I don’t hate you

If you’ve visited in the past few days, you probably think I have some irrational, uncontrollable hatred or animosity or something for Legacy Publishing aka the Big 6 or Traditional Publishing.

Granted, this rant and that bit of angry hoo-how would certainly give you that idea.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t HATE Traditional Publishing.

Really! I don’t!

Without them, I would have grown up without books. Without them, my imagination would have floundered. Without them, my creativity would have withered and died. Without them, I would not be who I am and where I am.

And, without them, there’d be no vanity press, no online publishing, no self-publishing via Amazon.

In fact, in many ways, Traditional Publishing is the parent of Self-Publishing.

A distant, unloving, hyper-critical, potentially abusive parent. But a parent nonetheless.

The anger I feel toward the Big 6 has more to do with their apparent attitude toward self-published authors than it does with who they are or how they operate, even, ostensibly, through surrogates. (cough) NY Times (cough)

Listen, it’s one thing to be rejected by a Publisher. Happens all the time. No big whoop.

It’s another thing to have those at the Big 6 not want you to publish PERIOD.

It seems like it’s no longer enough to ignore you outright or have an intern toss a rejection letter/email your way. Now they have to bludgeon, bloody, and belittle what’s becoming a strong cornerstone of an increasingly viable industry.

From questioning the quality of the work and the work ethic of the authors to throwing doubt on the veracity of the reviews, it looks as if Legacy Publishers are hell bent on destroying self-pubbed authors.

Why?

Is the royalty check I’m getting this week — my own version of “One small step for my bank account, one … giant leap for my bruised Writer’s ego” — really that much of a threat to their bottom line? Is the fact that ANYONE can publish and, therefore, the Big 6 no longer decides who does and doesn’t end up in Readers’ hands killing them that much? Do they so desperately need to be The Gatekeepers that they’ll stoop to staining the collective reputations of authors who, collectively, are hardly a threat to their more established Superstars?

Why? (I ask again)

Listen, I understood early on that what I write — my story about a haunted immortal desperate for redemption lacking vampires and werewolves and wizards and a clean, easy fit in the YA genre — wasn’t what New York was looking for. That’s why I didn’t submit it.

As I said in the Comments to this great Post over on Carl Purdon’s blog, I could spend years perfecting a query letter to land an agent and then try to get published — which could be several more years — OR I could self-publish and spend that time building an audience and writing more books.

That Legacy Publishers would seem to have a problem with that is, frankly, confusing.

That they’d apparently take fairly overt steps to diminish us is what angers me.

So, I don’t really have a problem with Traditional Publishers per se. As long as they let me do what I want to do, why would I?

All I ask is they give us self-publishers the same respect and allow us the chance to find our Readers.

At the end of the day, the Publishing World is a vast, endless ocean. I’m sure there’s room enough for everyone.

Isn’t there?

Lunch is on me

An Open Letter to the NY Times:

In a recent article — The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy by David Streitfeld –, you insinuate quite strongly that the 4- and 5-star reviews one finds for self-published authors on sites like Amazon cannot be trusted to accurately represent the work or the writer’s talent because there are companies out there that sell favorable reviews and, due to the possibility of a potential relationship between the Reviewer and the “Reviewee”, these reviews should be ignored or mistrusted.

Are there writers, like John Locke, who admit to purchasing reviews? Yes.

Do they perhaps help lift sales? Some would say yeah, they could.

Is this a well-known aspect of Marketing 101 that those at the Times are well aware of? Of course.

Does the fact that a company like this could exist and do business negate every single review a self-published author has ever gotten? It damn well shouldn’t.

Let me ask you this, NY Times:

How many times have your Reviewers had lunch with someone from a Big 6 Publisher right before receiving the free review copy of Star Author’s next book? Or even after a favorable review ran? How many times have your Reviewers received Thank You notes from Legacy Publishers for good reviews? Or birthday cards? Holiday cards? Phone calls? Gift baskets stuffed with expensive trinkets as a gesture of their appreciation?

How many times have those at the NY Times found themselves mingling at parties with those from Traditional Publishing? And how many NY Times Reviewers found their reviews edited by Higher Ups in order to cast a kinder, more ecstatic light on Star Author’s new opus?

More importantly, how many self-published books has the NY Times officially reviewed?

If none, why not?

If you’re going to write an article all but suggesting the reviews a self-published book receives should be discounted because of the potential for some kind of nefarious collusion between the Reviewer and the Reviewed, please be aware this may — and should — bring into question the veracity of your own Reviewers and the often cozy relationship you hold and have held for years with those obviously feeling most threatened by self-published authors: the Big 6.

So remember that the next time Mr. Publisher gulps down the last of his chardonnay, whips out his Black Amex, smiles, and says “Lunch is on me”.

Crimson tears

from my book, The Wounded King:

He took a breath, the words coming, swollen and thick and carried on the stench of impending death.

“Beyond the Veil, they suffer, brother. The King, my mother, the Darkness around them, trapping them. It waits for me. It’s here –”

“No,” I interrupted. “I’m here with you.”

