Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Same pickle, different arts.

Spent the holidays chatting with my son, Todd, who is getting his Masters in Art, and with my brother-in-law Micheal Brockman, who is the artistic director  of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. 

What was striking was how many of us have the same concerns about our art, though we are all in different fields.

There is the "making a living" part, which necessarily interferes with the "art" part.

There is the choice between doing functional art, versus experimental art.

Todd is at a place where he can either try to continue his education, getting his Doctorate, or immediately become freelance, pursuing his artistic vision, or being practical and making art that he knows will sell.  Commercializing, so to speak.

I don't really have this dilemma.  What I write is commercial, I believe.  But I didn't purposely set out to write that way, it's just the sort of thing that interests me.  Though...I do make some choices that may not be the smartest because that is what the "art" demands.

It probably wasn't a smart choice to write a vampire trilogy, knowing how many vampire books there are, but that is where my "art" took me.

As Artistic Director, Micheal must necessarily spend a lot of his time organizing and promoting his next concert.

I sidestepped many of these problems by simply ditching my art for 30 years and making a career, then coming back and diving head first into the abyss.  I think most people who do this never come back, or come back without any ambitions.

It worked for me, I think.  I'll probably produce as much fiction this way than I would have if I'd kept writing.  Part of this is an accident of history -- I came back to writing just as the internet was opening doors.  I came back to it just as keen as I was when I left -- which might be unusual.

I also have lost interest in "literary" writing, so to speak.  I believe if I write something truly good in a genre that is every bit as valid as any so called literary work.  Probably more so.  So that has really freed me to write what I want.

Anyway -- in a highly simplified way -- the general problems in all arts seems to be art versus commercial, the need to promote your art superseding the actual art, the trying to find a niche that you are both interested in and where you can have some success.

Making a living and living your art.

Different arts, same pickle.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

LInk City: links to news by.

Googled Led to the Slaughter last night.

Found a nice, long review from a blogger:

And discovered that the book had been mentioned on another of the 'bargain' book sites.  Something called Bargainbooksy: This one doesn't seem to have had the same impact as the earlier one.  Even so I've hit a milestone in sales this month, albeit a modest one.

Also found my books being sold all over the world in all sorts of languages.  This seems to have just suddenly happened -- not sure why.  Perhaps because some of them went to .99?  Or some other change, like Smashwords  signing up with more venues?  Or is there some kind of time trigger?

Whatever it is, I see my books being sold all over now.  I think: Finland, South Africa, England, Germany, China, Indonesia, etc.  Heh.  (Also some pirated editions popping up.)

I'm trying to get my "Duncan McGeary Fan the most ironic way" started. 

I'd love to hit the ground running with some reviews on Tuskers.  Hopefully positive reviews.  Since the book is now coming out in less than two weeks, (January 12!!), I want to make sure my "Street Team" gets them in plenty of time.

Anyone who wants to join up and get free copies of my books, let me know.  Truly.  Easy as pie.  I'd greatly appreciate the help.

I don't think the physical books are going to be ready on that date, and even if they were, they take awhile to get shipped.  But I'm hoping. 

Cheer is going to host a "Release Party" for Tuskers on the Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans  site on Friday the 16th of January.  Give away some freebies and such.

Meanwhile, Ragnarok Publications  seems to be on a bit of a roll.  Their books are being nominated for all kinds of awards, and one of their books (Dead West) just got reviewed by the Huffington Post.

I wrote a bunch of columns about writing for Ragnarok to place with various writer and fantasy blogs, so that will be interesting.  Very similar to what I say here on this blog, with maybe a second draft.

So doing everything I can.

Led to the Slaughter is back up in the top 2% of horror books again, because of this month's boost.  So that is cool.  Also higher on B & N, though again not proportionally.

The longer I do this, the more I realize that sales are exponentially structured, and don't really start showing real power until about the top 1%.  The top 1% is pretty daunting.  That's a pretty high level for anyone to aspire to.

I think you have to do everything right: have a good book, a good title, a good cover, and then do everything you can promotionally, and even then it is probably a lightning bolt for success.

The promotion is especially hard.  I liken it to throwing pebbles at a huge boulder, trying to get it to roll downhill.

But I feel I've been in the right groove since I started, and so I keep following that groove to see where it leads.

Monday, December 29, 2014

"The Duncan McGeary Fan the most ironic way."

HI, everyone! I'm setting up my elite "street team."

I'm calling it "The Duncan McGeary Fan Club...In The Most Ironic Way."

This is a place where readers of my novels can get together and help spread the word about my latest work.

It will include free downloads of my books in exchange for honest reviews, and hopefully some other bonuses if we can think of them. Would you do me the honor of joining? It could be a really fun journey for all of us!

Just privately message me, or respond here, and let's get this bandwagon rolling!
Photo: HI, everyone!  I'm setting up my elite "street team."

 I'm calling it "The Duncan McGeary Fan Club...In The Most Ironic Way."

This is a place where readers of my novels can get together and help spread the word about my latest work.

It will include free downloads of my books in exchange for honest reviews, and hopefully some other bonuses if we can think of them. Would you do me the honor of joining? It could be a really fun journey for all of us!

Just privately message me, or respond here, and let's get this bandwagon rolling!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The story tells me to Write.

So my subconscious has given its blessing to my new story.  "Nobody is Killing Me:  The Odyssey of Linger Longfellow."

Woke up with a bunch of ideas for scenes and chapters.  That's when I know a story is a go -- because the ideas keep coming.  I'd been stumped yesterday, but apparently my subconscious liked the story enough to work on it.

I'm going to write this like Tuskers, without regard to length.  Get to the end as fast as I can.

You see, getting to the end is the story.  There's a beginning and an end, and the story is just what is between the two extremes.

Another trick I'm using on myself is to tell myself that I'll just publish this myself.  Just put it out there, like Cyber Burglar.

Or more pertinently, like what I originally intended for Tuskers.  Maybe, like Tuskers, it will turn out so well that I'll try to sell it, but at least to start with, I'm removing all pressure by telling myself to write it the way I want to write it without regard to commercial-ality. 

If it comes out at 25K words, or 30K words, that will be all right.  (Tuskers started off that way, though eventually, it approached a more novel length of near 50K.)

My subconscious basically blessed me with about 4 chapters last night.  So that's in addition to the 2 chapters I've written, and that gets me well into the story.

So who am I to turn down a gift?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bits of Writs

Was asked in a survey by Ragnarok Pub, which current book Tuskers was similar to.  And you know what?  It's pretty different.  It harkens back to books and movies like Jaws or The Swarm or Piranha. or something like that.  Not like most horror today, which usually involve zombies, vampires or some combination thereof, who are being fought by dark warriors or babes in leather or...well, they do seem pretty much the same thing.

So is that good or bad?

I think it's good.  The world needs a good creature feature.  I think super-intelligent pigs on the rampage fits the bill.


The thing about questionnaires like these is that they always look so sparse when I'm done filling them in.

Reminds me of when I thought I would apply for a Small Business Admin. Loan.  After I filled it out (pages and pages) I saw so much white space (especially on the 'assets' parts)  I figured I didn't have a chance in hell.

Never did apply.  Somehow survived without it.  Barely.


Got my two advances for The Dead Spend No Gold and Tuskers.

I purposely ask for small advances, figuring that if a book sells, then I'll make my money in royalties and if the book doesn't sell, well...that's just tough.  But I want to make it as easy for the publisher as I can.  For some reason, I feel responsible for them.

Still, I want to be able to prove to the IRS that I'm a real live writer and should be allowed to write off expenses.

Biggest trouble with royalties is that they take forever to arrive.  I still haven't heard from the third quarter, much less expect anything from the fourth quarter.  Haven't heard anything at all from Apple or B & N or Kobo.  Reports could be a very long time away.  (Amazon is better about it...)

But I knew that going in.


My Facebook is suddenly popping up with all kinds of S.F. and Fantasy authors who I could try to "Friend." Many of them have over a dozen common Friends.  But I still feel pretty shy about it.  I did ask one big author who I really admire, who wrote one of my favorite books, and he...well, he didn't.  So far, most of the other authors have said yes, but I'm still kind of careful.

I think I'll hold off until I've had a little more seasoning...prove myself a little more.

A lot of the success I hope for is just...well, to hold my head up.

Aren't writers supposed to have massive egos?


