Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!!!!!

Happy New Year to all my fans and followers. Thank you for your support this past year. I wish you all health, happiness, and success in 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pictures From Our Trip to Germany and Austria: Nuremberg

Last year while honeymooning in Germany, Alison and I visited Nuremberg to see some of the historical sites related to World War II. One night, while looking for a place to have dinner, we strolled through the medieval city center and saw the locals setting up for the coming Winterfest. Our main reason for going back to Germany this year was to attend the festival.

The Frauenkirche overlooking the man market square in Nuremberg and the Winter Festival. The Frauenkirche was built from 1352 to 1362 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.

Close-up of the Frauenkirche at night.

The market. Alison got a lot of Christmas shopping done here. My favorite stalls were the ones that sold gluhwein, or German mulled wine.

 St. Lawrence Church, built in the 15th Century.

The marketplace at night, with the nave of Saint Sebaldas Church in the background.

My beautiful wife enjoying lunch in one of the restaurants overlooking the festival.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Interesting Posts From Other Websites

Every vampire aficionado knows that the vampires of film (and often books) are far removed from the ancient creatures of lore. 10 Things That Modern Movies Get Wrong About Vampire Stories in History lists the most common ones.

Nothing says New Year resolutions I don't plan to keep like torture. 12 Most Unbelievably Cruel Torture Devices in History lists some of the ways loved ones can help you keep those resolutions.

As the end of the year approaches, Bloody Disgusting has released several lists of the best and worst horror movies of 2014. It's sad that I've only seen two movies from these lists. (New Year's Resolution that I can keep: Spend more time watching horror movies.)

-- Mr. Disgusting's Top 10 Horror Films

-- 10 Awesome Horror Films

-- Zac Thompson's Top 10 Horror Films of 2014

-- Jonny's Worst 5 Horror Movies

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Will Be Attending JEAPalooza 5-11 January 2015

I will be attending J Ellington Ashton Press' JEAPalooza virtual convention from 5 to 11 January 2015 as one of the guest writers. The convention will include chats with various J Ellington Ashton Press writers, panels, contests, and more. I'll provide more details soon, but be sure to pencil this on your calendar.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas


May your zombies be slow, may you never run out of ammunition or weapons, and may your zompoc partner be the person of your fantasies. A Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Interesting Posts From Other Websites

I'm not going to bemoan the fact that Young Frankenstein is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and that makes me feel old (I remember my dad taking me and my friends to see it when I was eleven). However, 15 Fun Facts for Young Frankenstein's 40th Anniversary proves that you're never too old to learn something. Who knew Hans Delbruck was a real person?

Since publishing Yeitso, I've had several people write me to say that insects can't grow that large. I know that; I've read Why Monstrously Large Insects and Spiders Don't Exist. But if us writers kept to the facts, then horror and fantasy would be pretty damn boring.

The Most Irradiated Places on Earth is one of the more interesting video reports I've seen this year. I was not surprised that Fukushima ranked in the top two most irradiated locations, but the first place spot surprised me. For you post-apocalypse lovers, check it out.

On a lighter apocalyptic note, since Christmas is in three days, it's time for me to share one of my favorite holiday videos: Weird Al Yankovic's Christmas at Ground Zero. Have a blast.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

I'm Back Online

Alison and I returned from our trip to Germany earlier this week, though not exactly tanned, rested, and ready. I still have the pallid tones of a writer, am trying to get my sleep schedule back on to U.S. time, and am recovering from a cold I picked up on the flight back.All joking aside, it was a great trip but I'm glad to be back with my family.

As I did last year, I'll post some of the more interesting photos of the trip in the coming weeks. And keep dropping by for mu usual postings and updates on some of the events and contests that will be held in 2015.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Will Be Offline from 7 - 17 December

I will be offline from Sunday, 6 December until Wednesday, 17 December while Alison and I vacation in Germany and attend the Winter Festival in Nuremburg. 

See you in ten days.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Congratulations to the Goodreads Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Goodreads giveaway of Yeitso. Each of the following contestants won an autographed copy of the novel.

--Victoria Heckwine

-- M. Lewis

-- Julie May

-- Hector Giutierrez

-- Roy Gruss

You're books are in the mail, and you should get them next week. I hope you enjoy Yeitso.

As for everyone else, please keep following me on Goodreads and Facebook. I plan on offering several fun contests in 2015.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

On Writing: Why Would Anybody in Their Right Mind Want To Write for a Living?

"Why would anyone in their right mind want to write for a living?”
Nobody wants to write for a living. We do it because we have to. Once we’ve put pen to paper that first time, we’re addicted. The only fix for that addiction is to type out a few pages of a short story or novel.

