Cry Me a River…


Nothing, I mean nothing, grinds my gears like squandered opportunities. I joined the Army for a chance at a real life, and I went from dropping out of high school and sleeping on a couch while making $5/hr as a dishwasher to being a noncommissioned officer and combat veteran, a business owner and a publishing author with a gorgeous wife, three beautiful children and two clean, reliable vehicles (not base-model, either). People thank me for my service all the time, and I get that, but I’ve received at least as much as I’ve been given. Nonetheless, most of it hasn’t been handed to me. I’ve had to work for it. And I preach that all the time to my soldiers, too.

So, when I see something like this on Facebook, via a fellow author, it almost makes me rage-vomit. This lady sold a book for a $200,ooo advance and now all she has to show for it is a woe-is-me blog about how quick the money went and how in debt/screwed she’s been since. I probably can’t even mention online what I’d do for the opportunity she was granted! Several things stick out to me as things that any sane person should be able to realize on their own:

She’s Living in New York Frickin’ City. Hell-to-the-NO. Throughout the article she references the stupid amount of rent her apartment costs (around $700/mo more than I pay for my three-bedroom, three-bath townhome). Mind you, she didn’t have a full-time job paying for this. What she made in a year at her part-time job wouldn’t even cover the year’s rent. She blew her advance money, in part, on it.  The same money she could have spent on relocating to a more affordable part of the country and keeping afloat until she could find the sort of employment that would pay the bills while still giving her the freedom to write on the side. You always hear people complain that they wish they could move, but don’t have the money, right? She had the damn money. Moving away from everything you know can be somewhat of a problem when you’re…

Lacking in Independence. Three huge things stick out in my mind from her article, two of which are interconnected. She borrows copious amounts of money from her boyfriend and moves in with him (which doesn’t stop her from being totally selfish when he asks her if his family can stay a few days…hell, I wouldn’t have even asked, if I was paying the bills). She mentions at one point how nice it is to have access to a car again when he gets back from a work trip. Aaaaand…here’s the kicker–she doesn’t know how to drive! Thirty years old and doesn’t know how to drive! You have to be independent in order to take advantage of opportunities. She could have moved somewhere less expensive and started a new life as a six-figure author…hell, that money could have kept her job-free for three or four years in the right place, and who knows what kind of creative momentum she could have picked up in that time. But she can’t even drive a bloody car. However, this didn’t stop her from…

Taking Care of Others When She Can’t Even Take Care of Herself. She has this cat. It has health problems, to the tune of several grand. Guess where a bunch of that money went? You guessed it. I have a family member who’s on disability. Never seen her work a day of my life. She doesn’t have money for all sorts of things, but she has six cats (at least) and when one dies, she pays a decent chunk of change to have it cremated. When you’re establishing yourself, you need to worry about yourself for awhile. Not saying you should be cold and heartless all the time, or blow off a legitimate need for help from a friend or loved one, but for Bob’s sake don’t create problems for yourself.  I’ll bet the cat’s medical issues would barely have made a dent–she could have budgeted for them, in fact–had she taken the initial step of using a bit of that cash to leverage herself into a better living situation in the first place.

So, yeah. Very frustrating article to read, especially when I know so many great creators, and the statistics show most of them won’t be offered what this lady pissed away ever in their lifetimes.


Support Genre-Author Veterans This Memorial Day


This Memorial Day weekend, you might have time to stretch out with a good book, in between the grilling and the beers. There are a lot more military personnel (current as well as former) creating genre fiction than you might imagine. Supporting one or two of them by picking up an awesome read would accomplish multiple acts of awesome with just a few mouse clicks. Here’s a short list, just to start you off. If I left out your favorite veteran/author, add him or her in the comments box. I’m certain to miss one or two. If your wallet’s a little light after buying all that beer and meat, follow a few of these folks on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to their blogs!

Of course, this being my site, I’m going to lead off by pimping my dark superhero anthology, CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? (which opens with Tim Marquitz’ tale of a superhuman weapon in the War on Terror followed by an excellent story by Weston Ochse) but, if you already have that or superheroes aren’t your thing, you can pick up a copy of FOUR IN THE MORNING today, in advance of the official release date of 1 June.

