So, it’s day two of the big blog tour has arrived, and I have been interviewed by Hywela-Lin for her blog. This was a fun interview, not necessarily the same old questions, and I went out of my way not to provide the same old answers, as well. One of the tricks of this blog tour thing is – in my opinion – mixing it up. If you have nothing new to say, and twelve blogs interview you, asking the same old questions and getting the same old answers in slightly different hats, well, I think you can see how boring that would be. I am not famous. Instead, I strive for interesting. I believe (probably foolishly, but there you go) that if I make a real effort, I can show people who I am, and why I write what I write, and why it would be worth their time to check it out. One thing you learn in life is that even those who are already mildly interested in you have their reasons. Sadly, for me, only a small portion of those interested enough in me to know who I am are also interested enough to read my books.
I wish I had a small truckload of copies of Nevermore … I would ride to the next two fan conventions I could reach and just hand out copies. I wonder how many I’d have to hand out before a sufficient number actually read them, and then talked about them, and it became a “thing?” We’ll never know, sadly – books are expensive. I DID lower the eBook price on Nevermore – a Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe to only $2.99 for the duration of this blog tour. $2.99 is still in the impulse buy range, right? I want to give you that impulse, so, without further ado…
Here is a very short bit from the interview with me over at Hywela Lin’s blog… and a link to the rest. Below that are links to yesterdays posts, where I conducted interviews with my own characters, Donovan DeChance, and Edgar Allan Poe…
READ THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW AT HYWELA LYn’s Blog – along with an excerpt from Nevermore. Enter to win copies of the book – or just buy it already!
First, let me start by posting a link to the main site for the blog tour. At this site you’ll find a schedule of all the blog stops, all the ways you can enter to win copies of the Hardcover, trade paperback, audio and eBook editions of Nevermore – A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe. The book is discounted for the length of the tour from $4.99 to $2.99 – nearly half off! You can find tour info here: The Buy The Bool Blog Tour for Nevermore!
The First two stops on the blog tour required me to do something I have never attempted before. They are “character interviews,” where I sit down in a virtual room and chat with the characters from my own worlds and novels …quite the change from other types of guest posts I’ve written in the past. Sort of half fiction, half real – and as it turns out, not a bad exercise in getting into the head of your own character. As it turns out, I actually had questions, and probably have a lot more – I limited myself this time out to things that relate one way or another to Nevermore…
At LAURIE’S THOUGHTS AND REVIEWS – there is an interview posted today with the protagonist of my series, The DeChance Chronicles… It’s an interesting way, I think, of showing how the series ties in with Nevermore, and hopefully convincing readers of Nevermore that they might want the entire story…and vice versa. Assuming Donovan has fans, I want them to know it is important for them to read Nevermore.
DNW: Today, I am interviewing Donovan DeChance, book collector, mage, sometimes private investigator – and some say – hero. The book Nevermore, a Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe would never have happened if not for Donovan’s chance visit with Poe so long ago, so I thought it would be appropriate to see what he has to say on the subject. I’ve spent a lot of hours chronicling your adventures, Donovan, but I must say – despite all of that, I still have a lot of questions.
I spend far too much time on trivialities in this blog, ignoring what it should truly be about. Words. Stories, creation and art – the ups and downs of the particular life behind my own stories. Some things matter more than others, and today, I have decided, is a very good day.
First, unrelated to any of the other topics involved, I went running for the first time in almost a year. I made it a mile and a half in the brand new Vivobarefoot Running shoes (more on those in another post). I came home, got the leash, and took Gizmo for a long cool walk, came home once again, fed the birds and closed their door so the rest of the family could continue sleeping…
Then, as I shook loose the final cobwebs, I opened up my Kindle Fire, turned on the Wi-Fi and began the download of the audiobook for Neil Gaiman’s newest – The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I knew nothing about this story. Well, that isn’t exactly true. I knew one thing. There are things you look forward to. There are movies coming out – concerts to see – television premiere’s – vacations. All of these things you hold inside and when things get rough, you turn to them and wonder about them a little, and forget the world.
For many years now, one of the things that has done this for me is the work of Neil Gaiman. It’s infectious, of course, and has spread somewhat to the rest of the family. I pre-ordered the book because I think Trish might want to read it, and that Katie most certainly will. (She loved Coraline and has The Graveyard Book and Fortunately, the Milk waiting on her Kindle). While I will sit and agonize over buying new books and paying bigger prices, I have cast this aside as unimportant in a very few cases, and this case – this new story waiting – has been a top-of-that-list case for some time now. I pre-ordered the audiobook the minute it came out, and purposefully timed the last book I listened to to end yesterday, so I’d be ready.
So, I ran a mile and a half. I opened up my computer browser and went to check on my own story (written with the very talented author Steven Savile who – as it turns out – is also my very good friend) – Hallowed Ground, which has been enjoying a two day free promotion and has given away a (to me) staggering 18,200 copies or so. Currently, our little tale is #6 of all the free books available for the Kindle. If the gurus are right, well, this will continue on into sales when the promotion ends. If not – just maybe – some of those 18,000 people are settling into their day – perhaps with the Whispersync for Voice audio that is only $1.99 with the free book – but more likely with a Kindle – and dropping through time to the city of Rookwood, where magic, and crow-men, and even Lilith herself awaits them. That is what I hope, because here’s the thing.