Those of you who have a passion for writing know exactly what I’m talking about. You carry a pocket-size notebook everywhere you go to write down your thoughts. You carefully observe people for unique mannerisms that then make their way into your characters. You listen in on conversations, not because you’re nosy, but because you study how people talk so your dialogue sounds realistic. You can’t watch the news or read a newspaper without getting an idea for a short story or novel. To you, a personal crisis is when you find out that the really awesome scene you thought of last week was already used in another book or movie. To you, writing is not so much a profession as it is a calling.

The reward is not the paycheck. Most writers will be damn lucky if they make enough money to pay the bills. The reward is seeing your name on the book cover. It’s the thrill of having people read the story you have to tell. It’s hearing from your fans how much they enjoyed reading your novel. It’s going to conventions and book signings. It’s watching that first story or novel slowly grow into a long bibliography.

If you’re nodding your head while reading this, then you’re one of the lucky ones.

“Lucky ones?”

Yes. You’re lucky because you’ve answered the call. Like any calling, the road ahead will not always be easy. You’ll have frustrations. You’ll have doubts. And you might even abandon writing for awhile, only to go back to it evetually. Writing is that addictive. But the rewards are worth it.

So if you answered the calling, I wish you the best in your endeavor. You’re going to need it.

This is the final blog in the On Writing series. If just one of you finds enough inspiration in these blogs to write a novel or short story, or picks up some advice that helps you get published, then my efforts were not wasted. My door is always open. If you have a question, just reach out to me here or on my Facebook account, and I'll be happy to answer.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway of Yeitso Is Live Until 5 December

It's 1 December. So that means the Goodreads Giveaway of Yeitso is now live and will run until 5 December. Five winners will each win an autographed trade paperback copy of the novel. The giveaway is open to readers worldwide. Just click here to enter. 

One cautionary note: I'll be leaving for a ten-day trip to Germany on 7 December, and will not get the names/addresses of the winners in time to mail the books out prior to my trip. However, getting them autographed and shipped to the winners is the first thing on my to-do list when I get back. So thanks in advance for your patience.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Apologies for Not Attending the Winter Garden Wonderfest Today

My sincerest apologies for not attending the Winter Garden Wonderfest today as originally planned. I had been looking forward to this for months and was excited about going. However, I'm still not fully recovered from my bout of pneumonia and I tire out easily. I knew I would not be able to stand around and chat with fans for eight hours, so I opted to stay home. I fell terrible for missing the event, but hope to attend next year. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Friday night between 8PM and 1AM EST, Zombiepalooza Radio will host The Art of the Sale show. The discussion will look at different ways to sell your books and hone your marketing skills. I'll be on at 10:10 PM EST. The other guests will be fellow Permuted Press writer Timothy Long, who is a master at self-marketing, and owner of Burning Willow Press Kindra Sondra.

If you're looking for unique marketing tips, you definitely need to tune in to Zombiepalooza Radio tomorrow night. For anyone interested in calling and talking to the guests directly, the call in number is (330) 333-5167. Talk to you tomorrow night.

Happy Thanksgiving

May all my friends and followers have a pleasant and relaxing Thanksgiving. And remember, eat those leftovers before they rise from the dead and eat you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Writing: Marketing Your Book and Yourself

"What? You mean I spent a year writing my book, six months revising it, and three years getting it published, and you tell me that was the easy part?”


It’s time for the harsh reality. Your novel is a product. In publishing, it’s competing with a million other titles. If you’re lucky beyond your wildest dreams, you’ll hit a homerun your first time at bat like J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter, or achieve the success Brian Keene did with The Rising and establish a wide following with your first novel. More than likely, as with the vast majority of authors, you will have to struggle to build your reputation. You will have to make the readers aware that your book is out on the market, convince them to purchase a copy, and hope that they like it enough to come back for more and/or talk about you on their blog or Facebook/Twitter. Up until now you’ve spent all your time writing that first book. Now you have to spend just as much time marketing it if you ever hope to see your second book published. Trust me on this one – I’m speaking from experience. 

Publishing is an industry that has undergone radical changes in the past decade. Gone are the days when a publishing house had a small but reliable cache of authors and would devote its time and resources to making them successful. As noted earlier, the expansion of electronic publishing and the dominance of Amazon has drastically cut into the profits of most publishers and, by extension, a writer's royalties. The industry closely tracks book sales. If your book doesn’t sell well, for whatever reason, it will be increasingly difficult to place your manuscript with other publishers. Even if a writer self publishes, they must find a way to be heard above the background noise of a million other writers out their clamoring to sell their books. It’s a fact of life within the industry today.

Years ago the writer’s mantra used to be “Write or Die.” Today it’s “Market or Die.”

The good news is, marketing yourself and your book is neither costly nor difficult, although it does require a considerable commitment of your time and some imagination.

