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.
What I did was, I made this week’s book “A Taste of Blood and Roses” the sticky post so I can continue to blog. As of next week, I’ll make another title sticky, and move on…possibly with a free book day or two on Amazon.com. For now – on to something very cool.
Today, something happened that I thought was NEVER going to happen. I was fixing up my Goodreads Page, adding in missing cover art. One of the books listed without a cover was the very extremely limited Cargo Cult Press title – The Sound of Drums. This book was never really published. There were only 9 copies (plus a couple of PC copies, one of which is the only one I own or have ever seen). Six of the actual published copies were numbered, and these went to lifetime numbered edition subscribers to Cargo Cult Press. The other three were initialed to the three lifetime lettered edition subscribers. I have a complete collection of Cargo Cult numbered editions (PC copies) – payment for writing The Sound of Drums, but I’ve always regretted that I never got one of the lettered editions of my book. They were so expensive to create that I was told the publisher, Brian Cartwright, didn’t even get one for himself.
Anyway, long story short, I found a copy today for sale on line, and the rice was VERY reasonable. I bought it. It’s on it’s way to me, and it will be treasured forever. I can’t wait to lay it side by side with the numbered edition and see what’s different.
For those of you interested – this story is the final story in A Taste of Blood and Roses, this week’s entry in the YEAR OF ME promotion I’m running, trying to kickstart my sales and evolve my career to a higher level. This is a cool story. The 9 original owners of this book appear as characters in the story itself, which is also one that I love. It has (of course) a cargo cult in it. It has the US Navy (which I have some experience with). It has supernatural elements, a deserted island…what more could you want?
This is the first post in the series I announced yesterday. I intend to go through my entire Amazon.com catalog of titles, probably in alphabetic order, though possibly not. Since my first published novel, This is My Blood, was based on the story “A Candle in the Sun,” which is included in this collection, and since these stories very literally span the decades of my career – up through about 2010 or 2011 – it seemed like a good place to start. Below is the author’s introduction to the work. Also included at the end of the revised Kindle Edition is an excerpt from the vampire novel DARKNESS FALLING which will be discussed later in the year. Each of these titles will be updated, formatted to the newer Crossroad Press template and edited (as I can) on Goodreads as well. For those that have print editions there will be giveaways. The first five people to comment on this post will receive complimentary eBook copies of the book from Amazon (Make sure you register the comment with the e-mail address you use at Amazon).
Author’s Introduction to A Taste of Blood & Roses
I’ve been writing since the mid 1980s, and during all those years, vampires have remained close to my heart. There were periods when it seemed as if you couldn’t have an anthology unless the theme was erotic vampire stories. There were other times when all you heard was, “no vampires.” I can say that I survived both – even selling vampire stories to two editors who said they didn’t think they’d ever buy another one. Both of those are contained in this collection.
I’m not going to bore you with a dissertation on vampires as characters, or why I think the undead remain undead in fiction as well. I will give you a short introduction to each story, and then leave you to the words. As Mary says in the first story … I have walked this road, and my words should suffice.
A Candle in the Sun (originally titled The Fifth Gospel) was written on a US Navy ship. Someone – I don’t remember who – said, “What if Jesus was a vampire.” I said that wouldn’t work, but what if someone near him was? The rest, pretty much, is history. I turned it in to my writer’s group and Richard Rowand, then editor of STARSHORE magazine, asked to buy the story immediately. My first pro sale that wasn’t porn to a men’s magazine. This story has been reprinted several times. One of those times was by Karl Edward Wagner in Year’s Best Horror XIX – he was the first of the editors who said they thought they were done with vampires. He was also – over the years – a good friend. He is missed.
Flash Fiction is a brand new, unpublished story as of the publication of this collection. It was inspired by something that vampire author Karen E. Taylor wrote in her online journal. It’s a humorous story – humor is something I like even more than vampires. You’ll have to let me know how they mix.
Bloodstained Glass was written for a now defunct magazine. I honestly don’t even remember the name of it. It’s a little old fashioned. I like the imagery of it, so I’ve included it here as a change of pace. In this story, I pay homage to the beautiful cover painting that Lissane Lake did for my first novel, This is My Blood. Those familiar with the art for that cover will probably spot it.