I do not want to write like Neil Gaiman, though I count him among the three or four working authors I most admire. I do not want to write like Neil – but I want to “be” like Neil. I want to be seen for what my heart tells me I am – a teller of stories. Some of them are good, and others, probably not so much, but they are mine. I want to write like me, and be like Neil Gaiman, and -right this very moment – I want to be back on the bench, by the pond, where I left the protagonist of his new book staring at a pond and remembering. I want to listen for Monster, padding through the grass. I wonder what happened to Lettie. I will say nothing more about this book until I reach the other side…
But so far, this is a wonderful day. Thanks Neil.
I spent some time on the phone with a lady this morning that runs one of the bigger groups for independent booksellers in the south. It was one more in a long string of conversations that have led to this post. My goal here is two-fold. One, I want to educate everyone, readers, booksellers who might not know, and authors, on the mathematics of a POD book and why the current situation sucks. The second goal is to reach out to all of those same groups of people and work to find a solution. Here toes nothing.
For the purpose of this post, I’m going to use one of my own novels – Heart of a Dragon. This book is available in hardcover and in trade paperback, so I can show you the realities of pricing and distribution.
Out books are printed and shipped through Lightning Source. Lightning Source, of course, is associated with Ingram, but we’ll ignore that for now. Numbers:
Heart of a Dragon – Cover price $12.99 Trade paperback.
Heart of a Dragon – Cover price $24.99 Hardcover
Lighting Source has been very good to us. There is a calculator on their site where you plug in the type of book, the number of pages, and then experiment with prices and discounts so you find a point where you can make a little money and your author also makes money. It’s easy to use.
We have been discounting our books at 40 percent, hoping this would encourage independent bookstores to order from us. I know most of them use Ingrams or Baker & Taylor, and so, I thought giving this discount would at least help. On the above book:
$12.99 – 40 percent discount – we make $3.98 a book. This is split 50/50 with our authors. The rest, we split among the company and the book designer we work with. in other words. Not much.
$24.99 – 40 percent discount – we make $4.53 a book. Same deal.
That is what we make if we manage to sell a book through Ingram. What I’ve been told is – they do not pass this discount on to booksellers. They short discount it – probably no better than 15-25 percent in any case. Why? Because we don’t allow returns. To explain that. If 100 books are ordered, and we accept returns, and only 30 are sold, the other 70 are returned to Ingram, probably damaged at least lightly, and shipped to us, and we have to buy them all at cost. We have no warehouse. It’s a problem. So, we don’t allow returns.
The reality is that Ingrams WANTS you to discount your books 55% and accept returns. If you don’t accept returns, and still manage to get up to 55% you might start to see some bookstore returns, but here’s the thing. For us to make the same amount on the books prices have to go up considerably.
HC – $32.99 – 55 percent discount we make: $4.39
TPB – $17.99 – 55 percent discount we make $4.29
Then, if we were to take returns, we risk having a pile of these laying around….
If people order directly from us, we can offer the deeper discount to THEM. There may be a point in the middle where all this meets up. We may have to raise prices slightly to give bookstores 50 percent without returns. Currently, what we have done (effective the end of June) is to lower our discount to 20 percent, cutting out ANY sales to bookstores through Ingram, but lowering the cost at B&N and Amazon and directly through us and raising the amount per sale that our authors will receive. We don’t want to be for sale only on the Internet, but that appears to be where we’re heading.
What will fix all of this? A Network of independent publishers creating a single source for booksellers to order from that is simple in the way ordering from Ingram is, but that does NOT cost a chunk of the profit to use. Also, and those of you who have published through NYC know this, if we offer returns we have to change our accounting. We have to keep a “reserve against returns” on print book sales for at least six months, meaning you wait longer to get paid for your books, and if they are returned, don’t get paid for them at all. Then we have to have big “damaged book” sales and try to unload them at $5 – $10 a copy to cover print costs.
Another possibility is to make the information on POD books – cover art, description, price available in stores for customers willing to wait for delivery to their store. Maybe laminated product cards?
It’s ridiculous that we can’t find a better way for this to work in this digital age. Print on Demand has changed the availability of books, simplified the math and shipping – but not addressed the distribution. The old model is designed to work well for people using standard, off-set printing, where you pay huge chunks of cash up front, order print runs in larger numbers, dropping the per unit cost, and allowing that 55 percent discount and returns, hope to do better than break even. The really big companies can drop their per unit ridiculously low – and do – by printing literally hundreds of thousands of best-selling books that end up deep discounted, and still make money (while killing thousands of trees) Those of us working through Print on Demand channels need a new method of aggregating the available titles and making them available to libraries and independent book stores in a way that does not inconvenience them out of the game. Dealing with each of us separately does that.
We also need a way to get people into those stores requesting the books, because, in the end, that is the only way to get them to take the extra trouble – and who can blame them for that? I’m open for suggestions, and would love to hear from other publishers using Print on Demand – how you work it, if you take returns, how bad has that been? If the higher prices don’t matter – I would love to know that too. I am trying to make this print line a success..
