Horror Is Dead?

NosferatuShadowHorror is dead, some say. Many say that about horror fiction in particular.

“The market is glutted,” they say. “Nobody writes horror anymore. That went out with the 1980s.”

And yet horror movies are consistently raking in top dollar at the box office. Stephen King’s It was the number five top-grossing movie of 2017.

Clearly, plenty of folks are watching horror movies. I find it hard to believe that none of these people read.

While some horror writers of yesteryear are denying their roots, there are some fantastic horror writers alive and well and unabashedly writing horror. Ronald Malfi, Tim Curran, Keith C. Blackmore, Joe R. Landsdale, and more.

As for me, I keep coming back to horror. Give me dark and cloudy nights, full moons, creepy shadows, walking dead, and serial killers any day. Even the crime fiction I write has a dark, dark lining.

So I’ll keep writing horror because it suits me. Unabashedly and honestly.

Count on that.

 

 

Badlands Trilogy

Several months back, I quietly released an omnibus containing the first three books of my Badlands series. Simply titled Badlands Trilogy, this edition contains three complete novels: Into the Badlands, Beyond the Badlands, and Out of the Badlands.

 

Badlands TrilogyAt the time, I thought the series was finished, aside from a few more novellas set within the same universe. But as it turned out, I realized there was more story there. Something unique enough, something interesting enough to warrant at least one more novel. Maybe more. I’m not sure how many, but definitely one more go around with Ed Brady and his family.

So if you haven’t yet picked up any of my Badlands books, you might want to consider getting the trilogy omnibus edition. You’ll save a couple of bucks in the process and get all three books in one handy edition.

Stay tuned right here at my blog for more info on the series as it develops. Better yet, sign up for my mailing list. You’ll be the first to know about new releases and you’ll get a free book just for signing up.

Looking Behind, Looking Ahead

Back in 2011, when I published my first book, things were easier. There were fewer books competing for readers’ attention. The Kindle was still pretty new to readers; they were hungry for new books from authors they’d never read. I had a couple of books out and they sold extremely well; better than they should have given my talent level at the time. Even better, I had to do nothing to promote them; Amazon did it for me. I sold thousands of books, positive reviews flowed in, and life was pretty good for a part-time writer.

Then, in January 2013, that all came to a screeching halt.

Literally, overnight, sales dried up. The same books that had been moving nicely through the system for the past two years suddenly went dormant. It was as if a switched had been flipped and the lights just went out. And for all I know about the black box that is Amazon, maybe that’s exactly what happened.

The era collectively known as the Kindle Gold Rush was over.

Many writers quit. I didn’t. Since the end of the Gold Rush, I’ve written an additional eight novels, another five novellas, and fourteen short stories. But no matter how many books I’ve released since the “good ol’ days”, it hasn’t had much effect. My Badlands series sells okay (for which I’m truly grateful), but the other books don’t move much, if at all.

The reasons for this are myriad and anecdotal. The market is saturated with boatloads of books for sale in the Kindle store. Kindle Unlimited has had a negative impact too, cannibalizing sales and driving down payments to authors. And those of us who opt out of exclusivity with Amazon pay dearly; KU books rank higher than non-KU books and are much more visible to customers. In other words, if a writer wants to diversify his risk and reach more readers on more platforms, then he’s gonna get dinged for it.

And don’t get me started on the scammers currently infecting Kindle Unlimited.

Since 2011, most of Amazon’s competition hasn’t really gained much ground. Sony has gotten out of the game. Diesel is gone. Barnes and Noble has pretty much dropped the ball with their Nook effort. Apple still doesn’t seem to care about selling ebooks, despite having their iBooks app on literally hundreds of millions of devices. Google doesn’t seem to care about selling ebooks any more than Apple does.

At least Kobo has upped their game a little. They at least seem like they care and are trying to sell more books and reach more readers. It seems to be working because they’re now my number one sales channel.

There’s also a lot more competition within the Kindle store; Amazon has their own publishing imprints to push now and New York publishing houses have finally digitized much of their backlist books, adding thousands more titles to the Kindle store. Last count I remember, there are something like two or three million books in the Kindle store.

To cut through the noise, it takes a lot of time, effort, and money. Advertising on platforms like Facebook and Amazon are pretty much required now if you want to sell books. And now the latest tactic is “writing to market”, an approach I’m not too keen on. Feels too much like a popularity contest, and pandering isn’t really in my veins.