A more normal time and energy writing dynamic seems to be happening.  For a couple of years I bowled through every obstacle.  Summer or Christmas or anything else.

This Christmas I didn't even try.  I just took a step back and let the holiday take over.

I'd like to get started writing again on the first of the year, but Tuskers is coming out on January 12, and I know I'll be all excited about that.

So maybe a good time to start is January 15th or so.

Or...maybe I'll just start on the 1st and Tuskers will do what Tuskers will do.


Writing Tuskers was so much fun, I'm just hoping that comes across to the readers.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The innocence of writing.

To me, writing is such an innocent thing.  So blameless, a vivid world that comes out of nothing.  An addition to my life emerging out of the chaos beneath.  I marvel at how people and places become alive in my imagination and get transferred to the page -- imperfectly perhaps -- but hopefully still palpable to the people who read about them.

A joy that is self-created, dependent on nothing but myself.  All I must do is free the time, I must let these notions incubate and grow and become richer given space and energy. They are a second life, and they can be anything I want.  They exist, perhaps undiscovered, but waiting for another person to animate them and make them live again.

They make me feel younger, deeper, stronger.  I did this.  These are from my subconscious and they are meaningful -- to me, if no one else.  But sometimes they just seem to do a dance, and I know--simply know -- that given a chance others will also witness that dance and appreciate it.

Like alternate universes, they exist, mostly undiscovered, but waiting for a consciousness that will make them live.

I want people to read them, but know that people are busy with their own lives.  They don't have time for someone else's notions and when they do, there are many universes that are well known, places they can go that they know will entertain them.  There is no particular reason why they should want to explore my worlds over others.

But there is a reason for me to.  Because even the faintest glimmerings of my own are deeper than the strongest creations of others.  And I know that I have it in me to make my creations stronger, deeper, more meaningful if I devote enough of myself to them.  If I am not paid, so what?  These other people, fictional is what they are called but to me they exist, they don't ask to be paid.  They don't even know I exist.  I am not god, but a translator, trying to catch glimpses of them through the fog and describe them as best I can.

Yes, when I'm alone and not writing, I want so much for others to read what I've written.

But when I am alone and writing, it doesn't matter, because I am creating, and creating is its own reward, and the character and places I create exist solely because I took the time to grab them from the air and pin them to the page.  They need not be grateful, these characters -- I am grateful to them.

The work of it --that is all in my head, and so what?

The creation is nothing but a joy, and sometimes I get filled with a sort of euphoria that something has bloomed out of nothing.  That something exists that didn't exist before, and would never exist without me.

Linda often says that she feels a pressure to complete her stories because the characters demand it.  That otherwise she is abandoning them, their lives unfulfilled and unfinished.

I worry only that these characters and places that I have swirling behind my eyes won't get onto the page in time.  That I won't get to them and they'll remain unborn and formless.

But everytime I pick up one of my books and read a passage to myself, I know that I am responsible for these events existing and it feels good.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Real Bestseller -- at least for awhile.

Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves.
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,106 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

    #42 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Horror

Well, that was fun.  I may only stay in these heights for awhile, but it's cool while it lasts.

As you probably have figured out, I check out my Amazon rankings way too often, especially if there has been a change or a new addition.

Four of my books have changed in price, and one book is new.  So lots of reasons to be curious.

So I started noticing after dinner last night that my rankings were plunging.  This is good.  The lower the number, the better.  It means I'm selling better than everyone except those lower.

So instead of the usual top 100K rankings, which basically means I'm making sales every day (and for which I'm grateful), I dropped down to 30K, then 20K, then 10K, then 5K, then 2K.  That means that out of all the books on Amazon, for that a few hours at least, only 2105 books were selling better.  
These ranking change hourly, so I just kept watching.

Suddenly, I'm in the Top 100 Horror novels.  This is a whole nother ballgame. This is a separate page, highlighted by Amazon.

By midnight, I was #64, just ahead of #65 Under the Dome, by Stephen King and #66 The Long Walk, by Stephen King.

By 2:00 AM I was #42.

(I should probably mention right here that this is only bragging rights, not money.  To make real money, I'd need to be on the New York Times Bestseller list..)

I know that being excited by being #42 may seem pretty pallid ("I'm #42!  I'm #42!") but you have to realize there are 60,000 horror novels right now.  Being #2106 overall?  There are probably 7 or 8 million or more books on Amazon.

And as much as I wanted to see how Low it would Go, sleep finally overcame ego.

I woke up, knowing something was going on.

#45 still this morning.

I started Googling around and finally discovered that I was one of featured books yesterday on a website called Ereader News Today, with 500K followers/subscribers.

So that shows the power of a larger venue.  Even fractions of percents start to add up.  (I may get an extra day out of this since they don't have a 12/25 posting.  But then, who is looking on Christmas?)

Of course, it can't last -- at least this time.  Stephen King will still be there tomorrow, while I'll rise to more normal numbers.

But it was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Giving in...buying an e-reader.

What a long strange trip it's been.

Don't laugh.  I don't own an e-reader.  In fact, I gave away a iPad a couple of years ago to my friend Aaron because I didn't like it.

As anyone who has been reading this blog knows, this has been a slow evolution.

The deciding factor?  I want to read my fellow authors' offerings, and...again, don't laugh...that might get kind of pricey.  I've probably got 50 authors I'd like to give a try, among the Books of the Dead roster and the Ragnarok roster.  My kinds of people, my kinds of books.  Plus, there is always a chance they'll reciprocate.  But that's not the main reason.  The main reason is that I want to know what's going on.  That's my fault.  I'm always analyzing.

I may not read all of them, or all of them all the way through, but I feel like I owe it to them to try.

I've got hard copies of all the BOTD books that were in print six months ago, to sell in the store, but again, I have a rule that if I read a book I have to classify it as "used."  So again, that could get kind of pricey.

I still love physical books.  I have no intention of giving up on them.  But I also want to peruse the wide variety of books available online, many of them very cheap or even free. 

So once again I am dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world.

Counting my chips before the game is done.

Spent a large part of yesterday afternoon trying to ascertain my rankings on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

What's amazing is to see my books nestled among all those better known titles and authors.  Sure, most of them have been around a long time and my books won't be around as long as theirs probably, but still -- to know that currently my books are outselling a whole lot of people I've read or have heard about -- that is a strangely cool feeling.

My rankings are about twice as good on Amazon as they are on Barnes & Noble, even if you take out the bottom half of Amazon's rankings to make the numbers equal.  If I'm going to sell better on one or the other, I'd rather it was Amazon, I suppose.

The reason I spent so much time clicking pages was because for the life of me I could never find my books at B &  N.  I mean, I knew they were there, but I couldn't find them on the ranking pages.

Yesterday I realized I'd been searching by "Best Matches" instead of "Best Sellers." appears that as far as B & N's recommendations or matches is concerned, I don't exist, whereas in actual sales I do...Heh.

In comparison, Amazon actually promotes my books on a regular basis.

So once I went down the bestseller lists, I found my books are clustered in the same spot, like I said about 4 times worse than Amazon if all listings are counted, about 2 times worse if I compare the top 30K books.  It will be interesting when I finally see the B & N numbers to see how they compare, but I'm pretty sure Amazon sells multiples of B & N.  (Yes, 11 months later and I still don't know...)

I am getting a sense of how older books must sell for the big guys.  But I suspect most of their money comes from newer books and selling to other media.

You know, just trying to figure it all out. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Time to take stock.

Time to take stock of my writing career.

I entered into this with the hope that I could get one book written.  Then to get that one book published.  That was my goal.  Just to prove I could do it again.

But I kept on writing and writing and enjoying it, and before I knew it I had a body of work behind me.

I've had five books published this year by Books of the Dead Press.  I've got another book coming out in early January from Ragnarok Publications.

So I'd say I succeeded at my original goal.

After stuttering on my writing for a year, then exploding for a year, and then keeping up the pace for another year, I've really slowed down in the last quarter of this year.  I've been sort of involved in trying to get people to notice what I've already written.

It is a hard task.  Much harder than the actual writing.

I make small incremental attempts, and really don't see much happening.  But nothing will happen unless I make the attempts.  So I've been trying.

It's frustrating because I now know it is within my grasp to get a book in the top ranks of the bestseller lists of Amazon if just everyone who wished me well would just buy a book.  It's .99 and 3 minutes of effort for my readers -- it's everything to me.  The cost is low on their part, and the reward is high on my part.

