Apex Sale, Dark Futures, and Stories

As part of their two weeks of Apex special, Apex Books is having a Halloween One Day Sale on Harlan County Horrors – 40% off today only!  Perfect for Halloween readings or any time you want to be creeped out, Harlan County Horrors, a regional based horror anthology by Apex Magazine submissions editor Mari Adkins, is what you need. Especially at today’s one day sale (Oct 15) of 40% off. Drop by the Apex Publications Store and get yours today. http://www.apexbookcompany.com/harlan-county-horrors/

This features—FEATURES, I say—my story “Trouble Among the Yearlings.”

Dark Futures: Tales of Dystopian SF is now available.  Not only does this anthology now has its own blog site  (http://darkfutures.wordpress.com/?s=future) – though I suspect someone is ghostwriting the blogs for the anthology, but it is also available from a number of online retailers.

From the Publisher
Barnes and Noble

This anthology features(!) my story “A Stone Cast into Stillness”.

Speaking of stories and interviews, The Perpetual Christian Newsletter reprints my story “Secret Gardens” and does an interview with me.  Check it out. What’s truly cool is that I was just listed as one of the 13 Astonishing Writers of Fantastika You Should Be Geeking Out Over in it, they reference my story “Secret Gardens.”

So have it!

Rambling about Sales and Reviews

In light of King Maker having been released overseas, there are two questions I’m being asked more often these days:  1) how’s the book doing (saleswise)? 2) what have the reviews been like?

Don’t get me wrong, most times when folks ask me “how’s the book doing?” it’s been out of a sense of them pulling for my success.  (In a weird way, it’s like when pastors are asked “how big is your congregation?”  Rather than me finding it akin to asking them to whip theirs out so we can measure it, it’s more of a way to start a conversation.  And, wow, it’s early in my blog post to go for such a digression.)  Same thing with reviews; thing is, in both cases, my answer is the same:  “don’t know, don’t want to know.”

And now a more strict parsing of that answer can begin.

In the case of my sales figures, I’m not interested in the numbers just yet.  Yet is the key word.   I figure the accounting of things will be months in the accruing of data.  My sales figures only matter to me in two instances.  The first is when it’s time to calculate if I’ve earned out my royalties and can take another step towards being able to live off my writing income (contrary to popular belief, once you sign a book deal, you aren’t automatically risk.  Of course, I may or may not be writing this blog post from my bed of money, but my wife won’t let me have a webcam, so you’ll never know.  Granted, she’s more concerned about how much time I spend walking about in my underwear and she fears teh interwebz just aren’t ready for that. SKIN TO WIND!!! And now the count begins for just how many random digressions I can do in one blog post.).  Plus, I’m especially interested in how the book does in England, where it was released first, vs how it does in America, where it will be released in 2010.  That’s going to take a while to get that kind of information and I’m pretty patient when it comes to that sort of stuff.  Usually too patient.  (NOT TO BE READ THAT I DON’T CARE, O GREAT AND LOOMING PUBLISHERS WHO READ MY BLOG!).

That being said, the real reason I don’t want to know:  I don’t want to be one of those authors who obsess over my numbers.  I remember how bad I was when I found statcounter programs/sites to measure my blog.  Oh man, how many hours did I while away watching the ebb and flow of the numbers.  (Don’t think I didn’t think of taping bacon to my kids, taking pictures, and making a blog post about it.  Eat that, Scalzi!)

At this point I’m wondering when Apex will pull the plug on my random ranting.  Still here?  I’ll continue.

There is something similar in play with reviews.  On the one hand, I often say that I don’t really care what most folks think.  As with most things, there’s truth and something less than truthful in that statement.  While all critics aren’t created equal, writers are needy little creatures in constant need of validation.  Buying plenty of copies of my work is speaking my love language (even if I won’t know how much you love me that way for a while.  Delayed love is sometimes the best love.  And OMG, can I quit with these parenthetical digressions?!?).  Lavish praise is nice.  It also has the benefit of being painless.

