Friday, June 29, 2012

The Red Church - Ten Years After

Ten years after.

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the release of THE RED CHURCH, my first novel. And although I had some short story sales before then, I generally consider THE RED CHURCH the start of my professional writing career as well. Ten years. A lot of books. I'm torn between feeling like a worn-out geezer and a guy finally figuring out what he wants to do with his life, but the reality is I am probably in the "middle age" of my writing career.

Today, with the whirlwind of digital books, foreign translations,, and basically running a tiny enterprise as a mad-emperor/demi-god, I have a hard time remembering the freshness of that feeling of accomplishment. I can still remember receiving the phone call from the year before, when the editor told me he wanted to publish the book, and the subsequent search for an agent. I remember the careful planning I put into preparing for the book's release (which I outlined in a monthly series leading up to the book's publication--boy, how times have changed!) I can't remember much about my life at the time, although it was fraught with self-inflected personal troubles.

But the thing that stands out clearly is that feeling of writing the book, the way I entered that fantasy land and followed the story from beginning to end, walked in Ronnie Day's shoes (and ran, in some cases), meeting the peculiar folk of Whispering Pines. The book felt fresh when I typed it, felt fresh when it was published, and still feels fresh today. Perhaps that is why it is still my bestselling and most popular book, even after 10 years.

I'm not even sure how many copies have sold, but it's probably around 80,000 now--not a knockout bestseller but the Little Engine That Could (well,  it was out of print and not on sale for half of its life...but that's another blog post for another day). It was a Stoker Award finalist (lost out to The Lovely Bones!), and an alternate selection of the Mystery Guild and in the Doubleday Book Clubs back when mail-order was a force more powerful than Amazon. It's been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Polish, and soon Portuguese and German. It's been around the block. It's been equally slammed for being a Christian novel disguised as a horror novel and a horror novel disguised as a Christian novel. It's inspired theological essays and critical analysis and a Bentley Little blurb, and the heady but rather commonplace Stephen King comparisons. Perhaps its greatest feat was impressing my daughter when she saw THE RED CHURCH on the Kindle charts ahead of Stephen King and C.S. Lewis...

THE RED CHURCH. Ten years, and I can still smell the dusty hay when I open that creaking church door...

I still feel the chill of the river fog laying low over the Appalalachian valley...

I still hear the rustle and slither of that shadow in the belfry...

Ten years after, I still live in THE RED CHURCH, and I always will.


DIALOGUE Blogtalk interview: Audio Archive, June 28

Free Scott Nicholson books on Kindle:
June 28-30: Creative Spirit (UK edition only)
June 29-30: Scott Nicholson Library, Vol. 5 (Amazon UK only)
June 29-30, July 1: Mad Stacks (Amazon US Amazon UK)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Free Kindle Books& Free Kindle UK books by Scott Nicholson

Here's my next round of free Kindle books and free Kindle UK books. Some of this will be free for the last time, so please tell a friend! (Kindle UK readers, just put "" in place of "com" to get the Amazon UK link).

June 11-12
Cursed (Scott Nicholson, J.R. Rain)

Kiss Me or Die (formerly called As I Die Lying)

June 13-15
Ghost Fire (Eve Paludan, Scott Nicholson, J.R. Rain)

The Skull Ring

June 16-17
The Harvest

June 18-20
Ghost College (Scott Nicholson, J.R. Rain)


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kiss Me or Die: Reconstructing a failed ebook

The digital age is one of great experimentation. And I've experimented wildly. I've re-edited texts, added alternate endings, changed cover art multiple times, and even changed titles, all while the book remains on sale!

My rule of thumb is, if something isn't working for readers, it's either because (a) the work sucks, which is probably the right answer but not the one I can do much about, or (b) the presentation is off. And I can do something about (b).

Sometimes the changes work, such as with The Harvest, originally published in paperback and given its title by the publisher in 2003. I never cared much for the title, which I thought was generic, so when I re-released it as an ebook, I called it Forever Never Ends, one of my original working titles for the manuscript, which was based on a song I'd written in a previous life. But the title and cover art veered from the book's real personality--which is a sci-fi/horror B-movie in text. When I finally went back to the publisher's title and gave it B-movie art, it found its audience (hit #1 in horror in the UK) and has gone on to fairly steady sales.

