Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Sale!

I know, I know! I've been away from the blog for a long time. I apologize. (See explanation below)

I have news of a sale, though. That didn't seem big enough. How about...

Don't miss the sale of my novel Carniville on Amazon. From today, 12/23 through 12/26, the digital version will be $0.99. It goes up to $1.99 after that until 12/30, at which time it will return to its normal price of $2.99.

Blake Stanwick has visions, not that they ever do him any good. But when he wakes up one morning after a particularly unsettling dream about the murder of a dear friend, he can't shake the feeling of doom.

Death is coming to Carniville, the small Florida apartment complex that is home to a tight-knit community of carnival workers and human oddities. Carniville has it all -- the Fat Lady, Half-Man, Thumbelina, the Human Pincushion... Despite their impairments, they've all made a life for themselves at Crystal Springs Apartments. But for one resident, that life is coming to an untimely end.

When, inevitably, Blake's vision comes true, the authorities aren't much interested in looking past the obvious suspect, the victim's husband. But Blake knows they're wrong -- he just has to prove it. With the help of his misfit friends, Blake begins conducting his own investigation.

This is a great gift for yourself or a reader in your life. Don't miss your chance to grab a copy while the price is low and spend the holidays curled up with a whodunit.

Now, to explain why I've been AWOL for so long. I started a new job. A job that's kept me pretty busy. In the meantime, I've been working on two novels I hope to release in 2015, two novels I'm very excited about. In addition to working and writing, I've been learning German on Duolingo. I've got a 315 day streak as of this posting. Das ist gut, ja? I don't want to break my streak. I'm a bit OCD in that regard, so most all of my time is eaten up and I haven't carved any out for blogging. Hopefully, that will change in 2015. I want to keep everyone updated with my writing and book releases. Hopefully, you'll forgive me. Maybe you'll buy a copy of Carniville.

Happy holidays! Happy New Year! See you in 2015! (Thanks for stopping by.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Feeling Overwhelmed

First and foremost, today is my son's birthday, so I'd like to wish him a very happy birthday and extra-special day.

As the title of this post suggests, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, but also very relieved. I've been unemployed since July 1st and was trying to cope with my sense of worthlessness and lack of income. The job search was tedious and stressful, especially since I'd been comfortable with my previous job for four years. You might say I'd grown complacent. You'd be right. Suddenly finding yourself without gainful employment in an employer's market is not a fun place to be. I work as a computer programmer, have been doing this for nearly twenty years. I'm no stranger to formal and technical interviews, but this time around it seemed that every employer wanted to quiz me like I had just entered the market from school. The tests and questions ranged from defining certain programming terms (many of which come from first-year textbooks) all the way to writing small programs to accomplish some mundane task. I get it! You wanna make sure an applicant actually has the abilities their resume claims. But, seriously, EVERY interview?

Needless to say, I didn't concentrate much on my writing or editing while I was looking for work. However, I'm pleased to announce that I landed a job with a company that seems like a good fit, with great benefits, solid colleagues, and the commute and money are right. That's where a lot of my relief has come from.

The rest of the burdens weighing on me stem from my current novel as well as various stories I've begun or have recently been thinking about. First, I'll tell you about the current WIP, What Goes Around. This is the story of nine children who vanish from a carousel in 1958, while their parents are watching. Sixty years later, when some teenagers turn on the carousel, the nine children reappear on the ride. I think it's an interesting concept and has started to take shape, becoming something I'm eager to finish molding and polishing. I recently handed it to my wife, my first beta reader. Her reaction wasn't quite what I expected. She didn't think the scary parts were very scary, nor the ending as satisfying as I had hoped. However, she saw the potential in it. She provided her feedback, and, while it doesn't necessarily require a rewrite, it's close. She gave some fantastic suggestions that will make it a much stronger story.

I've just finished the first pass through the manuscript to correct the grammatical changes and typos she identified as she read it. Now, I've got to go through it a few more times to change large swathes by altering some of the characters' roles and motivations. Before handing it off to her, I had gone through it four times. That's a heck of a lot when you're editing a manuscript nearly three hundred pages long. I hate editing. It's tedious and with each pass, I become less enthused about the story because it all starts tasting like beans. At this stage, I can foresee several more iterations through the story just to get it up to her standards. This is causing me to procrastinate and think about newer, shinier stories I could be working on.