“No, no,” he insisted. “Here in the Temple, in the palace, outside in the city, in the night, in the sky, in the air, the wind, the sun. In the dark.”

“You’re safe,” I assured him, my hand once more on his, the square cloth still on his eyes blinding him. “I’m here and you’re safe.”

He released me, pushing me away. His hands reached to remove the cloth.

He opened his eyes.

They were unseeing globes of wounded white.

He spoke, crimson tears staining his scarred and bloody cheeks as he blinked.

“The Darkness, it’s here with us.”

Behind me, the Old Man bowed, the rustle of his garments distracting me.

“It’s here,” my brother, the King, repeated, the wounded globes now closed.

I turned.

Eyes rimmed red, sallow skin the color of sun-bleached sand, holes where healthy teeth had been only hours ago, each heavy step a great effort, she approached.

Mother.

Oceans of blood

How about an excerpt from my book Martuk … The Holy?

Pen at rest, she sat back, looking at me, her fingers fondling the silk scarf tied beneath her chin.

I had stumbled upon her speaking in a bookstore on Boulevard Saint Germain. An American author and PhD, she had written a slender, earnest tome on ancient religion, a popular work weaving archaic beliefs and myths with those principles we hold in our modern world.

Intrigued, I stopped to listen. Learning of her second life as a psychologist, I requested her card.

And now here I sat, fighting the urge to lunge at her, lift her by her slender neck and slam her against the wall, the back of her skull smashing against the diploma, shards of glass raining to the floor.

Of ripping the expensive cloth protecting her tender flesh, tearing the skin between her breasts, cracking open her rib cage and stealing her heart, that feeble ball of cold, uncaring muscle. Void of compassion. Of understanding. The glistening lump now anemically beating in my monstrous red paw.

My fingers puncturing those delicate sockets above her nose to pluck out the slimy dark nuggets of judgment. Of disapproval. The fantasy of spiriting them from their safe little caves to roll about in my palm now obsessing me.

“I feel your frustration,” she lied, staining the white with more scribbling.

I suppressed the urge to smile.

“But it’s important to understand as much as I can,” she continued, her pen again at rest. “About you. Your experiences. Your life. From there we begin the real work of dealing with this feeling of powerlessness. With these dreams. Your nightmares.

“Your demons.”

The pen began its destruction of a new page, the first tossed aside and lying face down. Exhausted by the scratching, no doubt.

I shifted in my chair.

Demons, she said. I didn’t want to deal with demons. Demons were dangerous. I turned my back on demons long ago. That wasn’t me anymore.

“So, you can’t die,” she suddenly said.

“Yes. I mean, no, I can’t.”

“How so?”

“I just can’t.”

“Okay,” agreed She of the Hyperactive Pen, “you’re invincible.”

“Of course not. I didn’t say that. I’m just like you. Normal. Just normal, you know? Nothing special. I just can’t die.”

“Normal?”

“Yes.”

“Yet you claim immortality. Is that normal?” Her eyes glared at me from beneath a curtain of black bangs.

“How?” she then asked, her tone softening. “How did you achieve this immortality?”

Glimpses of an altar piercing the stars clouded my vision. The chanting of Priests. An unseen crowd cheering far below. Oceans of blood for everlasting life, an Old Woman whispered. Bloody footprints on polished stone. The cloying scent of decaying flesh and the splitting of blistered skin as it roasted under an unforgiving sun.

Lips kissing mine and linen dripping red. Weeping, lying, bleeding, dying, the blade in His hand as He straddled me, both of us lost in the roar of the Darkness.

No.

I’m a wannabe who doesn’t work hard

… or so says Author (notice the capital A?) Sue Grafton.

In a recent interview this is what Miss Grafton had to say about those who decide to self-publish:

Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.

When just barely pressed, Miss Grafton continued her thoughts on the efforts of these unwashed masses not good enough for Big, Fat Publishing Contracts (or, as she calls them, “wannabe”s):

Obviously, I’m not talking about the rare few writers who manage to break out. The indie success stories aren’t the rule. They’re the exception. The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish. I’ve got one sitting on my desk right now and I’ve received hundreds of them over the years. Sorry about that, but it’s the truth. The hard work is taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time. I see way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to. To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not an quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.

In some ways she has a point. Not all self-pubbed work is good. But not all traditionally published work is good either. Apples and oranges, you know.

Her comments still hock me off.

Now, if you’re already aware of the firestorm of indignation rolling through the indie and self-pubbing world regarding Traditional Publishing’s latest Foot in Mouth when it comes to us self-pubbers, what I’m about to say will seem familiar at best and redundant at worst.

Regardless, I’m saying it anyway.

How dare she. Seriously. How. Dare. She.

You know, I just published my third book today. Yeah, BFD, right? Well, to me it is. Maybe not to Queen Sue, but to me it is. And it should be.

