Writer’s Toolbox: The Notebook

by Renee Miller

We decided to challenge ourselves to step outside our usual writing aids, methods, tools, etc., and try something that’s either new, or that’s an often-recommended thing we usually don’t use. We’re going to try said aid/method/tool for 7 days and let you know how it works for us. Does that even make sense? Not really. Let’s move on.

I chose the notebook. Back in the day, like about ten years ago, I used a notebook all the time. I had several, actually, and wrote all of In the Bones, The Legend of Jackson Murphy, Bayou Baby, and my first ever novel that shall not be named here, in a notebook. By hand. Every single one of the 80,000+ words for each was scribbled onto paper before I typed it into our ancient, temperamental desktop computer. That’s about 400,000 words handwritten. Yikes.

And then I got a laptop and I said, screw this notebook shit. Never used one again aside from when I have ideas and I’m not at home (although, I often use my phone instead of pen and paper) or when I’m editing or outlining. However, I know a lot of writers who swear by using pen and paper in early stages, so I decided to give it another go.

Supplies: Notebook (I went with the one below, because they were 47 cents at Walmart), brand new pen

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It says “Mom’s Writing Shit” so that the hooligans don’t use it for their own writing.

Day 1:

This thing is so new and white. Just smell those crisp, clean pages. I LOVE that. Ugh. I don’t want to write in it. I must, though. Got this new pen and everything. Here goes.

First entry: Ideas I’ll never use.

Filled three pages.

Day 2:

Wrote a bit of a story in my nifty notebook. Four pages, front and back. It’s kind of okay. My hand hurts and I’m hungry. Because I don’t want to take up story pages, I made a few notes in the back of the notebook. I think this is going to get confusing.

Also, watched a documentary about haunted places. Mentioned the Cecil Hotel. So, this happened…

Day 3:

Lost the notebook. Edited a finished project instead. Stop judging.

Day 4:

New notebook. Tried to rewrite the shit I wrote in the first notebook, but I know I forgot shit. Spent two hours writing beginnings and endings. Forgot how fun that was. My hand hurts again and there’s a new season of Bones on Netflix. What? I have to let these new prompts marinate.

Day 5:

Lost my new pen. Why does writing in pencil bother me so much? Can’t find a pen in this house. Kids must eat them or something. The pencil is REALLY messing with my head. It’s just not right. Wrote a couple of chapters anyway, but I don’t like any of it. Might be the pencil, though, so I’ll sit on it.

Day 5, part two: Found a pen. Wrote over the pencil stuff. Is that OCD? I don’t know. I feel better about what I wrote now. It’s a comedic horror thing, with witchcraft, creatures, sex (of course) and lots of killing. I think it has potential. I need to research and do some outlining, but I like it.

Day 6:

Found the first notebook. I must’ve put it away, because I found it in the junk cupboard. No way anyone else in this house put it there, because they don’t put anything away. And I clearly used it at some point to make note of vet appointments for the cats…

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Anyway, I did forget a lot of stuff. Day 5’s idea about the witch comedy thing is in it, sort of. I just wrote “witches, comedy, horror.” Also, a grocery list.

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Hmm. Anyway, wrote some more in the second notebook, and I’m itching to get on the laptop and “properly” start this thing. Did some research instead. Time travel is cool. I should add that to the story. I made a note.

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Day 7:

Finally, one more day of writing with my poor, cramped hands and then I can get cracking on the keyboard. I made a feeble attempt at it today. Didn’t get very far. I did list all the names I’ve ever used in my stories/books. I’ve used a lot. Going to have to get creative soon, eh? Yeah. Sigh. Of course, minor character names are recyclable, so it’s not so dire. Right? Right?!

New list: Names I haven’t used.

Conclusion:

The notebook is handy, for ideas. It’s not so handy for someone who writes bits and pieces of story impulsively and rapidly, and it’s not at all organized. I lose things constantly, as we’ve seen. If I were to use a notebook regularly, I’d need several. One for ideas, one for general bullshit like character names, and one for each story I’m working on. I’d probably lose track of one or two, so I’d end up with at least a hundred notebooks lying around. That’s too much paper for this girl.

