Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Monday, July 18, 2016
So now that you’ve indie published your first book on Amazon, how do you feel? Completely overwhelmed with the positive response. The goal for sales was 50, and in the first week, I saw 54 books sold. What’s amazing is that half of the sales were actual books. Some books were even being sold outside of my immediate or secondary reach. To be successful, it can’t just be about friends, family, and friends of family. All of the sales made me ecstatic, but those other sales moved things to another level.
So what happens now, and what are your next goals? Well, obviously, the next goal is triple digits. Inevitably, every author wants his or her work to grow to a point where it takes on a life of its own and he or she wakes up to new sales consistently. Inevitably, it would also be nice as Eureka in Flames joins additional published works so that it and they receive interest that I know they would deserve from mediums outside of the independent realm. To have my books read as a series would show just how valuable they are to people.
What do you mean by this “independent realm?” Obviously, every author sees a book as a film. I did write Eureka and the beginning of the as yet unnamed Wendigo book with the intention that they could be made into a movie, but I wrote the main books of the Blackrock Canyon series (Dead Mouths and Intersections) with a feel of a Walking Dead TV series in mind. I would love to see the characters visualized and expressed from my prose. While the subject matter and the language do get intense, I would prefer it to stay within PG13 or R, where it feels like some younger people might be OKed to see it with their parents, though it couldn’t be watered down beneath that. That said, I don’t ever want it to become a gratuitous violence thing like Saw or nudity for the sake of women baring their butts and chests just because like some of what Game of Thrones felt that it had to be. I know some people really dig on that show, but for me, I think I would have liked it better as a high school kid.
That seems to be a bold line in the sand for a book and a potential barrier to some fans who carve those things. Yeah, perhaps it is, but the rules of Aristotle’s Poetics that discuss focusing on the scene at hand and not deliberately shocking readers, thus detracting them from the scene with unnecessary nipples and orifices or grossing them out with blood, covers all of this. Things that don’t have to be there seem anathema.
But this doesn’t mean that these things aren’t there, does it? Of course not. There is actually one really horrific death in Dead Mouths Part 2, where a character is brutally murdered. However, it’s done off screen, much like Oedipus gouging out his eyes. The result of the action is seen, and the reader knows what happened because he or she witnesses a bandaged victim – not a knife wielding self-abusive act. To witness a murder up close or a bloody act like that would be too much. For me, it was the hardest thing to write because I had to imagine it and put it on the paper. I hated creating it in the same way that I hate watching terrorist actions in movies. We need to see them to make a villain that can be hated in that way, but to see innocent life lost in violent ways or even to witness a bad person killed in evil ways by darker forces can be too much.
What purpose did this murder serve, if I can ask without giving the plot away? It made a certain lesser character evil and moved said person up to the Major Leagues in later books.
How does killing characters make you feel? Well, if it’s Officer 1, it’s no big deal. Just like in 24, if they don’t give an officer helping Jack Bauer a name, you know he’s meat. In Eureka, there are people that shuffle off, and they have names. This isn’t a bad thing since a reader has to be able to believe that Tony Lucas, David Robinson, “Wolf” Owens, Harvey Greer, Chuck Jones, and Suzie Heilman can all die even though they’re the book’s core six. Granted, it’s nice to get the Walking Dead’s “If Glen dies, we riot” feel, but when they have to bring a dead character back / not give him an official send off on Talking Dead to create a sense of immortality, it’s too much to believe that a main character has a chance to die off unless it’s a very special episode.
But those characters are part of Dead Mouths, so you’ve had 15 months with them. You feel more personally toward them than Eureka’s characters, don’t you? Yes and no. While I wrote the first story (Eureka) quickly, I did it with the experience of Dead Mouths pretty much behind me. In that book, Henriette and Chuck were both meant to be quick exits, but somehow, I grew attached to what could be their greater purposes. Thus, they were saved from a quick exit and given life blood because I just couldn’t kill them off at that point. Thus, they became some of my “six characters in search of an author.” The same could be said for Suzie, Chico Gutierrez, Benson Villaneuva, and Sean “Big Dig” Caruthers. All of them were non-essential / one-off points in the plot or just a series of adjectives and extras, but now Intersections relies on them and their history to advance Blackrock.
