08 May, 2013

Kelli Jae Baeli

My favorite of her book covers. Grumpy Cat cracks me the hell up.

Kelli Jae Baeli is different from most of the writers I interview here at The House of Fists in that it was her non-fiction that first drew me to her work, as opposed to the horror or dark fiction practiced by the other interviewees. I'm trying to learn more about writing, though, and not just about writing horror, so I immediately asked her to do me the honor of being interviewed here. 

She writes very clearly and persuasively, her tone neatly balanced between the academic and the practical. I'm a smart man but certainly no great deep thinker, and I appreciate the pragmatic style in which she writes; her articles on atheism have done a lot for me here at a time when I find my own beliefs shifting radically.

On top of everything else, I do believe she has passed on the best piece of advice I've ever received: Don’t fall in love with your words; fall in love with your craft. 

Thank you, Ms. Baeli.


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I had always kept a journal from the moment I learned how to write. The impulse only grew stronger as I went along. As far as being an author who writes full-length books, that vocation sprang from my disappointment as an avid reader, trying to find books I could relate to in a certain genre, namely lesbian fiction. With few exceptions, none of them seemed to reflect me, my life, or my sensibilities. So I decided to write a book that *I* would want to read. Since then, I have continued to write (and rewrite) novels and nonfiction, in both mainstream and lesbian genres, and starting some 23 years ago, also publish this work. I was an Indie Publisher and Author before it was fashionable. Some essays on my blog about this:

What was the first thing you wrote that made you proud and why?
There is an element of pride in every project, when I complete it. I don't publish anything I cannot be proud of, and I feel this is often the mistake that self-published and Indie Authors make--they release their work before it is the best it can be, and they get caught up in the romantic idea of being a writer, rather than in the dedicated attention to craft.

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing, and what specific steps do you take toward that aim as you write?
One important thing I have learned along the way, is that love is love, pain is pain, people are people—whether gay or straight, we all have the same dreams, our own set of challenges, our own bouts with human nature. My goal, in the case of fiction, is always to write a story that is engaging, with characters a reader can truly care about, invest in; it is to devise a plot that moves quickly, and incites the reader to keep turning pages. There are memes, genres, archetypes, but that's where the adage, "there are no new stories" ends. The ways in which an author examines these elements are as plentiful and varied as are the molecules in the human body, the synaptic connection in the writer's brain. I always shoot for a fresh way to tell these stories, which is inevitably in the opposite direction from formula fiction.

What do you make of the notion that traditional publishing brings more respect than self-publishing?
Respect is not always earned, and that goes for both traditionally published authors and self-published ones. This question has several rows of teeth. It would be difficult to address it properly in a limited form. But to just touch on some of the points: There are cogent reasons why traditionally published authors are more respected, in general, than those who self-publish. Traditional publishers employ qualified individuals (i.e., editors/proofreaders who actually have a degree in that discipline) who act as gatekeepers to separate the wheat from the chaff. And literary agents are, ostensibly, a turnstile between the writer and the publisher. While a "good" book can be qualified by the fundamentals of "good" writing, the conclusion about its merit is at some point ultimately subjective. For instance there are many books widely considered “classic” or high-quality fiction, that I find fall short of satisfying me. This means that there can be many books which are considered "good" but are not, and conversely, many that are rejected which are worthy of print. There are many talented writers whose work is never known, never reaches its readers; in this sense, traditional publishing has put limits on our literary choices.

In the case of self-publishing, there are also many hacks and neophytes out there who make an egregious error in publishing their work before having a grip on the craft, and before paying their dues, but also many other writers who really have something to offer, and the advent of Indie publishing allows them to share their work with the world. So since self-publishing is a new paradigm, the old one will naturally have a stronger foothold in the perception of the reading public. But both traditional and self-publishing have a partial claim on respect.

