Urban Fantasy

NEW STUFF COMING FOR 2013 AND BEYOND

So 2012 was pretty darn good, writingly-speaking.  I’ve managed to churn out a few more manuscripts and BLACK DOG has been pretty successful so far, and it’s all thanks to you guys–the readers.  I hope we have many more adventures together, if only through the shared telepathy of writer and reader.

Just to keep you all up to date, here’s a list of projects coming up this year and next year.  I have a ton more that hopefully will fill the next five years or so after that, but those will keep until I have somewhat of a release date.

BLACK DOG: PROPHET IN THE WILDERNESS–The sequel to BLACK DOG: THE LONG DARK ROAD.  It’s being edited right now and has tallied-out at a little over four-hundred pages.  There’s a few more stories in this volume than the first.  The two books were actually one book originally, but that would’ve had the page count at just over eight-hundred pages, so it was deemed necessary to split the book in two.  I think the flow from one book to the next is pretty smooth.  Since they’re episodic short stories (and as a result, resemble the episodic nature of a TV series), you can read either one on its own, but if you want the full story, it’s better to pick up the first volume.  In the second volume, readers will see what happened to Amos to turn him out on the road as a hobo, how he got his special guitar, when he first saw the phantom black dog, and how his road finally ends.  Out in April!

NIC ARCHER: ARROWHEAD–The first in a planned ten-book YA/Teen series about a boy who discovers his parents were soldier-agents for A.R.R.O.W.–a clandestine secret army that has been protecting America since before the American Revolution.  He also discovers that he was a test subject for the Arrowhead Initiative–a plan to create the perfect agent, one who will spearhead their army in a terrible looming conflict.  No one’s asked Nic what he wants, but now that he’s been targeted by SCARAB–A.R.R.O.W.’s ancient nemesis–he may not live to make up his mind!  Mid-to-late 2013. (Fingers crossed!)

THE MARK OF CAIN (The Book of Cain–Vol. 1)The first book in a Civil War supernatural trilogy about Ira Cain, a Confederate cavalry captain who is cursed by an old Haitian slave woman.  Cain must not only survive the final year of the Civil War with Hell literally on his trail, but must also wander the Antebellum South, searching for the slave to remove the curse before he is dragged to Hell.   The second and third books are called GONE SOUTH and HELL ABORNING, respectively, and will find Cain and a Buffalo Soldier named Deke Sherman searching through the post-war South for the slave woman, dodging bounty hunters, and fighting the forces of Hell itself.

ALONEA stand-alone post-apocalyptic novel set in rural North Georgia.  No zombies, no vampires, but plenty of Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, and especially Man vs. Himself.  I wanted to do something in the vein of George Stewart’s Earth Abides mixed in with a little Jack London and the Tom Hanks film Castaway.  Too many post-apocalyptic novels have a protagonist that’s ex-military/Special Forces/Super-Prepper and is all kitted-out and ready for the downfall of civilization.  I wanted to show what a normal, average Joe-Schmoe would do if suddenly pressed to survive.  How would he learn to shoot?  To hunt?  To dress game or make shelter or preserve food and keep a fire going?  So the main character is a guy who, like most of us, has become so dependent on the Internet, cell phones, and prepackaged food that he’s at less than Square One when he starts out.  I also wanted to explore the effects of being alone on a person (which the protagonist is for most of the book.)  What would it do to their mind?  Would they crave human companionship or shun it completely?  And when other humans do show up in the story, what then?  Find out late 2013-early 2014.

If you’ve read BLACK DOG, please take a moment to write a review on Amazon.com, B&N.com, Goodreads.com, FaceBook, and anywhere else you can paint Internet graffiti.  Believe it or not, word of mouth still makes the best advertisement!

Thanks again for reading!

 


THE LEPROSY OF SELF-PUBLISHING

Let me get this in the open right from the jump:

I am ALL ABOUT self-publishing.  I LOVE self-publishing.  I  AM self-published—twice.

My name is Matt, and I’m a self-published author.  (Hi, Matt…)

Do I think it’s the ONLY way to go?

No.

Is it a VIABLE way?

Yes.

But—BUT!—not for everybody.

There is a certain stigma about self-publishing, and a lot of you writers out there know what I mean.  You may be a writer who’s doing their due diligence, (i.e. riding herd on yourself, keeping your butt in the chair, and putting out the best quality work possible by making sure the manuscript itself DOESN’T SUCK a turd-flavored lollipop), and still you get patronizing comments (Oh, self-published?  Well, that’s all right.”  Unspoken comment: “You’ll get there one day.”)  Or you answer the question “Who’s your publisher?” with “You’re lookin’ at him,” and the person winces like they just gulped a 44-ounce Thirstbuster of curdled milk, sets your book back down like it’s a two-headed, napalm-spitting spider, and slowly backs away, whispering  “Don’t touch me…!”

