Next
Next by Michael Crichton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So I used to really love Michael Crichton. Pretty much until he wrote the screenplay for Twister and things started to go downhill. The sequel to Jurassic Park was dreck. Timeline was borderline unreadable, and then he denied the influences of human activity on climate change in State of Fear. Oh, heavens. Crichton had lost his mind, it seemed to me.

Prey was okay. Kinda liked that one.

But whatever. Life goes on. Time passes. And I came to miss his peculiar blend of cardboard characters and crackling plots, infused with his brilliant gift for turning science into mental candy. So, okay, I picked up Next, hoping it would at least be fun.

And … what a mess! Readable, sure. But WOW! It’s certainly not a one-star book, given it’s convincing views on genetic research and patent law. It also features a subplot that I feel was stolen by the recent film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It didn’t bore me, either — hell, it barely stuck to a single plot-line long enough to do that. But the characters are so numerous (this thing actually has no main character), I was still waiting for the thing to start when it ended, more or less arbitrarily. Crichton said he was trying to model his book after the human genome, where the various plot strands were genes, and you never knew how important they were or what they were actually doing there.

Well, ok, then. Mission accomplished, I guess.

This book had the curious effect of endearing me to its author, if only for how gloriously off-the-rails he’d gone. This book is one strange mutant of a pop-science novel.

Good news is that last year the US Supreme Court invalidated gene patents. Who knows what role Crichton’s writing played in the formation of that decision, but it’s sad that he wasn’t alive to see it.



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Well, that was fun.

Six days ago, Midnight Echo sent a form rejection in for “The Broker.” Three days ago, I learned that a screenplay I co-wrote, “Bad Apples,” missed the semi-finalist cut in this year’s short screenplay Shriekfest competition by one freaking spot (cheers to the first loser!). Over the last two days, two other stories were rejected in a single day by two other magazines, and then … well, and then today.

First, my 211-day wait ends with a rejection from Cemetery Dance, where “Sprachlos” failed to pass by the keen eyes of Mr. Norman Prentiss himself, and then about five or so minutes ago, I received a form rejection for “Seal” from Fearful Symmetries. 

Banner week, my friends. All this while I’ve been coding like a fiend at work under deadline pressure, then coming home and working until three or four a.m., trying desperately to finish typing, editing, formatting, and publishing my grandmother’s book, so I’ll have a copy to hand her next weekend when I go up to visit. Call me crazy, but the closer to completion that thing gets, the more I fear a sudden turn in her health. I’d originally promised to have it done last Christmas, but I procrastinated. Now I don’t want this whole thing to turn into a bad joke where the good-for-nothing grandson delays just-too-long to do what he’s promised until finally making good on the promise … one day too late.

But the way this week is going? Shit, I’m glad I don’t have a dog, because it would probably get hit by a car during a week like this.

But okay, okay, enough crying into the whiskey. All of these markets (and Shriekfest) are tough ones to break into. The odds were never in my favor. Fearful Symmetries received 1,100 submissions for two open slots. Cemetery Dance, well–they publish people like Stephen King and Dean Koontz and Clive Barker, and it’s a lucky day when they even open for submissions. The other markets I targeted were all equally high-end. It would be the height of hubris to expect anything other than a rejection from such places, even if every horror writer out there would be out of his or her mind not to try. Aim high, but keep in mind you are aiming high.

What is actually shocking is that I made it as close as I did. “Sprachlos” made it past the first readers at Cemetery Dance, and then it survived until the final twenty or so among the eight hundred stories submitted during the two months they were open. And Shriekfest? Man, that was close, too!

I’d like to add here that Brian James Freeman, who moderates the Cemetery Dance forums and is the managing editor of Cemetery Dance, was surprisingly approachable and forthcoming about the behind-the-scenes goings-on during the incredibly long and agonizing wait for my rejection. I have nothing but good things to say about the guy. He really did his best to reach out to us and ease our anxieties and shed light on what was happening. I’m so thankful for his responses, both via e-mail and the forums. The guy rocks.

