Horrific Halloween

It always seemed strange to me to wish somebody a, “Happy Halloween.” Probably because Halloween isn’t really about happiness, in the traditional sense. Still, I always love the ambiance of this season. I guess that probably means I have a dark side?

windows-into-hell-coverWhat I really want to talk about is horror. Growing up, the horror genre was not appreciated in my house. To be fair, I think it was heavily stigmatized by all of society. I blame splatterpunk and slasher movies. Stephen King’s early books didn’t help, either. For decades before that, horror was black and white monster movies. I loved the Gothic masterpieces: The Wolf Man, Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein. But by my childhood the genre had been over taken by blood and guts images so disturbing that the average Christian abhorred it. Consequently, I was taught that horror is bad and to not watch or read it.

But I couldn’t stay away from those amazing monsters.

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Luckily, science fiction and fantasy have plenty of monsters in them. So I didn’t have to read or watch the stuff that triggered the “evil” label. I watched Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and various fringe horror shows. What I didn’t realize is how horror is a much broader genre than most people think. Most thrillers and all monster-based fantasy have elements of horror in them. Horror is really just about fear. Fear is one of the core human emotions. So how could any good story completely ignore it? That would be like making action movies with no romance in them– absurd! Over time, the horror elements in various stories I loved (like Ghostbusters) became more and more important to me as I more deeply explored the human experience.

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Imagine my surprise when the first time one of my books reaches #1 on Amazon it’s in DARK FANTASY. To be honest, I wasn’t even entirely sure what dark fantasy meant. My publisher chose the categories. I did know it to be a sub-genre of horror. HORROR? But I’m not a horror writer. I don’t write about serial killers and psychopaths. The Actuator series is about an evil saboteur who kills billions of people in order to… oh wait. And there are vampires and werewolves in it.  MIND BLOWN!

I’m a horror author? How did that happen? Shouldn’t it be on purpose?

actuator-3-e-book-coverThe book also ranked in sci-fi and fantasy, as well as other genres like cyberpunk and steampunk. My earlier book, Exacting Essence, usually lists as paranormal. Most people insist the evil clowns make it a horror, though.

So I finally accepted I had embraced the forbidden thing. Finding out how broad horror really is helped. I still plan to write non-horror sci-fi, but I’ve come to accept how dark many of my stories really are. I even edited a whole anthology of it. It shocked me to discover, but isn’t that really the point?!!

🙂

Time for treats! Get this great anthology for just 99 cents to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve: PRIMETIME!

CQ Primetime Ebook

And if that’s too much for your budget, I have some free spooky stories you can find on my short stories page or get two free short stories (ghosts and zombies) in the FREE Actuator RPG manual.  Here’s wishing you a HORRIFIC HALLOWEEN!

 

 

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The Long Con

Last weekend I attended Salt Lake Comic Con. I’ve been going for years and it’s always a blast. If you’ve never been to a fan convention, I recommend it just for the cultural experience. Next weekend I’m going to Pocatello, Idaho, for Snake River Comic Con. It will probably be smaller, but I’m looking forward to it just as much, if not more.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss what authors do at conventions and writer’s conferences for new authors or artists. It’s more about general understanding than trying to be a comprehensive list of how to get in and what to do there. I think a lot of writers have big misconceptions about what happens at a book signing or convention. Especially, they misunderstand the value of them to the author.

LTUE Panel 2017

I spent years going to writing conferences, listening to the expert panelists divulge their wisdom and longing for the day I would be one of them. I believed that once I sat on the other side of the table, it would prove I was a great author. I also expected to have dozens of book signings where I sold dozens of books to the adoring public. I knew that my dedication to the cause would result in book sales and success like all the authors I’d seen. Not so.

Most bookstore customers avoid authors for all kinds of reasons. Some are happy to talk if the author engages them, but many just want to be left alone. What’s more, most people who buy books don’t review them or recommend them to friends. So each sell is just a single book sold. That’s something. It’s worthwhile. But if it takes me hours to plan, travel to, and attend a signing on a Saturday afternoon where I only sell one book, it’s not worth it. Even a dozen book signings won’t generate interest the way it used to. The truth is, people have changed and meeting an author and buying their book doesn’t have the same kind of impact it used to.

Conventions are no different. Panel attendees appreciate you taking the time to talk to them and impart what you know, IF you really do know. However, few of them actually turn around and buy your book. Prospective authors, like everybody else, tend to buy books by bestselling names their friends will recognize.

Another surprise– not everybody on a panel is qualified to give advice. Or, at least not equally qualified. Sometimes they just fill a panel with the people available because they want to run it. Worse yet, sometimes nobody shows up for a panel (or a very small number of people). If they schedule you the same time as four famous people and dinner, it can be just panelists chatting with two attendees.

So what does a convention usually look like?

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It’s hours and hours on a hard chair in one of a few hundred booths with thousands of people walking past you. If you are a good sales person, you might make enough to cover your share of the booth. Usually I do, but last weekend, I made less.

So why do it? All those other people in the pictures. Friends. We spend time laughing and chatting. More friends visit us and talk. The biggest reward really is people and networking. I met somebody whose company is interested in producing and distributing a comic book I’ve been trying to get off the ground for years. And there is always still hope that people who buy the books will love them and come back for more. It’s happened before, and it makes it all worth it.

