There is a lot of timing involved in a writing career. Anyone who does not believe this should pay attention. Here’s a story for you…and a commentary on where I find myself these days. This is not a complaint, or a call for, well, anything…just what I do. When I write in this blog, I try to adhere to my own advice to write what hurts…
When I started writing back in the 80s, horror was in a boom. Due to circumstances that could have gone other ways, I became a writer of horror and dark fantasy early on and I had a unique opportunity. I either blew that opportunity, or avoided it. The votes are still out on that. I had an agent at one point who called while I was away at sea. If I’d been there when that call came in, there was “a slot”. What this meant, at the time, was that pretty much whatever I’d turned in (and I had books) would have been published in the raised-foil tsunami of horror. That probably would have irrevocably changed my career. Maybe I’d still be riding the wave – maybe I’d be drowning in the aftermath of the big crash. No way to tell, because I was out at sea, and missed it.
I set off on my own multi-directional path. Star Trek, White Wolf, Vampires, horror, science fiction, fantasy – mystery and thrillers. I’ve written them all. Most of my books have gotten good to great reviews. I’ve won awards. People in some small circles know who I am. I write a lot, and that will probably never change.
Along the way, though, something weird happened. I never reached the heights of best-sellerdom, or even the upper middle-class of writing. I just did okay. I barely missed a lot of things that would have changed everything, and I kept writing.
Recently I started noticing that – despite the fact people know me and congratulate me when I finish a project, they don’t read them. It’s not that no one likes the books – people who do read them like them – sometimes even love. I don’t see any of those dreaded threads on message boards about how no one gets how I am still writing, or they couldn’t get through my books. I also don’t see anyone starting threads about me in any positive way, or any excitement over whatever I’m working on. What I get – mostly – is nothing. Nothing at all. Those who have always been famous remain famous. Many newer authors, some awesome, others mediocre, and even a few I consider a long way from ready for prime time, get read. People gather together and read their books in groups. They line up to buy them before they are even published. For my books, people are happy to enter a contest and maybe get the book for free, but buying seems to just never happen, and when people DO buy the books…well, if they ever read them I seldom hear about it.
I’m the author in the middle, currently. I still believe I’ll find the way out – not sure what it will be. If I do make it out, I hope those who “discover” me also come back and read the older books – the ones I’ve spent a lifetime writing. I hope they like/hate/talk about them. Mostly, I hope they read them.
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.
- Write what you know.
- POV Matters.
I’m not much for cut-and-dried rules; I write what I write, and I write ‘how’ I write, but sometimes I can go back after the fact and pick out some things that are important. Since this week I’m talking about my novel, This is My Blood, I thought I’d start with that.
When I parted ways with organized religion, the insides of my psyche were not a pretty sight. I had issues. I had some anger, too. Mostly, though, it was growing pains. I was drawn into the “fold” the way many are – I was young, lonely – girls asked me to a Bible study (pretty girls) – it gave me a sense of belonging, and, for a while the notion that I knew something important. I’m not planning on bashing religion in this post. I’ll say that I write fiction, and it can be powerful. Ancient people wrote fiction too, and just because it helped them get through the night, and the stories were passed down from generation to generation, I see no reason to consider them more than they are. Fiction. The world does not need Gods or higher powers to believe in – it needs men to step up and take responsibility for their own good, and bad works.
In any case, there I was. I had recently decided NOT to become a campus minister, but had studied quite a lot toward that end. I had a wealth of biblical knowledge, and some very strong ideas about what I did NOT like about Christianity. It had nothing to do with Jesus, or with God – for that matter, though he seemed (and still seems) far too clinical, judgmental, and violent for my taste. It had to do with rules, with the men who made and enforced those rules, and the hypocritical nature inherent in anything important that becomes ‘organized.’
I started with my plot – it was straightforward. Someone near Jesus would be cursed with vampirism. I did not want to change the main story. I did not want (as many suggested I should) to turn it into some sort of cosmic romance novel. I had something to say, and I needed the proper voice to say it. So I started with what I knew.