As far as the other places go, sure, the form letters are lousy, but they’re also to be expected. I can’t lie to myself and say that I didn’t see any of this coming, because I certainly did. Hell, last night I sent out two submissions, because I had a feeling that I was about to get down to the felt again, and I made a promise to myself that I’d never let the responses catch up to my submissions — which would have happened if I hadn’t sent anything out.

Too close. That was way too close, and it tells me that, despite how many response I’ve received this week, I’m still not really sending out as many pieces as I should be.

If nothing else, the book I’m putting together of my grandmother’s old columns from the local paper is great. It’s going to be beautiful, and it’s almost done.

And it will be published (self-published, sure, but hell with it–it’s something), so there. I’ll have accomplished something real this week, rejections be damned. I don’t want to discount my own tales of misery and terror, but I do think that book’s completion is far more important than any of the rest of this crap.

So, tonight, back to the grindstone.

Tomorrow, work work work. These rejected pieces of shit don’t edit themselves.

Sunday I’ll be at the Black and White open mic on E. 4th street to read something. Something new, I hope. Because the best way to get over a rejection is to write something new.

Or something like that, right?

Long overdue, I suppose, but here is the video log I made depicting my adventures trying to finish the last draft of Daukherville by going to a cabin without power or running water for five days and five nights in the bug-infested wilderness of my home state of Maine.

I had a goddamn blast, for what it’s worth, and I pride myself on this adventure, thanks to my father telling me that, as far as he knows, I lasted the longest anyone in my family has ever lasted at the cabin.

The Redlaw Daukherville Expedition

Epilogue here.

The Dark Man: An Illustrated Poem
The Dark Man: An Illustrated Poem by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful volume, full of dense and dark and menacing illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne, this short poem tells the story of a creepy wanderer, who inspired the character of Randall Flagg, a familiar figure for anyone who has read The Eyes of the Dragon, The Stand, or The Dark Tower cycle.

While the poem itself runs only a few lines (and could probably fit on a single printed page), it was a real treat for a hardcore fan of King’s work such as myself. Perhaps too slight a tale for most readers, it’s a welcome treat to have this one on the shelf between The Secretary of Dreams and my Dark Tower hardcovers. Cemetery Dance (once again) has done a wonderful job turning a horror book into a work of art.



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The good folks over at Bizarrocast have given the audio treatment to my short story, “The Night Light,” taken from my collection I Held My Breath as Long as I Could. 

If you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, stop on by and have a listen. It’s also available on iTunes.

A very big thanks to Chris Boyle and Bizarrocast! This is the first for-pay sale of a story I’ve ever made.

Acceptance. It feels nice.

Sooo … I was re-watching The Sopranos tonight. I’m on Season 3 of my RIP-James-Gandolfini memorial viewing. The show continues to hold up, it’s still outstanding over a decade later, and two things occur to me: James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano is one of the best characters ever, and Meadow Soprano is wrong when she drops the popular interpretation that Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is about death.

Sure, sure. It’s about a man thinking about sleep and woods and darkness and solitude and snow. Yep. I’m with you there. But suicide and death?

Here. Read the poem again with me. Done? Ok, cool.

So I’m guessing that a lot is made out of a couple ideas here. “The darkest evening of the year” turns into a line about the narrator’s depression. “Miles to go before I sleep” is ambiguous, given that he might well be walking straight off into the woods to die of hypothermia. “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep” could well be a man talking about his lust for sleepy death. Sure. Could be.

But really? I don’t buy it. I blame it on the harness bells.

The horse is harnessed and represents the forward march of obligations, of continuing on with the things one is doing. The owner of these fields lives in some village, presumably a place of more activity and hustle and bustle. Frost’s snowy woods are somewhere removed from all that, and the narrator gets off the horse and pauses for a moment to stop and smell the snowflakes.

He also doesn’t appear to be a man who’s done with life, as there is a palpable sense that he loves this world he’s looking at. There’s a celebration here–not of the village or the harnessed lifestyle, but the one where someone might just stop and enjoy nature for a moment.

