Writing

The Orffyreus Wheel – Perpetual Motion? A Novel, & Some Thoughts

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Orffyreus Wheel - Audio Concept - SmallBefore I get too far into describing this novel, I want to talk a bit about where it came from.  First off, it was a novel that I never would have written left to my own devices.  That said, once I had decided that I DID want to write it, I ran into one of the walls in publishing that irritates me the most.  An agent who – rather than really being interested in my work, my vision, my voice, etc. – really only wanted someone who could write another “Da Vinci Code” before it lost its appeal and she had to come up with another thing to try and make her authors copy.  Authors – write what moves you.  Anything other than this will result in – at best – lukewarm, mediocre writing.  A worst?  It will make you want to stop writing altogether, and then you begin to cave in to entropy and the great boredom that binds.  I mean this with all my heart.  If you are going to write, write thing that matter to you because there is no way in hell they will matter to someone else if you don’t.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.  Agents work for writers.  That’s the dynamic that works.  That is no longer the dynamic in the publishing industry, and it’s a bad, horrible, spit it from your mouth thing.  You should NOT spend your hours and nights and weeks and even years banging your head on some agent’s desk trying to write what they think is the next big thing.  A: They may have a connection to sell books to, but they are no more qualified to call the next big thing than the editors who – in general – ignore THEM in the same way they ignore you.  You may, or may not write the next big thing, but your odds drop astronomically when you stop writing what you want/need to write and start trying to please “the machine”. If your agent makes you feel as if you work for them, that you have to curry their favor?  They aren’t agents at all.  It’s not what they are supposed to do.  They are supposed to have faith in YOU, YOUR talent, and YOUR vision…if they don’t they should represent someone else, and you should have nothing to do with them because -from my experience and that of many others, the odds are you will sell most of your own books over your career.  The agent may, or may not help with contracts – but they WILL collect 15 percent of everything you make.  They should earn it, not make you feel as if you work for them…and yet pay them.

Orffyreus Wheel - Concept - FinalAnyway…The Orffyreus Wheel was one of several ideas I came up with for a particular agent.  She wanted me to write something like The Da Vinci Code.  I came to her with several proposals – all of which she wanted three chapters and  an outline for – none of which she could – in the end – be bothered to represent.  When I finally figured out she was killing my ability to work at all, I cut that anchor chain – and began writing again.  I sold a bunch of books fairly quickly, and during that time, I wrote The Orffyreus Wheel because, though the prod to go and find this story came from elsewhere, once I DID find it, I was fascinated, and knew it needed to be completed.

It’s relevant.  Whether or not Johann Bessler invented a perpetual motion wheel that could have pumped water virtually forever, barring worn out hardware, is a moot point.  What would happen if someone presented such a constant, free energy source to the world is not.  The fuel and power behind our world is controlled by people who consider most of the rest of us bugs. If they didn’t need the bugs to use their energy, they’d do away with us cheerfully.  Witness the billion dollar severance pay-outs for oil execs and the fact that bankers who run failed banks and ruin people are still rich.  They would not be on board with a good, clean, free energy source -they would want to either own it – or destroy all knowledge of it. Don’t even get me started about what the government might do with it.

That is the basis of half of my novel.  It runs on twin timelines – one in the past, a fictionalized version of the life of one Johann Bessler, the invention of his wheel, the power struggles that ensued, the hatred from his peers, where it all led.  In the present – an heir with the keys to that same secret, and enemies so large and dark she can barely comprehend them.

This is a thriller.  It is also a historical novel.  It is fast-paced and I think, intriguing.  It was published as a serial by “Amazon Shorts,” one of the old Amazon programs – and was a bestseller in that program, but the program died just as the last segments were going live, and the book fizzled.  I brought it back as an eBook, revised and cleaned up – it’s also available as an unabridged audiobook….one day before long it will finally see print.

This Wednesday and Thursday – it will be a free eBook on Amazon.com and I hope you’ll take a chance on it.  It was not a book I would have found and written on my own, and for that much I thank Dan Brown and that old, not-very-helpful agent.  It’s notable that once I sold one of the other books she did not like – The Mote in Andrea’s Eye, she had the temerity to write, congratulating me on my success and ask if I needed her to represent it… Seriously.  That happened.  I managed to keep a civil tongue and bid her adieu.

There are stories to write, you see, and every one of the stories she told me I should not write are now published…some with a degree of success, and NONE paying her fifteen percent for hating them.  I’ll count that in the win column!  If you are an audio lover, you can buy the eBook for $3.99 and receive the “Whispersync for Voice Ready” audiobook for $1.99  – narrated by Ian Alexander.  If you download it later this week for free – you can STILL get the audio for $1.99.   Come on – let me tell you a story.

