Indie Author Digest #102

So many developments since I decided to jump out into the abyss I figured I should install an update. I was going to wait for some major achievement, but it’s the little steps that are so important. 

For years I had been doing this thing as regards my art: trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. Man, what a sink hole that is. You get so desperate for feedback and approval, it reduces you to a lump. And that’s how I had approached my art for several years. 

As a lump. 

Once, my wife said to me, “I can count on one hand the number of days your writing has made you happy.” 

My God, what a statement. What a statement. I wondered how something that is supposed to bring me such joy and happiness and fulfillment only brought such heartache. 

Last year when Damnation Books offered a contract to publish DOM, I cried. I cried. Because finally something was good enough.

Recently, I’ve changed on the subject of my writing. And its good. A couple things happened. One, I decided to just do this indie thing. I mean, no more doubts. Off into the water. That alone brought relief. Because the absolute worst thing is doubt. It will stop you more than any cement wall. You just end up holding yourself back. So, I dispensed with the Doubting Thomas routine. 

Second, I decided to blog about the intimate details of it. To hell with trying to keep some public facade going. All sunshine and rainbows. No, I will give the real nitty-gritty. The hope, dreams, loss, hopelessness. All of it. Well, doing that made me real. At least to myself. I’m not a clown trying to make the kiddies laugh at my jokes, anymore. I’m the drunk clown now, getting grease paint all over my cigarette. 

(joke)

Third, I decided to do this: experience my emotions and see what happens. That is strange. I was so used to reacting to the situation and feeling bad about not being some famous icon that I was just drowning. So, I sat back and let them go. This last week I just roller coastered between hope and despair. I considered giving up. For real, just saying “fuck this” and making more money or feeding the homeless or something. Then I thought, Yeah, you’d just go out and write a fucking novel. 

That didn’t let me off the hook.

Then I realized. I am a writer. I just am. Always have been. Always will be. I’ll be a writer even if no one ever reads anything I write. That put some demons to rest. The demon that just loves to tell you how much time you’re wasting. And the other sonovabitch that tells you what a loser you are. I’m not a loser, I’m a writer. 

This is all rather personal melodrama, I know, but I am putting it here because these are MY barriers. These are the reasons I haven’t succeeded the way I want to. 

Then at some point this week, I became enamored with another idea: opportunity does not always appear in the guise you think it should. I had watched something happen with my business. Something magical that I had never dreamed of and it meant taking my day business in a direction that was profitable but not what I had planned. But who cares? It’s still opportunity. 

Well, the internet gives a lot of opportunity to writers. You can publish your stuff. Duh. So, I decided it was okay to accept the opportunity, rather than fight it because it didn’t or hasn’t appeared in the form of me being miraculously discovered and given a $100,000 advance, or a Twilight or Harry Potter phenom. Because maybe I’m not writing that kind of book anyway.

The Buddhist principle of being like water became my new philosophy this week. Flow like the river, not crack like the oak tree.

And then I decided to communicate en mass. To just let it go and not be ashamed of what I had to say or write. To not worry about whether I am being socially acceptable, presenting a “right face” or whatever. But to be genuine, to be myself as a writer and an artist.

These things have been plaguing me for so long, I can’t tell you. I didn’t really even know what they were. I was just…punishing myself, I guess. 

Then I got to work and started playing around with cover design. I never knew MS Word could do so much stuff. I designed two covers for short stories and cut my cover design bill down from $200.00 a pop to $15.00 for stock imagery. I would post them now, but haven’t bought the images so don’t think I’m supposed to yet.

This was huge for me.

I had thought that I HAD TO HAVE an artist. And could not do it without an artist. Well, actually, I had been designing covers and telling the artist what to make already. So…if I could just learn a little bit about MS Word’s design templates, I just might be able to do it.

The first one got a thumbs up from the wife straight away, while the second one got shot down out of hand. Then I redesigned it and got a “Wow.”

This, for me, is freedom.  It takes the limit off what I can post on Amazon. It takes the stress off, financially. You have to realize that I have about 1,000,000 words of material that I have been saving to my hard drive. Some of it is previously published, most not. That’s a fair amount of material and it all needs covers.

