Vorpal Blade Publishing Now Open

Oh my God, its been such a wonderfully strange week. Things are starting to move in the right direction. Really and truly. I have to take this moment to plug this book. If you’re an indie writer and you haven’t read Write. Publish. Repeat. You just need to literally drop everything and read it.

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I’m just going to say it right now. Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, I love you guys, man.

This book is what you need. The subtitle of this thing is “The No Luck Guide to Self Publishing.” Get it, the NO LUCK guide. And that was exactly the frame of mind I was in, I had no luck.

But that was the biggest problem, I was relying on luck and not the right actions to sell books.

Yes, I know how dumb that sounds, but I wonder how many other writers are feeling like that. For years and years and years I sent manuscripts to New York and got the rejection slips. I remember advice from people saying, every time they get a rejection slip they cheer because it means they’re that much closer to an acceptance.

Well, that just sucks.

A while ago I began my own little program of reinforcing the positive. Instead of telling myself things like “I don’t know what I’m going to do” and “Oh God, when will it ever work” I decided on this mantra: “I get what I need to succeed.”

So every time one of those nasty little imps showed up, I just told it, “Hey Mother Fucker, I get what I need to succeed” and shortly after that I got Write. Publish. Repeat. and Donald Maas’s book “How to Write the Breakout Novel.”

Well, the first thing I got over was this fear of reading books on writing. I am still very selective, but I am also very open to them  now. This helps.

For the first time, I have a business head for this activity. Not so easily done, but I have always had a good business head in general. Only with my writing I felt like I was swimming in the deep part of the pool with no floaties.

I’ve started networking my writing business just like my other business and what do you know, I started meeting people who want to help me sell my books to other people who like to read the things I am writing. In fact, I have been invited as the guest author at a Gothic Halloween party.

I am more than thrilled.

Here’s the moral of this story: I’d had the breaks on! I was in, Rejection Slip Mode where everything sucks and where the day is always gray and where people sneer if they emote at all, but more likely they don’t even see you because you’re such a nobody.

Ah, the demons we must vanquish!

So, check this out (and this really does deserve a drum roll), I present to you, the official grand opening with a real business license and everything, of Vorpal Blade Publishing!

Yes, I need to get a logo made up and I will, but VBP is now officially open and officially my publisher. How do you like them apples?

Do I send myself rejection slips? Of course I do!

In celebration–sometimes when I go out and do Day Jobbing I run across folks who don’t want to use old green backs for the transaction. Used book stores often don’t, so we go the old fashioned route and barter. I have tons of second hand books that were acquired in just this way, but last week, I happened upon one of these pre-monetary-system fellows and we made a little deal. And what did VBP acquire? I present to you, the official VBP Machine, ta-da!

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Ain’t she a beauty. And you can see underneath some of my many books from second hand bookstores just sort of slopping all over the floor.

Anyway, she’s a Remington Standard Typewriter Number 10. From 1920 or something like that.

So, all of VPB manuscripts will now be typed on it.

Just kidding. I use too much correction tape on typewriters and got a “D” in typing class because I refused to stop looking at the key board. Yes, I got a “D” in typing. Hey but I got the credit and graduated!

Well, that brings this little event to a close. There are refreshments in the back and, as they say, don’t drink the Kool-aid. At least not the purple shit.

In closing, there are more things coming. Like a fancy Poppycock book trailer which is going to smoke like an Indian peace pipe. And the second Poppycock book is nearing completion. And Thomas Hunter and Godsign and, and, and…

For now, I bid thee adieu.

How to Handle an Infested Manuscript

I am always in search of techniques to make self editing easier and more effective. Because, let’s face it, if you write more than a book or two, paying a couple grand a pop breaks the piggy bank. 

So, between myself, wife and my English guru friend, we tackle the subject armed with Chicago Manuals of Style and an assortment of dictionaries and self editing compendiums. And we flank our maneuvers with full tanks of caffeine.

We also go over the manuscript many times, about six or seven before we put that baby to bed. Needless to say, this takes time and since lack of time is the biggest enemy of today’s indie author, I am always looking for ways to speed things up and increase quality. Because you don’t want to speed things and decrease quality, do you?

So in the interest of community and assistance to my fellow authors, I would be remiss if I did not mention here what I have found. If you already know all about this, it wouldn’t be the first time I am late on the chain, but as they say, better late than never got out of bed.