Writing What Hurts – A Matter of Perspective

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129168711694499852There are two things you’ll hear a lot when people start giving out advice on writing.

  • 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.

-DNW

Now, as I’m certain I’ve caught your attention – Buy This is My Blood now at Amazon.com…

A Christmas Gift – A Story – "You Are Just Like Gods"

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“You are just like Gods . . .”

By David Niall Wilson

 

Myoshi felt his foot slip on the slick, moss-covered rock, and he gripped the rocks above him more tightly.  The sharp lava stone cut into his fingers, but he regained his balance and remained very still, letting his breath and heartbeat calm.  The sun rose slowly, warming his back as he climbed.  Birds cried from the rocks above, and from the depths of the trees.  Myoshi brushed his fingers across his brow, wiping away the sweat.

Fuji rose above him, grim and imposing, but no more so than the formidable drop behind.  Myoshi had begun his climb at first light, and he had made good time.  On his back, his school book bag bulged with supplies.  There was a souvenir shop at the edge of the forest, but he’d wanted to avoid prying eyes.

He carried some well-packed fish and rice, and two small packets.  One was his school work, graded and banded carefully to be saved and shown to his parents.  The other was a packet of letters.  Letters from Myoshi’s grandfather.  Letters Myoshi’s father had kept, wrapped carefully in rice paper and bound with a silken ribbon.  Letters that one day would be missed.

The mountain leveled off for a time, and Myoshi was able to walk normally, sweeping his gaze along the trail that wound up and up until it was lost among trees and clouds.  It was a wonderful day for a climb.

Far below, beyond the ocean of trees that was the ancient forest of Aokigahara, school was in session.  Myoshi’s father had been at work for two hours, and his mother would be home, cleaning and organizing.  Nothing in their small, neat apartment was ever out of place.  Myoshi’s father would not have permitted it, and his mother would do nothing that shamed her in her husband’s eyes.  Perfection.  Myoshi yearned for that. In everything he did, he fell short.

In school, his mind wandered.  His grades were not bad, but neither were they good.  In Myoshi’s household, mediocrity was not an option.  Other children excelled.  Some were athletes, others could calculate in their heads faster than Myoshi could press the buttons on his calculator.  Myoshi could write, some, but even in this he fell short in his father’s eyes.  His marks in penmanship were less than satisfactory, and his grammar was erratic.  His teachers said he lacked focus and discipline.

Myoshi’s grandfather had known about discipline.  He had understood about being different, as well.  It was all in the letters.  Letters written by a man who died before his own young son could bring home grades, or books of letters.  Letters that were Myoshi’s father’s one link to the past.  A fragile link, built of memories half-forgotten and fantasies long rehearsed.  Myoshi had heard those fantasies.  He had met his grandfather through his father’s words.  He had seen the glint in dark eyes, and the shining leather of the uniform.  Myoshi had heard the roar of engines as great birds of war took flight.

“You are just like the Gods,” Myoshi breathed, “Free of earthly desires…”

He slipped under the umbrella of tree-limbs and continued up the mountain.  His father’s voice echoed through his mind.  The mountain slipped away, just for a moment, replaced by white, billowing clouds.  The soft cries of birds and the chirping of insects gave way to crackling static.  He sensed the others, tightly formed squadron of death, moving as a single unit with the sun blazing above.  Myoshi could feel the sweat beneath the flight helmet.  He could sense the symmetry of the squadron’s practiced motion.  One great bird.  One bolt of lightning aimed at those who opposed the Emperor.

 

“To fly as one bolt

From the crossbow of a

Victorious light.”

 

A tree root protruding from the mountain’s rough hide sent Myoshi tumbling, and his mind returned to the moment.  He caught himself on both hands, scraping one palm, and fighting the urge to cry out.  The weight of the pack pressed him more tightly to the earth.  Turning, he seated himself on a rock and caught his breath.  The sun was bright, and as he looked back the way he’d come, he saw that the trail had disappeared, the winding course cutting off his entrance to the tree-line completely.  Nothing below but the green tops of the trees, obscuring the forest floor, and the rocky peak above rising on a gentle slope above a second line of trees.  Myoshi could just make it out, and he smiled.

From his pack, he pulled free a rice cake, and the packet of his graded school papers.  Carefully, he unwrapped the bundle, plucking out the sheets one by one.  He laid them on the stone beside him, tracing the even lines of his script with a critical eye.  He had been doing well on this one.  Line after line of formulas strung together in the proper patterns.  Then the error.  One figure out of place, another line used to scratch the mistake from the paper and the continuation – flawed.  Beside each figure, a corresponding red character in the elegant script of his teacher.  Corrected. Berated.  Imperfect.

