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The Blank Slate of the Soul

So, hopefully by the time you read this, I’ll have written two novels in six weeks.  This isn’t a joke; I had two 60K ghostwriting projects back to back, and one of them went late–I ended up having to write them both at the same time.

Update:  Made it 😉

A lot of stuff fell by the wayside; I even quit blogging.

But more importantly–I quit journaling.  I went back in this morning (Monday) and spewed out three pages of incoherent ranting on multiple subjects, which I will proceed to not share.  There was underlining.  There was ALLCAPS.

And now…I don’t know what I think.

It’s a nice, clean feeling, a blank slate of the soul.

I needed that.

If you like this post, why not check out a short story about cleaning house…in more ways than one?  Bad House Spirit, a haunted novella about a dark, dark house.


Get Lost: A freelancer’s short rant

People are always trying to pressure me into changing my opinion.  I get that.  I seem like a soft target:  I let people present their arguments to me, and I actually listen.  Sometimes I even change my mind.

In addition, I have been trained in the kind of female empathy that says, “I have no personal desires for myself; I’m just here to support other people whether I want to or not, but especially white people, men, and anyone older than I am.”

I’m low risk, high reward.

Except for the part where I’ve been learning lately that saying “no” and “get lost” are literally money in the bank for me as a freelancer.  Some people and projects cost more time than they’re worth; cutting them out of my life leaves room for stuff that pays actual money, working for and associating with people who actually respect me.

So let me just say, as an increasingly successful freelancer and someone who’s done soft-pedaling the bigots of the world,

You’re not worth my time.  Get lost.

Like this post?  Why not sign up for my newsletter?  Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – paranormal, horror, mystery stories, and more.

New Release: One Dark Summer Night (’80s horror novel)

Universal Sales Link | Goodreads

The fairies are coming…the fairies are coming…

To kill us all.

It’s 1989. A small Midwestern college town with a history of strange sightings and hauntings. A summer intern program in the biology department that actually pays. And coworkers who don’t warn you about vivisection day…

Della Rae planned to keep her head down and work as many hours as she could get, while filling in the gaps with a lot of old sci-fi novels.

Her plan was interrupted by a sudden friendship with a townie student, a weird girl named Merc who shared Della Rae’s tastes in fiction. It was Merc who warned her not to go to the bio department that day…

Soon, there would be hell to pay for what happened in the bio department. And only Della Rae, Merc, and their friends can stop it from spreading.

(For ages teen and up.  Horror.  Gore and language, no sex or nudity.)

This book is part of…

A Fairy’s Tale: A Cheesy ’80s Horror Series
Now with Female Protagonists and Featuring…Homicidal Fairies!

I wrote these after reading a lot of classic ’80s horror and getting cheesed off that the women were basically scream-and-run accessories.  These are not “genderflipped” stories where the men have to scream and run and the women are the axe-wielding serial killers…that would be boring!  Nevertheless, a good deal of absurd violence, gore, splatterpunk hijinx, and generally horrible things are included here.  I’m particularly proud of the sprites.  And the stubborn, vicious, nasty women who inspired the characters 🙂

Reading order:

  • Book 0: By Dawn’s Bloody Light (novella). Three women, the queen of the fairies, and the serial killer who won’t know what hit him.
  • Book 1: One Dark Summer Night (short novel). If they didn’t want to unleash the apocalypse…they shouldn’t have killed the king of the fairies.
  • Book 2: Under Twilight’s Spreading Blight (novel). The house is haunted, crawling with entities not even the fairies dare to confront. But an even worse betrayal is waiting inside… (Forthcoming)
  • Book 3: Of Noon’s Harsh Birthright (novel). Trapped in a government testing facility are the last of the fairies…and the last people who can stop the Others from consuming them all. (Forthcoming)

Here’s the other book that’s out; you can either start with By Dawn’s Bloody Light or One Dark Summer Night.

Universal Sales Link | Goodreads

Three women. One serial killer who has access to the supernatural.

He can scare them…but he can’t stop them from taking revenge.

A small Midwestern college town. A series of murders that ape the Jack the Ripper killings. Then Laney Miller is butchered just after dawn in front of a second-hand bookstore. The one witness didn’t see anything…except Laney getting dragged out of her car and murdered by an invisible force.

One that carries a straight razor.