And that’s how Eureka in Flames came to be. Yeah, even The Demon Hunters of Dodge County were a throw-away line in the story that shined out with potential in one of the final reviews. Making them into a team of phonies that have to play it real begged to be written. When I came up with a way to connect it to Blackrock Canyon, it just seemed like, “You gotta do this, dude.” And I did, knocking it all out in about a month… maybe a little over it. This allowed me to go back into the final edits of Blackrock with more color to them than if I did things otherwise. For this, I’m glad I got too overwhelmed and read with the Blackrock drafts during my revisions after adding “reality” the story.
A short one-off book is what you went into Dead Mouths thinking, too, right? Yeah. I would have knocked that out in a couple months, 250 pages, and done. Then, I had about 400 pages in 8.5x11 Word formatting, which turns out almost twice as long in 6x9, so I had to split the book in half to make it manageable and affordable. What’s more, the story took on a life of its own, and it’s now an expanding universe. Keeping it as one book would be a $30-40 paperback, even with the affordable Amazon / Create Space prices.
So why $2.99 with Kindle? Why not go cheaper to attract fans and reviews? That was the original plan, and if I could have made 70% at $1.99, I would have, but they were taking 65% at that price point. I couldn’t have my publisher make more than me. That seemed wrong. I’ll accept cost for credit cards, advertising, and delivery platform, but that’s it.
How much do you make on an $8.99 book? I get $2 and change for penny candy, which I can’t complain about at all. The reader gets a beautifully printed book, and both the printer and the writer get cash. Once again, for Amazon’s platform, I have no gripes on this at all. They’re top notch.
So you like the print job? If I could, I’d marry it, but it’s a book and I’m married, so yeah. In all seriousness, holding the book for the first time was a humbling thrill. It was more beautiful than I ever realized it could be.
How about the first autograph? I was even more humbled, and it was hard to write a lot, but what I did write was done with sincere appreciation and respect.
Are autographs important to you? Giving my fans back the respect that they have for me is important. If someone wants an autograph or a picture, I’m there for it. I’m not so huge that I can’t accommodate a crowd or in need of bodyguards to keep overzealous fans away. I don’t ever want to be that guy, even if I ink a seven-figure HBO / Warner Brothers deal. Some people are afraid to lose the intimacy, and they try to stay indie when they should go big, even if they have to listen to the haters cry “sell out.” For instance, I think of the first wave of Neutral Milk Hotel reunion shows. They sold hundreds of thousands of discs to adoring fans plus introductions via “illegal” downloads, and people loved those discs, especially Aeroplane over the Sea. It was disappointing when they played shoeboxes and sold out show quickly like that when they should have been doing 2-5,000 person places. Then they did a proper tour at venues, and I saw them twice, which was incredible, especially at Ommegang Brewery. That was my favorite show ever, and I’ve seen a lot of shows. If I ever get lots of fans, I’d like to still be able to accommodate for them for book readings the like. Being generous to those who drop cash for us shouldn’t be a chore that comes for a price like with some people. I think of the money I paid for a picture with Carlos Mencia. Funny guy, and I know money is a good thing, but at some point, where does it end? The same can be said for ridiculous prices to pose with sports stars. I get if it’s for a signed ball or bat, but $50 because someone had a minor role on a championship team for the sake of a “complete” ball? That’s business, not love of the game and the fans.
So how long is this universe that you spoke of a few questions ago? If I had to guess, Eureka, the 2 parts of Dead Mouths, the untitled wendigo story, and Intersections have things written for them. There is a stand-alone book entitled The Last Day of Hunting Season, which connects back to Blackrock as well. The next book after that is A Lot of People Die, and then there’s One More Death, which are both names of songs by Passionate Chaos, which is Benson Villaneuva’s band. That’s eight, but I could easily do a lot more. I would expect at least one more other than that, which is much more than the original trilogy, even when Dead Mouths was all one book.
In Eureka in Flames, you had characters who you envisioned as real people, I guess as guidelines for who could play what if it ever got to that point. Who were these people? Margaret was Elizabeth Saint.
Lee was Zak Bagans.
Steve was Chadwick Boseman.
Yadier Molina represents Gilly well, with his tattoos and tough guy look.
Allison also needed a tough ol’ gal, and I thought of Jamie Lee Curtis for that.
As for Ernie, I thought he would be played well by Nick Groff..
As for the other Ghosts of Shepherdstown guy, Bill Hartley, I guess could be a good cameraman, but I had no role for him in this book.
Kevin Spacey would have done well as Tim. He just seems to represent the perfect evil asshole – in a good way.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Thank you for checking out my book. If you haven’t already done so, you can buy it at the link listed. Previews are available here. My Facebook page is here. Finally, my regular website is here. Please share the word. It’s how indie writers get known.
