Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Back From Vacation: Boo, boo! Hiss!

Just got in from my vacation in the Florida Keys last night. It was such a shock to return to cloudy skies and temps in the high 40s. I miss the sun and warmth.

However, I was able to finish the first draft of The Old Royal. I started my first editorial pass early during our trip. I thought I would probably get through it while I was away. Boy, was I wrong! I only made it through thirty pages. Not even a dent. Perhaps I need to reconsider my mid-to-late-January release. Oh well. Fortunately, this week at work is slow. With everyone taking their vacations, it's a virtual ghost town. Hopefully, I'll get a lot accomplished with the revision process.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Feet Hurt: An Update Status

Hi everyone!

I hope your holiday season is progressing happily along. This title pretty much summarizes how I feel. Not trying to be whiny (that'd be a horrible of me since I am fortunate enough to be in a nice location), but my feet really do hurt. We're staying just off the main drag, Duval Street, only three blocks from South Beach. Whenever we go anywhere, we walk. I've walked from one end of Key West to the other. I got to see Hemingway's house, the southern-most point of the continental US, Highway 1's zero mile-marker, Mallory Square, Higgs Beach, etc. And, my feet are sore.

I've taken an ass-load of pictures and hope to take more. There's so much here to see and do! This morning, I laid out on South Beach and read some of Duane Swierczynski's, The Wheelman. So far...Awesome! I'm completely loving it. This guy can spin an engrossing crime story.

However, the best thing about this trip so far, aside from the typical vacationy stuff and time with family, is the part where I finished the first draft for The Old Royal. I thought I would have completed it two days ago. God knows I was at the finale when I'd left off at home. But, I didn't want to rush it, so I took my time, thought it out, and wrapped it up yesterday. Now, I've got about six days to try to complete an editorial pass through it. I think I can squeeze in the time for that. If not, I'm going to make the time. I'm still shooting for a mid-to-late January release for the book. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

I hope everyone's holiday season is great! Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hello, Vacation!

So, tomorrow morning, we're leave for the Florida keys where we will spend our Christmas vacation. I can't wait. I've got my swimming shorts packed, plenty of short and t-shirts, my camera (for plenty of pictures I plan to share with you all), my cell phone, which also has my Kindle app (so I can read plenty of crime fiction), and my laptop so I can finish working on The Old Royal, which, by the way, is near completion.

Currently, I'm reading Victor Gischler's Suicide Squeeze. So far, it's freaking awesome! Gischler's the man! I've also packed Duane Swierczynski's paperback, The Wheelman, which sounds like a kick-ass book. I hope I'm not disappointed by it. Something tells me I won't be.

I've been looking at pictures of Key West and they look beautiful, an island paradise. I imagine there will be plenty of photo opportunities. We'll see. Like I said, I plan to share a lot of the pictures I take with everyone when we return, but I don't want to even think of coming back when I haven't even left yet.

While there, I'll wrap up the first draft of The Old Royal. I worked on it quite a bit today and have reached the climactic end. I'm giddy with anticipation of its conclusion and I doubt you'll be disappointed. Of course, once I finish it, I'll start in on the editing. Yuck. That's the part I dread the most, but I'm excited about getting it out of my head and onto the page. I want it to be the best story yet. Let's keep our fingers crossed that I do it justice in the editing phase. Right now, I'm just daydreaming of sitting on the beach as the sun sets over the ocean (snapping some pictures, of course) and working on my story. Reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway, but with more of a Raymond Chandler twist. What can I say? I love crime fiction.

So, here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanza, Happy Chanukkah...(whatever your preference, please don't be offended if I left one out) from the Keys.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cover sneak peek: The Old Royal

Okay, I know I said in an earlier post that I planned to provide a sneak peek of the cover to my newest novel, The Old Royal, sometime early next year. Well, all that's changed. I'll show you the cover, but first I have to divulge some back story about it. The back story is important to me. If you don't care about it, just scroll down to view the cover.

Truth is, I can't wait. I've spent most of today working on the story. I'm nearing the 250 page mark with the first draft. I know. I know. A cover sneak peek seems premature when I haven't even finished the first draft. Here's another truth, I'm excited as hell about this book! I vow to finish it as soon as I can (obviously, I plan to make it the best story I can, otherwise I wouldn't waste my time).

Before settling down to write this morning, I spent a little time working on what I want the book cover to look like. What can I say? This is how I help motivate myself when it comes to writing my stories. There's always opportunities for the self-doubt bug to settle in and deter a writer from finishing a WIP. Well, to combat that, I find that tweaking book covers, inside matter (e.g. chapter headings and layout formats), and mulling over the plot looking for new conflict and resolutions help me stay excited about a work-in-progress.

Something you may not know: The Old Royal is a novel I started writing back in 2009. My wife thought the concept was original and interesting. In short, she was excited about me writing it. However, I was bitten by that self-doubt bug and got a bad case of the complacencies. The story became stale and I didn't want to write it any more. I set it aside and eventually forgot about it. I attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but just didn't feel ready to write the story I had in mind. I reset and began writing a new story. That one wasn't ready for me to tell either. Stories just seem to do that. One minute they seem hot and ready to play, the next moment, they're giving you the cold shoulder. It's rough.

Flustered, I decided to withdraw from NaNoWriMo. I knew I wasn't going to cross the finish line, so what was the point? I looked back through some of the stories I'd started and abandoned. I came across The Old Royal and pitched the plot to the guys I work with. They expressed a keen interest in it. Hell, one of them even said, "If I read that synopsis, I'd buy it!" That was enough to renew my interest and stoke the fires of motivation for me to continue writing it.

Since resuming the story, I found that I was able to get over the plot hurdle where I had dropped the ball. Motivation is a cool thing like that sometimes, stripping away the blinders leaving you with a clearer view for the solution to a problem. I'm plugging away happily and hope to have this book ready for publication early next year. Hopefully, very early. Say, January-ish.

The Old Royal is a story about time-travel, the old adage about the grass not always being greener, love and love lost, realizing one's dreams, and a lot of embedded short stories. I won't tell you too much, because I don't want to give anything away. Besides, you can read the synopsis on the back flap, which is all displayed in the image below. Now, without further ado, here is the cover...

Comments and criticism are welcome. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Don't count on Santa Claus this year!

It looks like Santa Claus will be, er, tied up this holiday season. However, all is not lost! Why not give the reader in your life the gift of horror. My anthology is available digitally and in paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Did I mention they were cheap? Hey, look at that, a double bonus: cheap and available without incarcerated Santa's help.

If the reader in your life enjoys crime fiction, then my novel, Majoring in Murder is also available digitally or in paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Act now through Smashwords and you can purchase the digital version of Majoring in Murder for only $2.99 by using the coupon code, VF76C. Hurry before this offer expires on 12/15!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Majoring in Murder: available in paperback!

My novel, Majoring in Murder, about a college student-turned-hitman is now available via CreateSpace. If you haven't yet read it and don't own an eReader or just prefer the printed page (as I still do), then you should pick up a copy. While you're at, pick up copies as Christmas gifts for the readers in your life.

The paperback edition should be available on Amazon and B&N soon. It takes roughly 5 to 7 days to appear on Amazon. I'm guessing it takes longer than that to hit Barnes & Noble. In the meantime, you can check out my author page on Amazon to see the other books I've written. Tell your friends and check back often for updates.

Currently, I'm working on a time travel novel called The Old Royal. So far, everyone I've pitched the idea to has said it sounds awesome. I'm still in the early stages of writing it, so I can't really say too much about it. Believe me, I want to. I'm really jazzed about the story because it has so much potential. I've got a lot of it written already, but I don't want to build up a lot of hype and then have the story fizzle out. I hope to release a sneak peek of the cover early next year, maybe late January or early February once the manuscript is finished. If it sounds interesting, I encourage you to check back here for updates.

