Tuesday, March 30, 2010

breaking rules to break in

Here's an article by a comics writer on "Breaking in without the rules":http://www.busiek.com/site/2009/06/breaking_in_without_rules.php

My favorite line is "If all you can do is write, you're going to get screwed anyway." While comics writing is a separate breed (essentially most of the pros write for one of the two major publishers), it works for pretty much any entrepreneurial business. I know a number of writers who just want to write. No, it's a business, and writing is just a part of it. If you own a donut store, you spend only part of your time sticking donuts in the oven. And Krispy Kreme is across the street taking up half the block and blinding everyone with its sugar-coated neon signs...

So the moral is to eat donuts and quit writing!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

You call it vanity, I call it artistic liberty

I wonder if writers who scream the loudest against self-publishing are actually afraid of their own power?

Over the long haul, the hard worker gets a bigger audience. Talent is plentiful, cheap, and nearly worthless. Ideas are worthless. Sure, there will be the lucky strikes here and there, but in this new entrepreneurial era, those who work will win.

There's a reason traditional publishers take 85 percent of the money. There's a lot of work involved in selling a book. With the self-published writer closer to the revenue stream, the writer should be working way harder than they do when earning 8 percent or whatever. Trad publishers scare all the writers into hustling because there's the threat of being dropped if your sales tank. And, it's obvious but truer than ever, writers who don't check their email, don't get on the forums, don't build a mailing list, and are disconnected are layers and layers away from their audience. It's almost a direct feed these days--you can't just sit in your little cottage by the sea and post out masterpieces. J.D. Salinger wouldn't have a chance today.

Call it "vanity," "self-publishing," "independent author," "cooperative imprint," whatever. I've come to view as more of a libertarian action, taking responsibility and directly benefiting from my own labors or enduring the disappointments of my own failures. It's still a hard road, and I want to earn a few hundred more rejection slips before I go to the Great Word Processor in the Sky. But right now I love that direct connection with the audience.

Besides, I'm a writer. Being vain is one of the job requirements.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Skull session

Review of The Skull Ring and interview with Scott Nicholson at Ebook Reviews Online.

The Best of All Flesh edited by James Lowder, which contains my story "Murdermouth," has been short-listed for an Origin Award.

Just finished with High Country Comicon, good attendance, and good to see people spending some money and having a little fun. Plenty of talented artists are out there toiling away and making it happen. In other news, still working on revisions to Speed Dating With The Dead while continuing with the young-adult series.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Comics, funny books, graphic novels

Whew, what a week. Putting together the final pieces of the Grave Conditions comics project. We'll end up with three digital issues and one trade paperback of about 90 pages. I am pleased to have Brian Keene, Jonathan Maberry, Stephen Susco, William Harms, Sergio Castro, Kewber Alves, Louis Bermer, Chad Blevins, Shane Kirshenblatt, and more in it. More than a year in the making, with the corpses of a few artists laying by the roadside, I have to say I am pleased with all the hard work, talent, and vision in these stories. I'm not sure I want to undertake another such project, but now I am glad I did it.

We'll have digital issues out starting in April, with the trade paperback coming out in early May. The Dirt trade paperback will likely be out in May as well. In addition goes the regular writing and revising. I have also decided to release the supernatural thriller DRUMMER BOY in April and the psychological thriller DISINTEGRATION in May. That's all for now--getting ready for the big comic convention tomorrow. Fun, art, and a lot of moving tables and chairs!

By the way, thanks for all your support on the ebooks--they are still selling steadily, which is why I've decided to release more.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Serious Jones

Tomorrow I head for the Pamlico Sound for a couple of days of rest, relaxation, house renovation, and being sort of near my daughter's school trip to the beach. While I have plenty of work to do, I won't have Internet access...and the wireless card is busted on my laptop. That cry you hear may be the shriek of withdrawal. My life revolves around the Internet and wireless communication, which is funny since I'm one of the least-plugged-in people you can imagine. I don't even have a real cell phone, just one of those TracFones that cost about a quarter a minute (and, yes, I have the 59-second conversation down to an art form).