Miracles in the Night is a hold-over from my days writing for White Wolf Publishing. It wasn’t written for the company, but for a fanzine called “Norfolk by Night” that was published locally. I wrote it as a favor, and yet, it stuck with me. The robed homeless man actually lived in Norfolk at the time.
Smiling Eyes and Haunted Face is one of the aforementioned erotic vampire stories. It first appeared in the anthology “Love Bites,” edited by Nancy Kilpatrick. I wrote this one a long time ago – I hope it holds up.
To Dream of Scheherazade is the second of the stories sold to an editor who said no vampires. It was first published in the Terminal Frights Anthology by editor / publisher Ken Abner. Ken also bought the novel that I adapted from A Candle in the Sun – “This is My Blood,” which had already had a checkered past. You can find that novel for your eReader through Crossroad Press.
The Subtle Ties That Bind was published in “Love in Vein II,” edited by Poppy Z. Brite. I actually submitted it to the first volume, and it was accepted, but there wasn’t space. When the second book was announced, I sent it back in and reminded her she liked it, and it’s been one of my best-earning stories ever. I still get royalty payments. The version here in this collection is the original – shorter than the version that was published. I found the file and thought it was a good way to make this collection complete. If you are squeamish, this story might not be for you. It’s pretty explicit.
A Taste of Blood and Roses – which inspired the title of the collection – is not a vampire story. I am not going to tell you what kind of story it is, or where it was originally published, because one of the problems I had with that original publication was that the title of the book and the theme of the book spoiled about half of the stories. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
The Death-Sweet Scent of Lilies was published in a book of stories involving Vlad Tepes. This is my homage to Dracula – my thoughts on just how that historic figure might have turned into a man who dined in the center of hundreds of human beings staked out in the sun, and how he might have become the lord of darkness we all know him as.
Against His Bitter Judgment was written as much for myself as anyone else. It’s a sequel to A Candle in the Sun, and the novel This is My Blood, a look in on Judas Iscariot after centuries of…well, you’ll know when you read the first story. It was published on line at the old Chiaroscuro web site. I think it adds something to the story. Maybe someday I’ll add more.
The final story in this book, The Sound of Drums, is also not a vampire story. There are ghouls – or – sort of ghouls. There’s a cargo cult. There’s US Navy stuff from my days serving my country. This story was written for my buddy Brian Cartwright when he first started Cargo Cult Press…it was printed as a book and given only to the people who bought lifetime subscriptions. It’s a very, very rare book worth a lot of money…but the words still need to get read, and so I present it here. Some of you will recognize names in the story … Brian and I both appreciate you guys…Cargo Cult Press put out some of the most gorgeous books ever. I own a complete set from the Cartwright years…and as payment, will receive one of every book ever published under that line. Best deal I ever made.
And now…let there be vampires.
–David Niall Wilson
I have proclaimed this the year of me. I have spent nearly four years building a publishing company, long hours scanning, formatting, copy-editing, marketing, networking, convincing new people to join us, helping people – and now, looking back – I can see where my own career has been on a slow but steady downhill slide. I’ve had some successes, but no time to take advantage of them, and I’m still writing and publishing regularly, but without traction.
This year also marks our discovery of a number of new and very viable promotional vehicles, and, while I will be pushing ALL of my authors through these and doing everything in my power to make each and every one of them a success, I will also be doing a major push on my own work.
All writers go through periods of self-doubt…it’s hard to get credible feedback, it’s even harder to believe positive feedback in the face of a lack of sales success. I’ve had some short bouts with this, but, overall, the awards, the reviews, the connections with fans, authors, and even the narrators who have brought my work to audio, have convinced me that I have more than enough talent to succeed as a writer. What I need, is that break. I’m going to make it happen…this year.
Part of that process will involve a series of posts here on my blog. One book at a time, I’m going to go through my entire library. There will be giveaways. There will be some free days for a few books. There will be copies of some reviews, probably some guest posts…but this year – my blog will be about 3/4 about my writing career…maybe more than that.