This method I am about to expose, is based on a the principle that writers have crutches they don’t know about. Subconscious word smiths who are so dull they make Eeyore look like Bozo the Clown. Yet these sluggards have one very strong trait. They never drop a ball.

They go to work day in and day out, tirelessly pounding in the nails. These boys have no life. 

They construct pet phrases and little words that, when trouble sets in, at least get the job done and take the story where it wants to go regardless of weather conditions. These workman verbs don’t give a rat’s fanny pack how it gets done, just build that road.

I call it the Wyrm Method. “Wrym” is a cool way of saying “worm.”

These repetitive words and phrases can infect a manuscript like a tapeworm, sucking out the life while making you think you’re just hungry.

A couple of these ageless parasites are: Seems, stood, nodded, sighed. When the terrain becomes slightly more rocky, the Eeyore homunculus in his yellow plastic construction hat opens his thermos and really pours on a double dose of dull. Stopped and stared, looked and smiled, thought and realized.

Some other construction site parasites might include: cocked his head, spun on his heel, smelled the fear and that Mack Daddy of them all: between forefinger and thumb. Its just not a good book unless someone can hold something with his forefinger and his thumb at the same time, as if he would do it any other way!

Oh, its nothing to be ashamed of. We all need to walk on a sidewalk and when you can’t cross the river, you better build at least a rope bridge. The problem with these utilitarian words and cliches is not even so much that they are as tasteless as stale baklava, but that they are used time and again, like that Chicago pothole that just won’t stay filled after the next rain no matter how many times they come and pour in loose asphalt.

There is another problem. These boredom inducing bits posses a camouflage component that is more effective than a Trojan rocking horse. Around these manuscript murderers I daresay you will find whole nests of pathetic prose, passive voice and in general sleep inducers better than Ambient, but far less addictive. Find the wyrm and you find his brood of dullards in overalls and hard hats. Have no mercy. Exterminate.

So, if you think your manuscript might have wyrms, use my extermination technique. Pick a colorless modifier, load it into you search and find matrix and root those suckers out. And I daresay once you begin, you’ll find more and more and more, until they wither up and die and your manuscript will be that much closer to health. 

Happy hunting.

State of the Union in Indieville (for those who care)

I’ve fallen off of all social media bandwagons and online interactive platform thingies. I haven’t missed it at all. I am happy like hell not to be posting status updates on FB, sharing photos of my eyeball or tweeting buy links for a .99 specials. Oh, yes, I am. 

I do like writing a blog, sometimes, so you’ll see me flapping my gums on this soap box. 

I decided to close the door and concentrate on getting my work done. I also decided it was time to read some instructional books on writing. And I am so glad I did. It used to be that reading books on writing would just fuck with my head. I would get all screwed up and not be able to write anything. I’m a big boy now and I can trash the stuff that isn’t true for me and run with the stuff that is. That’s important to do as a writer. It’s huge because if you don’t, the road to learning craft is blocked and that’s a recipe for stale bread.

I started by re-reading Self Editing for Fiction Writers. That was a much needed re-visitation. I had forgotten so much of the timeless advice in that book. I feel awakened to bad writing habits. I also read How to Write the Break Out Novel and am in the middle of Indie Publishing No Luck Guide. The Break Out Novel was great, such a good take on writing fiction that appeals to everyone. Not what to write, just how to write it. Happy with that book. And the No Luck Guide to Indie Authorship, indispensable. These guys are my new heroes.

Oh, here’s the real title: Write. Publish. Repeat. I love these guys. Really. They are making me feel so empowered and able to succeed at this. No joke. This book is very needed.

I should give a little recap on what has transpired since the last installment of Indie Author Digest on this blog. As you may know, but probably don’t, last summer I decided to “go Indie” with my novel Prizm: Dominatrix of Sulan. I had gotten a killer cover for it and then was planning on doing a little clean up on the manuscript. That turned into a major surgical overhaul, that, thank God I wasn’t working for two months, I cranked out in a sweaty little room in Los Angeles. 

I finally got it posted on Amazon sometime around March, I think, of 2014. No, February. I posted it for 2.99, then frantically changed the price to .99. At the time, I was doing free giveaways on KDP with all of my short stories and so with all of the hubub, I sold a few copies. Not anything more than soda money, but hey, better than nothing!