The good news is that royalty rates for ebooks are still at 70% at most of the major retailers. And the gatekeepers are gone, so we’re still free to write and publish whatever we like. These two factors alone are reason enough to celebrate. If one can still manage to sell books that people want to read, the profit margin continues to favor writers. That’s a big deal.

This is just the state of publishing today, for better or worse. Some writers are killing it in this new market, many are not. It’s always been a lottery to some extent. The world doesn’t owe anybody a living, myself included. And while things might not be easy, I find it’s much better to face reality for what it truly is, not what we’d like it to be.

Every year I reassess my writing business and writing life. Since 2015 I’ve been focused primarily on production. Writing more books. Writing better books. Streamlining the revision, editing, and proofreading processes. Reducing production costs so that I can actually afford to release the books I write without losing my ass on them.

Two years later, that effort has born fruit. My writing is better. I’m WAY more productive now. My books turn a profit, albeit small. I’ve experimented with a new series and I’ve grown my most lucrative series (with more growth planned). I’ve written whatever the hell I want, depending solely on my mood at the time. That’s allowed me to try new genres and to write some books I’m pretty proud of.

But high production takes its toll. Waking up at 4:30 every weekday morning to write ain’t easy, not with a full-time career, a wife and two kids, and all the normal crap that comes with being an adult. Then working weekends on editing, proofreading, covers, and promotion…it all adds up.

Succeeding at anything requires sacrifice, and with that sacrifice, one expects to see some return. So here I am at the end of 2017, looking for a way to quantify that success. Goal-oriented people like myself are always looking for ways to measure success, to show gains, to show progress. In terms of sales, it ain’t looking good for me. But after thinking on this for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been going about the notion of success all wrong.

High sales equals popularity and people tend to gauge success through popularity. Anybody who’s been to high school knows that. And anybody who’s picked up a book and seen “New York Times Bestseller!” stamped across the cover knows it too. If something is popular, it must be good, right? And if not, it must be bad. Right?

I’m not so sure of that.

For years, I bought into using popularity as a measuring stick for my own work. I got caught up in the rat race, in the idea that validation comes from outside.

I was wrong.

As I wind down 2017, I’ve been reassessing things. Over the past six years I’ve proven a lot. I’ve proven that I can produce consistently. I’ve proven that I can write books that folks tend to like (for whatever that’s worth). I’ve proven that I can work full-time as a programmer and still crank out books at a faster rate than the pros who do nothing else but write. And while I’ve gained a lot proving all this, I’ve lost sight of why I write in the first place: to have fun.

So I’ve decided to take back control. I determine success. Nobody else. And to me, success is defined by setting goals and accomplishing them while having as much fun as I can. Success is writing books I care about, books that I think are worthwhile. Books I’d like to read myself.

And to hell with the numbers and what anybody else thinks.

2018 is gonna look a lot different for me than the past couple of years. 2018 will be all about me writing for the love of the story and nothing else. If that resonates with people, great. If not, who cares? Read it or don’t. I have a lucrative day job that I really like, and that affords me the luxury of writing whatever the hell I want, whenever I want to write it. And that truly is a luxury. I don’t have to write something I hate for money and I don’t have to chase numbers for validation. And I don’t have to crank out a novel per month unless I want to.

I’m looking forward to next year more than I have any before it. It’s a wide open road for me.

And that’s just the way I like it.

Winding Down 2017

It’s hard to believe it, but we’re heading into the sunset of yet another year. 2017 arrived with much promise and, thus far, it’s delivered as I’d hoped. But this isn’t a year-end recap; I’ll write that one in a few months. This is me checking in to let everybody know what’s going on and what to expect out of me over the next few months.

So far this year, I’ve published three books: Redemption in the BadlandsKryptos, and The Swingin’ Man. If you haven’t checked them out, head on over to my homepage and see what’s up.

A week or so ago, I finished the manuscript for my latest Badlands novella, titled Vengeance in the Badlands. It’s a complete rewrite of the novel I wrote back in 2014 and never published. It sucks to throw away an entire novel-length manuscript, but I just wasn’t happy with it as written. The new book is a little shorter, but the story more closely resembles the story I’d originally envisioned. The copy edit and proofread should be completed within the next couple of weeks, so look for that book at your favorite retailer around the end of October. If you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll be the first to know when it’s available, plus you’ll get a free book for signing up. Win-win. 🙂

I’m working on a short story that I think you’ll be interested in. It’s an “origin” story, detailing the events of the outbreak as experienced by Ed Brady and his family. That book will be free for all current and future mailing list subscribers. It’s also going to be exclusive-not sold in stores-only available by signing up.