Has self-publishing begun paying off for you in terms of what you’re seeking from it? If not, what do you see yourself changing in the future?
It has paid off in some ways, as I have now 33 books under my literary belt, but it brings its own cadre of challenges. For instance, the most popular fiction (i.e., that which enjoys the highest number of sales) are not the genres I care to write in. And "payoff" is both relative and subjective; I would more likely refer to it as "tradeoff." What I gain as an Indie Publisher/Author in speed of publication, independence, creative control, a larger share of royalties, is tempered by the amount of time I have to spend on the business of writing, rather than on the writing itself. (Recently, when I ignored the marketing long enough to JUST WRITE, for example, I published 2 novels and 3 novellas in the span of 6 months--Books 3 & 4 of my AKA Investigation series, Also Known as Syzygy and Also Known as Rising & Falling; as well as Curse of Cache La Poudre, Somewhere Else and Quintessence). I cannot fathom ever going the traditional route, now, and in fact, I have turned down two contracts in the past, because I didn't like the tradeoff they offered. My royalties would have been 10-15% instead of the 80%  (or more) it is now---it simply does not emotionally compute that a publisher will make the majority of profit for all the work *I* did. This is compounded by the knowledge that unless you are the next Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, there will be no big advances, nor publisher-funded book tours. That's a myth perpetuated by the general public's IMPRESSION of what being a popular author is like, with no insight into all the other authors who struggle for years without much reward.

Going with traditional publishing also meant my book would have been packaged in a way I didn't like, the blurb would have been poorly crafted, the cover would have been horrible, the editors would have imposed their own intentions and opinions on the content, until the work would have become theirs and not mine. I don't like limits on my creative expression; I tell the stories I feel compelled to share, and not the ones I'm expected to, or the ones that fit neatly in a formula- or genre-box. But it means more work for me. The entire legitimacy of being a published author is predicated on a romanticized falsehood; the truth of it is much more sobering, and rather like selling your soul, or prostituting your writing.

What’s your favorite part of the writing and self-publishing process and why? Conversely, what is your least favorite part?
My least favorite part of the process is the marketing. It's time-consuming and stretches my tolerance. Part of that is the often infuriating tendency for some readers to post reviews that are either filled with spoilers, or with criticisms that reveal their lack of understanding. Thankfully, I have been fortunate to get almost all four and five star reviews, but every so often, someone will post a review that is pejorative only because they are not quite bright enough to understand things like nuance. It's a bitter pill, and I write about that periodically, such as in

One of the best things about being independent is the unfettered creativity. I can write what I want to write, when I want to write it. Douglas Adams said, "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." I enjoy this degree of freedom. More specifically, my favorite part of the writing is when all the pieces of my puzzle begin to join, and it develops its own momentum to carry it through to the end. For me, that process is hard-won, as I am like a Quilter when I write a novel, rather than a conduit. (See http://jaebaeli.com/blog/2012/10/streaming-quilting-differing-methodologies-in-novelwriting/)
I do a great deal of research and look for all the interconnected elements until the plot emerges.  (see http://jaebaeli.com/blog/2012/10/springboarding/
I'm a stickler for facts, and am never content with writing that strains credibility or demands credulity; I want everything in the story to not only SEEM possible, but BE possible. (This is, itself, a double-edged sword, as I pointed out in several essays, such as, http://jaebaeli.com/blog/2012/11/stranger-fiction-reviews-truthiness/ and  http://jaebaeli.com/blog/2012/06/the-truth-of-fiction/  - there exists this concept: I may have failed to do the best job on a book, if I didn’t make the fiction seem like truth, even if the truth seemed like fiction.)
I wish I could be one of those writers who sit down and just wiggle my fingers on the keys until the story flows through me, but for me, it's a far more technical journey until all those pieces gel. The creative part, for me, is in figuring out how to solve the plot problems, how to reach the goals within the plot and within the characters, how to move the story at a speed and intrigue that will keep a reader engaged, how to balance reality with possibility, vividness with economy.