Religion – particularly Christianity – is based on faith. You don’t’ get to know things, you have to trust…God, The Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the Church. You just take what they say on “faith” and forge ahead. That is the flaw. It is not enough, and it never was enough, because men are creatures of intellect. We can think for ourselves (and should do so) and in a faith-based system, that’s not only frowned upon, but you are told in many cases that the thoughts and facts you encounter are just tests from some dark, evil entity trying to lure you from the fold. Clearly, then, none of the men surrounding Jesus was going to be able to tell the story as I wanted it told. It had to be someone who knew the truth. Someone who had walked where Jesus had walked, had absolutely no doubt there was a Heaven, and a Hell – someone without the false support of faith crumbling beneath their feet.
I chose an angel. I chose to have Lucifer raise one of the fallen in the form of a woman, ostensibly to test Jesus’ will to resist temptations of the flesh, but in my mind, to provide the perspective – the point of view – that could make my book more than a vampire story.
I don’t want to get mired in talking about that book, because I want you to go and read it. I’m greedy like that. I love feedback. The point is, as Mary often tells us in the novel, she has walked the roads of both Heaven, and Hell, and her memory will suffice. She was disgusted by the greed and infighting among the apostles, astonished at the blindness of those witnessing miracles, and five minutes later arguing over points of “law” as if their opinions mattered a whit. She knew what was at stake, and so, as she walked along through the gospel of Judas Iscariot, she was the perfect voice to comment on things that had been left unsaid, to voice the concerns and fears that the Bible ignores.
She was MY voice, my message to my past, and my hope for the future.
I call these posts “Writing What Hurts” for a reason. When you are really writing, everything about the words matters to you. Sometimes you are just storytelling. Sometimes you are fulfilling commitments, or putting bread on the table. Other times, like the time I spent writing This is My Blood¸ you are consumed by the work – obsessed with it – invested so deeply that every comment, every reaction, every turned page matters to you. If Clive Barker is right, and we are all books of blood, then our best work is flesh torn from our hearts.
When you decide what your book is about, think about who is involved. Think about all of the points of view from which the story could be told, the problems inherent in each, the gains and take-aways of each choice. Think about how you want your readers to react, and to which characters – and events. Choose your book’s voice wisely, and stay true to it. You may find that, by the time the work is done, you’ve learned as much as you’ve taught.
Now, as I’m certain I’ve caught your attention – Buy This is My Blood now at Amazon.com…
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.
There are a lot of similarities between the marketing of an eBook, and the marketing of an audiobook, particularly if that audiobook is done as a digital download. There are also huge differences. Nearly everyone reads. They might not do it by choice, but you just can’t get through life without it. Listening to audiobooks is an acquired taste – an experience many have blockages against – prejudices preventing them from giving it a fair chance. I wrote recently about not making smaller boxes out of those you already have for marketing. Audiobooks are already constrained by their own box. There are fewer listeners than readers, though the audience is growing slowly.
There are fewer large, commercial review outlets for audio. The old-school audiobook community is a very literary community. While there are big markets for genre audio, the real attention goes to celebrity and award-winning narrators, NYC commercial authors, and publishers with deep pockets. Advertising, banquets, even a simple nomination for an award that is supposed to be for the best in the field – cost a lot of money. It’s an infrastructure built through the old publishing industry, where audio was expensive, very few titles were commercial enough to make it through the studio, and for those that were deeply involved, there was money enough to sustain all of the above. There still is – at the top – but the business is expanding, and if those of us doing audio at a lower financial level are going to compete, we’re going to have to have a bigger boat, and we’ll have to build it ourselves. Anyone know how to measure in cubits?
There is good news. New review sites have cropped up. There is a site – The Audiobook Jukebox – that aggregates reviews from other sites, and from blogs, and they index them for easy access. ACX – the program that has made audio possible for so many that it was not possible for before – has made the acquisition of review copies easy, and they actively encourage promotion through social media, blogging, networking, and other means, and they are knowledgeable, incredibly helpful folks.
That said, don’t put down your tools. We still need that boat and it has to be one big mother ICEBREAKER of a boat. We have serious walls to break down, and it isn’t going to happen overnight. I’m going to start with just a couple of points and see if we can work up some discussion.
