Thursday, December 31, 2009

Testing testosterone 2010

Nothing says "I love you" like a chainsaw.

My beautiful wife gave me a chainsaw for Christmas and it coincided with a major ice storm. So it's been a frenzy of firewood, beaver fever, wood woodies, bzzzzZZZZ. She digs the smell of sweat and sawdust so it all works out.

In writing news, I'm in the stretch run of the last paranormal novel and continuing on with the Richard Coldiron follow-up and planning a cool YA novel. It looks like 2010 will be a great year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Testing the e-book waters

With so many Kindle readers being sold and success achieved by writers like J.A. Konrath and Lee Goldberg, I am testing the waters with a couple of e-book releases. The first one I have planned is "Burial To Follow," a novelette originally appearing in the Cemetery Dance anthology Brimstone Turnpike. It's a test case to sort out formatting, but it's also one of my Top Five works ever, and the original release was limited to 626 copies. So this is a chance to get the story into the hands of many more readers, which of course is the real point. It also doesn't hurt that the money flows directly to the writer's bank account.

I am divided on e-books and I remember in the 1990s when everyone said e-books were the immediate future (indeed, some said it was the present). I guess along with personal jet-cars and robot house servants, we'll just have to wait a while, but the undeniable truth is that bookstores are closing, paper books cost money to bind and ship, and distribution is still the largest single barrier between a good writer and an audience. Like Konrath and Goldberg, I still say writers should get the agent/major publisher paper deal and try the most difficult path possible before taking the easy way out and slapping up a bunch of e-books and hoping someone will recognize genius.

Another undeniable truth is that a lot more e-readers are being produced and sold, not just the Kindle. If you use one of these devices, I'd love to hear from you. If my "Burial To Follow" experiment proves worth the effort, look for possible re-releases of The Red Church and a story collection. Now time to go last-minute shopping (no Kindles in the stocking this year, though.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Giant Robot Panic in Hollywood

I'm all for the "little guy makes good" in the creative world, because every one of those overnight success stories involves years and years of craft and hard work. But the "Giant Robot" YouTube bidding war strikes me as a little extreme even for Hollywood. Sure, there's talent here, and excellent composition, but I wonder if Fede Alvarez can hang a story together. Most people can only sit still for about three uninterrupted minutes of blowing stuff up, no matter how cool. What do you do for the other two hours? Where are the people we care about? But I'm a writer so I think character arcs are necessary, or maybe I'm just jealous and want a job...but I'd have brought back the little kid near the end, given him a crumpled baby shoe or something poignant. Are you reading this, Fede Alvarez? Sam Raimi? Let me put a heart in your robot! Make me an Internet sensation and send me viral! Let me--

(Writer is incinerated by alien robot ray)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some writing links

One of the pieces of writing advice I often give is "Be a student of the game." Like most people who give advice, I usually stop taking my own advice once I think I'm smart enough to give it. The 20th book on "How to Write And Edit A Bestselling Novel" is often quite the same as the first, and "How To Promote Your Book" is dated by the time it rolls off the presses. But in the interest of catching up from those years where I was raising tomatoes and chickens, writing comic books and screenplays, and finishing a few novels while not pushing the envelope (mass queries in the mail), I've begun reading some industry blogs I'll pass along: toothy blog by an agent's assistant
Miss Snark has not been updated in a couple of years but it shoots from the hip on agency submission procedures, including the ever-popular terrible query letters
Joe Konrath's Newbies Guide to Publishing--here is a role model for any aspiring writer
Nihilistic Kid, author and editor Nick Mamatas's blog, full of brash opinion on the industry (as opposed to the many "It is what it is" blogs of people who are afraid to offend anybody, including potential employers or agents)
Scary parent, blog of writer Joe Schreiber

Monday, December 7, 2009

The changing publishing industry

Someone was asking me about publishing industry changes and I don't even know the half of it because everything has changed since I started, and I obviously don't know even half the story. But here's my ill-informed perspective, based on experience, observation, and talking to a few people in the know. The major change that I see now is that most agents don't even bother to respond to you, even if they ASK to see your manuscript. And the publishers are even worse, because they're doing the same thing to agents. I believe everybody is running scared both because of the economy and the rapid changes in the industry and technology that are blurring the definition of "published" and even the chain stores aren't sure how to deal with it.

