Carpenter, Craven, Barker and me

I’ve been invited to join the TOC (Table of Contents) for the upcoming Horror 201: The Silver Scream. (2015)

I’ll be joining truly illustrious people like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Clive Barker, … well, check out the list. I don’t know how Joe Mynhardt, the editor – who’s brilliant, by the way — does it, but, dang, he always manages to get an awesome line-up.

Oh, and me.

I’ll try not to embarrass myself. ;) 

Career Implosion in 5, 4, 3, 2 …

Writers need Readers. Period. End of story. They’re our bread and butter. As long as they One Click, flip the pages, and Rate and Review, we can write. They make what we do possible. And the interest — hopefully the continued interest — they show in our work affords us the LUXURY of doing what we do.

They should be treated with gratitude, respect, and, yes, patience.

If you’re lucky, if you’re VERY lucky, your readers will forge a relationship with you. Will feel they’re welcome to reach out with questions and praise. Will feel, on some level, that you CARE about them, sincerely, and that you APPRECIATE their interest and support. And if you’re very, very lucky, readers will enjoy your work so much that they want to see you succeed. Perhaps even have some kind of vested interest in seeing you do well. Will CELEBRATE with you as you do better and better. Will tell their friends about you. Urge their friends to buy your work and read it and review it.

And, my god, guys, that right there is the Holy Grail for writers. Really. Readers being so engaged that they, via the oh so powerful Word of Mouth, get out there, sing your praises, and, essentially, do your marketing for you.

But that’s a double-edged sword. 

When Readers become that engaged, they’re working with a narrative of Who You Are. Or, more accurately, Who They Believe You Are. A narrative you help create, by the way, with social media, quick emails, blog tours and interviews.

Now, if the narrative is good — Oh my god, Jonathan is so freakin’ cool. I love his work! — you’re golden. But if the narrative is bad — Wow, Jonathan is such a douchebag. I can’t stand that guy and wouldn’t read Proseuche if it was the last book on earth — it’s really, really, really bad.

Of course the narrative can change. If you’re going from Douchebag to Golden, congrats. Takes a lot of work, a lot of humility and apology, the repairing of an image and the forging of a lot of trust, but it can be done.

But what happens if you pull a Chelsea Cain (I refuse to link her because, as she herself said, you can Google it yourself), go on a social media rant about all the “inane” questions you get from readers and how you are, in essence, not the readers’ bitch, dig the hole deeper by being utterly unapologetic about how ungrateful you sound, and, in the space of an afternoon, completely change the narrative of Who You Are?

Well, you’re fucked.

Because, and this is something her Publisher gets that she still doesn’t, there are now a whole bunch of readers who have as an introduction to her this Angry Facebook Rant reeking of a sense of entitlement and a lack of gratitude. And who knows how many people who were familiar with her, who’d read her books, and were perhaps looking forward to the new one, have now decided NOT to One Click because, really, if she’s not going to appreciate their support, why should they?

Besides, there are so many OTHER authors to support. Authors who are nice. Who appreciate them. Who WANT their support. Who still NEED them.

Of course some will say Hey, people are talking about her and that’s a good thing.

But is it? Having people know you as someone who didn’t appreciate their readers — now, I’m not sure that’s how Miss Cain actually feels, but that’s the NARRATIVE that’s being discussed and lodging itself in the minds of readers — and who was generally unpleasant about the whole thing is somehow going to help her in the long run?

Let’s ask Faye Dunaway how well that works. (hint: not very well)

Point is, a history as a bestseller doesn’t exempt you from being gracious and polite. From APPRECIATING those who choose to One Click and show their support. And if their questions are REALLY that inane and troublesome, then get off your ass, set up an automated email response that addresses those most frequently asked — Hugh Howey has one that’s humorously apologetic for being “from a robot”, witty, engaging, sincere and, best of all, informative — and maybe update your website, showing the number of the book in the series instead of assuming readers will figure it out by reading the synopsis.

But, for god’s sake, if you’re feeling THAT stressed and THAT angry, turn Facebook off, close the computer, and WALK AWAY!!! 

Because bitching about your readers is one surefire way to completely screw up Who They Think You Are and implode a career in 5, 4, 3, 2 … 

 

Dumb it down?

A friend of mine, someone with the best of intentions, said something the other day that nearly stopped me in my tracks.

“Maybe you’d sell a lot more books if you dumbed your writing down.”

Now, I had to think about that for a second because he wasn’t referring to my subject matter — the immortal Martuk slaying his way through a lifetime of endless centuries — but more to the way it’s written. It’s intelligent. It has a unique voice that still follows the basic rules of sentence structure and grammar. It’s ambitious but still accessible. The sentences are more lyrical than not. There’s character development and several story lines all spinning around a central narrative held together in a clever framing device. And this narrative is designed to not only stand alone, but stretch over a three-book series as well as an ongoing collection of short fiction.

Ah, you see? There’s the problem.

Publishing these days — and I’m talking about indie, single author, and the Big Five — isn’t as focused on quality as it could be. The mediocre is applauded. The abysmal is celebrated. Anyone writing anything that would be considered “normal” ten years ago — story, appropriate dialogue tags, realistic conversations from people who could actually exist — is thought of as an anomaly. Something new. Different.

And that worries me.

That the bar would be so low that the telling of a story would be thought of as something newsworthy is not a good thing. In fact, as I said in a recent interview, we, as Writers, should be expected to tell a story. Telling one should not be seen as something cool. It’s our feckin’ job, for Christ’s sake!

But so many have found success doing so little. Or doing so little so poorly that their attitude is, Well, people seem to like it, so why change?

Why change?

Because you can do better. Because your readers, whether they know it or not, want you to do better.