Thing is, I enjoy when people engage with my work.  I like to see what they took from my work over how well the work went over.  I’ll give you two examples (if I were a smart Apex blogger, I’d probably use a review for my Apex novella, Orgy of Souls, though a link to some of those reviews may have to suffice.  I guess I should at some point work in my other Apex project, Dark Faith, and its reviews.  People liked my story for Apex Magazine, Pimp My Airship, btw, but none of these suit the point I want to make.  And at this point, I officially need a parenthetical asides support group):

-of the reviews of my novella, Devil’s Marionette (Shroud Books), the review that really stood out to me was Michele Lee’s.  “Yet despite this immersive, and painfully open experience of being each character as hundreds of years of hatred and racism crushes down on them, the reader is left with the same feeling as someone who witnesses something beautiful or terribly in a quiet woods. It’s almost as if this pain is clear and known, but we are not supposed to speak of it, or even admit that we know it’s there.”  Okay, admittedly, this is exactly the effect I was going for in the novella.  So when I see my work have the desired effect, I’m filled with a joy so great, I have to run out and get a pedicure.  But even if Michele had loathed the book, I loved that she wrestled with it.

-ditto some of the King Maker reviews.  There are two I REALLY enjoyed and one was from a review who didn’t like the book.  The first praises the book (and has my favorite line “It would be wrong of me to say “I liked this book” in the same way it would be wrong to say “I like drugs / gang warfare” due to the very nature of the subject matter but in my mind a book like this isn’t there to be “liked”, it’s there to be consumed, appreciated, inwardly digested and above all to make you think, to open your perceptions.”).  The second … not so much a fan, but it is the best “bad” review I’ve ever read.

I do have an actual point and it involves why I’m done reading reviews of King Maker … at least for a while.  Books one and two, King’s Justice, are “in the can”, but I’m still writing (agonizing/procrastinating from/filled with writerly angst about) the final book in the trilogy, King’s War.  Reviews play in your head, good or bad.  You have to develop a thick skin for them, neither living nor dying by them.  And sometimes you may feel compelled to argue with the reviewer, especially if they “don’t get it.”  Whether or not one should argue with reviewers is a blog for another time (the short answer is “no” – and I’ve gotten a few of those “You don’t get it” responses from folks I’ve reviewed negatively).  It’s tough enough getting the story out without having to worry about pleasing everyone (especially if some of their issues are how I structure the story or its voice.  Well, that ship has sailed, so I will continue to annoy you in this trilogy).

Hmm … looks like I could have actually done this blog in about two lines: 1) I don’t want to obsess about sales just yet and 2) don’t let reviews play in your head.  But where would the fun be in that?

Dark Faith: The Table of Contents*

POEM: “The Story of Belief-Non” by Linda D. Addison
“Ghosts of New York” by Jennifer Pelland
“I Sing a New Psalm” by Brian Keene
“He Who Would Not Bow” by Wrath James White
“Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch’s Damnation” by Douglas F. Warrick
“Go and Tell It on the Mountain” by Kyle S. Johnson
“Different from Other Nights” by Eliyanna Kaiser
POEM: “Lilith” by Rain Graves
“The Last Words of Dutch Schultz Jesus Christ” by Nick Mamatas
“To the Jerusalem Crater” by Lavie Tidhar
“Chimeras & Grotesqueries” by Matt Cardin
“You Dream” by Ekaterina Sedia
“Mother Urban’s Booke of Dayes” by Jay Lake
“The Mad Eyes of the Heron King” by Richard Dansky
“Paint Box, Puzzle Box” by DT Friedman
“A Loss For Words” by John C. Hay
“Scrawl” by Tom Piccirilli
POEM: “C{her}ry Carvings” by Jennifer Baumgartner
“Good Enough” by Kelli Dunlap
“First Communion” by Geoffrey Girard
“The God of Last Moments” by Alethea Kontis
“Ring Road” by Mary Robinette Kowal
“The Unremembered” by Chesya Burke
POEM: “Desperata” by Lon Prater
“The Choir” by Lucien Soulban
“Days of Flaming Motor Cycles” by Catherynne M. Valente
“Miz Ruthie Pays Her Respects” by Lucy A. Snyder
POEM: “Paranoia” by Kurt Dinan
“Hush” by Kelly Barnhill
“Sandboys” by Richard Wright
“For My Next Trick I’ll Need a Volunteer” by Gary A. Braunbeck

For those keeping track at home, that makes 5 poems and 26 stories by 17 men and 14 women. Coming May 2010 from Apex Books. Debuting at Mo*Con V

*Barring any issues regarding the dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s. And this isn’t the final, final cover.