If you need to get in touch, you can't even go the message-in-a-bottle route because of environmental consciousness. So just yell real loud. If you didn't notice I have been away from the computer for two days, you obviously are missing out!

On the other hand, I hope to get the rewrite of Speed Dating With the Dead done, as well as some editing work.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Signed skull and digital crossbones

We've been gung ho on putting together digital projects, but I just received a case of The Skull Ring paper copies yesterday. I'd forgotten the thrill of cracking a case and seeing that stack of beautiful, shiny covers with my name on it--it still has that stamp of reality that an ebook can't quite match! Signed copies are $9.95 and available for order through Haunted Computer.

I'd also like to thank author Stephen James Price, who is working hard to put together digital versions of the various comics projects. I'm really pleased to have Grave Conditions finally come together, and we'll be doing digital releases of single issues and collecting all into one trade paperback. This has been a large project, and herding a number of creative types makes herding werecats seem like child's play. All in all, I think we'll be satisfied even though we probably won't earn a dime.

In other developments, I hope to get Write Good or Die out soon, so if you're an aspiring writer, you should grab it, because this is definitely advice you won't get in most places. I'll also be running the blog as an organic, interactive writing manual, so we can all learn together. I'm sure there will be some pub-industry talk as well.

Here's the cover mock-up for Grave Conditions #1, with art by Alberto Aprea:


Monday, March 15, 2010

Debbi Mack's Identity Crisis

My friend Debbi Mack's mystery thriller IDENTITY CRISIS is available as an ebook and trade paperback from Amazon. She introduces a hard-edged heroine Sam McRae as she protects a legal client and runs from the mob. A great new series from an indie author.

WRITE GOOD OR DIE should be wrapped up this week, so if you like writing, you're welcome to drop in and join the interactive writing-advice manual. And who doesn't want to be a writer?

Friday, March 12, 2010

What are you willing to do?

A thread in the Kindle Boards forum asked authors "What are you willing to do (or give up) to be a successful writer?"

I already feel like a successful writer because I am taking steps to find whatever audience I deserve. I had six books on the shelves (one is still clinging to the late stages of being in print), and I never was able to "quit the day job," but the money from Act I of my career helped get me a house. I measure success differently these days, because I am already pretty content with my life, though I do have the goal of cutting out that trip to the office every day.

Self-publishing books for me are not a way to get attention, assuage my ego, or get instant gratification. I have over 500 rejection slips and I still get them. I still want to publish in a major press. But now I have a baseline for what my work is worth and what the rights are worth. I believe this is a viable foundation for a lasting career, because I can track how much income I can expect to make and how many books it would take to make a living. My sales have increased to the point where having six novels out would equal my take-home pay from my day job. Of course, this ebook enterprise doesn't have a retirement plan or health insurance. If the U.S. adopted nationalized health care, I'm sure I would join the hundreds of thousands of people who would immediately follow their dreams instead of taking the "safe route."

Well, no route is safe. Amazon could cut a deal today with major publishers and drop all indie authors. The continued recession could lead to the death of $250 handheld reading devices. Ebooks could become seen as free content and few writers would even stay in business. Ebooks could evolve into interactive experiences requiring large and skilled production staffs, adding audio and video, that make printing and shipping a paper book look like a walk in the park. The ebook market could reach the saturation point when most every book ever printed floods the market in the next few years.

There are no guarantees, and even the experts are already weeks or months behind what is actually happening in the trenches. All I know is to act on the evidence I see before me: Publish X number of novels and get X number of sales per month and earn X dollars. Publish in New York to stay visible and reach the paper audience, because it is the ebook audience of the future. Write stories without regard to narrow commercial considerations, because now they are lasting works of art instead of three-month shelf products. Write without bitterness over an industry that some feel conspires to keep writers locked out.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch's excellent blog "Freelance Survival Guide" muses on the various business considerations of the writing life, as well as the ephemeral notions of success. She says it much more succinctly than I can but the gist is success will change over the course of your life and career. For me, there are measurable goals of sales, income, and the reaching, serving, and satisfying of an audience. But no check I've ever received has matched that feeling of typing the last line of a story and sitting there all sick and shivery and tense and dewy-eyed and whispering, "Nailed it."