It’s a town that has attracted the weird and strange as far back as the eighteen hundreds. Since then disappearances, murders, suicides, and kidnappings have only grown worse. Especially targeted are a group of local girls that carry the same face…

Laney’s face.

Laney’s girlfriend Joy and her friends decide to find the seemingly-supernatural killer and take him down before he strikes again.

In as violent and bloody a manner as possible.

By dawn’s bloody light…they will have revenge.

A novella-length horror/paranormal suspense story to kick off the Fairy’s Tale Series, coming soon! Book 1: ONE DARK SUMMER NIGHT, August 2017.

(For ages teen and up.  Horror.  Gore and language, no sex or nudity.)

Hemingway: Not on the same page

IMO, one of the things that made Hemingway so interesting as a writer was that he messed with readers’ minds in a different way than a lot of other writers had been doing up to that point. He focused on forcing people to read between the lines–how to make the readers do the heavy lifting/imaginative work of fiction with as few little black marks on the page as possible. Nothing wrong with that. But he seemed to forget that not everyone reads the same thing in between the lines, or reads between the lines at all, and he didn’t give a damn about getting readers on the same page. Almost literally.

In short, either you like his writing or you don’t, and that’s something that’s probably entirely by Hemingway’s design.

Aging into Poetry

I think you have to age into some kinds of poetry. The crickets are singing on a cool July night, and just the sound of them tells me how the year is going, and how bittersweet the passage of time is becoming. Love is great and identity is important–but it’s the crickets that are poetry now, the coolness, distant dogs barking, footsteps downstairs, the breeze in the trees.

Horror tropes: Aha!

Here are the top tropes from the Amazon Kindle Mystery, Thriller & Suspense–>Suspense–>Horror list as of July 27, 2017.  As I was investigating the list, I found something surprising…

  • Detective investigates horror – The River Is Dark by Joe Hart
  • Try to find out why loved one did horrible thing – The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz
  • Cozy horror (boutique job: blogging house flippers) – The Haunting of Winchester Mansion Omnibus by Alexandria Clarke (Note: I tried to look up the author but didn’t find anything.  This screams “pseudonym” to me.)
  • Normal people are crazy – The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn
  • Serial killer apocalypse – Trackers: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Thriller by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
  • Haunted house – The Haunting of Blackwood House by Darcy Coates
  • Detective investigates horror + normal people are crazy – Missing Ones Super Boxset: A Collection of Riveting Kidnapping Mysteries by various (Note: Same style as the Alexandria Clarke series…J.S. Donovan, Roger Hayden, James Hunt are authors.)
  • Cozy horror + haunted house – House of Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries by Alexandria Clarke and Roger Hayden (Alexandria Clarke is listed above; Roger Hayden is also in the Missing Ones box set; same style as Alexandria Clarke and the other box set above).
  • Detective investigates horror – Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  • Detective investigates horror + normal people are crazy + post-apoc bundle – The Missing Super Boxset: A Collection of Riveting Mysteries by James Hunt.  (Note: Same style as the other box sets.  WTF.)

Okay, at this point, I stopped typing stuff in and looked up J.S. Donovan, James Hunt, Roger Hayden, and Alexandria Clarke.  They don’t have webpages or newsletters or author photos or bios; they all have the same book cover design; they’re all interrelated via box sets.  My suspicion is that they’re all the same author writing under different pseudonyms (or: several ghostwriters writing under the same mastermind publisher, which isn’t listed) and completely dominating the list right now.  Roger Hayden has an actual Smashwords profile, which tells me he’s the most likely candidate for the main writer behind this. He also has by far the largest number of books, going back the farthest.  So…the Hayden Horror Collective?

I stopped to wonder if Darcy Coates is part of the Hayden Horror Collective – but she has her own identity and website, even if she does have a similar cover image and subject matter, so I’d have to have more info before I grouped her with the others. She doesn’t show up in any of their box sets.

  • Detective investigates horror – The Abducted Super Boxset: A Small Town Kidnapping Mystery by Roger Hayden (Same pattern)
  • Normal people are crazy? or haunted house – Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
  • Detective investigates horror with meta touches – Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  • Apocalypse – The Stand by Stephen King
  • Normal people are horrible – Housebroken by The Behrg
  • Apocalypse – Trackers 2: The Hunted (A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Thriller) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
  • Detective investigates horror – The Haunting of Rachel Harroway – Book 2 by J.S. Donovan (Same pattern)
  • Normal people are horrible – The Mist by Stephen King
  • Normal people are horrible – Night Chill by Jeff Gunhus
  • Detective investigates horror – The Haunting of Rachel Harroway – Book 1 by J.S. Donovan (same pattern)

The Hayden Horror Collective occupies 7 of the top 20 spots.  If you want to know why people hire ghostwriters, here’s your example: a writer hits an audience sweet spot, hires other writers to exploit the market, and uses collective promotions between those writers to take over a bestseller list.