I don’t yet have a release date for that one, but look for it before year’s end. And if you join my mailing list…well, you know the drill.

I’m taking a little time off from my production schedule to deal with some health issues (nothing life-threatening), to read and to “recharge the batteries”. I’ll still be writing, but I’m not sure what exactly. As a result, Badlands #4 (Back to the Badlands) will be pushed out a few months. I hate to delay the book, but if I’m not healthy I can’t properly write it anyway. It’s better to push the date and produce a better book than it would be to force a half-assed attempt out there. Nobody wants that.

And then there’s that half-finished horror novel manuscript I still have floating around…

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

So…there you have it. Look for Vengeance and Outbreak coming your way sooner than later, with more books to follow later than sooner. And remember; it’s tough out there for a playa these days, so if you like my work tell your friends, tell your family, maybe even write a review. And I’ll do you a solid and keep the books coming your way. 🙂

It Comes at Night

It Comes at Night was nothing like I thought it would be. I expected a zombie flick or monsters crawling around in the darkness trying to eat the protagonist. But this film is a psychological thriller at its core and a damn smart one at that.

The gist of the plot is that a plague of some sort has decimated the world. Paul lives with his family in their remote house, away from the virus. They’re reasonable people who survive by being smart and cautious, adhering to safe routines that have thus far worked to keep them alive. But when another young family arrives at Paul’s door, his system of order is irreparably disrupted. Paranoia and fear creep in, much like the virus they’re so desperately trying to avoid, bringing with it dire consequences.

It’s most interesting to me in the way this film explores how two families-all logical, reasonable, and pragmatic people-can be pushed to do things they’d never normally do. It reminds me of that old Twilight Zone episode, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, where Serling posits that good people are capable of terrible things, provided they’re sufficiently afraid for themselves and their loved ones. I’ve touched on these themes in my own books, something I like to call “conditional morality”. Probably explains why I liked this film so much.

John F. Kennedy said that the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. While it’s true that Paul and his family do have a very real virus to fear, it takes a back seat to paranoia in this tense thriller. The fear is the real threat here; it’s real and it’s deadly.

The Swingin’ Man

I got so busy that I almost forgot to pimp this sucker. The Swingin’ Man…available now in ebook at all major retailers. The paperback should be out within a week or so.

Click here to read more about it.

 

Summertime News

It seems like forever since I’ve updated, although my last post was back in April. I just finished a project, so it seemed a good time to provide an update on what’s been happening and what’s to come.

I’m about halfway through a novel I’ve named Dream Eater. Progress has been good, but with the distraction of a new job and all the summertime activities with my family, I took a break from it to write a few short stories.

As such, I now have a collection of twelve short stories collected over the past year, mostly stuff written between novels. It’s been fun just jumping into a new world every few days, compared to spending two months on a single novel. Now that I have enough short stories for a collection, I’ll be getting these copy edited and hopefully published by the end of July. If you want to be the first to know when it comes out, sign up for my mailing list. You’ll also receive a free book for signing up.

I’ve gone through some pretty upsetting job changes over the past year, so focusing on the writing has been a little challenging. But I’ve been at my new job for two months now and I’m loving it. The mental stability this provides will allow me to focus better when writing longer novels and novellas, so look for a few more books later this year.

I’ve written about 100,000 words this year and we’re halfway through it, so I’m a little behind on my goal of writing 300,000 words. But I’ve published two books so far with a third on the way. I think I can still get three more books out before year end. I plan to finish Dream Eater this year, but beyond that, I’m not sure what I’ll be working on. We’ll see where the muse takes me, I suppose. No matter what, 2017 has been SO much better than 2016 was. I had high hopes for this year, and so far I haven’t been let down.

Before I go, I’ll pimp my most recent releases, Kryptos and Redemption In the Badlands. Kryptos is a “creature feature”, chock-full of monsters and folks struggling to stay alive. Redemption brings us back to the Badlands world, catching up with Pastor Dan after Ed and Jasper left for Kansas City. Reviews have been good and it was a lot of fun to write. If you dug my other Badlands books, I think you’ll like this one too. While you’re at it, you can check out all my other books here.

Until next time, take it easy.