Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Holy Crap, I'm Feeling Good Two Months in a Row (#IWSG September 2018)

"It blends comedy and blackness in a way that hits all the right notes for me. I would go as far as to say it may appeal to Pratchett or Vonnegut fans."
-Lukasz Przywoski, Fantasy Book Critic

In case you couldn't guess, that quote from a glowing review of HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN made my year. I don't think it's warranted, but even a tangential comparison to Terry Pratchett or Kurt Vonnegut (!!!) is about the highest praise I can imagine.

Kurt looks almost as shocked as I was.

August was a great month for me, writing-wise.

For those who missed it a few weeks ago, my book HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN was selected by Fantasy Book Critic as a semi-finalist for Mark Lawrence's 2018 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Basically that means it has made it to the top 50 or so of the 300 books entered. That quote at the top came from their official review of the book.. It still has a long way to go to make it to the top 10 (literally, it will probably be 6 months before the finalists are decided), but I am beyond thrilled it even made it this far.

As a side-effect to the success in SPFBO, the first week of August was the best sales week I've had in years. I sold more copies of Hogtown in August than I had in the two years since it was released, not to mention a few other sales and several hundred free downloads of TENTACLES UNDER A FULL MOON. Not only that, but people were buying it all over the world - I usually get sales in Canada and the US, maybe an occasional one in the UK, but thanks to SPFBO I've had sales/downloads in Germany, Mexico, Australia, Sweden and India. Needless to say that was a great accomplishment, at least for me.

I'm now an international best-selling author!

In additional to Fantasy Book Critic, I also received 10 new reviews/ratings on Goodreads, which is more than I usually get in a year. Most of them were quite positive; even the worse one is pretty good:

"Fun, urban fantasy that'll keep you turning pages. Its not fantastic literature, but it's entertaining and you won't be disappointed with it."

I mean, he's not wrong.

On top of all that, I wrote and submitted another story (with an hour to spare before the deadline!) and have another one ready to go for a submission later this month. I've also started a new writing game with my friends online - I'll probably write a more detailed post about that later. It's probably not something that will generate content I can share publicly, but it does force me to write regularly (and quickly - I wrote over 3000 words last week), and it tends to spawn a lot of ideas that I can use elsewhere down the line.

If I had one thing to be insecure about this month, it's that there is no way in hell I'll be able to keep this positive energy and momentum going... :-/

One moment you're flying like a bird, the next you're landing on your face.

September 5 IWSG Question 
What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

I've talked about this a lot before so I won't go in huge detail, but the short version is that I started self-publishing because I was impatient. I wanted to see my books on Amazon and in print RIGHT NOW.

In hindsight that's probably not the best reason to self-publish, but in the last couple of years I've grown to appreciate it on a number of levels, the main one being is that the stuff I write is not usually palpable to traditional publishers. (Seriously, have you read Tentacles Under a Full Moon?) With self-publishing I can write what I want, when I want. I don't have anything against traditional publishing, and I still submit to them regularly, but I suspect the majority of my work is going to continuing being self-published for the foreseeable future.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Hell Comes to Hogtown is the first SPFBO Semi-Finalist of 2018!


Remember that secret I hinted about a few days ago? Well the cat's out of the bag now...

This morning, Fantasy Book Critic officially announced their first pick to move forward in the 2018 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and it's none other than HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN. Like I said, I had actually found out about this a few days ago, and I'm so thrilled that the news is finally public and I can shout it from the rooftops.

(For those of you not up to speed with SPFBO, it's a yearly Self-Publishing contest organized and hosted by best-selling fantasy novelist Mark Lawrence. Check out more info here.)

This is especially vindicating because, as many of you know, my book was the very first one eliminated in it's group in last year's SPFBO contest. I only submitted again because I couldn't possibly have done any worse this time around. I could only go up, right? Little did I know...

You can check out the full details of the first round of eliminations right here, but below is a snippet from the judge's comments. A more detailed review is expected to follow.

It’s a strange, genre-bending mixture of action, horror, fantasy and comedy. And it works - it entertains, surprises and, above all, provides a lot of fun.
It’s not lighthearted, but a strong dose of absurd and wicked sense of humour balances off some of the tragic events.
It has a similar vibe to Tarantino or Guy Ritchie's movies. The story is simple but twists and turns are Legion and you really can't be sure what to expect. It'll entertain you in a loud,violent and inappropriate way. 
- Lukasz Przywoski, Fantasy Book Critic

Holy shit, someone actually liked this...

