You Ain’t -Punk

I missed my opportunity to go to Cleveland ConCoction last weekend due to a teensy little surgical procedure to reconstruct my ACL. Considering my mobility depends on a pair of crutches, and how my leg gets painfully swollen if I stand too long, I reluctantly relinquished my hotel reservation.

In fact, much of my year is kind of shot. ConFluence in Pittsburgh is up in the air. And in truth, I’ve kind of reached a break point in my job. I believe I’ve mentioned I was promoted to team lead, but the workload was vast. The goal post for our project kept shifting and work weeks inflated to 50 or 60 hours long. While we met the minimum viable product standards Friday before last, but I am getting more optimistic that the next release will not be so demanding.

The prior week however, was devoted to rest and recovery. Hours were spent catching up on television, including the second season of The Expanse, the final season of The StrainAltered Carbon and several episodes of the original Star Trek. I also made significant headway into Black Lightning and the second season of Jessica Jones. Movies weren’t ignored either as I finally caught Black PantherCocoThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (which I did not enjoy) and Moana (which I did). I also found time to wrap up Stephen King’s It and Into the Blight by my friend and first-time novelist Jonathan Ward. I recommend you read it and keep an eye on Ward as a promising new author as it was very well told.

With something to do besides just work all the time, I’ve felt a hungering to write again unlike any other. There’s a part of me who covets something that isn’t out there. Something that isn’t totally like everything I’ve read or watched before. Much of my bibliography has been to distinctly please someone else; a publisher, an editor, a franchise, a fan base. Very little has been for me.

This idea of writing for myself reminded me of the anger I bear towards the current direction of the indie publishing industry. In the last few years, a couple of publishers had ripped me and my friends off. Yet we’ve seen interest dying among readers from too many titles. Anyone foolish enough to ask writer corners for suggestions gets buried in 60 or so self-published sales pitches.

And maybe there’s a hint of paranoia in the mix. I find myself a bit guarded on the occasions when I’m asked about the process of writing for Banner Saga. Kind of like the Oscars, where those celebrities’ faces dropped when they were asked, “What would you tell the younger generation of actors who are trying to make it?” It’s this sensation of knowing that someone nakedly wants something that makes one feel a little apprehensive.

Honesty keeps a blog from being boring.

That’s the cynicism talking. The same bitterness that found itself into a short story embracing it. A story that was good enough to inspire Manuel to work on a comic for it, and he’s hard at work learning the ropes about this first time endeavor. I really wish I could tell you that it’s right around the corner, that it’ll be published in a month or so. But it won’t be. It sucks but art takes time.

More so because I really want Manuel to learn the ropes about every aspect of making a comic. I am not helping to raise an artist (Manuel was long already that), I’m helping to train a full fledged art director. And to do that, he has to have a solid, hands-on understanding of every aspect of the process, even if he eventually delegates others to take charge of lettering or layout, etc. I think a solid leader is a jack-of-all-trades who, at the very least, has a good grasp of each element of whatever makes the product in question.

But this comic and the bitterness that surrounds it… I worry sometimes that cutting off larger chunks of myself for the witch’s ink brew can backlash. New marketing ideas I’ve considered seem sarcastic and even combative. We talked genre labels and one idea kept coming up that we found hysterical: calling out the -punk suffix cause most of it isn’t really punk.

It isn’t.

All these names began as a twist on cyberpunk, which usually is punk— stories that mix low life and high tech, and usually revel around sticking it to the man. But with all the -punk genres, the anti-authoritarian attitudes died down, and the punk themes were set aside for exploratory tales, alternate histories (like Iron Harvest, which I’ve backed and if you’re into RTS games, you should too) and ideas more in the proto-science fiction vein.

I haven’t been studying marketing as hard as I should, but I’m fairly certain that calling a motherfucker out is not considered sound practice. Yet there is something attractive about the idea, given that indie publishing inevitably has an anti-establishment streak to it, or at least should. Therein lies the point: if you succeed, Disney will buy it and make a mint. If you’re semi-successful, Disney will loot the concept. Hell is the only asylum, full of the despicable and the incorrigible that they will never touch.

Back to work.

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Spring 2015 Catalog

The small press publishing game is a very slow one. It’s easy to assume that last sentence is a complaint, but rather it’s insider knowledge of the challenges it takes to publish a good book.

msjWith multi-author anthologies, the biggest delays are obtaining rights, editing, and checking the changes against the authors’ permissions. Another time sink is the formatting, when one realizes the spacing between paragraphs and sentences is not uniform, or various word processors or fonts apply their own twist on the appearance of quotes and apostrophes. With electronic books, a relatively centered body of text is usually fine. But print has to account for the left-versus-right spaces between the pages themselves, lest words sink towards the spine.

I’ve been through the process enough to know.

Sorry, I’m digressing. But with good reason. I’ve been glancing over my bibliography and find it unfortunate that several of my tales have gone out of print with the closing of Cruentus Libri Press a year ago.

But between those stories and the expiration of publishing rights for The Black Winds Whispers, I now have a flash piece, three short stories and a novelette for republishing. Material enough to cobble together a low cost, personal anthology.