But you know what?  The books have garnered good reviews -- and not just in that initial phase of friends and family being supportive, but over the last half year or so the reviews have continued to be good from casual readers.  That's really encouraging.

I believe the main force I'm dealing with is entropy, and with people simple overwhelmed by choice and the barrage of media messages.

But what are you going to do?  What can you do?  I've come close to begging a few times -- hell, I probably have crossed that line.

I've been impressed by the steadiness of Roy at Books of the Dead.  He has great credibility in the horror genre, and has several books that have done very, very well. He's got a #1 book right now.  (Not mine, unfortunately.)  My book sold way better than I could have accomplished on my own.  I'm very thankful that I hooked up with him.

And I'm excited by the enthusiasm of Ragnarok Publications.  It's almost infectious how delighted they are with the progress of their company.  I'm very happy to be on board and hope that Tuskers will do well for them.

So I need to just keep writing, and enjoying myself, and remember that I've already far outstripped my original ambitions.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Doing it for the money?

Of course I am. 

But not really.

A little test:  If I was approached to write someone else's comic or book for industry average wages would I do it? 

No, I can't see myself doing it.  I can't see myself toiling on someone else's idea or franchise.

If I was approached as a ghostwriter and offered a lot of money, would I do it? 

Well, maybe for a lot of money, but probably not for anything less.

I guess it's an advantage to owning a business is that it is giving me a living income.  Even more so, that I feel like Linda and I will be able to retire, barring catastrophe, and not fall too far in living standards.

So do I write for the ego?

Of course I am.

But not really.

I think too much success would equal pressure.  My dream scenario is that I write happily away in obscurity right to the end, but become hugely successful in time to enjoy it... heh.  Not that is going to happen.  I've worked out the odds and they are so astronomical as to not be countenanced in any of my thoughts.

Weirdly enough, I feel a pressure to succeed on behalf of my publishers, for some reason.  I want them to do well for taking a chance on me.

At the same time, I love the idea of people reading my books -- and enjoying them.

The enjoying part is the most important part. 

Which just puts me back to where I started -- writing the best book I can.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Every book is a new start.

Came up with another idea for a book.  I like the concept, and it might be fun to write.  Really, at this point I'm just going to let whichever story grabs me and go with it for as long it comes.

But I love the title:  "NOBODY KILLED ME." 

I was amazed that no one else has used this title yet.

The idea is a character who is lost between universes, always trying to get home, pursued by enemies. (Odysseus-like.)  Meanwhile, he gets into adventures in each universe he lands in, and so on. Maybe a bit of Doctor Who vibe, which I think I can pursue because I've only seen a couple of episodes so whatever vibe I arrive at probably won't even be close, which is good.  (Only two episodes of Doctor Who?  I know, strip me of my nerd credentials.)

I've written the first three pages, 1st person, with some elevated language.

Which immediately causes me to doubt.  I feel like Tuskers is such a successful effort, that I wonder if I shouldn't try to replicate the straight-forward simplicity of it.  Good old fashioned 3rd person storytelling.

But the other thing that Tuskers taught me is -- try something new, something unexpected.

I certainly had no plans to write about a Wild Pig Apocalypse, but once I did, I realized it was a new start.

It made me realize that every book is a new start.

Well, writing trilogies and sequels is not quite the same thing as a new start, but I'm mostly finished with the sequels I've so far written, so I can move away from that concept for awhile.  There are advantages to writing sequels, too, and I've fully enjoyed doing them.  But I think the time has come to do some one-ups.

It does seem like every time I challenge myself to try something completely new, I make an advance in my writing, going back to Deviltree, which was a purposeful attempt to get away from heroic fantasy, and felt wonderful to write.

If you keep writing, every book could be the book that everyone likes, that catches on.  You just don't know, all you can do is keep writing.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Living in two worlds.

I have a bifurcated vision of writing and reading.

On one hand, I think self-publishing and/or small indie publishing is the way to go.  I really believe the Big Five are dysfunctional.  Agents are worst than useless.  I can't ever imagine ever trying to sell my books into this market.  I'm pretty sure it would stall my writing career, and it isn't necessary to be read or to make money or even to gain appreciation.  In fact, I think the traditional publishing world would actually be harmful to my progress.

On the other hand, I still sort of take my own reading from that world.  I still get my reading material from one of my two bookstores.  I don't own an e-reader.

I'm not sure why this is.  I mean -- how can I so clearly and easily see the advantages of writing digital copy but ignore it as a reader?  Maybe I just haven't gotten around to changing.

I'm sort of like the guy at the turn of the 20th Century who really, really loves horses but recognizes that the automobile is the future and starts selling gasoline.  You know, eventually he probably buys a car for himself.  But until then, he still has his horse stable out back.  He can clearly see the future in one thing, but still want to live in the past himself.

Does that make any sense?

This split vision does make it somewhat hard for me to completely understand Amazon and all the book blogs and all the other social media connections and the rest.  I don't inhabit that world, but I'm trying to sell into that world.

So be it.  I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had tried the traditional route instead of the one I took.

So I slowly adapt, and I try to keep up. But it isn't natural to me.

When I bought Pegasus Books I wasn't really a comic reader.  I had to fumble my way, much as I'm fumbling my way as a digital book writer.  I could intellectually see the qualities of it.  I could appreciate it.  I could admire it.  I could understand it.

But I couldn't really feel it in my gut.

I kept trying and eventually I found Alan Moore and his stories, and Neil Gaiman quickly followed, and Frank Miller and so many others, and I found myself finally really getting it and even more importantly living in that world. The longer I inhabited that world, the more I found and the more I felt it.

I ended up making a career out of it.

So you can understand something, but not feel it.  You can feel something, and know it's the wrong way to go.

Kind of hard to explain.

I'm a very logical guy in some ways.  But this isn't just logic.  I really do understand that digital is the way for writers to proceed and because of that, the readers will follow.

And yet I still have a nostalgia and a desire to feel the old-fashioned book.

Funnily enough, I'm not worried about my businesses.  I believe traditional publishing will hold on long enough for me to finish my career.  I believe in fact that traditional and digital will co-exist.  But I would advise any beginning writer to forget about the Big Five and do it yourself.

In my new career, as a writer, I'm pretty convinced the advantage goes to digital and all its promise.  Because I want to be a writer, I'm following a path that I don't totally understand but instinctively, intellectually, and logically understand is the right way to go.

I'll keep going until I totally feel it as well.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Led to the Slaughter, an Amazon Bestseller.

Books of the Dead Press put a new line on my Led to the Slaughter page.


Here's what my publisher said,

"Led to the Slaughter has been on the Amazon bestselling horror list. Maybe you didn't know that… Frankly, I should have been bragging about the Amazon ranks for years."

I didn't know that. 
He also put a nice gold digital badge on the cover of my book, that says, "Most Popular Item.  Best Seller.  Best Selling."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My cover artist, Andy Zeigert.

I wanted to give a shout out to my cover artist for The Dead Spend No Gold, Andy Zeigert.  I loved the design on Led to the Slaughter and he was able to replicate it with the followup.

Thank you, Andy. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

So it begins?

I get nervous every year around this time. 

Last year, Pegasus Books did over 70% of our business in the second half of the month.  In fact, the first half of the month's daily average was actually below the yearly average.

Then BOOM!  Best Christmas ever.

I think I understand why this time lag is happening.

First of all, we've gotten to that point in the season where shopping online probably can't guarantee arrival before Christmas.

Second, despite what everyone says, most people do like to experience the Christmas shopping thing, if only for a short time, and the best time is the week before the holiday.  The bustle can be invigorating.

Third, Bend being a tourist town, we get all the visitors and out-of-towners in that last week.  Kids get out of school. Tourists always spend more money than locals.  Everything in my store is new to them.  Downtown fills up.

In other's time.

Makes it hard to plan inventory, though.  If something sells out, we probably can't get it in on time.  So I'll end up with too much of some things and not enough of others. We used to be able to get a read on things.  The big boom on the weekend after Thanksgiving, a lull of a week or so, and then a steady build where we could adjust. 

Now we just fill the store, wait until that last week, and hope we guessed right.

But so far, they haven't cancelled Christmas. 

I think we're flirting with disaster, though.  Every year.  Imagine that snowfall of a couple of weeks ago happening now.  My business dropped to nothing for a few days.  This wouldn't just cost a few hundred bucks, but at this time of year would be thousands of bucks.  Imagine a disaster somewhere in the world where everyone becomes glued to the TV. 