I also began formatting my first Smashwords short story. I am using Mark Coker’s book called Formatting for Smashwords, or something similar and he just walks you though it. There again, I found, hey I can do this. I am learning all about Word too and feeling better. 

 

Then I went back to DOM. It just isn’t getting reviewed. And it actually galls me and breaks my heart at the same time. You see, I know it’s a good book. I just know it. But…nothing. Makes me crazy.

So, I decided to apply my new attitude to the problem and went online to see who the hell reads stuff. I found this: I am all about helping you out in any way I can. I would also love to do interviews to go along with your reviews if you are interested. I would love to help promote your book in any way that I can.

I about fell out of my papasan chair. And that is not easy to do. You can break the base, but hard to fall out. Anyway, the penny dropped.

I have been barking up the wrong tree.

Next penny.

I have been engineering my own defeat.

Next penny.

I have been making the whole world responsible for my failure.

I would do this: approach my friends to read my book. Well, they are my friends, right? Wouldn’t they, shouldn’t they read my shit?

Yeah, but they’re not readers. Many even say, I just DON’T read and I feel bad about this?

I feel shunned about this?

You hear all the time, know your market. I never knew what that meant.

I looked up someone who agreed to do a review for me awhile back. A reader. I found 2,000 books on their to-be-read list. What?

I started to understand.

Stephen King calls them the Constant Reader. Well, they read ALL THE TIME. That’s who you want. Not the mother-in-law if she’s not also a reader. Not the Non-fiction reader. Of course, if you bark up the wrong tree all the time, you’re going to be disappointed all the time. And you have to understand that readers have huge lists of books to read. I do too. I buy books I never read. And I only review because I am a writer and would want someone to do the same for me. I wouldn’t normally write a review. 

It made me stop taking it all so damn personally. 

 

And I am not talking about being the obnoxious social media guy who only wants to talk about his book to every would-be reader he can find. I just mean, there are people who want to help and you should approach those people.

That’s it. Makes it pretty simple. No more banging my head against the wall because all my Goodreads friends don’t go out and buy my titles or whatever.

Anyway, it’s the simple things. This week saw a lot of simple, but powerful changes in me as regards my writing, my writing career and what I am doing.

I am taking control back from my demons. And I’m pretty sure that has to be done before anything else can be. 

Thanks for reading and I hope this helps someone else out there who may be feeling…well, frustrated. 

Zeitgeist: Vampires

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Ah, the zeitgeist! A fancy German word that means the “spirit of the time” or “spirit of the age” meaning, of course, the popular trend in a culture. We are all affected by such spirits in our age. Some more than others. It’s what resonates inside of as a culture, a people and as individuals.

I have chosen the ultimate zeitgeist creature for this discussion: vampire. Also, vampyre, vampyr, strigoi and other things. Essentially an Eastern European legend that, forgive me, never seems to die.

Years ago, when I first delved into the lore, I remember turning to my friend Keith and saying, “Now, Keith, I want you to answer me totally honestly. If you–if they were real, would you become a v–”

“Yes!”

We all know what vampires are and what they do, and are mostly familiar with the basic mythos surrounding them from Vlad the Impaler to Dracula to Edward Cullen. But the question in this blog is not what they are or what they do, but why they stick with us like they do. I mean, come on! Do we ever tire of vampire tales. No, we don’t. I mean, we just don’t.

So why do they resonate so well? Why do they represent this spirit of the age for all ages?

Big Lance had a theory. It went like this. Vampirism is really a metaphor for sexually transmitted disease. After all, the “infection” is transmitted through the blood, through bites and exchange of bodily fluid and the swoon from drinking the blood compares with the sex act itself.

I believe he had a point.

I never got into vampires before Anne Rice‘s “Interview” and outside of enjoying Bram Stoker’s original, never cared much for other renditions. I did like how China Mieville portrayed them in The Scar, but then, I like how China Mieville portrays everything.

I read Twilight and was disappointed with them in that book, not that that is such a surprise, but I admit, I liked the first Twilight movie. I thought the movie was better than the book. But, that leads me to my theory of why they resonate.

They are the perfect creature for eternal love and by that token, eternal loss.

They are wonderfully romantic, even when–or especially when–they are drinking from a woman.