I could be wrong, but…

If you liked this post, why not read something I wrote? By Dawn’s Bloody Light, a cheesy ’80s  horror novella with fairies.  Three women looking for revenge. A serial killer who won’t know what hit him.

How much journaling is enough?

I started journaling on a blank half-page.  The first few lines were the usual rubbish.  Then:  “How much journaling is enough?” popped up, and I had to wonder.  I normally do nothing, or three pages.

During weeks where I have a lot of freelancing to do, it’s generally nothing.

But in that half page, I answered my question: for me, journaling is useful if it makes me step back and consider what I’m thinking.  Terry Pratchett’s second thoughts, if you know the reference.  The process of deliberately “waking” out of one type of thought–becoming a lucid dreamer of my mundane thought process.

–Which means that a half-page of journaling isn’t a waste of time at all.

If you liked this post, why not check out something I wrote?  A Murder of Crows: 17 tales of monsters, cannibals, zombies, goddesses, crows, witches, supernatural mayhem, and just plain evil.

Current Schedule: Oops…

Here’s my current schedule:

  • Do “human stuff” like get dressed and eat breakfast.
  • Write
  • Hustle
  • Study
  • Lunch
  • Freelancing
  • Family

A lot of what I’m seeing is that I’m not spending my “hustle” time wisely; I get into a habit of doing things that are pleasant to do, but not especially effective in marketing and promotions–like editing and formatting, let alone active promotions.  It’s much easier to sell books when they’re on the market.

If you liked this post, check out a Storybundle I’m in, the SF/F Binge Reader Bundle.  It’s a bundle of SF/F bundles, nineteen novels and a mountain of short stories that give the millenium a run for its money.

Why isn’t The Silence of the Lambs considered horror?

A question that I simply had to answer on FB…everyone else was addressing the fact that it’s fine that stories without elements of the supernatural are considered horror, but not talking about underlying reasons why.  Genre is often a marketing category–not a logical one.  I realized that I’ve actually read broadly enough across the history of horror to actually answer this (although I’m probably wrong on at least a couple of points):

In the 70s and 80s, horror became pretty rigid as a genre, being mostly a marketing category to sell scantily clad, screaming (and perhaps plucky) young women and tough men with lots of grit (and perhaps hubris) against an uncaring universe. Wicked thrills, some good plot twists, some gross-out and splatter. A lot of what we think of as horror now got retconned into the genre later (the Alien series–SF). There were a few outliers who didn’t fit the mold, a lot of them British (Clive Barker). Mostly women got moved into the dregs of Gothic, fantasy, and plain ol’ fiction (I think Anne Rice was the main exception–Tanith Lee was fantasy at the time, although she was in a lot of Weird Tales–while writers like Toni Morrison or Shirley Jackson were fiction). Mostly non-supernatural horror got shunted into suspense or literary fiction (The Silence of the Lambs, Fowles’s The Collector), although if you were a name in horror, everything you wrote was de facto horror (Misery and The Eyes of the Dragon by King, which by another name would be thriller and fantasy today).

A lot of the short fiction from the time is all over the place, and is quite wonderful. But the novels were more rigidly controlled. I’m pretty sure that the writers of the time would have written more widely if they’d been able to sell those novels.

In the 90s, things opened up, but slowly, as the sales numbers of the horror genre declined, and you see stuff like more women, more horror marketed toward younger audiences (Goosebumps), more historical horror (Kim Newman), more regional horror, horror getting translated and coming in from Japan, etc., more diverse writers with more diverse stories. The 2000s is when it starts getting properly Messed Up, with metafictional horror (House of Leaves, John Dies at the End), literary horror (Dan Simmons, Let the Right One In), nihilistic horror, worldwide horror…I think the 90s and 2000s are my favorite decades since the 1890s. 