Because if you keep half-assing it, that will become the New Normal, you won’t grow as a writer, and there will be generations of readers who won’t know Good Writing from a hole in the ground. Though you know damn well at least the hole will have a backstory as to how it got there whereas your book will be a long series of events that end up leading to a big fat Nothing.

So, here’s the deal:

I’ll continue writing the way I write. That’s the little I can do to change the tide. And when readers tire of piss-poor writing revolving around non-existent stories peopled by cardboard cutouts murmuring, sighing, giggling, growling, breathing, whispering, moaning, laughing inane ridiculous dialogue no one would actually say, my work — and the work of hundreds if not thousands like me — will be there waiting for them.

‘Cause I’ll be damned if I’m going to dumb it down.

 

 

What secrets … what mysteries …

“What need have they of their bodies, the dead?” Her hand rested on her throat, the fingers caressing her voice before it traveled to her mouth and rolled from her tongue. “If our pleas, our words, our demands can coax them from their slumber and they can rise and join us, then, of course, they can be of use.”

“How? How could the dead be of any use?”

She watched me. “What can they bring back from the dark?” Her hands were clasped in her lap, her shoulders suddenly square and tense. “What secrets can they share? What mysteries? What answers can they drag with them from that netherworld of shadow and fog and the dreams you dream in the deepest of sleeps?

“That’s why we would dig them up and lay them in front of the fire. That’s why we would carve words into their flesh. Sacred, secret words. Words which can only live on the tongue of a blade and in the slicing of skin. That’s why we would then raise them up and hope beyond hope that there would be something to learn. Something more. Something wonderful and mysterious. Something wise that we could use.

“And then one day it went wrong. Horribly wrong.”

There was a sudden quiet. I let Cecilia have this brief moment of peace, knowing the pain one finds when stumbling through the jagged rocks of memory.

I gave her a quick glance.

Her eyes had found me.

She reached forward and took my hand.

Her eyes closed and she breathed deep. “A man appeared in the fire.”

She then opened her eyes as she continued.

“A man appeared, wrapped in flames, and, with a look, stole our breath, stole our life, our knowledge and power. With a look, this stranger in the flames brought it all to an end.”

— excerpt from Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche (July 2015)

Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche

Proseuche, the long awaited sequel to Martuk … the Holy, is slated for a mid-July 2014 release date.

So, between now and then, you can expect news on upcoming interviews and blog stops, excerpts, peeks at the cover and back cover synopsis, and perhaps even a few blurbs from some of the best authors working today.

Real excited about this one, guys. :)

The Wounded King – FREE

Yep, you read that right.  The Wounded King, Book One in The Martuk Series, an ongoing collection of Short Fiction based on my award-winning debut novel Martuk … the Holy, will be FREE for one day and one day only, March 27th.

Curious?  Here’s an excerpt:

 

“I eat,” Mother suddenly said.

“The flesh –”

She interrupted me with a nod.

“It’s hungry,” she said, her voice low, the words almost a whisper. “Its stomach desperate for the meat, the muscle, the skin. If I don’t feed It, there’s pain.”

Her hand on her stomach, she continued.

“I am powerless, my son. I don’t want to. I don’t want this. It’s disgusting, it sickens me, it’s something I cannot stop, and it’s destroyed me. The taste, the feel of it in my mouth, the smell on my hands, my fingers –”

She stopped, this brief moment of lucidity gone as quickly as it began.

Closing her eyes, she cocked her head, distracted by something only she could hear. The morning had grown dark, the sun shadowed by a rare cloud.

I looked up to see a clear blue sky.

The shadows grew.

“A God is being born,” she finally said. “The pain, the anguish I endure, is this body dying so that this God, this Dark God, can be born. And I, as that God, will rule.”

The dark grew darker.

I moved closer to her.

“Mother …” I began, “the shadows, they’re moving.”

“Yes, It moves and It is only one shadow.”

It quickened, the dark, as it slid along the ground, vaporous fingers reaching out to my Mother as she spoke.

“It needed the flesh, you see. An eternity caressing all those bodies as they slept, lifetimes licking the skin, the flesh on its tongue only a taste, ephemeral, quickly gone.

“It needed to eat. Finally. Needed more. It needed to feel the life in Its mouth. It needed to tear the skin and rip the muscle and gnaw the bone. Experience being alive, experience living, all those deaths feeding It.

“And now It will live through me, with me, as me.”

The shadow grew, an immense cloud around us, the dust lifting from the ground to churn in the black, the warmth of day now the moist, steamy heat of something uncontrollable, unknowable, and wrong.

“Mother, It will eat you.”

She no longer heard me, the silent song of these shadows obsessing her.

I grabbed her hand.

“Please …” I began as the Darkness lifted me.

You will see …

(a small excerpt from Martuk … the Holy:  Proseuche)

“You will see the beginning,” she then said.

With a small shake of my head, I focused on the water.

Another fire.

This one in a small room. A cave, I think, the ceiling low.

And around the flames, a group of people chanting.  Cecilia chanting.

“You will see …” she began.

A dead boy.

“You will see …”

A dead boy who now sat up, his eyes open, his mouth open.

Words coming from the dead boy.  Words that were not his in a voice that was not his.  The voice too deep, too rough, too masculine and wise and …

“You will see …”

The dead boy lifted and held in the air, his mouth open as the words spewed forth, words I couldn’t hear, as the fire behind him grew, the flames reaching the ceiling and then, spreading like water, to ripple across the stone and race down the walls.

“You will see …”

Cecilia and these strangers clambering away, desperate to escape.

From the fire he came.  The Magi.  The Master.

“… this stranger come from the flames,” she finally finished.