Anyway, painfully and forlornly I watched the Prizm sales peak at like 5 a week, then slowly drop. I frantically changed the prices all over the place and then, when it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to prevent a crash, I just let it go. Now, Prizm still sells, a handful of copies a month. Last month I sold two in England and one in Germany. No new reviews, so not sure if its being read or enjoyed or what. I did send it to a couple of reviewers who gave it 4 and 5 stars. 

The thing is, it sells a few copies a month without me doing anything and it’s not at the garbage price. It’s up for 4.50 and well, it should be at least that. I even sold a hard copy book. It’s all pretty lame in terms of book sales and numbers, but it’s a start and I cheer every time I sell a measly copy. All my other books have flat lined though and that makes me feel dejected. Or frustrated. But what can you do? Perhaps they will sell once something else takes off. 

Since then, I have completed Thomas Hunter, a paranormal occult mystery staring a cross between Corwin of Amber and Philip Marlowe. I have also gotten Poppycock: A Midsummer Night’s Mare into shape and will be ordering the hard copy book print this week. I am excited about this book. The whole series actually. I have the sequel about half done on the first draft. I am envisioning a ten book series, each book being about 60,000 words. So, a fast read urban fantasy horror series with serial killing fairies, occult shit and tons of pretty girls and blood. The second is called Rutlinger: A Mid Summer Night’s Hunt and I am really digging it right now.

They will all be “Something: A Midsummer Nights Blah.” Or a Midwinter Night’s Blah. You know, like Poppycock: A Midsummer Night’s War. It’s a take on, of course, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, duh, and it’s about the war between humans and faeries and what it might be like if all that crazy faerie shit was real. 

So, Poppycock should be up this month, June. 

It all just takes so much longer than I expect, but once you get into the manuscript, you kind of have no choice but to burn out the underbrush. On Poppycock, after re-reading Self Editing for Fiction Writers, I found all manner of screaming banshees flying out at me and me going, “really, I did that?” or “Shit, I was really lazy.” For instance, I went through and did a word search on the word “Seemed.”

Oh God. Everything “seemed” to be and nothing was or was not, black or white, true or false. It’s really interesting to see what kinds of crutches you use. Another one: “stood.” All my characters had these horrible moments when they were just standing around staring at the walls. Some were doing a combination action of “stopping and standing.” I was like, what a dope, he just stops and stands there. There were others and I am glad I had the sense to search and destroy all that stuff.

You live and you learn.

I am hoping to speed this process up. My goal is to get 3 trilogies up and get into a book a month velocity. It’s going to take a while. Prizm, I figure, since it’s selling a trickle without me doing anything, is worthy of a sequel. Poppycock of course, the sequel is underway and Thomas Hunter is also sequel primed. Those are the three I am putting all my bets on. But, I have other manuscripts to get up, too. A New Weird fantasy sea voyage called Godsign that must go up this year, well, this summer. Must! And it also deserves a sequel.

I have another manuscript that I got a cover made for, but I cannot bring myself to do anything with it. I know I am going to have to just trash it and start over. Or maybe not. The ambivalence is killing me. Is it good enough? Does it suck? Couldn’t it be so much better? I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, I can’t bring myself to even look at it.

I am also working on ways to work my day job less and write more. I have got to get a million words on Amazon and elsewhere. I have got to crank this thing up and hit critical mass where the books are selling themselves and my promo action is to release the next book. I am not going to rent booths at flee markets. I would like to do readings, but not to empty rooms, please God, no. I still see the last guy who stumbled in on my reading and glared at me for making noise in his favorite coffee table. Honestly, I don’t have the time if I want to keep writing.

It’s a trade off. If you go and sell at fairs and conferences and push the one book like Sisyphus and the boulder, you won’t write new material. Well, maybe you will if you don’t have to work a day job, but probably not.

It’s a long haul. The funny thing is I don’t mind the long haul anymore. I really don’t. I think it’s because I know where I stand, I know what I am doing. I am getting better and better and learning and reading and writing and so, I know, it’s just a matter of time. I know it depends on me just doing the work, getting the manuscripts up to publishing standard, always striving to write a better tale and simply doing it.

I used to slowly go crazy, sink into apathy, think I needed other people. Not anymore. Well, readers, I need them, but that’s different.  

Well, I don’t plan to go back to Facebook for more than the occasional Like. And I feel liberated. I always felt it was a government surveillance strategy anyway. 

Until next time. 

 

 

So You Got a Bad Review…

Yeah, we all get them. No matter how good you are, no matter how brilliant a story you have written, someone is going to give it a bad review. And though we try not to care, try not to think about it, try not to let it bring us down, we do and it does.

