or hated it (which, to my mind, is a good thing…it means I hit a nerve; my work actually says something, you know?). My favorite Goodreads review comes from Kristin (a book blogger at Blood, Sweat, and Books) who used an animated .gif of Stewie Griffin to describe her reaction, and then wrote: “I came away from reading Children Of No One feeling dirty, like I just witnessed something so deplorable that it should of (sic) never been put to paper in the first place.” And, hell, she liked the book. Gave it four stars. Ha! If that was the commentary accompanying a four star review, you can just imagine what the two star reviews looked like!
Another novella, I Am the New God was sold in 2013 (but won’t be coming out until this April). I was blown away when another one of my literary heroes, Jack Ketchum, offered it a nice volley of advance praise. Given that one of the main themes of the book is the monstrosity of the very concept of God, I expect it to provoke controversy and perhaps even more polarized reviews on Goodreads. One can only hope additional Stewie Griffin .gifs can be pressed into service to channel the outrage.
I had many short stories purchased and published in 2013. I saw my work make its way into Weird Tales — a magazine in which I’d long-aspired to appear. Not only did my story make it into Weird Tales, but it was often praised in reviews. One of the oddest moments of 2013 was when I found the Weird Tales story praised on the pop culture website Ain’t It Cool News.
Another aspiration was achieved when I finally earned active membership in the Horror Writers Association (after seeing the publication of three short stories sold at professional rates). Around the same time, I found out Ellen Datlow selected three of my 2012 short stories for her honorable mention long list for Best Horror of the Year, Volume 5. James Everington listed my story “The Peculiar Salesgirl” in his Best of 2013. Last night I found out that Tangent Online selected my Weird Tales story for its 2013 Recommended Reading List .
All of this feels great. I don’t think about it very much, but when I list everything like that, it’s hard to not feel proud, you know?
Something else happened in 2013 that bears mentioning. I’ve had to get used to folks in Indiana describing me as a “rising star”. It’s the big fish in a small pond effect, I think. Believe me, I have no delusions that I’ve achieved anything other than mildest of mild renown (and I believe it was the aforementioned Mr. Ligotti who said “There’s no obscurity like mild renown”.) But, this year, I was recognized in the grocery store (by a man who’d attended one of my appearances). I also had a younger writer tell me she felt anxious/intimidated to talk to me, because I’m allegedly a big deal. (Yeah, such a big deal that hours before I met her I was on my knees cleaning cat shit out of a litter box).
I also received more fan mail in 2013 than I ever have, before. That’s one of the best parts of the job, I think. I love hearing from all of you. On days when I feel a little down, such correspondence helps.
Anyway…again, I’m fully aware that this is all big fish / small pond stuff. But it does take some getting used to. I’ll admit that part of me kind of digs it. But another part of me is still baffled by it.
And what’s ahead for 2014? Well, I already mentioned I Am the New God, which will be released by DarkFuse on April 8th. I’m working on the marketing and promotion aspect of that release. I’ve submitted a short story collection to a publisher and look forward to hearing if it is accepted. I’m also close to finishing the first draft of a novel, tentatively titled Mr. Shadow.
I’ll be attending WHC in Portland, Oregon, this year. (I enjoyed last year’s WHC in New Orleans). I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. I hope to make it back to Context, as well. There are also some tentative plans being made for me to coordinate a Horror Writers Association booth at ScareFest in Lexington, Kentucky in September. Other than that, the convention schedule seems a little up in the air. I may focus less on conventions and more on targeted speaking engagements and online PR such as podcast appearances, etc.
I’m excited about my writing career. I love writing — just the act of it — so much. All the accomplishments I’ve listed are significant, I know that. But at the end of the day, they’re not why I write. I write because of the thrill of the indescribable brain-orgasm that rushes through me when I’m fully immersed in crafting fiction. I write because writing is my crack. This is an important point, to me. I never want to become so jaded that I lose that thrill, or that focus.
I don’t write to become wealthy (although wealth would be nice). I don’t write to win awards (though awards would be nice). At the end of the day, I write because writing feels great, and because I treasure my readers. All my brain-orgasms would be masturbatory if not for the fact they were shared with those of you who read my stuff (okay, that came out sounding a little gross, but you get the point). So, if you’ve purchased one of my books, thank you. If you’ve posted a review of my work on Amazon or Goodreads, thank you. If you’ve told your friends about my work, thank you. Thank you, thank you so much.
Now let’s kick some more ass in 2014, eh?
I haven’t updated this blog in over a month. Been busy with a few major projects. I’m a good 2/3 of the way through a first draft of a novel. I just submitted a short story collection to a publisher. I have other projects on my mind, too. So, when push comes to shove, I write rather than blog. It’ll probably be that way for awhile.
I honestly wonder, sometimes, if blogging is worth the effort. I wonder the same thing about social media. You know, Facebook, Twitter, and all that. I think of social media as essentially “the water cooler” where I get to hang out with other writers (and the occasional reader). There’s good stuff shared on Facebook, and it’s a good way to connect with authors who you might not connect with, otherwise. But it’s also a place where arguments can erupt seemingly out of nowhere. A place where opinions are expressed stridently. Where everyone seems to come equipped with a *different* version of internet etiquette (if any etiquette at all).
I’ve thought about killing my Facebook account entirely, but I think that would be throwing out the baby with the bath water. So, instead, I’ll reduce my participation in it. Maybe log on only every-other-day or once a week. Maybe cull my friends list, so that it only includes people I really want to continue connecting with. That kind of thing.