I don’t know if what we need is a joint catalog put together by independent publishers, a network of e-mail and direct mail programs reaching out to bookstores, raising our prices and caving in…but I aim to find it.
Here’s how America works. It seems to be the same in every industry, and every walk of life, and we are in a particularly good seat at the moment to watch the entire process unfold yet again. Someone invents something, makes something, or something that already existed somehow gains new traction and becomes a “thing”. The minute this happens, the gears start turning. While the originator of “the thing,” and the first few copy-cats out the door will do well, eventually people wanting to capitalize on “the thing” have to branch out. Suddenly there will be services to help you do what the originators did. There will be books about why it is successful, and how to emulate that success – mostly be people who have not done so, and – if they COULD do so – would BE doing so. Marketing schemes will rise. Consultants on how to do that marketing will rise. Analysts will roll out the adding machines and we’re off to the races. Half of what we spend our money on (and this is a conservative guess) could cost a lot less by simply cutting away the layers of industry that have been built around the original “things” – and the greed of the long string of leeches living off of them. This, of course, is a habit it’s hard to break. People have to work, and in among all the leeches, there are genuinely helpful, knowledgeable people trying to help. None of that is the point.
The point of this post is that Publishing – as an industry – is a perfect example of old school exclusivity, and a somewhat crumbling tower of layers it is going to have to shed to carry on very far into the future. In the old school model, it’s hard as hell to get a book published. They liked it that way (still like it that way) because it makes them seem somehow god-like and important. It gives them the leverage to control people and “things” that they could not otherwise. The same is true of agents. Somehow it has reached the point where authors vie desperately for the attention of these folks – writing what they are told, when they are told and absolutely terrified of doing anything else. The rulers of the industry would like you to believe that all of this is based on the quality of the work- that the agents and editors choosing the books being published are the cream of the crop from all possible sources – that they have magical powers that make their judgment calls the cornerstones of literature. Let’s be frank – those cornerstones support Fifty Shades of Crap and enough books NOT written by the celebrities whose names grace the covers to carpet a very large city. Maybe a country. There may have been a time when publishing was largely based on quality – but it is currently based on cash.
Marketing rules publishing. Hype rules marketing. You are more likely to see a pop-up picture book from Stephen King than a well-distributed book by a talented newcomer. Self-publishing and independent publishing is on the rise, but in many cases the sames rules are applying. Someone creates a “thing” and a million people rush to copy it. Ten of those million manage to do something that makes them money, the rest either rush off after the next thing, or branch out into the new surrounding industries. Those who succeed become gurus – despite the fact that becoming a “thing” is not something that they could recreate, or teach. Consultants build empires. Editing services by people with absolutely no credentials to BE editors are around every virtual corner. Services asking you to pay ridiculous amounts of money so your book can be “published” run by people who know absolutely that you have no more chance of success with them than you do without them, but that their dog will get Kibble if they convince you otherwise. A lot of these “publishing services” are run by respected agents and others whose place in the new schema is on rocky ground. These are people you would hope would be working in the best interests of their clients, but history says no. They are working in the interest of cash.
There is a great blending, as well. Agents – once very important, integral parts of the process, are mostly another blockage in the system these days. They have very limited outlets for work they can sell. If they are successful, they have clients they rely on, and the rest get little time, little consideration, and a lot of delay. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard authors say they’ve written dozens of proposals and sets of sample chapters that never got past an agent until they nearly quit writing in frustration. The odds are that agent is hedging bets by stringing them along, but is really hoping to get off the phone so they can talk to a successful client. It’s business. Another thing to remember is that, in most cases, agents are not editors. Editors, these days, have very little chance of buying something new that they really want – unless the deal is very much banked in their favor, or the product in question either is, or appears as if it might be “a thing.” Don’t count on this old standard route to get you where you want to be as a writer. Remember – despite what the Internet seems to believe – that not everyone can write. If you are good at it – you have a talent – a gift. Don’t sign that gift over to people who have no intention of helping you nourish it…and don’t spend all your time dashing after gurus. Study the market – study the new paradigm. Ask questions. There has never been a better time for talented writers, as artists, to stand up and change things.
As if it wasn’t hard enough to get through those old barriers, agents are now picking new clients from the self-published authors on the bestsellers lists – which obviously means less time for all of those people who made use of the services that helped them write their novels, edit their novels, write query letters for their novels – and submitted them in tight packages following said agent’s posted guidelines. Yeah, it’s like that. All that money wasted – all those services that really aren’t. Do you really need an entire book to show you how to write a query letter? Is there really anyone out there who can so influence your book / project / talent with their “proven formula” for ANYTHING that is more than another crutch to hold you up while the slow-moving wheels of publishing grind on past your efforts without a sideways or backward glance? Probably not. Still, I have a whole shelf of books on formatting and writing. It’s what we do.
Distributors – instead of being a convenient way for publishers to reach booksellers, they are now set up to make it more difficult for any but their chosen clients, or those who bow down to ridiculous demands, to get a product out there. They bully stores by only offering good deals in return for exclusivity. The bully publishers by demanding things like returns – knowing full well that just a couple of over-ordered titles could put a smaller business OUT of business.