Myoshi had done well enough to pass from this class to the next, but with no honors.  No fine words from teacher to parent.  No pride. It had taken him hours to complete that assignment, painstakingly forming each character.  He had wanted so badly to please his father that the old man’s image had formed in Myoshi’s mind.  The words, and the stories, and lectures slipped in to distract.

Myoshi traced the scratched out character’s with the nail of one finger.  He whispered to himself.

“You are just like gods.”

The figures mocked him.  The red letters, so bright in the sunlight, glittered like the eyes of serpents.  His father had not seen them.  Myoshi had kept the papers, folded and tied.  Bound and under his control.  He could not control the characters, or the formulas, but he could control their outcome, for a time.  The birds did not threaten to expose his secret, and Fuji beckoned.

Myoshi glanced at the second packet of papers. He slid his hand into his pack, stroked the silk bindings, but he did not open the letters.  Not yet.  He quickly packed the wrapper from the rice cake, and the school work, and rose, turning to face the mountain once again.

“Free of earthly desires,” he said softly.

Free of his family.  Free of school, though it tugged at his heart.  He would be a disappointment to his father this final time.  Myoshi had not missed a day of school in five years.  The only desire he could recall in all those years was to please his father.  The most wonderful moments of his life had been spent at that great man’s feet, listening to stories of emperors, and wars.  Stories of his ancestors.  Stories that filled his heart and mind with dreams of other places, and other times.  Times and places where he was not a clumsy young boy, but a hero.  There were ways for those unworthy of honor to regain it.  There were answers to the loss of pride.

The good times with his father had grown fewer and further between as Myoshi had grown older.  As the piles and piles of papers, just like those in his pack, had stacked themselves against his future, and his honor, his father’s eyes had grown distant.  They still saw Myoshi, but not the same Myoshi they had seen before.

Myoshi rose once more, his gaze sweeping up the winding trail to where the peak of the mountain slipped through the clouds.  Eagles soared through the highest branches of the trees, circling slowly.  Myoshi screened the sunlight by cupping his palm over his eyes and watched them.  The brilliant light glittered on a bit of mica imbedded in the mountain, diamond glimmer nearly blinding him.  Myoshi squinted, cocking his head to one side to listen.

He could hear his father’s voice as the mountain faded.  Could sense the shift, and welcomed it.

“We watched from the decks as the pilots swarmed to the sky, a black horde, synchronized and dangerous.  It was not our time.  We were too far from the enemy, and these would return, but they were majestic in flight.

“I remember standing very still on the flight deck, watching them shrink to fly-specks on the horizon, and knowing, when it was my time, that speck would be me.  Shrinking to nothing.  Here, and then, no more, a bright spark in the Emperor’s eyes – a memory in my family’s heart.  Just like the Gods.”

With his eyes squinted so tightly, Myoshi saw the aircraft shimmering against a darkened sky, saw them bank and circle against the clouds.  Saw them focus.  Eagles.  Eagles were like the Gods, as well, but a different sort of God.

Myoshi picked up his things and started up the mountain once more, suddenly eager for completion.  He could feel the wind on the wings of the eagles, and that same wind shivering through his hair.

There were not many letters.  Myoshi’s grandfather had not served for years in the military, or even for a year.  Months, only, and he had never returned.  He had not been a precision pilot, nor had he been blessed with the blood of the Samurai. Still, he had soared.

Myoshi had read those letters again and again.  He had begged his father’s indulgence to allow him to watch over them.  To guard them.  He had seen in his father’s eyes the struggle this had been, but those words, those images, were ingrained in his father’s mind.  That great man no longer required the letters, and so they had passed to Myoshi, who had cherished them as no other possession.

His grandfather’s penmanship had never faltered.  There were no red characters or strike-outs.  There were clear thoughts, worded in poetry stretched to prose without loss of continuity.  It was his grandfather’s words that inspired Myoshi’s own writing, unworthy as it was.  It was the images of his grandfather’s death that stole those words, and distracted him from his own honor.  His teacher said his mind wandered.  Myoshi knew it soared.

The trees had begun to thin.  All that stood between Myoshi and his goal was a ragged backbone of rock.  Far above him, farther than he could have climbed in such a short time, patches of snow were visible.  The air was noticeably cooler, and Myoshi was glad, very suddenly, that his mother had insisted on the sweater he wore, though it had been too hot less than an hour before.

“The higher you go,” Myoshi’s father’s voice, “the colder it gets.  The harder it is to breathe.  It is always dark.  We don’t fly by day, and those few of us who get to practice at all are very sparing with our fuel.  We are not trained to fire at the enemy.  We are barely trained to land.  It is not expected of us.

“We study the great maps daily.  We listen to the inspirational words of our leaders.  I have meditated more this span of two weeks, my son, than I have in the last two years of my life.  Things I have never thought of become clear.  Your mother.  Your face, watching over me in my dreams.

