Last week I teased you a little about an upcoming story of mine based on an ancient Genesis song. The story still isn’t out yet - I think it’s going to be released sometime either next week or the week after that. Definitely this month, which is cool because the last time I got a story published, it was also right at the end of October.
The new story is going through edits right now, but once they’re done it’ll only be a matter of days.
For now, though, I can at least share with you the cover art for the story, designed just like all my story covers are designed, by the indomitable Jason Snape. I’ve given visitors to this site some insight into Snape before, here and here. Once again, I find myself in his debt, for the cover to this story is sublime, evocative, and just about perfect.
And here it is!
As a quick aside, in between doing this cover and the covers for these other stories, Snape and my friend Matt Link managed to get a game of their design accepted by Game Salute (the folks who also did Alien Frontiers and Nothing Personal). The game is going to get Kickstarted next week, so look for it. Here’s an overview of the game.
Consider this a plug for it. So… given all that, next week you can get all sorts of wintry goodness all over you, what with Kickstarting The Great Snowball Battle and reading The Three Trespasses, Part One. Enjoy!
I came to Genesis kind of late in their game and in a way that other hardcore Genesis fans may scoff at - I first fell in love with the Phil Collins song ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’, and that led to me really liking the later Genesis song, ‘Mama.’ That meant that my first real exposure to Genesis was the 1983 album titled Genesis - pretty much the last thing they did before spiraling into pop music banality. There were a few really good songs on their biggest album, 1986’s Invisible Touch, but let’s face it - as much as I loved that record when I was 16, it’s mostly crap.
Fortunately, I loved Genesis so much, and I’m so much a completist, that I had to have every song they made in my library. I also had to have everything by Genesis’s original frontman, Peter Gabriel. And now, almost 30 years later, I truly believe that Peter Gabriel’s music has enriched my life and affected me more than any other artist from any other artistic medium, ever. As much as I love reading, and as much as I love movies, I don’t have a favorite author or director who’s impacted me as much as Peter Gabriel has.
I think that his power over me comes from the transcendent nature of his musical moods and his lyrics. That’s why he’s my favorite artist. Even though I only dabble in playing music, a musician is one of my chief influences.
Peter Gabriel’s songs are cinematic in scope - I think that’s why they appear so often in movies and television shows. (See Birdy, Wall-E, Gangs of New York, Red Planet, Waking The Dead, Babe: Pig In The City, City of Angels, The Craft, Natural Born Killers, Strange Days, Angus, Philadelphia, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Say Anything.) And for me at least, his lyrics have demonstrated that music can tell engaging, inspirational, even rapturous stories.
One of the earliest examples of Peter Gabriel’s genius came at the beginning of his tenure with Genesis. More hypercritical people have said that early Genesis was pompous, overblown, and pretentious. I’ve read those critics. And while I do agree that Peter Gabriel’s theatrical posturing at early Genesis concerts might have been a tad on the gimmicky side, when I listen to the music, it blows me away that songs of this level of complexity and magnitude were written by a bunch of kids barely out of high school, barely out of their teens. Early Genesis songs were, with few exceptions, nothing short of epic. It’s because of early Genesis that my favorite music these days comes from bands like Tool and Elbow and Mastodon. Give me epic over catchy any day.
At the same time, Peter Gabriel’s lyrics were chock full of literary references and adaptations of existing stories which made me have to go to my mythology and history textbooks again and again. My love for referential literature, like that of John Ashbery, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, came from the referential lyrics of one Master Peter Gabriel of Surrey, England.
The influence of Peter Gabriel on me is so high, in fact, that I actually concocted an entire novella based on the lyrics to one of Genesis’s earliest recordings.
In late 1970, when I was just over a month old, Genesis released a 6-song album called Trespass. The second song on it, ‘White Mountain’, was a 7-minute opus about a pack of wolves chasing a lone traitor to their pack across a frozen wasteland atop a snow-blasted mountain. The song may or may not reference Jack London’s novel White Fang, which has characters in it with names similar to those in the song.
‘White Mountain’, along with most of Trespass, had lackluster sales and got low marks from critics.
Except in Belgium. Go figure.
But to a teenage boy coming to the music a decade and a half after it was written, ‘White Mountain’ was an effective and haunting fable which would stay with him for many years, until he became an artist in his own right.
Sometime after that, he’d sit down and write a 10,000-word treatment of the story, fleshing out the background of the anthropomorphic wolves involved, elaborating on their relationships, and giving their story new life. Then, a few years after he wrote the story, a small press would be willing to e-publish the novella. Novellas are notoriously difficult to publish in traditional paper form, but the advent of e-books makes them more attractive and feasible.