There is only one thing I'm willing to do to be a successful writer: write.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The New ESP

Since starting my little Kindle cottage industry, I have been humbled and overjoyed by the support I've received and the new connections we've made. Part of it is the intimacy of the ebook world, in which a reader can click, browse, and email me within minutes. I feel the ESP of story is somehow more immediate and I am linked with the reader in ways that I'm not when the book is on a store shelf across the country.

Readers also have more fun participating in the shared experience of the book, I think. While book clubs have long been popular, the connection by wires seems just as cool as the old-fashioned way of gathering in a living room with donuts and coffee, or crackers and Merlot. The Kindle and ebook audiences are self-selecting, of course, by being the early adopters of a relatively new technology. They are a combination of avid readers and forward-thinking embracers of change. Not that people who cling to paper are lesser readers--they just have a different experience.

What's really exciting as an author is there is no steep spike in sales and then a cliff dive into obscurity. The opposite happens. As the books hang around, more people find them and share them. It can literally mean an entirely new approach to a career--more like a typical small business where you grow over time and reach your customers and learn from them, eventually gathering an accumulation of rewards for your hard and persistent work. Of course, it still starts with a good book. Nothing kills growth faster than lousy customer service, no matter what the business. Thanks for shopping with me. Would you like paper or plastic?


Monday, March 8, 2010

cobblestones and reviewness

My friend J.T. Cummins has a novella Cobblestones featuring a modern-day witch trial with thriller elements. J.T. is a screenwriter whose fiction has a cinematic flair. Available for Kindle at Amazon and in other formats at Smashwords.

Review of The Red Church up at the bargain-basement blog Dollar Bin of Horror. Mini interview for The Red Church is up at Indie Spotlight. Review of The Skull Ring is at Debbie Wiley's Book Reviews.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Read an Ebook Week" freebie

In recognition of "Read an Ebook Week," I've made the Burial to Follow ebook free at Smashwords. The ebook contains the novella originally published by Cemetery Dance, three novel excerpts (including the never-before-seen DRUMMER BOY), and a bonus essay on the changing nature of media. I hope you give it a try in one of the various formats and let me know what you think.

There's a Skull Ring review at Mr. Shield's blog.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Crickets in the snow

My daughter, handy with a camera, has received several photo credits at the newspaper where I work. When I'm busy at a public event, I turn her loose with the camera. She has a good eye and also creates interesting and fresh angles due to being a couple of feet shorter than most of her subjects.

She recently wrote a poem that her teacher praised and said "ought to be in the paper." Anyone who thinks nepotism is dead never heard of Hank Williams Jr. or Joe Hill. So I submitted it to the editor, suggesting it "might" make a good cutline for the next snow photograph, since we've only used about 200 of those this winter.

The poem (posted below) ran in the "Letters to the Editor" section. She was pleased to get published but said no one had noticed it or mentioned it to her. In other words, what's the point of doing something cool and special if nobody notices and you don't get applause and celebrity status and money? (Incidentally, this is the girl who wants to change from her mom's last name to mine so "people will know who I am.")

I put on my Good Dad hat and patiently explained how you can't really expect acclaim or recognition, and I told her about all my rejections as a writer, and how in the end it came down to the feeling of satisfaction--that the accomplish is the accomplishment, not the reward. She was a little dubious, as was I, but it sounded good. I always mumble that when I do something spectacular that should have the world throwing roses at my feet and clamping laurels on my brow. Sometimes I even believe it, though secretly I'm thinking a truckload of cash would be just as welcome.

The Feeling. Sometimes it's all you get, and sometimes it's all that lasts. Books go out of print. Money gets spent. People go on to other amusements, celebrities, and car crashes. But you DID IT!

Negative Snow
By Miranda Owen

Snow is bad.
It makes me mad.
When there's no school,
It's not so cool.
Sitting at my mom's work place,
I'd really rather be in space.
Snow is cold.
The joke gets old.
It falls in your hair.
And everywhere.
Snow makes ice.
Ice brings mice.
In my house.
Traps for the mouse!
Positive I try to be.
But that job's really not for me!
Snow please give us a break.
There's not much more that I can take!