1) Unless you have Deep pockets, do not concentrate your efforts on the old-school marketing techniques for audio. It’s a tough sell, even if you get yourself involved, and it’s unlikely you will overcome the “editors choices” and sponsored titles unless you are independently wealthy.
2) Do not separate your audiobook marketing from your eBook and print book marketing. Amazon has a new program called whispersync. While there are still pricing issues with this, encourage people to pick up the audio AND the eBook when you can.
3) Don’t be in too much of a hurry. Study your book. Figure out who would sound best doing it. Research voice talent and cast the best possible voice. This is critical. As a publisher, I made a few bad mistakes early on, and those books have suffered. Don’t skimp on editing. Listen to your book if possible yourself, and if not, find someone else with the time to do it. Test your voice talent across the range of characters. When you offer a sample to be auditioned, try to include as much diversity in that sample as possible.
4) Include your audio – and if possible your narrator – in marketing material. Talk about the experience of the audiobook while you are marketing. interview the narrator if you get a chance. In other words, network.
The old world of audio treated narrators the same way tie-in and licensed novel markets treat authors. You do the work, they pat you on the back, and you move on to the next project. The new paradigm calls for teamwork; it’s now possible for authors and narrators to share the risk, and the possible success, of a project. For that to happen, you also have to share the marketing…it’s likely that if they are not a major voice talent, the narrator will have a smaller fan base – but listen up. THEIR fan base all listens to audiobooks. The odds are only a small percentage of an author’s fan base does the same. Work together. Be creative. Try to do interviews, and always – ALWAYS include the synopsis, the audio sample, and (broken record again) one-click-to-buy link.
I open this to the floor but here is what I’m looking for. What are good ways to get more people to listen to audiobooks? Where can we turn to market that is not being covered now? What is the key to building the new audiobook infrastructure – not trying to retool the small, stuffy box that surrounds audio now, but to build something big – new – part of the digital revolution? More to follow shortly, upcoming video marketing tactics from https://themarketingheaven.com/shop/youtube-likes/ will enlighten you on some contemporary means of advertising anything these days with the luxury of video.
Next post will be a report on how some eBook promotions we have tried, and are trying, stack up – and why. You will notice that I have included two one-click-to-buy linked images in this post. The first, Aliens in the Backyard, is currently our best-selling audio title at Crossroad Press. This title will is narrated by Kevin Pierce, and will also be featured in that next post, so stay tuned. Trish & Rob MacGregor have written a number of very cool books, fiction and non fiction, and run a blog where they talk about Synchronicity. The second book – INTERMUSINGS – is a collection of stories that I’ve written over the years in collaboration with others. My co-creators include Brian Hopkins, Patricia Lee Macomber, John B. Rosenman, Rich Rowand, Stephen Mark Rainey & Brett Alexander Savory. The narrator – Mr. John Lee – is a world class talent and one of my all-time favorite narrators. His rendering of the story in this collection “The Purloined Prose” is worth the price of the book.
These stories represent decades of collaboration between author David Niall Wilson and a wide array of talented authors. All have been professionally published – some have been reprinted and collected. All are the result of two muses meeting on paper. Meet a modern day Don Quixote, fighting Y2K bug nightmares, and striving to save the woman of his dreams. Learn how Edgar Allen Poe might have found his tales. Face off on a lonely mountaintop with Lovecraftian nightmares. Join a young man in a ghostly race to save a relative from cancer. Follow a cross-wired detective in his hunt for a lycanthropic killer bent on ending every serial killer she encounters. See what might happen when two minds fall into “balance”.
What if Dr. Watson was the client…and someone who was dead – was not quite there? Visit a science-fiction future where artists capture images in crystals. What if government control over sex and reproduction got out of control? Listen as a piano man drops back into the nightmares of his past. Finally – a sailor on his way home finds a place even farther away than he ever dreamed.
These are the tales of Intermusings – previously published as Joined at the Muse. This new audio edition includes an Introduction by David Niall Wilson on the art of collaboration, and a sneak preview of the first chapter of the collaborative novel Hallowed Ground by Steven Savile & David Niall Wilson.