There's still a huge field of competition in the contest and it's expected to run a full year, but even if this is a far as my book goes I am incredibly pleased. This is a huge bump of validation that I've been missing from my writing for a long time. In the last three days alone I've sold more copies of Hogtown than I have in the last 18 months (it helps that it's on sale). Hell, according to Amazon I've sold copies in places I never would have dreamed, like India and Mexico. Seriously, if nothing else comes of this contest I'm already way ahead, so thank you, Mark Lawrence and SPFBO. I am so psyched right now.

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Speaking of the sale, Hell Comes to Hogtown is available for just 99 cents (USD) through Sunday on Amazon and various other retailers. If you haven't read it yet, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon.


While you're at it, head over to Andrea Domanski's website where you can find over 120 other SPFBO entries also on sale for just 99 cents. There are a lot of gems in there waiting to be discovered, so do yourself a favour at check a few of them out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Revenge of the Spiff and Other Stories (#IWSG August 2018)

Lots of news this month! Some insecurity, some head-scratchers, and even some good news. There's so much to talk about that I've had to break it down into easily-digestible categories...


RETURN OF SPIFF-BO

Remember last year when I signed up for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off? Quick recap: It's a contest organized by award-winning and best-selling author Mark Lawrence, where 300 independent writers submit their books to be judged by 10 book review websites to find "the best" self-published fantasy book of the year. While there's no "official" prize (besides a replica of Dumbledore's Elder Wand - it's a long story), the exposure of doing well in this high-profile event does wonders for you and your book. Previous winners have gone on to big things, and even making it as a finalist can provide a huge boost to your sales and audience.

Of course, Ten Thousand Days was the very first book eliminated in its group when the reviewer was offended by some off-colour jokes and didn't make it past the first chapter.

Well, I didn't learn my lesson, because I have submitted Hell Comes to Hogtown to SPFBO this year, which has TEN TIMES as much offensive humour as Ten Thousand Days. My thought was I can't possibly do any worse than last year, so what do I have to lose?


99 CENT SALE

The SPFBO contest officially starts today, so reviews should start to roll in soon. You can start taking bets on how quickly I'll be booted out this time around. In conjunction with the contest though, I'm also taking part in a special sale, where over 100 of the SPFBO participants are offering their entry on sale for just 99 cents! That's right, you can check out exactly how funny, gory and inappropriate Hell Comes to Hogtown is FOR YOURSELF, all for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

Get your own copy right here!
(Or here)
(Or here)
(Or here)

If schlocky horror-comedy is not your thing, there are many other great books participating in this promotion. There's paranormal, epic fantasy and YA fantasy as far at the eye can see! Just check out Andrea Domanski's website for a full list of all the books on sale this week. Special thanks to Ms Domanski for organizing the sale, too!


Just for fun, I also made Tentacles Under a Full Moon FREE on Amazon this week, too, so check that out if you haven't already.


WRITING NEWS

A few weeks ago I finally started writing a story that I've been putting off for two years. It's not that I didn't want to write it, I just had so many things I wanted to write I couldn't decide which one to start first. I actually started - and abandoned - three other novels in that time, and wrote several short stories. Then a lot of personal and family stuff happened that wiped out my free time and made all writing pretty much impossible.

I've finally started to carve out that time and put words to (digital) paper, and in the first week or so so I wrote 5000 words. I was ecstatic! I finally got my groove back and I felt like myself. Plus I was making progress on a project that's been rolling around in my head for years. It was great, I was feeling good and positive...

...and then I realized those 5000 words sucked and I threw pretty much the whole thing out.

I was forcing the story to go places it didn't want to go. I'm notoriously bad at starting stories/books, and in this case it was because I had certain scenes and jokes in mind, but it took a lot of set-up to get there, and when I finally got to the punchline it really wasn't worth it. I tried to jam way too many characters and plot lines into the first few chapters and it just didn't work. So I trimmed it all out, jumped right into the main plot line instead, and I'll introduce those characters and plot elements more naturally over time as the story progresses.

Maybe I'll be able to use my ideas later on in the book after everything is established, maybe not, but either way I'm not upset about it. It's a learning experience and I think the book will be better for it. I'm just happy it's taking shape at all, and hey, I'm back up to about 3000 words, so I'm doing alright.