As I did with the release of my anthology, I'll leave you with some details for Majoring in Murder:

Page Count: 220
Category: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Hard-Boiled
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Jason Mashburn is a typical college student with a promising future. His biggest concern is making good grades to keep his dad happy until he moves into a new dorm. Little does Jason know that his new roommate comes with baggage that would set Jason's life on a new course. When Jason finds himself under the control of a Mafia boss, Jason must find a way to protect his family as he attempts to stay alive and out of jail, all while he figures a way to get himself out from under the boss's thumb.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My anthology: now available in paperback

For anyone interested in getting a paperback edition of my anthology, An Adverse Anthology: Strange & Disturbing Short Stories, you are in luck! I recently published it through CreateSpace as a paperback. It's available right here.

Below are some of the details to whet your appetite:

Page Count: 152
Category: Fiction / Short Stories
Trim Size: 5" x 8"
From the mind of J.R. McLemore come eight strange and disturbing short stories:
When the Dead Whisper - If the dead had a secret, would you want to hear it?
Jason's Last Wish - Can a cancer-stricken boy get a second chance at life?
Western Justice - Do the sins of our fathers come back to haunt us?
Hush, Hush, My Love - When a relationship sours, is it wise to look for love elsewhere?
Paranoia - Is a retired cop suffering from severe paranoia, or something else?
Sweet Charlotte - Can someone save Charlotte from her abductor before it's too late?
The Show Must Go On - Can a death-row inmate's nightmares give us a glimpse into the hereafter?
Footprints in the Snow - Can a young man learn a life-altering lesson on a rural stretch of road?

Majoring in Murder will be available in paperback soon. Watch for it!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving

I just wanted to take a moment to wish all of my readers a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you are enjoying the holiday with friends and family, getting your fill of holiday meals, or just relaxing while you enjoy your downtime.

My wife and I are relaxing at home in peace and quiet. Her playing her videogames while I work on verifying the proof for my latest paperback. We will be visiting family tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving. In the meantime, we are simply enjoying doing our own things in a leisurely way.

As I sit and ponder the meaning of this holiday, I realize I'm thankful for so much. Health and happiness probably topping the list. The love of friends and family. Of course, my readers and the ability to reach them is on that list too. Not to mention, the freedom to express myself artistically and without censorship. These are only a couple of things I am thankful and truly grateful for.

What about you? What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Is this the future for book covers?

I came across this blog entry today and thought the cover was very cool. I wanted to share it with my readers.

Is this what the future of book covers will be like? It's cool to consider the possibilities. To be honest, I haven't heard of this author, but his cover is so intriguing, I might get a copy of the book when it is released just because of the creativity behind it. Just run your mouse pointer over the cover to see the effect. Cool, huh?

Here is the original blog post from Galleycat. Also, thanks to Nathan Bransford for sharing the link on his blog.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Victor Gischler's The Deputy, FREE!

I'm not sure if this is for a limited time (Victor didn't say if this would change), but Victor Gischler's The Deputy is free. According to his blog post, you can find it anywhere ebooks are sold.

Now, if you're not familiar with Mr. Gischler's work, let me just say that I bought his novel, Gun Monkeys, sometime ago because I heard it was a hard-boiled tale with hitmen. Hitmen? Hard-boiled? Those are two things right up my alley, so you better believe I got a copy. At that time, I was reading the likes of Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, and Dashiell Hammett. I wanted to see if this Gischler-guy could write entertaining hard-boiled, hitman, crime fiction. He did! I absolutely loved that book. Since then, I've picked up a few of his other books: The Deputy and Shotgun Opera. I you're a fan of hard-boiled crime fiction, you should do yourself a favor and read Gischler. I doubt you'll regret it.

A couple of links you might find useful:
Victor's Blog
Amazon author page

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Coupon for my novel on Smashwords

For a limited time (that being 1 month), I am discounting my novel, Majoring in Murder, by 40% off the regular price of $4.99 on Smashwords only.

How? you ask.

Simple. Just go to Smashwords to purchase a copy of my latest novel, Majoring in Murder. Enter this coupon code (code: VF76C) prior to completing your checkout (in the shopping cart, there is a box to enter the coupon code).

Viola! That's it. You will have just saved a buck ninety-nine (that's right! a $1.99 off) and received an enjoyable crime drama to enjoy during the holidays. Speaking of holidays, you can purchase copies as gifts for friends who enjoy reading. What a fantastic idea, huh?

Be sure to act before December 15th, though. After that the coupon will no longer work. Again, that coupon code is: VF76C. Act now!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Majoring in Murder is now available!

My novel, Majoring in Murder, is now available on Amazon and Smashwords.

It will be available soon on Barnes & Noble as well as in paperback from CreateSpace. If you enjoy crime fiction, especially the hitman sub-genre, then make sure you get your copy today. Check back for availability updates!

Here's the cover and a synopsis:
As a college student with a promising future, Jason Mashburn gets an education that will change him forever. Jason's only concerns are studying hard in order to keep up his grades so he can please his dad. But, when a mafia boss blackmails him into knocking people off, good grades are the least of Jason's problems. Experience the metamorphasis of a killer as Jason recounts his story, descending into the depths of the underworld as he receives an education in dealing death. Majoring in Murder is that story of young man's transformation from studious academic to cold-blooded killer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Throwing in the proverbial towel

So, I was participating in NaNoWriMo this year and I was up-to-date with my word count, progressing smoothly with my story. Yesterday, after writing my required amount of words, I seemed to run out of gas plot-wise.

Prior to beginning the marathon of NaNoWriMo, I made some notes and discussed my plot with other writer, hoping to iron out any kinks. Well, apparently, I didn't map my outline well enough, because the plot seemed to lack the action I wanted. In addition, I think my red herring was more pink than it was red because it didn't distract the reader from the mystery as much as I wanted. I guess what I'm trying to say is the same thing that Bugs Bunny used to say, "I must've missed that turn in Albuquerque!"

When I lost that feeling of enchantment the story held for me, I remembered another story I started some years ago about a man who is able to visit the past where he attempts to steal a famous author's life by beating him to punch by writing his novels first. My wife was a big fan of that idea when I told her about years ago. She still is. And, when I ran the idea by my co-workers, they absolutely loved the idea. Their enthusiasm about the idea was so palpable, that I've decided to shelve my current work-in-progress (yes, you read that right; I refuse to give up on it because I still feel it's a great story given the proper preparation) in favor of continuing with that long forgotten work-in-progress whose title is The Old Royal.

And, for those of you wondering whether I plan to use this for NaNoWriMo, the answer is No. To bring in a piece that I previously worked on would be cheating, and I don't cheat, not even when it would only be cheating myself. I am hereby officially declaring defeat and gracefully bowing out of the contest. Best of luck to everyone still plugging along at their novels. I hope you make it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo is here!

Alas, my favorite holiday, Halloween, has come and gone. (Who says alas? I guess I do. How lame.) Well, never fear, NaNoWriMo is hear. For those of you that are not aware of what that is, it stands for National Novel Writing Month.

The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel within the month of November. There is a website where you can register (it's free and doesn't take long) to record your progress, make friends (known as writing buddies), and encourage one another. I like it because my friend, Mark, and I enter and motivate each other by checking our writing progress. Seeing if you can out do or even keep up with the word count is a challenge.

If you think you have a novel inside you, let me encourage you to join, get busy writing, and free that book. Believe me, you'll feel great once you accomplish it. Also, if you want, add me as a writing buddy. My username is mxlemore.

An additional word of encouragement: don't worry if you can't make the finish line. Heck, I didn't last year simply because the story I chose to write was able to be told in less than the projected 50k word count. There's nothing wrong with that. The Writing Gestapo isn't going to show up and break your legs. If nothing else, you will have at least started writing a story. That alone should feel good and prod you along to beginning that inner story.