Since you have a product to sell, you need a place to market it, so begin by setting up a blog. Don’t be too elaborate. The goal is to provide a forum to make readers aware of what you are doing (new releases, upcoming contests, attendance at conventions and book signings). As a new writer, there is no need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars setting up an elaborate webpage. A blog will do just fine. Keep it simple: a photo and brief bio, links to your social media and where to purchase your books, and links to other websites such as your publisher(s). One note of caution: put a lot of thought into the URL you use since this will be your brand name for the rest of your career. I opted to use my writing name. The down side to this is that unless someone is looking for me in particular, what are the chances they are going to type my name in the URL field? Others will set up a blog dedicated to their genre with a keyword like "zombie" or "vampire" in the text. The down side to this, of course, is that there are thousands of other URLs with those words in them.

Once you spend the time to create your blog, keep up with it. Try to post on your blog at least three days a week. If a potential fan clicks on your site and sees that it hasn’t been updated since the Cubs won the last World Series, they won’t bother following you. It takes half a day at most to set one up and only a few hours a week to maintain it. Also, be sure to keep the content interesting. While the blog's main intent is to keep readers updated on your writing, don't make the blog only about you how great you are, you’ll bore readers and lose followers.   

“So that’s it? I set up a blog and I’m done marketing my book?"

Hell, no. 

In addition to a blog page, you will also need to establish an author’s account on some of the various social networking sites (SNS) available on the Internet. At the moment, Facebook and Twitter are the most common ones, although there are dozens of SNSs available.

“Cool. I love Facebook. I have a couple of dozen animals on Farmville that I’m taking care of.”

You’re missing the point. Your goal is to market your book, not to ask your friends for hay or create photo albums of your last trip to Europe. 

Do not establish your web presence in a shot gun manner, joining every writing and genre-related blog you come across. I'll explain why in a minute. For now, join a few select groups to make your name known throughout the community. Begin  with Goodreads. This site is dedicated to writers and readers and maintains numerous chat groups that span all genres. Beyond that, do your research and check out various blogs and forums/chat groups. You'll want to do the same on Facebook, liking or joining those that are specific to you. There are three important factors to keep in mind when researching this. One, make certain they are active, with people posting and/or commenting every day. Two, make sure that they're specific to what you're writing. If you write erotic vampire novels that are hardcore and violent in content, you will only be wasting your time on sites dedicated to those who read Stephanie Meyers. Finally, make sure you feel comfortable with the other members of the group and that you enjoy the discussions. 

The reason for this is simple. To make a success in this industry, you are going to need to spend on average two hours a day marketing yourself and your books. The best way to accomplish that is to establish a reputation as an expert in your genre. And this is important, don’t use these sites just to talk about yourself and update people on your latest writing project. Discuss the latest books and movies in your genre, provide links to other sites that are of interest to you and may be of interest to your readers. When responding to others' comments, be respectful, Avoid controversial subjects and flame wars with fans and colleagues. This is one of those instances when bad publicity is worse than no publicity. If you take sides on political issues, militantly support certain causes, or publicly and consistently lambast a colleague as a hack who can’t write, you run the risk of losing major portions of your fan base. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a thousand followers at the end of the first week. This is an agonizingly slow process, so be patient. If you market yourself correctly and give it time, slowly but surely you’ll build up a following of fans who will want to read your book, who will tell their friends to read it, and who will eagerly await your next novel. 

One final thought on marketing. Look for every opportunity you can find to get your name out there. Book signings and conventions are the typical mainstay of writers, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Convince your local radio and television stations or newspapers to interview you as a hometown celebrity. Arrange virtual book tours (which is especially important if you’re an e-book author) where you have chat room discussions on various forums. Engage in Goodread giveaways. When your second book in the series is about to be released, give away the e-book version of the first book for a week to get people hooked and clamoring to buy the sequel. There are dozens of things you can do to publicize your book, all of which inevitably increase sales. Nothing is off the table. Quirk Books promoted their book Night of the Living Trekkies by creating a Hollywood-quality book trailer that went viral.

Well, that wraps up my blog series on how to get published. Any questions?

“Yeah. You just described a lot of work to go through to be a mid-list author. Why would anyone in their right mind want to write for a living?” 

Good question. Let me answer that… next week.

FINAL BLOG: Why Would Anyone in Their Right Mind Want To Write for a Living?

Monday, November 24, 2014

No Posts From Other Websites This Week

Because I spent most of last week in the hospital with pneumonia and all weekend in bed resting, there will be no Interesting Posts From Other Websites today. And Wednesday's scheduled On Writing blog probably will also be delayed. Sorry.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another Goodreads Giveaway of Yeitso 1-5 December

Not looking forward to camping out in front of the mall Thursday night while fighting off the effects of a Turkey coma, or battling Black Friday shoppers like you were fighting your way through hordes of the undead? Then do I have a deal for you.

From 1 to 5 December, I will be hosting a giveaway of Yeitso on Goodreads that is open to everyone world wide. Five lucky winners will receive an autographed copy of the novel.