As I've said in the past, I am always working on new stories. I usually have a couple going at the same time, hopping between them whenever I need a change of scenery. I'm wrestling with these compulsions now. I desperately need to finish the sequel to my crime novel, Majoring in Murder. I have two other horror novels that I need to work on: Into the Black Mirror and A Consuming Darkness. These are only a few of the stories scattered throughout the production pipe. My notes contain a wealth of material for me to mine. In addition, I've recently been thinking about two characters I invented years ago and still have not used them in a story. That's because I think these two characters could carry a story by themselves, much like George and Lenny from Of Mice and Men. The more I think about them, the more details from their story emerge. I don't want to rush it, because doing that will only hurt the work.

In addition to all of the above, I recently wrapped up a free 5 book giveaway on Goodreads. Overall, I think it went well. The giveaway had a higher interest than I anticipated. Now, I just have to wait and see if any of the readers will leave a review. I'd also like to see if any sales result from it. Basically, I'm anxious to see if the giveaway results in any benefits. I enjoyed the process. If for nothing else, it made more people aware of my work and maybe they will become potential fans. I already want to hold another giveaway with even more books, but I have to exercise patience. And for me, patience is a hard row to hoe. I'm always eager to jump right in.

So, as you can see from what I've laid out, I'm feeling the pressure of the stories I'm buried under. The good thing is that I'm not under any deadlines, except for the ones I set for myself. I tend to publish at least one new novel a year, more if I can do it without churning out crap. I think this is a respectable pace. Some very good traditionally-published authors work at the same pace. I just have to keep reminding myself that writing is a marathon, not a race.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Picking up the series

My first published novel was a crime story called Majoring in Murder. It was meant to be the first book in a series, about a college student turned hit man. I published it in 2011, at a time when I was really big into reading crime stories. Since then, my interests have meandered through southern literature, fantasy/sci-fi, mystery, and then back to horror, where stories within me begged to be told. I obliged, telling some of those stories and began writing several more, across various genres.

Recently, I finished my first rounds of edits on a horror novel I mentioned some time ago called What Goes Around, which I am very excited about. I'm just waiting for my first beta reader (read: wife) to go through it and provide her feedback. In the meantime, I planned to return to some stories I've started and continue to work on those. However, I've detoured from that plan. Currently, I don't feel motivated to work on those stories, for reasons I'm not fully cognizant of; it's just how my writing process works. Instead, I looked over my various notes, folders, etc. on the small external drive where all of my worlds live and found that my hit man series needed my attention. The inner workings that dictate my writing--my muse, if you will--raised the flag, signaling me to start writing the second book in the Jason Mashburn series; it was time.

Long ago, I had jotted down a high-level road map for where I wanted the series to go, what each subsequent book would tackle, and then I walked away so that it could mellow. When I came across those notes a couple of days ago, I felt that Jason had time to mature (so to speak), which is what I intended. In the first book, he was a naive, yet deadly, young man. Throughout the series, I would like the reader to watch Jason grow and mature, become more adept in his skills, and understand the motivates behind his decision to return to the business. In a sense, Jason is like me as an author. I was naive and cocky during the writing of that first book and, with the passing of those years and more writing experience to my credit, I like to think my skills have improved and I've matured as a writer.

It is my hope that, for readers who don't care for series, each of the books can stand alone to tell a cohesive story; that each book can be read out of order, able to allude to any necessary details from the previous books without breaking the plot. As for readers who progress through the series, beginning with the first book, I want them to witness Jason's metamorphosis throughout the arc; from naive student to hardened, calculating executioner. Overall, I hope to maintain the reader's sympathy and understanding for Jason, which is difficult to do when your main character is a contract killer, but I think I managed to pull it off in the first book.

So, that's what I've recently been working on, the next book in the Jason Mashburn installment. Tentatively, I've titled the story, Extracurricular Activities. I hope it turns out the way I envision it. More importantly, I hope you, the reader, enjoy it!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Paperback book giveaway

I am currently holding a book giveaway on Goodreads for my novel The Old Royal. I will be giving 5 signed copies to some lucky individuals. The giveaway ends Aug. 23, so don't delay to sign up for your chance to win.