#IWSGPIT NEWS

I submitted my pitch a few times during the #IWSGPIT a few weeks ago on Twitter and got a couple of bites. One agent wrote me back and told me the sample I sent was hilarious, but it really wasn't the kind of thing she represented so had to pass. I had thought the same thing when I looked her up before submitting the query, but hey, it's still nice to know someone liked it.

SUPER SECRET NEWS

I can't share it yet, but let me just say it made my day (and month, maybe year?) writing-wise when I heard this bit of news a few weeks ago. No, I didn't land a book deal or anything, but man, I really felt vindicated when I got this particular message. I'll share the details when I can (hopefully in time for next month's IWSG), but until then just know that this info is what triggered my recent resurgence in writing, so it's definitely a good thing.


AUGUST 1st BONUS QUESTION 
What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Don't wait. I wish I had started doing what I'm doing now at least 10 years earlier. Sure, I'm a better writer now, but I truly believe if I had started publishing when I was 25 instead of 35 I would have gotten better faster, too.

If you're looking to be traditionally published, submit. Submit, submit, submit. Submit anything. Pitches, short stories, full novels, grocery lists, whatever you have. What's the worst thing that can happen? They say "no?" They're going to say "no" 99% of the time anyway, so you might as well start building up a tolerance to it. Let it become a routine. Submit, get rejected, submit somewhere else. You'll start to write more stuff because you'll want to try again. Or maybe you'll re-write and start over. Eventually SOMETHING will get accepted, and you will get better as you go.

If you want to be self-published, just do it. If you're afraid it will suck or you don't know what you're doing, you're probably right. Publish it anyway. Use a pseudonym, if you feel you need to protect your name. Start with just a short story, if you like. It will be full of typos, the cover will be terrible, the formatting will be all screwed up and no one will read it or buy it. You will take it down and re-write it multiple times. But much like with submitting to a market, the first time is always the hardest and scariest. The experience you will gain self-publishing your first story will be invaluable, and everything will make much more sense the next time around. And again, you will want to put out something bigger and better than last time, and use what you've learned to help you along, so you will only improve as a writer each time.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

BOOK LAUNCH: Tempting Friendship by Patricia Josephine

This week, friend of the blog Patricia Josephine drops her latest book, Tempting Friendship, which was previously known under the working title of The Incubus and the Asexual. (Personally I liked the old title, but I'm the guy who has a story on Amazon called The Revenge of the Lycanterrancephalopod, so maybe I'm not the best judge of book titles). Make sure to check out the book and show Ms. Josephine some social media love. She's good people.


THE BOOK!

At first, Quinn isn’t impressed by Keane. He’s cocky and has sex on the brain. The polar opposite of her. Despite their differences, something blossoms between the two.

Never one to take things seriously, Keane is an incubus coasting through life without a care. When he meets Quinn, her lack of reaction to him piques his interest. No human has ever been able to resist him.

As Keane and Quinn struggle to understand what is going on between them, something sinister rocks their world. Young incubi are vanishing, and Keane's friends go missing. Someone is after his kind. When Quinn is kidnapped, Keane must uncover who is behind the abductions and get to her before it's too late.

BUT IT NOW on AMAZON or SMASHWORDS

WIN AN AMAZON GIFT CARD!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
THE AUTHOR!

Patricia never set out to become a writer, and in fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was more of an art and band geek. Some stories are meant to be told, and now she can't stop writing.

She writes New Adult under the name Patricia Josephine and Young Adult under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, and has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow.

THE LINKS!


A WORD FROM OUR WRITER!



Sexuality in Tempting Friendship

A reader might expect the topic of sexuality would be important to the plot when one of the main characters is an incubus, but honestly, not really. I'll leave people better educated in the various sexualities to write a story where it's important to the plot. But I figured I would dive a little bit into my approach. (Not that I really had much say. My characters tend to dictate stuff like that and leave me with no choice.)

If you lined Quinn, Blake, and Keane up and asked them what their sexuality was, this is how they would answer.

Quinn, a human: Asexual.
Blake, human-born incubus: heterosexual.
Keane, an incubus: Why's it matter? A meal's a meal.

Incubi and succubi don't have a sexuality in the world I created. Honestly, why would they? That's limiting themselves on who they'll snack on. They have personal preferences. Jade, for example, likes athletes. Keane goes on emotions. The more emotional, the better. Serge, after falling for Blake's mother, stopped having sex with human females. If you asked all three of them about sexuality, they wouldn't have an answer. It doesn't matter to them.

