Books, Books, Writing, and Open Topics

Happy Thursday, regular readers. It’s time again for another edition of “Here’s a Bunch of Crap to Throw Against the Wall”. Consider these posts the Muse version of flypaper, hanging from a doorway to collect the buzzing ideas and events of the past week. Eliminates pests, cleans the house, and makes a nasty mess.  With no further preamble…

  • Work continues. Simple enough, right? Hoping to send the print version of Pathways to Createspace by the end of next week, which would put it in your hands by the end of the following week, weather and UPS permitting. As always, dates are flexible and may be  ambitious, as I’m knee-deep in an important work project at the moment. Broken Wing is coming along nicely. Fascinating to watch as a story that I nurtured from a rough outline transforming into a sleek machine with new pieces added  as its engine dictates. Revision typically follows this course, but Wing has taken on a life of its own in that regards and shown encouraging growth from its embryonic form.
  • In connection to that, and as a follow-up to last week’s request for more advanced writing books, I’m currently reading through Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose. It’s a little winky in spots, with the usual overblown cruft about loving the sentence and the power of the written word and so on and so forth, but I’ve only reached Chapter Two and already found its advice useful in revising Wing. Worth the purchase, worth the time to read.
  • After taking some time off from reading (chalk it up to a series of sub-par books that sapped my passion), I’m digging into books again. Started with a few indie clunkers – good to see some things, like lack of an editor, don’t change – before settling into Detroit: an American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. Admittedly, this one is non-fiction, but it provides a gripping narrative with strong, overarching themes. You may know LeDuff as the journalist who covered the epic of the poor homeless man found frozen in an abandoned elevator in Detroit and the difficulty of getting anyone to care. It’s a good shorthand for the problems he discovers when he moves back to his hometown and he uses it as a fulcrum around which the rest of the story revolves.
  • Next up is Silver Linings Playbook. Enjoyed the movie and am curious about the book. The subject matter relates to my current project, especially the recovery angle of things. May not mention it here again since everyone and their cat has read it by this point.
  • Started working out again the other day. Not a New Years resolution thing here, just a realization that I felt like crap and needed to do something about it. Now I feel like crap and am sore but at least I’m working toward something better.
  • The GIF on the rightShroomBear
  • You might have noticed that winter is here again. It made a subtle appearance in the last week in the eastern part of the country, maybe froze your fingertips off? Anyway, I bring it up because I’m quite stunned at my continuing writing output. The season has always been problematic for me, sapping energy and creativity and leaving a fog through which I trudge, hoping to find the more hospitable shores of March. This year, however, I struck back, arming myself with the mortars of sun lamps and mind-expanding powers of nootropics. I won’t lie and say that I’ve written as many words as I did in, say, September, but I’ve held my own and word counts look closer to normal than ever before. I may share my regimen in the near future for those who likewise struggle.
  • Finally, and this also relates to a recent post, Kristen Lamb recently wrote a great post about bullying, one that struck home after my experience last Summer. I won’t summarize the thing as you really should read it (seriously, do it), but she makes the point that we cannot allow these people to dictate what we do with our lives. When we hide, when we alter the way we live our lives, they win. This means that they certainly won a short-term victory over me, and while I’m tempted to feel a species of shame or guilt about it, I have to remember that I’m back out there, pushing into new spaces once again. Temporary setback, not permanent loss. I could write an entire post about bullying here, but will save it for the future.

Have anything interesting or exciting happen this week? Maybe finish a cool book? I’d be interested in hearing about it in the comments.  

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Pathways of the Dead is Hitting the (Virtual) Road

So yeah. I have a new book out, sort of. I’m still working on the print version so I haven’t gone crazy on the marketing yet, but I’m nearing completion there and it’s time to tell the world that this book is a thing and it exists. Oh, and I think it’s good, too. I’m not going to talk it down, of course, and it shows growth in my work, but as I finished the editing/preparation of this one I believe I hit a new level in the natural growth process of a writer.

Anyway, virtual book tour is coming, with prizes! If you’d like to sign up, you can go to Dark World Books’ sign-up page, which has more information on the book. Would love to have you along for the ride!