So what you have now is a genre blossoming into the broadness of the short fiction that has been the particular gold in the horror genre mines, to create a more diverse, unpredictable genre that still dips deep into the 80s horror tropes from time to time…and a lot of pulp/KDP fiction that’s trying to be The Silence of the Lambs with monsters (professional detective/agent/cop discovers monsters!). It’s a really interesting time to be writing in the genre.

If you, too, would live in interesting times…check out my cheesy 80s horror novella By Dawn’s Bloody Light, the first in the Fairy’s Tale series.  Three women, the queen of the fairies, and the serial killer who won’t know what hit him.

You’re indie and you’re ready to publish: now what?

Someone asked me what my preferred platforms were for print and ebook publishing and why.  The details have updated since the last time I blogged this, so here’s the current advice:


Lulu – have used but not since 2009 or so.  LOTS of complaints.  Do not recommend.

CreateSpace is a branch of Amazon.  Pro:  does not require ISBN.  Con:  Nobody but Amazon will sell it.  If you’re looking to get into physical bookstores or sell at cons, don’t use this as your sole printer.  That being said, I use it (I’m not ready to take on marketing to print bookstores yet, and I’d want to get a ton of ISBNs of my own first).  They do good books and mostly ship on time or early (but watch out for mid-November to mid-January, as they can be massively delayed for winter hols book season).  Recommend getting a print proof copy before going live; I’ve never had issues but lots of friends have had problems with color.  Pays on time. Softcover only.
Ingram Spark/Lightning Source are basically the same company, one for “publishers” with at least like ten books and the other for solo titles mostly.  I’m not sure of the subtle payment differences.  Also does good books.  They ship on time, as far as I know, even through the holidays, but is generally slower than CS.  They have LOTS of fees, especially if you want to change the book after it goes live.  Payment can take an arcane amount of time as you end up dealing with more physical bookstores.  I’m not sure about the returns.  You can also do hardcovers with wraparound paper jackets.
Print recommendation:
  • Avoid Lulu.
  • Set up a CreateSpace book using their free ISBN.  Sell the CS book on Amazon (you’ll make a higher profit margin if you use CS than IS).
  • Set up an Ingram Spark book using lessons learned on the CS book in order to prevent a fee train wreck. You can use the same file if you do PDF/X-1a on your file setups of both covers and interiors.
Here you have to decide whether you want to go Amazon exclusive or not.  I cannot make a recommendation on this; I was having no luck on Kindle Direct Select previously, but changed my attitude a couple of months ago and am trying again, just to see.  There’s a whole discussion about who the customers are you want to reach and how many titles you want to put out and how often that I’m not going to get into here.  In short, probably it’s “Amazon exclusive is the minimal amount of work and may be best suited to people who write pulp fiction targeting super-readers (people who read 50+ titles per week in niche categories),” and “Wide distribution is more work and may best be suited for books that have a more literary bent, aren’t published as often, and are directed toward worldwide regular readers (1+ book a week) who want access to their favorite digital readers.”  But I’m not sure about that.
To sum up, I can’t decide where anyone else wants to go with regards to Amazon exclusive 🙂
Best wide-distribution stores, though, those I can recommend:
  • Amazon (.mobi files).
  • Kobo (.epub) – note: if you use Kobo directly, ask me about the promo list
  • Draft2Digital (.epub) – note: you can flow to Kobo via D2D, but you can’t access the promo list if so, and the promo list can be very valuable
  • Smashwords is probably not worth the time, unless you want to go REALLY wide.
  • DriveThruFiction is a sister site of DriveThruRPG, which I don’t use but if you write fiction that gamers would tend to like it might be a good place.
How to set the ebooks up:
  • Some people use carefully formatted .doc files.  There are usually minor formatting issues, no matter how perfectly you follow the directions, especially with Amazon.
  • People with Macs recommend Vellum.  I don’t have a Mac and can’t speak to it.
  • The most recent versions of InDesign have an export function.  I don’t have a recent version of ID and can’t speak to it.
  • Scrivner has an export function.  I don’t have Scrivner and can’t speak to it.
  • I build an HTML file using a template, then convert to epub/mobi.  I use Calibre for the conversion, but I should probably switch over to building my own files at some point.  I haven’t yet.
  • I have had to rebuild files for other clients because they converted using InDesign, due to InDesign introducing too many errors in the converted ebook.  But it’s been a while.
  • If you want to see the HTML file building/conversion process, I highly recommend BB eBooks.  <3 <3 <3

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