So be sure to enter because nothing makes people happier Christmas morning than getting an autographed book from an author (except maybe getting expensive jewelry, video games, a new car, a puppy, or a box of Cuban cigars). But you get the idea. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Wrting: How To Find a Publisher or Literary Agaent, Part II

Let me add a few observations to my last blog about query letters. These are only my opinions, and should not be taken as gospel for getting published or as legal advice. Alternate styles may work better for different writers. For example, if you have no published works to your credit, list your qualifications for writing a novel. If you’re a lawyer whose manuscript is about a courtroom drama, or if you’re a recovering drug addict detailing the struggles of rehab, state that in your query. If your published works have received good reviews from reputable and recognizable sources (your mother’s blog does not count), include a link to those reviews. Be creative. You are selling yourself as much as your manuscript.

Below are same basic guidelines to follow for finding a publisher/agent:

-- Publishers/agents are specific in what they want you to submit along with your query, usually asking for sample chapters and a synopsis, and occasionally for a bio or a marketing strategy. Sometimes they ask for sample chapters to be submitted in a certain font. If you submit a query, be sure to provide what is asked for in the manner it is asked for. Although the main reason is to get a feel for your writing style, your submission also provides a sense for how well you follow guidelines. If a publisher/agent asks for a three-page synopsis, one sample chapter in Courier 10 font, and a marketing strategy, and instead you send a one-page synopsis, three sample chapters in Times New Roman 12 font, and a bio, you immediately send the impression that you cannot/will not follow simple directions. Publishers/agents will be cautious about contracting with you, fearing that you may also be unwilling/unable to follow their editorial guidance and meet deadlines. [NOTE: While I’m willing to make certain changes to the text of sample chapters – such as fonts, line spacing, or margins, all of which can easily be done on a computer – I refuse to do extensive reformatting. I did that once for a publisher whose webpage announced they were accepting manuscripts for consideration. I spent two days preparing the submission to meet their strict and unusual guidelines, e-mailed the query, and got an almost immediate response stating that the publisher was no longer accepting submissions. Needless to say, I never made that mistake again.]

-- Every publisher and agent I have talked to decry simultaneous submissions (sending a query to more than one publisher/agent at a time), each relating how they spent several hours reading a submission and accompanying chapters, got excited about the work, and called the author only to find that he/she had contracted with someone else. While I understand their rationale against simultaneous submissions, I find it unreasonable. It can take months for a publisher/agent to respond to you, if they respond at all, and more often than not they are not interested in seeing the entire manuscript. The restriction against simultaneous submissions places an unfair burden on aspiring writers. I see no problem with sending queries to more than one publisher/agent at a time. However, and this is vital, show professional courtesy. If you have one publisher/agent who is reviewing the manuscript and a second one asks to see it, let the second publisher/agent know that someone else is currently looking at it and ask if they still want to see it. Publishers/agents will understand if they contact you based on a query, but someone else has scooped up the manuscript before them. However, if they expend the time to read the entire manuscript only to find out that someone else has already contracted with you, you’ll earn a reputation in the industry you do not want to have.

-- Finally, do not feel compelled to accept any contract offered. I’ve been very fortunate that most of my publisher treat their writers fairly and with respect. Not all are like that. Some are looking for inexperienced writers who they can take advantage of. Several years ago I was contacted by a publisher who said how much he loved my manuscript and wanted to send me a contract. When I received it I laughed. The publisher wanted all rights (print, electronic, audio, radio, TV, movie, as well as the rights to the characters) to my first four books in perpetuity (i.e. forever) and offered a measly 10 percent royalty on all profits. The contract should have been emblazoned with a skull and crossbones in the corner. If a contract doesn’t settle right with you, trust your instincts and question it. Do not sign on the dotted line out of fear that no one will ever again offer you another one. You worked too hard on that book to give all the rights to someone else. As an aside, two weeks after rejecting that ridiculous offer I signed a contract with a reputable publisher for The Vampire Hunter series. 

When it comes to discussing query submissions, this blog touches the tip of the iceberg. But at least it gives you a framework to start from.

“I have my query drafted and ready to send out. Where do I find publishers and literary agents to submit it to?”

Here is where I date myself. When I first became interested in writing, the Bible of the publishing industry was The Writer’s Market. Without the latest edition on your desk, your chances of getting published were slim. However, relying on The Writer’s Market today is about as antiquated as drafting your manuscript on a manual typewriter. Most of the information contained with The Writer's Market is available on line, often through the publisher/agent's own website.

I use four methods to keep track of the market. More are available, but these are the ones I primarily rely on. [NOTE: If I happen to mention a particular service, that should not be taken as an endorsement of one product over another, or as an indication that other products are not as good. I’m merely stating my preferences. Each of you should do your own research and find services that best work for you.]