It's scary.  Being a business that depends on Christmas makes the experience different.

Fortunately, I usually relax on Christmas Eve.  Suddenly a pleasant lassitude washes over me.  It's out of my hands.

I can finally enjoy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Columns not about my book, but really about my book.

So that was fun.  I joined a online Christmas party at Ragnarok Publications to talk about Tuskers.

They made the big announcement about the Angelic Knight imprint -- turns out it was an existing publisher they purchased for their Horror line.

Each author had ten minutes to introduce themselves and talk about their book.  I was the last author up, because I procrastinated the longest at answering the invitation.

It was kind of fun, actually.

So a couple of hundred people attended, and the questions came fast and furious.  The pop-up "Likes" every few seconds were a little distracting, and pretty soon I was just grabbing a question at random and answering it.  Totally out of control.

People really do seem to like the idea of a wild pig apocalypse.  Superintelligent pigs on the rampage.  I hope that means they want to buy the book.

I've been lined up to write a couple of columns for writer oriented blogs so far, so that's more outreach than I've done up to now.  Hopefully there will be more of that coming.  As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm never short of words.

I may take slightly longer on these columns than I do on my everyday blog -- which I have always kept loosey goosey on purpose so that I can do it without pressure.

I need to find interesting ideas that won't be about my book -- but of course are really about my book.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tuskers is the flagship title for Angelic Knight Press! (Ragnarok).

So I can finally announce this.  Ragnarok Publications bought an existing company as their new Horror Imprint, Angelic Knight Press.

And a little title called Tuskers, by someone named Duncan McGeary, is the first title out!

Pretty exciting.

Ragnarok Party

Ragnarok Publications is having a public online party tonight at 5:00 PT, 8:00 ET.  I'm supposed to step in front at 6:30 and chat about my book and answer questions and give away a copy of Tuskers.

Didn't know this kind of thing existed...

Damn me if even an online party doesn't make me nervous!  I'm just such an introvert, it's disgusting.  I mean, most of the time I'm just fine with it.  But then something like this comes along and I realize I'm the same old guy.

I'm thinking of opting out, actually.

Originally I asked the publisher, Tim, if I could come and stand in the corner and the next thing I know I'm actually going to have to give a speech. Well, sorta...

Do they serve booze at this party?

It should be kind of fun, actually.  I'm a talker, so I shouldn't have too much difficulty. Once you get me going, it can be hard to get me to stop.  It's only a ten minute slot.  A bunch of very clever guys in Ragnarok, and I'm probably stodgy compared to them, but so be it.

So....where's the wine bar?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Frozen Together, Dancing Forever.

Frozen together,
dancing forever,
silent music.

In cold light
white bodies
draped in darkness.

Quiet strings,
mourning life,
death living.

In the twilight,
visions of life
eternal moment.

Frigid waves
drowning them
washing them clean.

In the dawn,
they're gone
only memories.

The Weird Wild West

Jim Cornelius of Frontier Partisans,,  asked me to write a column for his site, and this is what I came up with.

The following is a guest post by Duncan McGeary. Duncan is the owner of Pegasus Books in Bend, Oregon, and the author of several books, including two historical horror novels set on the mid-19th Century California frontier — “Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves,” and the newly-released “The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush.” I asked Duncan to talk a little about his choice of setting and genre.
There’s monsters in them thar hills, and the weird west was never wilder. ‘The Dead Spend No Gold’ is a fine tale to be spun around some High Sierra campfire—as long as you don’t mind lying awake all night, wondering what that sound was off there in the trees… 
To me, there is no better place for mythical creatures and legendary lands to exist than in the early American West. It was as mysterious as any fabled past, as haunting as any medieval time, as exotic as any foreign land.

And yet the West is also accessible and understandable, at least to a generation who grew up learning its tropes and stereotypes. The myth of the West is so different from the reality, that it leaves plenty of room for new interpretations.

For the early settlers, the West was unknown and unknowable. What was known wasn’t always right. What was right wasn’t always known. Anything could happen.  It was the edge of the universe — “Here there be Dragons.” Or, more accurately, here there be “Lava Bears” or “Wampus Cats” or “Hodags.”

Sounds like a great place for astonishing things to happen, right? Horrible things. Bewildering beauties and unforeseen terrors. For the pioneers, who really didn’t know what lay behind that next mountain, or over that desert, or on the other side of that river, the future was yet to be written.

In researching “Led to the Slaughter,” I found the most useful sources to be the pioneer diaries of women. Men tended to talk about miles crossed, or animals shot, and other such practical things. It’s true that for the most part, women were also mostly circumspect about their difficulties. They were a stoic breed, not given to complaining. But there were differences in the way men and women saw the journey. Men saw opportunities and riches and new beginnings. Women went along on the journey most often only because the menfolk insisted.

One of the more telling differences between men and women’s perspective was how they spoke of the Native Americans. Men would spin tales of near escapes from savages, the constant fear of attack, the looming menace. They would brag about how brave they were to dare to confront such dangers.

Women, on the other hand, would talk meeting with Indians as opportunities to trade for fresh meat or materials from the natives. These encounters often saved the pioneers, or at the least, made their journey less uncomfortable. Women often looked forward to the encounters, men dreaded them.

So from the very first explorers, myths were already being created. Truth and fiction were already being blurred.

The early wagon trains were often led astray by con men, who led them off the beaten track by promising “short-cuts” and “easy passage.” Because no one knew the truth. Those who were inclined to make maps made those maps for their own purposes. It was a “Wild” West because the rules of civilization didn’t apply, except those rules you brought along.

The title of “Led to the Slaughter” comes from the unfortunate tendency of the Donner Party to accept such shortcuts as real, and to be led into disaster.
20889206It didn’t much for the rules to break down.

In the real west, terrible things happened, most often man against man. In “The Dead Spend No Gold,” it’s the white man’s massacre of the native tribes that leads to a confrontation with the more primordial figure of Bigfoot — who isn’t so easily driven off.

Not much of a stretch to take the real events and turn them into horror, with mythical creatures such as werewolves and Bigfoot as metaphors for greed and hatred.

The West was primal and the human response also needed to be primal to survive. It’s amazing, actually, that for the most part the pioneers held to the proprieties. Woman would keep a fresh clean dress for Sundays, while their everyday dress turned black from the dust of travel. Men would be formal and courtly and most often law-abiding.

But in extremis, the West stripped away such niceties, and it was down to simple survival. And the horror genre is as primal as it gets. Man against nature, man against beast, man against…the Other.
Stories of the West have expanded far beyond the actual truth — which leaves enough gaps in the story for new myths to be created, blended in, and not seem out of place. Just as fantasy often has a medieval setting or feel because it lends itself to that genre, I believe the Old West lends itself to the weird, the primal, the unknown and the new.

There is always that out-of-the way rocky arid tract of land, where man is overwhelmed by nature, where the winds howl in the night and the wolves prey on their livestock and the unseen Indians are always over the horizon. Where anything, even the inexplicable and unexplainable, can happen.

The West is wide-open.
Duncan spins a fine tale. I think you’ll enjoy ’em. Here’s the links:
THE DEAD SPEND NO GOLD: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush.  
LED TO THE SLAUGHTER: The Donner Party Werewolves.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

If I liked veggies, I'd be a vegetarian.

I'm only half joking.  My taste for veggies is severely limited.  I'd be hard pressed to create a lifestyle out of it.

But the more I read up on how we treat our livestock, the more horrified I am. 

The precipitating event in Tuskers is a super-intelligent pig escaping from a gestation cage.  She and her brood want revenge...and I'm on HER side.

Meanwhile, I had a customer into the store who said she was a little upset that I was making wolves the bad guys in Led to the Slaughter.

"Oh, no.  They're werewolves.  Completely different.  The evil comes from the human side."

"Yeah, but the poor wolves are so misunderstood!"

(I started telling Linda about this, and she said, "It's true. Wolves are misaligned."

"You mean maligned?"

This part of the story has nothing to do with my point but it was such a great Malaprop that I had to tell it.)

Anyway, it's terrible what we do in these factory farms, but it's somehow even more terrible that it's done to intelligent creatures like pigs. 

I'm thinking I need to buy Free Range meat, if I can trust that label.  I'll pay the extra.

