Thursday, December 17, 2009
“Never a Christmas without Pineyville and your boxes of thrift store junk.” Vicki, who stood at the top of wooden step stool putting the paper and glitter angel atop the completed Christmas tree, smirked at Maggie.
“You’ve hated this snow globe since I bought it.”
“Yeah, I do.” Vicki stepped down off the step stool, dusted off her hands and faced her lover. “But it isn’t just that stupid snow globe. It’s all the other junk you’ve brought home for years from those nasty thrift stores.”
Maggie felt her anger flush to her face. “You’re a snob…” she paused, wondering if now was the best time to start another argument over the same thing. “At least I collect harmless things and not other women right under my nose.” She couldn’t control herself.
Vicki had cheated. More than once and out in the open. The arguments were always loud, frequent and accomplished nothing. They were still together, but this year, it felt to Maggie as if they were merely going through the motions. Perhaps it was time to call it quits.
Vicki’s eyes blazed red in the blinking Christmas lights. “Don’t you start that shit again with me.” She poked her finger at Maggie’s chest. Maggie slapped her hand away.
“Don’t you threaten me. I think I’ve had enough of your anger and your affairs.” She turned her back on Vicki. “I’m going to call your newest little girlfriend and give her a piece of my mind. And while I’m at it, I might fill her in on your anger issue.”
“No, you’re not.” Vicki grabbed the step stool and swung it hard at Maggie’s head, cracking her skull and sending a ribbon of thick blood across the Christmas tree and the wall. A large drop of it landed on the top of the snow globe. Maggie fell in a heap atop her half-opened boxes, the ornaments inside making a loud, crunching sound.
Inside the snow globe, a group of men, women and children pressed their plastic faces against the glass. The policeman who had stood in the middle of the snow-covered street directing the tiny cars sighed and looked at the others who had gathered.
"Well, I think our time here is up. Tell Ma Brady at the Bakery to take the cookies out of the ovens and the others to turn down their lights. We won't be staying here." The fake snow continued to fall in Pineyville.
One of the skaters from the glazed pond gazed forlornly at the policeman. "Will we be able to share this Christmas with anyone?"
The policeman didn't know. All he knew was that the blood on top of the glass globe cast a red, unhealthy glow over Pineyville and it didn't bode well. "There's still time before Christmas. Someone may want to share their holiday with us."
The boy took off to take up his skating pose on the Pineyville pond. As all the others in Pineyville strolled away to their designated places, the policeman continued to watch as Vicki wrapped Maggie's body in the oriental carpet and drag it to the door. He shook his head, guessing Pineyville would end up back in a dark box and in another bright store.
He sighed as he walked slowly back to where he had always stood, directing traffic along the lone Main Street in Pineyville. Perhaps there would be someone else who might want a slightly used and blood-stained snow globe on their Christmas table this year.
PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK TO HELP IN THE AIDE TO THE HAITIAN PEOPLE BY CONTRIBUTING YOUR CREATIVE OUTPUT, STORIES, POEMS, ARTWORK, ETC. http://crossedgenres.com/haiti/#haitiform
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Publishing is a tough business. Yes, it is a business. If all we wanted to do was write and create magic using words as an art, then why do we need a "business?" Surely, if you want to write and then share your art, you could offer it via your web site for free. You certainly don't need to publish it or get involved with the harsh and cruel world of publishing. If you want to make a little change from your art, why not install a "Donation" button on your web site and ask readers who enjoyed your story to offer a little for the pleasure of reading it for free. It could work and you could bypass publishing completely.
But most authors want a "book." A book that is considered "published" and available on the great and mighty Amazon. We want to feel as if we've arrived as an author and only by having an honest-to-God, "real" book listed on Amazon will we feel accomplished.
And what about self-publishing? What makes the self-published author feel as if they've "arrived?" Large sales? High rankings on Amazon? Having everyone talking about your book? Landing a "real" publishing contract from one of the "real" publishers? Getting fan email? Having to turn down blurb requests? What makes it real for you?
And what about the times when writing and publishing begin to tear you down? The work involved in self-publishing is hard and long. Never ending. You are basically going at it alone. Personally, the freedom of going it alone is what attracted me to self-publishing. But what about the times when no matter how much time you spend online promoting or sending out review copies, your books get little to no sales and little to no notice. You blog and blog and no one shows up at your blog. What then? No, you don't have the funds to hire publicity agents. It's only you. Will you remain a happy writer? Will you continue writing when no one is buying your book or talking about your book? Is the love of writing that strong in your physical and emotional psyche to stand up to that kind of frustration and disappointment?
I may be off-base here, but I believe we are fooling ourselves if we think we are writing only because we "cannot not write." We write because we are storytellers. As writers, we are writing down our stories. But what is a storyteller without a listener? A writer without readers?
At what point do you pick up your marbles and go home?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
So, what works for you? Do you spam everyone on your email address book? Some consider notices about new books spam. Do you mind receiving a notice in your mailbox from an author on his/her new book? How about paper advertising? Many authors still love postcards. But you have to actively collect physical addresses for postcards. Is that cost effective? Or do you use postcards to stack up on the freebie tables at writing conferences? Most of us know we should have business cards handy at all times so I won't include that in hard-core promoting. And many of us also get some kind of bookmarks done. Again, how effective has that been? Flyers? Press releases? How many review copies of your book do you send out?