-- Internet-based publisher digests. There are several out there that encompass all markets and genres, but I use Duotrope ( Duotrope allows you to narrowly define your search parameters to provide listings based on genre, type of publication (short stories, novellas, or full-length novels; print or electronic publishing), length of work, submission guidelines, and other criteria. Each listing also contains a link to that publisher’s homepage so you can get the most up-to-date information. One feature about this service I particularly like is that you can sign up for Duotrope’s weekly e-mail update that lists the markets open to submission, updates those which are dead or closed to submissions, and provides a list of upcoming anthologies by theme. Several of my earlier works were placed with publishers I discovered on Duotrope. 

 -- Your local bookstore. You can find a wealth of information here. Check out new arrivals to see which houses have published books in your genre, and use that as a starting point for your research. Also remember to check out the acknowledgement page, for you often get the names of editors and literary agents to contact who work in your genre. 
-- Conventions. Though less readily available then the first two, writers and genre conventions are among your most valuable resource. Publishers/agents use these to seek out new talent, so they are most receptive to hear what you have to offer. Practice your elevator pitch and make sure it doesn’t sound rehearsed. And be prepared in case the publisher starts asking detailed questions about your work or you. I have seen writers nail that opening pitch and get all tongue-tied during the follow-up talks. Remember, nobody knows your book better than you do. If you find a publisher who wants to see more of your work, contact him/her the moment you get home, reminding him/her in your cover letter that you just met at the convention and that you are sending along the material he/she asked you to.

-- On-line forums and groups. These can be extremely helpful if you join the correct ones. You want to find forums/groups populated by aspiring and/or new writers who are serious about their craft.  Publishers/agents often cruise these sites searching for new talent, and if they are impressed they may contact you offline and ask you to submit. There are also forums/groups where publishers actively seek out authors. That's how I sold Dead Water. And don’t forget Facebook. I placed "Last Flight of The Bismarck" with an editor I met via a Facebook group that was seeking submissions for a steampunk horror anthology.  (These forums/groups are also invaluable in helping you market your book, which I will discuss in the next blog posting.)

All right, ladies and gentlemen. For those of you who have been reading this blog series from the beginning, you have enough tools available to write your novel. You’ve abandoned family, friends, and pets to make the time to write and have spent the last year drafting and editing and revising and re-editing and re-revising and re-re-revising your work. You’ve sent out an endless stream of query letters, suffered through the flood of rejections (or worse, the annoying lack of responses from publishers). But you have prevailed and finally found someone to publish your work. Your book is being released next month.


Now the hard part begins.

NEXT BLOG: Marketing Your Book a
nd Yourself

Monday, November 17, 2014

Interesting Posts From Other Websites

Over the months, I've seen several postings on Facebook and horror blogs about the discovery of vampire burial sites in East Europe. Time To Slay Vampire Burials? is a short academic study that examines the archaeological and social evidence surrounding these burial practices and whether these practices are indicative of a belief in the undead or have a basis in other factors. posted a list of their picks for the 20 Best Vampire Movies as voted on by their readers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Humorous Look at Grammar and Writing

It's the difference between a family-friendly holiday story or a Jeffrey Dahmer Thanksgiving special.

 The importance of commas (or as Christopher Walken would say: "The, importance of, commas.")

 And sometimes that happens all in one day.

And much easier than using a Thesaurus.

Punctuation really does matter.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On Writing: How To Find a Publisher or Literary Agent, Part I

“How difficult is it to draft a query letter? And how do I find a publisher or agent to send it to?”

It’s not that difficult to write a query letter. Which is fortunate, because drafting a good query is the most important aspect (next to actually writing the book) of getting published. You may have written the next bestseller, but if you can’t garner interest from publishers or literary agents to look at it, your novel/story is just taking up space on your hard drive. Let me preface this section by stating that there are numerous ways to write a query. Use the format that best works for your manuscript or that you feel most comfortable with. What I’m offering are tips on how I drafted mine, and they’ve been successful for me. Also, this format should be used only for fiction. Non-fiction guidelines are much different.

Start out with a brief introduction on how you discovered the publisher/agent. If another writer referred you, or if you met them previously and they asked you to forward a submission, state that up front. If that's not the case, do your research first and find out which publishers/agents represent your genre and note that you wanted to give them the opportunity to review your manuscript. [NOTE: Don't say: "I noticed you published Zomnado vs Vampnado. My manuscript is just like that." Publishers/agents are not looking for cheap knock offs. They're looking for original and exciting ideas.] Your goal is to catch their attention and
give yourself a foothold to climb out of the slush pile. 
Next, include a brief description of your novel. Keep it to one small paragraph. Make it just long enough to provide a general idea what the work is about yet still entice the publisher/agent to want to read more. How do you do this? Develop what is called an "elevator pitch," which is the sales pitch you would use if you only had a few seconds on an elevator with a publisher/agent, one that needs to be brief  yet intriguing enough for him/her to request your business card. You can get examples by reading jacket covers, the back page of paperbacks, or Amazon summaries. This is the make or break paragraph of the entire query. If you do not immediately snag the interest of a publisher/agent, they’ll throw your letter aside and move on to the next one, so invest the time necessary to fine tune your elevator pitch.