I worked my ass off. I wrote all day and then late into the night. I even wrote as the sun came up knowing full well that another full day of writing lay ahead. I edited, I shaped, I cut and rewrote. I trimmed and hemmed and polished that baby ’till she f’ing shined. And I did this knowing that not one single person would probably buy this book the first week. Or the second week. Or ever.

But I did it anyway because I love it and I had a great story to tell.

And listen, Sue, I’ve done the research on ancient Uruk. I can tell you — as best one can based on what little has been discovered of their civilization — what money they used, what writing they had, how their houses were constructed, how twisted their religious beliefs were, and how their days were structured. I could even draw you a fucking map of the city, so don’t you dare tell me I don’t do my research. Is any of this info in my books? No, not really. Is it important I know it?

Hell. Yes.

But you know what, Miss Grafton? I do all of this without complaint and without prompting. Without an Editor looking over my shoulder or a Publishing House guiding me with a schedule. I do all of this — and still plan to, by the way — without a big advance propping up my bank account and a legion of fans ready to snap up whatever drivel and tripe I sling on the shelf.

And you can’t say that, now, can you, Sue.

At the end of the day, though, I, a simple wannabe who doesn’t work hard and can’t take rejection, have something you’ll never have:

I can publish any fucking thing I want.

I can be brave and creative, ballsy and controversial, amazing and incredible and unforgettable and breathtaking in ways your Publisher will never allow you to be. I can kill Judas with a kiss and walk with a Jesus modern-day Christians wouldn’t recognize. I can drive my narrative forward with a gruesome sacrifice of a child or an anonymous soldier, an ancient Elder or a deliciously evil Old Crone. I can create Seers and Magis, Spirits and Immortals in ways your focus grouped bestsellers simply can’t.

Unlike you, I’m not driven by fear.

I’m driven by freedom.

And that, Miss Grafton, is why this talentless hack who doesn’t work hard self-publishes.

Proseuche

So, yes, I have Red and Gold (the third in The Martuk Series) to write. That’s next on the list and, quite honestly, I’m looking forward to it. Definitely has the potential to be a strong continuation of the story started in The Wounded King and The Elder (TBR — To Be Released — today). It also promises to be a very good read. It’s chapter mapped, so I know. (^D

(fyi, the above emoticon, to me, looks like a man wearing sunglasses and smiling. I think it’s cute.)

That being said, I can’t escape 5th Century Constantinople. The rise of Antioch. The slow sinking of that desperate, fumbling power-that-was Rome. My mind drawn again and again to cemeteries and magic and Bishops killing Bishops and Priests slaughtering Priests and Christianity quite literally breaking in two, a chasm that exists to this day. I woke up this morning with them, their arguments becoming screams before exploding into violence.

And my immortal Martuk, still stumbling through immortality as the world around him spins into violent chaos. (If you know anything about the Church Councils of the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about)

In other words, Martuk … The Holy: Proseuche (ancient Greek for “place of prayer” or “prayer house”), the full-length sequel to Martuk … The Holy is currently obsessing me. Ob-sess-ing me.

And that’s good. Really good.

But first, I want to pound out Red and Gold, keep the Series going, and then I’ll make the shift into Proseuche.

It promises to be a great ride.

(^D

the power of fear

(An excerpt from one of my WIPs, Martuk … The Holy: Proseuche, the sequel to the full-length novel Martuk … The Holy)

“God forgives,” the voice assured me from the shadows.

No, he wouldn’t comprehend it at all.

I smiled, then, hearing her again, the Waitress. Teasing, flirting, crying, cursing, her voice echoing from hours ago.

“You’re so funny,” she had laughed as we sat knee-to-knee at a famously cramped restaurant on the Rue Saint-André des Artes, the tourists seated in a room to the right, the French locals in a more spacious room to the left.

“You’re so wonderful,” she had slurred, her tongue thick with expensive Bordeaux as she slipped her hand in mine, the streets dark and quiet as we walked.

“You’re so … ,” she had whispered, the thought unfinished as her hand snaked between my thighs, the car speeding along the quay, the scent of her lust in my nose, her breasts warm against my arm, her breath kissing my cheek, the vast, leafy shadow of the Bois de Boulogne rising in the distance.

“I lied,” I finally offered the Priest, committing yet another sin.

Silence.

“You’re human,” came the tentative cinnamon-scented response.

“You’re a monster!” the Waitress had screamed as she ran, her hand clutching its twin to her chest, the blood pump, pump, pumping down her dress as I spat the orphaned finger to the leaves at my feet.

Shall I tell the Priest this? That I can still taste her blood on my tongue? How the crunch of her slender bone between my teeth excited me? Or how she ran and I followed? Should I breathe this between these slender strips of polished wood? How she darted behind a tree before I rushed forward, startling her, trapping her?

No. This sheltered, naive little man would never understand why I let her run again. Or how the chase invigorated me. How hopelessly addictive her terror was. How her tears delighted me. How the Darkness so very much enjoyed the thrill of those last moments of her life. His mind could never wrap itself around the thrill of catching her, trapping her, torturing her, her eyes wide, the snot dripping as she sniffled and sobbed.

He could never know the power of fear.