 

“My face reflected

Bright smile, shining eyes, dark

Like the twilit sky.”

 

Myoshi’s eyes were dark, as were his father’s.  He knew that he resembled both men, third generation to bear that visage, first to fail.  There would be no medals hanging on the walls of Myoshi’s home.  Not unless he inherited them.  He would not write wondrous letters to a son yet unborn, telling tales of glory, and darkness, blood and fire.

He stopped again, shielding his eyes and glancing up toward the mountain’s peak.  The eagles had roosted, leaving the sun to beat down on a desolate slope.  Myoshi planned to be across the ridge and safely on the plateau on the far side before the afternoon sunlight waned.  He considered stopping for another snack, but there wasn’t much shade until he crossed, and he wanted to reach the ledge with enough light for reading.

Not that he needed light.  Not that every word in every letter wasn’t ingrained in his imagination, every image fully formed and captivating.  He stepped out onto the bare stone.  The wind whipped up and nearly toppled him from his precarious perch, no longer blocked by the trees.  Myoshi fought for his balance, regained it, and took a quick step forward, then another.  It was easier once he was moving, and he concentrated on the stone at his feet.

Myoshi did not want to think about the side of the mountain, or the lava fields, obscured by the forest below.  He dislodged a tiny avalanche of dust and stone and stopped, waiting for his heart to grow still.

Myoshi thought of Cherry blossoms.  His grandfather had often mentioned them, as had his father.  One of the other pilots, younger even than Myoshi’s grandfather, had written a poem that Myoshi loved.  The haiku, so simple, so profound and complete in that simplicity.

“If only we might fall

Like Cherry blossoms in the spring

So pure and radiant.”

 

Myoshi contemplated the mountain.  The distance to the base.  The remaining climb.  There were no cherry trees on the mountain, and somehow, he was glad.  He didn’t want to think about the ground littered with their petals.  He didn’t want to walk over so many great souls.

As the sun warmed his back, and the wind chilled his face, Myoshi climbed.

* * *

The sun dropped fast beyond the horizon, and Myoshi leaned in close, trying to catch enough of the dying light to finish the letter.  It was the last of them.  Eight, carefully penned slices of life; all that remained of Myoshi’s grandfather.  When he had read the last familiar word, he carefully folded the paper, painstakingly matching the folds and tying the ribbon as it had been reverently.  Myoshi tucked the bundle under his shirt, close to his heart.

Next he pulled free a single sheet of blank paper, and his pen.  It was getting more difficult to see, but it would not matter.  There would be no red glaring characters to mar this piece.  Nothing to correct.  No figures, only a promise.  A single promise.

Myoshi wrote slowly as his mind wandered, for once allowing the words to be absolutely his own.  He didn’t watch the paper.  It was getting too dark for that.  He had to depend on his instincts and luck.  He knew his teachers would not approve, but for once, he was beyond that as well. He was not writing a lesson.  He was writing a history.  He was encapsulating his life.

“Since I was very young,” he began, “sitting at your knee, my father, and listening to your stories of grandfather, I have loved the cherry blossom.  I read the haiku, and in my dreams, the blossoms grew to men.  In the words of those who died gloriously, taking the paths of falling stars to the hearts of their enemies, I found dreams.  As I failed in my life, they gave me hope.”

The mountain faded around him as shadows lengthened.  The moon had yet to rise, but only the last rose-tinted hints of the sun licked the skyline.  Stars glittered like diamonds.  Like petals.  So many petals.

Myoshi continued to write, but his mind closed out the reality of mountain and paper, the pen slid silently, marking the trail of his thoughts, but not carefully.  Not with the painstakingly rigid strokes of the school, now empty and silent, like the mountain.  Not with the measured rhythm of his grandfather’s even script.  With Myoshi’s heart.  He penned each character as it felt, and he paid no more attention to it than he did to the breeze.  He mouthed his grandfather’s words and shivered.

“The air was cold on deck.  We were allowed only minimal equipment.  Nothing, really, to prepare for the weather.  If we grew ill, we would find our release.  If we were cold, we had but to think fo the flame, and the glory to come.  Each brow was covered with a single strip of cloth, white, with the rising son emblazoned.

“I remember last night.  I went, alone, to the flight deck.  The Oka  – cherry blossom – stood before me, silent and empty.  I tried to picture the skies, the enemy, the waves.  I saw a coffin.  I saw an end, and a beginning, etched in flame.  My heartbeat quickened, fanned like a flame by the wind as it whipped across that dark, empty deck.  I stood there a very long time, and when I returned to my bed, I could not sleep.  Instead, I turned to the pen, and the paper, wanting you to share the moment.