But why?

We have other reviews, perhaps lots of other reviews raving about what a wonderful book, and yet this one lousy one, just makes us think all the good ones were fake or those people writing the good ones were somehow embellishing their enjoyment and being somehow false in their praise.

Oh, woe and strife shall be thy lot.

Well, I will give my take on this horrible subject. It goes like this: reviews are nothing if they are not biased. I don’t really believe a single review means anything. Every author, the greatest authors of our time get bad reviews, one and two star ratings saying “Drivel!” “Crap!” “Hack!”

You say, yeah, that doesn’t help, I still feel miserable about my crappy review. Bear with me for a moment, this is a slow dig.

Someone might say to you this unhelpful statement: “Not everyone is going to like your book.” Yes, we already knew that, thank you. Or this fruitless advice: “Suck it up.” Sure thing, coach.

The reason those kind of statements or commands don’t help our Bad-review-osis, is because they don’t really get at the meat of the problem. As an artist creating something (a book) that book is a baby and that baby, no matter how ugly, is beautiful to its creator-mother-father. So, anyone calling your kid and ugly bastard is apt to get you down.

More to the point: if Mr. Bad Reviewer would just do this one little favor, just this: be specific, maybe, just maybe we could understand and let it go. Apparently this is too much to ask for, however. But if it could be done the review would read something like this: “I thought the characterization of the step-mother was too stock, falling into the old and tired cliche of the evil step-mother who is trying to ruin the family and I would have preferred a fresher more modern approach.” Well, at least you would be able to understand where this reader was coming from.

Instead you tend to get things like: “The step-mother was just a throw-away character” which leaves you with two hang-ups: 1) what is a throw-away character and 2) who says?

In other words you have two problems: a vague comment that is meaningless because it is vague and an opinion masquerading as a fact.

Now, maybe this all some Utopian view of reviews and is totally unreal to expect a reviewer to take the time to explain himself, and to you I say, you’re right. My point here is how to take these uncomplimentary reviews and figure out why they’re torturing you so you can get over them and back to writing.

Okay, so you have a big problem in reviews in that almost nothing in a review is an actual fact. Take this wonderful statement: “The book was uneven.”

Huh? If you could just get a specific, a “In chapter 3 the move from first person to third person jarred me out of the story” or “I felt the authors voice kept going in and out, from Old Time Story Teller to Radio Announcer style.” Something, anything to let you at least understand what the problem was, at which point you could a) decide if you care enough to change it b) change it or not.

It’s as equally bad to say: “this book was good.” I have actually gotten “good” reviews that I felt disappointed with because they didn’t really say why the book had merit.

One way to evaluate a negative review is on the basis of: is there a specific and is there an actual fact. One review I got, a two-star said they didn’t like this dark story, but if you did like dark stories with dark characters doing dark things, you will probably like this dark book. Yes! This is the truth! So, in a way it was a complimentary “bad” review, because if I were looking for a dark and sinister tale about evil and magick and some church lady told me that The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker was a terrible, terrible book about dark doings, I would run out and buy that book right now.

What does it all come down to anyway?

Once you get past the opinions stated as if they were scientific fact and the ambiguous statements about quality, you are prepared to enter the next tier of enlightenment. Let’s face it. Reviews–all reviews, good and bad–are little more than biased, opinionated statements of one person’s tastes. And that’s not a slam on reviews or reviewers, it’s just that that is all any review can ever hope to be.

There is no “good review” or “bad review” because “good” and “bad” are not factual qualifiers. There are only reviews written by people who liked or did not like your book.

And then you must consider that tastes change with the culture. When I was fifteen, we used to pin the bottoms of our pants with safety pins and somehow, with our big feet being accentuated and our pants pinned to our skinny calves, we looked good. Now, I know that if I did my pants up like that people would think I looked really dumb and bad. So tastes can change.

So, now that we have dispensed with good and bad morality as regards reviews, we can see that we have people who liked the book and people who didn’t. Here’s where reviews start to have meaning, but it is a quantitative, not a qualitative significance. How may people “liked” or loved your book versus the haters. You should run somewhere along a 80% favorable (3 star and above) versus the 20% unfavorable (1 and 2 star) with some variance, but this is really what you should have and honestly, in the opinion of this author, what you want. Why? Let’s take a look:

All five stars? Really, every single review is a five star? Okay, so that’s not even real. Stephen King doesn’t get that ever and I’m pretty sure he’s good at what he does, so…bullshit.