So here it comes - The Three Trespasses, Part One, the story of a family of wolves living on the White Mountain, a story first imagined by one of my musical and artistic heroes, Peter Gabriel.
As many of you know, in 2011 I self-published a couple of stories, just to see what would happen. I did it strictly eBook, because eBooks cost nothing except time to produce, and reading books on electronic devices is becoming more and more ubiquitous every year. Soon we’ll all have eBooks, and “real” books will be to publishing what vinyl is to recorded music.
Anyway, “what happened” was a I sold a respectable amount of copies - enough to encourage me to do it again, and enough to encourage a small publishing company, Hallowed Waste Press, to throw in with me. About six months later we published another, slightly larger set of stories, and over time that small collection sold about as well as the first.
Sometime last fall, I found out about a document-sharing web site called Scribd.com. And yeah, Scribd has been around a couple of years and for someone who’s supposedly as aware of places like Scribd as I am, I was a total idiot for not looking at them earlier. They came to my attention because I was looking for a good place to put teasers up for my upcoming novel, and maybe for my existing stories as well. The guys over at Hallowed Waste said they were going to use the site to tease a story from a new writer they’d just contracted with, and suggested it to me.
I figured why not, and on December 13th put up a free copy of one of my self-published stories, ‘The Littlest Goblin’. I tweeted that I’d done so, put a link up on Facebook, and then went and enjoyed my holidays.
When I came back a few days after Christmas, I discovered that ‘The Littlest Goblin’ had almost 15,000 reads! Curious as to the impact 15,000 free reads on Scribd had on my performance at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I immediately went over to my reports pages there and saw that indeed, my stories had picked up steam again.
I mean, think about it: the typical literary magazine in America has an average circulation of 1000 to 5000 readers. A “no name” writer like me MIGHT get paid anything from contributor’s copies (effectively, nada) to MAYBE $200 for a story, and that story will be seen by 1000 to 5000 people. ‘The Littlest Goblin’ has already made me around $50 by itself, AND has now supposedly been seen by 15,000 people (actually, though new reads have fallen off, as of today I’m up to 17,000).
To follow up that momentum, I posted another story, ‘The Thrall of Fate’, my homage to Edgar Allan Poe. Over the last month, though ‘Thrall’ didn’t hit as hard as ‘Goblin’, it’s still garnered 2700 reads, which is still formidable, considering the comparative exposure short stories get.
And to follow up THAT momentum (and maybe cash in, because it’s possible), I took both collections that I had previously published and whose sales momentum on Amazon and other sites had slacked, added another previously published story called ‘Galahad’s Message’, and posted all six stories as one collection in Scribd.com’s store. Sales of that larger collection have already begun to trickle in, and the number of people sampling it is already pretty impressive.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to say with this post is that I think Scribd.com is an awesome tool for hard-working writers who are willing to take a few risks. The chance of exposure is there if you have something attractive enough to get noticed (which it appears with ‘The Littlest Goblin” I did). I’m not saying it’s the end all and be all, but it looks pretty good from where I’m sitting.
I’m also saying that 17,000 people can’t be wrong: there’s probably something worthwhile on Scribd.com written by a certain writer we’re all familiar with that MIGHT, just MAYBE, be worth looking into.
I haven’t heard the latest statistics regarding this holiday season’s Kindle, iPad, and Nook sales, but I’d be willing to bet that the number of people who own such a device increased last week, perhaps exponentially. I know for a fact that my family is one iPad to the plus: Eli’s digging Angry Birds on the “big screen.”
OK. So, did YOU get a Kindle or an iPad or a Nook? Or even one of the more generic or esoteric e-readers available? Cool. That’s a nice one.
Now that you have that awesome device, may I suggest that you purchase and download some short stories by an up-and-coming writer who’s busting his chops and trying to make inroads via electronic-only publishing? Looking at my site this week, I realized that I had been being demure about selling my new stories (and my old ones, too). I hadn’t yet posted a single post with ALL of the point of sale links for the stories, nor had I said “HEY!!! BUY THEM!!!”
You should, though. I’ve been told they’re pretty good.
Last time, when I self-published some stories, you only got 8000 words. Sure, they were only .99 cents, but still. This time, a small press has picked me up, and as an added bonus for you, this time around you get 20,000 words for the same low price.
Did I mention that you might enjoy them? In fact, if you do buy them and enjoy them, I’d LOVE for you to go to the site where you bought them and write a review of them. And if you’re a press or a zine or somebody in publishing, and you like what you see, well, hey - you know where to find me.