However, it really does get the creative juices flowing, so I think I’ll save it for those times when I feel like I’ve run out of shit to write.

Any unusual writing tools/aids/tricks you’ve heard of, but haven’t tried? Which ones have you tried and would recommend?

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The Great NYT Bestseller List Rip-Off

by C.M. Saunders

It is the dream of many would-be authors to get on the New York Times Bestseller list. It’s the kind of thing that can make or break entire careers. Keep that in mind when you consider the recent furor surrounding a little-known author called Lani Sarem, who allegedly bulk-bought her YA fantasy novel, “Handbook for Mortals” to the top of the famed New York Times bestseller list.

It shouldn’t happen, but it did, and the NYT were justifiably embarrassed about it. So much so, that they pulled the book from the list. Whether as a direct result of all this bad publicity, or just because it sucks, the book itself has been absolutely blasted by critics and reviewers. I thought the first order of business would be to find out more about the mysterious Lani Sarem who is either an exciting new name on the literary scene or a massive fraud.

In amongst all the name-dropping, on her social networks the self-styled rock n’ roll gypsy describes herself as a ‘writer and actress.’ She is indeed on IMBD, but the pinnacle of her acting achievements to date seems to be an uncredited role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Over on Twitter, where she has less than 1600 followers, her bio describes her as a ‘festival expert.’ Checking out the book on Amazon (where it has attained a 2-star rating) the first thing you see is a forward written by one ‘Skye Turner’ praising Sarem and her considerable talents. The suggestion is that Sarem wrote this about herself. There is an active writer using the name Skye Turner who churns out low-brow erotica, but that’s obviously a pseudonym and the only other Skye Turner my search turned up was an Australian heroin addict who died back in June. Stranger and stranger. Finally, $9.96 for the Kindle edition? Really? Maybe I’m wrong, but all this smells a bit fishy to me.

Anyway, enough of the supposition. Let’s move on to some facts. For the record, writers bulk-buying copies of their own book under the pretence of selling them at events and signings is nothing new. It’s common practice for most indie authors, and has the dual-purpose of propelling their book a few places up the Amazon charts. I’m not defending Sarem, but that’s the reality of the situation.

Something that bothered me much more than her being accused of buying bulk copies was learning that the NYT Bestseller lists are, ‘Based on sales figures and editorial judgement. It is thought the team compiles a list of books they believe to be top sellers and asks a confidential group of several thousand retailers to provide sales data on those titles with the option to write in other titles that are selling well.’ (Source: The Times)

Wut?

Wait a minute, so… Some folk who work for the New York Times GUESS which books they think are selling well, then use ‘judgement’ to add extra credit where due? That’s bullshit. Obviously, this ‘judgement’ will encourage them to lean toward their favourite writers, or books put out by more the prestigious publishing houses, or even the ones backed by the most generous PR departments who take influential journalists and critics to the nicest restaurants. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that is what’s happening.

Why not base the list on sales alone?

At the very least, the system they currently have in place where so much credence is given to subjective ‘judgement’ gives a biased representation of which books indeed head the charts, and makes it doubly hard for new writers (or old writers with smaller publishers) to penetrate the bubble. Imagine if the Premier League table was decided in the same way as the NYT Bestseller list. You would have a group of journalists, all with their own biases, arguing that the club they support (undoubtedly one of the big guns) is the best in the country. Less fashionable clubs like West Brom, Stoke City and Burnley wouldn’t stand a chance.

Regardless of what Laini Sarem did in order to achieve it, the fact remains that during a specific time period, her book sold more copies than any other. In fact, she sold over 18,000 that week, while the average figure for most books hitting the top spot is more like 5,000. But she has been vilified just because some stuffy industry bigwigs didn’t like the way she sold them.

Reading Habits

by C.M. Saunders

 

Like a good little writer, I read a lot. You might say obsessively. All things considered, I guess I read between 2-4 hours a day. I read widely, across a lot of platforms and topics, but mostly in the sport, lifestyle, travel and paranormal areas. These are the areas I usually work in, so being knowledgeable helps me follow trends and keep my finger on the pulse.