What it takes.

I've been reading Wool, by Hugh Howey, to get a sense of what the fuss is about.

This is the poster-child for indie books, the break-out success, being made into a movie, even.

It's in 5 parts, each part longer than the other, until it becomes a pretty substantial book.  The first part -- the one that apparently got all the initial attention -- is actually pretty small.  It would have been a fairly interesting story, by itself.

Nothing spectacular though.  I mean, more than competent.  Some good writing after a maybe a bit of maybe trying too hard at the beginning.  (As a writer, I'm noticing that a lot in good first books.)

Halfway through, I was thinking -- this is nothing special, why is it so huge?  Then about 3/4ths of the way through, I started noticing the quality of writing again, and it was pretty damn impressive.

So I'll give him his due.  He probably deserves it.

So here's the thing.  You have to write a good book.  It's up to me to write a good book.

I keep trying, and I can't tell how good my own books are or aren't in some ways.  I know when I've done my best, and I try to only publish those books.

But ultimately, it's up to me to write books that people like. Not only that they like, but which they want to promote.

A good book may not get noticed much, left alone. Publicity is still the biggest factor as far as sales are concerned.  I mean, FIRST you have to write a good book, then you have have some luck, some connections, some timing, some skill at selling yourself.

Hugh Howey has a nice website, and a nice online persona. Humble yet authoritative. Just folks. And he's obviously been very smart about his career management.  And he writes good books.  So more power to him.

I keep coming back to the idea that I should just write my books, do my best, enjoy the process, and let nature takes it's course without expecting much.

I'm O.K. with that, most of the time.

Friday, December 12, 2014

#228 out of 59,021 books.

I don't know why I keep this to myself, when I really should trumpet it. But -- when "Average Customer Reviews" are included, Led to the Slaughter is currently #228 out of 59,021 horror novels on Amazon. (It's been as high as the low 100's.) That feels pretty good. Thanks to all of you guys for helping out with the good reviews!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The twenty dollar drink.

I've been so active on social media the last few days, it doesn't feel like me.  The publication of one book and the announcement of another sent me into a frenzy of activity that is very unlike me.

So I'm going to back off for awhile and just get back to writing.  Re-institute the 7 to 11 rule about not being on the Internet.  Get centered again.

It's hard, because without effort my books won't sell.  Simple as that.  I can't just put a book up for sale and expect anything to happen. Just the idea of a book, even just the cover, isn't enough.

It's frustrating.  I know for instance that the .99 price of my early books wouldn't be a high hurdle for most people, and yet each sale is the world to me. 

I have to ask.  I have to find reasons for people to pay attention. I have to motivate them to give me a chance.

And for some reason, Internet activity is something I can do.  Familiarity at a distance, I call it.  And a lot of these people feel like friends, even if I've never met them.  Others I've met and didn't get close to in the real world and yet I'm constantly interacting with on the Internet.  Truth is, the social media is probably something that is actually good for me. The loner type who is generally friendly.

I used to get my social action at the store, but I'm not working enough for that to completely work.  But I can't write if I work, so there's that.

I dreamed all night of interactions.  Last dream I had was hanging out with some Hollywood types and they insist on going to the most divey of dive bars.  I hand the bartender a 20.00 and he hands me back .50 and nothing else.

Story of my life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

.99 cent sale for my books at Books of the Dead.

My newest book, The Dead Spend No Gold is 3.99, but my earlier tomes are up for sale for .99.  So for those who have considered reading my books, now's a really good time!  So download them now while you have the chance and read them when you have the time!

While it isn't necessary to read Led to the Slaughter in order to enjoy The Dead Spend No gold, it might add to the experience. 

The Vampire Evolution Trilogy is one big story.

Death of an Immortal

 Rule of Vampire

 Blood of Gold

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"There's monsters in them thar hills!" The Dead Spend No Gold

Since The Dead Spend No Gold is my NEWLY published book, I really ought to be talking about that.

I got a very cool quote from Jim Cornelius, who is the editor-in-chief of the Nugget newspaper in Sisters, Oregon. Jim is a real devotee of American Frontier arcana, and has a really cool website called, Frontier Partisans.

His West is more hard core, the West of Cormac McCarthy and John Wesley Hardin, not so much the Louis L'Amour version.

Plus, I know from talking to him that he loves dark Fantasy.

Here's Jim's quote:

 "There’s monsters in them thar hills, and the weird west was never wilder. ‘The Dead Spend No Gold’ is a fine tale to be spun around some High Sierra campfire—as long as you don’t mind lying awake all night, wondering what that sound was off there in the trees…” ~ Jim Cornelius, Frontier Partisans

THE DEAD SPEND NO GOLD: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush.

"The world needed this book." Rudy Rucker

So this is cool. Rudy Rucker was in my store a few months ago when I was writing Tuskers, and he seemed intrigued by the idea and by my enthusiasm.

Rudy is a well-established S.F. writer, one of the "founders of cyberpunk", winner of the Philip K. Dick award. I've read some of his books and I carry him in my store.

Anyway, I asked him for a blurb, and this is what he gave me.

"Pure pleasure. Superintelligent wild pigs on a rampage. The world needed this book."
---Rudy Rucker, author of The Transreal Trilogy

Maybe a tad ironic, but I like it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Dead Spend No Gold is live!

My Merry Christmas Book!  Good things happen all at once, I guess.

My sequel to Led to the Slaughter, starring Virginia Reed, is out!

The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush, by Duncan McGeary, Books of the Dead Press.

This is a stand alone book, by the way.  If you happen to like Bigfoot!  It isn't at all necessary to read the first book to get the complete story.  It is set a year after the Donner Party, when gold has been discovered in the Sierra's.

"Virginia Reed survived the Donner Party Werewolves only to find herself in a life and death struggle with a creature out of nightmares. When gold is discovered, California becomes flooded with miners who push Indian tribes from their lands, or kill them if they refuse to leave. But there is a creature in the mountains who reacts to the invasion of his territory by slaying everyone who trespasses."

I'm asking you guys to please buy this book from Amazon, especially in the first week or so.  If enough people buy it at the same time, it could end up on some of the best-seller lists.  Really that simple. If you buy this before Christmas, it could move the title way up the rankings. A bunch of books sold in the first week or ten days has an outsized impact.  Even if you don't want to read it yourself, send it to someone who likes the weird and wonderful.

It costs $3.99.  It means more to me than you can imagine.

Here's the Amazon Link:

If you have a Nook or any other device, you can buy from Smashwords:

Oh, and please, please, please give it a review.  Just a sentence or two and a ranking, that's all it needs.  Reviews are pretty much the whole ballgame. People buy books over the long run because of reviews.

I'm really proud of this book. I tried to make it a great successor to Led to the Slaughter.

The Tuskers release is still over a month away, so this is my Christmas book.  In fact, hey, it might make a good gift!

After ten months of hard work, good things are starting to happen again.

I feel like Led to the Slaughter got my foot in the door, and I'd like to pry it open a couple more inches. This is my chance to make some headway against some very strong winds.  (The sheer number of books being released is astounding.) So please don't hesitate, go directly to the Link and click.  I will be forever grateful. And maybe some day, you can say you know a best-selling author.

You could make this a very Merry Christmas with just a click.  Make it a gift!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I really worked on the book yesterday.

I really worked on Tuskers II yesterday.

Well, don't I always?  Not really.  I try not to let it get to that point.  But sometimes it can't be helped and the only thing that works is work.

Always nicer when it just, you know, comes to me.  God forbid I should actually have to work at it.

Another word for "work" is "rewrite."  I'm not talking about copy-editing, or making small changes here and there.  I'm talking about taking the structure of the book apart and reassembling it.

Just like writing, the rewriting is always different.  Sometimes I can really get into it, sometimes I start to scratch the surface and immediately get immensely bored with the process.

Anyway, I had some ideas that I thought would really improve the book.  More importantly, I needed to change things to make the plot of Tuskers III viable.

So I took a book that was already complete and -- you know, pretty good --and took it apart, and that's a dangerous thing to do.  I have to weigh the improvements versus the possibility of complete disaster.  (Of course, I always save the previous version just in case.)

But I also always feel a great deal of satisfaction when I complete this kind of work, no matter how stressful it is when I'm doing it.  (I've been struggling with these two chapters for weeks...)