Happy writing and best of luck!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Status Update: My Writing Projects

So, it's been a while since I gave a status update on my novel, Majoring in Murder. Well, I finished tweaking the eBook format today for the Nook and Kindle. In addition to that I worked on formatting it for the paperback edition I hope to publish through CreateSpace. I've never self-published a paperback, so we'll see how that turns out.I sent the Nook version to a new beta reader and hope to have it back sometime early next week unless he finishes before then, which he might. He said he was a fast reader. I've got my fingers crossed that he likes it. I expect to publish it in early November.

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching and I've been giving some thought to what I want to write during that time. At first, I was thinking of writing a non-fiction book about making silicone masks. I still plan to do that, but as I was looking through my idea file, another story caught my attention. One that was begging to be written. It's sort of different from the stories I normally write. This one is less horror and crime, although there are some seedy characters in it. I like to think it has a stronger sci-fi element to it, which really isn't my forte, but nevertheless, I'm going to take a stab at writing it. We'll see how it comes out. The non-fiction book will follow sometime soon after that.

Also, I began editing a Southern Gothic novel I wrote last year called Lathem's Lament. After reading Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, I wanted to write a book in a similar vein. I wasn't all that excited about it when I finished, thinking I had failed as I put down that last word. When I returned to it today and began reading, however, my excitement was renewed. If all goes well, I hope to release it sometime early next year.

That's pretty much what I've got on my plate. I plan to be busy and productive. I'll let everyone know when I release Majoring in Murder. In the meantime, here's an SNL video I thought you might enjoy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Picture of my silicone Halloween mask

So, I added some hair to the silicone Halloween mask I've been working on.

I'm not so sure the hair on this mask works. It's too thin. Unfortunately, I only had one green wig to cut up and there's not much left of it. But, I like green for this mask. It would be better if it were curly so it had more body. Overall, though, I think it's pretty creepy. What do you think?

A video to help get you in the Halloween spirit

Halloween is fast approaching. The leaves are beginning to turn brilliant colors and fall off of the trees. The temperature has dipped enough to warrant overcoats. Soon, television stations will be airing horror movies. If you are like me and can't get enough Halloween fright crammed into your daily schedule, let me try to help. Enjoy this creepy video that showcases many of the evil kids from the Supernatural television show.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Making Halloween Mask Progress w/ Video

I took a video of my wife wearing my first silicone Halloween mask. I still need to paint it and add hair, but so far the movement looks good and the mask wears comfortably.

This is the second pull I took from the mold. The first had several flaws due to air bubbles. Also, a lot of the clear coat stuck to the silicone. Another lesson learned: always thoroughly clean the mold before casting the silicone.

Here's the video:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Rant to Our Government

I have no intentions of turning this blog into a soapbox for politics, but I think this guy's got some valid points and needs to be heard*.

*Contains explicit language

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Halloween Mask Concept

Halloween is less than thirty days away and I've completed my first full head silicone mask. That one was a trial run in order to identify mistakes in my molding/casting process. I encountered a few problems and have learned from those. However, I need to create another mask in order to execute the changes to my process. Below are pictures: one of me wearing the freshly cast, unpainted first mask. (If you zoom in, you might see the flawed seam. My back mold broke during the demolding process and I had to superglue the cracks :(); the rest of the pictures show my second sculpture using oil-based clay, which is still a work in progress. I have to smooth out the details and get the symmetry right, but this gives you an idea of what the finished product should look like.

As you can see, I'm going for an evil clown look. Who doesn't love an evil clown? I've taken pictures of the first sculpture and Photoshopped various makeup patterns that I am considering using. I tested my new airbrush setup on the first mask I made and wasn't very happy with the results. Maybe it's my naivete with the airbrush and silicone paint, but the white I sprayed on came out glossy. I don't want glossy. I'm glad I tested it on a rough mask first. I went out and bought some grease paint from Party City and plan to test that on the same test mask. Hopefully, it will come out the way I intend. As for the airbrush and silicone paint, well, I guess I need to research that method of painting more to improve my technique and avoid the glossy shine.

In addition, I am considering punching the hair, but that might not work since time is running out and hand-punching hair takes forever. Also, I've yet to do it myself. Keep in mind, I've only learned to do this my watching tutorial videos on YouTube. I've seen other guys make mistakes and learned from them. Not only that, I've made my own and am learning from them, changing the way I work to avoid making those mistakes again.

If you're reading this and wondering, Hey, what about your novel? Well, I'm working on it too. I'm dividing my time between the two tasks. I'm happy to report that I'm halfway through the sixth revision, which is going much faster and easier than the previous (It should since I've cleaned up much of the manuscript on previous iterations). I hope to pass it off to one or two beta readers sometime this week.

Now, the pictures:
Me wearing the first mask I cast. This is obviously unpainted. A rough draft, if you will.
This is the second sculpture I am currently working on. Keep in mind, it's still a work in progress.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review (in progress): These Guns For Hire

I have not finished reading this book. I'm currently half way through it. This is an anthology edited by Joe Konrath.

Even though I have not finished reading this book, I already give it 5 stars. If you're a fan of the crime genre, especially the sub-genre of hit men, then you really need to read this book. There are 31 stories inside from authors you've heard of and some you probably
haven't. Lawrence Block, David Morrell, Ed Gorman, Victor Gischler, Max Allan Collins, J.A. Konrath, and many more.

As of yet, I haven't read a story I didn't like. They range from the most calculating, professional killers to the comical. There's even a story where a lemur is the target of a hit! I know. At first, when I read that, I thought, Really? A hit man is supposed to take out a lemur? How good can it possible be?

Trust me. It's that good! I must admit, I was skeptical when I read that the stories were an eclectic bunch, taking place in foreign locales, involving supernatural elements, and lemurs. As I've mentioned, so far, every story I've read has been stellar. If you haven't already read this book, buy it. You won't regret it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Status update and cover sneak peek

I'm getting very close to finishing an editorial cycle on my hit man novel. I've probably said this many times in several of my posts, but the fact is, editing really sucks. If you want to be an author, it's a necessary evil. I mean, sure, I could just hurry through the process (as many authors tend to do), but that wouldn't be fair to the story or to my readers. When I start writing a book, I have a vision of what I want to say and where I want to take my reader and what I want them to experience. The editorial process is where I'm supposed to polish and fine tune the manuscript, getting it just the way I want it. So, with that said, just know that it should hit virtual bookshelves soon. Here is a sneak peek of the final cover for it:

I welcome all feedback concerning the cover. I think the image works very well at giving the reader an idea of what this book is all about. Well, as much as an image can anyway. Of course, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. It took me nearly one hundred prototypes to get this one just right. Maybe I will post some of the earlier concepts for readers who are curious about what I rejected.

In addition to editing the novel, I'm still working on my silicone mask for Halloween. I received some new supplies this week (gypsum cement, an airbrush, and some Psycho Paint) and hope to get to work applying the plaster some time this weekend. I hope to post some pictures of the mask as I progress. If you're interested in creating your own silicone masks or just curious about the process, feel free to contact me. I've got plenty of advice learned from my own mistakes so far as well as links to video tutorials and material suppliers.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again!

Since Halloween is approaching, I decided to post some truly disturbing things to help get you in the mood. Without further ado...

I hope you enjoyed Loco's New Song. Stay tuned for more atrocities from The Scene of the Crime.