“Waves lapped gently at the sides of the ship, rocking us like babes in the arms of our mothers.  It is the last night we will spend in the arms of any mother, cradled by the earth.  I want to sleep and let it slip away.  I want to awaken to that last day as I had so many others.  I know I will not.  I cannot sleep.

“Now the sun is rising, and my hand shakes as I hold the pen; my heart races.  The others have tossed and turned all around me.  None found the peace of deep sleep, and those who did sleep are round-eyed with visions and final dreams.

“I will close this now, so that I may seal it and put it in the Commander’s hand.  He will see that you get this letter, and the others.  Tonight, I die, but part of me lives on.  I have a sun, and I am blessed.

“I remember the words of Admiral Ohnishi, by whose grace I have this chance to die so well.

 

‘In blossom today, then scattered,

Life is so like a delicate flower.

How can one expect the fragrance

To last forever?’

 

“May I honor you.  May I honor our Emperor.  May the gods embrace me.

“Farewell.”

Myoshi’s pen did not stop scratching at the paper as his grandfather’s words ended.  He could feel the deck swaying beneath his feet.  He wrote on until the paper was filled, and turned, and filled on the opposite side as well before he set it aside, unsigned.  Only the weight of the pen held the paper in place against the stone, and the edges flapped in the breeze, like the wings of a great moth, reaching into the moonlight.

The takeoff was rougher than usual.  The waves had risen higher, and the deck slanted one way, then the other, great sweeping rolls that skewed the skyline and stole one’s balance.  Myoshi blinked, the strobe effect easing his nausea.  A thousand butterflies had risen to flight in his breast, and his hands shook like those of an old man.

All around him the roar of engines.  Each coughing to life, sputtering drowsily then roaring with barely contained life.  Life.  That is what pulsed through Myoshi’s veins, pounding so loudly he thought of the surf, and the ocean.  The air was cool, but he felt a fiery heat building, felt the glorious binding of man to machine to air as they launched.

The air whipped against his face, and he felt the exhileration, the pure joy of release as the deck/earth/world slipped away.  His breath was stolen, and though he fought against that breathlessness, he could not quite force the words past his lips.

Myoshi’s body tumbled, falling freely from the ledge of stone, arcing out from the stone and whirling, head over feet over head again and crashing through the upper branches of the ocean of trees, swallowed whole by the ancient, silent forest.

Far above, the clouds opened for one second, and the silhouette of a single plane was outlined – then gone.

* * *

A group of teenage boys, on a hike, came across bones, picked clean and whitened by the sunlight, slipping through the trees.  They turned in horror, ready to bolt, but one stopped.

A packet of papers, mildewed and rotting, lay to one side.  It was bound by a single ribbon of silk.  Forcing his eyes from the bones, the boy reached out and grabbed the packet.

They ran.  It wasn’t until much later that the papers were carefully opened.  Most were very old, but a single page of newer script was tied atop the pile.  On it, this verse.

“White blossom, broken

stained petal, crimson, gliding

Lost in the moonlight”

Using Facebook and Social Media as an Author – 10 Tips / Rules from my Experience

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Ten tips for using Facebook as an author:

1) Have a personal profile AND an author’s page. This allows you all the perks of both, but gives you a good way to split your personal from professional “imprint” . . . and in case you achieve the fame you crave, you can have more than 500 likes on your author’s page, but not on a personal profile.

2) Do not make a new page for your new book. If you have a series with an actual following, it’s worthwhile to break those fans off with a page of their own, but in general, use your author’s page to build a solid list of readers, and don’t break it into pieces. Most of those who join the new page will just be people from the old page, and it serves no real purpose.

3) If you decided to send a notice to a successful author and they take you up on “liking” your page, or friending you, do not follow up with “Hey! Thanks for that! Here’s the link to my brand new book you might want to buy. As a corrolary, do not post that same link directly onto said successful autors (or anyone’s for that matter) timeline without their permission.

4) Be aware that online “Events” – again – probably only reach the same people as your author’s page, and probably annoy at least half of the people you invite. Just post the information on your author’s page. Concentrate on building the base for that page.

5) Only “sponsor” a post when you REALLY want it to be more visibile. Ther is no solid evidence (none) that promoted posts actually sell anything, but they DO spread the word wider and longer if there is something you are trying to emphasize…as with any Facebook promotion, take anything they say with a grain of salt. FB is a horrible marketing tool.

6) Post regularly and not just links to buy your newest book. Do not post every time you get a new review from a friend on Good Reads or Amazon, people are not stupid. Give them the information on what your book is about, and the information on where to find it. If you have a promotion or contest, post that, and politely request your friends share it.