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Where Things Stand

So it’s been awhile. Well over three months, closing in on four, and I’m sure some people have questions about my silence. Maybe not many, but a few. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t have told you what the silence meant. It’s not that I didn’t feel inspired, it’s just…well, look. I sat down to write, really write, back at the end of August and I discovered something new: while I love writing, I’m not fully in love with being a writer. And I think the two things are very different.

What has this realization meant? An almost total pull-back from marketing efforts. A long, hard look at what I want to do with my career. A lot of writing, and I mean more than I’ve written in my entire life. Lots of considerations, and my mind tends to work best when I push those ideas to the subconscious and plow ahead with day-to-day life, so it’s taken some time to get here.

This isn’t a resignation letter, although I do recognize it sounds like one, especially with that ominous title. It’s more a statement of intent. I mean, first things first, did you guys know I released my third novel a few weeks back? I really did! The sequel to Corridors of the Dead, Pathways of the Dead, is out there, and I’m proud of it. Yet I’ve done zero marketing, and again it comes back to the question of why.

The truth is that my heart is no longer really in dark fiction. Oh, I plan to finish the Among the Dead series, don’t fret on that one, dearies. The first draft of City of the Dead is already halfway finished and on the backburner as I plow through the first revision of my next novel, and I know how most of Portal goes down, including the ending. It’s going to be a fun ride.

But it’s not where my heart is.

Today my heart is with a deeply flawed sex addict dentist named Dean and his struggles after his wife passes away in a tragic car accident. It’s with a woman who moves back to her small town home after 20 years in the wilderness to discover that not much has changed. It’s with a circle of friends and how one tragedy forms a fulcrum that changes their lives in a myriad of ways.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve rediscovered my love for literary fiction and want to take it “mainstream”. I’m plowing through the next book, tentatively titled Broken Wing and Rusted Drill, and plan to pitch it to literary agents once it’s done in hopes of getting a deal with a larger publisher. As I told a coworker last week, I’ve never really known how to sell books like Room 3 and Corridors of the Dead, but I know just how to sell Broken Wing and its sister titles. If a major won’t take it, I’ll scour the smaller publishers. I believe in the title and think it will place somewhere. Will it sell? Well, I hope so. No way to find out unless I try.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to self-publish the dark fiction with Qwendellonia, at least until the end of Portal. I guess it just means that my indie experiment currently has an expiration date. Maybe I’ll end up back here afterwards, who knows? But I think I’m ready to communicate with you guys again either way, in a more mature fashion. No more bullshit.

Good to see you again.

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News of the World: Bits and Pieces

Lots of irons in the fire right now – both on the “work” front and on the WORK front, if you know what I’m saying – so I’m going with something of an abbreviated post format today. Besides, I haven’t shared any news with you guys in a few weeks, so I figure I’m due. Here’s what’s up in my world at the moment:

  • Room 3 is nearing completion with my editor. She’s told me to expect the manuscript back early next week. Once that happens, I’m going to dive into making those changes and some that I’ve noted in my proofs.
  • Speaking of proofs, the Room 3 proof is in great shape. Still a few lingering issues, but they’re ones that always get cleared up with editors’ changes. The most important parts of the early proofing process, the cover and front matter, are all just how I want them. This hopefully means that we get one more proof and the book is ready. All this leads me to believe that I can get this book out on 10/24. That’s not a firm commitment just yet, but it is, however, the most solid date that I’ve had to this point. Only six months late, but what’s a delay here or there between friends? I believe that this may be an ebook-only date and the print book may be a week later, but I’m going to bust my ass to try to get both out on the same date.
  • In other news, On the Air should be out around roughly the same time, as part of the Somewhere in the Shadows anthology. There’s not a whole lot of information out there about the project yet, so I don’t want to be the one to break all of the news. Let’s just say it’s in the works.
  • I’m also working on a short story called Servant Girl that will appear in the first Emissaries of Speculative Fiction anthology. It’s a dark little tale with a neat twist (if I do say so myself). I really can’t tell you too much more without spoiling it. We’re shooting to get that anthology out in December, and I’m going to be handling formatting for both the ebook and print editions.
  • That reminds me, I’ve also agreed to take on the task of helping Marie Loughin create a print version of her excellent book Valknut: The Binding. I have to admit a certain selfishness to this project; I want to see a printed copy so I can get it autographed. I do, however, also think that it deserves a print run, and I’m glad to help Marie make it happen after all that she did to help Room 3 during its painful birthing process.
  • I will be at the Maryland Writers Conference on October 20th. I’m trying to get my books sold in the authors’ room, but still trying to work that out. If you’re attending, look for me, and I’d be happy to sign books or even just exchange business cards. It sounds like a blast.
  • If anyone has open slots on their podcast, I’d love to do another podcast interview. I’m actively asking around about this, but also throwing out a net here to anyone who might have an open spot and reads this blog.