What advice or encouragement would you offer to other writers?
My most commonly offered caveat is this: don’t fall in love with your words; fall in love with your craft. That’s when you will begin the process of being a quality writer. This subject is voluminous, and I can’t do it justice in just a few paragraphs, but the other words of wisdom I will offer are these:
The competition to be a published writer is fierce. The dream of getting published has been overly-romanticized in the media so that many beginning writers think not only that writing is easy, but that they have a good chance of getting a contract from a major house. The odds are, realistically, one in a million–maybe worse than that. We hear about the success stories, not the ones who spend their lives toiling for that dream, to the exclusion of everything else, only to wind up poor, alone, lacking in social skills, and profoundly jaded that life has passed them by. There are so many unpublished writers who pursue this dream, and publishers and agents have had to crack down on the criteria to even LOOK at work sent. And it is very expensive for a writer to submit manuscripts, what with an ink cartridge costing around $30 and then adding the paper cost and the mailing costs, and that’s just PER MANUSCRIPT. Common advice tells us that we must do this hundreds of times, and continually if we ever hope to get traditionally published. You have to pour lots of money into the endeavor over a period of many years, sometimes. And more often than not, this investment does not return.

Often, then, self-publishing is the only option if a writer wants to get her work out there. There’s little point in spending your entire life hoping, while your words stay in a drawer. I believe as writers we are meant to honor that talent, and share it, otherwise, what’s the point of having it? Fortunately, we live in an era where technology allows us some autonomy and some tools to make this happen. So, do whatever you have to do to get your work out there. If it’s good, it might eventually get noticed and picked up by a major house or agent–that frequently has more to do with who you know, than how much you submit your work. So cultivate connections. And also try to go small or medium press. If you get a contract from one of them, you can use those books to woo larger fish.

*Please refer to my blog for essays on all these topics, and probably more alternative topics than you could possibly have time to read (my interests are wide). Here are a few, just FYI.


01 April, 2013

Mari Biella

This month's guest here at the House of Fists is an Anglo-Welsh writer living in Italy, a woman by the name of Mari Biella. I became acquainted with Ms. Biella through her short story 'The Song of the Sea', published here at Smashwords. In her own words, she loves all things weird and creepy, and it shows in the story. The narrative has some truly gruesome bits in it, but the overall impression you're left with after finishing is one of melancholy beauty, as exemplified by the story's last sentence - Yet still, like a lonely satellite circling a terrible star, his steps carry him back to the harbour at dawn and dusk, when the sun is swallowed and the water runs thick and red, and he listens, in fear and in hope, for the Song of the Sea.

Yes, I wrote in the review I left for the story. It is all that good.

Go and see for yourself, and try to prove me wrong.

I dare you.

And now the interview - 

· When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I can’t remember any specific moment when I actually thought, ‘I want to be a writer.’ I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was a child, so in that sense I’ve always been a writer. I don’t think of it as being a career choice; it’s just who I am, and what I do.

· What was the first thing you wrote that made you proud and why?

This is a difficult question in a way, because my pride is always tempered with a sense of frustration – frankly, nothing is ever quite as good as I hoped it would be. Having said that, the first thing I wrote that made me truly proud, and which still makes me proud, is a novel that I abandoned, unfinished, some years ago. It seems a strange thing to say about a book that was a failure by any conventional standards, but it was a noble failure. It was a novel about an alcoholic, adulterous manic depressive, set during the English Civil War (yes, I really did think that this could work). For a first serious attempt, I think that showed some considerable ambition!

· What do you hope to accomplish with your writing, and what specific steps do you take toward that aim as you write?

It’s impossible to say this without sounding pretentious, but I want to write something that is significant, that contributes to literature. I think many people tend to roll their eyes when someone says that, which I find a little odd – if I said I wanted to become a multi-millionaire, nobody would bat an eyelid. I’m also aware that it’s a risky admission, in a sense, because the odds are stacked against me. I constantly try to ask myself why I’m writing what I’m writing, what I’m trying to achieve, and how I think I can achieve it. I aim to make everything as good as it can be, and to push myself as far as I can go.

· What do you make of the notion that traditional publishing brings more respect than independent publishing?