Bookstore orders are roughly determined at about the time the publisher offers a contract--if the publisher pays you $10k it's going to print enough (and pretty much ONLY enough) copies to make its money back, and the bookstores see that figure and judge the publisher's amount of advertising (which will be none for practically any book below bestseller) and pretty much pick a "typical" number for that publisher's midlist sales in that particular genre. Say, Harlequin Hottie line sells 8 titles per store, so they will order 8 copies NO MATTER who the author is. Once your own name is out there for a couple of books, they go entirely on that data, which is why you need to do as many signings and promo events as possible in the three months after your book comes out. Very rarely does anyone suddenly get a big swell in sales, usually the opposite happens, unless you get great word of mouth or get real lucky.

There's really not much you can do besides all you can! Unfortunately this Amway method puts all the onus on the author, who can least afford the time and cost and has not much money to gain, with the real threat of never being able to sell another book if your sales tank (unless you get a pen name). Cheers. That's not to say I've been eating sour grapes. Authors are obviously still selling books and stores are still open, so somebody's doing something right somewhere. And I believe every great book--and most good ones--will eventually find a proper home.

The good news is, all that has not a lot to do with the real reason for writing--to express, to scream, to run naked, to giggle, to survive.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Handicapping Tiger's tarts

While the sports media focuses on "Can Tiger focus on the game?" and mainstream press is already spinning how he can rehabilitate his image, and tabloid blogdom tracks down photos of the major players, I am more interested in who is best going to capitalize on sleazy celebrity. As of this writing, there is no telling how many more tarts will come out of the rough (or how many have already taken their payoffs and will never be known, until they realize they can make more cash by spilling the dirt.) If you're offended by my referring to these women as "tarts," they ALL knew Tiger Woods was married, so I don't care how "misunderstood" Tiger felt, or whether it was fueled by drinking or Ambien, or if they secretly thought they could cash in at some point. It's not like Tiger lied to them about not being married. That makes them tarts in my book. But not all will actually strike gold and attain the level of true whoredom. Here are the odds:

Double bogey: Rachel Uchitel, the original tart, flubbed her golden opportunity by apparently lying about lying. She should have known there were more like her around, and now she's playing the "too many secrets to talk" game, hinting that she can spread the wealth if she so chooses and thus is a valuable asset to the trash media. Sorry, the spin cycle on any one tart will be too short and there are already so many players you need a score card. Still she nabbed a reported $3 mil, so at least she's set the bar.

One over par: Jamie Jungers, allegedly linked to alleged infidelity; tied with all the others who will soon emerge (a fifth has reportedly gotten a lawyer and two others have reportedly sold their stories to the press). The ones who move the fastest will strike the most gold, unless one of them hit the jackpot with a secret sex tape.

Par: Kalika Moquin, who apparently is playing it cool and seems content to cash in while not appearing trashy--presenting herself as an "above it all" no-comment and maybe hoping to come out as somehow respectable and thus having a chance at a life where she's not remembered as a tart.

One under par: Jamie Grubb--she is giving the impression that she will do anything (and probably has) for a buck, and she is eager to dish out whatever it takes, even if she has to err on the side of sensationalism. The only sand trap is she is a little trashier than the rest of the card, so attention may go to those with better quotes.

Hole in one: Elin Nordegren, the estranged wife. And after this week, no jury on Earth would convict her of assault. Considering the rich opportunities for disease, she could easily claim self-defense. But one wonders if it will be worth $80 million to show up at golf tournaments, smile, and wave to the camera while standing by her man?

And Tiger? You have to wonder why he ever got married. If it was just to further his image as the squeaky-clean, hard-working family man suitable for corporate sponsorships, then he deserves everything he has coming to him.

Another thought: Instead of trying to pay off all these tarts and turn them into whores, why doesn't he just tell them to go ahead and spill the beans? He might even get more tarts if the reports are favorable.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Harlequin horrors

From HWA:
Dear HWA Members,

Recently, Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. announced the launch of a new imprint, Harlequin Horizons, a self-publishing venture for aspiring romance authors. This venture is prominently promoted on Harlequin Enterprises' website and is touted in the manuscript submission guidelines for all of its imprints.

The Horror Writers Association is very concerned about the conflict of interest created by this new venture. Harlequin Horizons is a joint venture with Author Solutions, and it is a vanity press that relies on payments from aspiring writers to earn a profit. The fact that this business venture shares the Harlequin name may mislead writers into believing they can improve their chances to be published by Harlequin Enterprises if they pay for this service.

HWA asks that Harlequin acknowledge that the imprint does not represent a genuine opportunity for aspiring authors to hone their skills, because no editors will be vying for or editing the manuscripts. HWA supports the basic principal that writers should be paid for their work, not pay because they aspire to write.

The HWA does not believe that changing the name of the imprint in an attempt to disguise the relationship with Harlequin, changes the intent. We call on Harlequin to discontinue this imprint immediately. If this matter does not find a positive resolution, the HWA will take appropriate action, which may include removing Harlequin from the list of HWA approved publishers, declining future membership applications from authors published by Harlequin and declaring that books published by Harlequin will not be eligible for the Stoker Award.