The repetition of the “miles to go” before the narrator sleeps seems to me the sad acknowledgment that he has obligations left undone. Work still needs to be done. He’s not home yet. His day isn’t done yet. And it’s already incredibly late.

Tired? Yes. Suicidal? C’mon.

Now Philip Larkin’s “High Windows” — THAT’s a poem that’s secretly about suicide! Tell me — how do you go down a long slide from a high window, huh?

See what I’m saying?

(It’s okay. The college poetry professors didn’t buy that read, either. But what do they know.)

But speaking of miles to go, it would seem I’m procrastinating.

Stopping by blogs on a summer evening, with methods to code before I sleep.

North American Lake Monsters: Stories
North American Lake Monsters: Stories by Nathan Ballingrud

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nathan Ballingrud’s debut collection of short stories sank its claws deep into my brain and refused to let go until I’d read the whole thing. He writes clear, powerful tales, where the monsters in question flush out his characters’ humanity in traumatic clarity. Most of these don’t end well, but they’re all gorgeous pieces.

Often, the obvious monster of the story is not the worst monster. Take, for example, the story “Wild Acres,” where an early, bloody attack suggests an obvious sort of supernatural tale. Yet Ballingrud doesn’t go down that road, instead taking the reader through the emotional consequences of surviving the ordeal and the choices made during such an event. Or the eponymous “North American Lake Monsters” itself, where an unidentifiable beast washes up on the shore of a lake and yet remains only a lightning-rod metaphor for the things going on within the family that discovers it.

[Personal note here: I read that story with a mixture of adoration and sadness, as I recently submitted a story that featured almost exactly the same situation. Ugh. The outcome in my tale was far different, but it's still quite frustrating to be scooped on a story I really liked.]

In another standout piece, “Crevasse,” about a sled team in Antarctica running into trouble, Ballingrud manages to concoct a Lovecraftian story that challenges even the best of Lovecraft’s work.

My favorite story in the collection is, unexpectedly, “Sunbleached,” which is a story about a young kid’s relationship with a vampire in his basement. I’m sick to death of vampire tales, and yet this one bowled me over. The details were captivating, and I still can’t shake the ending.

This collection represents some of the finest literary horror I’ve read since devouring Shirley Jackson’s short stories. I’m an instant fan of Ballingrud, and North American Lake Monsters is a powerful, disturbing beast.



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I’ll be announcing some good news shortly (pretty much as soon as I can provide a link for it), but in the meantime I thought I’d post again with some thoughts on how things have been going this summer.

I’ve been writing. Actually, I’ve been re-writing. It started with Daukherville, but that mountain still seems steep to me. Ed at Eleven has reclaimed my attention, and for once the editing is going well. I’d love to have a draft finished by October, and it looks like it might actually happen.

Most importantly, it would be a real second draft, rather than yet another first draft. Have I learned how to edit? Has dedicating myself to shorter fiction served the purpose I’d hoped it would? Could be.

In the meantime, while I’ve fallen off my target of twelve stories in twelve months (I’ve hit four in six so far, so there’s still hope for catch-up), I still have three of the pieces out in the wind, awaiting rejection.

“Sprachlos” (a detective story involving literary forensics) has made it past the first readers at Cemetery Dancewhich is delightful news in and of itself. I continue to wait for the form rejection, but Brian James Freeman, the managing editor of all things Cemetery Dance-related, has told us that anything rejected from this point on will have been seen by all the editors. Holy fuckballs, Batman. For me, Cemetery Dance is nothing short of a pie-in-the-sky market that I’ve dreamed of seeing a story in for decades. That I’ve made it this far really and truly is an honor.

“Seal” (about a nice day on a lake) has been submitted to Ellen Datlow’s Kickstarter-funded anthology Fearful Symmetries. As of their last update, 20% of the stories have been rejected, 4% have been kicked up to Ellen Datlow herself, and 50% have at least been read. The editors have stated that they plan to have all responses sent out by the end of August.