Now that you've sold your novel, your second paragraph needs to sell the concept. The publisher/agent will receive hundreds of submissions for romances, murder mysteries, thrillers, animal books, or whatever genre you write in. Why does your manuscript stand out? Saying your mother or spouse thought it was terrific will not get you published. Nor will telling them that you’re the next Stephen King or Stephanie Meyers. Publishing is a business, and your book will never make it into print unless you can convince the publisher/agent that it’s perfectly poised to take advantage of an untapped trend in the market, or brings a new twist to the genre that has never been seen before. 

Follow this with a brief paragraph noting if anything is attached to your e-mail (sample chapters, the entire manuscript, a synopsis), the final word count, and whether the novel is available for immediate submission. [NOTE: Don’t query publishers/agents with unfinished novels. Usually they’re only interested in works that are ready for publication.] If your novel is part of a series, state that and, if known, offer an idea when the next book(s) in the series will be available.

Your penultimate paragraph should be about you. What makes you qualified to write this novel? Are you a police detective writing about a homicide unit in New York? Were you the victim of an abusive relationship, or a recovering addict, who has fictionalized your life? If you have no specific experiences you can bring to the table (I’ve never hunted vampires for a living), tell them about yourself, whether it's your career, your hobbies, or something else that will generate interest. Remember, you need to sell yourself as well as your book. 

This is also the paragraph to list your previous writing credits. Don’t list more than three otherwise you’ll look like you’re bragging. List the most recent works, or those that are most relevant to your query. If you’re writing in a genre in which you don’t have relevant experience, I recommend trying to get several short stories published before you attempt to query on a book. Being able to say that you’ve previously been published bolsters your credentials. I noticed that publishers/agents showed more interest in looking at my first novel after I had a few short stories in my bibliography.

Finally, end with a closing sentence thanking them for their consideration and noting that you look forward to hearing from them.

NEXT BLOG: How To Find a Publisher or Literary Agent, Part II  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Interesting Posts from Other Websites

For all writers out there, if you read only one thing that I post this year, make sure Cheap Words is the one. This is an article from The New Yorker detailing how Amazon came to dominate the publishing industry, its relationship with the Big Six publishers and how that relationship impacted writers, and the state of the industry today (including self publishing).

Complimenting the above is this piece by Forbes titled Amazon vs. Book Publishers, By the Numbers that offers some interesting (and, for writers, some sobering) statistical information relating to the publishing industry.

Last Monday, Brian Keene posted a blog on The Secret To Crafting Effective Horror. It's a quick read because the secret is quite simple, yet sadly I've ssen too many books that read miserably because the writer failed to grasp this basic concept.

Finally, a somewhat prudish essay from Rachel Lu on Ladies, It's Time To Stop Falling in Love with Vampires.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Writing: Traditional Publishing or Self-Publish?

"Self publishing? I thought that was the kiss of death for writers?"

When I originally drafted this blog series, it was. I never would have recommended that a writer self-publish their work, for it entailed going to a vanity press to print and distribute their novel, which screamed of desperation. Rightly or wrongly, readers and industry professionals looked down on those writers who went solo, either wondering how bad the book must be if no one wanted to publish it, or assuming the writer to be an amateur who just wanted to see their name in print. Back then, self publishing carried a stigma for writers, and those who went that route felt as though they wore a scarlet SP on their chest.

Then a revolutionary new technology was introduced that changed the publishing industry much the same way that the invention of moveable type did back in the 15th Century. Although this new technology has fundamentally altered the way writers and publishers conduct business, its potential has not yet been fully explored, nor the repercussions it will ultimately have on the industry.

Of course, I'm talking about the introduction of electronic publishing.

Electronic publishing made possible the expansion of independent publishing houses which, in turn, provided thousands of aspiring writers opportunities closed off to them when the mainstream publishers dominated the industry.

Ironically, the technology that generated the expansion of independent publishing now threatens the very industry itself. As the technology becomes increasingly user friendly, and as writers become more proficient in its use, both parties will be able to publish a product of equal quality. Among the services provided by an independent publisher are the editing and proof reading of a manuscript, arranging the cover art, and formatting both the print and e-book versions prior to release. Writers can obtain these same services from freelancers, many of whom perform these functions for the publishers. With regards to getting your books into brick and mortar stores, unless an independent publisher has an arrangement with one of the major distributors, then your books will be published as print on demand (POD) from the company's website or from Amazon. The same holds true for marketing. With the exception of a few independent publishers whose names are synonymous with their respective genre, and thus the brand name brings potential readers to the website, your marketing efforts will be little different from theirs. [NOTE: I'll be covering marketing efforts in future blog posts.]