And it’s all crumbling. As it crumbles, keep your eyes open. If something is a “service” now that was not there before, and it’s associated with “publishing” but really doesn’t seem to be… remember it’s how America works. A thousand businesses wills pop up for every new “thing” and they will prey on the 999,990 who don’t manage to immediately copy the “thing” for profit. The few that DO make it will be held up and pointed at to prove that ANYONE can do it – and there will be no articles written about the other 999,990 – it’s bad for too many businesses.
Things I’d like to see when the smoke clears:
- Authors publishing the books that move / inspire them instead of what an agent/editor says they should write.
- Editors and (if they make the cut) agents who respond promptly and remember that they work for the writer.
- A distribution system that allows indepe
ndent publishers and sellers to interact fairly.
- More transparency on the financial side of the industry.
- A more cooperative world where – rather than huge advances, what authors want is steady, sustained income and impact – and where publishers don’t try to squeeze the majority of the profit out of those who created it.
I’m a dreamer, I know…but maybe that will be a “thing”.
Before I get too far into describing this novel, I want to talk a bit about where it came from. First off, it was a novel that I never would have written left to my own devices. That said, once I had decided that I DID want to write it, I ran into one of the walls in publishing that irritates me the most. An agent who – rather than really being interested in my work, my vision, my voice, etc. – really only wanted someone who could write another “Da Vinci Code” before it lost its appeal and she had to come up with another thing to try and make her authors copy. Authors – write what moves you. Anything other than this will result in – at best – lukewarm, mediocre writing. A worst? It will make you want to stop writing altogether, and then you begin to cave in to entropy and the great boredom that binds. I mean this with all my heart. If you are going to write, write thing that matter to you because there is no way in hell they will matter to someone else if you don’t.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Agents work for writers. That’s the dynamic that works. That is no longer the dynamic in the publishing industry, and it’s a bad, horrible, spit it from your mouth thing. You should NOT spend your hours and nights and weeks and even years banging your head on some agent’s desk trying to write what they think is the next big thing. A: They may have a connection to sell books to, but they are no more qualified to call the next big thing than the editors who – in general – ignore THEM in the same way they ignore you. You may, or may not write the next big thing, but your odds drop astronomically when you stop writing what you want/need to write and start trying to please “the machine”. If your agent makes you feel as if you work for them, that you have to curry their favor? They aren’t agents at all. It’s not what they are supposed to do. They are supposed to have faith in YOU, YOUR talent, and YOUR vision…if they don’t they should represent someone else, and you should have nothing to do with them because -from my experience and that of many others, the odds are you will sell most of your own books over your career. The agent may, or may not help with contracts – but they WILL collect 15 percent of everything you make. They should earn it, not make you feel as if you work for them…and yet pay them.
Anyway…The Orffyreus Wheel was one of several ideas I came up with for a particular agent. She wanted me to write something like The Da Vinci Code. I came to her with several proposals – all of which she wanted three chapters and an outline for – none of which she could – in the end – be bothered to represent. When I finally figured out she was killing my ability to work at all, I cut that anchor chain – and began writing again. I sold a bunch of books fairly quickly, and during that time, I wrote The Orffyreus Wheel because, though the prod to go and find this story came from elsewhere, once I DID find it, I was fascinated, and knew it needed to be completed.
It’s relevant. Whether or not Johann Bessler invented a perpetual motion wheel that could have pumped water virtually forever, barring worn out hardware, is a moot point. What would happen if someone presented such a constant, free energy source to the world is not. The fuel and power behind our world is controlled by people who consider most of the rest of us bugs. If they didn’t need the bugs to use their energy, they’d do away with us cheerfully. Witness the billion dollar severance pay-outs for oil execs and the fact that bankers who run failed banks and ruin people are still rich. They would not be on board with a good, clean, free energy source -they would want to either own it – or destroy all knowledge of it. Don’t even get me started about what the government might do with it.
That is the basis of half of my novel. It runs on twin timelines – one in the past, a fictionalized version of the life of one Johann Bessler, the invention of his wheel, the power struggles that ensued, the hatred from his peers, where it all led. In the present – an heir with the keys to that same secret, and enemies so large and dark she can barely comprehend them.
This is a thriller. It is also a historical novel. It is fast-paced and I think, intriguing. It was published as a serial by “Amazon Shorts,” one of the old Amazon programs – and was a bestseller in that program, but the program died just as the last segments were going live, and the book fizzled. I brought it back as an eBook, revised and cleaned up – it’s also available as an unabridged audiobook….one day before long it will finally see print.
This Wednesday and Thursday – it will be a free eBook on Amazon.com and I hope you’ll take a chance on it. It was not a book I would have found and written on my own, and for that much I thank Dan Brown and that old, not-very-helpful agent. It’s notable that once I sold one of the other books she did not like – The Mote in Andrea’s Eye, she had the temerity to write, congratulating me on my success and ask if I needed her to represent it… Seriously. That happened. I managed to keep a civil tongue and bid her adieu.