Finally, I submitted my most recent story, “The Broker,” based on an idea Amanda gave me about two ne’er-do-wells and their real estate broker, to Midnight Echowhich could be considered the Australian equivalent to Cemetery Dance, for their ghost-themed issue #10.

All three were written this year, and I believe in them all. Whether the markets above take them or not, I have a lot of hope that I can sell these pieces and step away from the lead balloon of my self-publishing efforts.

In other news, I’ve also collaborated with a talented filmmaker, Brian Lillie, on a screenplay for a short film that we submitted to this year’s Shriekfest.

As far as reviews of books go, you might have noticed a drop-off in frequency (i.e., that they’ve pretty much stopped altogether). I’ve made the decision that to do them (and do them as I was, with no fear of posting negative reviews) is no longer professionally acceptable. I will still post a review if I read something I truly love, or if something is the work of an old master, no longer publishing, but my negative thoughts I will now keep to myself (and immediate friends, who no doubt will hear all my rants).

Also, I’ve been reading a ton of short stories from a lot of writers I like, but I haven’t been able to claim that I’ve finished many collections or anthologies or even magazines, as I tend to skip around like a madman. (Mandler asks: Do madmen skip around? I say: Ah, go fuck yourself.) I’m seeking out a lot of great voices that are new to me, and I’ve found a few (Sarah Langan, David Nickle, Laird Barron, Livia Llewellyn, Helen Marshall, and Nathan Ballingrud to name a few of my new favorites from the last year and a half or so), but I’m pretty much in the middle of all their books. I never desired to speed read, and I never made the effort to learn, so I still read rather embarrassingly slowly, probably just slightly faster than someone reading it aloud. Maybe that makes me a bit of a numbskull, but hey–I like sticking close to the words. I see little reason to rush through sentences.

So that’s where things stand. I’ll update as the rejections make their way in, but for now it looks like the waiting game is the game for me.

The waiting game … and the writing game.

I promised myself last year that I would never let the total number of rejections catch up to my number of submissions.

It’s a promise I’ve kept ever since.

Call it progress.

Preface

The following is a slightly modified version of a piece I wrote up for an MFA class that was kind enough to want to talk to me about my self-publishing adventures. I’d been meaning to write a blog post along these lines for a while, so I’m glad I finally had an excuse to get these thoughts written up. I present them with all appropriate disclaimers: these are merely my thoughts and opinions, based on my subjective experience, and they may prove only that I didn’t know anything at all about self-publishing. Yet in the hopes that they are helpful for others, here they are.

 

I. What I Got From Self-Publishing

The language around the growing number of powerful self-publishing options strikes me as either far too apocalyptic or annoyingly evangelical. Readers are too savvy not to notice signs of mediocrity, and becoming a bestselling author is just as much of an uncommon event for a self-published writer as it is for one traditionally published.

Yet still! Attending a writers’ meet-up recently in New York, I heard a self-published author say things like, “Put your book on Amazon, get ten friends to give it positive reviews, and guess what? Magic happens. Your work starts selling.” She claimed her chick-lit book was earning her thousands of dollars a month. It felt like we were being told there was gold in them thar hills.

Advice from lottery winners about the ease of winning the lottery may not prove accurate on a larger scale.

Of course, it’s also true that my experiences may be equally unusual. Certainly for some writers, like Amanda Hocking and E L James, the vein was rich indeed. I likewise have no doubt that David Mamet and Stephen King and any other already-known name will make trainloads of money on the ebook market. But not everyone found the Colorado Lode when they went west, and not everyone will become a self-publishing success story. I’ve made under two hundred dollars during the last nineteen months of my self-publishing life, which is better than nothing (I will most certainly take it!), but nowhere near life changing.

Magic, alas, did not happen for me.