So what can an independent publisher provide that a writer can't do for themselves?

The answer is nothing.

So why contract with an independent publisher rather than release the book yourself? The main reason is convenience. For the publisher, providing the above services is part of the routine of doing business, and they either have the in-house expertise or a cache of experts on retention. The publisher agrees to undertake all this in return for keeping most of the profit, providing the writer with royalties (on average, 10% for print books and 30% for e-books). For most writers, it's a convenient arrangement.

However, an increasing number of writers are turning to self publishing. While this requires a considerable expenditure of financial resources and time, there are distinct advantages. First and foremost, the writer keeps most of the profit. For example, if a writer publishes an e-book on Amazon's Kindle Select program and prices it between $2.99 and $9.99, they earns a royalty of 75%. This is double what the average contract will offer. The second biggest advantage is that the writer has full creative control over their work, especially the cover art, which is a major issue for many of us.

So the decision is up to each individual writer as to which method they feel most comfortable with. I've already tried it with one of my novellas and maintained my sanity through the process, so I'm going to attempt to self publish my next novel.

"That sounds like an awful lot of work. I don't think I'm ready to try self publishing yet."

Not a problem. It's not for everyone. Although I do think self publishing will become the next trend in the industry.

So let's work on finding someone to publish your manuscript.

NEXT BLOG: Finding a Publisher or Literary Agent, Part I

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Congratulations to the Horror Asylum Contest Winners

Congratulations to the following winners of Horror Asylum's giveaway of an autographed copy of Yeitso.

-- Richard Brandt

-- Tammy Pereira

-- Max Lakshtanov

Your books are in the mail. I hope you enjoy them.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Interesting Posts from Other Websites

The Powder Room carried a blog posting titled Thirsty: The Women of Bram Stoker's "Dracula". In the posting, the author postulates that the female characters in Bram Stoker's novel capitalized on the Victorian  fears of the New Women in society who were striving for economic and sexual change. I've always felt that modern day vampirism is symbolic of our Id, and that we love vampires because they live out the carnal desires and aggressions that we are unable to in polite society. This article adds an interesting perspective to that.

While we're on the subject of vampires, read Hong Kong-based novelist Robert Rath's How Society Defanged the Vampire in which he discusses how the decline in religious adherence and the increased knowledge of medicine and funerary practices have turned the undead from terrifying monsters into cult and fetish icons.

A friend of mine sent me a link to What Can Vampires Teach Us About Economics? Before you look at me like I have two heads (Confession: I do. I keep the other one in a jar of formaldehyde in my study.), it's a podcast on Freakonomics inspired by the book Economics of the Undead: Zombies. Vampires, and Dismal Science, a collection of scholarly essays with dark and unique subjects. As strange as it sounds, there are some pretty good novel ideas listed among the topics. I included the table of contents here.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Congratulations to the Coffin Hop Contest Winner!!

First, let me thank all of you who dropped by my website during the Coffin Hop Blog Tour and followed me/left a comment. I really appreciate it. As you can tell, I'm a huge fan of horror and love all aspects of the genre, and am glad to have found others who feel the same way. I hope you all come back and visit often. I'll try to keep you entertained.

Now the moment you've all been waiting for. Rachelle Reese is the winner of the zombie USB drive and a free .EPub copy of Nazi Ghouls From Space. Please contact me at so I can arrange to get your prize to you.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Severing My Future Relationship with Permuted Press

For anyone who is in the industry or is a close follower of the genre, I'm sure you have all heard about the controversy surrounding Permuted Press these past few weeks. I was one of the many authors impacted by the fallout and, after thinking about this long and carefully, and changing my mind half a dozen times, I have decided to sever my future relationship with Permuted Press.

I do not want to use this blog to rehash the history of what happened at Permuted or to air dirty laundry. Suffice it to say, my two main reasons for leaving are entirely professional. First, I believe the new business practices put into place by the current management, while perfectly legitimate and viable, are detrimental to many of those authors associated with the publishing house and will hurt the Permuted brand name in the long term. More importantly, my decision was prompted by continued delays in scheduling a release date for the next two books in the Rotter saga.

The good news is that I am now moving forward with the release of Rotter Nation and Rotter Apocalypse, the sequels to Rotter World. The manuscripts are completed and in various stages of revision, and I am hoping to make both books available in 2015. Nation and Apocalypse greatly expand on the original, taking the characters and the story to dark and disturbing places, and concluding with the final confrontation between mankind and the living dead. I am exploring numerous options and will hopefully have an update very soon.

Because I still have several years to go on my contract for Rotter World, that book will still be published by Permuted in print, Kindle, Nook, and audio formats.