For instance, there was a point in Led to the Slaughter when the book was basically done.  There were a couple of niggling things that bothered me, but I was afraid to mess with it.  Then one of my editors came along and pointed out a couple of other things that would help but weren't crucial.  Finally, I convinced myself that since this was the first book out of the gate, I had to make improvements if I saw them.

Of course, things can always be improved, at least for me, because I can make endless changes, but there comes a time of diminishing returns, when it's best to leave well enough alone.

When it bothers me enough -- well, then I have to change it, no matter how much work it is.  So I went ahead, risking taking a good book apart  and trying to make it better, and it turned out well. I feel very satisfied that Led to the Slaughter is the book I wanted.

Rewriting helped the book.  

Faerylander is the best example of that.  I've had something like 15 versions of that book, any one of which I could have convinced myself were good enough.  But each time, I felt there was something off, or something missing.  And sure enough, each time I've written it, I've improved it.  But it still isn't quite ready.  Arggh.

Anyway, I got the two biggest problem chapters of Tuskers II worked  out.  They're still rough, but are more or less there.  I got what I wanted out of them, and now it's just a matter of improving them.

I have half a dozen other chapters that have to be changed, but mostly these chapters just need to be cut down.  These chapters were originally in Tuskers III.  I have a lot of zombie action in them, which can't happen because zombies don't show up until the end of book II.  (Yes, zombie wild pigs...)

Anyway, the only way to deal with working on problem chapters is take them one at a time and keep working on them until they work. It can seem overwhelming at times when you're elbows deep in shit, but you just keep chunking spoonfuls over your shoulder until it's gone.  (Wow, that's an inelegant metaphor...)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rushing toward Ragnarok.

Turns out, I'm not inching toward Ragnarok, I'm almost there.

To use a more humdrum metaphor, I thought Tuskers was on the back-burner, to be published "sometime" next year, when in fact it has already been edited by the publisher and the ARCS have been created, ready to send off.

(I had to ask what an ARC was -- Advanced Reader Copies.  I may have written a number of books, but I'm still a newbie at this, somehow.)

They have a picture of the cover at the bottom of their main page, and it has garnered some nice comments.  People seem to really like the idea of a Wild Pig Apocalypse. The cover by Mike Corley really sells it.

They even have a preliminary date for publication: January 12, 2015.

So that is pretty exciting.

I spent much of the day confabulating with Tim Marquitz, the editor-in-chief of Ragnarok Publications.  I'd thought I had one more draft to do...which was just a little extra step with a few small changes.  They thought I'd given them the final copy and had already edited it.  Tim said, it was a "very clean" copy and that both editors "loved" the book.

So I was totally OK with them going with the version they had -- except, I'd written a new chapter which I thought improved the book, and especially helped set up the second book, and Tim was totally cool about adding it in.

He said: "I see no reason for us to put out a version that is not what you wanted it to be." Which is very reassuring for an author.

I then got hold of Lara Milton, of Spectrum Editing, who went over the new chapter for me, and I sent it off.

Tim mentioned that Tuskers will be the first book in a "new imprint" for Ragnarok Publications.  I'm not sure what this means or what it portends...I suppose I'll ask, eventually.

Tim also asked for a back cover synopsis for the book, and this is what I came up with:  "Barry had created a little piece of paradise in his southern Arizona backyard -- until the javelinas came. His battle with the wild pigs soon escalated into a war for survival. Too late, he realized that these weren't ordinary animals. They were something new, something meaner and smarter. These pigs weren't just at war with him; they were at war with the human race. And the humans were losing."

So this book is coming, and I'm pretty excited by it and by the publisher's enthusiasm for the project.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Inching toward reality. The Ragnarok.

Things are slowly happening.

I've been added to the author roll at Ragnarok Publications,  so that's happening.!authors/c22tz

I'll be completely finished with the final edit of Tuskers by mid-month, unless the editors at Ragnarok want changes. 

Mike Corley, my friend who did me the favor of doing
the cover to Tuskers, did the cover to the latest Hugh Howey book, The Shell Collector  and is highly praised by the author, and it is a pretty cool picture.  Hugh Howey is a best-selling author and a proponent of indie publishing.  So congrats to Mike.

(I'm reading Howey's breakthrough book, Wool, right now, and it's a good read.)

Still waiting for The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush to be published by Books of the Dead Press

Been told it will be "soon."

I get the sense that all these indie publishers have gargantuan tasks to complete.  I'm in the line, but they have things in front of me.

I just keep on writing.  I'm mid-way through the rewrite of Tuskers II and I think I'm improving it.  I was 2/3rds of the way through Tuskers III before I realized I needed to resolve some narrative issues with book II.  I'm hoping to be back to that book by the end of the year.

So things are inching toward reality.

Meanwhile, my published books have been out for awhile and could use a little boost in sales, so any of you who have been hesitating, maybe now's a good time?

Maybe send my books to friends and family as gifts for Christmas?

Here's my Amazon webpage. McGeary&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank

Also, any of you who have read any of my books and liked them, I can't emphasize how important positive reviews are.  Just a single comment is enough.  This is how people choose to read books, and it's completely understandable.

Thanks to all of you who have shown interest in my nascent writing career, and I hope I haven't bored you with all the details.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for years have seen the whole thing from my first inkings of coming back to writing.

It's pretty amazing to look back on the last two years and see all that's happened. Really, who knew?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Changing an established storyline.

I continue to struggle with my rewrite of Tuskers II.

But I can see that what I've done so far is an improvement. 

What I'm doing is just setting apart time and then just staring at the screen, hoping that somehow it will all come together.  It's taking longer than it should.  I could probably write another book in the time it's taking me to fix book II and III.

The temptation is to go with the already finished and edited II, which is "good enough." 

But I swore when I came back to writing that I wouldn't settle for "good enough."  So I struggle.

I've got plenty of time.  Hell, The Dead Spend No Gold hasn't even been published.  Don't know what is taking so long.

I have completely finished Tuskers I.  I added a last minute chapter from the viewpoint of Razorback, the 'Big Bad' Tusker.  I also decided to give the town a name (Saguaro) and the valley (Morrow Valley.)

The chapter yesterday was an improvement in the story.  Developed some of the characters as well as advanced the plot.

But I was in despair for most of the day because I just couldn't figure out what to do.  It gets so complicated. Multiple versions of the scene I was working on.

Finally, I just outlined what the chapter was supposed to do, wrote some new material to frame what I'd already written, tried to pick the best version of what I'd written, and then tried to find the proper sequence.

I probably just need to be more ruthless cutting some parts, and simply write new material.  It's hard to let go of the original storyline, even when you know you need to.  The original storyline seems like its the real world, so you have to replace it with an equally valid and hopefully improved world.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Turning to escapism.

I've always read for entertainment, for escapism.  I like non-fiction material because I like learning things, but when it comes to fiction, I read to delve into another world.  When it comes to fiction, the more removed from real life, the better.

But for some reason, I've just lost all interest in "serious" books and movies and TV.

Soprano's, Breaking Bad, that kind of thing.  Movies like Gone Girl or The Master or 12 Years a Slave.  Just not interested.

The last few "literary" novels I read bored the hell out of me.

Sure, I know they are great and I'm sure I would enjoy them, but I just don't want to go there.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Art is what art wants to be.

Watching a documentary on the German painter, Gerhard Richter.  He's painting an abstract.  He slaps some paint on a canvas, steps back, then slabs some more on, then steps back, crooks his head, steps forward and slops it around, steps back.

"Not at all what I planned," he says (something like).  "But a painting is what a painting wants to be."

I feel the same way about stories.  When I start worrying about what the outside world wants, I get in trouble.  When I turn it around and only worry about what the story wants, I'm on firmer ground.

The way I think of it: This story really happened in some alternate universe and I've been granted a glimpse of it and my job it to try to write it down as close to the way it really happened as I can.

I basically nestle into the story and settle in and feel it as much as I can.  Which is why I need time, why I need space and lack of pressure.  I'm coaxing the story to come to me, or trying to catch glimpses through a deep fog.

So half the battle is getting my head into that space.  The writing is just the tool, and sometimes I'm clumsy with the tool and sometimes I'm surprisingly adept.

I remove ego from this, and whether the outside world will like something, by saying to myself -- "This is surprisingly good."  Because, no matter the outside standards or the inside standards, to me, anything that comes out is "surprisingly good" in that it works at all.  I mean, that it isn't dead on the page and feels real means it's "surprisingly good."