I think most people would agree with that, but why? How is that even remotely romantic? I dare say, if I were to take a woman out and attempt to drink her blood, most women would shut me down, quick. They wouldn’t even think twice about it and afterwards, after I left and she was safely tucked away in her apartment, she would not remember it with anything but disgust and fear and perhaps, a little pity. And this would be despite her bookshelf that is FILLED with vampire romance novels!

So…that leads me to this: they are the perfect creature to explore our own human nature.

Now, the vampire has the unique ability to defy death and sickness, two things humans cannot overcome. Even if you NEVER get sick, you will die. Eventually.

Or will you?

For certain, the body will die. That much we can say without question. I would, however, venture to say that most people believe in some kind of life after death scenario. Some kind of soul, human spirit, ghost. Medical science is familiar with OOB’s or Out of Body Experiences. More than one person has “been standing there watching” when they lay him out and do the operation. Most people believe in such a thing, not all. But assuming that the human organism possesses a non-material aspect, one could postulate that when you die, some part of you survives.

Then in comes speculative fiction. What if that part of you, was all of you? What if your body survived its own death? What would that look like? And what if in order to maintain that state, you had to drink human blood? To what lengths would you go? How would you feel about that and how long before you tired of living, and yet, lived on anyway?

Anne Rice’s vampires go “into the ground” every seventy or so years. In other words, they simulate death. They need a rest, a release. Some go insane, others jump on a funeral pyre and commit suicide and beg the survivor to spread the ash so they won’t come back. Some slump into apathy and otherwise resign to their fate.

And some, find ways and means to keep it interesting and create reasons to celebrate, to carry on.

I don’t know about you, but that all sounds eerily familiar to me.

In this light we see ourselves without all the societal props. Through the eyes of the vampire, we begin to see beyond the immediate need to work, to make money, to collect possessions. We get a break from the hectic live-live-live pace of raising a family and doing everything we can before it’s too late. Suddenly, we see, its never too late and then we glimpse eternity.

We glimpse just how long eternity can be. And that scares us more than death ever could. Only then do we see what horror really is. An eternity trapped in this earthly existence feeding on the life of our friends and watching all those we love die and die and die again, while yet, forced to live on. Forever.

Eternal love. Eternal damnation. The perfect creature to see ourselves and the universe that has us.

That is how, I believe, vampires form the zeitgeist.

The Indie Author’s Life Digest #101

I had an old friend who after high school went off and became a hobo. A real life hobo with a hanky on a stick. He began train hopping.

It is still legal to shoot train hoppers. With guns and real bullets. It’s one of those Old West laws still on the books. Well, he got shot AT on several occasions, but managed to hop enough trains to see the U.S. One does have to admit a certain romanticism of such adventures. He probably tired of eating cans of cold beans and peeing out of moving side cars, though.

Shortly after I first set foot in San Francisco and became dumbfounded at the homeless population there, I decided I wanted to get to the bottom of this “epidemic.” I found an approachable bum, a young woman with dread locks and nose ring sitting on a colorful quilt down by Powell and Market. I thought, ah, the perfect “bum” for me to interview. She was pretty, after all.

I invited her to lunch. On me, of course. She declined saying that this time of day was her best time and she really couldn’t miss it. Determined to get my interview, I decided to bring it to her. She accepted gratefully. A couple of minutes later, I laid out a McDonald’s picnic for the both of us and sat next to her.

So…how did you come to be in this condition? I asked, innocently. Of course, I expected a terrible story of victimization and loss. She simply said that she and her husband got tired of the rat race and decided to sell off everything they owned and hop trains. And so they did. They hopped trains all over the place and wound up in San Francisco where the gettin’ was good. A younger man gently handed her some cash at that moment.

I have decided to hop on the train. The Indie Author Limited. And what’s more, I have decided to blog about the journey. Wins and losses, what makes me happy, frustrations, dreams. No holds barred. I have my hanky on a stick if I get cold and a cheese sandwich in my back pocket if I get hungry.

It’s not been an easy decision for me. And I hold the opinion that I must be a late bloomer in this arena. It feels a bit like jumping off a cliff. I decided to wade into the waters last year when an incident occurred that sort of pushed me in that direction. I wasn’t planning it. But it occurred to me that fate was playing the card. I’ve stopped kicking and screaming for the most part.