Friday, July 8, 2016
Band of Horses - Is There a Ghost video and teaser clip from the soon to be released Eureka in Flames
As I wait for my file to come back from Amazon and the inevitable wait for my book to be listed online after I convert it to Kindle, here's another teaser from the middle of the book and the video of the song that goes with it. There first 2 discs were really good (the first one - Everything All The Time - is one of my favorites). This is on the 2nd one - Cease to Begin. Check it out and support them, too.
In the dark and even with the night vision equipment, the walk to the bathroom took longer to accomplish moving from the casino to the tucked away restrooms, which were located a few hundred feet down the hall. The fear of strange objects behind huge potted plants and trashcans presented an opportunity for evil to pop up and appear at any moment. Fortunately, it didn’t rear its ugly head, but its potential presence still scared the trio to the core.
“With it being pitch black in there, I think we should all go in together and make sure that nothing and nobody is stirring,” Linda hesitantly said.
“Not even a mouse, Linda. I promise. When it’s all clear, we’ll excuse the man child, and he will watch the hallway until you’re done, and when I say ‘will,’ I mean WILL Joshua.”
“How long do you expect to be in here?” Joshua asked.
“Why? Are you scared to be in the hallway by yourself, Tough Guy?” Allison asked.
“I’ll admit it. Yes, I am,” Joshua said. “The last time I was alone with him, he threw a shelf full of glasses at me.”
“But he missed on every toss,” Allison smiled. “You’ll be OK. I’ve got no feeling right now. If he were here, I’d be goose bumps all over.”
“Not long, Joshua. Two minutes tops,” Linda added.
“Can you handle 120 seconds, Big Guy? You’ll hear a flush, water running, and footsteps. Then you’ll see us. The sooner that we get started, the sooner that we can get back into the light and the sounds of the casino so you can be protected by a pair of girls. Are you going to be OK with just you and the infra-red goggles and assault squirt rifle? Maybe you can pretend you’re Rambo.”
“Well, when you put it like that, I’ll be fine. I hope,” Joshua mumbled as he reluctantly smiled.
And with that, the group walked in the bathroom. Once again, the lights weren’t working. Not even the emergency footlights were, so they used the flashlights to illuminate everything. Nothing moved or stirred, so the older woman covered the main floor of the bathroom while her younger companion went into a stall. Outside, the tapping of Joshua’s foot bounced along with him singing Band of Horses’ “Is There a Ghost” very softly and tunelessly for a good thirty seconds before Linda spoke.
“You OK out there, Allison?”
“I think so, but his foot tapping is getting a little off beat. I may not know a lot of music, but I know and like that song.”
At that, they both listened to his musical rendition, and then both his singing and the tapping stopped.
“If you don’t know any more lyrics, Joshua, I do,” Linda said.
The request was greeted with more silence as the woman stood up in the stall. As she did, Allison walked nervously to the front door to see what was or wasn’t going on.
Suddenly, as she went to push out on the door, a huge force slammed hard against the barrier that had created privacy. Immediately, the older woman fell to the floor. Where once the door provided privacy, now it represented an impediment to not only understanding what was on the other side, but in reaching a clear pathway to safety in the open hallway on the other side.
“Joshua! Quit screwing around,” Allison screamed, but still she heard nothing in reply. “If you’re screwing with me, I will kick your ass!”
Still the women heard nothing from him. As she listened, she realized that he was immature, but this seemed out of place, even for him.
“Rotten meat. I smell rotting meat,” Linda said.
“That’s not good, Linda. What’s more, I’m getting that feeling and the goose bumps again,” Allison said, realizing what was coming for them.
Jumping out of the stall and running to the sink to grab her Atomic 2000 Squirt Blaster, Linda stood by her companion’s side. She too held her gun up and aimed at the door like she had seen Special Forces soldiers do it in the movies.
“Are you ready for what’s out there?” Linda said, more for a break in the silence than an answer. They both knew that they had to be.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
I can’t remember a time in my last thirty years when I didn’t write. Originally, this was bad poetry and prose, which is similar to how many young people begin to write. Fortunately, that ended, and now every single page I once wrote is shredded. Frankly, that was as cathartic as writing my feelings. I must say they’re both good things.
Eventually, my writing became stories of travel and hiking as well as introspective understanding of who I was. Since that was too personal to sell, I chose to write fiction, embracing my post-literary interests of the paranormal, travel, baseball, and American culture to create something I could be proud of. Now that I have put my finishing touches on this, my first book, it feels incredible to be able to look back on the things that have gotten me to this place where I can publish my first book.