The whole thing surprises me, and that's good.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Black Friday sales report.

The Friday sales were good, about the same as last year.  Saturday was not as good, though obviously above average.  Still...'Small Business Saturday' didn't seem to have the slightest effect.  Same as last year.  And also the same as last year, Sunday was actually below average.  (One thing no one tells you about these Big Days -- they are often preceded and followed by slower days.)

Pegasus Books had a huge Christmas last year -- a record.  But I'm not expecting that this year.  I'm actually planning for a more normal Christmas, which would be about 20% less than last year.  At this point it is more about what I actually spend than what I make.

The store is the best stocked it has ever been.  Every single category has been stocked this year, to the fullest.  I need only keep the stock up from this point on, which is easier than building it.

Meanwhile, November this year was pretty awful.  My first down month in over a year.

It was the weather, obviously.  Normally I hate to blame the weather, because -- you know -- weather happens.  But it was pretty clear this year, in the two weeks following that first snowfall.  Nobody came in. 

Which was weird.  That isn't the way Bendites used to respond to snow.  Oh, maybe a day or two of shock, but then back to normal.  Not this time.   Over two weeks of pathetic sales. 

So I'm going to be very leery of Christmas.  I can't help but wonder what would happen if there was a similar occurrence the week before Christmas. 

If I could plan for the best or even the average, I could build the perfect store.

But I have to plan for those ten days to two weeks of nobody showing up.  Because it happens on a periodic basis and is completely unpredictable.  Bills on the other hand, are completely predictable and have to be paid, snow or no snow.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pinning the tail on the shaggy dog.

Well, I tried ripping apart and jamming all the disparate parts of Tuskers II and III together and probably made a mess of it.

I probably would have given up if I hadn't been drinking a little wine at the same time.  I don't know that drinking helps writing any, but it does help keep me rooted to one spot for hours on end doing something I'd rather not do.

It's a huge game of Concentration.  Lots of shaggy dog tails hanging off the end of chapters that make no sense anymore.  Lots of duplications and things out of place.

But the overall structure feels right.

Tomorrow I'll see if the reorganized chapters make any sense.

I was careful to keep the original versions of both books.  The only thing really wrong with them was that one book was a good one third shorter than the other book, and I'd prefer to have the books about the same size.


I don't know.  Just seems like that's the way it should be.

I think having to reorganize can be a good thing, as it can challenge me to be better.  Forcing me to rewrite.

Then again, I don't mind it when a book just falls together either, as Tuskers I did.

Anyway, I'll spend a week or two trying to eliminate the inconsistencies and in-continuities.  Only then, when I read it straight through, will I know if it reads right.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Self-consciousness is the end of creativity."

Just saw a documentary on some musicians putting music to the words of lost Basement Tape lyrics of Bob Dylan.  T. Bone Burnett is the man behind the gathering, and at one point -- as one of the musicians is struggling with the pressure -- he says, "Self-consciousness is the end of creativity."

That's it exactly.  I was never freer with my writing as when I was spending a year without any regard to anyone else reading.  Even after I started sending material out to publishers, I felt pretty free because nothing much was happening, and I didn't expect anything to happen.

Somehow, though, just recently, I've started putting harder expectations from myself.

So today I woke up and decided, I'd just keep a light touch.

A nice light touch.

No more Star Wars spoilers.

I'm going to avoid all things Star Wars from here on, so that I go into the movie fresh.

I always regret that I was so up on the Lord of the Rings images before I saw the first movie.  I'm pretty sure the movie would have had more impact on me if I hadn't done that.

I avoided all Gone Girl posts for months, because I knew it had a twist or two and my mind just really picks up on the slightest hints and figures it out.  I mean, every O'Henry movie there is, (Sixth Sense anyone?) if I hear anything about it, I figure it out. 

Ended up not going to Gone Girl in the end, because I just was never in the mood.  I'm not in the mood for serious movies these days, whether it be 12 Years a Slave or The Master or whatever. 

Yes, I know they are probably great movies, but right now...not so much.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Star Wars trailer.

Got shivers down my spine when the Star Wars music started and the Millennium Falcon burst into view...

It's going to be really hard to live up to expectations, you know?  I mean, how can it?

But if it's a decent movie, it will be received as the Second Coming.

So much fun.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Star Wars Again.

Let me rephrase that.  STAR WARS AGAIN!

That's more like it.

I can still get excited by this.  I saw Star Wars the opening weekend in Oregon, at a big theater in Portland, front row. Within the first 30 seconds I knew that someone had finally done S.F. right.

The next Star Wars movie is still a year away, which gives us a year of anticipatory selling at my store, Pegasus Books, which is the best kind.  Things always sell better in advance if it's a well-known license.  (Things sell better after the movie if it catches people by surprise...but usually if it catches people by surprise, there isn't any ancillary product to be had.)

The first Star Wars trailer comes out tomorrow.  Oh, boy.

Anyway, Cameron and I are doing the orders for January, and up pops the #1 Marvel comics version of Star Wars.

January 14, 2015.  

Wind back a bit.  Marvel had the license to the original Star Wars movies, but let them go after they figured the excitement had faded.  Hard to remember now, but that's the way it worked then.  A  movie came, it was a big hit, and then it faded.  There was a small nostalgia market maybe, but it wasn't a world where Star Trek or Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, or Doctor Who existed independently whether or not there were any current versions of them in the marketplace.

It turns out that comics are a great place to keep the excitement simmering, even if the movies aren't being made.

When Dark Horse picked up the license, I had a feeling that the excitement hadn't faded, it was just sleeping.  I ordered what, for Pegasus Books, a huge number of #1's, and they sold well...and they continued to sell for years, at higher prices.

The whole thing got diluted down a little by the myriad titles and storylines, but added together they are significant enough to have their own little corner in my store devoted to nothing but Star Wars.

So there is no shortage of Star Wars material.  Not only that, but Dark Horse did a pretty good job of it.

So a new Star Wars comics shouldn't be a big deal.

And yet I think it will be.  Because it will be done by Marvel, who is owned by Disney, who owns Star Wars (frightening when you put it that way...)  This will be officially sanctioned, connected to the movie stuff.

Marvel is also having one of their "Party Packs," which I have always ignored.  These are packages that you get if you host a "party" on the day of the release. (We would do it after store hours.)

But I'm actually going to do it this time, because I have Cameron and Matt who seem excited to be able to host the event.  The Party Pack gives us material to give away, and we'll be getting a bunch of variants that we can use as prizes.  I'm thinking we should have a Cosplay contest, and maybe a trivia contest, and maybe a drawing.

My biggest concern is the lack of space we have in the store.  So I expect it will get ridiculously crowded and will spill out onto the sidewalk.  But, even if I personally avoid the whole thing which I probably will, (introvert!) I can still kind of thrill to the idea.

I'm going to order a ton of these #1's.  Which cost 4.99!  And as many variants as I can qualify for.  My reasoning is, I can sell these for years, because my assumption right now is that the first Star Wars movie will be the biggest movie ever.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Successively instead of concurrently.

I've now had two occasions where in writing the third book in a trilogy, I've needed to go back and rewrite the second book.  (Thankfully, the first books usually seem to stand alone, for some reason.)

It's fine.  It's a good reason to write the whole trilogy before I do anything with them.  The hardest part is when the trilogy represents one storyline.  I prefer to have each book stand alone, but there is usually a larger plotline going on that has to be tied together.  Which is pretty complicated.  Each book usually has it's own theme and characters, and they all have to be brought together in a way that makes sense and is satisfying.

This is different from the Series where I have may have a unifying character and world, but there isn't one over-arching storyline.  I can write the Virginia Reed Adventures in such a way that a reader can read them out of order and not lose anything.  The same is true of the Lander series.  Each book stands alone.

The Vampire Evolution Trilogy and the Tuskers Trilogy are each one big story, which turns out to be a pretty challenging thing to do.  Though there is something satisfying about it.  (Not least that when I'm done, I'm done.)

Anyway, I'm stuck at 2/3rds of the way through Tuskers III.  Partly because I know I'm going to have to rewrite Tuskers II, and I feel like I should do that first before tackling the end of III.

I'm waiting for the editing of book II to come back before I tackle II.  I've learned a lesson over the last few books -- that having multiple versions and then trying to consolidate them is a nightmare.  It isn't terribly efficient and no matter how hard I try, I tend to drop a few nice sentences or plot points by accident because it is incredibly complicated.