So lots of exciting things going on and coming up, with some even more ambitious plans for 2013. I’m geeked, and I hope that I get to include a lot of you in this. See you soon, somewhere out there.

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Indie-Pendence Blog Hop Day 3: Talking about Corridors of the Dead, Room 3, and Indie Publishing

Welcome to Shaggin the Muse’s third entry for the Indie-Pendence Blog Hop Week. Our goal this week is to not only raise awareness of indie authors but also discuss things like the state of our industry, how we got to where we are (no matter what part of the path we might be on), and just what “indie” is, anyway.

But that’s not all! We’re also going to be giving away copies of loads of books for free. I’ve started to take a general stance against gimmicky giveaways – though I know some guest posts recently have featured them. I think that indie authors need to get back to their roots and give away the things that matter most: books. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that we were expected to give away books.

That said, let’s see what you stand to win this week:

-eBooks of the Corridors of the Dead (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Kayson Cycle (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Station (limit 5)
-Advance eBook of Room 3 when it releases (limit 2)
-eBooks of the Newfoundland Vampire (limit 3)
-eBooks of Marie Loughin’s Valknut the Binding (limit 5)

That’s 25 free books ready for folks to win. And all you have to do is comment. Once you’ve commented, you’ll go into the drawing spreadsheet. On Friday, I’ll draw your number from the hat (a random number generator), and notify you of what you’ve won. Your odds are really, really good, and I know the involved authors would love your comments on our posts. I’m hoping this will be fun for everybody and spur some discussion.

My turn to do this thing. If this is your first time visiting the site, I’ve been doing this indie thing since last October, when I self-published my Western Dark Fantasy short The Kayson Cycle as a dry run for November’s release of The Corridors of the Dead, the first book in my Among the Dead trilogy. I also recently published a novelette, The Station, that serves as a bridge between Corridors and its sequel, City of the Dead. I’m also nearing a release date on another novel, Room 3, which is something of a side story set in the same universe. All of these books are available to win this week, but I tell you about so that you understand I’ve been around the block a little bit with indie publishing in the last year.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss some of my experiences and views (like I don’t do that enough already). Here goes…

The Original Idea for Room 3

I had just introduced my then-fiancee to one of my all-time favorite movies, Videodrome, and the whole thing had given me some serious writer envy. What a fascinating concept: a video broadcast that can alter a person’s perceptions to the point that not only do they question reality, but the viewer questions whether that character’s mind is influencing reality. I wanted to do something like that so badly, but I didn’t want to do an obvious rip on it. I let the idea stew for a little bit, asking myself what the concept would look like in the age of YouTube and Facebook. Soon came the idea of a couple of guys stumbling across an obscure blog written by a woman who has being held captive and made to perform bizarre experiments related to bending reality.

Continue reading

What Makes an “Indie” Writer?

Okay, I admit, this entry is a bit later in the posting than I might have liked. I’ve been sitting on it since May 21st, when someone retweeted a comment from agent Sarah LaPolla. Other worthy topics kept coming up that required my attention; in particular, the posts about standards, and blah blah blah. Now I’m ready to climb up on the soapbox.

Let’s start with the tweet in question:

Indie writer = published w/ a small press who gave you a contract & had an editor & packager who wasn’t you or someone you hired separately.

I’ll own it: I saw some red when that came up in my feed. The whole thing smacked of the sort of dismissive attitude that does absolutely no-one in publishing any good, even those who work through the traditional system, though they don’t always realize that. Not having the greatest of days, I tapped out a scathing reply and hovered my finger over the trigger.