I think this was true in the past, and still is today for many people, but I think and hope that attitudes are changing. There are enough good independently-published books to prove that self-publishing is not necessarily the refuge of deluded amateur scribblers. The problem – and this does tend to reinforce people’s prejudices – is that you do have to trawl through an awful lot of really terrible stuff to find the good stuff.

It is always worth remembering that traditional publishing is an industry. A publishing house always has to view books through the prism of their perceived commercial viability. I’m not criticising them for this, either: a business that didn’t think in those terms wouldn’t remain solvent for very long. I’m also aware that many self-publishers think in similar terms, but at least indies aren’t necessarily wed to the concept of writing-as-a-business. For instance, a great deal of Alt Lit is available free online; if writers are not seeking financial rewards and are freed from the constraints of marketability, they can perhaps aim for something more meaningful and exciting than just ‘what will sell’.

I think something of a turning-point in this debate came with the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon. Yes, that was a self-published book originally – and not, it’s fair to say, a particularly good one in terms of its literary merits (sorry, E.L. James) – but the moment it started to sell well Vintage couldn’t snap it up fast enough. Yet it’s not a better book for having been published by a traditional publisher, just ever more of a goldmine. (Compare that to the excellent books that are rejected because the marketing departments don’t think they’ll sell.) That’s the point, for me, at which the idea that traditional publishing is automatically a guarantee of quality really suffered a serious blow.

· Has independent publishing begun paying off for you in terms of what you’re seeking from it? If not, what do you see yourself changing in the future?

For me, the pay-off isn’t financial, but is related to personal satisfaction and the joy of creativity. It is already paying off handsomely in those terms, and I hope that this will continue. I’m aware that my first published novel was a safe choice in many ways, and in the future I want to become a little more bold and experimental, and take risks. I don’t have to worry about not selling – and that, for me, is one of the best things about being indie. I can focus on the creative process for its own sake.

· What’s your favorite part of the writing and independent publishing process and why? Conversely, what is your least favorite part?

As mentioned above, I think my favourite part is the creative and personal freedom it offers. We can be as mainstream or as experimental as we want. We can try out different genres, different styles. We don’t have to be pigeonholed, or steamrollered by financial considerations. Some see writing as a business – and good luck to them – but for me the most important thing is having the freedom not to worry about money. The freedom to fail, if you like.

My least favourite part, conversely, is the depressing emphasis on money, sales, marketing, and the like. I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t engage with this side of the process if they want – that’s their decision – but I do find it slightly depressing that self-publishers have for the most part just blindly aped the financial imperatives of the traditional publishing industry. That is one of the tenets of received wisdom that should be up for debate, in my humble opinion.

· What advice or encouragement would you offer to other writers?

To take all advice with a generous pinch of salt!

Seriously, I feel a little reluctant to offer advice, not least because I often fail to take my own advice, and also because I believe that writing is a very subjective matter, and what works for one person may not work for another. I think my suggestions would basically be very simple: read, read, read. Write, write, write. Be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Be your own harshest critic, but always try to retain a sense of humour and proportion. You’re doomed if you take yourself too seriously.

06 March, 2013

Mr. Chuck Grossart

I have only been able to make one piece of flash fiction work for me, and that was a short story called 'The Valley of the Black Pig'.

It takes a special aptitude to write flash fiction, and judging by most of the flash fiction I've read, most people don't have it, and I'm one of them. The man I get the pleasure of introducing as the next guest here at the House of Fists seems to have it in spades. He is, from what I can tell, a master of the form. 

Chuck Grossart, who shares his stories with us from Omaha, Nebraska, has a number of flash fiction pieces posted at Smashwords, which can be found here, as well as two novels, The Coming and The Mengele Effect; I haven't had the chance to read either of the novels yet, but they both sound amazing. From the gruesome (Ripple) to the evocative (Solace), Mr. Grossart has a way of crafting fully blown stories with a minimal word count. You'll be doing yourself a favor by checking his work out.

And now, Mr. Chuck Grossart.