7) Remember the first rule of Internet Marketing. (My rule) You’ll gather more flies with lolcats than with persistence. You will get more shares, likes, and comments with something entertaining or amusing that you’ve used to draw attention to your work than you will to a review on someone’s blog, or an entire blog tour of places no one was going to go anyway. In fact, my opinion on blog tours is that if you can’t tour on already very popular blogs, they are a waste of time, other than to up your numbers on certain search engines.

8) If you have a blog, and you post regularly there, I recommend Networked Blogs on Facebook. You can post a short note and a link for each post automatically to your various pages and / or personal profile and you you can avoid doubling content while reminding folks about your blog.

9) BE ENGAGING – and this rule applies to Facebook, Twitter, PARTICULARLY Pinterest and other Social Media sites. Nothing irritates me more or faster than a feed full of nothing but links, or a Pinterest page that has one board – My books – or maybe two … My Books and My friend’s Books. Social Media (as everyone knows by now) is supposed to be a converation. If you use it like a virtual mirror and keep TELLING it who the fairest one of all is, you’ll be scratching your head and wondering why no one pays attention. Be yourself – unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.

10) Do not try to fashion yourself after success. Because Anne Rice or Joe Hill or any other person can create a spectacular following on a social media site does not mean that if you a: copy what they do or b: listen to them because they proclaim themselves a guru (NOTE: I am not a guru, all of this is just observations and my own experience) or c: desperately cling to them hoping they will mention you and draw you along in their wake – that it will work. You, and your work, have to stand alone. If you don’t stand out as a memorable, engaging person, or your work does not prove to actually reach the heights you claim it does…no amount of manipulation of social media will make it so. Spend more time writing – less time trying to figure out how to sell it. Engage when you can, be interesting, funny, and real, and trust your talent. USE your talent. Don’t try to be someone else – unless (of course, you can be Batman, or The Fist of Goodness, in which case refer to rule 9)

-DNW

New Interview at HORROR WORLD

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The good folks at Horror World (Blu Gilliand in particular) have interviewed me about Crossroad Press, the state of publishing, and my writing.  Here is an excerpt …

HW: For something that started out as a way for you to get your own work out in the digital format, Crossroads Press has grown at a startling pace. Has the rate of growth surprised you? How have you had to adjust to keep up with it?

DNW: At first, it was sluggish. There’s still some resistance to eBooks, and now that the resistance is breaking down, there is a huge scramble of publishers, agents, etc. trying to tell authors they are the next big thing and to make money off of them. We started slow, kept our heads, remained fair, and as time passed, it started to steamroll. We solicited most of our authors in the first year or so. Most of our authors now come to us as referrals from our other authors, or through word-of mouth. We (very literally) end up with new relationships and properties every day.

So the quick answer to your question is, yes, at first it surprised me, but now I see it as business as usual. We are doing good things, and it’s catching people’s attention.

You’ve got a very flexible model as far as what you’ll take from authors, such as taking books from a series that started with another publisher. Why do you think traditional publishers find it difficult to see the benefits in such flexibility?

We started out with only a couple of “rules.” We wanted works from established authors, preferably with a backlist AND some new content, but either was fine. The other rule was that it is just pointless to let words rot on a hard drive, or in a closet. If you’ve written it, it should be out there. Also, authors are at their best when the rules are lax and they can write what they want to write – what feels right for them at the time. My own series, The DeChance Chronicles, was born of my frustration at the rules behind White Wolf’s World of Darkness novels (of which I wrote about a half-dozen).

Bigger publishers are market and numbers driven. They look and see that book two of something fell off from book one. They never consider it might be a marketing failure, they just drop it. If that happens, when a new “big” publisher looks at it, the first thing they will do is check numbers on that second book – which were bad – and say no. We believe in letting the books sink or swim on their own merit, and we also believe in our authors.

In your opinion, are traditional publishers on their way out? Are they going to be able to keep up with the radical shifts the publishing business is going through right now?

People are always playing the death knell for traditional publishing (we’ve heard it a few times for horror as well, I believe). The simple fact is…they have a lot of money. They still control the top echelon of popular writers. They have the most important keys to the kingdom…the ability to make a book visible, and the ability to pay people money up front.

Authors, as a whole, are an insecure lot. They want validation. I fall right in there with them. It’s rough, even in the face of an overall not-great-deal, to turn down a contract to publish your book. Money up front is a hedge against not being successful enough, and New York City still has money.

Read the entire interview BY CLICKING HERE!

It's Not All Apples & Oranges Anymore

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Most of  the years while digital and audio have been growing, and print publishers, at the same time, shrinking, there has been a sort of “us and them” attitude involved.  When “indie” publishing started to be the fad – gurus popping up all over with their savant secrets – this attitude persisted.  You must do it this way, or you must go back and bow down to traditional publishing and do it their way.  You can’t have it both ways.  I’m here to tell you that not only is that not true, it’s harmful.