Halloween isn't far off and I'm starting something new

If you didn't already know, Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. Yes, it even trumps Christmas. For me, at least. I know a lot of people would probably be surprised by that statement, but it's true. I still can't put my finger on exactly why Halloween is my favorite holiday. I mean, there's obviously the trick-or-treating, which I am much too old for now so I just sit at home. The days get shorter, which is kind of depressing to me. I enjoy long sunny days because I feel like I can accomplish more. There are the Halloween episodes of sitcoms I enjoy. Although we're reduced to only seventeen channels on TV because I refuse to pay the cable company's exorbitant rates for hundreds of channels of shit. (BTW, what has happened to TV? Even with only seventeen channels, most of the programming is garbage: hour-long infomercials, dancing shows, talent-less talent shows, et al. Okay, I've digressed. I'll leave that for another post later where I can be a curmudgeon and rant) Schools' Halloween Carnivals featuring games and kids running around in costume having a grand time. I'm not in school any longer and we rarely go to my daughter's school unless we're there to watch her band performance or some other activity she is involved with. Besides, I don't think her high school even has any Halloween event. These are things that come to mind when I think of Halloween. You might be asking yourself, why do I love Halloween if none of those things seem enjoyable to me?

Well, the answer is: that is not everything I think of when Halloween rolls around. In addition, I must say that the aforementioned are things I enjoyed as a kid, things that can't quite be recaptured but they stick with me to this day. Of course, there are also haunted house attractions to visit and I thoroughly love that! Mainly, I think there is something in the air this time of year that gets my mojo flowing. Maybe it's just the ushering in of fall. Fall is also my favorite time of year, when the trees begin changing and the Georgia heat begins to subside. I also find that when Halloween approaches, I become more active with my writing and creative endeavors. For instance, this year I've started to make silicone Halloween masks. Growing up, I was always captivated by the latex monster masks stores would put on display this time of year. They were always too expensive for me to purchase though. As a kid, no matter how cool the masks were, I couldn't convince myself to save that much money, let alone part with it for a single mask. There was always something better looming around the corner that I spent my money on. So, I never ended up purchasing one of those ghoulish masks that can easily be found at Party Cities, Halloween Expresses, and Spencers.

Recently, I visited a few websites that sell silicone masks. The masks are top-notch quality and fit so well that the mask moves with your facial expressions. Instead of spending hours trying to get a latex special effects appliance to fit on your face, transforming you into some ghoulish creature, you can simply slip the mask on and become what you want. Of course, these masks aren't cheap. The prices range anywhere from one hundred dollar to five or even eight hundred dollars. You definitely get what you pay for, so you can imagine how silly the cheaper masks look compared to the more expensive masks. Last year, I managed to purchase two pairs of prescription theatrical contact lenses that I wanted to use this year. I picked a silicone mask that was an evil clown and waited before making the purchase. In that time, I managed to talk myself out of parting with five hundred dollars for the mask. What if I wanted to be something different the next year? Hell, I'd be stuck with the clown mask and out half a grand. It just didn't seem practical even though the mask does look super awesome.

I did some research and found some people making their own silicone masks. There were even tutorial videos that some teens had posted on YouTube. I looked into the supplies needed to create the masks, etc. It was cheaper than the single mask I was prepared to buy. Not to mention, I could create whatever I could dream up. I could be an evil clown this year, next year, I could be a rotting corpse, or whatever. So, I took the leap and bought a gallon of Dragon Skin FX Pro silicone, eight pounds of modeling clay, an armature, buckets of plaster, and various solvents needed. I commandeered my wife's dance studio and shut myself away to create a half-face mask.

I learned a lot from the process of creating that mask. The first lesson, don't use silicone for a half-mask; it's much too flimsy. Next time, when creating a half-mask, I'll use either latex or a urethane rubber. Even though that first mask was unusable, I still have it as a keepsake. It feels and looks just like human skin and is very pliable. I was lucky enough to have mixed the coloring pigments just right. I felt it was time to try my hand at a full-head mask, just like the one I was thinking of buying. I molded the clay on my armature, built retaining walls, poured the plaster, and demolded it. Unfortunately, the plaster molds cracked during the demolding process. I had purchased the wrong type of plaster, a plaster that was not hard enough for creating mask molds. Fortunately, my sculpture came out with very minimal damage and I was able to repair it. I've since ordered some Ultracal 30 gypsum cement to create my mold.

Until then, I am trying to edit my hit man novel that is nearing the editorial phase. I hope to have it out soon. While my favorite holiday is fast approaching and I'm getting excited about making scary masks, I don't want to take my eye off the prize and let my novel languish. So, if you're interested in mask making or scary monster masks in general, check back often to see my progress. I promise to post pictures of my creations. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia

After nearly forty years of living in Georgia, I finally visited Savannah. While there, my wife and I also ventured out to Tybee Island. If I'd known how awesome Savannah is, I would have made it a point to visit much sooner. The city is rife with peaceful squares, monuments, pubs, restaurants, and plenty of photogenic wonders (some of which I wanted to share in this post).

Whether you believe in the supernatural and want to embark on a ghost tour or you simply want to get away from the hustle and bustle of your mundane life, Savannah and Tybee Island are locations you must put on your to-do list. We spent two days in Savannah and an additional day on Tybee. I took my camera with me the majority of the time so I have hundreds of pictures. Here are a few:




Sprawling Live Oak

Serene Sidewalk

Fountain in Forsyth Park

One of Many Monuments

Building with Nightlights



Beach Boardwalk

Beach Flower

Beach Grass

Hungry Birds

Boat and Dock

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What the ???

Okay, so I'm one of those authors who Google themselves and their books to see whether my SEO keywords are working. I'm not sure of a better way to track this and how well my books are doing out in the wild. Today, Amazon and B&N reset the monthly sales figures, so I wasn't surprised to see that I had no sales when I checked. Although I will admit it's disappointing to see zeroes or that stupid beige line that Amazon displays.

So, I Googled "An Adverse Anthology" and saw a link to some site called I've visited it before and was shocked to see that my collection was #97 in the US. Of course, it had dropped to #109 or something, so yeah, that's just my luck. Nothing to get all excited about.

When I clicked it today, the chart reflected that I had entered the Canadian chart at #18! EIGHTEEN! What?! (You should be able to see it here.)

I was shocked and so happy to see that, but then reality bit me and I knew that this had got to be short lived. After all, it just entered the chart. By tomorrow, I'll probably be off of it at a position greater than 100. Or, whoever is in charge of such things might realize the error of something they did and I'll be replaced by some big-name author.

Oh well, anyway, I'm going to bask in the rays of my current position while I can. Even if it means I just post it here on my blog where no one seems to visit, which brings me to another thing. When I began writing, all of the advice was about how to finish writing a book, that people wanted to do it but didn't have the fortitude. Well, I will tell you this: writing the damn book (hell, even editing it) is cake compared to marketing the blasted thing! But, I digress. That's a post for another time. If you've wandered over here and read to this point, THANK YOU! Please, leave me a comment, or if you've read my work or purchased my anthology, leave a review. I'd surely appreciate it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: A Dangerous Man by Charlie Huston

I have no intentions of turning this blog into a book review blog. There's already enough of those out there. Instead, I'd rather tell my readers about other great books that are out there. Nor am I going to give you a blow-by-blow commentary as many reviewers tend to do. I suppose I should disclose how I'd rate the books I've read. In that case, let's just go with a generic 5-star system. Five stars is a great book. Three stars is average and one star plain sucks. This book would definitely get five stars.

Last night, I finished reading A Dangerous Man by Charlie Huston. This is the third book in the Henry Thompson series. I haven't read the first two books, but I've already ordered them from Amazon. If you enjoy hit man books, then this one is a must read. Also, you don't have to read the first two in order to enjoy the action in this book. There was some backstory mentioned that I suspect was covered in the previous books, but that didn't hinder this story much at all. If anything, it piques the reader's curiosity to discover what happened earlier and encourages them to purchase those books to find out. At least, it did with me.