Anthony Jessup is a daydreamer who works at a dead-end help desk job. His greatest fantasy is to become a famous novelist like his idol, Roger Kurrey. However, Anthony's stories receive more rejections than accolades from editors. When Anthony receives an old Royal typewriter as a birthday gift, he soon learns that the typewriter is more than meets the eye. Armed with the ability to alter the past, Anthony realizes that he can fulfill his dreams. But, to do so comes at a cost. If you could change the past, would you? If so, at what cost?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Old Royal by J.R. McLemore

The Old Royal

by J.R. McLemore

Giveaway ends August 23, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Metamorphosis: introspection and retrospection

Tomorrow is Independence Day. I'm sitting here doing quite a bit of reflecting, evaluating, and looking toward the future lurking on the horizon, but it's hazy there and hard to make out. I have more time now for this sort of thing, since I lost my day job last week. Losing one's job is a stressful thing; I'm convinced there're stages to it like mourning a loss. I was mad, blamed myself, blamed others, felt humbled, experienced optimism, and well, now I've just accepted it. It is what it is. Life is simply a large maze with unexpected hurdles. Everyone experiences ups and downs. It's how we deal with the downs that shows the world who we really are, our true character. In the face of this, I've tried to remain diligent in my math and language studies as well as continuing with my writing/editing. In addition, I've done a good bit of looking inward and at my past. It's comforting during a time like this to see where you've come from and how you've (hopefully) improved as an individual. I like to think I've done pretty well and hope that I can continue to grow and become even better.

There've been plenty of times when I've neglected this blog. After all, who am I? Does anyone really read the things I say here? These are questions I ask myself a lot. I want to be a successful writer (whatever that truly means). I'd like to have a fairly large audience who I can interact with (much like Christoper Moore does--now there's a good author role model!) However, much of the time I just feel like a voice quacking in the void. I'm that tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear me.

I know I'm just one in several billion trying to stand apart and I'm self-conscious when it comes to marketing; it's absolutely uncomfortable and dreadful. It's often daunting and sad to think about, but think about it I do. These feelings are more prevalent during my down moments. At higher times, I meet someone who has read one of my stories and reaches out to me to talk about it (this is a grand experience! For me, they are also very rare).

Today, I looked back on the first post I wrote in 2009. It's odd to go back and read things you've written years ago, like glimpsing the mind of a naive you. My feelings while reading that first post are what helped spark this post. I may sound depressed and somewhat bitter, but, really, I'm not. I'm excited by what the future holds for me and my writing. I'm still editing What Goes Around and am nearly ready to hand it off to my beta readers. I have no intention of using this post to vent frustrations and/or petty grievances. I apologize if that's what it seems like. Basically, I just want to express the way I feel when faced with a transitional opportunity (the metamorphosis) that can come from a negative experience like this.

Instead of burying my head in the sand or throwing a pity-party, I want to use the time to get some things done. Finishing this book for one! In the meantime, I will continue doing all of the things I did previously: improving myself and my writing. Another job will come; I know it will, so I'm going to take one day at a time and enjoy it. So, it is with optimism that I put my foot forward toward that hazy future lurking on the horizon, with every intention to seize the day!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Horror? Not so much

I can't even begin to apologize for neglecting the blog for so long. What can I say? I've been busily working on some stories I've mentioned before, so that, hopefully, I can release them soon for your (again, hopeful) reading pleasure.

Which leads me to the point of this post. I've recently read two popular or well-known horror stories that I wanted to discuss. The first is probably not so well celebrated as it is known, among literary types anyway. It's Henry James's Turn of the Screw. This is a novella published in 1898. My wife (an English professor whose focus is on Victorian literature) recommended I read it. She said it was a good ghost story. I value my wife's opinion because I seldom disagree with her. However, I must disagree this time.