- Introduction by David Niall Wilson
- “A Poem of Adrian, Gray” – with Brian A. Hopkins
- “The Purloined Prose” – with Patricia Lee Macomber
- “A Wreath of Clouds” – with Stephen Mark Rainey
- “Moon Like a Gambler’s Face” – with Ricard Rowand
- “La Belle Dame, Sans Merci” – with Brian A. Hopkins
- “La Belle Dame, Sans Regret” – with Brian A. Hopkins
- “Ribbons of Darkness Over Me” – with Brett A. Savory
- “Death Did Not Become Him” – with Patricia Lee Macomber
- “Within an Image, Dancing” – with John B. Rosenman
- “Virtue’s Mask” – with Brian A. Hopkins
- “Sing a Song of Sixth Sense” – with Patricia Lee Macomber
- “Deliver Us From Meeble” – with Brian Keene
ALIENS IN THE BACKYARD:
In the early morning hours of March 28, 2011, Charles and Helene Fontaine experienced something that shattered their beliefs about the nature of reality.
One evening in 1981, Connie J Cannon was on I-75 with her young son, en route to their new home in Florida, when they suddenly found themselves on a military base, with a man in uniform holding a gun to her head as three Grays stood nearby.
In 1979, Diane Fine was on her way from upstate New York to Vermont to see an obstetrics specialist for her high risk pregnancy, and experienced two hours of missing time. When she was finally examined at the clinic, she was told wasn’t pregnant.
In 1970, pilot Bruce Gernon was chased by something through the Bermuda Triangle and he has been talking about it ever since – to UFO Hunters, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, the History Channel, the Sci-Fi channel, and all their foreign counterparts.
These individuals have never met. But they share something significant. In 2003, a Roper Organization survey revealed that 33 million Americans may be abductees. Aliens in the Backyard is their story.
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.
I mentioned previously that I was going to revitalize my series, The DeChance Chronicles, in 2013. These are the amazing cover images that will help me do that, the first four courtesy of the uber-talented Mr. Bob Eggleton – and the last the creation of the sublime Ms. Lisa Snellings – that being for the as-yet unpublished tie-in novel to the series, NEVERMORE. All four books will see print this year, hardcover and trade paperback. Signed copies will be available through the Crossroad Press store – the books will be on sale everywhere (and hopefully in a lot of libraries) and this year the audio for Kali’s Tale will complete the audio set of the first four, and production will begin on Nevermore : A Tale of Love, Loss, and Edgar Allen Poe.
I saved, and I scrimped, and I got the covers I wanted… I am VERY grateful to the artists for working with me.
THE NEXT BIG THING
Last week Steven Savile tagged me on his blog as part on an ongoing chain of book/author recommendations called The Next Big Thing. Today I will take a crack at the ten questions originated by Paul Magrs, then send them on to five more authors to post answers to them in their various blogs – one week from today. I will be discussing the latest (and currently in progress) addition to The DeChance Chronicles :
1. What is the working title of your next book?
Nevermore – Book V of The DeChance Chronicles
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
The series, obviously, has been in the works for a while. The idea for this particular story, however, comes from several sources, bits and pieces of things I’ve been wanting to work on but never got around to. I’ve been playing for a while with the notion that my protagonist, Donovan DeChance, has been alive for a long time, and has witnessed some things – from a very different perspective than the rest of the world – and might tell some of those stories.
While researching the fourth book in the series, Kali’s Tale, I found a couple of interesting sites about a roadhouse that rested on the border of North Carolina and Virginia back in the day. The laws of both states were different, as were the laws about things like dueling – if one party was on either side of the line.
One of the rumors about the roadhouse, which I call simply the Halfway House, was that Edgar Allen Poe stayed there, and that he wrote the first draft of his poem The Raven while in residence. Just one of many rumors surrounding that work, but I held onto it.