We seem to be moving into the digital era at warp speed. Many authors believe online marketing and promoting is the way to go. Would joining reading and writing online groups and posting BSP (Blatant Self Promotion) notices for the release of your new book be cool or will members of that online community chase you off their group? How much is too much BSP? Having a professional and informative web site is a real necessity, but when you are a self-publisher, how prepared are you to have a site for your own publishing imprint? Can you afford two web sites? And if you have an author web site, you should make sure it is active and kept up to date. Do you think contests work?
Okay, how about you share some of your self-publishing promotions that work?
Friday, September 18, 2009
Refusing to Die: My Story of Losing a Publisher, But Going on Anyway
This is actually a revised version of a piece I wrote for my Web site in February 2008. It's been updated to reflect developments since then.
Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's, once said: "Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence." I couldn't agree more.
Persistence is an essential quality for anyone doing creative or cutting-edge work. Biotech startups, inventors, artists, musicians, and yes, writers, know that they'll never succeed if they allow failure and disappointment to stop them. I speak from experience when I say that if it weren't for sheer bull-headed persistence, I would've washed out of the fiction writing business ages ago.
It was the early 1990s when I began putting serious effort toward writing fiction. I finished my first mystery novel in 1997. I sent letters out to as many agents as I could and got a few nibbles, but no contract. I kept this up for a while, then decided to write a second novel with the same protagonist. I went through an even more extensive round of agent queries and rejections with this novel. Finally, I decided to submit it directly to small presses.
My first submission was to a small press that had agreed to publish and anthology called CHESAPEAKE CRIMES to which I had contributed a short story, my first published fiction. I submitted my novel manuscript to this publisher and a few months later, was offered a contract. By then, it was 2003 and I was ecstatic at having landed a publisher after so many years of rejections. But before I could even savor the feeling of sweet success of a first novel release, something terrible happened. I had a stroke.
I was extremely fortunate to have been treated quickly, so my recovery from total paralysis on the left side took place within hours. I was walking the next day and speaking with no problem. No one but the most observant person could even tell I'd had a stroke. But things got worse. A few months after the stroke, my left hand and foot began to clench. The contortions in my hand and arm became painful. It turned out the stroke had caused a condition called dystonia. It has no cure.
In short, I have been through numerous treatments. None of them has provided complete or lasting relief. The accepted medical treatment--injections of botulinum toxin to the affected areas--has produced minimal relief. I am unable to lift certain fingers or grip things in the affected hand. As I struggled with this, my first novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, was published in the summer of 2005, to the acclaim of many--many relatives, friends and acquaintances, that is. The rest of the world remained blissfully unaware of it. My small publisher was without the money or inclination to promote the book other than to make it available for sale through Amazon and other online booksellers. The rest was up to me.
So I hired a book promoter, did some interviews and signings, got a handful of good reviews and tried every way I could to get the word out about my book. Then things got even worse. Around the time my first royalties were due, my publisher had some kind of crisis and stopped paying his authors. They tried to reach the owner but didn't get a response until long after their trust in him was irreparably damaged. Ultimately, the vast majority of the authors, myself included, cut their contractual ties with the publisher. It was a difficult decision for me, but an inevitable one under the circumstances.
In early 2006, my novel had gone out of print, less than a year after its release. I think I'd sold maybe 125 copies in that time. I still had no agent. I was looking for a new publisher and at the same time, battling an incurable disorder that was still causing pain and constant clenching in my hand and foot. I've been told life is a journey, but I wasn't expecting the march to Bataan!
Still, I didn't give up. Like I said, if it weren't for persistence, I'd forget about fiction writing. Despite all the bad stuff, I kept writing, kept submitting, and kept getting rejections (rejections, I might add, that were getting more complimentary of my writing skills each time, like "Sorry, really close, but no cigar." Doh!). At one point, it occurred to me that I could get the book re-issued by Lulu.com. So I went to work on making that a reality.
I'd be lying if I said the process was completely transparent and I never ran into any glitches or delays. There were cover formatting issues that required frequent revisions and resubmissions. And it took me forever to understand some of the simplest concepts (in retrospect), like how the ISBN would get into the book or on the cover after I gave the go-ahead to publish. The Lulu publishing process is conducted completely online, which helps keep their costs down and make their service viable. But it eliminates the human factor (or at least minimizes it), so your communications are reduced to emails that may or may not explain everything you don't understand. Nonetheless, I muddled through the process despite myself.
After all was said and done, it took a little more than a year to publish the book, from minor editing to finished product. And the best part was that after all that patient effort, I could hold up the book to people and say, "This is my novel. It's back in print." And believe me, this achievement alone feels HUGE!
Even better still, though, I discovered e-publishing about a month before the new print edition came out. It opened a whole new world of possibilities for me. Uploading my novel was neither time nor cost-prohibitive. And it was relatively easy to market online. I made IDENTITY CRISIS available as an e-book for Kindle on June 2, 2009, and offered it on sites like the Scribe Store and Smashwords, as well. As of the end of August, I've sold more than 200 downloads through these three e-book retailers (and most recently, Lulu too). That's more books than I sold in the nine months it was originally in print. Assuming I hit 250 downloads within the next month or two, that'll be twice as many books as I sold during the nine months it was first released.
So, despite all the setbacks, as you can see, I simply refuse to die. I simply refuse to go away and pout over my troubles. I simply won't stop writing and trying to find another publisher. I simply refuse to quit. Because a quitter I'm not.