The central theme of this potential anthology is horror, but the sub-genres are more eclectic. I have a mystery and detective piece that takes place in London during the 70s. I have a World War I story between France and Germany, a psychological-medical tale, and the short, “The Child of Iron” which seemed a favorite amongst the beta readers. A fine mix of various forms of horror.

GuardiansWhile this is a very good start, I feel the need to provide a little more to make a satisfactory book. I’ve been glancing through my old drafts for any works I could dust off and improve. There is a World War II horror tale that certainly has promise.

I also realized that the rights to Welcome to Hell have ended. Which means that my horror western “The Rusted Star” can now be used. That makes for six pieces. I think that’s a solid measure.

There are also quite a few dark fantasy pieces (including one with Cthulu mythos in the Indus Valley civilization), but I feel that fantasy would be a theme-breaker for this anthology. Everything else is either current or historical, so I’d rather reserve those fantasy works for something else. I’ll see what I can find.

I’ve already contacted Manuel about a book cover and plan to take some time to review the old work throughout next month.

Because the majority of the manuscripts are finished and have been edited once, I think it’s reasonable I can have the entire thing complete and available by Halloween of this year. In the mean time, my faithful readers, here are a few other titles to check out.

“Favours the Prepared” from the Fox Pocket: Guardians.

To the outside world, Marissa is a reclusive shut in, remaining in her apartment and never showing her face. In truth, she is awaiting visitors.

The Good Fight“Sins and Dust” from Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2015.

A historical-horror tale of genuine mad science that takes place during the Dust Bowl storms of the 30s. A gut wrenching look into the emotional toll of the Great Depression, and the desperate lengths we would go to for our loved ones.

“The Beast in the Beauty” from The Good Fight.

Coming soon from Emby Press is our (yes, our!) biggest and best tale yet. Sara is a high school student with a bright future. But her graduation plans are dashed when she discovers that someone she knows has broken into her school and violently slain several people. But the truth changes the course of her life forever… and launches her into a war behind the scenes, taking place in the same universe as Jonathan Ward’s “The Falcon” and A.R. Aston’s “For a Fistful of Diamonds” which both are in this anthology.

The Good Fight is the prologue to Outliers, a superhero epic quarterly series we’re developing with a few other authors. So don’t miss it!

Writer’s Scars

“Today was not a possibility. It was an inevitability.”

 

So long since my last post, and so much news.

The Black Wind’s Whispers is (finally) out in print edition. Still working on the same for Marching Time, although the Kindle version of that is available. And we’ve been making strides towards Far Worlds, our next Bolthole anthology which is currently in the works.

I’m also stepping down from the Bloghole. I enjoyed my time there and learned so much about the business, but I want to return to writing and writing related projects.

But the whooping news is that a particular publishing company is shutting down. Their printing ends in February next year. And with it, fellow writer Jonathan Ward and I are losing over half our published works.

As I spoke to him, I learned final warnings from the owner. He told me stories of queries from contributors and new authors, trying to find out when the next opening was. Gauging if they could openly submit a novel. He told me how disheartening it was to turn people down and dealing with points of reduced sales.

But despair and I are old friends. Few people know how to hold onto lost causes better than myself or Rhett Butler, and the education given to me by others only serves to enhance my zeal.

But the former point the owner mentioned is a lesson. I’m spoiled because so many new writers dive after novels instead of trying their hands at short stories and mastering their craft. I did a novella once, and have learned that it is better to do as you are asked than try your hand at something unexpected and not requested.

It seems that future writing projects will need to have some kind of buffer. We’ll have to draw our line carefully and find a means to filter that which we do not ask for.

Well, that’s a concern for a future day.

But there’s a coming-of-age lesson here and it starts with the title. Today was not a possibility. It was an inevitability. Every writer who held on has to deal with the moment that the publication containing their works goes out of print somehow. Maybe the one-time rights expire. Maybe the company shuts down, or violates some agreement and has to stop the book from further circulation.

Maybe you knew it was coming. Maybe it’s a bolt out of the blue. But those stories you crafted, the tales that wowed editors enough to be printer worthy, are given back to you. And it dawns on you that, for the first time, your pieces of work must be submitted with the word ‘reprint’ stamped to it.

All of a sudden, this great tale is no longer quite as valuable. Sometimes, companies flat out refuse reprints. Other times they’ll take them… at 10% the cost of what they would pay for an original. “Our normal rate is $.05 a word. But since this has already been published once, we can only offer you a flat rate of $25.”

Or less.

But like I said. Anyone who holds on long enough has to deal with this. Stories do eventually become homeless. I think of accomplished guys like Josh Reynolds, who have or had well over a hundred short stories published. There’s no way they could all remain in circulation.

It’s a day to remember at least. But for now, the following stories are available for only another five months. Get them while they’re hot…

“On Ne Passé Pas!” from War is Hell.

“Happily Ever After”from Under the Knife.

“The Child of Iron” from From Their Cradle to Your Grave.

“The Eyes from 100 Horrors: Tales of Horror in the Blink of an Eye.