Question:  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I always tinkered with the idea of writing fiction while growing up, but never formally put pen to paper until my late 30's.  I still remember the moment I decided to start writing...it was April 2001, and I was on a remote assignment for the Air Force in Alaska, sitting in my dorm room & counting down the days until I could return home to my wife & kids in California.  I'd finished reading an absolutely terrible horror novel—don't remember the author or the title—and thought to myself, "If this clown can write a book, I certainly can!"  So, that night, I started the draft that would become my first novel, THE COMING.  I soon discovered that writing a novel was more difficult than I thought, and realized finding an agent and/or publisher willing to take on a new writer was even more frustrating than I'd imagined.  The rejection letters I received never stopped me, though...I truly enjoy telling stories, and I haven't quit writing since.

Question:  What was the first thing you wrote that made you proud, and why?

Proud may not be the right word, but I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment when I finished my first novel, THE COMING.  That said, the manuscript was much too long for a first novel (well over 700 pages), and it was full of rookie writer mistakes (an overabundance of exposition, stilted dialog, flat characters, etc.).  That initial manuscript went through years of edits, some driven by the help of Ann Collette, an agent at the Helen Rees Agency, who took some time to help me along.  I was proud of that novel when I entered it into the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award & watched it make it to the Quarterfinals round.  Having something I'd written end up in the top 250 of 5,000 initial entries sure made me happy!

Question:  What do you hope to accomplish with your writing, and what specific steps do you take towards that aim as you write?

I discovered Stephen King when I was in high school, and devoured every novel of his I could get my hands on...most notably, THE STAND, which I read more than once.  King was always able to take me to a completely different place, and once there, scare me to death.  Later, I discovered Dean Koontz, and like King, I devoured every novel of his as well.  Koontz is a little different, though...his stories, although scary, also have a sense of humor & humanity sprinkled throughout.  It's been said in order for a writer to improve their skills, they must read their genre...and I agree.  There are other authors who have made an impression on me over the years, but none like King and Koontz.  To make a long answer short, if someone decides to read one of my novels, short stories, or flash fiction stories, I want them to be scared (even if it's just a little), and I want them to enjoy the ride.  Now, as far as taking specific steps to ensure that happens, I really don't...I start with an idea, have a rough idea of where it might go, but the stories usually end up writing themselves as I go along.  Very seldom have I written a story that unfolds as I initially planned.  They tend to have a mind of their own!

Question:  What do you make of the notion that traditional publishing brings more respect than self / independent publishing?

There's no question that having a book sitting on a shelf at a library or book store, published by a major house, lends credence to the author as being a writer with a capital "W".  That's a fact.  There's no doubt, though, the "traditional" publishing business is changing, and changing fast.  The rise of eBooks and eReaders is exploding, and the major houses are playing catch-up.  The number of web sites available for electronic self-publishing is also exploding...and many are free (for example, Smashwords.com, which I use).  What this presents, quite honestly, is a problem for the reader.  A traditionally-published book has gone through an editing process, been shaped to fit a particular market, and hopefully will provide a return on the publishing house's investment.  eBooks, however, especially those available at free publishing sites, are usually only self-edited by the writer, and can be pretty bad.  Scrolling through the titles at Smashwords, and reading some of the descriptions, quickly highlight those titles to stay away from...if the description is full of spelling & grammar mistakes, well...spending money on it may not be such a bright idea.  The reader has to be careful.

Why do I self-publish?  Easy...trying the traditional route was driving me nuts, and I wanted to get my stories out there.  Smashwords allowed me to do just that.  I will say I'm very careful to not put anything out there that has spelling or grammar mistakes...but it happens (and as soon as I find a mistake, or someone points one out to me, I'll immediately fix it and re-publish a new version).  If someone is willing to spend their hard-earned money on something I wrote—even if it's $0.99—they should expect to read a story that has NO spelling or grammar mistakes, and that's an expectation I strive to meet.

Long answer short again...I may not be a writer with a capital "W", but that surely won't stop me from writing.  Having someone read something I've written (someone I don't know!) and subsequently take the time to leave a nice review, is all the motivation I need.