Debbi Mack's novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, features lawyer/sleuth Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae in a hardboiled mystery involving a complex case of murder and identity theft. It's available in print through Lulu.com and will become available at Amazon and other online sellers and as an e-book through Lulu.com, Amazon, the Scribd Store and Smashwords. Debbie has a short story published in CHESAPEAKE CRIMES She will have more stories published soon in The Back Alley Webzine and in CHESAPEAKE CRIMES 4, coming from Wildside Press in March 2010. Her web site is www.debbimack.com and she has two fiction related blogs: Debbi Mack: My Life on the Mid-List and The Book Grrl
Monday, September 7, 2009
In retrospect, one might see that running a publishing company, having a full time job and trying to write might be too much for one person, and that proved to be true. My publisher grew tired of the work, the low return on her investment, and the usual petty gripes and strife that all companies, no matter how small, seem to create. I was given back the rights to my books and tried to decide what to do next.
My experiences were not horrible, even though some of my fellow authors would disagree with my view. I got paid on time, I was satisfied with the quality of the books and I was thoroughly involved in editing and cover creation. So, I was fully expecting to sign with another publisher. But I decided to investigate self-publishing first, just to be able to compare.
After doing a good bit of homework, I decided to strike out on my own. My reasons were primarily financial and creative control. Self-publishing requires you to have some funds at your disposal, so it's not for everyone. But if you can afford to print 500 or 1,000 copies of your book and are fairly sure you can sell them, the financial return is greater than it would be if you signed with a publisher.
This makes perfect sense when you consider the money your publisher has to invest up front to get your book into your readers' hands. Someone has to invest a few bucks, and if it's your publisher, he or she is going to want to make a few bucks for fronting that money. Since I could afford to do that myself, however, it made sense to me to go for it.
My second major reason, creative control, might apply more to me than many other writers in the romance genre. My books don't follow a strict genre formula and I prefer them that way. That's just my style and I don't want to change it. Some publishers aren't interested in that kind of variation, so my options were limited. But even if they hadn't been, I'd heard too many horror stories from friends who had edits foisted on them that they didn't agree with; had sections cut from their books that they hated to lose; had strange covers created, etc. I just didn't want to deal with any of that if I didn't have to. Since I didn't have to--I didn't.
So far, self-publishing has worked out well for me. It isn't perfect. I'd like to have someone do some publicity for me. I'd like to have someone nominate my books for awards. I'd like to have people assume my book must be good if "X" publisher publishes it. Heck, I'd like to hang out with my fellow authors from "X" publisher. When you go it alone, you're really alone. But making a bit more money and being my own boss are worth the trade-offs to me. If I were just starting out--I'd probably feel different.
Since I started, POD (print-on-demand) has gotten more popular and a bit less expensive. I assume we'll see more and more people going their own way--if they can escape their contracts with their publishers, that is. Some publishers lock a writer in and make it very tough to get away--even if you've learned to hate each other. Rather like a bad marriage where neither will file for divorce.
I'm still doing full print runs of a few thousand copies since that's the only way to get the per copy price down low enough for me to make enough money to make this worthwhile. As it is, it's still hard to make even one dollar per book when you sell on Amazon. If I didn't have sales through my web site, www.briskpress.com, I doubt I'd go to the trouble of publishing my work. I love writing, but publishing is not for the lazy. But I think putting my books in print has made me strive to be better and put out the best product I can.
Most readers don't realize how little money is to be made in the publishing business. They pay $15-$18 for a book and assume someone's making a nice living off that. But if the book costs $6 to print and the distributor takes 40-60 percent off cover price--there's not much left. That's why I always try to encourage people to buy their books direct from the publisher. I realize Amazon is handy and can save a buyer some real money, but if everyone buys from them, small publishers won't be able to stay afloat. This won't hurt Amazon one bit. It also won't hurt big national best selling authors much. It will hurt people who love lesbian fiction.
I believe lesbian fiction has improved by leaps and bounds over the past ten years. I'm confident that's because everyone has stepped up their game. But we can't succeed without our readers. So, tell your friends about the books you love, and write reviews. That's the same as a love note to an author.
Monday, August 31, 2009
When I wrote my first book, a fantasy novel called NIBERIA, I was jumping into something that I'd never done before. I've always had a passion for books and have always loved to read. I love being whisked away into someone else's world for a while. In college I studied art and obtained my degree in Art Studio with a focus in painting. Well, like most art majors, I didn't become a famous artist. I landed a job sitting in front of a computer doing administrative work.
Day after day of answering phones, entering data into spread sheets and doing other mindless tasks, my creative side was wilting. I was desperate for an outlet for my creativity. I began to write. In between phone calls, when works was slow, I delved into another world. I began to write my first book.
After finishing the story and a year of editing, rearranging and rewriting, I hadn't a clue what to do next. I finished what I would call a written piece of artwork but it wasn't complete. I wanted to be able to display my work of art and show it off. So I went online in search of a way to do that and stumbled across self-publishing.
The process was fairly simple. Everything was done through the mail. I was even able to use my own artwork to construct the cover. All I had to do was submit photographs and a description of what I had in mind. A few short months later, I had a finished novel to show off. And even more exciting than that, it was for sale through online bookstores.
I was addicted. Another story emerged from me in just a few short months. The self-publishing company that I used with my first novel, NIBERIA, was offering a two-for-one deal. All I had to do was publish my second novel, ASHES TO DIAMONDS, and I could published the book for free. The only catch was that I only had one year to do it.
Needless to say, I've just finished writing my seventh novel using their two-for-one deals! If it hadn't been for self-publishing, I would've stopped writing after receiving my first rejection letter from a traditional publisher. I was a novice and overly sensitive. Self-publishing gave me the confidence that I needed to continue writing and hone my craft. For those of you trying to choose between self-publishing and finding a traditional publishing, there are a few factors to consider:
Your work is your own. This is your project and it can be written anyway you please. No one can tell you otherwise.