Last year it became apparent that if I wanted to put a certain book out at the highest quality, I would have to do it myself. I had found that no one else (even the publisher) cared as much as I did about the work and so, I began the foray into the unknown. So far, that book has a beautiful cover, a restored title and 75%-complete editing job. It’s nearly the best that it can be right now. This, of course, makes me happy. Tears of joy happy.

Well, it was just a foray then, a bit like a detective with a flashlight. It started with that one book and spread to all my manuscripts and short stories. So, I’ve got five manuscripts under heavy editing (or in the queue) and cover designs that are mostly done, at the moment. Two are close enough where I am shooting to get them up on Smashwords in January. (I have to figure out how to format them, but I am expecting minimal resistance on that front. Keep fingers crossed.)

I have spent $824.00 and owe $350.00 more for cover art. And no, that’s not money that “I don’t miss.” It took several fights with my wife and much pondering to get that money allocated in the family budget. Mainly because at the same time, I have been setting up a new business, my day job, and laid out several thousand for that, so, I am feeling it, as they say. And all that has brought up the stress levels considerably. I am heartened by the fact that the above cash outlay pretty much covers everything that comprises my unpublished “back list.”

Anyway, that was $300.00 for the first cover on 99 Designs, plus 1 stock image at $12.00. Then $200.00 on 3 other covers and another $12.00 stock image. Then I owe $250.00 on another cover and another $100.00 for another one, which will have to be paid sometime in 2014. I am having Amalia Chitulescu doing most of my covers and Alex Donovan do one entitled Poppycock, A Midsummer Night’s Mare.

I had planned to go to Necronomicon in Rhode Island last summer where I was going to set up a vendor booth for Demon of Montreal, newly released then, but cancelled that trip and expense in favor of getting these covers so I could do a roll out the first of the year, of which I am dreadfully behind on.

I have about 1 million words in unpublished manuscripts, about 5 first-in-the-series novels plus short stories. I kept starting new series in hopes that something would bite in a big New York publishing house and as a result ended up with many first novels. So…minimally, I have several series to continue now. Which is kind of good.

I am still groping in the dark, however, and I believe my flashlight needs new batteries, because my other book, Demon of Montreal, published by Damnation Press last June, is suffering from a lack of reviews and exposure. And this is the eternal mystery of my days.

I decided to offer a free giveaway on this blog and see if I could garner any takers that way. I asked for a review in exchange. I got some takers and emailed off about 5 review copies that way. That was in June. One reader expressed much interest, but may not have completed it. Otherwise, its radio silence on that front. Not the end of the world, but mysterious. That is the thing that gets me the most, I think. The mystery of what happened. Of course, as a writer and my own worst critic, I assume they hated it. But that may not be true.

However, I did realize that my blog gets some traffic and that is pretty cool. The idea that I can write a blog and connect with people around the world genuinely makes me happy.

Then I found out about Bookbub and rested on my oars for a good long while secure in the knowledge that I could do this service and get my book in front of hundreds of e-readers who are looking for new books in whatever genre I am selling. I think the reason I waited so long to really look into it is because the hope factor. As long as I believed I had a way to promote the book, I felt more secure. The act of actually going out and seeing if it was a viable path endangered that security. If that makes sense.

When I finally looked into it, I found that Demon of Montreal (DOM for short) simply isn’t long enough. A 30,000 word novella doesn’t make the cut for Bookbub. So, since that was my ENTIRE marketing strategy for DOM, I had to look for another way.

From this, I discovered that my own barriers and unwillingness to let go of a security blanket (like Linus in the Peanuts) is really holding me back. It seems the idea that big success is right around the corner pacifies me into not really looking for fear of what I might really find. So, have to overcome those insecurities.

It’s really odd, I only have those insecurities with my writing. Nothing else. Not business, relationships, etc. Just my writing.

All is not lost with Bookbub, however, because I’ve got 5 novels that I potentially may get accepted for that service, so, there is some possibility of future traction there. Keep fingers crossed on other hand.

I tried my hand at casually approaching reader’s groups on Goodreads for a free givaway, but am pretty sure I got the sympathy card response where I got any response at all and this has not panned out in terms of reviews. I have also come to learn, or hear, that Goodreads people hate that practice anyway, so probably won’t be doing that again.