Honestly, though, if you’re in this for the money (whether from traditional or independent publishing), you’re probably in the wrong business. Get into finance. Learn to code iPhone apps. Open a business and buy for a dollar and sell for two. Anything else, really. Just don’t be a writer. Most writers I know suffer a lot and earn not that much.

What I did get from self-publishing was the energy to write again. I dumped all my old stories that had been rejected for years and years (that I still for whatever reason adored enough not to throw out) into a collection and hit the publish button. It cleared the table. After that, I had nothing to do but write new stuff. And I won’t lie: having self-publishing as a fallback measure makes me feel safe. Whatever I write, I can publish.

I also got a piece of fan mail. It was the first and only one I’ve ever received, but what a moment. We’ve since become good friends, and that’s definitely the single best thing that’s happened as a result of my decision to self-publish.

But who cares about all this preamble. Everyone has a chance to win the lottery. So say you want to give it a shot.  Here are a few things that I’ve learned from my experience.

 

II. What You Might Want to Pay For and What You Might Not

Be suspicious of anything that costs you money. This especially applies to anyone who wants to print your book or format it. DO NOT PAY THESE PEOPLE! With a little effort, there’s no reason you can’t do most of the formatting yourself.

Also do not do what I did and pay for things like:

* ISBNS: I bought ten of them. Used two when I didn’t have to. Now they sit there. Need some?

* Banner ads on websites, or ads anywhere: Guaranteed to not get you the exposure or generate the revenue you’re looking for.

* Too many proof copies: A silly mistake I made, but I was excited. I ordered a box of improperly formatted books. The truth is that you should use the online tools well, and only order one proof copy at a time, because you will make mistakes and no one really wants the broken books.

Also, I never paid for any reviews, nor do I think buying one from a place like Kirkus is a good idea. It costs more than you’re likely to earn, and I’ve read too many stories about people who paid for them and saw no increase in revenue. You’d do better to give your $5K to charity.

What I would pay for, if I could afford it:

* Professional cover art: By far, one of the most important things you can have is a great cover. I don’t. Not really. And guess what? My books don’t sell.

* Proofreading / Editing: It’s so expensive, but it might be worth it. I didn’t go down this road, but a lot of others have. Nothing beats a good editorial eye. Personally, I didn’t have the money to pay for an editor (or anything else, for that matter), so I adopted a practice of reading every story aloud until I could get through it twice without changing a word. I also recorded these readings, so I could listen to the stories on my daily commute. I caught a lot of mistakes, and every time I did, I realized how fallible I really and truly am. Good editors are the stuff of dreams. Someday, I hope to have one.

* Writing classes and books: The best investments you could ever make.

 

III. How to Do the Technical Stuff

All ebooks are essentially stripped-down HTML–the cleaner the better. Basically, my process for converting a document to an ebook is to write it in Word, save it as a Web page, open it in Calibre (free ebook conversion software that I’ll provide a link to), and convert it into an epub that I upload wherever I need to.

Where it gets tricky is if things go wrong in the conversion process. Usually, this happens due to some garbage Word throws in there. So if you’re really having trouble, I’d suggest formatting your book or story as a basic webpage (using Notepad or some other basic text editor that won’t throw in a lot of crap formatting), using the following formatting:

Start with basic HTML.

<html>

<head></head>

<body>

<h1>Wrap chapter titles in header tags, like the ones here.</h1>

<p>Wrap all paragraphs in paragraph tags, like the ones wrapping this line.</p>

<p>Some more fanciness: <strong>Put any bold words in strong tags.</strong> and <em>any italicized words in em tags.</em></p>

<p>After you have your document formatted like this, close out the html.</p>

</body>

</html>

That’s all you need to do to format a document properly. From here, Calibre should be able to do the rest for you, whether you need your document converted to a .mobi file for Kindle, or an .epub for just about everyone else. (And for what it’s worth, I always had more success uploading epubs to Kindle rather than .mobi files, which is sort of funny.)

Calibre allows you to attach a cover image to your book, as well as tweaking some basic information about it (though don’t get worried about this, as I don’t know if any of the other publishing platforms take the information Calibre puts in there seriously).