Really, it must mean that the reviews are cooked or, more likely, the book doesn’t have enough reviews from the general public. So, in order to even get a picture of whether a book is (old system) “good” or “bad” you need quantity. Conversely, you can’t get one five star review and throw a party because you have written the best classic of the century. That’s pretty obvious how insane that would be. So, neither can you get a shit review and head for the Golden Gate Bridge. You need quantity and only then will you enter the next stage of literary Nirvana.

What are you looking for with this quantity? Whether the book is “good” or “bad?” God, no. We’ve already established that good and bad are meaningless statements of Puritan hypocrisy and a moralist based logic system. No, we want to see the only thing that matters. Ready for this?

What makes Twilight a wonderful success? The excellent prose? Nope. The amazing characters? No, no. What then? What makes Wool so wow-wow. Is it the author’s ballet videos? Nah ah. The fantastically realistic sci-fi technology? Not even.

One word to bind them: resonance.

If you got it, you have success, whether or not you write “good.”

It sucks, I know. What is it? Some could call it the zeitgeist. Heinlein did, about Stranger in a Strange Land when fans in the 70’s tried to actually practice the religion in the book. Twilight resonates with 17 year old girls everywhere, even if that 17 year girl is in your past or somewhere deep down inside. Twilight hooks you with Bella’s “voice.” Hunger Games, Wool and that new one, Divergent, all play on the fascination we humans have with our world becoming a dystopian concentration camp that we have to overcome and restore hope in.  Zombie stuff…somehow we love the idea of the end of the world coming by making everyone a soulless animal that we then have to blow holes in. Gothic vampires will never go out of style because the dependence on human blood with the eternal damnation makes for wonderful love stories that make us ponder the meaning of life and our role in eternity. Etc, etc.

Many things resonate with many different groups. Some groups love Rocky Horror Picture Show. The trick is to write something that resonates with the majority of people, but the REAL trick is to write things YOU LOVE that resonates with ENOUGH people to sell copies and pay the rent or buy that Aston Martin you’ve been eyeballing.

For me, I don’t like the big blockbuster books. They make me so bored. I read them to see why they’re such hits, but they’re soporific to me. Wool. It took me like 5 hours into the audio book to even get remotely interested, and then I admit, I did start really liking it, but I still haven’t finished it, because every scene in this Dean Koontz book stirs up the wildness in me. In other words, while Wool is a beloved masterpiece of the masses,  it doesn’t resonate with me like a good dark fiction fantasy story, like a 800 page Anne Rice back story, like a Weird as all get out China Mieville story, like a–you get the idea.

So, we now have a yardstick by which to rate the ratings and review the reviews.

1) Any facts in this review?

2) Any specifics in this review that you can actually grasp?

1 & 2) No? Dismiss as taste and preference. Yes? see if you agree or weren’t aware of the issue and whether or not there is something to learn from it.

3) Do I have enough reviews to even see a pattern? Or do I need more exposure before I can see an overall picture?

4) What is the ratio between favorable versus unfavorable reviews? If it’s swinging outside of the 80 “good” and “20 bad” you can:

a) review to see if multiple people are saying the same thing.

i) fix or not fix as you see fit or (better)

ii) don’t make the same mistakes in your next book.

4A) If you’re getting nothing but 5 stars, double to check to see if you really did just write the newest classic of the century, or if you need to send your book to people who don’t know you and don’t give a crap if they make you sad today.

5) If its something like 80 to 70% “good” then don’t pay attention to the haters. It didn’t resonate with them, because their head is wrapped around and fascinated with the zombie apocalypse, or  Bigfoot erotica, or vampire saints, or quirky girls who can’t stop shopping or solving crimes with their dad or, or, or ad infinitum.

Now, do you feel better? Get back to writing!

 

 

 

 

Real Books Are Still Better

Now, I know ebooks are the wave of the future and all that, but there is something to be said for the actual book. It simply makes it real. And you can put it on your bookshelf. I would say it’s a pretty handsome looking specimen at that. This baby will retail for around $16.00, which ain’t bad.

But indie authors beware, the Createspace salesman wanted to sign me up for their handy dandy in house service that does this for you, for a cool $300.00!

Well, no sir.

This cost me a cool $10.00. The templates for page setting couldn’t be easier on Creatspace’s website. I mean, you would have to be trying to mess it up.