Harlan County Horrors (Now with Reviews!)

The Harlan County Horrors anthology is out. Its line up includes:

“The Witch of Black Mountain” – Alethea Kontis

“The Power of Moonlight” – Debbie Kuhn
“Hiding Mountain: Our Future in Apples” – Earl Dean
“Psychomachia” – Geoffrey Girard
“Yellow Warbler” – Jason Sizemore
“Kingdom Come” – Jeremy C. Shipp
“Trouble Among the Yearlings” – Maurice Broaddus “Spirit Fire” – Robby Sparks
“The Thing at the Side of the Road” – Ronald Kelly
“Inheritance” – Stephanie Lenz
“Greater of Two Evils” – Steven Shrewsbury
“Harlan Moon” – TL Trevaskis

Afterword: Harlan County: A Short History by Preston Halcomb

Cover art by Billy Tackett



Jeff Cutler

University Chronicle

Monster Librarian

Paladin Freelance

Amazon Reviews

Shroud Magazine

You and the Library: The Broaddus Experiment

Okay, I’ve occasionally run my mouth at conventions about the burgeoning crop of black horror writers, what we can do to increase diversity, and how the horror market needs to quit whining about the shrinking audience and instead actively expanding its audience. You know, rather than decry books like the Dark Dreams series as somehow “reverse racism” (oh, yeah, I LOVED those discussions), embrace them as the opportunity that they are. For example, when I spoke to Jason Sizemore at Apex Books about marketing Orgy of Souls, I asked how he planned on marketing to the black audience. I fully expected something along the lines of “we published you”. Instead, there was a gentle glow about his face, his head tilted to the side (he gets like that when he’s in love, and in this case the object of his affections was … more sales) and with a lilt to his voice he asked “what’s our next step?”

With help from my friends (another random shout out to RAW Sistaz), I’ve been posting resources like Black Literary sites, places folks can send their books to market themselves better and build new audiences. I’ll be posting a similar list of black book expos and conventions for folks to begin to add to their convention schedule. And I’ve compiled a list of black book stories which folks are free to contact me to receive.

In addition, I recently received this blog which I have permission to re-post.

My Name is Greg Fisher and I’m the Undead Rat.

I’m a a librarian assistant at the Cleveland Hts.-University Hts. Public Library. I work 20 hours at the main library on Lee Rd. and 20 hours at the Noble Neighborhood Library (a branch). So I get the experience of working at a branch and working at a main building.

Today I wanted to talk about Maurice Broaddus and an idea mentioned at last year’s Context 21 convention.

He was on a panel — I think the topic was ‘is the horror genre dead?’ — and he mentioned the book he’d written with Wrath James White called Orgy of Souls. Orgy was published by Apex in trade paperback format at a reasonable price. Maurice said that he thought Apex had done a great job marketing the book in all the available horror fiction venues but . . .

They hadn’t explored marketing the book in any African American venues.

Not to black book discussion groups, not to any black book-of-the-month clubs, black book review magazines and online journals nor the blogs. Not a fault of Apex, it just didn’t occur to them.

I heard what he said and it got me thinking (and that can be a really bad thing . . . )

At the Noble branch we have a horror section (it’s still considered an experiment although last month it circulated books better than the cookbook section) and an African American fiction section. An ideal set up to test his theory.

I purchased, for Noble, two copies of Orgy of Souls, Succulent Prey and The Book of a Thousand Sins both by Wrath James White, as well as two copies of Bad Blood and Bite the Bullet both by L. A. Banks. I would have liked to have purchased more books but my budget limited me.

Still, it’s enough for an informal test so . . .

One set of each was cataloged HORROR while the other set was cataloged as AF-AM FICTION. Currently both sets are listed as New Books so they’re in special promotional bins — one bin for new horror novels and the other bin for new African-American novels.

All this year I will monitor how many times each book goes out. I’ll periodically report on it here in Horror Mall’s The Haunt and send Maurice a copy for him to distribute.

It’s not scientific since I have no control group or enough diversity (i.e., only 3 authors) in my study group but it might give us a clue how to better promote the horror genre.

And perhaps someone running a bookstore might pick up this idea and run with it? I’d love to hear about it if you do.

I’m all about continuing to experiment. Not every effort will be successful and folks may not see immediate dividends, but we’ll all be the better for it.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.