I changed covers for Disintegration, even though it was a Top 30 Kindle bestseller, and I even added a new ending (leaving the original as an alternate ending if people wanted to read it.) The new ending isn't a betrayal of the narrative, but rather a slightly less cynical view which better allows the readers to get what they want out of it. The book saved my sanity while I wrote it and was the bestseller that allowed me to make the move to full-time writing, so I am grateful. But I still changed the cover!
My latest re-imagining of failure is Kiss Me or Die. That is the original title of the first novel I ever wrote (not counting a Vonnegut knockoff in high school). But when I published it, I tried to get clever and call it As I Die Lying, punning on the Faulkner title. But people confused my book with the Faulkner book (I've never written anything remotely close to a Faulkner sentence--the only thing we have in common as writers is English, and that only barely), and I was too clever by half. Even my cheesy cover with the scantily clad woman (a sad ploy to cash in on the John Locke era) didn't work, nor the previous freaky cover that employed fractals and eyeballs. I was overreaching. What I was probably trying to do was scare readers away--"This book is too tricky for you."

But a book without readers is no book at all. It was so much my first love that I couldn't admit to the ugly. So I gave it a more conventional thriller cover, retitled it, and banged it back out there. As of this writing, it is still grinding through the Amazon KDP platform, so everything isn't matched up--but since the file is overwriting the existing one, no buyers or readers will be able to get it under the new title if they already own it--so I won't be inadvertently tricking anyone (the product description also notes the original title).

Changing titles is a last resort, something I only do if a project is headed for oblivion before its natural time. I don't know if Kiss Me or Die works (I used the art for a German short story, too), but with nothing to lose, I am spinning the roulette wheel. The digital age is ever moving, and ebooks are living things. And to those who liked an earlier cover better, all I can say is, "You had your chance to tell 10,000 friends to buy it!"

Of course, if this incarnation fails, this conversation never happened. If you don't love me, you die. Not much gray area there.

Free for Kindle, June 11-12 in Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thank you, Ray Bradbury

Today Ray Bradbury is a trending topic on the social media and news sites, which may be the greatest testament to the man's status as an enduring, timeless legend. Others can speak more eloquently about Bradbury's place in making pulp fiction respectable, in combining imagination with the highest literary values, and inspiring thousands and thousands of other writers. All I have is my personal experience.

It was in grade school, one of those English classes that are usually torture because you have to read dull stuff by people several centuries dead whose lives have nothing in common with yours. And somehow the reading text delivered this magical little story called "All Summer in a Day." It was one of the very first stories that touched me with the poignancy of existence. The other stories were vaguely affirming and comforting, or simply not real stories at all, leaving you in the same place you where when you started.

I didn't understand the story's mood at the time. I wasn't emotionally sophisticated nor creatively mature enough to catch even a glimmer of the truth and genius behind it. All I knew was it affected me and I thought about it a lot. What a revelation--every story didn't have to have a happy ending tied up in a neat bow! Because, even at that tender age, I understood that life didn't have a whole lot of happy endings.

And I suspect it must have had a great influence on the other kinds of stories I would soon seek out. Poignancy is a rare mood among the arts, especially modern arts. It is often replaced with by-the-numbers tugs of the heartstrings, explosive special effects and gimmicks, or senseless violence. Stories with quiet power are as rare as Margot's summer day in the story.

Best of all, the story is pretty much the same today as then, as it will be two hundred years from now. I don't know its copyright status, and now is not the time to scowl over digital distribution of someone's work, so here is a link if you want to read it. A story is ultimately made to be shared.

Ray Bradbury is really the only writer I ever wanted to meet. That never happened, but I met him just the same, in his words and ideas. Now I'm off to dig up some of my tattered Bradbury paperbacks and get lost in forever.

Are you an author? EbokSwag is offering two days of displaying your book if you run the eBookSwag badge for a month. Details at Readers, eBookSwag holds ongoing giveaways of Kindle Fires, signed books, Kindle covers, gift cards, and more, and you can enter daily!