It is Crypticon weekend once again, and I will be there as a panelist! I had a great time doing it last year and I’m definitely looking forward to being back. If you’re anywhere near the Seattle area, and you love horror, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. And while you’re there, you should come see one of my panels! (Remember, while I’m always happy to sign books, I will only sign body parts that are a.) yours, and b.) still attached.)
Friday, May 24th, 6:00pm / Emerald Ballroom A
2012: The Year in Horror Movies
Friday, May 24th, 9:00pm / Emerald Ballroom C
The History of Horror Comics and Freedom of Speech
Saturday, May 25th, 2:00pm / Emerald Ballroom B
Horror in Doctor Who
Saturday, May 25th, 7:00pm / Emerald Ballroom C
Horror’s Unique Expressions in Comics
Sunday, May 26th, 2:00pm / Emerald Ballroom C
Female Heroes in Horror
Finally put together something I’ve had in mind for quite a while — an e-book collection of short stories especially for the subscribers to my Announcements List. I really appreciate the people who invite me into their inboxes to let them know about my new books and new projects, and I wanted to do something nice for them.
Here are a few words from the book’s introduction, laying out the theme:
So when I wanted to put this collection together, I decided that it needed to be a collection of stories that were about friendship. That was not difficult to accomplish; friendship is a theme I keep coming back to again and again in my fiction. In her review of SLICES, Elizabeth Twist wrote:
The failures and beauties of human relationships are at the core of Michael’s work [....] SLICES is at its strongest when considering the many permutations of men’s relationships, most sadly and beautifully in the context of male friendship, brotherhood, and love.
I think that’s a pretty fair statement of what many of my stories are really about.
A lot of fiction in general — I mean, seriously, a lot of it — is about romantic love. I get that. Love is madness. It can drive us to our highest heights and our lowest depths. That’s an engine that can drive a million stories.
But I think that, in my experience, the worst things you often end up doing in your life, the stupidest things, are the things you end up doing for your friends. Standing up for your friends can fuck you up; helping them out of the trouble they get into can lead you deeper into danger than you would ever end up on your own.
With that in mind, I’d like to present some stories of people who have gone too far in the name of friendship, trusted the wrong people and made some bad decisions, and ended up on the edge of everything they ever considered possible. I hope you enjoy them.
“WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE” contains one sample story from each of my three anthologies, and a bonus novella that hasn’t been published anywhere else! There’s a history behind this story and a reason why my subscribers will be the only ones to get to read it — but you’ll find that out when you download the book and read the introduction.
If you’re already on the mailing list, you should already have your email with the download links — it went out this morning. If you’re not a subscriber yet, why not subscribe right now? Once you confirm your subscription, you’ll be directed to a page with the download links.
Let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you all!
Well, okay, if you’ve been to Bloodletters in the past few days, you may have seen them already, but I never really got a chance to post about them between the time I found out that the new covers had gone live on Amazon and the time I ran out the door to drive down to Portland for the HP Lovecraft Film Festival (which was awesome, by the way).
One of the many advantages that come with self-publishing is the fact that even after your book is “published,” you can still easily make changes to it whenever the mood strikes you. Here are the covers that my anthologies had up until this past week:
Now, there was nothing wrong with these. They were good covers. I thought they looked professional, several people have complimented me on them — I could have happily left them as they were.
But I had just recently finished a major revision of my novel-in-progress, Still Life, and I sat down to design a cover for it. (Changing gears from writing and editing to purely visual graphic design is one way I trick myself into thinking I get to “relax” while remaining productive.) I could have used the same font and layout for the new cover as I did with the anthologies — or to look at it from a marketing standpoint, the same “trade dress” — but I wanted to do something different, something really vibrant and lively. I wanted the book to look like some really exciting pop-culture object, something irresistible to pick up.
What’s that? You want to see that cover? Oh. Umm, sorry, you don’t get to. Not yet, anyway. It’ll be a couple of months, still, until the book is ready for release, and I’m going to reveal that cover a little closer to the drop date. So you’ll have to wait a bit longer. (Unless you’re on my mailing list, that is, in which case you might want to check your in-box sometime in the next day or two.)
Anyway! My point is, I ended up liking the layout of the new cover so much that I decided to go back and redo all my existing covers to match. Partly so that my books will still have a consistent look-and-feel when the novel does come out, but mainly, I admit, because I just thought it would be cool. Check out the new covers below, and let me know what you think in the comments.
Oh, yeah, speaking of covers I’ve designed — you should really go check out the new book by my friend Ron Miles – 3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance with Snow White. It’s a true story, and it’s pretty wonderful and heartwarming, so in other words, pretty much exactly the opposite of what I write. Ron commissioned that cover design from me, and I’m glad he was so happy with it. 3500 is free right now, and we’re right down to the last hour or so of that promotion, so go grab it while you can.
