Aspiring Authors… Be You, Not Them!

I’d like to take a quick break from updating the latest in my personal news, and revisit one of my old bugbears… social media.

When I first embarked on a serious effort to transition from part-time hobbyist to a full-time fiction author, I did what anyone else would do in my position… I read every piece of advice on the Internet. Author’s blogs, publishing blogs, magazine articles, Facebook groups… my brain was awash in the prescriptive advice doled out like bucketfuls from front-end loaders. It was overwhelming.

Fun fact: to “overwhelm” is the same as to “whelm.” It’s like “flammable” and “inflammable.”

Anyways, part of the life as an aspiring author was the daily consumption of social media. This involved the search-and-follow scavenger hunt for the best and brightest. My social media of choice has been Facebook and Twitter. Twitter, in particular, suited my love for brevity-as-wit.

It wasn’t long until I realized that the usual wash of updates, photos, celebrations and new book launches had begun to grind my self-worth into a fine paste. WHY, THOUGH? These people are doing well. You’re taking their advice. You should go and do likewise.

Which was the problem.

It’s far too easy for an aspiring or struggling author to replace reasonable and meaningful personal goals with the lives of the successful and prolific authors on Twitter… especially those who spend a good deal of time crafting informative blog posts for public consumption. And this can suck the wind out of your sails without your realizing it.

It’s not that we authors view one another with some Machiavellian sense of mutual suspicion.

It’s that we see WhatsHerName posting a group selfie of fifty people at her latest book signing… and we think back to last Saturday when we sat at a table for two hours, and the only person who stopped at the table was just looking for the bathroom.

We see WhatsHisName Tweet out about some recent political faffery, and the thread goes on for days… while we Tweet something marginally clever, and we receive crickets.

We see the author/agent love on Twitter, and we wonder what we’ve done so wrong.

We read the latest How to Write blog post, and we recognize that these people put out four books a year… and we’re struggling to find two hours a night just to get some word count in between screaming infants, barfing poodles, and lather-mouthed political in-laws.

Here’s the problem… WE NEED TO BE THE BEST VERSION OF OURSELVES, NOT ANOTHER VERSION OF THEM.

These NY Times Bestsellers and six-figure indie publishers are at a different place in their journey. It’s all too easy to succumb to human nature and hold ourselves up to their particular limelight. But you, dear author, are at your own place in your journey.

I urge you to return your focus to the manuscript in your hands. Eyes on your own paper. Attend to your craft, and where you are here and now. Don’t try to be Scalzi or Wendig or Stiefvater or Howey or Dawson or Schwab.

Be you… where you are.

And most of all, don’t despair. The more advice you hear, the more you come to feel that you NEED that advice. Comes a point, however, when you need to stop planning and start doing. Get those words down. Finish those rough drafts. Then read and re-read and re-re-read. The only way to get better is to write more and read more.

Which is really the point… writing better stories. Not gaming the Amazon algorithm. Not finding the magic bullet or fantasy formula. Focus on the story in your head. Focus on the craft of getting that story down in the best vehicle for the reader.

If the rest comes… the awards, the street teams, the sales numbers, the reviews… then they come. And guess what? If you don’t allow the Twitter machine to grind you down?

They will.

Holiday Sale & Some News

Hello one and all, and happy holidays to each of you!

I have two items of interest for your eager ears. The first of which is that I have finished the first draft of Book 5, THE DARK PRINCIPLE! For those of you wondering whether Dorian will find some way to redeem himself from the darkness into which he’s descended… or if he will truly descend into evil… this book will be your answer!

So, what now? Well, finishing the first draft is nowhere near “finishing the book.” I have several passes to go through before I even send this out to beta readers. To paraphrase some wise soul whose name I can’t remember, and thus can’t adequate attribute… I’m not making sand castles, I’m just shoveling the sand into the bucket.

Time to start carving this castle!

Second item of news for you… my publisher is having a house-wide sale for all of my titles! Between today and December 24th, you can buy the Kindle edition of ANY OF MY BOOKS for only $0.99!!!

If you’ve been interested in trying out my western, YEA THOUGH I WALK, or if you just read The Curse Merchant, and are interested in pressing on but the cost was putting you off… now’s your shot to rack up without breaking the bank! So, please do spread the word. All of my books for just a dollar!

Happy Holidays once again, and I’ll see you next year!

Fall Update, Dark Choir Series & Ballgowns

Happy Fall, one and all!

Jesus… I really didn’t mean for that to rhyme.

Now that the weather is chilling off rapidly (I’m currently shivering in my office, because the space heater by the window has elected in an abundance of caution never to actually operate), I thought I’d touch on the last few months around these here parts.

I’ve had the opportunity to join fellow Curiosity Quills authors at a benefit gala for the Fairfax County Library Association. It was a Hollywood-themed event, and we all dressed to the nines! We met several interesting folk, had some wine, and generally geeked out over books… and all of it benefited the mission of supporting the public libraries.

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Later this month, I’ll be manipulating the minds of future writers guest speaking at Frederick Community College to discuss life as an independent author. I always enjoy a microphone. Getting me to shut up is the trick!

Aside from that, I’m looking forward to a holiday season which bears down upon us like an avalanche. I honestly still feel as if it’s July.