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Indie Author Digest #103

I thought it time that I put up a new blog post. Mainly, because I haven’t done that in a while. I believe this one will be Indie Author Digest #102. I think. I will have to check and make sure it isn’t #103.

That makes it look like I have posted over 100 posts on Indie Authorship and that just isn’t true. I just started with #101 because that is what you’re supposed to do with checks because no one wants to get check #1.

I have also been writing this blog entry in my head for about a week, which is always an indicator that it’s time to actually write it.

So, what’s new? Well, I have right now, not gotten any of my novels up online yet. It feels so painfully slow I can’t tell you, but I am unwilling to “just throw things up” and feel compelled to make sure those manuscripts are as good as they can be. I am not trying to change the plots or re-do the characters. I am simply trying to get my style in, root out passive voice, fix typos and otherwise add in the missing pieces as I see them.

Well, I feel like if I don’t do that, I will be letting things slide and there is no reason to do that. So, what I have on the launching pad right now:

Prizm: Dominatrix of Sulan, Book One of the Jen Cycle: That’s not an erotica book despite Dominatrix being in the title. I was once counseled not to include that word in the title and took it out when I got it published with Double Dragon Press–oh, that reminds me, I got the rights back. Yay! Anyway, Dominatrix because, well, this particular story is, in part, about the fall of the Dominatrices of Sulan. A line of cloned, celebrity dominatrices had been useful to the State (the confederacy of Sulan) to control the population and this book takes place when those clones’ usefulness is no longer valued. The second book in the series is Prizm: Liberator of Sulan and has yet to be penned.

Anyway, I rewrote this manuscript and had it edited and now am having it proofread and edited again and it is on the schedule to go live by Feb 5. I am setting up a blog tour with: http://nerdinthebrain.wordpress.com/ and Ashley Nemer at http://www.ashleynemer.com/. And am looking for other blogs to tour. I have never done a blog tour so should be fun. I am going to do a “pre-sale” so that people can pre-order a copy before it comes out. I am told this is a “best practice.”

Next on the list is Poppycock: A Midsummer Night’s Mare, by A. Michael Schwarz.

A. Michael Schwarz, by the way, is the demon in my head that writes horror, Andrew Michael Schwarz writes dark fantasy and sci-fi, but not horror.

Some people have a problem with A. Michael, I think. Well, because he’s dark. And writes horror. Anyway, Poppycock is crude and charming and fun and surreal and real and messy (which is to say bloody) and interesting. It’s about the lengths two self-respecting faeries will go to stay corporeal and is based on the idea that fear is the most real belief there is.

I just went through that MS and found it to be in pretty good shape. I had actually edited that thing a ton back in 2009 and so, it was pretty good. I sent it on to my editor.

I have to mention Heather McLeod Anzalone, she is wonderful. Edits my stuff. First Reads for me and tells me when I’m being a lunkhead and when I did it right. Invaluable. Really, my proverbial top hat and fedora go off to her.

So, Poppycock will go up in weeks not months and I am pretty excited about that one. I just love that book. I had forgotten how much I love it and had thought it sucked and had remembered a lot of painful editing scenarios, rejection slips, and horribly long bouts of wondering how to blend certain parts of the story. I also recalled really hopeless lopping-off of huge, and I mean huge, sections, like cutting off limbs.

I guess such savagery is only right for that book; it is after all about a serial killer, among other things. Well, it looks like my labor has paid off because the damn thing is tight and hits you like a pro-boxer going for the knock out.

I have covers now for just about every MS I have and the ones I don’t have are pretty far from self publication, which is good because I don’t have any money for covers right now anyway.

After those two, or simultaneous with those two (Prizm and Poppycock), I have a collection going up I decided to call Detective Story. It is a collection of speculative fiction detective stories. I have a robot prostitute one, a memoir one, a possession one and the last one: a New Weird, other world, dystopian fantasia called Shark Bait. So, that will go up as soon as I have Shark Bait back from my editorial genius.

When Heather and I started working on Shark Bait it was in a real quandary. I had never really finished the story. I had added in a bunch of filler and called it the end.

Well, we worked that sonovabitch over and over and excavated the gold. Story and plot really shine now. And the end came natural too. That’s how it works if you have done the plot right, the ending just is. No effort. And with Shark Bait it went from Reaching for More Weird Shit to Clever and Simple and that’s always better. There was already so much other world stuff in Shark Bait I really didn’t want to throw in another bout of Strange so I was happy we worked through that. And I think I will release Detective Story as A. Michael Schwarz because of a preponderance of horror elements and Strange in it.