Now, here’s where you can find my latest works of fiction:
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
iTunes/Apple (iPad, iPod)
Smashwords (RTF, Plain Text, HTML)
A very scary Halloween was the target with the latest bunch of stories by yours truly, and it happened. Allow me to present three stories that I hope will send a chill down your spine and make your hairs stand on end. As of right now, the Kindle and Smashwords versions are available. Links to the points of sale for both versions are below. If you want, just click away and you’ll be off to Amazon.com or Smashwords.com, where you can buy the bundle for a mere .99 cents.
Last time around I only gave you two stories, at roughly 8000 words total. This time around, when you buy you get THREE stories, clocking in at closer to 20,000 words. That’s almost a novella, and it’s still just .99 cents.
Although all three stories are technically horror, they’re all very different in tone and style. They have a few things in common besides their genre: each focuses at least in some degree on the relationship between two male “buddies”, each features precocious children (not unlike tiny Emys from The Littlest Goblin), and all of them have open-ended finales which ask you, the reader, to fill in the blanks using your imagination and the clues I’ve provided.
The first story is called The One That Got Away. It opens in my favorite bar, The East Point Corner Tavern, where Evan Craddock is drinking himself silly AGAIN, accompanied by his good friend Stan. Evan’s a divorcé with a four-year-old daughter and a whole shitload of baggage. His little girl’s at his mom’s so that he can go out drinking, and he’s making the most of it. He’s about to enjoy his next drink, when Stan grabs him by the arm and points out this gorgeous woman who’s just walked into the bar. Coincidentally, Evan knows the woman - she’s a long lost love from his college days - and she’s actually in the bar to find him. But her intentions are less than… altruistic.
According to history, Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809. But WAS he? In my retelling of history, called The Thrall of Fate, Poe is actually born in 2009, knowing already the ultimate fate of the famous writer who died in a gutter in 1849. A series of events sends Poe backwards in time, where he assumes the role of his namesake - although he’s determined not to suffer the same fate that the original Poe did.
In Killing The Messenger, someone’s trying to tell 10-year-old Chuck Ballantine something. But what’s the message? And why Chuck? And what’s the mysterious force which keeps intercepting the messengers over and over again? There are scenes and some heavy-handed allegory in Messenger which I’m sure will piss some people off. And you know what? I’m fine with that.
So there you go. Hopefully, I’ve intrigued you, and NOW you’re going to click on the links below, run off, and buy them.
Thanks and Happy Halloween!
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
For the uninitiated, that’s a quote from the beginning of Night of the Living Dead. But I’m not talking about zombies coming to get you, or coming to get Barbara either. I’m gonna let Robert Kirkman and Max Brooks bring the zombies to the masses for the time being.
What’s coming from me to get you is three scary stories, soon to be available on your closest haunted Kindle, Nook, iPad, or computer. They have a few things in common - like the simple fact that they’re all horror stories - but otherwise they’re all very different. I announced them a few weeks ago, in the hopes that the finished products would be available by Halloween, and, well, I’m on track. Unless something unexpected like a zombie holocaust occurs between now and then, I’ll be able to tell you next Monday to go get them.
Just as with The Giant/The Littlest Goblin package I got published last May, they’re only .99 cents and only available as an eBook. This time, though, you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck: there’s THREE stories, and they’re generally longer than the first two.
Without revealing too much, here’s a little bit about each of the new stories.
The One That Got Away is a bit of horror/comedy - something along the lines of Stephen King’s first Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt. I got the idea several years ago when I heard that a girl I’d hooked up with a couple of times in college had died really young from some rare and vicious cancer. I know, I know - that’s not funny - and neither is the ultimate ending of the story. But as I wrote the initial scenes (which coincidentally take place in my favorite bar The East Point Corner Tavern), I had my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. The main character, Evan, and his best bud, Stan… well, they’re a couple of idiots. You gotta love them, but it’s hard not to chuckle at their alcohol-fueled antics.
I’ve mentioned The Thrall of Fate before. It’s an ode I wrote in 2009 to commemorate the birthday of one of my literary heroes - Edgar Allan Poe. Poe himself is the main character of the story - but he’s a very different Edgar Allan than the one who died in a gutter in 1849 of some strange and terrifying malady. I had to take some liberty with the details of Poe’s early life, so consider this an alternate history piece, with a twist and a finale I sincerely hope Poe himself would approve of.
I wrote Killing The Messenger with the sole intention of creating a monster from an unexpected source. And I don’t mean like the shit monster Kevin Smith created in Dogma or the meat monster from David Wong’s John Dies at The End.