You own the rights. They're all yours.
You have a say in your cover design. You can include your own artwork or photographs.
It could take years and years to find a traditional publisher who may take a chance on you. With self-publishing, you story is published right away.
If you already have a fan base or have the money to advertise, you're set. Why not do it yourself?
It can become expensive (but from what I understand, there are several companies willing to self-publish your book for free. They get a percentage of each book when they sell it. I'm currently looking into that for my next book).
If you don't have money to advertise and don't have a current fan base, it can be hard to establish one. (Something I'm currently working on).
Self published books cost more money to buy because they're print-on-demand. It can discourage people from buying your books and taking a chance on you if you're a new author.
Overall I'm happy with the path I chose. I enjoy having the creative freedom to let my imagination run wild. My current mission is to develop a fan base and get my name out there. Currently I'm writing a cozy mystery series that takes place in Palm Springs, California. My protagonist, Ms. Aggie Underhill, is from England and moves to Palm Springs to be near her daughter, Sarah, who is married to a United States Marine. My Aggie Underhill mysteries are fun, light, fast-paced books. Aggie isn't what you'd call a sleuth. She's a nosy lady who just happens to get herself involved in all kinds of messes.
I've just started the self-publishing process on my fourth Aggie book, A HARDBOILED MURDER. In this book, the body of a film star crashes on the roof of a moving tramcar, a mystery author is discovered hardboiled and bobbing in a hot tub, a home is ransacked and two grandmothers are battling. Keep an eye out for A HARDBOILED MURDER.
Hopefully, my post on self-publishing has been helpful. Happy writing everyone! Please visit Michelle's web site: http://www.michelleannhollstein.com/
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Times, they are a-changing and the digital revolution is here. It's making a strong showing in publishing and I couldn't be happier. After experiences in traditional publishing that left me dazed, confused and totally unsatisfied, I looked at and embraced self-publishing. With the advent of POD....Print on Demand, I was able to free myself from contract shackles and publisher injustices. It's a fantastic feeling.
There are as many pros and cons to self-publishing as there are to seeking traditional publishing. My hope with this new post is to touch briefly on those issues that might affect self-publishers. At the top of my list is that more and more tiny, one-man or two-man (or woman) publishing houses are popping up that are using POD for their publishing method. They are basically anyone who can set up an account with Lightning Source.....a POD printer and distributor.....take on a name and begin calling for submissions. Many authors contract their books with small POD publishers and end up giving up their rights and getting a pittance in royalty with little to no promotion or marketing. Also, since many of the micro POD publishers often have no money for top notch editors, they often shift some of their own authors to do the editing on other books. In some instances, authors who have gotten only their first or second books are doing the editing on many of the publisher's other books.
YOU can do the same thing for yourself. Why give up your rights and your earnings? YOU can open an account with Lightning Source. YOU can become your own publisher. There are also other POD printers who charge you no money to start up your own imprint. Sure, you will have to learn how to do the page layout the first time out, but using a template provided for you, it will be easy once you do it once. Most of the POD printer services also offer easy to do covers. You can also find a cover artist for a reasonable cost to do a bang up cover for you (Hint: I'm cheap and need the work. LOL). It can be very satisfying to do all the work yourself. And you reap all the rewards. You can list your book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble online and all the other online book services. Some of the online POD printers will charge a bit extra to get distributed and listed online, but well worth it. Don't have the money to hire an editor? Get other author friends to read your book and do the edits or get involved in a writing group where you can utilize the services of a beta-reader. Most of this will cost you nothing. Again, many of the current crop of micro POD publishers are doing the same thing. Their authors are their editors. You say you don't like to market or promote? Most small presses do very little to no marketing or promoting. They depend heavily on their authors. Why wouldn't you want to keep all your rights and profits and do the same thing for yourself? It is your creation. With self-publishing, you can guide your creation through all the steps and enjoy the fruits of your labor without giving up earnings or rights to someone else.
The drawbacks? Well, if you absolutely are flat broke and cannot save up the little money that it would take you to self-publish, you might want to just try and place your book with a publisher. If you are a beginning author with little to no contacts or a solid fan base of readers, then self-publishing might not work. But again, it all depends on what you want from your writing. First, let me make this clear....If your goal is to spend years attempting to woo an agent for a try at one of the Big New York publishers, then self-publishing or even seeking a small press isn't even an option. However, if you plan on publishing with a small press, keep in mind that you will not get wealthy or even be able to leave your day job with your earnings. And if you go with a micro POD press, your earnings become even more invisible. And you will be expected to work hard to promote your book. Would a new writer be any less successful by self-publishing instead of going with a micro POD publisher? I believe if you work hard, you can be as successful publishing yourself. Another thing to remember is that even within self-publishing, there are many avenues you can take. The old way of self-publishing is not using POD at all but paying a printer to print a run (of whatever size you choose) of your books. The cost is generally high and you will be in charge of storing all your books. If you don't have a large house with an extra room just for your books or a storage space to store them, this option is not for you. With the advent of POD, that old method of self-publishing has lost some favor. For those who have a Green streak, it is environmentally friendly to use POD and print only a small amount of books initially or print them as they are purchased. Why waste so many trees and paper for your books to sit in storage? There is also the option of going with one of the many online publishing packagers. These are iUniverse, Outskirts Press, Xlibris and dozens of others. They offer you select packages that go from basic packages with no editing and basic covers, to the high cost packages that could run you into hundreds or thousands of dollars. But they do everything for you. At a cost. For those with money to spend and without the desire to do all the set-up and work, these are ideal. Again, research before you decide the road to take in self-publishing. A big drawback that some detractors of self-publishing insistently point to is that the major bookstores are not going to stock your self-published books. What many authors don't realize is that even if you sign with a publisher that is using POD to print their books, your books still won't be in the bookstores. So you are losing your rights and a big chunk of your royalties for no bookstore exposure. Zilch.