(Actually, a two-headed napalm-spitting spider sounds pretty cool.)  *jots down for future reference*

Hyperbole?  Maybe, but both of the above have happened to me, and I’m betting some of you other due-diligence pen-jockeys have had similar experiences.

And before we feel high and mighty in our super-scribedom, there is a definite reason for this preconceived notion:

It is insanely easy to self-publish these days.  Anyone can regurgitate onto the page and upload their vomit to Amazon, B&N.com, or any number of internet venues and charge whatever they want.

Within the open-ended system of Amazon’s Create Space and the eBook off-ramp of soiled baby diapers in the guise of “novels,” there is absolutely no system of checks and balances.  There could (and probably should) be some sort of filter through which Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and every other self and eBook publisher runs the steady stream of bilge-water that passes for “published” work.  And I’m talking about just the basics—grammar, spelling, punctuation.

After that, the Sargasso Sea of shitty book covers needs to be addressed—by which I mean taken out back and shot.  You!  Yeah, you–the one who is so in love with Papyrus and Comic Sans?  The one who can’t create a relevant title to said book?  the one who thinks Photoshop covers a multitude of sins?  Hire a cover artist/designer and at least make it look like you care about putting out a professional product.  That whole don’t judge a book by its cover thing?  Crap and double-crap.  If your cover is half-assed, mediocre, or downright awful, and your title is incomprehensible or just plain nonsensical, guess what?  I’m thinking the inside is the EXACT. SAME. WAY.  I worked for two major bookstores as a Receiving Manager for 10+ years, and let me tell you:  we knew when a self-pub came down the pike.  You could take one look and tell.

So that’s one-half of the key to self-publishing (or hell, any venture in life):  Put your best foot forward; first impressions matter.  Even if you clean up your Comic Sans funk later on, the stink will never wash off in the minds of prospective readers, and they are the ones for which your book (and consequently you) should smell like a Yankee Candle factory.  Otherwise, readers will associate you with the endless morass of warm garbage that already exists out there and it’ll be over before it starts.

The other half, again, is you actually writing something that doesn’t suck.

Yeah, I know, right?  Pretty simple, yeah?  You wouldn’t think so, browsing through Amazon.  A few tips:

1.)  Develop a good story idea:  This doesn’t mean writing your Star Wars/Strawberry Shortcake erotic fan-fiction, either; it means you need to develop a strong idea that can be built upon.  Influence is fine, but know where to draw the line.  Even if you change the names, we can still tell that Boba Fett and Peach Blossom are getting it on, while a sexually exploited Blueberry Muffin in a slave girl outfit takes out her bottled-up rage on Jabba the Hutt during a private dance session, and meanwhile on Bespin, Lobot has come out to Lando, expressed his long-repressed feelings for him, while also admitting to an affair with Huckleberry Pie during the last podraces on Tatooine…

…not that I gave that much thought, or even wrote a six-book series, available individually or as a bundle on Amazon, under the pen name “Wedge Antitties.”

2.) Know your craft:  A buzz word a few years back that really dragged a cheese-grater over my scrotum was “artisan.”  Suddenly, every fast-food joint in the nation was sporting “artisan” bread.  There were artisan knives, cakes, houses, yachts, bongs, Nikes, water…you get it.  Supposedly the term lent greater value to the products and let their purveyors charge more for them.  Personally, I had artisan underwear and they hugged me like they were painted on, brother—wait.

Did I say that out loud?

Anyway, artisan actually means a craftsman—someone who knows their shizzle about their shizzle.  A craftsman is someone who others come to because he can do a particular thing like no one else.  (At one point in my life, that thing was breakdancing; now, it’s pencil-fighting.)  People know they can get a quality product from this guy or gal, and will pay for the privilege of having it.  That’s what you should strive to be as a writer—what we all should strive to be.  People should see your name in the Kindle Shop or on a bookstore shelf and practically wet themselves getting to the Buy Now button or front counter.  You should strive to produce work that makes people get that “have to go to the bathroom from excitement” feeling, not the “can’t make it to the bathroom fast enough to paint the toilet with my lunch” feeling.

3.) EDIT YOUR CRAP!  EDIT YOUR CRAP!  EDIT YOUR CRAP! : Speaks for itself.  Edit the work.  Read it out loud.  See how good or craptastic it sounds, then edit it again.  Rinse and repeat.  Still concerned?  Hire an editor (Psst!  It’s what they do.)  They can either revamp your existing work, or tell you why it’s awful.  Either way, the feedback you’ll get is absolutely valuable.   In some ways, editing is my favorite part of the writing process.  If the actual composition is the hammer beating out the manuscript, then editing is the scalpel, slicing away the cancerous parts until the story is healthy and whole.  EDIT.  YOUR.  CRAP.