I have worked up to over 6,000 “followers” on Twitter. I have nearly 5,000 “fans” on my author’s page on Facebook, and more than 2,000 more on my personal page. Of all those people, I’m willing to bet that less than 1/4 of them have ever read anything that I’ve written except in posts like this, or on one or another social media sites. I know this is normal – it’s the way it all works. No one can read everything, and a lot of those friends and followers are busy pushing their careers, beating the brush for promotions, hustling and whistling from the shadows, opening up long trench coats full of books for the world to peruse … whatever it takes.
Still, I want to catch your attention. All of you – you know who you are, even if you aren’t reading this. You vaguely know me by name, or might even know I’m a writer. Some know I wrote Star Trek, or Stargate, or for the White Wolf Gaming company back in the day. Others know Donovan DeChance, or Cletus…still others have read my short fiction in a lot of anthologies where they liked the story (or didn’t) but forgot the names of all authors not King, Koontz, Barker, etc. shortly after reading and moved on to the next one.
Along the way my peers gave me the Bram Stoker Award twice, once for poetry, and once for my short story “The Gentle Brush of Wings.” I have been nominated for other categories, and never won. That’s not important. What’s important is that i string up the holiday lighting, get my name in neon, and find those boat-loads of readers following the literary powerhouses and steer them my way. I’ve written, very nearly, every kind of book you can imagine, from young adult, to children’s picture books, to cookbooks, science fiction, fanatasy, horror, mystery, thrillers – I write all the time, you see.
Next up, maybe as soon as tomorrow, will be the novel KILLER GREEN – based on the screenplay created on Twitter with a bunch of friends, and written right here on my blog – shared with the world – semi-famous, optioned, never produced – you know the one. KILLER GREEN. The novelization of that screenplay will hit the streets and I will let it lead the way as I push into this year of me. By the time I’m done, those paying attention will know more about my writing than they ever wanted to…OR…I’ll have picked up some new readers and fans. That is the hope.
I this guy, see, who likes to tell stories. I can entertain you – if you let me. I can draw you in, if you step over the threshold. I’m here for you…readers of the world. Let’s party.
Up front, again, this is me talking. I’ve been doing this a long time. I currently run a successful publishing house. I interface with, follow, and pay attention to hundreds of writers daily. It’s just what I think…
I don’t care what people tell you about Social Media Marketing. I don’d care if perky, smiling, very friendly online folks tell you they can get you X,000 of followers, friends, compatriots, groupies, etc…that you should do events, online blitzes, or any number of other things sure to turn you into the next Internet sensation. Most of that is crap. I’d go as far as about 95 percent. Marketing, like anything else, is work – and many times it’s hit and miss.
Yes, you should have a Facebook Page, particularly if you have time to use it (Not your personal profile, but an author’s page where you talk about your books, writing, and things you believe would interest fans).
No, you should not have a new page for every book, or probably even every series. You have a set number of people who see your marketing posts on Facebook. You have another group (probably with some cross-over) on your personal profile. Most of them won’t mind if you talk about your new book. Most of them will mind if you endlessly post links to it with no new content. If you take the “social” out of social media it’s nothing but an irritating spam-screen of dreck, and it will be duly ignored.
No you should not create an online “event” every time you launch a new book. The only people who will see your event launch notice are the same people who would see a thoughtful post on the new book with a link if you just put it on your author’s page. The more events you have, the smaller the box of folks who will agree to be irritated by it. Marketing is already hated in most cases. Fans seek out the new work on their own. Marketing is for people who are not yet fans, and pissing either group off is not the way to build your presence.
The key to successful Internet marketing has a couple of words associated with it. REACH and DRAW. The biggest key to marketing anything is to widen your reach. A thousand “likes” on your posts on Facebook aren’t half the use to you that 200 shares are. Those people sharing have different boxes that they play in, and if they share your posts, a lot of people who have never heard of you might see them. For this you need DRAW. You need interesting content- not too long – with the proper one-click-to-buy link in it. It needs to look interesting enough to stop a scrolling mouse. It needs to look worth the few seconds that clicking it entail, and once the person has clicked, it needs to very efficiently sell them your book.