In the end, my recommendation is to educate yourself before making any decisions on your publishing future. It is an exciting time to be an author. The digital revolution is here and the freedom it brings to authors is extraordinary. Self-publishing can allow you to explore not just print books but also e-books. The next wave of authors might be totally digital, offering their works online or as e-books, completely bypassing print publishers. Freedom is the key word. The freedom to keep your rights. The freedom to be stress-free from publisher restraints that might hamper your creativity. The freedom to grow your creation, your book, from infancy to fruition in your own hands and in your own time. You won't have to wait two years to have your book available.
I'll be featuring authors who are self-published here at The Henderson Files. I know there are many fine non-fiction works, but I'll be concentrating on mostly original genre fiction that has been self-published. If someone wants to do reviews, I will host them here. Hopefully, I can cover news that will affect self-publishing. If you're a fiction author who writes sf, fantasy, mystery, horror or any other combination of such, please email me and I will set up a guest author spot for you. But I want open discussion of self-publishing, not just a blurb on your book. Tell the readers why you did it your way and your results and feelings. I have several authors already lined up that will be talking about their experiences with self-publishing their own works, so please keep checking back often.
I'm excited. I hope you will be too and check back often.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
This is my little (well, she isn't little at all, but fat, fluffy and sassy) loving companion who happens to have four legs, paws and is awfully furry. Her name is Lulu. She's a quirky and lovable Calico girl who brings lots of laughs and joy to my world.
Hope you enjoy the pics. Chances are, this will be the final postings at The Henderson Files. Hope Lulu brings a smile your way.....
Friday, May 22, 2009
I was always a strange child growing up. When I watched the thrillers on Creature Features, I used to cheer for the monsters. I would shout with joy every time Godzilla stomped on a military jeep and whoop and holler with glee when the Creature from the Black Lagoon dragged off a scientist to the depths of the dark lagoon. To me, the monsters weren’t evil, they were simply misunderstood. They were innocent beings who, for no reason of their own, became the hideous monsters that we came to fear. According to Dr. Jay Stevenson, Ph.D., the differences between demons and monsters are that while demons are of the supernatural evil origin in opposition to God, monsters are man-made and are in direct conflict with the natural order. Following this criteria, Godzilla, werewolves, vampires, and Mr. Hyde are no different from Frankenstein’s monster. None of them asked to be created, nor did they cause their own creation. They were brought about by man and man’s technology. As such their actions are not their own but are manifestations of our conduct against our fellow man.
Once I understood this it became easier for me to understand my own obsession with vampires. I recognized that the characters in Anne Rice’s novels were portrayed as sympathetic creatures that were dragged into an existential crisis. Like the zombies from George Romero’s Land of the Dead, vampires were simply trying to find their place to exist in order to live an undead life in the only way that they knew how. Yes, so there was that itty bitty problem of having to survive on human blood, but was it their fault that the creator made them this way? At least that is how I see vampires.
Like many in contemporary society, I was engulfed in the post-modernist thought of turning away from the oppressive concepts brought about by authority in favor of viewing the outsider in a sympathetic light. They were the Others, the minority that exists on the fringe of society. I viewed these Others as not hideous creatures to be feared, but monsters to be understood. Indeed, they are monsters. They are the antithesis of all that was considered natural. Vampires are the undead, creatures who escaped the darkness of death to live an eternal existence. In all ways I see them as the Others, the ones who live on the fringe of society. For me, they’ve become the manifestation of everyone who lives on the edge of acceptance. Vampires are akin to all lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders because like us, they are not accepted. Their existence puts into question decades of dogma, and they challenge all that we know to be sacred and profane. In this light, is it a wonder that I would have written a novel that favored the vampire character? The Veil of Sorrow, my first novel, turned out not only to be a final project for my Gothic Literature class, but also became a culmination of all of my years of favoring the monster. It is a novel that I hope will be entertaining as well as shed a sympathetic light upon vampires.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Isn’t it funny how life changes? Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. In spite of it all, though, life never seems to lack entertainment value. As a kid, in my wildest dreams I would never have imagined myself waking up one morning and saying, “Hey, I’m gay. Let’s throw a party (and don’t forget to invite the Naval fleet).” But it happened… well, all but the Navy part (damn it). This, then, led to more discovery about myself. My likes, dislikes, attractions. Questions abounded. Why do I keep looking at guys when everybody is telling me that I am supposed to be looking at girls, and what is this funny feeling in the pit of my stomach? Am I a cat person? Am I a dog person? Am I afraid of ice cubes?
Through all these discoveries and advancements, one constant remained steadfast: my wild and vivid imagination. It was through this that I managed to cope with my days in grade/high school where I was mercilessly taunted and teased (and yes, threatened) daily for being the ‘queer’ boy. The funny thing was that those guys seemed to know of my leanings even before I did, which makes me now wonder what they were hiding about themselves. Incidentally, I suspect that these bullies are either long gone, now doing time in prison, or secretly cheating on their wives with guys in dark alleys. Under assumed names. Wearing ski masks.