I’ve been on kind of a Clive Barker kick lately. I’ve been a fan of his for years, and he’s always been a huge influence, but it seems like he’s been looming especially large in my personal zeitgeist these past few weeks.
For starters, I’ve been following the man himself on Facebook, and that’s been seriously fascinating. The things he posts there are very honest, personal, and insightful, and if you want a glimpse into his life and thought processes, you should really check it out.
Are you a Hellraiser fan? Then you should also check out a new podcast called We Have Such Films To Show You. A couple of fans are watching all nine Hellraiser films, and devoting an episode of the podcast to each one. The first couple of episodes so far are funny and engaging, and it’s interesting to hear these two talk about why they love these movies at the same time as they nitpick their many, many flaws. I don’t really normally listen to podcasts, but I’m enjoying the hell out of these.
If you have seen the Hellraiser movies, remember how the second film really takes the setting shown in the first movie and just kind of blows it wide open? The way it pulls back and increases the scale of the world we’re shown? That wider scope is central to one blogger’s argument that Hellbound: Hellraiser II is one of the best movies ever made, and, well, while I wouldn’t go that far, I will say that’s always been one of the main reasons I love the film. Ready to have your mind blown open again? Go and read the first issue of the Hellraiser comic for free online. I’d been vaguely aware that Boom! Studios had started a new Hellraiser comic a couple years ago, but somehow, I’d missed the fact that Clive Barker was actually the one writing it. This first issue gave me that same feeling of increased scale, with its grand sweeping vision of hell, and it almost makes up for all the disappointing movie sequels. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of this series.
Finally, the main thing that’s had me bouncing up and down with excitement lately is that I’m going down to Portland, Oregon this weekend to see Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut at the Portland H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. If you’ve seen Nightbreed, then you know two things — first, it’s freakin’ awesome, and second, it, uhhh, doesn’t always make a hell of a lot of sense. It feels like there’s a lot you’re missing — and there is! The studio, once they realized they’d actually greenlit a film where the monsters are the good guys, cut the damn thing to ribbons in the editing room. For years, a decent director’s cut of this movie has been one of my holy grails, and this is as close as I’m likely to get — all of the missing footage has been restored, albeit from a low-quality VHS copy that had been thought lost for years and finally turned up in a dark and dusty corner of Clive’s office. I can’t even tell you how psyched I am for this, and if you can possibly make it to Portland, you should come, too.
Quote of the Day:
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
– Charles Bukowski
Ahhh, Goodreads. As a social book recommendation platform, used and loved by millions, it’s second-to-none for readers. For writers, well — it’s kind of an impenetrable mystery.
I think every writer must look at their userbase of sixteen million readers and wonder, how can I reach them? Or, to expand on that question in a rather important way, how can I reach them without getting flagged as a spammer and getting my account disabled? Kind of an important distinction.
Used to be simple. Used to be, you’d run a giveaway to offer up a free copy of a print edition of your book to the winners. The idea being to increase the visibility of your book and get people to add it to their “to-read” lists. And then, as authors like Lindsay Buroker were suggesting less than a year ago, you could contact everyone else who entered the contest and offer them a free copy of your e-book edition.
Yeeeeeaaahh, not so fast, there, cowboy. Turns out they’ve been cracking down on authors doing that, and now their guidelines say:
Can I send a message to the people who didn’t win my giveaway, thanking them?
Unfortunately, no. We’ve found from previous experience that many of our members consider such messages spam. While they have expressed interest in getting a free copy of your book, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to receive a message from you with a promotional offer.
We recommend adding a link to your author profile in your giveaway and encouraging people to become your fan. That way, they will stay up to date with everything happening with your book via your blog and status updates.
So once that door was gently closed in my face, I’ll admit I was stumped. I was unconvinced that their recommendation would lead to any actual result.
Meanwhile, I was sitting here with a fairly large number of friends on Goodreads, and no idea how I was supposed to be able to reach out to them. And my list of friends was growing all the time.
How did I get to that point? Well, I have a ton of followers on Twitter, whom I’ve amassed through a completely promiscuous policy of following anyone I trip across who looks remotely interesting, and engaging with the people who follow me back. And then when I first joined Goodreads, I noticed that the site had a feature that allowed you to import your Twitter followers and add them as friends.
Doing that caused me to reach some kind of critical mass, apparently, because I now get three or four friend requests on Goodreads every day, and I’ve just been blithely approving them all, thinking, “Okay, now what?”
And then it finally struck me.
These people are approaching me with their friend requests. As far as I’m concerned, that’s permission to start a conversation.