I signed up with another subscription service that trolls through Amazon and pulls out the email addresses of the top reviewers in a specified genre. So, I type in Gothic horror and then watch the whirley gigs spin after which I get a dozen or so email addresses of Top Reviewers.

So, I sent out…I want to say, a dozen email requests asking these reviewers if they would be interested in receiving a free copy of DOM and putting up a review on Amazon. The idea behind this is to garner attention from Amazon’s algorithm robots and thereby get your book promoted by Amazon. Sounds promising.  I got no response on that deal. I am not sure if I should do it again and send out to a dozen more or maybe 2 dozen more. I am still debating on the efficacy of this service and not so sure about it.

Someone had mentioned on some internet board that LibraryThing had a place where you could post your book and get reviews. And to be wary because they give scathing rebukes if they don’t like it. After some thought, I jumped at it. Got DOM posted on there and day by day watched the number of readers requesting a copy grow. I put up 100 available e-copies and gave it one month. Every day I checked it and by the end of the month, I had managed to net 70 readers who apparently had all agreed to provide a review in exchange for a book, that’s LibraryThing’s statement to the reader. Not bad at all and I was pretty happy about that response.

LibraryThing sent me a message saying that 69 of those 70 had “won” the book and gave me their complete addresses to mail or email the book to them. I emailed out an epub and MOBI format book to all of them and got a “thank you” type response from about 5 of them.

That all took place on November 17th and I have yet to receive any reviews. Not complaining really, that’s just the facts. LT states that they expect their readers to provide a review within 90 days. So, no one is late yet. Of course, I am worried like a Jewish mother, but then, that’s nothing new.

Grandma Schwarz once said that all Schwarz’s are by nature pessimists. I have tried very hard to undo this early Schwarzian training, but old gene pool habits die hard. So, I worry.

I do have 6 stellar reviews for DOM on Amazon now in the 4 and 5 star categories so I am not a total pauper on that front. All of them I have individually solicited. One could not post on Amazon because he lives in Canada and never orders from Amazon so cannot post the review, which is kind of a bummer because he gave it a 4 star.

I am hoping that LibraryThing does pay off and if so, I will have a stable venue to outflow my other work in the future and hopefully grow a readership. Keep other fingers crossed.

I had a wonderful experience with Nerd in the Brain blog who not only readily accepted my solicitation for a review, but read it in a week and posted to Amazon forthwith and conducted an interview on her blog with me. So, Nerd in the Brain rocks.

I also just mailed a hard copy review copy to Horror Novel Reviews blog, which for all I can tell seems like a literal gold mine for, well, horror novel reviews. I became a fan when I purchased the novel Exoskeleton by Shane Stadler off of HNR’s recommendation. http://www.amazon.co.uk/EXOSKELETON-A-Novel-Shane-Stadler-ebook/dp/B008UYSTRO

But I am on the prowl. Still. For more outlets and options. And running out of fingers to cross.

I am reading David Guaghran’s books on Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible. That man seems like a saint in the Indie Author Universe. And I am taking the advice of Joanna Penn by calling myself an Author Entrepreneur, which has the effect of separating one from the generic indie trend. If David Guaghran is the saint, then Joanna Penn must be the Madonna of the Indie World. Of course, that’s Catholic parlance and you could move it over into any belief system you fancied.

The other side of this coin is all of the life events that seem to distract you from the Nirvana-like goal at the end. This time, the burst fire sprinkler pipe really made a mess of things. I am currently living in the apartment complex’s Model Unit. You know, the furnished unit they show you when you’re thinking about renting there, to show you the possibilities of what can be. Anyway, some of my things are here in the model, while my furniture is under plastic sheets in the other unit. This has made it pretty hard to do things like eat breakfast and go to work on time. Plus the weekend time will be sucked up by moving into another unit.

Living in the model is funny because half of things don’t really work. Like the DVD player. From the couch it looks like a real DVD player with movies underneath. But upon closer inspection you see the player is just made out of cardboard and the movies are fake movie covers. The phone is the same way. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I am living in a simulated reality for dumb humans.

Those are my adventures so far on the train car. Hobo life isn’t so bad, it’s just sort of uncertain. But the worst is done. The leap. Now, let’s see if we can swim.

New Poll: Which One Are You?

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