Monthly Archives: March 2014

My Camp Arcanum Soundtrack

A few other authors have posted the soundtracks they used for writing their books. Since Camp Arcanum started out as a screenplay-that-wouldn’t-die-or-at-least-stop, I felt a soundtrack would be called for. Years ago, while it was still in process of conversion from screenplay to novel, it created a playlist on my iPod for this. An hour or two of themed music is inspirational, it helps to maintain the early levels of excitement. Also, some of these songs actually figure in the plot of the book. This list was the soundtrack for our book release party at Milennicon, besides. Here is a partial list, with notes

The Bee and the Bird

This was a strange one, released after I had already completed the first draft of the story, but still somehow echoing my heroine Brenwyn’s words and attitudes.

The Fixer
Pearl Jam

This also came out after I had written Marc, the ultimate tool-guy and fixer. Though it does not give me the same feeling of emotion resonance for the character that “Witch” does, it is nice to have a theme song for the hero too.

All Soul’s Night
Lorena McKennit

A no-brainer here, naked pagan rituals around a bonfire, what else could you choose?

It’s Cool to Be A Witch

I used a snippet of this for a public display of Wiccan Karaoke, but I never could get clearance for it. I had to use something of my own finally.

Boiled in Lead

Rowdy, raunchy Celtic Punk with Russian influences. My Ren Faire libertine Eleazar cranks up this song when trying to mask his thoughts from a telepathic witch.

Farewell to Tarawathie
Judy Collins

Can’t say too much about this one in the story: spoilers. I used the Judy Collins version which included whale song at first. I need to find a cleaner version, the whales became intrusive and gimmicky after a while.

Jethro Tull

When the men of Camp Arcanum are face with an invisible remnant from the time before Creation, what better music than a song about Fear Incarnate?

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The Three R’s to Support Your Local Author

As a new author with a small press, I am dependent on the goodwill of my friends, family and fans to generate publicity for my novel. This is both an earnest plea to them and a document for other authors to use for their own pathetic begging. All of these options take minimums of time and courage and practically no money.

Attention for books on outline sales and review outlets follows the behavior of a positive feedback loop. Titles with reviews and rating get more attention as they are pushed higher in the rankings. You shouldn’t feel guilty in asking loved ones to “prime the pump” by posting the first reviews on these systems. Honest reviews and ratings only; no-one takes seriously an unknown self-published book with forty-two five-star reviews. Some of the places you can ask your F/F/Fs to post reviews would be Amazon, B&N online, Goodreads, or Library Thing. Also, anyone who has blogs dedicated to book reviews or even access to print outlets should be encouraged to post their opinion once they’ve read your book.

There is no usually obligation to buy if you make a request at your local bookstore to see if they could carry an author’s new book. There is absolutely no obligation to make the same request at the local library. Even if the shop can’t stock the book, you’ve put the name and title before the eyes of someone who spends much of their time thinking about books.

This is the easiest way to help a struggling author. If you like their book, tell other people. However, if you do NOT like the book, buy several hundred copies and burn them in public. That’ll teach ’em.

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My Pokemon Evolution

I have made the long-dreamt-of transition from aspiring novelist to published novelist. Now, just as in a game of Pok√©mon, I discover there is a vital evolutionary step after that: reviewed-and-read novelist. Only in achieving that state will I be able to fly and shoot lightning bolts out of my cheeks, or whatever poke’-powers a real novelist has.

It is not so easy for a genre-straddling indie author. Eric Beebe and Post Mortem Press do yeoman’s duty in hitting the road in their Press the Flesh Tour. They’re a lean mean team of misfits that cannot be counted upon to do the rational thing. Now that I have a real book and I have done my first convention, I intend to join the tour where I can. But these guys are not Tor or Orbit or Samhain. They don’t have the resources to carpet the world with pre-release copies or pay Kirkus Reviews several hundred dollars for a review package. I’ve got a PDF ARC and my charming personality.

At least it’s a really nice PDF.

This is the point where I layout my own oh-so-cheap marketing ploys to A: plead with my readers to help me to that cheeks-and-lightning bolts stage and B: provide a document for other indie authors to share with their public so that they may become a Wortortoise or something else highly evolved. For those who read this and have their own diabolical plots, please respond so that I may update and expand this document. Here we go:

I have this Frankensteinian cross-linkage created where anything I place in this blog immediately appears on Twitter and Goodreads which then appears on Facebook. I also post regularly on over thirty book promotion groups on Facebook which puts my message in front of one-hundred-thousand other people, technically. Unfortunately, as many as ninety-five thousand of those only have an interest in selling me their books, but marketing is always a game of small percentages.

Events are a good way to cut through Facebook’s attempts to filter out unpaid solicitations. I create events for book parties at conventions and our vintage store. Facebook events can also be used for virtual activities like book releases or podcasts. This allows you to directly invite your friends, cutting past the newsfeed’s tendency to pinch off the stream of information unless the author pays up.