There are stories to write, you see, and every one of the stories she told me I should not write are now published…some with a degree of success, and NONE paying her fifteen percent for hating them. I’ll count that in the win column! If you are an audio lover, you can buy the eBook for $3.99 and receive the “Whispersync for Voice Ready” audiobook for $1.99 – narrated by Ian Alexander. If you download it later this week for free – you can STILL get the audio for $1.99. Come on – let me tell you a story.
Besides just being the first full-length novel in the O.C.L.T. series, The Parting is novel that I discovered while researching. That happens to me a lot. I go to look at one thing, and I end up with a handful of events, facts, bits of synchronicity that bind it all together, and I end up working on something new. When I decided to write about Rebecca York, a woman with a great deal of magical ability, and roots reaching back into Egypt, I downloaded a very old book on Folklore. In the process, I found a story about an ancient sorcerer. He apparently had the ability to part water. From that I made the leap to Moses, and the fact he studied with the Egyptians. I made some other connections and discovered that there might just be an ancient talisman, The Aptet of Tchatcha-em-ânkh, that assisted with this particular spell, and I was off to the races.
The first chapter – about 7700 words – is available for you to read here. It is the beginning of the novel, and it is the basis for the plot. I brought that talisman into modern times, put it in the hands of someone with an agenda, and pitted several of the agents of what would eventually become the O.C.L.T. against the evil. At the time of The Parting, the O.C.L.T. did not exist. There was a network – a computer web – created by Wendell “Mack” MacKlemore. He collected and fed information to different contacts, sort of trying to run the whole thing himself. It was too big for him, and the events of The Parting serve to set the stage for this realization. In the follow-on novel by Aaron Rosenberg, Incursion, the actual creation of the organization, and the establishment of a base of operations.
There are a lot of fun characters in The Parting – an old monk, a young Israeli boy, his family, an agent of the Mossad, terrorists, diplomats, and of course, another sorceress. I think this is one of my faster paced, more intriguing novels, and I very much look forward to more adventures with the agents of the O.C.L.T. in the future. I hope you’ll take some time to read the opening chapter – it stands alone, I think, as a novelette – though it obviously leads into the story at large.
Since the days I was involved with licensed fiction for White Wolf, writing in their World of Darkness for the Vampire the Masquerade line, Wraith, and later for Vampire the Dark Ages, I’ve had a soft-spot in my heart for series fiction. I have also had a bone to pick with most of it, and when I set out to create my own series – there are three now – I was determined to make an attempt to fix what I saw as problems in most shared world and series work – particularly the kind that shares authors. First off, the problem with a formula is … it’s a formula. While that formula may work wonderfully for a time, and even become a comfortable fit for a large group of readers, what my own reading has taught me is that – as an author – it grows increasingly difficult to be original, compelling, and in any way relevant if you allow the formula to take over too much.
The second problem I have found is rigidity. When you write licensed novels, you find that a lot of what you love in your work is cut out because it doesn’t fit the narrow mold envisioned by the license holder. For instance – my vampire, Montrovant, hero of my trilogy The Grails Covenant – had some abilities that stretched beyond his “clan”. Now, their books clearly stated that – with effort – this was possible, but when I turned in the books they acted as if they’d never written that, and wanted me to just make him a good little vampire who only used a particular set of powers – ever – and even went as far as to tell me that NO vampire would ever act differently than another… what? Their vampires are fully formed entities – if they were not, it would be like trying to write a zombie novel where the only characters were mindless ghouls eating people and nothing changed. Bleah.
So – I’ll cover The DeChance Chronicles, and how I try to keep them fresh in later posts. This weeks books in the Year of DNW promotional push – are my two current entries into the O.C.L.T. series – the novel THE PARTING and the Novella “The Temple of Camazotz”.
When we set out to create the O.C.L.T. (originally three of us, but it ended up being myself and author Aaron Rosenberg) we wanted something different. The first notion was that it could be a home for books other authors had written as Fringe, X-Files, Buffy, Angel, whatever licensed novels that were rejected for whatever reason. Change them around, add in a consult from one of our agents, or any loose tie-in you like, and you’re in. What it grew into was something much better. We created a series of agents that are constants. These are the core agents, and mostly – if there are novels that feature them – we will be writing them. The beauty is – any weirdness, any occult, alien, or other-than-natural event can trigger an appearance or a connection to O.C.L.T. – and any author’s own character can benefit from the joint marketing by writing us in. Crossroad Press is doing an original series by Melissa Scott & Jo Graham, for instance, The Order of the Air. In both of the first two books, Geoffrey Bullfinch (who may, or may not be the one who wrote the mythology book) is mentioned and on the periphery. Their series takes place in the past, but many of the O.C.L.T. characters have been around for a very long time. I have also tied in The DeChance Chronicles – directly connecting Donovan to Bullfinch and Rebecca York, agents of the O.C.L.T. – and thus tying them in (as well) with my new novel NEVERMORE, and my fictional Old Mill, NC. It’s one big magical world, and that opens up the fictional possibilities. There are few rules. That helps as well. I’m going to end this with links to the Books of the O.C.L.T. (I may write about mine separately later in the week) and with a list of the O.C.L.T. agents as they appear in our series “Bible.” I hope you’ll give it a try. I’m betting if you do – you’ll like it.