This story centers around a governess who is charged with overseeing the care of two young children, a brother named Miles and his sister, Flora. During the months spent together, the governess begins seeing a male and female apparition. She suspects these are former employees of her employer who were suspected of disreputable actions and that they have shown up to negatively influence the children. In addition, the governess must deal with Miles's expulsion from school for an action she does not know. This leads to the tension between her and the children as she tries to keep away the nefarious spirits.

To me, it sounded okay, like it might be a good creepy read. Boy, was I wrong! First, I learned that James's writing style was not to my liking. Evidently, he enjoys long, complex sentences, full of commas to break up whatever he is attempting to convey, and cram in as much information as possible, leaving me forgetting the concept the sentence was trying to deliver by the time I reached the end. (See what I did there? Did you follow what I was saying?) Imagine that same type of sentence repeated again and again with more difficult vocabulary interspersed and you'll get a sense for how Henry James writes. When I turned to my wife and remarked about the cumbersome sentences, she mentioned that later in his career, this trait worsened! Really? Worse?

Writing style aside, the story itself fell horribly short of being scary. Instead, nothing scary happened. I think this was more a psychological study of the governess's mental state than it was a horror tale. I won't go into much detail about what I think the author was trying to convey because I don't want to ruin it for anyone who still wants to read it. I will say, however, that you shouldn't go into this story expecting legitimate scares or creepiness. I found it rather boring and tedious to wade through the prose.

The second book I read is well known and quite popular among fans of horror. It is Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. If you visit any popular forum where people routinely discuss books and ask for a recommendation for the scariest book to read, you will be hard-pressed NOT to see this book mentioned; this was my experience anyway. I'd seen it mentioned so many times on various book forums. Eventually, I thought, Why haven't I read this yet? So, I pulled it off the shelf at Barnes & Noble and read the blurb from The New York Times Book Review, which stated, "Makes your blood chill and your scalp prickle...Shirley Jackson is the master of the haunted tale". How could I turn down such a recommendation?

First, I'd like to recommend to the NYT Book Review to drug test their employees more frequently. Whoever wrote that blurb doesn't know their ass from their elbow because this book is not scary in the least. It had two ho-hum moments, but nothing we haven't seen done bigger and better since this book was written (which was 1959). While Jackson's writing was easy to digest the story was devoid of anything horrific (unless you consider Dr. Montague's wife scary, which would be rightfully so). The characters seemed unrealistic and were very narcissistic and/or juvenile; I couldn't care less for any of them. I think this story deals with social interaction more than it does supernatural. Again, a big let down!

If I were to recommend two books from similar time periods that I think are superior to these, I would encourage you to read Robert Chambers The King in Yellow from 1895, which is a collection of short stories; the first few center around a forbidden two-act play that is supposed to drive its readers insane.

The second book I'd recommend is A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson, written in 1958. This is a much better rendition of the creepy psychological/supernatural thriller, in my opinion.

If you're into creepy, psychological horror, then may I humbly recommend my own books too? Soon, I will be releasing a couple of books heavy on these themes. Stay tuned to this blog or my Facebook page for details. If you'd like to recommend a book you feel is worthy of attention, please leave it in the comment section as I'm always eager to hear from readers. As always, thanks for dropping by!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Musings and Observations

I know I haven't posted anything new since December and I apologize. It's obvious to anyone who visits this blog on a (regular?) basis that keeping up the posts is one of my lower priorities. To be honest, my mind is usually focused more on developing new stories than it is trying to think of something to share here. I'm not saying that I don't care to share with readers via the blog. It's just difficult coming up with something that I think you may find useful/interesting here. I tend to be a private person. I don't think I'm all that interesting (well, that's not exactly true. I think I'm interesting in some ways, just not on a daily basis.) So, I try to share via the blog when I have a new release coming out or when something compels me to write a post. Sometimes, like now, I write a post out of guilt. Still, I hope you glean something useful/interesting from this.