Most importantly, you can directly appeal to your followers on social media to appeal their friends on social media, saying: “HEY, I KNOW AN AUTHOR, WHICH IS REALLY COOL, AND IF ENOUGH PEOPLE HEAR ABOUT HIM AND MAYBE BUY HIS/HER BOOKS, HE’LL BE ABLE TO SHOOT LIGHTNING BOLTS OUT OF HIS CHEEKS.” A bit of hyperbole perhaps, but that’s the world of advertising.

Despite what it looks like on Amazon, writing a novel is a rare and praiseworthy thing. If you have done that, it’s news. Cobble up a quick press release with the Whos, Whats Wheres and Whens and shoot it off to your local newspapers, magazines and television stations. The suburban papers which cater to weekly papers for specific neighborhoods are particularly fertile ground. Odds are that your initial attempts will be lost in the background noise, but if you persist your name will become recognized. There are also free websites that will submit your book press releases to dozens if not hundreds of news outlets. A Google search of “where to send book press releases” will bring back a sizable list. Just don’t get tricked into signing up for the paid augmentation of your press releases unless you have deep pockets and absolute faith in your writing. Everywhere there are individuals that are willing to make a profit off your desire to become a real live novelist. Don’t give them a cent unless you’re sure they can deliver value for your dollar.

First I would like to repeat what my wife and my publisher both admonished: “YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO PAY FOR A REVIEW.” There are multiple blogs, websites and magazines dedicated to reviews of books for free. If your novel is an eBook-only publication a review electronic copy is perfectly acceptable. Fewer and fewer reviewers are willing to take PDF copies of books that exist in print. Some will take bound galleys, which you can generate from a PDF through a copy shop, but there is still an expense there. Be mindful of how influential the reviewer is and the actual size of their audience. There have been recent scandals of book reviewers providing pat five star reviews of books just for the free copies which they can auction on eBay. Those blurbs are of little use on your website or book jacket.

There are many other ways to jump start your author’s evolution, such as creating library events, providing useful and amusing content on your blog or setting yourself on fire, which we can discuss at length in the future.

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Camp Arcanum at the Wicked Library

Yesterday was the official launch for Camp Arcanum, an occult comedy of sex, magick and power tools. Tomorrow, an excerpt will play on The Wicked Library podcast. It is a section with plenty of sex and magick, but only hand tools to fill out the novel’s promise. Nelson Pyles does a terrific job reading and presenting it. You’ll never look at moonlit sex magick ritual the same way again.

Check out episode 407 at the link below:

Camp Arcanum

By the way, Happy Equinox to the paganly inclined.

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Author’s Day

Most people who want to write or paint or act or make horrifying rubber monsters have a day job. It’s a fact of life for those who like to continue eating and excreting on a regular basis.

In the past I have not been in love with my day job, mainly for the reason it is keeping me from doing the fun stuff and my bosses don’t want to treat me like the special little snowflake that I am. I’ve grown up some in the last couple of decades and now do my job without grumbling and even a certain sense of pride. But I always figured that my day job and my creative endeavors were going to stay separate, disinterested in each other like two predators staying just out of scent of each other to avoid the need to fight. Then came yesterday.

Yesterday was the official release of my novel “Camp Arcanum”, for those who have not been following the yammering. I spent the morning posting press releases and similar promotional things. Kit took me out for “lunch” and I found myself at the office. My lingering suspicions that my co-workers were indeed planning something bore out.

Getting up to my floor, we discovered that my supervisor and my team had signed out a conference room and had decorated it with “Meet the Author” posters and “Camp Arcanum” on the white board. There was punch and cupcakes and a cake with candy handlebar mustaches and Peeps bunnies done up to look the undead bunnies of my book.

For two hours, I did a full meet and greet with my team, who all dressed in black like an author for solidarity, my supervisors and many of the staff that I never thought would even care. Most were pleased and supportive and even confessed their secret desire to write a book of their own some day.

My “Author’s Day”, when my first real novel was published, was a true surprise and a pleasure thanks to my family and my team at work.

Author day cake

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Afternoon at Cup of Joe

Yesterday, I went to catch a movie with my friend Sheldon. It was the 300 sequel: we could agree that as far as theme, characterization and narrative it was better than “Sucker Punch”, but that beyond that there was little hope.

As is our habit, we caught a cup a coffee/green tea at the coffeehouse around the corner and talked writer stuff. While we talked, I heard the barista tell one of her customers that “this was a white hot chocolate.”

I wondered if she meant it was a white hot chocolate or a white-hot chocolate and would the latter be useful for cutting steel?

Once Sheldon and I finished our chat, I checked with the barista (coffeenista?) if it would be all right if I left some of my post cards for “Camp Arcanum” at the front door with the other promotional materials? She was encouraging and confessed that she was a writer too, though she wasn’t working on anything currently.