In this book, we follow Henry Thompson as he fights to kick his pill habit. Henry has somehow been blackmailed into working as muscle for a Russian mobster named David. Henry's mentor is another Russian, an enforcer named Branko. His face has been reconstructed so he is not recognizable as his former self. Obviously, there was major shit that went down in the previous books and Henry has quite a few enemies looking for him. Henry is tasked to shadow a rising rookie baseball player named Miguel, who has a gambling problem and his friend, Jay. Henry's task: to protect Miguel and Jay from getting into trouble because David has taken an interest in the athlete. Needless to say, trouble ensues and Henry has to handle it. Man, does he handle it!

In addition, David's sister-in-law, Anna, keeps pestering David to avenge his nephew's death. A death that came from the hands of Henry. Eventually, Anna enlists the help of her family. Two of her relatives come to America to search for Henry and make him pay for what he did to Anna's son. Again, this is backstory probably detailed in a previous book, but Huston does a stellar job of quickly alluding to what happened. The men find Henry, but only after David tasks him with eliminating Anna.

That's all I really want to say about the story. Believe me when I say that there is plenty of action and sub-plots happening. Like I've said, if you're into hit man novels, this is one you should definitely read. I intend to put up more posts about good crime books I've read, so stay tuned and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Finished another iteration of editing

Saturday, I completed another iteration of the editing process for my college hit man book, Majoring in Murder. There are some plot holes pointed out that I need to go back and rewrite or smooth out. Hopefully, I'll finish the next phase sooner than this last. Of course, rewriting and fixing plot holes is a huge drag, but I want to publish the best story I can for my readers. I hope all of the hard work pays off and all of you will enjoy the story when I finish it. In addition to the editing, I've already created the cover for the book. I hope to post it soon, once I'm closer to publishing the book. I want to give everyone a sneak peek at it before it hits the virtual bookshelves. I'm quite proud of it. It only took me somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 tries and a lot of artistic criticism to get it the way it currently looks.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Price Reduction Announcement

Just a quick announcement for all of those holdouts wanting a cheap read. If you are one of these frugal shoppers with exquisite taste, then you are who I am aiming this post at.

My short story collection, An Adverse Anthology: Strange & Disturbing Short Stories, has been reduced to 99¢. You can find links to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords in the right-hand column of this blog. Please, help me out by telling your friends. And if you enjoy it can you leave a favorable rating? I'd appreciate it.

Stay tuned for my next novel--hopefully coming soon--called Majoring In Murder.

That is all.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Reality Check: The Truth About Writing

When I first began writing six years ago, I thought it would be a miracle to finish the novel I was working on at that time. I was surprised to discover that writing the first draft of a book was easier than I thought, for me at least. I had the main idea emblazoned in my mind and could see the events unfold as if I were watching the movie. I was excited. I thought I'd be the next Stephen King! I was naive.

Editing that first book was a lesson in perseverance. I'd never edited anything that big in my life and spent several weeks just trying to determine how to tackle the monumental task. I'd grown lazy. I would look at the stack of printed pages and wonder how I could possibly get through it all. Then I would walk away, turn on the TV, and leave my worries in the room with my manuscript.

I eventually finished editing the book. As of this post, it's still not 100% complete. I gave it to my wife to read and received a lot of constructive criticism. My wife is brutally honest about my writing, but she's also my biggest fan. Despite the flaws in my writing that make me sound mildly retarded, she still loves me and it makes me love her all the more.

Since that first book, I've written three more books--many still waiting for their first editorial pass--and loads of short stories. I always daydreamed of sending out my manuscripts to agents, publishers reading what I'd written, and receiving that elusive book deal that would set me on the path to join the ranks of famously successful authors. I was naive.

I followed blogs of literary agents, editors, publishers, and other established authors in hopes of gleaning all the knowledge about the industry as I could. I read books on the craft of writing and discussed the semantics of writing and grammar with my wife, an English professor. I read voraciously, both in my genre and more broadly. I read the classics that I had neglected to read in high school when I thought I had better things to do than read. I tried to be a sponge, soaking up as much knowledge about reading and writing and publishing as I could manage. After polishing my short stories--often running them though nine or more revision cycles following the input of my beta readers--I sent them off to print magazines who were looking for stories like mine. I was giddy and confident in the submission stage. I received my share of rejection. Too many, in fact. I was naive.

After subscribing to many different magazines and reading what they chose to publish, I began to grow callous and convinced that the editors wouldn't recognize good writing if their lives depended on it. I pushed those toxic thoughts aside still convinced that they were true. I tried to convince myself of the opposite. Writing is very subjective. Some people absolutely love heavy hitters like James Patterson and Stephen King as evidenced by their millions of dollars. I'm convinced either of them could publish their laundry list and it would land them on the best-sellers list. I've read books by famous authors that went counter to many things I'd learned about what not to do in your writing. How could that be? How could their book get published by disregarding some of these most basic rules? I learned that when you've built a loyal following and have a good track record under your belt, editors tend to be more lenient with your work. You have more creative say so. I was naive.

A couple of my stories managed to find homes in a few magazines. I continued to follow what was happening in the publishing industry, feeling that if I didn't hurry and create my masterpiece to get published I was going to miss the boat. A digital revolution was underway. Electronic books came on the scene and there was talk of how it would change the publishing landscape. Agents and Publishers scoffed. Physical books were still the dominant force. eBooks were just a fad. I scoffed right along with the big boys and turned up my nose at self-publishing. Self-publishing at the time was taboo, usually proof that an author had admitted defeat and sought to publish his/her book at a vanity press. I wasn't going to quit. I knew I had talent as a writer. But, still, I was naive.

Since the digital revolution, the publishing industry has changed dramatically. Digital media has taken hold in a big way, major book sellers have gone belly-up in its wake. The stigma of self-publishing has changed. Many talented authors--as well as those who are truly bad--have embraced self-publishing, opting to forego the traditional path, bypass the gatekeepers standing in their way, and reach an audience directly. I've watched this trend take hold and evolve. I've read extensively about self-publishers who have gone on to be successful. Many of them post their sales numbers and preach the gospel of doing it yourself. No longer was self-publishing a taboo thing. Although some still associate it with bad writing, self-publishing, like the publishing industry, has evolved. Now, I'm not as naive as I once was.

I still believe I'm a talented writer. I decided to try my hand at self-publishing. I experimented by taking one of my shorts and published it myself. This way, I thought, I could experience how the process works and determine if it was worth pursuing. If nothing else, I could get my name out there and possibly build a following. My first published work, the short story, Hush, Hush, My Love (available for free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords) was more successful than I would have imagined. On Smashwords alone, it has been downloaded more than 300 times and received 4-star reviews. It was also reviewed by Red Adept Reviews, garnering three-and-a-half stars.

Following the success of Hush, I decided to release something larger. I put together a collection of short stories that magazines had rejected and sold it as An Adverse Anthology: Strange & Disturbing Short Stories (Amazon, B&N, Smashwords). I've received accolades from many readers I know who have purchased the book. In my ability I am not naive, but I also know that my writing can always improve. Neither am I naive to think I will reach the writing pinnacle to stand with the likes of many of my favorite authors. I've learned much during the last 6 years and I'll continue learning, improving, and hopefully entertaining my readers.

In the beginning, I was intimidated by the task of editing something as large as a novel. Today, that's not daunting at all. Finishing a book--ending up with a polished gem--is just the beginning. There's still marketing to do, formatting, uploading, pricing, etc. I'm currently teaching myself how to edit videos in hopes of creating studio-quality book trailers as promotional tools for my future work. Maybe I'm still naive, but this is reality.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Editing, editing, and little new writing

It's been a while since my last post because I've been busy. During the previous week, my family took a college touring trip up the east coast to Maine. There was a lot of driving involved--3,300 miles worth--but, it was worth it. That might sound like a huge drag, but since I'd never visited any states north of Virginia, it was rather fun. Even driving in Manhattan during lunch time was an exciting experience. Let me just say that driving on the roads with NY cab drivers was like the wild, wild west! We saw several ivy-league colleges, ate in some fine restaurants, and saw some beautiful parts of the country.