So now when I approve a new friend request on Goodreads, I follow it up with a private message thanking them for adding me and offering them a free e-book. I don’t send the download link in the original message; to me, that would seem a little pushy and rude. I ask if they’re interested first, and then send them links in a followup if they are.
I haven’t been doing this for very long, but so far, the response has been phenomenal. Literally 90% of the people I’ve contacted have accepted the offer and most of them have promised to review it. (I do mention in the original message that I would appreciate a review, but that they shouldn’t feel obligated.) And of the 10% that weren’t interested, not one person has seemed offended that I made the offer.
This is going great. It’s a slow but steady trickle of new readers that I’m making a personal connection with. Right now, giving away e-books is going to continue to be the best way I can build word-of-mouth. I hope that doing this will get me some reviews — but even more importantly, it’s getting my books into the hands of people who might not have read them otherwise, potential new fans who just might tell all their friends to check me out.
If you’re one of my new Goodreads fans, hello and welcome to the blog! Hope you enjoy it. If you’re not, and you want to get in on some of this free e-book action, just send me some e-mail and ask. Seriously, I don’t mind.
In case you missed my low-key little announcement on Twitter the other day, I actually finally finished my revision of Still Life, a novel that continues the story of Nikki Velvet, a character introduced in the story “One Last Sunset” in Slices.
I wrote the first draft of this novel over ten years ago, and getting it into publishable shape now was a huge, daunting task. But Scrivener made it much, much easier. I don’t know how much longer I would have put off these revisions if I hadn’t had Scrivener. Another ten years, probably.
Instead of having to deal with one overwhelming, monolithic Word document, Scrivener allowed me to easily carve my manuscript up into manageable scenes which I could view as an outline or as notecards on a corkboard and easily re-arrange and add new content to. It gave me a single place to keep all my notes and references and keep everything organized. It autosaves all my changes literally every couple of seconds, and I have it saving to my Dropbox folder so it automatically syncs between my laptop and my desktop computer.
Originally only available on Macs, it finally came out for Windows about a year ago, and I’ve been happily using it ever since.
The software normally costs $40, which is already a pretty great price, but thanks to a timely tweet from Rainy Kaye, I just found out that you can buy Scrivener for just $20, today only, which is a ridiculously good deal. I mean, come on, you can’t even get a decent pizza for $20.
(UPDATE: As of Friday afternoon, April 26th, looks like the sale is still going on!)
Go! Check it out! Make your writing life easier.
Oh, hey, here’s the post that I’ve been promising you ever since I ran my last e-book giveaway at the end of January. From everything I’ve read, the best way to reach a wide audience with a giveaway like that one is to submit the details to websites that promotes free e-books, preferably as many of them as possible.
Several of these sites will allow you to list your book giveaway for free; however, they usually don’t guarantee placement, and may not list your book if they don’t have sufficient space. Some of the sites offer free listings, but with an optional paid upgrade to guarantee that your book will be promoted on the right day. Other sites offer paid listings only. So if you’re going to do this, be sure you read each site’s guidelines carefully before you submit.
Also, pay careful attention to the lead time required by each site. Some sites want you to submit your details at least one month before your book is scheduled to be free; other sites only want to be informed about book giveaways on the day they happen.
Here’s my list of these websites. I know I submitted Permanent Damage to most of these, but I couldn’t tell you off-hand which ones; some of them I found and bookmarked after that. But here’s what I’ve got so far. Wherever possible, I’ve linked directly to the guidelines or the submission form.
There are also a bunch of Twitter accounts that post about free e-books, and you might have some success contacting them by direct message or posting publicly at them about your giveaway. Here’s the list of the ones I’ve found.
Well, maybe you could even do both!
I started something of an experiment a week ago. I started a two-week giveaway of Counting from Ten over on Goodreads, and then proceeded to — well, do nothing, actually. I’ve run giveaways there before and managed to get a halfway decent response to them, but I’ve also promoted them through the usual channels; here on this blog, over on the Facebooks and the Twitters, and in my e-mail newsletter. This time I thought, what if I didn’t do any of that? What would the response be like if I just let Goodreads users naturally discover it on their own?
One week later, I can tell you what that response has been like. Dismal, that’s what that response has been like. Right now, only 149 people have entered to win the book, out of all five kajillion Goodreads users. Man, that’s depressing. I would almost wonder if the book needed a new description, except I just gave it a new description a little while ago that seems to have helped increase its sales over on Amazon. So I dunno.
So anyway, long story short, I decided that this week I would start promoting the giveaway, and see if that seemed to make any difference. Why not enter today? If you already have a print copy of Counting from Ten, first of all, bless you for that, and secondly, you can always give this one to a friend.