This I should have expected: usually this coffeehouse near campus is filled with people either doing their homework, or working on their next novel; the Columbus Creative Cooperative has their latest anthology at the counter for sale; I think even the espresso machine has a play its working on. Very safe place for writers.

Speaking of writers and promotion, today is the day the “Camp Arcanum” is officially released. It is available through the Post Mortem Press website, Amazon and B&N on-line. links attached below.


Barnes & Noble:

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Genre Straddling

In my earlier days as a special effects make-up artist, I was called in to help a local producer to rip the hearts out of the chests of a couple of FBI agents. As I worked on the set I realized that I was in the midst of a kung fu/voodoo/sociopolitical/drug running thriller. Don’t know why that didn’t catapult us all into the Big Time right then.

I worked with the same producer/director on a script which turned out to be a rebellion of psychic/martial artists against an occupying alien army culminating in a cage match between the hero and the alien leader. Things broke down after the initial stages, but if we could have finished the project, it would have been epic!

We can’t forget, no matter how hard we try, my first novel. My never-to-be-published novel, my “Yargo.” Time travelling mercenaries able to move sideways through parallel universes to deal with physical and metaphysical threats and the hero was obsessed with rubber monster movies.

And of course, there was my biggest success previously, a supplement to a RPG depicting the rock and roll vampires and werewolves in the ’90s New York club scene with elements of conspiracy theories and bio-warfare against the undead.

The uptick here is that some authors are not like cats and do not willingly put themselves into little boxes. Gatekeepers of the publishing world like to put books into little metaphorical boxes to make them easier to market, ship and shelf. Those round manuscripts that wouldn’t fit into square marketing plans are what fueled the self-publishing boom of the last few years.

I am still coloring outside the lines with my latest project, Camp Arcanum, my first published novel. Its tagline is: “An occult comedy about sex, magick and power tools.” I usually get a shovel-to-the-face reaction from people at that, If I wish to be less confusing, I simply say “horror/comedy”, though many still don’t get that. They brighten up when thrown a few examples: “Like Ghostbusters or American Werewolf in London. Maybe Sean of the Dead.” The lights of recognition blink on when you can throw your story in a box with a few others.

It would be easier if I could put things in one genre or another, just horror or just comedy or just leg-breaker theater, but that’s not how things come out of my head naturally. It’s a pretty funny/scary place inside my head.

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#astoryaweek week 9 tally

So busy in promotion for Camp Arcanum and trying to finish my next book before this one comes out and assisting with The Alley. I was able to churn out a hundred word flash about the importance of word choice. It still feels a little bit like a cheat, but I’ll take it.

week 1: Tunnel Vision app. 450 words

week 2: Nightmare on a String
app. 1850 words

week 3: Ding Dong app. 275 words

week 4: Fly app. 480 words

week 5: abject failure and the lamentation of broken souls

week 6: Many Returns app. 400 words

week 7: Green Day
app. 1000 words

week 8: Faerie Story app. 1000 words

week 9: Deadly Preposition app. 100 words

running total app. 5555 words

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Character Geometry

In my writing, I tend to avoid intellectual constructs: Save the Cat beat sheets, the Hero’s Journey touchpoints, etc. I tend to latch onto a intriguing character, opening line or concept and just “have at.” the one thing I do tend to do as I prepare to wade in to a new writing project is to plot out the central characters in a chart to show their social dynamics and interactions.

That I am not making six-figures a year means you don’t have to listen to me. Since this is my blog, I am going to keep typing anyway.

For my super-secret horror/comedy screenplay, I have seven teenagers stuck in the woods with the world’s most incompetent monster. Three are female, four male. The three young women form a tight triangle of Best Friends Forever. Three of the young men form a triangle of their own with the Football Quarterback, his Wing Man and the Center who brings beer. The two triangles interlock with tight links of blood and desire to form a character’s Solomon’s Seal. The seventh teenager, a hopeless nerd, is on the outside of that structure. His efforts throughout the film are focused on wedging his way into that, when he isn’t avoiding the monster.

For my novel “Camp Arcanum” I used a Four Humours character structure. This is based on the medieval theory that the human body is filled with four vital fluids the affect personality. Avoiding all the obsolete terms, the Four Humours characters each display a dominant trait: Action, Emotions, Intellect, and Senses.

Many famous stories use this format. Star Trek: Kirk, McCoy, Spock and Scotty. The Three Musketeer: D’Artagnan, Athos, Artemis and Porthos. Even, The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion.

Camp Arcanum has a stable triangle formed by Marc Sindri, shovel-wielding Man of Action; Michael Caravaggio, Intellectual artist and historian; and Eleazar, renaissance faire libertine and Sensualist. Brenwyn, Wiccan High Priestess, provides an Emotional power to the Power Trio and stabilizes it.

Until the readers give their opinion on book, I can’t say how well it works, but the underlying structure has given me many opportunities for resonance and meaning in the writing past the jokes and undead skinless bunnies.

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