Question:  Has self / independent-publishing begun paying off for you in terms of what you’re seeking from it? If not, what do you see yourself changing in the future?

My stories are out there, people are reading them, and for the most part they've been well-received.  Like I said, when someone reads something I've written and leaves a nice review, that's all the "payoff" I need at this point!

Question:  What’s your favorite part of the writing and publishing process and why? Conversely, what is your least favorite part?

My favorite part is seeing a story come to a conclusion...especially if it's a conclusion I never saw coming!  A close second would be seeing a 4 or 5 star review, of course!

Now, for my least favorite part, I'd have to refer to the traditional publish process again.  Agent research, query letters, outlines, crafting a synopsis, yada yada yada.  Not fun.  At all.  Not one little bit.  All are necessary evils if one wishes to go the traditional route, but I'd be willing to bet I'm not alone when I say it's all a royal pain in the arse.  There's nothing worse than spending hours crafting the perfect query letter, packaging-up the first few chapters and/or a synopsis, and sending it off...only to receive a rejection letter dated the day before you actually mailed the package.  Yes, that happened to me...they rejected it before I even sent it!  Go figure!

Question:  What advice or encouragement would you offer to other writers?

I recommend reading as much as you can in your chosen genre...learn what works, and what doesn't.  Don't be afraid to put your stories out there, and don't fear rejection!  If you don't think your work is ever good enough, guess what...you'll never know for sure!  Most of all, though, don't stop writing!

04 February, 2013

First author interview

It's my great honor to introduce David J. Agostine as the inaugural interviewee here at the House of Fists. Mr. Agostine is from New York (as well as a fellow independent author), and has a background as a private investigator. The level of attention he must surely bring to that job is evident in his writing. Details are clean and crisp, presented with a minimum of BS.

I'd like to re-affirm my reasons for starting this series of interviews: I honestly believe that we as independent authors can help each other and learn a lot from each other. Modern independent publishing is a two-edged sword - because of the internet, we can be what traditional publishing houses would have us believe we can't be: published, read, acknowledged, even praised. But now, instead of another handful of writers to compete with on bookstore shelves, there are literally millions out there vying for our readerships. What's even worse - most of them don't care about the stupid stuff; you know, characterization, gripping plots, even basic grammar and syntax.

David himself admits to starting out as a horrible speller; only perseverance helped him beat that particular stumbling block (a stumbling block that a lot of new writers don't seem to be too interested in beating these days). To top it off, he seems to understand the importance of patience in all this, something sorely lacking in my own make-up as a writer. I say all this to make you understand that I believe he's someone with something to say, personally and professionally, and if we pay attention to one another, we stand to learn a lot.

So without further ado, Mr. David Agostine.


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I actually flunked Composition back in college because my professor was a stickler for spelling. My whole life I was always an avid story-teller, but because my spelling was so poor, the stories I wrote on my Smith Corona typewriter were pretty much unintelligible. My first boss taught me how to spell by circling all the misspelled words on my case reports and make me re-write the entire narrative- I did this over and over until my hands cramped. I got the message loud and clear, “Do it right the first time!” Back then, I had to use a fat dictionary. If not for the invention of spell-check on word programs, I likely would never have perused my fictional writing.

What was the first thing you wrote that made you proud and why?

Funny, but I wrote a lot of poetry while in high school to help out my friends. All the guys were not exactly enthused about these English assignments, so I would write dozens of them at a clip and just hand them out. Listening to my eleventh-grade English teacher's stunned appreciation of our football's team's prose was all the payment I ever needed. 

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing, and what specific steps do you take toward that aim as you write?

I think like most story-tellers, I am just trying to entertain people. I seem to be sticking to the theme “The path to Hell is often paved with good intentions,” as my protagonists are decent people who do some bad things for good reasons. In real life, very few criminals I have encountered I would consider "evil". For the most part they are just normal people who make bad choices. I try to blur those lines in my writing, so when evil does make an appearance as in real life, you sure as heck know the difference.