No Laughing Matter – A Tie-in Novel to the O.C.L.T. – By Kurt Criscione – AMAZON – (Audio coming soon)
Geoffrey Bullfinch: named for Chaucer and Bullfinch of the mythology book. Stands just under six feet tall, nondescript, often carries a pipe. He has gray eyes, gray hair, but is difficult to pin down on his age. Dresses either like an academic, or, on a mission, like a 1960s African Explorer in Khakis. Expert in folklore, mythology, ancient cultures and religions as they relate to supernatural entities and events. Also has some power, but it comes from written spells, sigils, and amulets, and is drawn from a vast library and a lot of research. He is slender, of Anglican ancestry, but with an accent that hints of Wales, or Ireland. Besides his work with OCLT he is an author and lecturer on cryptozoology and the occult. He has served as a consultant to most of the intelligence agencies of Europe, has contacts with CIA, MI6, etc. While appearing bookish, dressing impeccably, and speaking softly, he is surprisingly adept in martial arts and has an encyclopedic and practical knowledge of most weapons.
Isabella Ferrara: an Italian monster hunter, Isabella works for the Vatican but has been seconded to OCLT. Tall, curvy, and olive-skinned, with clear green eyes and dark blonde hair, she is a striking woman if not a beautiful one. Isabella is also deadly as all hell—she is versed in pretty much every weapon and martial arts, and also an expert in monster lore. She is a talented tracker and hunter as well. Isabella is deeply religious, but highly adaptable—she has no problem working with people of other faiths, or seeing things that wouldn’t normally be encompassed by Judeo-Christian beliefs, but she very much believes in the Holy Trinity and the Mother Church.
Reed Christopher Hayes: The team leader and strategist. American. He goes by R.C. or Reed, or Chris to some old friends. His nickname in Military Intelligence was “Crease.” R.C. looks much like Denzel Washington–average height, black, reasonably good-looking but not stunning, close-cropped hair turning salt-and-pepper, the same stubble on his cheeks and chin if he’s not careful, a serious, intelligent face. He isn’t young anymore—he had a promising career as a field agent for Military Intelligence but then got stuck in a lot of dead-end assignments and desk jobs and the like after the thing with the troll before he finally got fed up (hah!) and transferred stateside to the FBI, who were thrilled to have an agent of his experience. He’s still fit, though—he doesn’t look like much in a suit, necessarily, but he’s in good shape and still solid in a fight. R.C. is happily married, and he and his wife Nancy have two kids.
Gunter Krieg: Tall, mid-forties, born and raised in Berlin, with crazy gray hair that sometimes sits down and sometimes waves around his head like a cloud, Gunter is a professor at Evergreen State University (and yes, there are dozens of Evergreen States around the country, and no, he will not bother to tell you which one is his home). He has had offers at all the major schools, but none of them would give him the freedom to pursue his crazier theories and without that he’d go mad. Evergreen State has only a small science department, but they hired him because he paid for a wing to be built for research and because he wins them big grants—they have no idea what he’s doing, beyond checking regularly to be sure he’s not experimenting on people, and they don’t really care. Gunter’s mind is somewhat like a calculator on steroids. He’s respected, feared, and ridiculed by the world of Physics. He is a theoretical physicist who likes to move from theory to physical testing sooner than is wise, but he is (at heart) good. He would never harm anyone purposely, and he believes that science and those who understand it owe their gifts to a higher purpose—he will fight tirelessly to stop science from being used for evil but he does not know how to interact with most people beyond seeing them as mathematical constructs and treating them as such. He is, of course, brilliant.
Elizabeth Lapsey: Elizabeth is a short, overweight Cuban-American woman in her forties with high-functioning Asperger’s, who always provides more information than is necessary and also is incapable of not finishing a sentence she starts. She has a gift for languages in particular, but in general loves to find patterns. She loves to talk to people, and indeed tends to be almost Golden Retriever-ish in her ability to talk to anyone. The babbler of the group, and also a born researcher, the problem isn’t inducing her to talk, it’s getting her to stop. A born and bred New Yorker, she is not now and has never been a fan of nicknames—she answers only to “Elizabeth” or more formal modes of address, and in fact the one surefire way to get her to stop talking to you is to call her “Liz” or “Beth” or some other diminutive.
Wendell Macklemore: “Mack” is a computer and electronics wizard. Graduated from college at age 12. Went to MIT and dropped out because he was bored and had things he wanted to “work out”. Has worked for the defense department, and been released from several projects because of an inability to work within boundaries. Responsible for numerous breakthroughs in technology. His hacking is beyond brilliant, and his quarters are, basically, a mainframe with a bed and kitchenette. He is jacked into every electronics system in the world, largely because he is security consultant to some of the most powerful governments and industry giants in the world. He runs the OCLT computers and databanks, and is quartered in Arizona, not that far from Area 51 (which he is also jacked into). Tall, athletic, with dark wavy hair and a handsome smile, he absolutely does NOT look the part of the geek. He is always up for action and has an impressive array of self-designed gadgets that, at times, border on magical abilities. He lives in a trailer outside a place called Brisbee, Arizona (I’ve been there). He lives in the desert, surrounded by strange antennas and signs claiming “mind-control free zone,” and “alien monitoring station” – his cover is as an alien-seeking wackobird who writes for the tabloids. There is an entrance in the trailer to an underground cooled bunker filled with his actual surveillance and network equipment.