The sub-plot comes from a practice I share with my youngest daughter – picking out faces, animals, and images in things like trees, floor tiles, stones, bushes – clouds. I wrote a story a while back titled The Fruit of a Different Vine, involving a pole near our home that grows thick every year with vines until it resembles a woman pointing a gun into the woods over the top of a small home. In Nevermore, we meet Lenore, who is an artist. She sees those same types of things, and she draws them, paints them – and tries to set them free.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
That’s a good question. It’s dark fantasy, to be sure, with elements of horror and urban fantasy as well. This particular book also falls under historical fantasy, I suppose. Donovan DeChance is a magician, of a sort – a book collector bound on gathering the dangerous books and spells of the world, scanning them into a new computerized repository, and most importantly, sealing them away from the hands of those who would misuse them. You can read his origin story in the third book of the series, My Soul to Keep, which has him 16 years old in the mid-1800s.
There are vampires in these books, and dragons, rifts between worlds, werewolves – voodoo houngans and new-ageish crystal-toting witches.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is a little hard for me. The perfect Donovan DeChance would be somewhat of a hybrid. He’s originally born of the old west, so I can see some Sam Elliott, but Sam is far too old – If you mixed in some Jason Momoa for the swagger and a bit of humor, and some Robert Downey Jr. for the culture it would be close. I’d love to hear thoughts on this from readers of the series. Donovan is a lot like Harry Dresden, except, Harry gets beaten up all the time, and seems more “rumpled”. Donovan wears long dark coats, has long hair in a day when it’s not really fashionable, but pulls it off.
Definitely Felicia Day for Amethyst, his love interest, who is adept at Earth and crystal magic.
For Poe? Someone tragic. In this story, both Poe and Lenore would be slightly older…Maybe Amanda Tapping for Lenore, and Grimm’s David Giuntoli as Poe? Is he too young to fall for Tapping?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Donovan DeChances shares a memory from his past, dragging his companions into the world of Poe’s The Raven, and then bringing that world back to the present – and to the secrets of The Great Dismal Swamp.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This is an odd question in that a: it only gives a small fraction of the possible answers, and b: I’m in a rather unique position. I am the founder of Crossroad Press –and since the creation of the company, all of my books have come out as Crossroad Press titles. In a sense, it is self-published, but Crossroad Press is a growing force in digital, print, and audio publishing. The only thing certain is – no agents will be involved.
7. How long did it take you to write a first draft of the manuscript?
I am writing it now, during Nanowrimo 2012. I suspect I will finish the full novel by the beginning of December…and I am scheduled to hit the 50,000 word mark (if I retain my rate of speed) around the 23rd of the month as things stand.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’ve made the comparison before to my early work for White Wolf Publishing and their “World of Darkness”. I originally created Donovan because I wanted to try writing similar stories, but without the restrictions of their game, their world, and their creative vision. I also believe fans of The Dresden Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grimm, Angel, etc. will find this a perfect match. Heck, I even named the crow that hangs out with Poe … Grimm.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This seems like a very similar question to the one above asking where the idea for the book came from. I’ve been inspired to write since I was very young. I’ve got over 30 books out now, with more in the works – I can’t imagine NOT writing – so it’s not so much what inspired me to write this book – but what inspires me to write.
My family – the way they support my stories, put up with my endless “what ifs” and dig in to help any time I need it. My co-workers, who have been the first group I’ve worked with in all my days as a writer, with the exception of a few small groups on US Navy ships, who paid attention when I said I was a writer – read the books – and seem genuinely interested.
This book is partly inspired by fans. There are thousands of folks out there now who have dipped into the world of San Valencez, California, and Donovan DeChance. I don’t want to disappoint them, or let them down. The magic continues.
Final nod on this question to my son Bill Macomber. He went in just before midnight and bumped the poll I was conducing to choose which of three possible projects I’d complete this November to the DeChance win. I’m now going to make him read them all.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think the growing dynamics of how “magic” operates in Donovan’s world is fascinating. The idea that time is more of a static plane one can move across – even influencing events in odd, temporal glitches. The story of Poe, and Lenore should be of interest to many. I’d like to think I’ll do him justice, and that my tale will become part of the fictional canon surrounding his life and work. He’s been a huge inspiration in my own work.
One thing of note – this will be a print book as well as eBook and audio – and we hope to get all of the previous books into print as well, both hardcover and trade paperback. Heart of a Dragon is already available in trade paperback – we are expanding our print line significantly, and one thing we’d like to see is an attractive, hard cover set for collectors and fans.