What do you make of the notion that traditional publishing brings more respect than self-publishing?

I think like many other writers, I am only trying to please the reader- so if the story is good, I think that respect is earned. I have read plenty of garbage from big publishing houses and independents alike. I think picking any kind of entertainment like a movie, game or book is a crapshoot, no matter who puts it out. There are many singers on American Idol who truly think they can sing, but can’t - and there are many writers and filmmakers who have no business telling stories, but they do. Hopefully people will always be willing to sift through the dirt to find the occasional gem. 

Has self-publishing begun paying off for you in terms of what you’re seeking from it? If not, what do you see yourself changing in the future? 

I prefer the term independent publishing; because self implies that you are doing it all alone, when in fact many indie authors have a half-dozen people looking over the initial manuscripts and performing various editing, type layouts and graphic design. After going to market, there are even more people involved in the selling outlets and marketing aspects. I for one never attempted to go through a big name publishing house, not because I don’t think my books are good enough, but because I knew others would water down my characters and language, and turn everyone into Disney-like heroes and villains.  For example, in Boys of the Great BB Gun War and my second novel Days of the Great Desolation, one of the lead characters is a ruthless Nazi - I mean, who would ever make a book where you end up rooting for a Nazi? It goes against all modes of decent thinking. That is why I think my favorite Indie books and movies are those that have flawed, but memorable main characters and a story that makes you think deeply about the human condition. 

What’s your favorite part of the writing and self-publishing process and why? Conversely, what is your least favorite part?

My favorite part of independent publishing is the freedom from deadlines; I can take as long as I want to write and edit, and I don’t have to answer to anyone but the readers. I think that is the way it should be. My least favorite part would be being cast into the vast ocean of porn and bad vampire stories that people puke out and call a book. (Laughing) I am likely just pissed they get more sales.

What advice or encouragement would you offer to other writers?

Take your time and don’t rush your product to market - make it the best book ever written. Boys of the Great BB Gun War took me over a decade to write and edit. Editing counts big and so does formatting in both print and digital versions. Marketing is the hardest part, so don’t waste your time marketing to other writers or your friends; try to use all the analytical search tools available on the internet to find readers of your book’s genre. I like to put some short stories out there for free - people should be able to sample the milk, but my advice is, don’t give away the whole cow. It may take longer to get a following, but having patience will pay off in the end. 

22 January, 2013

Good news!

David J. Agostine, fellow independent writer and author of the novel Boys of the Great BB Gun War, has agreed to be my very first interviewee here at the House of Fists.

David's work tends more toward science fiction than my own (though Harvest for Hell certainly has its own horrific bent), but his ideas are unique, and his prose is clean and professional. It's an honor to have him here and I hope to learn a lot from him; he really seems to have his stuff together. I'm going to try to have the interview up by the end of the week.

13 January, 2013

A New Year

A new year, a new day, and another opportunity to start over fresh. I'm really bad at this blog thing, but I refuse to let it get the best of me, and so I've decided to try something new. 

I am hoping to start interviewing talented independent authors on a monthly basis, as a way of sharing insight and advice between myself, the interviewee, and whoever else happens to read it. I'm a good writer but a bad author, and I need all the help I can get. Who better to ask for advice but those who have already done it? And if others can benefit from this advice as well, so much the better. 

Another reason I have for doing this is more personal, a reason I'm sure I share with a lot of you out there: I'm afraid. Not a day goes by that I don't doubt myself, my abilities, or my future as a writer. If I'm not the only one who feels this way (and I know good and damn well I'm not), then we can share this fear, and maybe even conquer it, by helping and encouraging one another.

Like I said, I'm really bad at this blog thing, but I refuse to let it get the best of me, and so I've decided to try something new, something I'm really starting to feel passionate about. 

I'm going to start sending out interview requests immediately, and I hope to really get this ball rolling.

Who's with me?