Throughout my younger years, my imagination continued to expand in ways unexpected. First I found a proclivity toward composing and performing music. Jotting down plays and short stories came next, with the inevitable conclusion being the creation of novels. Writing had become, and continues to be, an escape. An adventure. Through this medium I am able to live the perfect life I can only dream of living. Only the best people (yes, the villains, too) are allowed to visit me in my delusional brain… well, there was that one guy I thought up who insisted that he was thinking me up. We parted ways quickly before either one of us made the other disappear.
The first manuscript of great length to make it out of my typewriter (remember typewriters?) was simply entitled “Billy”, so named after the lead character. Originally, Billy was straight, but sadly, the poor fool stuck around too long and found himself being dragged out of the closet, kicking and screaming. Oddly, his surprising metamorphosis just happened to coincide with my own coming out. I wonder if there’s any possible correlation? Nah. It was at that time that the entire story underwent a massive rewrite. Not only that, but having become so familiar with the cast and Billy’s sexual revolution (my own, ironically, stagnating before my eyes) the book was added to, years later being published as; Billy: A Gay Trilogy. It was at that moment that my path to writing gay novels exposed itself. Fortunately, there were no police around at the moment.
Meanwhile, back at my life, something else was happening. I had always been extremely interested in things that went bump in the night. This intrigue was really nurtured along by my really living in a couple of really haunted houses. Really! A single one of those stories would have you sleeping with all the lights on, and since I refuse to be held responsible for increased electricity bills I will keep my ghostly tales to myself. Anyway, the point of this is that it was only a matter of time before the subjects of gays and ghosts melded together, and once that happened there was an ethereal explosion of creativity. “The House on Capitol Hill” and “Face Your Fears” were my first ventures into this new and exciting realm. In such stories freedom is the key element, leaving me to bypass the restraints of reality, thereby allowing my mind to wander where it will. Hopefully it will return, some day. I do kind of miss it.
Visit Jeffrey at: www.jeffreylynnstoddard.com
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Our first author this month is Jeffrey Lynn Stoddard. Not only does he write some genuinely scary tales of hauntings, but he is an accomplished radio and podcast star as well. Come and share the day with Jeffrey. He will be here all day to answer your comments.
FRIDAY, MAY 22
Crystal Michallet-Romero has written a gem of a vampire tale told in a unique voice. If you read one vampire book this year, check out THE VEIL OF SORROW. If you enjoy some of the classic vampire tales of the past, Crystal's book is a perfect blend to satisfy any blood cravings. Visit with Crystal and make sure you leave comments. Crystal will be happy to chat with you.
Friday, May 1, 2009
I'm sure attending a conference isn't on every writer's or reader's most important things to do, but most writers, aspiring writer or adoring reader will attend one or more in their lifetime. Choosing which is becoming more difficult when there are more than just one to choose from. Granted, for the lesbian purist, the hot places to be seen are at the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference and Provincetown's Women's Festival Week. The later isn't really a "writing conference" per se, merely a week-long revelry of music, dancing and activities where bookstore readings are attended by new and popular lesbian authors. The Golden Crown Literary Society is an organization dedicated to the study, encouragement and preservation of lesbian literature. A very admirable goal, for sure. Their yearly conference moves around the country and they award the Goldie Awards for lesbian fiction. The GCLS offers a great benefit to authors strapped for cash by offering Scholarships which helps out in conference fees, food, lodging, etc. Before I move on, there is another very popular and worthy conference held in New Orleans each year, Saints and Sinners. It's a high powered conference with popular and new gay and lesbian authors filled with interesting panels and activities dealing with all aspects of gay and lesbian literature.
All of these conferences have their sponsors and favorite "sons and daughters," or popular authors who attend those select conferences year after year. What I have noticed is that certain sponsors and some authors have pulled out of some conferences, including their sponsorship and attendance. One can't help but wonder why and what makes a certain author prefer one conference over the other, besides relative proximity to the location where the conference is held. Travel and hotels are expensive as are the conferences themselves.
Which brings me to the economy. With the shrinking budget squeezing every dime and nickel for life's necessities like food, meds, car payments, mortgage, rent, etc., how do you decide if or which conference to attend? Will the economy put a hit on one or more of these conferences?
I invite authors, publishers and readers to comment. There are also other genre conferences that are not gay or lesbian oriented like Fantasy, SF, Romance and Horror conventions. Do you feel you, as a lesbian or gay genre author, can benefit more from attending one of these conventions instead of our beloved gay/lesbian conferences?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
When I was asked to talk about myself, I thought “what am I going to say that I haven’t said before?” There’s always the basics, where I grew up, where I live now, favorite color and foods. Those seemed less then interesting to talk about at my very first author chat. Then, as future would have it, I was talking to a friend about what first got me writing for more than just my own enjoyment when it hit me. Why not talk about that?
You see, growing up as a Cherokee woman, whether in the rural areas of
Yes later, on one of my many years as a Wiscon attendee, I was sitting in on a panel where authors like Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl were taking about their own frustrations growing up, about the fiction they loved and the fact neither they or the other panelists ever saw anyone like them in that fiction. I think it was Nisi I spoke to after the panel when I said “some days I think I should just write the stories instead of waiting for someone else to!” She smiled at me and said, “Well, maybe you should.”
So nearly three years later, and numerous hours writing and loving my new obsession, my first novel, Ancestral Magic, is finally a reality. The story started like many of my stories do, from a dream. And from that frozen moment of inspiration the Story of Sky and Meg unfolded into something I could’ve never imagined. I’ve learned character will do that to you. You have an idea for a story, even might write out what you foolishly think is w perfect outline to go by. In the end you let the characters take you where they will. It’s always for the best that way.