Newspapers

Yeah, I know they are going out of style, but I’m keeping the dream alive. For me, The Times is the best newspaper out there. I don’t agree with all their politics. In fact, I usually skip those sections. But they have excellent writers and the articles are usually not only newsworthy but informative and often a bit quirky. There’s something quintessentially British about The Times, and I love how it treads the line between broadsheet and tabloid. My ‘happy place’ is a quiet pub on a rainy afternoon, with a pint of craft ale and a copy of The Times.

If I can’t get a copy of The Times, the Guardian will do, or the Observer on a Sunday. I never get The Sunday times because it’s like a metre-squared fucking Argos catalogue. My tabloid of choice is The Sun. It gets a lot of bad press (ho ho!) but it serves a purpose and the sports pages are outstanding. Wales on Sunday and the Western Mail are my regional newspapers when I’m in Wales but I rarely buy them these days. The quality of local journalism has nosedived. It’s largely due to less people reading newspapers and consequently their resources taking a hit, but you could argue that one reason less people are reading newspapers is because the quality of the product isn’t what it used to be. It’s the chicken or the egg scenario. My most hated newspapers would be the Metro, because it reads like it was written by a bunch of 6-year old’s, and the Daily Mail, because that’s why.

Magazines

Ten years ago, there were eight or more different magazines I bought religiously every week or month, depending on their frequency. Sadly, most of them are gone now. Of the few that remain, the only one I subscribe to (and I have done for twenty years or so) is Fortean Times. I like the crazy. I also buy Classic Rock almost every month, and either GQ or Esquire. Both are slightly pretentious, but they are the closest thing remaining to FHM and Loaded, and they make decent toilet reading. I also like going to large newsagents and impulse buying whatever catches my eye. I grab Kerrang! Empire, Fighters Only and Mojo semi-regularly, along with the occasional travel title or hobbyist writing magazine. One day I woke up hungover, fully-clothed in my bed, covered in about £35 worth of mags. What a glorious day that was. When in London, I make sure I pick up whichever free mag is being distributed that day, Sport and Shortlist being pick of the bunch, with Escapism and Red Bulletin third and fourth.

Websites

I spend a lot of time surfing the net, but there aren’t many websites I use on a regular basis apart from Facebook and WordPress. Does Wiki count? How about Bet 365? Otherwise, MMA Fighting, Louder Than War a and BBC News are probably my most visited. I habitually used Wales Online a lot until recently. But this outlet is suffering in much the same way as the print products Media Wales oversees is. In an effort to maximise profits, the quality of reporting has declined to laughable levels and the site is literally clogged up with advertising. It often takes several minutes to load, and when it finally does you are inundated with pop-ups. Sometimes you have to participate in a survey before you can even read the article you clicked on. I understand they have to (try and) make a profit, but that’s just intrusive. Life’s too short.

Books

I try to read widely, both fiction and non-fiction. I love sports autobiographies, travelogues, and rock memoirs, along with a healthy dose of true crime and the occasional tale of survival-against-the-odds.

The fiction I read is almost exclusively in the horror genre (as broad as that is). If there are no ghosts or zombies, or at least a demented serial killer on the rampage, I get real bored real fast. I’ve never been the kind of person to read one book at a time, but only when I wrote this post did I realize how bad things have got. I really should show some more composure, but there are just so many books and so little time. At the moment, I have no less than seven on the go. For the interested, these are:

Physical copies:

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen

Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead, Neil Strauss

PDF’s on the PC:

DOA 3, various authors

Wild Talents, Charles Fort

And on the Kindle:

Sinister Scribblings, Matt Hickman

Unit 731, Craig Saunders

Battlefield, Amy Cross

 

 

 

 

13 of My Favorite Horror Films Based on Novels

by Frank E. Bittinger

 

There is nothing I enjoy more than reading a good book, unless it’s watching a good movie, and the best movies sometimes are adaptations of good books. So I decided I would compile a list of exactly that:

13 of My Favorite Horror Films Based on Novels

 

1) 81aLjz1NVULRosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)  (film)
Both the book and film are hauntingly stylish on a subdued grand scale. Perhaps my favorite film of all time. It’s fun to root for the bad guys when they are this fantastic. Beethoven’s Für Elise being played on the piano in the background, coming from another apartment somewhere in the Bram, only ups the creep factor. The phrase “Rosemary’s baby” has become part of the lexicon to describe a certain type of child.
 