Now that I've returned, I worked on a novel that I had put aside while driving up the east coast. All was going well for a while and then I hit a brick wall. I didn't necessarily get writer's block because I can still write. I just ran out of logical ideas for the point I reached in the story line. I have the majority of the story outlined, but there is one part in the middle where the details are fuzzy. Well, that just so happens to be where everything petered out. I've put the story aside for now while I brainstorm to come up with more ideas to drag the story out of the mud it seems to be caught in.

I had a novel idea during the trip that I had to get out of bed to write down. I think it will make a great book and can't wait to get around to outlining the plot. Another cool aspect of this story is that I had the idea while I was in Maine. We were listening to The Green Mile in the car, too. My idea is a similar style to how Stephen King tells his story. Anyway, time will tell if I can pull off execution of that story.

My wife recently finished reading my hit man novel. She's the second beta reader to have finished it and now I'm excited to finally get back to revising any mistakes and plot holes. It's also a daunting task. Printed, the book is nearly 300 pages. Today, I managed to revise almost 50 pages. At this rate, it'll be a while before I'm ready to hand it to the next group of beta readers to get their input.

In other, non-writing, news, I'm on the Atkins diet. I started a week before our trip and lost nearly 11 pounds. During the trip, I cheated when we reached Newark, DE and ate at Catherine Rooney's, which is an Irish pub. I couldn't resist not having a Guinness there. Also, I wanted to have some delicious seafood in Maine. In all, I gained 2 pounds during the trip, so that's not too bad. Since returning home and resuming my diet, I've lost an additional 6 pounds. So far, so good.

That's all I've got to report for now. Hopefully, some idea will come to me for the current novel I'm writing. Until next time, I'll continue being good on my diet and editing the hit man novel.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A motivational moment

I've recently gone back and perused J.A. Konrath's older blog posts on his Newbie's Guide to Publishing. If you're an indie author and haven't read Konrath's blog, I highly recommend doing so, otherwise, you're missing out on some great information.

During my reading, I've come across several posts where he talks candidly about the emotions new authors experience when they first start out in this business. It's refreshing to know that I'm not alone in my self-doubt and frustration. Nor am I alone in my obsessive tendencies to Google my name and check my sales stats on my various distributors' websites repeatedly throughout the day. While these affirmations are nice, the most valuable insights are learning from his experiences with self-promotion.

While I'm ignorant about advertising and marketing, it's nice to know I can go somewhere to learn from someone else's mistakes and successes. Especially, someone who is succeeding in the field of writing. More often that not, when I feel depressed about my low sales, feel like I'm a voice quacking in the void, or that I'm just another face in crowd, I can read Joe's posts and begin to feel better about the things I am doing, gain a sense of motivation, and know I need to stay the course.

An update on what I've been doing

Forgive me. It's been a while since my last blog post. Why does this sound like a Catholic confession? Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been *insert time here* since my last confession. Maybe I feel guilty for not blogging more frequently.

Lately, I've been working on a new novel. The working title is called Pass the Buck and, of course, it takes place in Atlanta. I'm not delving into details at this point as the story is still in its infancy, but from the feedback I received when I pitched the idea to friends, I'm very excited about it. I hope I can do it justice and deliver a highly entertaining story my readers. Time will tell.

My college hit man novel, Majoring in Murder, is still in the editorial phase. I've gone through it several time and felt comfortable enough to give it to two of my beta readers (one of those being my wife, who is marking it up as if I was one of her students). Hopefully, she'll be finished with it soon so that I can make my revisions and give it to some different beta readers. This is always such a daunting process for me. I hate editing, as do most writers I know. Also, the honest feedback can sting sometimes and make any writer doubt themselves. But, it shouldn't be too long until I can offer up the book to the readers.

I pitched the idea to a fellow writer friend to co-author a book together. Since he writes science fiction and I enjoy writing crime fiction, we have to come up with an idea that will appeal to both of us. I've got one fairly solid idea and the seeds for another. He's supposed to be brainstorming about some ideas too, so we'll see where we are after July 4th when we reconvene to discuss whether we really want to go through with writing a book together. So, stay tuned for that.

As you may know, and in case you don't, I released my anthology, An Adverse Anthology: Strange & Disturbing Short Stories ,earlier this month on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. If you haven't yet purchased a copy, you're missing out on some really entertaining stories. Also, I've lowered the price from $2.99 to $2.25, which is quite a bargain for 8 stories. Did I mention they were very entertaining? In addition, I've uploaded a more professionally formatted version for both Kindle and Nook on Amazon and B&N. Unfortunately, I have yet to try this Smashwords. This brings me to another point...

I recently came across a series of posts by another indie publisher, Guido Henkel, who gave quite a lot of insight into professionally formatting one's eBooks. His series is definitely worth a read if you want to make your eBooks look their best. The information he presents is priceless, in my opinion. I will warn you ahead of time that it gets fairly technical if you're not familiar with HTML.

In the past, when I uploaded my manuscript, I would simply submit a Word document that was complete and polished. The frustration came when I would upload it to Amazon, view it in the Kindle emulator, tweak it to make it look as I wanted, and then do the same at Barnes & Noble, only to discover that it needed more tweaking to look right for the Nook Color. Once it looked nice in the Nook Color, I would view it in the older Nook emulator and see that it looked hideous. Talk about wanting to pull my hair out! And then there's Smashwords "meatgrinder" where they highly advise you to upload a Word document and adhere to their style guide specifications. Guido's series will eliminate that frustration (at least for Amazon and B&N) and make your manuscript look like you want it to on any eReader device.

I've reformatted my anthology using his steps and tested it on my Nook for PC app, the Kindle app on my smart phone, and the Nook Color I own, and I must say, it looks stellar! I still need to test uploading an ePub version to Smashwords to learn how well their meatgrinder handles the format and I'll do a post to tell you what I learn. I plan to incorporate these techniques into every eBook I publish from this point forward.

Now that I've added another, professionally formatted, title to my repertoire and I'm struggling with self-promotion and experimenting with price points. I've sold several copies of my latest short story collection, but nothing like I was expecting. Of course, I don't have an extensive back list or anything, so I imagine what I'm experiencing is just par for the course. Hopefully, things will pick up as I build my oeuvre. Again, time will tell.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Another title released!

I released a collection of short stories today that I've been working on polishing for quite some time. Well, I finally finished. This new book is called An Adverse Anthology: Strange & Disturbing Short Stories, which you can see in the sidebar to the right. It contains 8 short stories that I hope will stir your imagination and emotions. Here is the jacket description:

"From the mind of J.R. McLemore come eight strange and disturbing short stories:
When the Dead Whisper - If the dead had a secret, would you want to hear it?
Jason's Last Wish - Can a cancer-stricken boy get a second chance at life?
Western Justice - Do the sins of our fathers come back to haunt us?
Hush, Hush, My Love - When a relationship sours, is it wise to look for love elsewhere?
Paranoia - Is a retired cop suffering from severe paranoia, or something else?
Sweet Charlotte - Can someone save Charlotte from her abductor before it's too late?
The Show Must Go On - Can a death-row inmate's nightmares give us a glimpse into the hereafter?
Footprints in the Snow - Can a young man learn a life-altering lesson on a rural stretch of road?

At the time of this blog post, it is available on Smashwords here. I've uploaded it to Amazon and B&N, but it is still in the approval process by those distributors. When it is available there, I will update the links in the sidebar, on my website, and everywhere else I can think of.