In a world where magic has become no more than childish fantasy or cinematic illusion, secret towns exists beyond the sight and understanding of mundane humanity.
Green Grove is such a town.
Sky Hawthorn is a single mother struggling to support herself and her blind son, on nothing more than a waitress’ salary and hardheaded determination.
Meg has spent years watching Sky stumble through one doomed relationship after another with the wrong men, never daring to reveal the secret love she has for Sky
When a lawyer arrives to tell Sky that an aunt she’s never known has left her a manor house in a place she’s never heard of, her family’s life is turned upside down and Sky is left with a big choice to make.
At that moment, with that single decision, the three of their lives change forever.
Hidden away in northern
With the arrival of Roger Thompson, a charming local doctor that seems determined to sweep Sky off her feet, Meg is left with little but jealousy and doubt. Will the handsome doctor steal away their chance to be happy together, or will visions of Sky’s past and the dark secret that past holds change everything?
Ancestral Magic by Moondancer Drake
Coming April 2009 from PD Publishing. Available online through Starcrossed productions or from you favorite neighborhood bookstore.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Since the new Brenda Strange suspense starts with a new publisher, Black Car Publishing, I wanted a whole new "look" for the series book covers.
This cover screams feral....demonic....and deadly. Will Brenda Strange finally face an evil more ancient and horrifying than she can handle?
Watch out for the new Brenda Strange supernatural suspense, XIMORA.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Getting BASHED: Where Book Ideas Come From
By Rick R. Reed
It doesn't matter what you write, whether it's crime, suspense fiction, literary fiction, or some other genre where you make stuff up, the most frequently asked question writers get from readers is: "Where do you get your ideas?"
Usually, I give them some smart ass answer, like "Off eBay. Some guy there sells plot ideas, six for a hundred bucks, minimum bid." Or, "The dollar store. It's all I can afford." But the truth is there's usually a different inspiration for every story or book I write, so the question is one that's truly difficult to answer, without sitting down and taking it on a case by case basis. Ideas come from all over. It seems the more of them I get, the more of them I have. Inspiration comes from dreams, snatches of conversation overheard on public transportation, a news item on the 'Net or in the paper, and asking myself the one question writers ask themselves more than any other: "What if..."
And sometimes, ideas come from real life. Such is the case with my just-released novel, Bashed, from MLR Press. For a lot of gay men and women, hate crimes are a fact of life. Many gay people have either themselves experienced the terror, violation, and persecution of being attacked simply for who they are (and whether the attack took the form of words, fists, or something more lethal) or, at the very least, they know someone who has. I've been lucky. I have no permanent physical scars. But I did come very close to experiencing a hate crime up close and personal (and I suppose one could argue that what I did experience was actually a hate crime) and that formed the basis for the inspiration of my novel, Bashed. The title, of course, refers to being fag-bashed.
My close call came one October night several years ago back when I still lived in Chicago. I was once into what's affectionately called the "leather scene" and owned chaps, biker jacket, boots, and other accouterments that passed the dress code in either a gay leather establishment or a biker bar. That particular night, I had been hanging out at the Eagle, one of Chicago's foremost leather establishments. I had stayed late, arriving after midnight and leaving near closing, at close to four o'clock in the morning. I had made a new friend and we were making our way to my car, which was parked on a side street that ran parallel to St. Boniface Cemetery. It was a very dark and quiet side street, made all the more so by the late night hour. My companion and I weren't thinking about things like fag bashers or hate crimes. But we suddenly were when we noticed an idling old car parked just opposite from my own. The car was a souped up muscle vehicle of some sort and inside it, we could see several dark figures, all turning their heads, alert, as we approached. Both of us tensed and quickened our pace. Even in the middle of a metropolis like Chicago, it was easy to feel vulnerable and alone. And we felt even more vulnerable when the still of the quiet night was broken by the sound of car doors opening. Suddenly, my friend and I stopped, feeling exposed in our leather gear, as four young men emerged from the car. To the man, they all sported shaved heads and were dressed in uniforms of baggy jeans and hoodies.
And one of them was carrying an aluminum baseball bat.
They didn't call us "fags" or "queers". They didn't say anything. Their silence was perhaps more frightening than if they had hurled epithets our way. To reach my car, we would have to walk right by them...and it didn't appear as though they were planning to let us pass.
It was like being confronted by a Grizzly in the woods, or a lion in the jungle. What do you do? Run the other way, knowing that four strong men are on your heels? Try to get to your car and hope that the baseball bat was for a late night game of sandlot?
We froze. The four, as a unit, moved closer. One of the guys, the one with the bat, grinned, swinging the bat slightly.
This was a moment of irrational fear. My heart pounded. A trickle of sweat ran down by back.
In books, they call what happened next predictable or deus ex machina, but at just that moment, one of
Thankfully, I do not know what the outcome of that night would have been had not the police come along on such a fortunate patrol.
But the incident did stick with me for many years, until I got around to dramatizing the incident as the opening to Bashed. But in my fictional world, no police car came to the rescue and the pair of guys emerging from the leather bar end up bashed very badly...with an aluminum baseball bat. Its chilling to think that one of your characters could have been you, a you that might not have survived to tell a tale again.
BUY your copy of Bashed.
Rick R. Reed is the author of ten novels and has short fiction in more than twenty anthologies. He lives in Seattle, WA. Find out more about the author at his website.
Rick R. Reed has been hailed as "the Stephen King of gay horror" (Unzipped magazine, October 2006) and his dark, suspenseful fiction has been called, "a harrowing ride through cutting-edge psychological horror" (Douglas Clegg, author of The Attraction) and having a "knack for presenting the gruesome lower depths of a soul" (New City).