Even though I’m still tired from the last one, I’m excited for the next one. I look forward to finding people from a new place who like what I write. Of course, I also know it will be a blast just hanging out with these amazing people.

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What’s in a name?

It’s been too long since I wrote a legit blog. Time is relentless in its march. Still, I want to talk about names. Really, I want to discuss made-up names and words of all kinds. Maybe the benefit of what I’ve learned will help you in your writing endeavors. If not, at least it should be interesting.

If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you probably remember the tragic first edition covers on my first two books. I’m embarrassed to show them now, but it makes a point. (Just to ease my mind, I’m putting the newer versions, too.)

 

 

To this day, the Space Balrogs won’t call my first book anything except, “The Cracide.” Which is what the title looks like on that initial cover. Since then, I’ve learned it’s best not to title a book after a made-up word at all. Not only because I get confusion by people who think the book is about killing God as some kind of anti-religious statement (which it isn’t, it’s about killing a Theocrat who claims to be God), but a lot of people aren’t attracted to the title at all because it inspires confusion more than curiosity.

I went to a book signing where Terry Brooks shocked the entire audience of fans by informing us that Shannara is pronounced Shan-uh-ruh, not Shuh-nar-ra. Every person there had been pronouncing it wrong for decades. I’m guessing after a lifetime of correcting people’s pronunciation of his title, he wishes he hadn’t used a made-up word in the title, too.

Exacting Essence isn’t much better. It sounds cool (to me), but nobody knows what it means. So again, it causes confusion instead of curiosity. So, by making bad decisions in the past, I’ve learned to title books using only common words people already know. It is much more likely to inspire them to want to learn about the book. Here are some better book titles.

 

Uniqueness in titles isn’t as important as getting the reader’s interest. Common words can make a really good title.

I think this has also affected how I think about made up words in the book as well. I have a few in Salvation, because it’s a straight up fantasy and monsters and towns need names. But even though there have to be made up words in it, I think I would advise authors to use as many common words and when they are made up, spell them in a way that’s easy to understand.

Schism is the name of the planet. An actuator is a legitimate machine part. The sense of something familiar being used in a new and “magical” way is more intriguing, I believe, than if I named the planet Blarghdorugh and the machine R.T.C.I. (Reality Transforming Computer Interface). There is a place for fancy made-up words, of course, but less is definitely more.

So what brought this up now? My work-in-progress involves me deciding what to call a city, the people in it, and various aspects of their culture. So I have been revisiting some of the wisdom I learned by past mistakes. The title will not be a word I make up. The city must be called something that sounds like a real city, named as real people would name one. And the characters will have names that are “futuristic” in the sense that they are names people might really use as a result of a real societal evolution… not Zaphanianna or some other nonsense that readers can’t pronounce. It’s unlikely that after people used the name Matthew for thousands of years it will suddenly disappear in 100 years and nobody will be giving it to newborns.

If I save just one author from making the same mistakes I did, this blog will have been worth the effort. 🙂

3 People Made My Weekend

This last weekend at Salt Lake Comic Con’s Fan X was amazing. I only had one panel, but we had a blast. I sold a decent number of books, too. What made this convention so much more awesome? Three people.

Each of them came to me and said something similar. “I bought your book last time and I loved it, so I want more.”

Wow!

It’s happened before, but not so many so close together. The real kicker is, they each had a DIFFERENT book they liked which brought them back: Salvation, Theocracide, and Fractured Earth.

Thank you. A million times, thanks!

I know there are fans out there who read e-books, so I don’t get to meet them at the con. I appreciate all of you. It was all worth it if even a few liked them enough to come back for more. 🙂

2016 Recap

It’s been a crazy year. I’m coming up on the 4 year anniversary of my first book release. 2016 was unique because I’ve had novels come out steadily until this year, when I had only two anthologies and a novella come out.

I’m not disappointed, though. I’m very excited by each of these new releases, and I feel like they really stretched me artistically. I have one book in editing scheduled for next year, which will finish out the Actuator series. It’s been very gratifying to see those books on the Amazon charts for months straight. So I can’t wait for the fiery finale.

My work in progress is going slow, but I feel really good about it. I’ll fill you in more as the year unfolds, but I’m sure it won’t be in print until after next year.

Thanks to all of you for making this dream real. It’s been a fantastic journey and I hope you all have a happy holiday season! 🙂

How Long is a Story?

Today I guest blogged on Forever Writers. It’s all about the arbitrary classifications publishers enforce on stories (genre, audience, word count, etc.) and how the Actuator series shatters them all! Check it out!

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The Big Fandom Debates

Daniel Swenson hits a panel of high powered fans (Robert J. Defendi, R. A. Baxter, Nathan Croft, and yours truly) with some of the hardest questions to plague sci-fi fans for decades. It felt like a convention panel gone off the rails!

http://www.dungeoncrawlersradio.com/episodes/episode-sticks-and-stones-or-is-that-blasters

Also, Immortal Works just opened an imprint with a new logo! What do you think?

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