To recap. Poke holes in your box and work from the inside out. Do not pummel your ‘friends’ with endless marketing posts. Do not make tiny boxes within your bigger box. The same is true on Twitter. Using some app that draws in smaller groups to talk is a good way to focus on a topic, but it’s not a good way to market…the only people likely to use that app and take the time already want your book. That is “maintaining” your box. If you want it to be bigger, you have to find ways to reach new faces – real faces. Those perky smiley helpful people will not do this for you. Mostly they will get you thousands of other hopeful authors looking at your posts wondering why you don’t buy their books – and a lot of fake people who never existed stroking your ego as your numbers skyrocket. Marketing – like writing – is work. There are no shortcuts.
And of course, a steady stream of new work. Write. ALWAYS have something new to talk about. Never sit back and spend hours selling the one book you already wrote. Keeping your name relevant, your work consistent in quality and output…these help build what – eventually – will be your fandom. If you need it by tomorrow, you are probably out of luck.
Let me preface this by saying I’m not a guru. I’m an author with around 30 years experience in and around publishing. I own one of the fastest growing and closest-to-the-cutting-edge publishing houses going. I pay attention, and I have thoughts. I can back my thoughts up with observation, experience, and common sense…but take all that with a grain of salt. What worked yesterday might not today, what works today could shift tomorrow with the release of some new tool…
1. Visibility is the key. By this I do not mean visibility to other authors, to your circle of friends, but visibility to people who have never heard of you and who are actual potential buyers for books. The key to building a readership and expanding it into crazy numbers is finding your way out of all the little ponds that try to entice you in to “share and market” and cutting to the surface of the bigger pond. If your book can be made visible to a very large number of prospective buyers, sales will rise.
2. Marketing services that do not provide hard numbers on what their service has done in the past for actual sales of books are shaky at best, and likely to be avoided. If you are offered marketing that promises more “friends” – “followers” – stat-counter hits on your website, etc., but no evidence of sales, move on. It is now an industry unto itself, this building of inconsequential numbers – half of whom don’t even represent real people, and the other half of whom are others trying to get the same group to buy their book. Invest your time and money wisely when marketing.
3. One-click-to-buy. (You will see clever examples at the top and bottom of this post) This is crucial in today’s market, and particularly for eBooks. There are millions of eBooks out there, many by talented, successful, famous people. You have to win your sales from the same pool of buyers as all the rest. If your book appears anywhere that there are potential buyers, make sure you come as close to one-click-to-buy as is humanly possible. People will not remember and search you later, they will move on. Take them to a product page. If you hand out cards, flyers, take out print magazine ads – include a QR code they can scan with their phone camera and buy. Miss no opportunity for a cover image with a one-click-to-buy link.
4. Do not get caught up in the madness of “shrinking boxes”. Example. You have a personal Facebook account, and a second “Fan” page where you promote your writing. Each of these has a set number of “viewers” – your ‘friends,” and those who ‘like” your fan page. I won’t get into the questionable value of marketing again and again to your friends, but I will say this. The two pages are enough. If you create “events” or ‘groups’ or a new page for every new book you ‘launch’ with a special launch party, those are smaller boxes carved from the same people you are already marketing to. You can ride the shaky ship on your Fan page of paying FB to ‘promote’ it, but experience has shown that mostly this gets you onto pages that are not even real people, or onto the timelines of people who scream “why did you post your spam on my timeline!!!?” when it was actually FB who did it. Promote your books on a single fan page. Announce events there too. Don’t invite your boxes to be annoyed with you or carve their numbers down to smaller, and smaller groups. Announce and promote on your fan page and actively encourage those who see the posts to share them on THEIR timelines, which actually engages their Box of ‘friends’ and legitimizes the contact by becoming more credible. You want to grow the number of people seeing your links, not shrink it.
5. Cover art. It is important that the cover of your eBook look as slick and professional as possible. Never sacrifice cool for efficiency. The title, and your name, should be visible at the size of a postage stamp. Clever fonts, really busy art images, things that a small circle find cool and the rest of the world will be offended by – avoid. At all costs. You want people to see – know what it is – be attracted. Do not buy into the notion that putting a fancy new cover on your book will sell more copies of the book. If your book has no visibility, and you change your cover, but you do nothing to change the visibility – no one is going to see the new cover and it isn’t going to matter at all. It’s important to HAVE a good cover, but as marketing tool cover art is secondary at best.