His most recent novels include Dead End Street, a young adult horror novel; Orientation, an EPPIE award-winning novel about lost love, reincarnation, and sexual orientation; a sexy thriller called High Risk about a bored housewife who chooses a very handsome--and very psychotic--stranger to come on to; Deadly Vision, a paranormal page-turner about a psychic reluctantly caught up in the murders of two teenage girls in her small western Pennsylvania town; In the Blood, a tragic vampire love story, and IM, a thriller about a serial killer preying on gay men using online gay hookup sites.
Past writing credits include A Face Without a Heart, a modern-day, Chicago-set version of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray; Penance; and Obsessed. Both Penance and Obsessed were published in Dell's lauded horror line, Abyss and, together sold more than 80,000 copies. Both books were reissued in 2006. His horror short story collection, Twisted: Tales of Obsession and Terror, was published in 2006. His short fiction has appeared in more than twenty anthologies. He lives in Seattle, WA with his partner.
Friday, April 3, 2009
For April, we kick off our Guest Author Blogs with none other than Rick R. Reed. He's been called "The Stephen King of gay horror." Rick will open up about himself and his new novel, BASHED. Mark your calendar and be here on Friday, April 10th. He's dark and handsome and totally into horror and suspense.
FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2009
It's a real treat to welcome Moondancer Drake on Friday, April 24th, for an interactive day of comments or questions with Moondancer. Her first book, ANCESTRAL MAGIC, has just been released by PD Publishing and she will share a bit about herself and her paranormal book and be available live, in between her busy schedule, to interact with readers and comments for the whole day. Don't forget to jot down the date to come and meet Moondancer Drake.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
If you're not already registered at Google Blogspot, I urge you to do it now so you don't miss out on your favorite author's Guest Blog.
Keep coming back for dates and announcements for future Guest Bloggers!
Peace and nightmares, ghouls and fiends.
Patty G. Henderson
It has been such a long road for this vampire tale. I am satisfied that as the author, I finally got the book I wanted. I am pleased to offer SO DEAD, MY LOVE Author's Choice to vampire lovers. The book, under a different title, was published by a now defunct publisher. It was edited beyond what I had intended, but as a new, unpublished author, excited to get her first book into publication, I eagerly agreed to any and all editing suggestions. The experience was a disaster. After starting up my own publishing imprint, Black Car Publishing, I decided to offer the book again after acquiring the rights back. I changed the title to the original one and paid an editor to take a look at the book again. I wondered about the beginning being so padded and a bit confusing, but this editor also suggested (as did the first), that some of the information at the beginning of the book was necessary and should stay. I published it with a new cover and a few things I wanted to add. This was during an especially tough time in my life when I spent time in the hospital and was very ill. Because I didn't have all the time to devote to the construction of the book, the printing and typesetting in the first batch of this edition had some problems. Since I own all the rights to my book and had the luxury of taking one last chance on putting out the story I wanted to tell, I took the opportunity to add much more to the story, eliminating some of it that didn't work.
I hope that those that have read previous editions and enjoyed them might welcome this Author's Choice Edition as well. For those who read the book and didn't care for it, perhaps this edition might be more to your liking. And lastly, if you like vampire stories but haven't read SO DEAD, MY LOVE, the Author's Choice Edition is now your perfect chance to read it.
The book is available online at Amazon.com, BN.com (Barnes and Noble) and other online booksellers. As an added treat, if you order through my web site : www.pattyghenderson.com, you will get an autographed copy. It's easy to order if you have PayPal and I will ship promptly.
Thank you for allowing me to share my vampire tale with you. I'm working on the second book, THE BLOOD RUNS COLD.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
WIN A BRENDA STRANGE AUTOGRAPHED BOOKMARK! Do you enjoy the Brenda Strange series? Do you have a favorite book in the series? I'll be running a poll here in The Henderson Files and giving away an autographed Brenda Strange bookmark like the one you see above as a prize to one lucky person. All you have to do is email me the answer to the following poll:
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BRENDA STRANGE BOOK?
2. Tangled and Dark
3. The Missing Page
FREE BOOKPLATES......FREE BOOKPLATES......FREE BOOKPLATES.......FREE BOOKPLATES
If you loved the Countess Lara Karnov in my vampire book, SO DEAD, MY LOVE or have a cherished copy of the hot new anthology of flash fiction horror stories that I edited for PD Publishing, CHILLING TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL, and would love an autographed bookplate like the cool ones above, please email me your address and I'll happily mail one out to you. One bookplate per person, please. Don't forget to tell me if you want the Vampire Countess or the Chilling Tales cover. These are perfect to just tip inside the book or paste on the front page. Your choice. Each one will be autographed.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
As of 9:30 this morning, Wednesday, January 7th, the fourth Brenda Strange adventure was finished. I didn't have Champagne, but I did sit back and enjoy a cup of smooth coffee with non-diary creamer. I'll put the manuscript aside for about a month, read over it again, revise once, maybe allow a beta reader to take a look at it, then send it on to my hard-as-nails editor.
The best way I cope with the withdrawal of saying goodbye to a book I spent so much time with is to start on a new one. Now, which one calls my name the loudest? Will it be the bloodthirsty adventure and romance of a sequel to my Karnov vampire trilogy or the bold dip into a period gothic romantic suspense? And Brenda Strange will surely begin demanding my attention sooner than later.
I find the choices challenging and delightful. Oh, and there is that barely audible whisper of a pirate yarn.....