We are taking this action because we believe it's crucial to alert and protect our members from unethical and predatory publishing practices that take advantage of their desire to be published. The HWA hopes Harlequin Enterprises Ltd will take the appropriate measures to correct this matter posthaste.
Deborah Leblanc, HWA president

Friday, November 20, 2009

Murder, Madness, Mayhem...amen

A new anthology from Comet Press, releases Nov. 23. Like the title says...dark crime. With stories by Tom Picirrilli, Simon Wood, John Everson, more. My own entry is "The Name Game," about what happens when you lose face...or die trying.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Appalachian Winter Hauntings

A new release from editors Mark Justice and Michael Knost and Woodland Press. Features tales from the hills, including my entry "Apple Head Dolly," and stories by Ronald Kelly, Elizabeth Massie, Steve Vernon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tater Bear

I don't know what's creepier, the fact that this spud looks like a bear or that it is so obscenely large. This guy brings in mutant fruits and vegetables every year to the newspaper to be photographed--I wonder if radiocative material is buried on his farm.

Monday, November 2, 2009

NC Writer Events in November

TUE NOV 10, 7pm-8:30, PUBLIC FORUM, GREENSBORO: Elizabeth Zelvin, NYC
psychotherapist and mystery author of *Death Will Get You Sober* and *Death Will
Help You Leave Him.* She'll discuss "Alcoholism and Codependency Can Be Murder:
How a Therapist's Whodunits Help People Understand, Live With, Even Recover
from Addiction to Booze and Bad Relationships." Q&A, refreshments.
Unitarian-Universalist Society of Greensboro, 5603 Hilltop Rd., two miles south of W.Wendover. 336-856-0330 or 336-209-0628.

SAT NOV 14, 9am-4, CHARLOTTE, fiction writer's intensive with award-winning
author and book editor Chris Roerden. Learn why most submissions are rejected instantly, discover new options for developing your writer's voice, and enjoy succeeding in your publishing efforts. Charlotte Writers Club 2nd annual writers education day. (The 1st in 2008 was presented by NY literary agent Donald Maass, author of *Writing the Breakout Novel* and *The Fire in the Fiction.*) Fifty writers have registered so far; $55 for the day including lunch ($50 for members). For location, registration form, and a list of 27 topics that Chris will cover:

SAT NOV 21, 10am-12 Winston Salem
SAT NOV 21, 2pm-4 Greensboro
"The End? Is Just the Beginning: Editing, Critique, & Craft, led by
Elizabeth Zelvin, NYC psychotherapist, Agatha Award finalist, author of the
mysteries *Death Will Get You Sober* and the just-released (by Macmillan's
Minotaur) *Death Will Help You Leave Him*, as well as published poems, short
stories, and many professional articles.
In Winston: Central Library, 660 W. 5th St.
In Greensboro: Sternberger Ctr, 712 N. Summit Ave.

For more events, please visit and click on the

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Get your Dirt Shirt!

Get your Digger T-shirt! A full-color quality shirt from Poetic License Printing, be the first on your block to proudly display a creepy old dude who discovers a book of weird tales that can only be told in a comic book series.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

wow, they would ban a book over anything

I grabbed this off the shelf at the local library as an audiobook, and because I have an interest in goats and am plotting out a young-adult novel. However, the book has nothing to do with goats. I was surprised by its bluntness and honesty and thought, "This is how kids really think, and not the way adults would like them to think." Which is why young-adult books sometimes are lousy, because they are written to placate and reassure adults. But teens are much harder to fool than adults.

Then I discovered it has actually been on the "banned books" list. I can understand why honesty would upset some people--the same kind of people that don't want to see those behavioral-health surveys that show what the kids are really up to. This book is 20 years old but still feels fresh. It's worth a read.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Haunted Wilkes Paranormal Conference

Hang down your head, Tom is the Old Wilkes Jail where Tommy Boy stayed while awaiting a rope around his neck. Some say he still "hangs out" here, and we'll find out this weekend at the Haunted Wilkes Paranormal Conference! The jail is one of six hunt sites we'll be exploring in Wilkesboro, NC.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ziggy to ground control

Lego is cool, Bowie is cool, and now...Bowie Lego! The grandpappy of glam rock is now one of the stars of the Lego Rock Band video game that will be out this year. Hard to believe the cross-dressing creator of "Major Tom" and "The Man Who Sold The World" didn't just jump the shark (thanks to Let's Dance, Labyrinth, brilliant marketing, and Web guru-ness), he practically coaxed it into a kiddie pool and hand-fed it gummy worms.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Hills Have Thighs