6. PR Services or “experts” – see tip #2. Do not shovel money into the pockets of self-appointed gurus. If they have built a huge following on Social Media, ask them to give you a percentage of those contacts that are actually readers buying books. Ask for a percentage that is just other authors buying in and hoping for sales. Ask for proof that you at least have real potential, with their help, to sell enough books to cover the cost of their service. The waters are full of sharks, but they are also filled with leeches. In the old publishing model, most of the money went to the publisher, then a percentage went to the agent, and the smallest amount went to the author. In the new model, people are trying to divvy up that old publisher’s cut and leave authors frustrated, poor, and yet hopeful enough to buy into the next scheme. Pick and choose very wisely when determining how to market.
7. Not everyone is a marketer, charismatic, popular, a good editor, etc. Don’t let others, whose skillsets and resources are very different from your own tell you you have to do everything yourself. Writers should be writing. If you spend more time fretting over and trying to push your books than you do writing the next one, then you are in danger of not being a writer at all, but being swept up in the new sea of people who want desperately to be writers but have no time to create anything. Publishers like mine are out there – places where a lot of the burden can be shared – where things like formatting, cover art, etc. are not words to tear your hear out over…and where all your money doesn’t funnel into other people’s pockets.
8. If you publish first in print-particularly with a smaller publisher – and that publisher does not a: do their own eBooks – b: distribute those eBooks widely – c: offer you the lion’s share of the royalties on those eBooks, don’t let them have the rights. If they farm it out to yet another publisher, and then split that diminished return with you – also not a great idea. Not every publisher is experienced enough to do anything useful with your digital rights. It’s not the same game – don’t let the fact a publisher has been making pretty books for years fool you into thinking that means they automatically know how to handle your eBook, or that you should let them. Ask questions. Get a good royalty rate. Check your options. Chances are if you have the skills and resources, you can make more headway controlling your own eBooks. There are levels of distribution, levels of compensation – and levels of professionalism. Just be careful. I’m an author – I built my company to be one I wouldn’t mind working with. I hate all the same things you do. (Yep, that’s a small plug – sue me, my blog).
9. Don’t rush out to give your books away. Yes, there are huge success stories for people who have done this. There are programs, like Amazon’s KDP program, that when used correctly and with a little luck can spur real success. For every book given away that actually improves an author’s situation, there are 10,000 given away that don’t matter a hoot. The pyramid is always there. Famous or highly visible people giving something away will give more than the next tier. Moderately successful people giving something away can make a splash and occasionally even launch into that upper tier. A book from someone no one has ever heard of, not promoted ahead of time properly, won’t give away many copies – and of those it does, won’t help spur sales. The thing that makes free books work the BEST is quality. If you can give away 10,000 books – and the book is read by 2k of those and not forgotten, and it’s really good – and those 2k people mention this, or even 100 of them stop by to review it- you might have something. If it’s riddled with typos, dashed off and forgettable – it will be forgotten. Not everything that has worked for others is going to work for you – same goes for your books themselves. Copy-catting is never-even on the best day-going to give you anything but a shadow of the success of the person you are copy-catting. Write your best book, and if an opportunity to give copies of it away smartly presents – go for it. Don’t make this you marketing “rule” though, or even if you do get fans, they’ll wait for all the books to go free.
10. Write. You have to keep writing. You have to provide new things, and keep the words flowing. If you market the same book for a year, people are going to be so tired of it they will phase you out, and you’ll never even get them to look when you finally have something new. Write what matters to YOU – and not what you think you can make a quick buck off of because someone else did. Whoever that is – you aren’t them, and the situation that sold their book is not your situation. It’s a losing battle for a crown of mediocrity. If you have something to say – write. And read – buy books – keep your head in the game. Writing is both craft, and art. At the craft level it can make a living – at the art level it can make memories. I think you all know what is more important to you, personally – pursue it.
I hope – in some way – this has helped. If you made it to here – the first five who leave a comment will receive an Amazon.com gifted copy of my novel THE PARTING. I hope you win. I hope you read and like it. I hope you review it.
Find all 650 plus titles from Crossroad Press at http://store.crossroadpress.com or wherever eBooks are sold.
By David Niall WIlson