Former Navy man Brian Keene has something for everyone–the holiday is certainly a good excuse to pick up something from him. I recently reviewed THE CAGE and recommend it if you’re in the market for a quicker read.

Army vet Weston Ochse’s BLOOD OCEAN is available for a measly five bucks on Kindle. I have this one on my stack and will be cracking into it soon.

I haven’t read Army Reserve officer Myke Cole’s CONTROL POINT yet, but it looks interesting and has a lot of good reviews.

I’ve read and reviewed both of Army veteran Bryon Morrigan’s military-horror hybrids, THE DESERT and ACHERON, and highly recommend them.

I also have former Naval officer Jeffrey Wilson’s THE TRAITEUR’S RING on my TBR shelf. I interviewed him a couple months back, as well.


Archive: Hand-holding Ain’t Happening


I’ll be in Salt Lake City from the 29th to the 1st, attending the World Horror Convention. I’ll have something from the archives for you here on the site each day, though. The conversation behind this blog post happened about a year and a half ago (OCT ’10), but my reasoning is as sound and relevant now as it was then. I probably won’t be changing my mind any time soon, either. The “publisher of my upcoming novella” is publishing the sequel later this year, has just pu

This week’s *facepalm* moment is courtesy of an author I spoke to online tonight. The author, who’ll probably come across this blog post given the wide dissemination my website’s material has across a variety of social media, is the father of a bouncing baby book. Self-published, POD-all-the-way-baby. Now, this may not be the kiss o’ death that it was a couple years ago; the marketplace is evolving, as I (and alot of better people than I) have pointed out on multiple occasions. It does have bearing on the rest of the situation, so I wanted to bring it up. Newly self-published author. With me so far?

Author pops up wanting to make small talk, and asks me about my side business, which is a Virtual Assistant company run by my wife and I. Because we mention marketing and promotional services, he thought maybe I did these things for authors. I don’t at present, though I am talking with a company about doing just that, but anyhow, all this led up to a discussion of this author’s marketing efforts. Basically, this guy is doing nothing to promote his book, isn’t sending out review copies (he stopped after ‘a few PDFs’) and is just ‘going to wait until a publisher picks up the next one. Promotion is their job.’ I’m paraphrasing him, but you get the idea.

What makes you think the publisher will have a promotional budget, or that they’ll be willing to spend it on you? I ask him. They’re not going to spend much money on promoting your work unless you’re a bestseller. They want a guaranteed return on that investment.

‘My agent will convince the publisher that I’m a bestseller,’ he responds. ‘That’s his job.’ But the guy isn’t promoting his book, isn’t sending out review copies, AND… I almost forgot… took down his website. Doesn’t have a website. In the third decade of the Information Age, during a time when the entire industry is changing (possibly in his favor, even, if he plays his cards right), when he’s already at a disadvantage by being a plankton in an ocean of self-published work, not all of which is (or will ever be) consumer-ready to begin with. No website, no reviews, and probably no sales numbers, because people aren’t just going to wake up in the morning knowing you exist.

Imagine if I walked into a random biker bar and told all the guys in there that they were going to give me all their money, without a fight, because I’m the best fighter any man has ever seen and they don’t wanna test me.

If your book’s intended audience is more than just friends and family, you need to be ready to market and promote your own work. Even if you have a publisher. Damnation Books, the publisher of my upcoming novella, even wanted my marketing strategy in writing once they decided they wanted the manuscript. Black Bed Sheet, the publisher of my second book, has been a partner in promoting my book since prior to publication, but even then, I’ve had to take the lead. They put the blurb I acquired from a pro author on the cover, but I had to get it. They’ve used quotes from reviews in their marketing material, but I sent the book to the reviewer (and tens of others). They sent print copies to reviewers who insisted upon them, but I made the initial contact and obtained mailing addresses.