So, if you've come by, stopped and read this blog, I do hope you'll get a copy of my book. I doubt you'll be sorry you did. Also, for $2.99, it's less than a single copy of most popular magazines.

Oh, one more thing, if you do happen to get a copy, please rate and/or write a review for it. It doesn't matter if you hate it, leaving a review makes my day. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Coming soon!

I've been busy assembling an anthology of my best short stories which I will self-publish very soon. I handed the stories over to my wife last week to proof for me (did I mention she's an English professor? No? Well, she is and the best editor and all-around-everything I know of). Well, she handed them back to me yesterday and I sat down to have a look at what she found. Wow! There was quite a bit of editorial marks on most of the pages. Keep in mind, many of these stories had already been through a rigorous editorial process (some of them went through nine iterations of extensive editing with feedback from several beta readers), yet she still made corrections.

This proves a couple of points:

1. You can't please all of the people all of the time. No matter how awesome you think your work is, there will always be someone who thinks it stinks or could be a little better. In addition to this, just know that reading/writing is very subjective. What appeals to one person isn't necessarily going to appeal to another.

2. If you want, you can practically edit a story forever in hopes that one day it will be perfect. While editing is extremely important, falling into the never-ending cycle of editing to perfection is something every writer should avoid like the plague. Falling into this trap will stop your productivity and most likely drive you mad. Besides, even the famous writers can read one of their own books after publication and find areas that they feel could be improved.

So, with that said, I am in the process of going through the story lineup and addressing the editorial remarks my wife made. It shouldn't take me long and I will, of course, post another blog when I am ready to release the book on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. By the way, in case I haven't told you what the name of the book is (my memory is getting worse in my later years), this is it: An Adverse Anthology: Strange & Disturbing Short Stories.

I hope you'll buy a copy, but more importantly, I hope you'll enjoy it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Self-publishing: status report. Part II

Happy Easter, everyone.

So, I have some good news to report in this status update. I was reviewed over at Red Adept Reviews. You can read the review here.

If I haven't already pointed this out, I will now just so there is no confusion. HUSH, HUSH, MY LOVE was an experiment in self-publishing. Sure, I wrote it and had it published in a professional magazine, but I also used it to venture into the world of self-publishing, familiarize myself with the process to put it up on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Well, one thing I learned was that you can give away stories (and books) on Smashwords. On B&N and Amazon, you can't. This is unfortunate because my short story is very short. I wouldn't charge anything for it if I was able to get away with that. Mainly, my intention was to put the story out there for free just so I could increase my audience, get my name out there to people who have never heard of me. Hopefully, my strategy has worked despite me having to charge for the damn story on Amazon and B&N. To any readers who purchased the story from either of those markets, I want to thank you and to apologize. I appreciate you parting with a buck to read my story. I apologize that is was so short. However, I hope you enjoyed it very much despite its brevity. I will be releasing an anthology soon with more short stories (all longer than HUSH, I promise). I hope you'll read it and enjoy some of my other work.

My downloads at Smashwords has slowed, but I think this is to be expected. The last time I looked (this afternoon), I had 169 downloads. I have no idea what other self-pubbed authors would expect, but for me, that is awesome! That's just in a month and the month isn't over yet. It surprises me because I am virtually unheard of, and like I said, this was an experiment, so I am very excited about that number. Also, I've sold two units on B&N and five on Amazon when I looked today.

I'm still researching marketing strategies, reading posts on the Kindle Board, as well as blog posts by Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking, and other self-pubbed authors in addition to formatting and proofing my anthology. I'm eager to release the anthology because there's no feeling like seeing that people have taken an interest in something you've created.

I've traditionally published short stories in the past. As a matter of fact, I'm waiting for word on two short stories now. The thing I love most about self-publishing is the quick turnaround we writers have with our work. When I'm ready to give readers another story, I don't have to sit on my hands for months waiting for them to get it. All I have to do is design the cover and format it (all of which is under my control) and then upload it. It's as simple as that. There's none of this waiting and waiting and...

Lastly, I'd like to give a personal thank you to everyone who has downloaded a copy of HUSH. You guys rock! I appreciate it more than you know.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Self-publishing: status report. Part I

Okay, so my short story, Hush, Hush, My Love, has been available on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords now for nearly two weeks. Here's the lowdown on what's happened during that time.

B&N was the last one to make the story available. Despite the note on their site that says it takes anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, it took considerably longer. Almost a week! That's crazy slow, so just be forewarned.

Smashwords is my favorite of all the platforms so far. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, they are quick about making the work available to readers. As per my previous post, I had a lot of downloads quickly. Of course, that could be due to the story being free. To date, I've received four 4-star reviews. That really made my day to get those. The majority of the downloads came during the first two days and have since tapered off, but I am still seeing downloads each day.

On Amazon, I've only sold two copies. :( Not impressive, I know. I managed to sell one on B&N so far. If truth be told, I'm actually happy that I sold anything on Amazon or B&N. I mean, I haven't gone all out and tried to do any heavy marketing. Also, Hush is a short story. A very short story, at that, so asking someone to pay to read it is a long shot. (Although, I must admit, it's a damn good story and I think anyone who parts with a buck to read it won't be disappointed.)

So, there you have it. I've probably made $1.50 total from the story. But, that's not why I self-published the short story to begin with. The reason Hush is out there is two-fold. First, I wanted to make it available as a promotional tactic, in order to put my work out there and let readers see what I create. The other reason was for me to test the waters with self-publishing and experience the steps necessary to make my work available on the various platforms. So far, the experience has been very easy and pleasant.

For those who do not know, I am working on putting together a collection of my best short stories. The tentative title is An Adverse Anthology: strange & disturbing short stories. I'm nearly finished composing it and I hope you'll check it out when I publish it. Of course, you can bet I will make it known when it hits the various distribution channels. Also, I hope you'll come back to see what I have in the pipeline for future releases.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Experiences in self-publishing

This is probably the first post of many about my experiences with self-publishing. Recently, I've been reading a lot about authors embarking on this path and their stories. Most of these authors you may have heard of. Well, that is, if you're into that sort of thing. If you're reading this blog, I imagine you probably are.

So far, everything I've heard from these authors has been compelling enough for me to dip my proverbial toe into the self-publishing waters. If Amanda Hocking's or Barry Eisler's story doesn't excite you--well, you need to check for a pulse.

I began putting together my publication earlier this week. Actually, truth be told, it took me longer than that to construct the cover image and get it just right. I owe a shout out to James (a colleague at work) who gave me invaluable information to help me out in that department. Thanks, James! You da man. I managed to have everything prepared and uploaded my work to Amazon and Barnes & Noble Wednesday afternoon. That night, I went through the Style Guide on Smashwords, heeded its advice, and when finished, submitted my work to Smashwords.

Amazon and B&N state that it could take 24-48 hours until the work is available in the marketplace. If Smashwords gave an estimate, I don't remember what it was. When my submission was received by Smashwords, it said that I was number 808 in the queue. Needless to say, I figured it would be the last to hit the market. I was wrong. I received an email from Smashwords during the wee hours that said my book was available for download. Wow. That was fast.

My story did not hit the market on Amazon until today (Friday). Barnes & Noble still hasn't finished processing the submission. On the first day the story was available on Smashwords, I already had 89 downloads and received three four-star reviews. Although the first reviewer gave away one of the twists in the story. I can't believe he did that!

I wanted to release this story for free, as a promotional device to reach readers and spread my name. Well, the unfortunate downside to that plan is that Amazon and B&N require authors to sell their work. Smashwords, on the other hand, allows you to give work away. So, as a side note, let me apologize to anyone who is turned off that my story is only for sale on Amazon and B&N. It's not my fault. I would give it away on those platforms if I could, but alas, I can't.