Nah, I thought, best to give yourself a second. No need to fly off the handle.

So I allowed myself a moment to calm down, and as I did so, I realized that she might be quoting a source, perhaps a writer. I didn’t agree, but I’d like to see the source  I asked her where it came from, and if this meant that writers like JA Konrath and/or John Locke were not “indie” – the idea seemed patently absurd, but what the hell, she might have been pulling it from somewhere.

Not so much. She sidestepped John Locke altogether, but replied about Konrath:

Both are used because people misuse “indie.” He’s self-pubbed & proud. Self-pubbers shouldn’t hide behind a mis-label.

Continue reading

Seven More Deadly Words and Contest Winners!

Well I’m just about ready to close the door on pushing The Corridors of the Dead for awhile, at least on this site. Expect lots of publicity still to come, but I definitely need a break for a bit. And what better way to take a break than to finally announce the winners of last week’s giveaway? Let’s see who won, from back to front!


  1. Third Place – signed copy of The Corridors of the Dead – Marie Loughin, nrlymrtl, and GStarkeyBooks!
  2. Second Place – $20 Amazon Gift Card – J.C. Martin and RedMojoMama!
  3. First Place – $50 Amazon Gift Card – Shannon Mayer!
Thanks everybody for all the help and love! I will be in touch with the winners shortly.
Now, then. A few weeks back I talked about how, in the course of editing The Corridors of the Dead, I had come across enough words to fill a second list of seven deadly words and phrases (the first part of which can be found here). The concept, of course, was to offer a list of words that can be found in a simple find-and-replace mission in Word. Continue reading

Announcements, Contests, Fun Stuff: Win MONEYS Help Charity

Okay before I get into the biggest news, let me say that the plan for my Corridors of the Dead roll-out is complete. Just to remind you, here are the prizes:

  1. First Place will be a $50 Amazon Gift Card (one winner).
  2. Second Place will be a $20 Amazon Gift Card (two winners).
  3. Third Place will be a signed copy of The Corridors of the Dead (three winners).
I’ve announced these before, but I haven’t announced the ways to win. On the day that The Corridors of the Dead launches, I’ll put up another announcement post. Here are your ways to win:
  1. Comment on the launch-day post, and you’ll earn one entry to the drawing.
  2. Tweet about either the post or link the Amazon page (and @crimnos it so I can see it or link it in the comments), and you’ll get two entries.
  3. Post about it on your facebook page or profile and either link me or send a screenshot to crimnos @, and you’ll get three entries.
  4. Purchase the book and forward the receipt to crimnos @, and you’ll get four entries.
  5. Write about it on your blog and get five entries.

Don’t worry, I’ll post all this again at the front of every post until Wednesday so that you remember on the big day. And now for the…uhm…just as big news! The Kayson Cycle is part of a blog tour with three other fantastic writers (seriously, check out their books too) where you can win up to an $80 Amazon gift card (enough to buy a Kindle! Or a butt-load of books). Details after the jump. Continue reading

Defender of the Crown: Three Points in Favor of NaNoWriMo

It seems a little silly to have to defend an idea as successful as NaNoWriMo, but I’ve noticed a bit of push-back against it this year, a backlash from published authors that I feel is a little unwarranted. I’m sure some of the grumpiness can be attributed to being tired of hearing about it; honestly, I’m a little tired of hearing about it – I’ve been seeing tweets on the subject since September. In some corners, it also seems to be treated as the greatest idea for writing ever, and I’m not sure I agree with that. But I think there are enough positives about the idea/event that I felt compelled to write some sort of defense of the thing, so here are the reasons that I think NaNoWriMo is such a good idea and so useful. Continue reading

Here I Go Again: The Industry, Again

I don’t talk about the state of the publishing industry too often on this blog. I’ve had maybe three or four entries. Considering this has been going since February, that’s a pretty sparse output. I just don’t feel the need most days to criticize or comment on how things are progressing. I mean, better people maintain blogs about the publishing industry and the changes that are going on. I keep my eye on those blogs and try to stay current, but I try to maintain a divide between that side of my interest and my writing. One day I may start a website for my “publishing” company, which would cover some of this in more depth, who knows.