Human-born, on the other hand, do. It's because they started life out as human and became a succubus or incubus later in life. It only made sense that their sexuality could be as varied as human sexuality. Yes, that means there could even be an asexual incubus or succubus. That would be an interesting story to write!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

It's Really Late and I Just Ate a Bag of Skittles (#IWSG July 2018)

It's after midnight and I just finished writing a short story (the second one in two months!) but I'm not going to bed because I just realized that IWSG was bumped up a day because of you silly Americans and your independence. So here I am pounding out a few more words before I drag my weary carcass off to the blissful oblivion of sleep.

The story was, I think, pretty good. Much better than the last one. I might have to tweak the ending a little bit and it's a tad longer than I would have liked (I was aiming for under 5000 words and it came in at 5600) so I may have to do some trimming. I struggle with writing short stories sometimes because I try to jam too much in. You need to get the characters and plot established right away and jump into the action. And while I very purposefully established the plot and story in the very first line, I still take longer than I should building up to the climax. The journey's the fun part and all that, but I often indulge myself too much.

It's a story with a lot of humour, a little bit of a darkness, and (I hope) a nice gut-punch of a surprise toward the end, just the way I like them. We'll see if I'm as happy with it after a few hours of sleep.

July 3 question
What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

Maybe it's just because I'm exhausted, but I'm about to let you all in on my super-secret author goals that I don't usually tell anyone. I have three of them:

1. I want to buy my book from a remainder bin at a big book store chain. Ideally it should have multiple stickers on it, marking it down from $6 to $3 to $1.
2. I want to see a stranger reading my book on a bus/subway and ask them, "That thing's a piece of shit, isn't it?"
3. I want my book to be turned into a movie. Not a big budget Hollywood movie mind you, but a micro-budget, shitty independent movie, preferably filmed in Canada, like Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Or Twilight.
Still a better love story than Twilight.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Write Story, Place in Drawer (#IWSG June 2018)

I wrote a short story last month. It wasn't very good and it will probably never see the light of day, but it was the first one I've written in a long time (seven or eight months, for sure), so it was nice to finally get back into it.

Life has started to settle back into a routine. There's still plenty of bad stuff happening but we're learning to deal with it.

Oh and hey, in case you missed it, there was not one but TWO anthologies released in May featuring yours truly. I'm sure you've heard ad naseum about Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime from our very own IWSG, but I'm contractually obligated to mention it in every blog post or conversation I have for the next six months. :-P What you might have missed though is STRANGELY FUNNY V, a new collection of comic supernatural tales from Mystery & Horror. It was released quietly a couple of weeks ago, and while the paperback is still forthcoming you can get the Kindle version from Amazon RIGHT NOW. I haven't read through all of this year's edition yet, but last year's was delightfully bonkers, which prompted even my usually stoic father to ask: "What the f*ck is this?"

It's funny, that's what it is.

Oh, and in case you want to read even more of my weird ramblings, last week I posted an interview on the official Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime blog. It's the interview that was BANNED from a book review site earlier this year, so if you want to see for yourself what the fuss is about, be sure to check it out.

June 6 IWSG Question
What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

Book names, without a doubt. I actually mentioned in the interview from last week that I put about as much thought into character names as I do into what socks I should wear. Since I own fifty pairs of identical black socks, that amount of thought it exactly zero. It's how I end up with characters with names like Fistpunch, Thumb and Rat Bastard.

Book titles (and short story titles) on the other hand, provide me with no end of headaches. It took me weeks to come up with "Hell Comes to Hogtown," which in the end is joke that I find funny but probably only six people will get the references it comes from. Originally the title was supposed to be something along the line of "Come Into My Parlour" or "Spake the Spider to the Fly," but there are literally hundreds of other books out there with those titles, so I rightly chose to avoid it. I have a short story I've been shopping around for over a year and I think part of the problem is the name of it is stupid, but I can't think of anything better to call it.

To be fair, it's not THIS bad.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Book Release: SOME VERY MESSY MEDIEVAL MAGIC by C. Lee McKenzie

Fellow Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime contributor C. Lee McKenzie has a new book available that I think everyone should check out. If you love intricately-plotted fantasy with a bend toward younger readers, then this is definitely for you.

THE BOOK!



Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...


Release date – May 15, 2018
Juvenile Fiction - Fantasy & Magic/Boys & Men
$13.95 Print ISBN 9781939844460
$3.99 EBook ISBN 9781939844477

THE AUTHOR!



C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things she still doesn’t understand. http://cleemckenziebooks.com

THE LINKS! 



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