You know, though, as I think about it, Messenger actually has TWO antagonists - one the monster I created, and the other, an amorphous, mysterious other. This other entity is responsible for doing what the title suggests, over an over again. But the visceral effect of my “monster” may be the thing you’re more likely to take away from the story. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Anyway, Killing The Messenger was also partially inspired by the lyrics to a strange song by a musician named Jude, who had a few small hits back in the 90s. On his album No One Is Really Beautiful, there’s this song called ‘George’, and the beginning goes like this:
“George died in the fifth grade/no one ever knew why
He was out selling lemonade/on the Fourth of July, and he died
Sister Claire said that he was/an angel on Earth/She stood there and she told us
She had clearly rehearsed/Every verse/Of the lies that tie you down”
That’s it. I’ll leave you with that. That ought to keep you until Monday, I think.
On Monday, they’re coming to get you.
I told you this would happen.
OK. I told some of you. Others of you might have guessed based on discussions you’ve had with me regarding how the sales on my original two stories were doing: they haven’t made me a millionaire (and indeed, that is not my goal), but they’ve been encouraging enough for me to do it again. That is, to have MORE stories published on eBook and eReader formats, so that I can share even more of my work with even more people.
To that end, consider this the first formal announcement regarding THREE MORE forthcoming stories.
Now, here’s a bit of irony: I don’t consider myself a genre writer. I don’t set out when I write to write a horror story or a science fiction story or a fantasy story. I don’t say to myself, “Will - you should right a story about a school of wizards or a story about sparkly vampires.” I usually set out with some point I want to make, some germ of an idea - a bit of morality, a bit of commentary about life, death, and the human condition. Sometimes, I find those ideas easier to express in a particular genre. More often, that’s actually not the case, and one day maybe you’ll see more of my non-genre work.
Still, as I look over my stories lately - the one’s I want to see published, to share with people right now, I’m drawn to the genre pieces. And so it is that, once again, I’ll be sharing genre pieces with you.
Last time, I gave you a fantasy piece and a science fiction piece. This time, I’ll be giving you three horror stories.
Now, although they’re all from one genre, these stories are all very different. One’s funny, one’s deeply literary, and one’s well… strange. As the publication date draws nearer, I’ll give you more details. For now, I’ll just tease you with the picture of Edgar Allan Poe up above, and let you know that he’s a main character in one of the stories. I wrote that story a couple of years ago to sort of celebrate Poe’s 200th birthday. It’s taken a couple of years to get it published.
I’m told by initial readers that the story is kick ass. Here’s hoping that you’ll like it, too.
“There are three things you can buy for a dollar: a lottery ticket, a taco, and these stories. Two of the three are a sure bet, but only one of those two won’t leave stains on your pants.”
That’s what one reviewer said about ‘The Giant’ and ‘The Littlest Goblin’, the two short stories I currently have available on Kindle, Nook, iPad, and just about every other e-reader you can imagine. Despite such “ringing” praise, the reviewer only gave me 4 out of 5 stars. You see, he had some quibbles with the stories: with ‘The Littlest Goblin’, he demanded that I write more, to flesh out the tiny fantasy world I created as back story for my (I believe) otherwise straightforward morality tale.
With ‘The Giant’ he claims I blasphemed against God.
And maybe he’s right on both counts. Even before the reviewer and a couple of other friends of mine asked for more stories of little Emys and her Goblin friends, I’d outlined another story set in the same world, with Emys once again challenged, this time by a rival modeled after U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner. (Guess who wins and who’s the dick.) Emys had already interested me as a continuing protagonist, so I’m okay with the reviewer’s quibble with that story. There will be more Emys some day.
I’m also okay with his quibble regarding ’The Giant’, mostly because of the other thing he said in the review: he said that I made him think.
As I read it - as well as the other reviews of the stories - and as I’ve also sat and spoken with my friends who’d bought and read them, I’ve become really, really happy with the amount of thought everyone is giving to the stories’ meanings, their themes, and their messages. Sure, I want to sell a lot of downloads, mostly to make up the expense of having them thoroughly edited. But I want more than that.
I realize now that what I want - what I really, truly want - is to get into people’s hearts and minds and make them either think, weep, laugh, or… demand my head on a stake. I want to entertain them as well as challenge them, to inspire them as well as give them a few hours of distraction. I see the reviews and I talk about the stories with people who’ve read them and I realize that, in a small, simple, humble-were-it-possible-for-me-to-be-humble way, I’ve done just that.