I’m not dicking them down for that, either; it’s just a simple fact across the board that small presses have no budget for marketing. Another simple fact is that no one could possibly know the book better or want it to succeed more than the author themselves. It’s also not just a small-press syndrome, either. I’ve had authors from major publishers tell me about the lack of promotional support given them by the publisher. If you’re not Steve King, you’re probably gonna do the lion’s share. Alot of the authors you love are probably great at it, too. They have blogs, message boards, newsletters.

The worst part about the whole deal, though? This author isn’t ignorant. Ignorant, I can understand. In an era where any random asshole can self-publish his own book, it’s a simple matter of statistics that most of them aren’t going to know how to lay a book out, edit a manuscript or design a cover, let alone plan a marketing strategy and implement it. When all was said and done, though, after explaining to him everything outlined in the preceding paragraphs, his response was ‘Yeah, I know where you’re coming from. I used to think like that, but now I don’t.’ I was ignorant once. I did jack-shit when my first book came out, and I got jack-shit in return. Learned my lesson, though.

Seriously? I wish him the best, but I think he’d be better off giving my biker-bar strategy a try. The end would come quicker.

For those who don’t want their hands held, but could use a little hand up, here are my essays on procuring blurbs and reviews and webpage design for writers.


Throwing in the Towel


About a week ago, I came across a thread on a private forum I frequent from an author I know in passing. He wrote a nice, long, heartfelt post about how he was quitting writing because he didn’t feel he was good enough at writing fiction. He compared it to a fighter who knows he isn’t good enough to make pro, so he gives that shit up, but might stay involved in training new talent or whatnot. He said he’d be staying involved in one way or another (he’s also an editor). There were the sort of reponses you might imagine:

  • “You’ll come back. You always come back.”
  • “I’ve thought about quitting before; Hell, just yesterday!”
  • “I’ll never quit, it’s in my blood, etc.”

You get the idea. Of course, I had to chime in. And what kinda pal would I be if I just rehashed what had already been said? So, here’s (most of) my post from the forum:

If you CAN quit–and I believe this applies to anything–YOU SHOULD. Life is too short to spend time doing things you don’t feel like you can’t live without.

End of 2010, I realized that I was juggling a family, a military career, a side-business with my wife, a writing career and drum or bass guitar (sometimes both) practice at church for over three years. It was getting to be too much. Something was gonna have to go.

I gave up the music. I’m a much better author and editor than musician–I was good enough to play bars, but that was about it, and with the military moving me around so much, the only steady playing I could do was in church. Do I miss it? Absolutely. But I can encourage my son to play. His grandfather bought him a drum set for Christmas, so I still get my jam time in. Who knows what’ll happen when I retire from the Army? But…like I said, the very fact that I COULD walk away was a pretty good indicator that I SHOULD. And so far, I haven’t had any regrets.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Today’s douchebaggery is brought to you by the letter “L.” Now, a word from our sponsors… But hear me out. Aspiring to be a pro author is a shitload of hard work. First, you have to write. Then you have to make sure your writing is technically sound. You have to find a publisher. Sometimes, you have to find an agent. You might have to find another publisher or agent if the first one rejects you. You have to do all this with multiple projects at one time, while looking for your next project. You have to promote your work. Maintain a website. Interact with readers. Contact reviewers. Attend conventions. Network with colleagues.

Conventional wisdom has it that something like one percent of authors are pros making their whole living from writing. One percent. A recent college study showed 1.37% of women would say yes if a stranger offered sex. The average person has a better chance of finding sex in the street . If there’s anything you like to do that would fill the void left by quitting writing, it makes logical sense to do that other thing.

For me, there’s no substitute for telling stories. Everything I’ve done for the past six years has been worth it. Many other writers feel the same way. But not everyone is wired the same way. Just something to keep in mind. If you realize you can’t live without it after all, you can always come back.