4.)  Get a test reader. Or eight.  It can be your wife, husband, girl/boyfriend, sure.  Most writers start with these, but move out of your comfort zone—of course Granny’s gonna think her Wittle Pumpkin’s story is the best thing since bunion cream.  (And let’s be honest, has there really been anything that good?)  Go out.  Leave your PC, typewriter, chalkboard, human skin and bone pen, and get out there and meet people.  Coworkers, writers’ groups ( a post about these guys later), friends, friends of friends, hobos under freeway bypasses, whoever.  Just let it fly out to readers and get the honest feedback you desperately need, not the ego-stroking you desperately want.

5.)  Do everything in your power to NOT make your book look self-published.   Editing.  A strong, awesome cover.  Good back copy that reads like a hook from a movie trailer.  A barcode and ISBN (both of which can be bought individually or are already included in Create Space’s publishing options.)  A formatted interior, preferably an existing template.  Break your back to make your book look like one that’s already on the shelves professionally.  To paraphrase Crash Davis’s advice to Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham:  “Your manuscript has multiple errors. You’ll never make it to the bigs with errors on your manuscript. Think classy, you’ll be classy.  If you sell a million books, you can let the errors stay and the press’ll think you’re colorful.  Until you sell a million, however, it means you’re a slob.”

This all sounds mean, I know, and I’m not trying to discourage people from writing—just from writing crap.  When you upload and/or publish your serial killer unicorn-urban fantasy-epic-cop drama and it looks like something that bubbled back up the garbage disposal, you RUIN it for the rest of us who are trying to produce quality work.  That stigma I mentioned earlier?  It’s because of the lack of quality-control on the writer’s part, first and foremost.  How could anyone want to hang anything less than their best out there for the world to swing at like a piñata?

And, as I said, the venues are equally responsible.  Amazon, B&N, and all the rest are throwing a house party for crappy books, no cover for the ladies, and not even bothering to card anyone at the door.  They need a filter—some sort of literary three-headed Cerberus at the gate to drag the shitty books down to Bad Book Hades—but that won’t ever happen; there’s no money in it for them.  We, as writers and readers, have to demand more of ourselves and the writing community; we have to police ourselves.  What do you think?  Your responses, rebuttals, and experiences—forthwith!

And seriously—quit with the Papyrus and Comic Sans, okay?

May I introduce you to Times New Roman and Garamond?

Yeah—I’ll just let you guys talk.


TEASER POSTER FOR BLACK DOG 2

The sequel to BLACK DOG: THE LONG DARK ROAD will be out sometime in the Spring, hopefully March or early April.

Travis Gentry, the cover artist, sent me an image to use at Space City Con last weekend here in Houston.   He turned the “unfinished” image into a teaser poster, which drew the crowds to the table like flies to, um… dead stuff.

If this is unfinished, the final product is going to be phenomenal.


BLACK MAGIC HITMAN PAGE UP ON WEBSITE!

FINALLY.

A few posts ago I told you all about the next set of books I’m writing.  It’s a supernatural action/adventure tale set in the Roaring ’20s called BLACK MAGIC HITMAN.  It’s the first of a trilogy, one that will span three decades and take us through the high adventure of New York in the 1930s and the intrigue and battlefields of Nazi Germany during World War II.  If that spoils whether or not Callahan (the main character) lives or dies, don’t sweat it.  I think it’ll be fun to stick around and see what happens to him, anyway.  In fact, I guarantee it.

Lately I’ve been too busy actually writing the damn thing to put up the page for it on ye olde website, here.  But with a neat graphic from Mike Torrance and a bit of elbow grease, the page is finally up!  Click on the tab at the top right-hand corner of the site, right next to the BLACK DOG tab.  I’ve posted the unedited, unvarnished prologue to BLACK MAGIC HITMAN (one of TWO prologues, actually–I’ve taken a page from Brian Sanderson with that stunt) for you to check out.  Let me know if you like it in the comments, ask questions, email me, and spread the link to the page if you dig it.

I’ll be posting more about the series–art, excerpts, etc.–as they arrive, so keep checking back!

And as always, thanks for reading!  It’s you guys who really make small press authors, well… bigger press authors.  Keep it up!


BLACK MAGIC AND A BLOOD FEUD

For those that haven’t seen it yet, check out History Channel’s Hatfields and McCoys. It’s an original miniseries (their first) in three, two-hour parts.  I forgot it was coming on, caught about thirty minutes of the second night, and thought that if the rest of it was that good, it was probably great–and I was right!  Kevin Costner is great (when he wants to be), and his portrayal of “Devil Anse” Hatfield is some of his best work.  Bill Paxton is good as the reluctant Randolph McCoy, but Tom Berenger as Jim Vance, the reckless-nigh-psychotic uncle of Devil Anse pretty much steals the show.