15 October, 2012

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I'd like to post some of the kind words people have said about my writing since I started making it public. I'd like to do this for two reasons. One: to let you know that, if you're on the fence about trying any of my stuff, that people like it, and it's worth the risk. And two: I suppose to try and convince myself the same thing. I'm proud of what I write, but it's hard to make any headway in the world of independent publishing. And truth be told, there are a lot of writers out there that, while not any more ambitious, certainly seem to have more time to write than I do (of course, this may be me lying to myself, too). I don't know how they do it, but if they can, then so can I.

I got these reviews from the Barnes and Noble and Smashwords sites.

-Deliciously gruesome and naughty...
-Sick and awesome!
-Could not read it fast enough...

-So much better than most I've read. Taut story and, unfortunately, more than believable...

-Awesome imagination. Creepy creepy....I loved it
-Super creepy Christmas tale...

-I think this was an excellent new twist on the zombie story. This one was so sad; more about feelings and loss, than gore. I liked very much.

-The more I read from this author the better I like him. Don't be turned off by the length of these stories. The pages may not be abundant but the talent is.

-I don't like zombie stories or movies but I love reading Scott Crowder's books so here I am really liking this story. It was good but sad. I really like his work. I look forward to more stories from him.

-Zombies, like vampires and werewolves, are everywhere you look lately, and I tend to ignore these stories in favor of more original concepts. But when I happened across this one, I found it to be a welcome exception. Set nearly two years after the rising of the dead, it looked at the zombie plague from a fresh and intriguing new angle that had little to do with the usual apocalyptic carnage. Well-written, emotional and with great dialog, I came away from this one perfectly satisfied and eager to read more by this author.
-I rarely give any review five stars, but this one called for it. I can't really find anything wrong with it. It was the right length for the story it was telling and fleshed the characters out succinctly. The author has interesting word choices that really work for the tale. This one was intense and a little heart-breaking. Good job, Mister Crowder. I will definitely be checking out more of your work. 

-Very short, would have loved to of read several hundred more pages. Nevertheless, the point of this short story was in NO way damaged by the shortness of the story. I highly recommend this authors other stories as well. Great talent, I expect to see much more from this author.

-Even though it was short it had a powerful message.

-Loved it so much I deemed it unfair if I did not write a review. Good stuff. Couldn't put it down till I finished.

-This story was daring and bold in its content; Racism and religious fervor can be tricky business so as not to offend the reader, but rather add depth and meaning to the story- this author nailed it perfectly. A right mixture of action, attitude and background made "The Comfort of the Shriek" a great read. The time period was seamlessly incorporated into the plot and gave it an added dimension not found in a lot of short stories. Mr. Crowder shows a brilliant knack for storytelling.  

-Wow. Just...wow! I was truly impressed by this story, the way it blended madness with possibility, the reality and despair of the situation that the reader finds themselves stumbling through.

The main character, Ryan, is a member of an apocalyptic cult that finds a statue in the swamp, which the priest of the cult declares to be an angel of God sent to bring the end times. Ryan hears the angel whisper in his mind, telling him to love her and to obey her. The cult, as is common, goes through an elaborate poison-drinking ritual to reach Heaven before God rains down his wrath on the world, and only Ryan plans on surviving, to finish off anybody who had second thoughts, because this is what the angel wanted.

You spend the story thinking that Ryan's insane, but every once in a while you get little hints that make you start to wonder if perhaps there's a method to his madness, if there really is something sinister about that statue. The ending reveals the truth, clearly and without room for doubt, but without going into an overly-long explanation of everything that happened.

Stylistically, I can't find fault with this story at all. The language chosen was good, the pacing smooth and even. Even the formatting, which can be hit-or-miss with what you download from Smashwords, was dead-on. This is a story by someone with talent and dedication, and with a single exception, all of his stories on Smashwords are free, so I highly recommend you go and take a look at what he's written. This is someone who can clearly go far, and I want to be there when it happens!

I try not to lose faith in myself, but sometimes holding on to it is easier said than done. But seriously, like I said. If they can do it, then so can I.