The Writing Warfighter


I work hard to keep a wall between the different aspects of my life. I don’t want my family to be plastered all over my website and public profiles to such an extent that my wife is accosted by nutjobs at conventions if all my hard work pays off in notoriety. The clients of my family’s side business may not enjoy zombies, serial killers and such. Military operational concerns (and the plain ol’ desire to not want to deal with it when I’m home) necessitate minimal revelations to the public about my career in the Army. That last one, though, is sometimes that hardest one to keep separate.

My military life coincides with my writing life more than anything else. Most recently, this was brought to mind by Drew Williams’ recent guest piece on Brian Keene’s blog. Drew solicited personally inscribed signed books from a number of genre authors, then sent the box of 32 books oversea’s to a buddy’s troops in Afghanistan. You should read the whole blog entry, but for those with limited time, here are the names involved, because you should totally support them with your cash:

Kim Paffenroth, Cody Goodfellow, Harry Shannon, Nate Southard, Michael Laimo, Maurice Broaddus, Bob Freeman, John Skipp,  Steven Shrewsbury, Gene O’Neil, Scott Nicholson, Tom Piccirilli, Brian Knight, Mike Oliveri, Gord Rollo, Lee Thomas, J. F. Gonzalez, Mort Castle, Kelli Owen, Brian Keene, Mark Rainey, Nate Kenyon, Sephera Giron, M. Stephen Lukac, Bryan Smith, Elizabeth Massie, and Weston Ochse. (And a second thanks to Brian Keene for letting me borrow his blog and one to Brian Knight for finding a few extra “RARE”ities!)

Reading this got me to thinking about a similar experience, which I shared in the comments on Brian’s blog. I started my writing career while on a FOB in Afghanistan, and a few months after I began making friends in the horror community, Ms. Fran Friel, a lovely person and outstanding Stoker-Nominated author, conducted a similar drive to send books for me. I got a box of probably twenty or so books later that month. I read my first books by Gord Rollo and Stephen Mark Rainey that way, amongst others, and I’ll never forget that amazing display of generosity.

That was just the first of many overlaps. During my last deployment, to Qatar, I stumbled across a Permuted Press anthology, ROBOTS BEYOND, in a random pile of books in a barracks common area. Having reviewed a number of Permuted titles and being on friendly terms with several of their authors, I was tickled to find this. I ended up submitting a story to the editor’s next antho, as a matter of fact, and it was shortlisted (I’m still not sure when, if ever, that antho is coming out, but I can’t wait to read it). It was so nice to have a little taste of home that I didn’t have to chase down. I also have a few older Dorchester titles, procured from a lending library, that I still haven’t read.

During that same deployment, I made friends with an Airman while riding the post shuttle. He also was a writer, and had recently self-published a novel through Createspace. He only had a few weeks left on his deployment when we met, but we killed a decent amount of free time together. Not only did I advise him on a way to break his series down to make it more palatable to editors, I also recovered the entirety of the EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS he gave Booksurge in return for shitty editing, cover design and book production.

I wrote the bulk of the stories that would eventually become MAGICK & MISERY and DESPAIRS & DELIGHTS while deployed to Afghanistan. I wrote the entirety of WILD while deployed to Qatar.

I gave a powerpoint presentation on the small press to a group of soldiers in order to obtain my instructor credentials at the US Army Signal Center. I penned an essay on military service as a support system for creative efforts while in a leadership course. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that piece, and its work probably still isn’t finished.

I’ve met an astonishing number of genre stalwarts who formerly served or are still on duty, either in the regular army, the Guard or Reserves or as government employees. They include, in part, Brian Keene, Weston Ochse, Bryon Morrigan, R. Thomas Riley, Jeffrey Wilson and Tim Deal, among others. I know I’m forgetting several.

I’m grateful for the occasional intersections my military life makes with my writing life. It’s important to keep them separate for the most part, both because of national security and the preservation of my sanity, but I’ve also met some great people because of crossed paths. It’s even opened a few doors for me, because if American soldiers past and present comprise approximately 1% of the United States population, horror authors publishing while on active duty are an even smaller, and sometimes fascinating, segment. Most importantly, I’m grateful to have a respected and honored career with which to pay the bills and support my family while pursuing my dreams.