I want the benefits of being accessible and interacting with folks…but I don’t want the headaches of being accessible and interacting with folks. So I’m taking the next month or so to mull over what changes (if any) I want to make in how I engage with people online. My goal is to have a plan in place by January first. Stay tuned.
I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo, but I am about half-way through writing a first draft of a novel. This is a big deal for me, because up to now I’ve almost-exclusively focused on shorter fiction (short stories and then, more recently, novellas).
I made one previous attempt at a novel, back in late 2010/early 2011, with disastrous results. (Alas, The Sober Assassin was a 120,000 word practice novel that I never even sent out to an agent or publisher because it was just too sprawling and incoherent. It was a Kurt Vonnegut / Phillip K. Dick -inspired mess that was an utter failure in all respects except that it served as an excellent learning experience).
This time, I feel much more confident. I have a much better idea of my relative strengths and limitations, as a writer, and I’ve adjusted accordingly. This is a dark, literary horror novel. (My elevator pitch? Edgar Allan Poe meets Hubert Selby, Jr. That might be a poor elevator pitch, though, because relatively few folks who know of Selby. So maybe I should say “Edgar Allan Poe meets Darren Aronofsky” instead. There. Better?)
Unlike many writers, I don’t outline my books ahead of time. I’m what you call a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer (panster, for short). I’m a pantser because I really need to spend time inhabiting the disturbed thought processes of my protagonists before I have a sense of what they would do.What are their motivations and goals? How do they see the world? I usually don’t find that out until I’ve written a few chapters.
But I have, quite often, outlined my stories when I’m part-way through. This is kind of a reverse outline. I look at the structure of what I’ve already written and make sure it all gels, that it’s coherent, and that my pantser instincts haven’t gotten the best of me by assembling a piece of fiction that doesn’t add up. So the outline serves a different function. It’s not there as the writing equivalent of a storyboard, tracing out the plot ahead of time. It’s there as a revision tool, to “look under the hood”, so to speak, analyze what’s been written, evaluate how well the plot’s working, so far, and maybe gain a sense of where to take it from there. I want to avoid loose ends. If I raise questions for the reader, I want to make certain that I’m answering them within a reasonable time frame — to give them some satisfaction, and to keep the pages turning. (Granted, there may be big questions which won’t be answered until the last act. But there should be smaller questions the reader asks which are answered relatively quickly). A steady diet of question/answer/question/answer often provides the reader with a satisfying pace.
Today I used a specific format for this outline, and I thought other pantsers might enjoying seeing it and trying it out for themselves. I’m adding it to this blog post as this .pdf —> Reverse Outline for Pantsers
Note that this is just one format. I stumbled across reverse outlining on my own, but it turns out I’m late to the party. Plenty of people have written about using this approach before (just by Googling “reverse outlining”, I was able to find many, many articles on this approach; some focused on student essay writing, some on fiction writing). Maybe take a look at some of them, get some different ideas of how they might work for you, try the techniques out, and see which (if any) are a good fit.
Feel free to try it out and/or let me know what you think about this idea in the comments section below!
A few years ago, I attended a funeral for a friend who died, at a very young age, from complications arising from alcohol and drug addiction. I’ve had the misfortune (or, perhaps better said, education) of attending many such funerals in my life. It’s always a mess, a disaster, a waste.
The week after the funeral, I started to work on a short story to address my grief. I wanted to capture the awful helplessness involved in watching someone self-destruct. My friend who had died wasn’t involved in publishing, but I’ve thought about the substance abuse often associated with creative fields, and wanted to address that, too. (How many times have I seen not just a little heavy drinking, but full blown alcoholism on display at conventions? I won’t say it’s rampant, but it’s there. Over the course of the ten years or so I’ve been attending publishing events, I’ve seen it too many times). And then there are the familiar stories of the role substance abuse played in the premature demise of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Phillip K. Dick, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, and countless others.
You’d think the resulting story would be a heavy drama (or even melodrama, along the lines of a Lifetime movie). But, what emerged instead was a dark satire that I ended up calling “Eulogy to be Given by Whoever’s Still Sober”. It’s my 5400 word take on alcoholism, publishing, the zombie fandom, and genre conventions. And now it’s finally seeing its debut in the just-released ebook anthology TWO: The Second Annual Stupefying Stories Horror Special.
If the Stupefying Stories anthology series isn’t on your radar yet, you may want to check it out. The series is published and edited by Bruce Bethke (the author who wrote the ’80s short SF story “Cyberpunk” , which played a huge role in that term being used to describe a whole subgenre). There are about 185 pages of fiction in TWO, and it retails at $3.99. Wanna check it out? The book is available via Amazon, and should be available within a few days on other ebook retailers.
Amazon purchasers may proceed to one of the linky-links below:
I’m a picky reader. So much of what’s published these days (either genre or mainstream) just doesn’t work for me. So when I find something out there I do enjoy, I try to make a point of sharing that enjoyment with others.
I just finished Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas, and recommend it without reservation I’ve seen the book classified as noir, but I don’t think that classification really captures all its gloriously strange essence. I know it’s a little silly to compare one author to another, to say “if you like Author X you’ll like Author Y”. Doing that unfairly tethers present-day work to the past. But it is a helpful exercise — particularly with difficult-to-classify books such as this one — because it can give readers a sense of just what they’re dealing with before they decide to deal with it. So, with that caveat, I’ll say this: Love is the Law seems — to me — to combine the political commentary, gritty tension, and post-modern magick of Alan Moore with the dark satire of Kurt Vonnegut. At times it’s ridiculous — at other times, heartbreaking. But it’s never dull and always smart.
Go out and get yourself a copy (available in paperback and as an ebook).