Over the last year I’ve seen a lot of different combinations of things put into play.  Here’s what I believe – from what I’ve learned.

You should always retain your digital and audio rights if you can, but let’s face it – traditional publishers aren’t stupid.  A lot of them are now locking in these rights and not letting go.  That does not have to kill an established writer – it can work to your benefit.

A: Keep all your books, stories, screenplays, essays, etc. in play.  Anything you can keep the rights to publish electronically – do that.  Get the work out there in front of people.

B: If your publisher is holding onto the rights on newer works, play off of that.  Many of these same publishers are willing to include marketing info for their titles in the back of eBooks published by the author, or even another publisher.  EVERYONE makes more money if you cross-promote. If your book is getting front-run promotion from a NYC publisher, use that to market the works that YOU control as well.  We have at least one author who received a very good promotional deal through his current traditional publisher, and is now selling like crazy (and making more money) on the works that the same publisher does NOT control.

C: Pay attention to your work, and your rights.  Keep copies of the final files of things.  Don’t write, publish, forget, and then later on wish you had a document file for your book.  If it’s a backlist title, well, you know what I’ll say next.  If you are established with a backlist…you should be contacting me, or someone like me.  Someone who will scan the book, get you a document copy, not charge you to do that – and help publish your book.

D: If you get a traditional offer, and they are paying you well, take it and use that publicity to move the things you also control.

The playing field is never going to be completely even.  Big Traditional Publishers have money.  Authors (generally) do not.  Authors create and write books, editors edit them, and publishers publish them.  Except, these days, a lot of those hats are being shuffled and doubled up.  If you can, learn from the marketing strategies – good and bad – of your traditional publisher.  If you see something that works, give it a shot…don’t spend your mortgage money trying to follow the footsteps of a guru.  If you don’t feel comfortable publishing and marketing your own work, there are alternatives.  Crossroad Press is an alternative.  There are others.

The key is – be more involved.  Keep your apples in one hand, and the oranges close to the vest.  Pay attention, track your rights, and keep your work active and viable.  Opportunity, regardless of what they say in old cliches, does not come knocking…you have to spot it, recognize it, and act.

Now…go sell a million books and make me proud.

-DNW

In Between the LInes

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Too many things going on at once.  I have a bunch of stories I need / want to write.  I have books to publish.  Heck, I have a pie to bake, and a book to write about that.  I’m virtually stuck between the lines, and almost every day a new thing I’d really like to work on comes along.

I have a novella started for The Scattered Earth, bring Euphrankes Holymnn and the crew of the Airship Tangent back for an encore.  I have even more written on a new Cletus J. Diggs Mystery.  I have “Nevermore,” the next DeChance book, which will involve an appearance by Edgar Allen Poe…and I have a novel about a zombie apocalypse and ulta-marathon running in the wings.

I need to write my way out…it’s the only way through, as I know from experience.  I suspect all of these things and more will be written in short order, but tonight…I feel stuck.  I hate that.

Tomorrow…there will be words.  I will share some with you just to prove it’s so…

-DNW

Etched Deep & Other Dark Impressions – New Collection – Free Promo

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I have put together what I think will become one of my most important collections.  The title story, “Etched Deep,” is a good example.  This is a very short story that originally was published in THIN ICE #7 decades ago.  I lost the story, but it stuck with me, and later on I rewrote it from memory, in a more modern voice, and it’s stronger.  These are stories that I believe in.  Some of them were buried in themed anthologies, or in books and magazines where I appeared alongside much more popular authors and was delegated to the “And Others” land I have spent so many years in.  A couple among these are borderline literary fiction, and at least one has been rejected more than one time for being “too literary”.  I’ll leave it to readers to figure out which one.

There are also a couple of very old stories in the book.  I’ve tried not to change them very much, but when you edit your old work, even trying just to proof read it, there is only so much you can stand.  The point is, you’ll find a couple of rougher pieces here, but I wanted to include them to give them another shot at a new group of readers.

There are fourteen stories in this book, and I added fourteen poems as well.  These are an even wider variety, spanning many, many years.  There is a poem I wrote very early in my relationship with Trish, there is the only known poem by the famous Angus Griswold (as well as one story, “One Off From Prime,” that has never been published prior to this book, and that features Angus as a character.  There are some of the poems I wrote for the three-word poetry challenges that Rain Graves invented – I’m given any three words and have to find a poem in my head that uses them all.  I love that game.

Here are the contents.  Starting on Tuesday, January 31st, this collection will be FREE ON AMAZON for three days.  It runs from Tuesday through Thursday, and I am hoping the promotion will help find me some new readers for my other books…  Also included in this collection is Chapter One of “My Soul to Keep,” the Donovan DeChance origin story.