So I've decided from now on that if I have multiple editors (including myself) that I will edit these books successively instead of concurrently.  It will take longer waiting, but should make things much easier.

I also woke up this morning determined to finish the first draft of both Tuskers II and Tuskers III by the end of the year, no excuses.  Just do it.  I think more than anything I've been missing the resolve.  So my goal over the next few days is to jump full speed into writing on December 1 and finish these books.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

8 years of blogging.

I started this blog on November 26, 2006.

I haven't missed a day since.  Not every entry has been important and profound.  But I always seem to have something to say about something.

I've enjoyed it.  It hasn't been a chore.

It started off as a "bubble blog" because I was convinced the economy was on the verge of a collapse.

I wasn't wrong.

In the last few years, this has mostly been about writing.  Because that's what I'm doing.  Writing all the time.  I don't think I have as many readers as I did at first, but that's OK.  It never really was about that.  It was just me expressing myself.

I think letting myself write whatever I wanted to write might have even led to my re-entry into Fiction writing.  I have a different, lighter approach, which was at least partially attributable to the blog. 

So I'm going to just keep going, because that's what I do.

I'm nothing if not persistent. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Another idea for a book.

I've got plenty of ideas for books.  I have three or four fresh ideas I'd like to explore, as well as continuations of the worlds I've built.

So coming up with ideas isn't a problem.

It's more a matter of time and timing.  What do I write next?  What would be best for my career?

I do want to spend more time thinking about next book before I write it.  And I'm kind of wanting to write a standalone book, something other than what I've been writing.

So I just have to choose which idea to pursue.

One idea is a modern fantasy.  Maybe with a little satirical element.

One is a dystopian S.F.  Might as well make it Y.A. while I'm at it, no?

And the third is sort of Steampunk.   Deep and dark and strange.

I've not done any of these three genres yet, though I love reading them.  So they would be fun to try.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Breaking the formula.

Saw a crazy Spanish movie last night, Witching and Bitching.  Loved it.  Over the top humor and some interesting satirical ideas on the battle between the sexes.

Anyway, a review of the movie caught my eye.  From Matt Donato; We Got This Covered.

"Witching & Bitching is a perfect example of how Video On Demand horror movies are making Hollywood's mainstream titles look like bargain bin garbage in comparison."

I think this is exactly right.  I consistently find more interesting movies on Netflix than are at the theaters.  Many of these movies never made it to the theaters, but are way more fun than many of the formula Hollywood movies.

I keep going back to my experience at writer's group of a new member who insisted that there was only ONE way to write a book, and it was by THIS formula.  He was absolutely convinced that any other way of writing was a waste of time.  Whereas I couldn't imagine doing it.  I mean, I love writing my stories because of the way they just happen, without regard to any pre-concieved standards.

It was like we were living on two different planets.  

I think that the new media is going to end up creating more creative material than the old media ever could.  Because you can write a crazy book, make a crazy movie, and find an outlet for it.  It doesn't have to make millions of dollars to be valid.

I've always thought that comics are consistently more creative than any other media I consume.  I think it's because it is such a small medium, there is not as much at stake.  People just let it go.  It's no accident that so many movies -- and not just superhero movies -- are made from comics.  They break the formula all the time.  (Don't get me wrong -- the vast majority is formula, but there is still much more acceptance of non-formula material.)

I think traditional book publishing also operates by formula, more or less.  No matter what they say.

But indie publishing is going to bring out a lot of fresh, original ideas because there isn't anyone who's going to say, "You can't do that."

I'm not saying my own books are incredibly different; I think I've absorbed many conventions by osmosis, by my reading.

But I don't set out to write a book by some formula.  I write what I want to write.  The story has to be internally consistent, not bent to meet some outside standard.  That is creativity to me.

I admire people who can write formula well.  Any Star Trek or Star Wars or Doctor Who or any other licensed property is going to be formula, almost by definition.  There are people who can take the formula and be brilliant.

But I couldn't do it.  I have to write what comes to me and it doesn't fit the formula, well...I can't do anything about it.

Alone with my thoughts.

My moratorium on Internet browsing from 11:00 to 7:00 each day has been interesting.

I'm not sure that I'm not wasting just as much time, but at least I'm aware that I'm wasting time.  What becomes obvious (even more obvious that the obviousness it already was) it that the Internet is a constant distraction. (duh)  Once I close that window every day, it's as if I'm alone with my thoughts again.

I don't know that being alone with my thoughts can be considered a waste of time.  It centers me.

I'm also learning that I'm not missing anything.  I can easily get just as much information in the time before and after my moratorium hours.

I was hoping I'd get some writing done on Tuskers III, which 2/3rds done.  I'm afraid the further I am from writing, the further I'll get.  It's hard to pick up the story threads, the longer it goes.  But I'm also leery of going in the wrong direction.  I at least want a strong feeling of where the story goes next before I start writing again.

I'm also leery of struggling and failing, struggling and failing, which only leads to struggling and failing some more.

I have a crude example of that.  I tried quitting smoking for years, and I'd struggle and fail, struggle and fail, until that became the expected result.

So I told myself, no more attempting to quit and failing.  When you are ready to quit, then do it.  So a few more years went by, and that's what I did.

I trust there will be that moment when I know I'm ready, when the story is ready to proceed.

I think I've had so much trouble with Faerylander because I forced the story, and it went in an unnatural direction.

I need a good, solid sense of where the story is and where it is going before I start again.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Diversity and competition.

My store, Pegasus Books, is so diverse now that I don't worry about one-to-one competition the way I used to.  Not only am I carrying between 7 and 15 different product lines (depending on how you want to define them) but there is so many different brands within each product line that it is impossible to delineate.

There was a time when I was basically selling two things -- sports cards and comics.  Sports cards got so big, I was advised to drop comics altogether.  Comics were taking up more than half the space and yet only bringing in 15% of the revenue.  Thank god I ignored that advice.

Because I was only selling two product lines, and the diversity within those product lines was limited, I was at the mercy of price (and other) competition.  For sports cards, there were the 3 sports and a number of brands, but it was pretty uniform over the industry.

What I didn't see was that what I considered a 'specialty' product could so easily be transformed into a 'commodity.'  Anyone could carry it, and the only thing that distinguished it was price.  I simply couldn't beat the suicidal fly-by-night competition, nor could I compete with the big chain stores in price.

I was screwed.

In comics, it was DC and Marvel, more or less, and mostly only comics.  Again, I was vulnerable to the industry ups and downs as a whole.  Any comic store that opened was probably carrying exactly the same stuff, and could steal competiton by bigger discounts.

In both cases, there was a bubble that popped, almost taking me with them.

There was a moment in 1997 when I simply didn't have enough viable product lines. I had no reasonable access to books or games or toys or any of the other things I carry now.

These products became available to me only over time.  The Internet, of course, made it all available.  (I should say, the product was available, but the difficulty factor was high.  Everything was done by snail mail or phone, the minimums were high, the distributers didn't want to deal with small stores, and so on...)

Hard to imagine now.

In each of the seven product lines I carry, there is so much saleable product that I simply can't carry it all.  I have the luxury of picking what I carry.

Back then, when a competitor opened, the customers could do a more or less direct comparion, and inevitably I would lose customers for any number of reasons, most of them out of my control.


Well, I have my regulars, and I would hate to lose any of them.  But another large part of my business is connected the thriving downtown area and how many people I have coming in off the street.

There is no one-to-one competition for their business.  They either see something they like or they don't.

Almost all my book business is like this.  They come in and they see a book they've been wanting to read and they buy it.  I'm not a destination store for anything but comics.  Everything else is due to my diversity.  In other words, a customer comes in and buys something he or she didn't even know they wanted.  Toys, games, books, graphic novels...most of them are impulse buys.

Turns out, impulse buys, spread out over a large diversity of product, is actually more reliable in some ways than a destination buys.  Which is counter-intuitive.

So when people complain about too much product -- too many books, too many comics and graphic novels, too many toys, too many of everything -- I understand what they are saying from a psychological standpoint, but from a business standpoint, the sheer volume of selection protects me to some extent from destructive competitors.  

No one is going to replicate what I've done.  It's based on my own ideosyncratic tastes, which even I can't explain.  But I know what I like, and I have confidence there are enough other people who like what I like to have a viable business.