Thanks to my colleagues, friends, and fans for all your support. Here's hoping next year is very promising for the living dead.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Writing: The Mechanics of Writing

“I have a story idea in mind and am psyched to begin writing. What’s the best way to get started? Should I outline the plot first, or just jump in and write?”

There’s no right or wrong method to plot out your novel. The mechanics of writing is one of personal choice, so go with whatever method works best for you.

For example, Jeffery Deaver creates meticulous outlines for his novels, detailing each scene and key segments of dialogue on sheets of paper and sticky notes that fill the walls of his study. He admits that it takes him months to come up with such a detailed framework. However, when he sits down to actually write the novel, it doesn’t take him long to finish the manuscript since most of the work is already completed.

I prefer a less structured method. When plotting out my novel, I keep a stack of lined 3x5 cards handy and write down scenes as I think of them, including anything that I want to put into the scene such as descriptions, plot points, or snippets of dialogue. Before writing, I arrange the cards in the order I want the book to flow. This allows me to outline the major themes in the plot while allowing enough flexibility that I can add or re-order scenes easily.

These represent the two extremes of organization, and most of you will use a method of plot outlining that falls somewhere in between. What is important is, no matter which method you use, be sure you have a firm grasp of the conflict, how that conflict changes the main character(s), and the resolution of your story before you begin writing. You can always change those elements later. But if you don’t have a basic idea where your story starts and ends, no amount of outlining will turn it into a viable manuscript. Trust me on this one. I have several short stories taking up space on my hard drive because I wrote them based on a single scene, but have yet to find an effective way to finish them.

“Thanks. This has been a big help. While you’re here, can you give me any tips on writing?”

Yes, I can. But this is not the blog series for that. There are thousands of books out there dedicated to instructing someone on how to write a book. They cover all the aspects of the craft–plot, setting, character development, voice, etc. There are even books that tell you how to write in specific genres. Feel free to use them if you want. No one has ever become a bad writer by reading these works.

In my opinion, however, the best way for someone to become a good writer is by reading numerous books to see how other authors write. When I say read a lot, I mean it. Go through at least one book a week. Start with the classics. We’re still reading Twain, Hemingway, Austen, and the like not just because our English professors are sadists, but because those authors knew how to write compelling stories that have stood the test of time (except for Great Expectations, but don’t get me started on that one). Then read a wide variety of books and authors in your genre as well as outside of it.

And don’t forget to read trashy books, whether they’re pulp novels meant solely to entertain and entice, or novels that are just horribly written. Figure out what those authors did to make their work so laughable or painful to read, and learn from their mistakes. Remember, it takes a long time and many published works to build up a fan base, but only one poorly-written story or novel to turn off readers forever.

While I won’t offer writing tips in this blog series, I do want to point out that there are certain aspects of the craft you need to pay close attention to if you ever hope to get out of the slush pile and get published. These points have been reiterated to me time and again by publishers and literary agents, all of whom said that when they see these mistakes in query submissions, they immediately take the work out of contention.

The first is grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Over time you’ll find your own style and voice. If you don’t have the basics down, you’ll find it that much more difficult to break away from the thousands of other authors bombarding publishers and agents with their manuscripts. Make sure you proof read your final work carefully. You may have written the next bestseller, but if your sample chapters are full of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and incorrect punctuation, good luck getting a publisher or agent to read beyond the first few pages. Even if they see the potential in your book, they’ll view you as sloppy and will think carefully before taking you on. If it comes down between you and an author whose writing is solid, who do you think will get the contract?

Realistic dialogue is also very important, so of course it’s one of the hardest parts to get right. If you write dialogue so that it’s grammatically correct, it will sound stilted and will turn off the reader. If you write it to sound like every day conversations, you run the risk of making your characters sound like idiots. I trained myself to write decent dialogue by listening to others talk. This has the added benefit of letting people think you’re the silent, mysterious type (or they’ll just think you’re weird or an introvert, which most writers are).

Finally, make sure you maintain the continuity of your story and characters. If your main character’s name is Ken Smith, always refer to him as either Ken or Smith throughout the story, and do not interchange the names. Keep your secondary characters straight as well; if you call someone Bob when he first appears in chapter three, make sure you don’t call him Bill when he reappears in chapter ten. If you describe your main character as being bald in chapter one, don’t have him run his fingers through his hair in chapter five. If your character is a devout Mormon, don’t show him/her drinking a cup of coffee without explaining why. If your story is set in Victorian-era New York City, don’t have electric street lamps lining the streets. These are the minutiae that are easy to overlook. When publishers or agents catch them, they immediately get the impression that you’re sloppy (see above). If your readers catch them, you lose them quickly. I have had several authors who write historical dramas tell me that the worst criticism they receive from readers is when they get some fact wrong.

So consider yourself forewarned. Now get out there and start writing. Your public is waiting.

NEXT BLOG: Traditional Publishing or Self-Publish?