So, there you have it. My experience so far with self-publishing. It has been exciting and pleasant. I hope it continues to be. Now, I must spread the word, let others know it is out there, available for download, and hope they get a copy. Even more, I hope they enjoy it and help spread the word.

So, if you've managed to read this far, I hope you've gotten something out of my experience thus far. Also, if you haven't yet read the story, here is the link so you can check it out. Free Smashwords copy. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy(ed) the story and I hope you'll come back for more.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Decisions, decisions.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel. There are less than 25 pages remaining until I finish editing my crime novel, MAJORING IN MURDER (btw, that's the working title. It could still change). I'm excited as hell because this means I am close to handing it over to my beta readers for their reactions/feedback. Of course, this is also a time of apprehension for me as a writer because it means I have to release my creation into the world to see if it has wings to fly.

In addition to finishing the editing process (well, the bulk of it anyway), I need to decide whether or not to query agents when the manuscript is complete or self-publish. Lately, I've been keeping up with the news about authors selling their books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc. and the perception of self-publishing is changing. In the past, self-publishing was equivalent to failure. It was the last resort of a desperate author who wanted their work in print. They had exhausted their list of agents and publishing houses only to face rejection after rejection. Considering a vanity press or P.O.D. publisher was to admit defeat, that your work wasn't considered commercially viable by industry professionals. Your writing talent was not validated.

It appears that those days are waning. One only needs to look at Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath to name two examples or authors who've been successful self-publishers. With the plethora of eReaders in readers' hands, eBooks are beginning to turn the tables in the publishing industry. No longer does an author need to convince an editor that their book is a mega bestseller that will benefit the publishing house with riches. There is no gate keeper who decides whether they think your book is commercially viable. I can't express enough just how subjective this industry is. Just because your work doesn't appeal to a few people doesn't necessarily mean that it will not appeal to a larger audience. Also, authors can make more money self-publishing because the split many eBook sellers offer are larger than those of the traditional publishing houses. Let's also not forget that the author maintains all rights to his/her work, not relinquishing them to a traditional publisher who can stop print runs of an author's back list when they feel it is not financially sound for the publisher. Self-publishing is free. All an author needs is a computer to create the electronic file, an internet connection to upload the work, and no limit to the number of copies sold. Ever.

Those are just some of the benefits of self-publishing. Some might say that with traditional publishers the author will receive help/funds marketing their work. This is not necessarily true. Unless you are already a best seller, the publisher will most likely not spend marketing dollars on your new book. They tend to spend that money on authors they know have a large fan base. This is almost unheard of for debut authors. These authors must market their books themselves in most cases. Also gone are the days of fat advances. There again, if you're a mega bestseller (ie - Stephen King, James Patterson, et al.) you can expect hefty advances because the publisher knows they will most likely earn that money (and much more) back.

So, with all of that being said, self-publishing is looking more and more appealing to me. Sure, I'd like to receive validation that my work is commercially acceptable, but why? If I might only receive 14% off the sales of my work and I have to do all the leg work to market my book, why not just self-publish it since I'd do that anyway and I could earn more money from each sale? To not do that seems ridiculous.

Of course, there is more research I need to do before I pinch my nose and jump into self-publishing. I've done some research already. Hence, where I pulled the above information. But, I want to be aware of any pitfalls and snafus that may arise. So far, however, there don't seem to be any real problems that I can find. The self-publishing world seems to be the wild, wild west where authors are releasing their work, marketing to reach their audience(s), and are reaping the rewards of the D.I.Y. novelist. I want to get in on the ground floor before the big publishers realize they are becoming obsolete and change the self-publishing world so they can still make money to pay their large staffs.

So, what do you think? Is self-publishing a current fad? Do you think it will change dramatically? If so, how long do you think it will last and how will it change? I welcome your comments.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Waiting is the hardest part...

Okay, so it's been nearly half a month since my last post in which I said I was submitting short stories. I'm pleased to say they are out at the respectable publishers I chose to send them to and now I am anxiously awaiting word from the editors. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that at least one will be accepted. But, of course, it would be great if they all received acceptance.

I think I said in my last post that I was submitting two stories, but since then I sent out yet another. So, there are three out making the rounds instead of just two. It's been a while since I've submitted anything and I forgot how frightening and, at the same time, exciting it is to await the editors' responses. Hopefully, I will have good news to post soon concerning any feedback. If, that is, I haven't worried myself into a knot.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Let the submissions begin

We're half way through February and Valentine's Day looms on the horizon. I finally pulled myself away from editing my novel in order to submit two short stories. Actually, the second of those short stories won't go out until tomorrow. I packaged the manuscript according to the publisher's guidelines, trying to follow their instructions to the letter--very important! My wife is mailing it off for me tomorrow since she goes by the post office and I don't.

Anyway, I am excited to be awaiting word from editors/publishers regarding my submissions. Having been on hiatus during the holidays leaves me feeling unproductive even though I have been editing. I hope to hear good news soon and post where my stories have found homes. Meanwhile, I will continue editing one of my novels and get it into shape. With any luck, I should begin querying agents/publishers later this year after I polish the manuscript into the best story it can be. I also hope to get a few more short stories ready to submit soon. Stay tuned to see where my stories wind up. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A gift for other writers

Yesterday, I came across a post on Nathan Bransford's forums where a writer had inquired about ways to keep track of submissions. I responded, telling about a program that I created to do just this. It's called Submission Tracker. I made this program last year after reading a different post somewhere where a few writers were commiserating over the chore of keeping track of manuscripts during the submission process.

As a software developer (yes, that's still my day job), I decided I would create an application for myself to help keep track of my own submissions because there was no applications out there that already did this (I didn't do any extensive searches to determine this, but it's been my experience that there are few apps out there for writers). I created a rudimentary program and added functionality to it when I deemed it necessary throughout my own submission process.

I've been using it ever since to keep track of my stories, markets, and submissions. Since reading that post in the forums, I've decided to make my program available to other writers who feel a desire to use it.

Some of the features:
1. Ability to enter story details. This includes: Title, word count, genre, number of drafts.
2. Ability to enter publisher information. Name, publication type (webzine/print, paying/non-paying), approx. response time, two web addresses (useful for home page and submission guidelines for quick reference).
3. Quick reference history for stories that have been submitted. Shows current submission location and prior submitted locations (if applicable) with publisher's response.
4. Grid view listing of current stories on submission, stories written, and publishers, each on their own tab.

I'm making it available free of charge, downloadable at the bottom of this post on a couple of conditions.

1. The software is available as-is.
2. Do not contact me with any bugs you find in the software. I created this app for myself and I program every day. In my spare time I write and do not want that time to be used programming. It's a free program, after all. If you find you don't like it, simply uninstall it.
3. This is a Windows application. Unfortunately, anyone using a different operating system will not be able to use it.

With that said, I would like to add that I will more than likely enhance the application by fixing any bugs I find and adding new functionality to make the app more robust. But, as I've already said, I don't enjoy programming during my time away from work, so these enhancements may be slow in coming. While I do not want people sending me bug reports, I am open to receiving wish lists for features. If there is something lacking that you think would make the application better, feel free to email me.

Here are a few screen shots:

This is a detail view of a submission.

This is a list of publishers I entered into the program.

A shot of the new story and new publisher dialog screens.

This is the submission history from a single story. Notice the context menu (right-click) to view detail, edit the entry, or delete it.

If you find yourself interested in using the Submission Tracker application. You can download it here. Check back for future updates. Perhaps I will add a feature that you find useful and, remember, if there is something you'd like included, you can always send me an email requesting it. I may or may not include it depending on how useful the suggested feature is, but you never know. I hope the program makes tracking your submissions much easier. Thanks for visiting.