In Calibre, my process is generally to convert to epub, but I set a couple of special options.

* Structure Detection: In this window, I enter the following in the field that reads “Insert page breaks before (XPath expression)”:

//h:*h1

What this does is create a section break before any of those chapter title tags I recommended earlier that can be interpreted by the table of contents auto-generator. This makes for easier navigation on an e-reader.

* Table of Contents: To complete the process, check the box under this window for ‘Force Use of Auto-Generated Table of Contents’

And that’s really all I do. I encourage you to play around, experiment, and test! Calibre comes with a mock ebook reader, which is okay, but almost all the platforms have some kind of previewing mechanism, which I encourage you to download and use.

One last tip: If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of an ebook, download a free one without any copyright protection on it, open it in Calibre, right click and choose ‘Tweak eBook.’ From there, click the button to ‘Explode Book’ (a delightful option), and you will be able to browse all the little bits and pieces that make up a valid ebook.

 

IV. Resources & Links

Calibre – http://calibre-ebook.com The single best tool for converting almost every kind of document to any other kind of document. A must for anyone turning things into ebooks.

FlightCrew – https://code.google.com/p/flightcrew The epub validator I use, however you can find and experiment with a number of them online. Just don’t pay for one.

Createspace – https://www.createspace.com My choice for creating a physical book to sell on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and for just getting a cheap copy printed for yourself!). There’s no minimum number to buy, and a paperback copy of your book (designed by you!) will remain permanently in stock all over the place without you needing to spend a dime. I cannot stress enough how absolutely cool print on demand services like this really are. CreateSpace is affiliated with Amazon, so linking your ebook to your paperback is a piece of cake.

Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com – A great overall site, which I don’t use. I might, someday, just to reach a few more markets. I like their coupon-generation ability, and their royalty rates can sometimes be higher, however exposing your book to Amazon through them is a bit trickier than I think it should be. Be sure to read their ‘Secrets eBook,’ which contains excellent tips on the self-publishing game – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/145431

Lulu – http://www.lulu.com A decent clone of Smashwords, if for some reason you don’t like Smashwords.

Kindle Direct Program – https://kdp.amazon.com Amazon’s self-publishing portal. Easy to use, tricky to truly master, but Amazon is certainly where the bulk of my sales have been. It’s accounted for 99% of my sales. So if you’re going to self-publish, don’t ignore them.

iTunes Connect – https://itunesconnect.apple.com/WebObjects/iTunesConnect.woa The portal to publishing your book on Apple’s iBookstore, where I’ve made the least amount of money.

Nook Press – https://www.nookpress.com The portal to selling your work on Barnes and Noble’s website.

Duotrope – https://duotrope.com For people looking to go the traditional route, or find the perfect little niche market to sell a reprint of a story they’ve self-published, this site (which requires a bit of money but is worth every penny) is one I’ve found indispensable. A rich database of markets and their response times, Duotrope puts anything I ever saw from Writer’s Market to complete shame. Thanks to this site, I usually have anywhere from 3-12 pieces out for rejection at any given time, and I’ve made a personal pledge to myself to never again let the number of responses outnumber the number of submissions I have in the wind.

 

V. About Amazon & Pricing Strategies

Amazon likes to push you into a little exclusivity agreement. The sales pitch is that Amazon users can read your book as part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, and that any copies borrowed in such a way will earn you a portion of a monthly pot of gold (usually somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 dollars). It does end up being a little more than you’d usually make on the 35/70% royalty, and it seems better for Kindle owners, who don’t have to pay for your book. You also get five days every ninety days you’re in the program to offer your book free of charge to Amazon customers, which can generate a lot of exposure.

The catch is that you can’t sell your book anywhere else.

In the end, I guess I’ve made so little from the other markets that it shouldn’t bother me to only sell through Amazon.

But it does. It’s the principle of the thing. Exclusivity rubs me the wrong way. I don’t like any organization that seeks to limit the audience for a book. Sure, Borders or Barnes and Noble would no doubt sell more copies of a book than Book Marcs (an old bookstore I spent a lot of time in), but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to let Book Marcs stock it.