Malana Tai: Malana is from Tuvalu (also known as the Ellice Islands), a Polynesian island nation midway between Hawaii and Australia. Though only twenty-five, she has an old soul and has proven herself capable of remaining calm and even upbeat in tense and dangerous situations and when facing creatures outside the normal human scope. Thought not particularly pretty, Malana exudes a certain friendly, healthy appeal, and can win people over with a single bright smile. She is energetic, rarely still, and friendly, and though happy to talk she is also an excellent listener. That is in part due to her special “gifts.” Malana is a telepath and an empath, most of it subconscious—she constantly picks up thoughts and emotions from those around her, and automatically adjusts her own behavior to suit, making her something of a social chameleon. She can look below the surface if she focuses, but too much contact can make her dizzy, nauseous, and even unclear on the boundary between herself and her target. Malana’s home is one of the smaller Pacific Islands, which made growing up a bit difficult—because of the small setting she knew everyone’s innermost thoughts and desires, and had a hard time separating herself from the mix. Big cities offer anonymity and a comforting white noise, psychically as well as audibly, so as soon as she was old enough (and had aced the interviews and exams and got offered a scholarship to a good school), Malana lost herself in the big city and never wanted to look back. She loves traveling and loves meeting new people, but prefers big cities and crowds to smaller, more intimate settings.
Hideyoshi Tidijin: small, slight, delicate Japanese man of indeterminate early to late middle-age (he’s actually fifty but could pass for thirty easily). Dresses impeccably, usually in hand-tailored brown or gray suits unless he’s in the field. Wears gloves most of the time, and often a face mask. Tidijin–who insists upon being addressed as “Professor,” “Professor Tidijin,” or “Tidijin-sama” — is an archaeologist specializing in early human history and pre-history (and in nonhuman history, though that isn’t on his public CV). Nicknamed “Tidy-bowl” by successive years of students, Tidijin is an excellent archaeologist and a renowned professor, considered one of the leading experts in his fields. Which is ironic, given his pathological fear of dirt, dust, and contamination. He is meticulous and precise and has an incredibly delicate touch, ideal for unearthing and reassembling ancient artifacts–but he has a hard time operating in the everyday world, especially in crowded places. Tidijin is a practitioner of Tai Chi (“It clears the mind and focuses the body”) and has a surgeon’s touch with a scalpel, but he is so strongly against contact that he would only engage in physical combat as an absolute last resort.
Rebecca York: Indeterminate age, very attractive and dark, appears late thirties to early forties, but over time will be found to be much, much older – Rebecca, daughter of Ivan of York from Ivanhoe, was thought to be a Jewish Sorceress, and Rebecca may possibly be the source of the character in the first place. She has a working knowledge of most of the schools of magic, but is particularly adept at the Kabala and the type of ritual magic practiced by Crowley and the Golden Dawn crowd. She has served in Israel with the Mossad, but has been an advisor to leaders in many places. She has powers, but they are seldom shown overtly. Height: 5’11” Slender, long dark hair in a braid. Soft spoken, but with eyes that grab and hold those she speaks with. Rebecca lives in a secluded home in the mountains of North Carolina. She drives a Jeep, and has an adventurous streak that often gets her in trouble.
I will write about this book at length, eventually. It taught me a lot about writing. It was one of the last books I wrote “without a net” – meaning I wrote it all the way through with only a vague idea where it was going in the end… I wrote all of my earliest novels that way, and I still do that occasionally, though I am now a proponent of the outline, because for one thing – it relieves stress. Not knowing how a book will end when you are already starting the final chapter is a harrowing experience.
Anyway, the quick history. I wrote a novelette a long while back for a book titled “Strange Attractions” – based on the kinetic art of the lovely and talented Lisa Snellings – who also created the amazing cover art for my novel NEVERMORE – just released. Lisa created this amazing Ferris Wheel … in the cars on that ride, a variety of strange characters took a ride, and each author chose one of those characters to write their story from – to use in any way they saw fit as inspiration. I chose a Harlequin, hanging by a noose from one of the cars. I made it my desktop wallpaper. I stared at it – and then I went on a trip to Washington D.C. – and everything changed.
Like I said, I’ll get into this at length in a later post. The books inspiration came from a wide variety of sensory input over a very short period of time – or at least, the novelette that became the book was born in that fashion – it’s now chapter one. I saw the movie PI. I visited the Holocaust Museum. I got stuck in a subway station, listening to a man play absolutely BEAUTIFUL blues on a saxophone, but never saw the man himself…and I had that image – that upside down harlequin staring at me from the computer screen.