However…every now and then, little issues bubble up to the surface. Today it’s this post about how an author who has signed on with a major and, anticipating this and trying to help promote the book, released a collection of previously-published award-winning stories. The publisher flipped out, for lack of a better term. They essentially fired her and are now demanding their $25,000 advance back (pretty good in this day and age – $1000 are far more the norm). You can read the whole post about what the publishers are claiming and the counter-claims. That’s been talked about ad nauseum and that’s not what I’m interested in talking about here.

What I’m thinking about – and something else that I’ve picked up from some comments, is related to something that I’ve talked about here before: the lack of creativity and innovation coming out of the Big Six these days. I don’t know what sort of level of support was given for this book, market-wise, but I do know that most authors who aren’t the Stephen Kings of the world handle the bulk of their own marketing. So she was likely expected to handle a lot of things. And she went to a marketing technique that has been proven to work. Maybe not in publishing, but definitely not in other venues.

I’ve mentioned I’m a gamer, and I’ve seen this happen time and again in video games. For example, the horror series Dead Space – kind of a riff on Alien and Event Horizon. Great series, highly recommended for horror fans, but that’s beside the point. Every time they’ve released one of the major games in the series, in advance they’ve released a DVD with a related animated movie AND two smaller side games to whet consumers’ appetite for the big release. This has become a standard marketing approach in gaming and has proven to be effective.

To me, her approach here is basically the same: smaller, bite-sized stories equal to those side games, designed to whet the appetite for the big kahuna coming down the pipe. It’s not a gamble, it’s proven. But this publishing company saw it as competition. Not only that, but an agent was blind enough to back the publisher’s approach on this:

The author’s conspiracy-theory conclusion that this is about the publisher versus Amazon seems wrongheaded. If these were print books we would understand in a flash that publishing two books prior to a contracted-for work would constitute a breach of contract. These books change the picture of where the author is in her career– and give potential consumers additional buying choices. Things the publisher did not anticpate when making their offer for the novel. The author clearly changed the landscape a bit; and the publisher thought that landscape was now more hazardous…

Seriously. That logic makes no sense to me at all. Wouldn’t a publisher want a writer to raise their profile some, build an audience? I don’t know. I tried to be fair. I looked at this from a self-publishing point of view, if I had signed on another author and they did something like this. While I might want a bit of a cut of what they’d done, the fact that these stories had been previously published would mean you have no right to the cut. So instead I’d satisfy myself with the boost that it would give to the book that we’re publishing. No matter how many mental gymnastics I do, I just cannot see that collection as a threat or competition. Not in this context. In that “conspiracy theory of publisher versus Amazon”? Then it starts to make some sense, but that’s not the rationale we’ve been given, so speculation down that road is ultimately pointless.

Once you accept the publisher’s decision at face value, it just makes no sense. In the context of other decisions by the Big Six lately, that’s not such an unusual thing. There’s so much desperation to cling to the old model that if an author comes along with a new idea, they lose it. Farther, they seem to be distancing themselves more and more from eBooks when they should be embracing them.

None of these are new things. I’ve talked about them before, but I think it’s important to look at the big picture on this one. A publisher is punishing an author for helping to market the book – it would not only help the release but is proven to work in other venues. Not to mention that it seems her contract has nothing forbidding her from issuing what is basically a re-release. She’s a previously-signed author. It’s hard to believe that someone who has had dealings with the Big 6 before would willingly violate their contract. That also makes no sense.

I’m also…well, frankly, astonished by the agent’s reaction to this. For so long, I had a different idea of what agents did for writers. In general, I had an incredibly positive impression of agents even if my impression of publishers was so-so. Some of the elitism and detachment that I’ve seen regarding this has lowered my opinion of the profession in general, especially since the guy quote above is on the BOARD OF DIRECTORS of the Association of Authors Representatives and giving that opinion of his own volition, even where he’s not involved. It just doesn’t look good, and it’s not the sort of thing an industry wants to do when it’s struggling.

Alas, we continue down the path of the RIAA and the MPAA, two organizations no one should emulate. This whole debacle does make me appreciate the smaller publishers a whole lot more. Maybe one day, once I’ve become more established, I can align myself with one. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m going to be following this very closely.