And that’s what’s coming out in the next two months or so. Maybe one month. It might go really fast since everything is starting to enter the last phase of whatever its in, like the last phase of editing, of proofing, development, etc.

Now, since the last post, I had put up two “books” on Smashwords. They are short books. One is one short story and one is a double-feature short story collection. I was interested to see what would happen with these books. I designed the covers myself on those and chose stories that had been published before elsewhere. And they are free on Smashwords and I am uncertain if I will keep them free.

Anyway, both enjoyed a rocket ride launch with downloads at around 20 per day or so. That lasted for a few days and then slowly over about a month they both petered out to 1 or 2 or 0 a day. The first one I put up, Behind Cold Walls, A ghost story, is sitting at about 150 downloads and 4 Facebook likes, for whatever FB Likes are worth. Love and Magick is sitting at about 66 downloads with 10 FB likes.

I was pretty happy that people were downloading them, but only one review came in that I prompted or asked for. It’s a great review, though.

And that leads me to the painful subject of reviews and Demon of Montreal. I had mentioned that I did a LibraryThing give away and gave away 69 books. Well, I have gotten two reviews. Yesterday was the official 60 day mark after the giveaway. No one is late yet, since they have 90 days, so that’s cool, but we continue to wait and see.

I mentioned the one review already, from a non-horror reader. And the second one is also from a non-horror reader, but this review was much better and the reader enjoyed the story and the dark creepiness. Well good! Isn’t that what horror is supposed to be?

But, I am not happy that I have so little action on that book. I feel like I am pushing that boulder uphill right there with Sisyphus. I am not really willing to take time off from everything and go single-minded and hell-bent to promote it and go do library readings and sell at fairs and stuff. Maybe I should be. Maybe I will become so, but right now I am just intent on getting ALL my stuff up and hoping that more books will promote my other books.

And I have a lot of material, so it isn’t going to happen in an afternoon. Still, I want horror readers to read Demon. I want the audience for that book to come forth or be found or mystically be created. I don’t know. I just want the audience for that book because for sure there is an audience for that book and it is not everyone, this I know. It requires a special appetite. You know, sometimes you want dark chocolate and sometimes you want vanilla ice cream. Sometimes you want both. Well, Demon of Montreal is 85% cacao and no vanilla anywhere. It’s dark and if you like that kind of thing it’s dark chocolate.

Sometimes I think I should write nice stories about mice with swords and cloaks and you know, maybe someday I will. Maybe I will. I could, though I would add in dark magic and for sure they would be wizards and necromancers and other things and oh, doesn’t that sound cool?

Today my wife was watching the story about the Peter Rabbit author and I felt ashamed that I don’t write those nice stories for children and that my stories are dark and not for kids and…and then, I remembered what I am trying to do and what the aesthetic is in my work and what these dark stories mean to me. They mean a great deal to me, they have truth in them, so much truth I can’t really explain it, and they are for some reason very important to me.

So, we shall see what happens after I have novels for sale online. I am not expecting thunder bolts, but I want these books to find their audiences, I really do and I feel for the first time that they can.

I am happy that I have “gone indie” and I am happy that I have a chance to reach readers. Writers and readers are not so very different, you know. For instance I read all the time and don’t even own a TV!

I will say this next here because I feel this is a safe place to speak my mind, mainly because if you are still reading this monologue at this point, my God, you’re committed and I applaud you.

I am not writing these journals for speed or even entertainment. I am just putting my soul on display with LED backlights. Anyway, I am supremely frustrated with Facebook. It seems if I am not uploading pictures of puppies or babies, then no one is interested. Well, I don’t have either puppies or babies and I don’t even want my personal life on that site. I don’t. I want it for my writing and it does not respond to that. It seems to reject self promotion or even self mentioned work like a plague in the twelfth century. If you’re famous already you can say anything and get 98 Likes, or more, but…well, you gotta start somewhere.

Otherwise, I shall bid thee ado, for now, and say these as my parting words: I am happy as a writer. I haven’t sold one lousy copy of anything as an indie author yet, but I am happy. I am happy that I can write what I want, edit it and oversee the cover design. I am happy to work with the talented people who are helping me because they believe in my work and that means the world to me, it really does. You know who you are.

Thank you.

Andy

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.