These stories are by no means masterpieces. They’re short, simple, and unassuming. And yet I’ve affected a small portion of the world with them, ever so slightly. It is both encouraging and awe-inspiring to think that I could do that. It is also frustrating to know that I have not been allowed to do it on this scale ever before.
In the near future, I intend to publish another, larger set of short stories, for .99 cents just like these, and I’m also looking into publishing a novel. I want to broaden the satisfying experience these stories have given me, and I think that’s by far the best way to do it.
If you’re interested in trying these simple stories on for size, check them out at the following places.
I’m on Twitter. Check me out and follow me here.
OK, now that we’ve taken care of that, let me say that I am one of many, many, many, many poets on Twitter. Some of us use Twitter to promote our work. Some of us use Twitter to communicate and share with other poets like ourselves. Some of us “Tweet” poetry - using the 21st century constraint of expressing ourselves in 140 characters the way poets of past ages used other “formal” constraints - like sestinas, rhymed couplets, sonnets, even haikus - to force themselves into sieving their thoughts into tightly structured, no-nonsense pieces that say only what the poet needs to say and nothing more.
There are a lot of us out there, and we’re getting a little attention, and that’s good. But then something like this article in the NY Times comes along.
The Times went and asked four very famous poets (very famous in poetry circles, at least) to write poems that fit into the Twitter constraint. One hundred and forty characters, full of meaning. All four poets accepted the challenge, with varying levels of success.
The problem that some of us who are on Twitter every day have with this exercise is this:
1) The poets in question didn’t have Twitter accounts AT ALL at the time they wrote their “Twitter” poems. Pinsky got one a couple of days after the above article was published, but he’s only Tweeted with it 12 times as of my writing this tonight. Billy Collins actively RESISTS social media, and the other two still don’t have accounts either. And this is fine. I understand why they may not feel the need to join the social media revolution, and I have to admit that this world - of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and Bings - isn’t for everybody. And I’m GLAD that the NY Times is paying ANY attention to poets and poetry at all. But…
2) With as many poets as there ARE on Twitter, you’d think the Times would approach at least ONE poet who’s found success with social media, and let him or her join the ranks of the illustrious. I’m not saying ME - I’d be a terrible representative of Twitter poetry, since my poetry’s been kind of dry this past year and I don’t Tweet as often as I should. Still, in a highly competitive, market-driven, speculative, and often thankless profession, you’d think somebody ELSE could get cut a break. Pinsky, Collins, Alexander, and Rankine have already gotten theirs .
If you agree with me, then put your money where your mouth is and check Ocho #24 out. This is a tiny book of poetry (pictured above) put together about a year ago by my friend and colleague Collin Kelley. It contains nothing less than 38 poems by 38 poets who ALL have active and vibrant accounts on Twitter.
Yeah I’m selling something, but let’s be clear - I’m not selling ME. Below is the poem I have in the volume, so don’t go and buy it on my account. Buy it because my poem is weak compared to the other poems you’ll find in Ocho. It’s those other 37 contributors that’ll make your purchase worthwhile. Just like it’s one of them who deserved a call from the NY Times.
My heart would displace the ocean
Cause tidal waves to crash upon the crests of mountains
No matter how far inland you placed them
So gorged with blood and saltwater
I could erode your fields with the overflow
Ruin and drown your harvest
This surplus swells at walls that I neglect
And despite protests of the mountains and plains
I clamber at the hole that opens hugely in my chest
Sorry I haven’t been here for a few days. Last week I had my buddy Michael Buccheri in town, and he kept me busy with drinking and gaming, and then this weekend I was at the Atlanta Gamefest. I’m back now, and I bring good tidings. At least I think these are good tidings.
Those stories I published last month - remember those? Well, for a while they’ve been available at Amazon.com and at Smashwords.com. But now I’m happy to say that they’re available at a few more places now, including the following:
So far they’re not showing up in the Sony Reader store or at Kobo, but I’m gonna assume they’ll be there within a few days.
I’ve sold quite a few copies already - enough to be encouraged to do this again in the future. Also, the reviews have been generally favorable. Nah. Screw that. The reviews have been AWESOME. If I didn’t sell a single copy more of these stories (and I find that unlikely), I’d still feel like they’ve been a great success. I’ve basically accomplished something that I’ve always wanted: I put a little piece of myself out into the world, and people have taken it and enjoyed it and remarked on it. Most of us who are compelled to create - be it art or movies or music or stories - we want nothing more than to share our creations with the world, and I’m doing that now.
Thanks to everyone who’s discovered my work. I look forward to sharing more with you down the road.