Speaking of blood feuds, I’m about halfway done with my fantasy/noir/alternate history/horror novel BLACK MAGIC HITMAN.  I’m at the point where Callahan (the titular hitman) is caught in the middle of a 1920s Chicago gang war between the Cosa Nocta (Italian vampires) and the Mac Tire (Irish werewolves), and both sides are gunning for him and the GrimTongue–a spell Callahan took from one of his hits that can destroy all of them.

And the words are a-flowin‘.

I don’t think I’ve written this much this easily–ever.  If the rest of the book and two sequels turn out as good as what I’ve done so far, this might be the best thing (or at least the most fun) that I’ve ever written.


BLACK MAGIC HITMAN

A lot of writers get stagnant after the first book or the first few books.  It’s understandable.  The process of finishing a book and then getting it out there, followed by the constant nagging thought of the book never going anywhere after the initial out-of-the-gate run is a big hill to climb, and once you’re up there, the forest on the other side is pretty thick.

Thankfully, I’ve not had that problem.  Not yet, anyhow. I’ve got enough stuff to keep me busy for at least the next five years, maybe more.

BLACK DOG: THE LONG DARK ROAD is out now, and I’m just putting the finishing touches on the sequel (and final book) BLACK DOG: PROPHET IN THE WILDERNESS, which will be out in 2013.  In between, I have another book coming out, hopefully by the end of 2012 (presuming the Mayans were just drinking Drain-O), early 2013 at the latest.

BLACK MAGIC HITMAN is the first of a trilogy, followed by BLACK MAGIC HERO and BLACK MAGIC SPY later on down the road.  All the books are outlined, ready to be written.  BLACK MAGIC HITMAN is the story of Callahan, a freelance hitter for the mobs in 1920s Chicago.  It’ll all be in there–mobsters, flappers, cars with running boards, tommy-guns (also called Chicago typewriters–I love it)–except this a different Jazz Age.

The two mobs, the Italians and the Irish, are vampires and werewolves, respectively.  The streets of Chicago are just another battlefield in an ongoing blood feud that makes the Hatfields and McCoys look like a playground tussle.  The vampires’ mob are called the Cosa Nocta (“Our Night” instead of Cosa Nostra–“Our Thing), and are the last vestiges of the Roman Empire, having survived the sack of Rome by the Visigoths, and they run their criminal “empire” in the same fashion as the ancient Romans.   The Mac Tire (which is Irish Gaelic for “wolf” and literally means “Sons of the Countryside”) are descended from the clannish “Wolves of Ossory,” an Irish legend about werewolves that populated that part of Ireland in 1182.  The Mac Tire were almost extinct, but replenished their number in the bloody aftermath of the Nine Years’ War.

Callahan is a freelancer, working for anyone who’ll pay, and he’s got an edge: he’s tethered by a pact to an ancient spider god, a Lovecraftian-type entity that saved his bacon in the trenches of World War I.  In return for granting Callahan the ability to draw off of its dark essence to manipulate shadow-themed magic, the spider-god feeds on the souls of those Callahan takes out for the mobs.  He gets fed, Callahan gets paid.  Sounds like a good business plan, right?  But Callahan’s having mixed feelings about the life he’s led, and when another killer shows up wielding the exact same powers as Callahan and taking out players for both mobs, Callahan realizes he’s being set up and has to clear his name, dodge two sets of ancient enemies engaged in a gang war, and expose the other killer… and whoever’s pulling his strings.

BLACK MAGIC HERO will take place in the 1930s and will feature Callahan as a pulp-style hero in New York City, fighting to keep a sinister shadow organization from turning New York–and the country–into a police state.  BLACK MAGIC SPY will have Callahan in his early fifties, going behind enemy lines in the 1940s as a (reluctant) OSS agent to foil an occult Nazi experiment involving golems and concentration camp victims. SPY will also cap off Callahan’s adventures, ending the series I wanted to write in the three decades that I love.

All that said, Mike Torrance–who’ll be doing the covers for the trilogy–was kind enough to whip out a promo sheet (see below) for BLACK MAGIC HITMAN in time for ComicPalooza this weekend. He did a color version, too, but the black and white below is my favorite; kinda captures the film noir aspect a bit.  The actual cover will be much different, but he was a champ and did this picture in a seriously limited time frame.  He’s got a ton on his plate with doing a sketch card series for AMC’s The Walking Dead and a DC Comics superhero set, as well. Check out his blog either through his hyper-linked name above or on the Blog Roll on your right.

Thanks, Mike.  Came through in the clutch once again.

Callahan could appreciate that.