Normally, I'm not a fan of anything that makes fun of hillbillies, which is the last socioeconomicultural group that it's still okay for mainstream media to ridicule. But Bubba Cromer is one of "us," and he handles his hillbilly silliness with great sincerity. He assembles an amazing cast of non-actors and somehow gets them to buy into his over-the-top vision. Bubba, whose inaugural film "Bigfoot' took a legend to the woodshed and beat the tar out of it, returns with a story that promises laughs, banjos, and just a little bit hipper social commentary than your average Us magazine column. I don't know who is the "us" in Us, but I'm more at home with Bubba's folks.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wampus kitty and tales o' West Virginny

Legends of the Mountain State Vol. 3 is now available, with a forward by Homer Hickam and tales from Elizabeth Massie, Mark Justice, John R. Little and more, featuring local legends of West Virginia. My own entry is "Wampus Cat," based on an Appalachian legend of, well, the wampus cat. Editor Michael Knost is doing a real sharp job with his different projects, which includes the Writers Workshop of Horror. He's rapidly becoming one of the most reliable editors around--and that is no small feat.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

As a football fan, I am always annoyed when the game moves away from "pure game" and becomes a celebrity, pop-culture fest--the Super Bowl being the biggest offender, when the commercials seem to tbe the reason for the game and all the timing rules are changed to allow more talking-head blather and corporate sloughage. It's the age when what a player does with his Twitter account gets more attention than what happens on the field. But major props to Eagles DB Sheldon Brown for this pre-game Jason mask. As far as I know, no footballs were slashed in the making of a crushing Eagles defeat, but hey, he'll be back for a sequel, count on it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Frankie B. Washington

Interview with artist Frankie B. Washington

How did Marooned on Mogo Come About?
2009 - Spring, I answered an ad on for a children book illustrator. I've always been fascinated with the genre yet my attempts in the past to try and get a job doing such work never came to fruition. MY thought when I sent my reply to the ad was that I was most likely not getting the gig. As a professional illustrator you have to be a realist when approaching any new potential clients- there's a 50/50 chance every time.
Well my odds turned into 100%, because Andrew S. Leiter chose me over 95 other artist to try and launch his newest title: Marooned On Mogo.

I asked Andrew where the concept came for the story- so here's his quote :
"Originally, I did not have desire to write an easy reader book. I was encouraged by a pre-school teacher and my wife because of a discussion they had. They had both come to the conclusion that there was not enough easy readers books geared for boys and tons for girls. Then shortly after that, I had two other people totally out of the blue state suggest that I write for young kids. So the Seed was planted.

I don't recall exactly how I came up with the idea Marooned on Mogo. I knew I always wanted to do a story about people being stranded on another planet. I decided to pick four kids Two boys and two girls because I knew it would appeal to both sexes of readers. I came up with the Clark Lewis name because of the famous explorers Lewis and Clark. Than I just named the other three kids with names that started with C's and of Course Lewis was their last name. Next, I thought about what appealed to kids. Pirates, dragons, dinosaurs, treasure, alien creatures cute and aggressive and incorporated them into the story."

When I saw the script, I immediately thought about Johnny Quest and Lost In Space. I could totally see everything in an animated way but definitely high adventure with a strong message of family as the strength of the story. My hope is that my illustrations help to amplify Andrew's story and in the end become something memorable for our readers.

Marooned on Mogo is available through and Barnes& you can reach it through our website :

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fetal typewriter

There's a general consensus that 10 years is more or less the gestation period of a writer. I'm a year or two past that now, so I guess I was getting published during my apprenticeship. Some writers never seem to improve once they get published, because they figure--quite reasonably, if it's paying the bills--that what they're doing is working. others regress in a desperate attempt to find what's trendy. others create new challenges and blossom both artistically and commercially. I'm not sure which future is mine. All three look possible for me, except I can never figure out what's trendy, so that detour is probably off the map. I do know that when I put in a good day's writing and fight the good fight, I feel nigh on invincible, whether such stuff gets published or not. I always tell writers to write for that feeling, that moment of triumph, because that might be the only reward. Now if I can believe it myself..

Monday, September 7, 2009

Jonathan Maberry reads from "The Dragon Factory"

Jonathan Maberry reads the prologue from "The Dragon Factory" at DragonCon
The Dragon Factory: A Joe Ledger thriller due out in March 2010

Live (for the most part) from DragonCon, Scott Nicholson, Jonathan Maberry, Stacia Kane, and Cherie Priest. Dark fantasy and horror authors, on a panel about scary stuff.