Writing-wise, I am still hard at work on Book 5 of the Dark Choir series, THE DARK PRINCIPLE. There’s a lot of action in this book, and I’m folding elements from each of the previous novels in addition to a few new characters. This process proves to be time-intensive… so bear with me!

Having just rounded 50k words on the manuscript, I feel I’m a little more than halfway there. My goal is to have a cleaned-up copy to send to beta readers by Christmas. Beta readers love distractions during family get togethers!

Alright all… stay safe and warm out there. Go to a public library and show them your support, and maybe ask them to order in some of my books. Cheers!

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The Dark Interest, Book 4 of the Dark Choir Series

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The paperback and Kindle eBook editions of The Dark Interest are now available for purchase on Amazon! Continue Dorian Lake’s journey into darkness as his search for his soul becomes mired in a post-Presidium world of nascent cabals vying for dominance, and a sinister force that seems hell-bent on destroying the city of Baltimore.

In other news, I now have a brand new book page, powered by WishKnish. It’s very, very shiny!

If you’re an old school Dark Choir reader, jump on book 4! If you’re new to the series, swing on over to The Curse Merchant, Book 1, and introduce yourself to the double-world of grimy city streets and hermetic practices lying just beneath.

The Dark Interest – Cover Reveal

Welcome to the #SummerOfDorian, folks! This is an action-packed August for yours truly. In just a few days, the audiobook edition of The Curse Mandate will be available for purchase on Audible… rounding out the first three books of the Dark Choir series as narrated by Neil Hellegers.

And if that weren’t enough… on August 22nd, the much-anticipated Book 4 of the series will hit Amazon. Well, today I have a treat for you… the cover art just came in from the publisher, and I’m happy to show you the glorious, scorching-hot cover for The Dark Interest.

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And thus begins the “back three” of the Dark Choir series. Dorian navigates a post-Presidium world as nascent cabals and Netherworkers come of the woodwork. When a powerful dark force brings the city of Baltimore to the brink of chaos, Dorian must fully embrace his powers… and his identity as The Curse Merchant!

My Author Ruckus in New Orleans

Happy July to all my Fistful Faithful!

I’ve just returned from a sojourn back in the Big Easy. Too often in recent years, I’ve had to take trips to my home state of Louisiana for official business, or other less pleasant affairs. Thus it was refreshing to take a genuine vacation for a change. The family did the whole tourist thing… we stopped by Commander’s Palace for brunch, took an airboat tour of the bayou, fed alligators marshmallows, and had more than our fair share of fried seafood.

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We also arranged a book signing and author meet-and-greet through our publisher. The Garden District Bookshop hosted us for an evening event down on Prytania Street. My wife and I signed books, and had a surprisingly vibrant Q&A with those gathered.

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A fine affair!

Now for my latest author news…

The audiobook for The Curse Servant is officially online at Audible.com. Once again, Neil Hellegers dropped a bomb of awesome with his narration. The audiobook for The Curse Mandate is in-process, and is scheduled for release August 15th!

Speaking of August… Book 4 of the Dark Choir series has been bumped up for early publication! THE DARK INTEREST will release on Tuesday, August 22nd.

If you’ve read any of my books, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. These really help… no matter if it’s 5 star or 1 star. I appreciate anyone giving my books a read!

Now for future news… I’m wrapping up pre-production of Dark Interest with the publisher, after which I’ll return to writing Book 5. My aim is to push on until I wrap up the Dark Choir series with Book 6. After that, I’ve already begun the pre-writing and world-building process for my next series. I expect to dive straight into it… and fans of the Dark Choir series will be happy to hear that I’m not wandering far. The Veil Guard series will be a true spin-off of Dark Choir. Same setting, same world, new characters, new conflicts. So stay tuned for that!

Stay cool, everyone. Drink a lemonade or limon cielo for me!

Divergent Fates Anthology & Other News

Near the beginning of the year, I posted about my 2017 publishing plans, which included two short stories. Since then, my first short story “Fail House” has been published in the Darkscapes Anthology released in January.

Plus, new developments have sprung to life… a series of Dark Choir audiobooks has been optioned by Tantor Media. The first, The Curse Merchant, has been out for a few weeks, now. The audiobook edition of The Curse Servant will release on Audible.

And the latest announcement has been that The Dark Interest, Book 4 of the Dark Choir series, has been bumped up to an August 22nd release date! So, you’ll be able to continue Dorian Lake’s journey into darkness sooner than expected!

But what about that second short story I’d already mentioned? Glad you asked!

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I’ve contributed a short story, “Snake Oil: a Tale of the Badlands”, to the Divergent Fates anthology. This is a themed anthology of tales all told within Matthew Cox’s Divergent Fates universe. I love this sort of project, as it allows us to stretch our muscles and take on new genres and viewpoints. “Snake Oil” is a particularly grim, post-apocalyptic tale of homesteaders trying to protect their tiny slice of the Badlands from roving warlords. It’s a tale of love, guilt, wholesale slaughter, and psychotic telepaths.

Be sure to pick up a copy of this anthology… it’s quite diverse in setting, though all told within the same settings as such of Cox’s bestsellers as Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and the Awakened Series.

And once you’ve done that, remember to keep your ears peeled for the Curse Servant audiobook this June!