There is something I feel like weighing in about, and that is the quality of self-published books. When I first began writing, self-publishing was considered taboo. It was the last avenue for desperate authors whose writing was considered not worth reading. Since then, the self-publishing revolution has kicked open the gates so any writer could reach readers. I think that's a good thing, because I could circumvent the old gatekeepers, whom I considered elitist. Now, I'm thinking it's also a bad thing, too. There has been a deluge of self-published books, both good and bad, to saturate the market. While there are diamonds in the rough, I think there is far too much rough to sift through in search of those diamonds. Reading is very subjective. What one reader loves, others hate and vice versa. So, it's a complex thing to simply dismiss someone's writing as trash. Sure, there is plenty of garbage out there, but I don't think we can simply dismiss a book because we don't like the subject matter and expect everyone to agree with us. Fans of those books just have different tastes than we do. However, when a book is rife with typos and grammatical errors, well, that's another thing altogether, and that's what bothers me the most.

Since the digital revolution in publishing, the choice to self-publish has been embraced by more and more writers. Some, like me, chose this route for a number of reasons: total creative control, higher royalties, ability to cross multiple genres, ability to write controversial subject matter, etc. Others have simply seen the opportunity to cash-in on no gatekeepers who once stopped them from reaching the masses. This latter group are the ones, in my opinion, who are responsible for the lingering stigma of poor quality that the self-publishing moniker still holds. This is a shame because the authors who actually take the time to edit there work into publishable quality and create beautiful, eye-catching covers are toiling amid a cesspool hoping to give readers the quality that they're used to getting from the traditionally published market. Meanwhile, for each one of these quality authors, about ten to twenty authors are completing their first draft and clicking the Easy Button to what they think is the road to riches.

I know some of these authors who publish what I consider to be crap. It infuriates me to know they are flooding the market with inferior writing. I'm not talking about the subject of their stories, but the mistakes that are in them. It seems to me that these writers are more interested in quantity over quality, and I don't think they care about the readers who legitimately complain about the inferior writing. I believe writers who subscribe to this philosophy want to cast the widest possible net, hoping to snare a larger amount of first-sales. They don't concern themselves with retaining an audience. In addition, I think these are probably the same writers who spam the hell out of the public when they release a new book. "Hey, look at the latest book I wrote. Get your copy today!" is something you hear from them every month or two. They have vast shelves on Amazon, B&N, and elsewhere. I'd even venture to wager that these "books" are less than 10,000 words and priced somewhere around $3 or $4 (the price you might pay for an actual novel--50,000+ words).

There are a few things that bother me about the self-publishing business, but the authors who prefer quantity (of books, not words) is what bugs me the most. They're the ones responsible for flooding the market with crap that readers have to sift through to find quality material. I'm not only a writer, but a reader, too. As such, this bothers me even more because when/if I get a self-published title, I'm already going into the story with low expectations. It's akin to the justice system, but in reverse. Instead of remaining innocent until proven guilty, I view a self-published title as dreadful until proven otherwise, which is why I read so few self-published stories. It shouldn't be this way, but this is what happens when barbarians storm the gates.

I am NOT one of these writers who prefer quantity over quality. Quite the opposite! I try to craft the best story I can. Each story goes through several iterations of editing before I hand it over to a few beta readers (at minimum, two). Once I receive their feedback and address any issues, I give it one more edit to make sure the story stands up to my expectations. If it doesn't, then I don't publish it until it does. I want to fill my virtual shelf, too, but I don't want to fill it with shit. Instead, I want to fill it with treasures (at least, what I consider to be treasures). I can only hope my readers see them as treasures, too. I know I won't please and dazzle everyone, but for those that I don't, I expect their negative reviews to center on the subject matter and not that the writing was horrible.

Soon, I will be publishing a murder mystery called Carniville (mentioned here and here). I'm excited to offer this story because it's my first murder mystery and I really enjoyed writing it. I've already received feedback from my two beta readers and made the necessary changes to strengthen the story. I'm awaiting proof copies to send to several more beta readers so I can gauge whether the story is strong enough to release. If it is, then it should hit the shelves near the end of this month or in early March. If mysteries are your thing, then I encourage you to keep an eye out for it.

If you've read this, I hope you're a reader I was able to please, dazzle, and/or entertain. If you've read one of my stories, do me a favor and leave a review on Amazon, B&N, or wherever you got the book. Feedback (of any kind) is always appreciated and lets me know what I'm doing right or what I need to fix. As always, thanks for stopping by!