Brandt and the band are among my favorite characters ever, and they may return in a book titled The Bone Witch before too long … I wrote another novel, Ancient Eyes, that takes place very near the final setting of Deep Blue, and I have tinkered with writing this third book to tie those two together…but for now…my book is free. My gift for two days. I hope you’ll download it – I hope you’ll read it – I hope you’ll review it and share it with friends.
I love to tell stories…I just need some folks to read along…
Another thing – you can get the book for free, and then, owning it, get the unabridged Audiobook through the Amazon / Audible whispersync program pretty cheaply. It’s narrated by the amazing Mr. Chris Patton…he brought the band to life.
If you get it free, the audiobook at Amazon is Whispersync Ready $1.99!
This is My Blood was the first novel I ever sold. In the end, my Star Trek Voyager novel, Chrysalis, came out before this one, but that was only due to the failure of the original publisher to actually – well – publish the book. The journey to publication would make a story unto itself, but I’m not going to cover it at this point.
One day, in the middle of the ocean, a group of us were sitting around, playing music, drinking coffee, and working on the various creative endeavors that kept us sane. Out of the blue, someone said: “What if Jesus was a vampire?” There are a lot of flaws in such a story – though others have tried to write it – and I was quick to point them out. I was, after all, not that far past the period of my life where Christianity and I parted ways. I had studied with an eye toward the ministry at one point, and I’d read the book – several times.
What I proposed, eventually, was that it made much more sense if someone close to Jesus was a vampire. Someone he trusted. Someone who could account for the rising of the dead in three days, without it actually being the man himself behind it all. I didn’t write about it then, I thought about it, and I filed it away with a lot of other ideas. Eventually I wrote a novelette – A Candle in the Sun – that was published in Starshore Magazine, then reprinted in Year’s Best Horror XIX, edited by Karl Edward Wagner, and has since been reprinted nearly a half dozen more times. It was good – everyone agreed that it was good, but I knew that it wasn’t complete. I just wasn’t ready to do the thing justice.
Then, on a completely different cruise, locked in a transmitter room with a 386 computer, a Deskjet 500 inkjet printer, and a CD Player loaded with Concrete Blonde & Depeche Mode, I realized it was time. I had a marked up, four inch tall copy of the New Testament that the Gideon Society had presented the ship with, and I had notes. I started out, jumping from gospel to gospel when some part of the story either had a hole, or was missing something important. As I went, I crafted large chunks of The Gospel According to Judas Iscariot, because I’d always thought he got a raw deal in the original mix, and I wanted him for a hero.
This is My Blood is a different telling of a very old story. I changed none of the order of things, nor did I change the outcome – only the road to reach that outcome. Mary Magdalene, raised by Lucifer in the desert to tempt Jesus in the guise of a woman, instead refused – wanting to return to Heaven. Lucifer cursed her to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, feeding on the faithful, and claimed she would become his undoing.
That is where my story starts. You will find the king’s daughter, raised from the dead, Lazarus, all the apostles in their flawed faith, and a narrator – in Mary – who does not depend on faith, but sees with the eyes of one who KNOWS what is truth, and is not impressed with the spirituality of men. Lilith also plays a sizeable part in this book.
All that I learned, figured out on my own, and wanted to repeat of The Bible, Christianity, faith, and – I suppose – of shadows – was tied up in this early work of mine. I have since come to believe that ancient myths should be left to the ancient societies who created them, and that we should worry more over our own self-worth than that of others. I don’t believe there are any spiritual rules laid down in the words of long dead men that I should follow, but I do believe that men know, inherently, the difference between right, and wrong, and that all choices made in that area are their own. No free ticket out for asking forgiveness, and no pit of fire for failures.
You’ll find that, I think, in the pages of This is My Blood. You’ll also find fantasy, vampires, and a lot more. I hope you’ll read it, and that you’ll like it as much as others have. Below are some links to reviews the book has received in the past – I include them here because I believe they are proof I have reached people with this book. I love reading the reviews of this book in particular because, for one thing, it was my first – and for another, it has affected so many people in so many ways. Here is the very first – from Publisher’s Weekly:
“Religious ecstasy and vampiric bloodlust blend to potent effect in this horror-oriented alternate history of early Christianity. Debut novelist Wilson casts Mary Magdelene as a spirit created by the Devil to tempt Christ. When Mary refuses the mission, Satan rebukes Jesus and curses her to become a vampire: “She will hunger for that which You fight to preserve. She will thirst for the blood of manAthe lives, the very souls You seek to save will be her bread.” Mary follows Christ, hoping for a miracle that will allow her to gain eternal salvation even as her vampiric nature forces her to kill to survive. Through her inhuman eyes, and through the writings of Judas’s own gospel, The Book of Judas, Wilson shows Christ and his disciples at work, lending a decidedly different perspective to miracles such as feeding the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes or raising Lazarus from the dead. Here, Judas is steady and loyal, while Peter, possessed by the Devil, betrays Christ to the soldiers at Gethsemane, forcing both Judas and Mary to sacrifice what they love most in order to ensure Christ’s resurrection and the Church’s future. Wilson’s prose is smooth and powerful, carrying its allegorical weight with grace. His first novel is one of the most unique vampire stories to appear in recent years, balancing themes of damnation and prophesy against those of faith and redemption.” – Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.