Of course, Barnes and Noble have aligned themselves on the side of exclusivity in the self-publishing wars, as well, stating in the past that they wouldn’t stock any physical copies of books produced by Amazon.

I hate it all.

As for my favorite part — the five days you can give you book away to customers — you can get that without going exclusive. Simply do what I did and offer it for free somewhere else, like Barnes and Noble or iTunes. Amazon will figure out you’ve set a lower price somewhere, and they’ll start giving your book away to everyone under their “Free Price Match Guarantee” until you change your anti-capitalist ways.

I gave my book away for several months, until it occurred to me that people would have almost zero inclination to read a book they picked up for free. So now I charge $.99, which makes me look only slightly more reputable.

Pricing your book is a gentle art, which you should play around with. Experiment. Track sales. Change it up or down, and never assume the answer to greater sales is to cut the price. Sometimes, a higher price signifies better quality, and the Amazon $.99 bin starts looking like a garbage can, or just another pile of ignorable slush.

Which for the most part is exactly what it is.

 

VI. How to Promote Your Book (i.e., Social Networking is a Waste of Time, and read something other than this primer)

Twitter and Facebook are not the tools you should use to market your book. They do not work, and hounding your followers or your friends will get you LESS attention, rather than more. So forget about it.

I also have limited faith in the power of a blog. Also, shouldn’t you focus on writing stories rather than blog posts, anyway? [asked the writer, in a post on his blog.]

Promote your book by giving it a good title that accurately describes what it’s about, a great cover that conveys the tone and looks professional, and a carefully crafted description that makes people want to read your book and is coded with words important for search engine optimization.

Yeah. And I have no idea how to do this part of it. I’m terrible at it. Instead, I’m going to point you to a book I read that convinced me I was doing everything wrong:

http://www.amazon.com/Blogging-Facebook-Guerilla-Marketers-ebook/dp/B007XVWEIU

It’s a good book that I should read again and do a better job of learning from, and it supports some of the more contentious points I’ve made in this primer, which I hope you’ve found useful.

That said …

 

VII. A Special Offer for Everyone (While My Time Lasts)

Even with all these resources, I often ran up against challenges (often with the technical, idiosyncratic formatting issues that prevented the book being listed with iTunes). Luckily, I have a background as an Internet applications developer, so I was able to troubleshoot. The solutions were often simple tricks, easy to implement if you know how, and I encourage you to at least try to learn how to do it yourself before paying someone hundreds of dollars to do something that only takes a few minutes.

For that reason, I’d like to offer myself as a resource if any of you have technical trouble self-publishing ebook versions of your stories. Please, don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail with any and all questions, technical or otherwise, at daukherville [at] gmail [dot] com, or ask a question in the comments below. I might not have a good answer for everything, but I’m more than happy to share everything I do know.

And good luck out there! I hope you become hugely successful writers–self-published or otherwise.

Give ‘em hell.

Recently, I purchased The Century’s Best Horror Fiction, a beautiful two-volume set of short horror stories, edited by John Pelan and published by Cemetery Dance Publications. I feel like something this epic deserves special treatment, and so I’m challenging myself to read one story a day for the next 100 days, posting reviews as I go. Tonight, I read a tale chosen from the year 1905: R. Murray Gilchrist’s “The Lover’s Ordeal” …

Cool story with an excellent set-up of someone saying to his lover that he wished she’d challenge him to some great ordeal to prove his worth. She challenges him to spend a night in a haunted house. So he goes, happily. I like that a lot: the idea of the hero riding with good cheer to a haunted house. I’d definitely do that, and it felt quite realistic to me.

I’ll stop here, because this is a really short story. It’s really good, despite some mythological liberties that I wasn’t entirely on board with.

The last line is outstanding.

Giving this one 4/5 stars, for brevity and charming realism, and for really bringing it home in the final moments.