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Owl

There I was, happy with all the writing projects underway, and the one or two planned out but not yet begun. And then this owl had other ideas.

My daughter and I were rounding a sharp curve here in the Blue Ridge Mountains (which is how we spend most of our driving time), and this majestic barred owl swooped straight toward the car and settled about 20 feet away on one of those rickety wooden chutes through which farmers load their cattle. It calmly looked through the window straight at us, with none of the weird head twisting you usually get with owls. This was broad daylight, about four in the afternoon, when all self-respecting owls should be storing up for a night of rodent slaughter, hooting, and mayhem.

I know from Appalachian folklore that an owl perched on your window in daytime is a sign of impending death. This, of course, is not a good thing. But since it wasn't actually at my house, and wasn't actually perched on the windowsill, my spiritual consultants agree that I probably am not marked for imminent demise. Still, it made me wonder...and from such comes a novel idea.

I believe in synchronicity, serendipity, and the signs that enter our lives. Sometimes they are silly, sometimes they may mean "wake up," sometimes they might just be animals thrust out of their usual patterns to reveal the random connectedness of the universe and our humble place in it.

Maybe I should resent the owl. Its stolid equanimity was startling enough, and it did have a weird face. In various cultures, it's a sign of wisdom, secret knowledge, clairvoyance, and change (and as a keeper of souls traveling from one plane to another, whether that means planes of mortality or planes of awareness or consciousness). So I embrace and honor the owl, despite the six months of work it has visited upon me.

It's hard to be the world's laziest hack when all these wonderful miracles keep floating into my life and inspiring me to explore a little deeper. Quoted from "The Charge of the Write Brigade": Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die...but not until the novel's finished.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I accept your rejection, thank you

Received today:
"On behalf of [redacted], I would like to thank you for allowing us the opportunity to review The Skull Ring.

Our editorial staff has reviewed your submission. Unfortunately, we have determined that it is not right for us at this time. We regret that, due to the many submissions we receive, it is impossible to offer any individual comments.

Thank you for thinking of [redacted]. We wish you the very best of luck with your manuscript. Signed, Publisher."

Written today but not sent:
"Dear [redacted], I thank you for your rejection but it doesn't meet my needs at this time. Due to the number of rejections I get, I am unable to make individual comments to describe why your publishing company is not suited to my project, but in general, the reasons authors reject such proposals are a lack of originality, a failure to understand today's market, or a competitive environment in which most books lose money. I do thank you for your wishes of luck, though. I feel luckier already. Signed, Author. Oh, and P.S: "


Monday, March 1, 2010

official launch of The Skull Ring

Some people have asked what I have been doing with myself, since I haven't had a new novel out in nearly three years. Yeah, it's been way too long. So here you go:

Julia Stone will remember, even if it kills her...

With the help of a therapist, Julia is piecing together childhood memories of the night her father vanished. When Julia finds a silver ring that bears the name "Judas Stone," the past comes creeping back. Someone is leaving strange messages inside her house, even though the door is locked. The Christian handyman offers help, but he has his own shadowy past. And the cop who investigated her father's disappearance has followed her to the small mountain town of Elkwood.

Now she has a head full of memories, but she doesn't know which are real. Julia's therapist is playing games. The handyman is trying to save her, in more ways than one. And a sinister cult is closing in, claiming ownership of Julia's body and soul...

It's an ebook right now at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003980ELA/ref=cm_cd_asin_lnk) and Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/9523) and will be in print in a few weeks.

If you'd like to help promote it and be eligible for cool prizes like valuable limited edition hardcovers, weird Scott paraphernalia, and comic books, sign up to be a Microchip by emailing hauntedcomputerbooks@yahoo.com with Microchip in the subject line. Thanks for all your support--this book has been part of me for a long time, with a number of revisions, and explores a lot of mysteries of faith, love, and messed-up motives. Plus Julia is cute.