SHORT STORIES INCLUDED:

Through an Eyeglass, Darkly
Fear of Flying
Moving On
One Off From Prime
Headlines
Waynes World
Redemption
Swarm
The Purloined Prose
SHIFT
Pretty Boys in Blue, and Long Hair Dangling
To Strike a Timeless Chord
Etched Deep
Unique

Also included are the poems: The Acropolis, Clamdigger, Cuttlefish Squeezings, Thanatology, A Poem of Adrian, Gray, The Fishmonger, Revelation, Loch Ness, Mirrored Hearts, Dark Man, Banished, End of Days, & Longhaired Puppies.

Publishers – What is, and Isn't One

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Recently I’ve been asked several questions by authors I hope to work with that have actually saddened me.  How much will it cost me – directed at anything a publisher should be doing for their authors – gets me every time.  It should cost you nothing.  If a publisher tries to tell you to pay for your own cover, your own editor, or any part of the process (and this includes scanning and reconstructing a book that they plan on publishing in digital) – they aren’t a publisher.  They are in business making money OFF of writers, not for them.

Traditionally publisher paid advances.  At Crossroad Press we don’t do that.  We have opted to keep our overhead as low as possible and to give the lion’s share of all money made to the authors.  We do not charge for covers.  We do not expect authors to kick in on anything, in fact.  Authors create, and publishers provide that creativity to the public – hopefully to make money first for the author, and THEN for themselves.  If this is skewed the other direction, you can pretty much rest assured that the “publisher” has their own interest at heart.

So, just to be clear, there is a message here.  If a publisher wants to publish your work, it is THEIR job to get the cover, convert the book, edit the book – not yours.  I actually heard today of an e-mail from a publisher who claimed it was no longer the responsibility of publishers to market the works of their authors?  Really?  How then do you suppose money will be made?

Just as the Internet has created a lot of authors, it has created a lot of “publishers”.  Make sure you know your own goals when you approach them. If all you want is a book with your name on it, publish it yourself and keep what little return you get.  If you go with an actual publisher, don’t pay them to publish you – that’s the same as doing it yourself, except more expensive with less return.

End very short rant.  I guess I just don’t understand greed very well.  I recognize it, but I don’t understand it.

-DNW

John Rosenman – Quietly Awesome for Decades

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I wanted to take a day out today and direct you all to a friend and colleague of mine, Dr. John B. Rosenman.  John and I met at a writing group long ago in Virginia Beach.   We were two of the members of the group who wrote horror – most of the others were (at the time) fantasy and Sci-fi oriented, and the whole shooting match was led by the talented and (often) wise Mr. Richard Rowand, who eventually edited STARSHORE Magazine and published my first important story.

Anyway…through those years, and all of those between (decades) John has been writing stories and novels and finding them homes.  He may be the single most dedicated writer I’ve ever met.  He’s always working on a story, reworking an idea, searching for flaws where too many other writers would hit send and move on…and he has produced some remarkable stories.  He has appeared in literally hundreds of magazines and anthologies, and has a number of novels to his credit, and I’m hoping this little nudge will encourage you to check some of them out.

I will point you specifically at two Sci-Fi novels that we have published at Crossroad Press.  Both of these were previously published, but we were fortunate enough to pick them up.  John writes novels on a sweeping scale.  There are messages and socially significant sub-themes in his alien cultures, and deep emotional insights in his romance.  While they qualify, probably, as space opera, they go beyond that.  Here are the two we’ve published to date.  Read them and let me know if I’m not right!

A SENSELESS ACT OF BEAUTY

Aaron Okonkwo, a Nigerian scientist, travels with a crew in the 24th century to evaluate Viridis, which proves to be a beautiful and fabulous world. There, Aaron discovers a strange, alien species and amazing machines and technology left in a vast underground complex by a mysterious race called the Creators.

Aaron soon falls under the irresistible, seductive spell of Nightsong, a green alien female with ominous and bewitching powers. However, an even greater danger rises. He will be forced to fight for the planet’s survival against a ruthless invasion of many ships to conquer and enslave the planet – just as Africa itself was once enslaved. Aaron knows it’s A Senseless Act of Beauty to try to reclaim his ancient warrior heritage and fight back against such overwhelming odds, but he knows he must try.  – $2.99

ALIEN DREAMS

Killer angels are roaming outer space looking for their messiah. If Captain Latimore can’t make them believe he’s the one, everyone on his crew – and many more besides – will die.

Captain Eric Latimore leads a four-person crew to Lagos to investigate a previous team’s mysterious disappearance. Once there, he discovers that an ominous alien presence is invading their dreams. Each member of his crew has the same dream – huge, seductively beautiful “angels” speak to them telepathically.

The creatures strand his crew on the planet and only Latimore can free them – if he survives.  $2.99.

-DNW

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