First and foremost is the love and support of family and friends. Whether they be the family I’ve found along the way (my wonderful wife, Heather) or my parents + sister and the rest of my extended family (especially my Gram, who let me build forts in her apartment as well as to play with my Star Wars figures at her place every weekend of my youth – rest in peace), I’ve always been able to be lost in other worlds of daydreams and fantasy.
Quite simply, from an early age, I was encouraged and allowed to be imaginative. This led me to Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, V, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Independence Day, Altered States, Contact, The Mummy (the Brendan Fraser one), Creature Double Feature, Ancient Aliens, The Conjuring, A Haunting, Signs, Monsters and Mysteries in America, Jaws, and a lot of other science fiction / aliens / ghost stuff as well as great action movies like Die Hard and the Asian cinema of John Woo and Chow Yun Fat. This is not to forget the myriad of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Norris action movies in my formative years (not to mention one too many viewings of the original Red Dawn).
In addition, music is a big part of who I am as a writer and person. From my earliest days with Billy Joel to Iron Maiden to Neutral Milk Hotel to the Polyphonic Spree to the Misfits to Phish to Jack Johnson to Okkervil River to Jay Z to The Hold Steady to Slayer, songs have always inspired me to sing along and to move on through. My mp3 player ranges from cheesy pop songs by Taylor Swift to metal music by King Diamond. There’s a time and place for everything, and frankly, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without music of every genre. Simply stated, I could have never written this book with bad music or silence. For this, I do name check songs, bands, and literary things to get other people interested in them as well. Support your favorite artists.
Along the way, I have also had many great teachers who allowed me to grow as a writer, teacher, and person with their style and willingness to take on my honors contracts and personal discussions (Ron Borkert, Bill Harst, Dave Leight, Susan Hartman, and Eric Wolf come to mind). With them, I was able to do many great projects and learn so much more than I would have if I didn’t participate in class actively. Because of them and my parents, I was shown the value of education. While I didn’t always understand or appreciate education or the do this / do that approach to things, I eventually did embrace it, and I was able to teach myself by learning to observe what others did and by absorbing information and education experience because of it. In addition, I was supported by many colleagues and peers in the educational world to be allowed to educate other people to the value of writing. I can’t begin to state what that means to me. Teaching and being taught are great things. Embrace knowledge in all that you do.
In an ideal world, I would list lots of names, and they would be definitive with regard to who has helped me along the way. However, I know that I’ll forget people, so rather than try to be all-inclusive here, I’ll thank all of my friends from those who were there with me during the awkward and lonely high school years, the wild ride of the Loft days, my time in the Air Force, the England experience, the post-England college time (which began twenty years before the day this book was originally released), and the last fifteen years of my life, which have been involved in being an educator, hiking, traveling, and living life while listening to great music, experiencing movies, reading books, and embracing an America that I almost left.
For all of the mistakes I’ve made, the dumb things I’ve done, and the bad choices I’ve made along the way, my family and friends have stuck with me to get to this place. I appreciate that. I must also say that I still can’t believe that I have a wife who would embrace my eccentricity and rough around the edges nature to still be here for me, nearly 9 years after our first memorable date. Like Lou Gehrig, I’m the luckiest man of the face of the earth to have someone who’ll let a major undertaking like this book series happen.
Also, in whatever came my way, I always found great people to influence and inspire me. One of those people was MaryAnn Schaefer, who edited this book and provided writing advice to me. I am very very grateful to her for that. I’m also very thankful that she allowed me to have a couple of Air Force / England Thanksgivings with her, her husband Bill, and her daughters Sky and Nicki all those years ago. I can’t begin to explain what they meant to a young guy 3,000 miles from home on the holidays.
In this writing endeavor, many of you will choose to help me either by advertising or buying this book. You will read my works and provide constructive criticism. You will inspire me while I keep working on the Blackrock Canyon series, which is well over 500 pages at this point in four different books. I think it has a couple thousand to go, but that’s just me. THANK YOU!!!!
I look forward to entertaining you along the way. Hopefully, I’ll even inspire some of you to embrace your own creativity, which would be awesome to see all of the Dylans and Lydias of the world to take a keyboard to bang out their stories. The world is your oyster. Do what you have to do. It’s go time. Where would we be without writing or the oral tradition or petroglyphs?
Thanks for reading and supporting my art. Dan.
You guys and gals are awesome. Really.