See, the thing is, Counting from Ten needs some love. I don’t think I promoted it anywhere near enough when I first published the 10th anniversary edition. Consequently, even though this is the book that several of my fans have told me is still their favorite (which I always hear as them saying, “you peaked immediately and have kept going downhill with each new release,” but that’s probably not how they actually mean it), it has a paltry three reviews on Amazon. Again, dismal. So I’m really hoping this giveaway will get it in the hands of someone who will write a review. You, maybe? Look, I’m batting my cute little eyelashes.
But anyway! While I’ve been paying attention to all this, apparently, Read an E-Book Week has started! I know, right? No one told me, either. But no, really, it’s happening, look, there’s a little graphic for it and everything:
That’s how you know it’s a real thing. People all over the book-o-sphere are making their e-books available for free or cheap, so I figured, what the hell, why not? So between now and March 9th, you can get “Slices”, “Counting From Ten”, and “Permanent Damage” for just $0.99 each! That means you could pick up all three of them for slightly less than it would normally cost you to buy any one of them, and if that doesn’t sound like a good deal to you then I don’t even know what the hell you people want from me anymore.
Wow, that escalated quickly. Anyway! Hope you get a chance to check out the giveaway and maybe the sales, and as always, please pass the word along to whomever you normally pass the word along to. Thanks, I love you guys.
The other day, I logged into my Amazon Author Central page and was happy to see that someone had left a new review for Detritus, the anthology that my short story “Heroes and Villains” originally appeared in. Happy, that is, until I actually read the review:
I enjoyed all the stories with the common ground of “collecting.” Quite a few made me cringe. However, one bothered me- it was the comic book story which seemed to recreate the story from a movie I’ve seen and upon research it appears the movie came first. This really bugged me as it seemed to steal a great idea. Other than that I was quite impressed with the collection.
Ahhh, nuts. I’ve been afraid someone would think that.
Now, I don’t know for sure what movie she’s thinking of, but I strongly suspect that it’s Comic Book Villains. I have seen it; it’s a fairly entertaining, if occasionally meandering, indie thriller. And yeah, the setup of that movie and the setup of my story are fairly similar, because both involve savvy comic book dealers taking advantage of the heir to a comics collection who doesn’t know its true worth. Beyond the set up, though, I think the two stories are substantially different; at least, I hope they are, although admittedly it’s been years since I’ve seen the movie.
The thing is, though, I wasn’t really thinking of the movie when I came up with the idea for this story. I was thinking of the same thing that the creators of movie were thinking of — an actual historical event.
In 1977, Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics discovered the “Edgar Church collection”, or as it’s more popularly known, the “Mile High collection”. The estate of Edgar Church was desperate to unload the roughly 22,000 comics that the collector had accumulated during his lifetime, and weren’t interested in commission sales — they wanted them gone now, and offered to sell them to Rozanski for $2,000.
At the time, the collection was actually worth more than $300,000, and Rozanski made over $2,000,000 from selling the collection over the next eight years, mostly to other dealers.
I’ve read Rozanski’s own account of the discovery and subsequent sale, and I’ve read a lot of criticism over the years by people who feel that he took an unfair advantage and basically swindled them out of some valuable property. I’m kind of undecided as to what I think of the ethics of the situation, but one thing I knew for sure when I first heard about it — there was some serious human drama involved there, and it could be the seed for one hell of a story. That’s stayed in my head ever since I first heard about it, and when I saw the call for submissions to Detritus, it was the first thing I thought of.
I just took the same liberty with the original event that the makers of Comic Book Villains did — added another party to the transaction, so there would be conflict and drama. There really isn’t much of a story there otherwise. In the movie, the factions are two rival comic book shops; in my short story, it’s just a couple of kids with big ambitions, which I think makes a huge difference to how the events of each story play out.
I would love to comment on the Amazon review, and let the reviewer know that while my characters may be thieves, I’m not one myself. I didn’t “steal a great idea” anymore than the makers of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre stole their idea from Psycho, just because both movies were based on the atrocities committed by Ed Gein.
But I’ve always considered it poor form to directly respond to negative criticism with anything other than a, “I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the story, thank you so much for reading.” So I’m just going to leave it alone. But since it’s been itching in my brain for the past couple of days, I figured the only way to get it out of my system was to set the record straight here. (I also, to make myself feel better and for your amusement, decided to mock up the cover of one of the comics mentioned in my story. Although this clearly isn’t the actual issue mentioned in my story, but the cover from a Nineties reboot of the same character. I mean, obviously.)
By sheer coincidence, I’m going to dinner tonight with my friend Steve Feldon for his birthday, and I’m going to be bringing him a few boxes of comics from my collection that I don’t actually want anymore. If it turns out that anything hidden away in those boxes makes him a millionaire — well, I at least hope he’ll buy me a beer or something.