 

 

 

 

2) 612btb6d1kylPsycho by Robert Bloch (1959)

Psycho (1960)

If you don’t know the name Norman Bates then you must have never had access to books, television, or films. This film can scare the hell out of you, even if you go into it telling yourself it’s a black comedy. Hitchcock reportedly bought the film rights for $10,000 because Bloch had no idea to whom he was selling them, and Hitch tried his best to keep the plot of the film a secret for as long as possible, including buying up copies of the book so people couldn’t read it and see the ending.
 

 

 

 

 

71tup2wmlzl3) The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (1957)

Village of the Damned (1960) (Film)

Village of the Damned (1995) (Film)

Knowing Cuckoo birds are notorious for destroying the eggs of other birds and replacing them with their own for the other birds to hatch and raise is a stunning parallel for the children in both the book and movies. The unknown origin of the children is one of the things that makes the storyline so successful.
 

 

 

 

 

51y2b2birj5cl4) Audrey Rose by Frank De Felitta (1975)

Audrey Rose (1977) (Film)

It’s a haunting story that sheds light on the possibility of previous existences. It also shows how far a parent will go in the name of love for a child.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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5) Haunted by James Herbert (1988)

Haunted (1995) (film)

Possibly my favorite haunted house book because it includes all the creepy ambiance you could ask for. The film version is a good adaptation—as a standalone film it would be very good—but it would have been much better had it not altered some extremely significant plot points from the novel. I won’t give spoilers, but they should have kept these plot points the same.

 

 

 

 

61fro6wv-al6) The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)

The Exorcist (1973) (Film)

Deeply disturbing and engrossing storyline. This, like Psycho had done, terrorized the audience in a whole new way. I still say Linda Blair was robbed of her Academy Award.
 

 

 

And

 

 

412brq7buo0lLegion by William Peter Blatty (1983)

The Exorcist III (1990)

This book and film are vastly underrated; both are well-done and stylishly dark, and the film contains a scene that makes me jump every time I watch it even though I know it’s coming. It’s creepy in a spectacular way.

 

 

 

 

 

 
41uv2kh62sl7) The Bad Seed by William March (1954)

The Bad Seed (1956) (Film)

Children can be damned creepy in horror films–Gage Creed in Pet Sematary is arguably the finest example of this—and the young actress who plays Rhoda does a bang-up job in this film. And, :Ike Rosemary’s Baby, the phrase Bad Seed has become a description for a certain type of child.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

51kjorxwool8) The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (1986)

Hellraiser (1987) (Film)

Utterly original, grossly terrifying, and you cannot tear your eyes from the page or the screen. This is the origin of the iconic horror figure the Cenobite Pinhead. Clive Barker has a way of uncovering nightmares and bringing them to life.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

51qbcihh4xl9) The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)

The Woman in Black (1989 British television film)

The Woman in Black (2012) (Film)
A dark, Gothic ghost story that captures your attention. The story unfolds in such a way you are on the edge of your seat, and the woman in black elicits both your sympathy and your terror as her secrets are revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31vdyeyuqxl10) Ghost Story by Peter Straub (1979)

Ghost Story (1981) (Film)

It is just what it promises: a ghost story. And, man, is it well-done. The book is well-written, the film is well-acted, and it’s an experience to enjoy on a winter’s night. It just goes to show you the past can come back to haunt you because it doesn’t have an expiration date…and sometimes revenge is better than Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 
356450811) Uneasy Freehold by Dorothy Macardie (1941)

The Uninvited (1944)  (Film)

Not a horrific ghost story, not an especially scary one, but significantly creepy and sometimes that’s all you need to have to enjoy an evening. Settle in and allow the creepiness to unfold.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

41xgd7qx6pl12) Thor by Wayne Smith (1992)

Bad Moon (1996) (Film)

The book is different from the film in that it tells the story from the German Shepherds point of view, a unique way to tell a story. The movie version met with unfavorable reviews, but I liked it and I’m not a werewolf type of guy.
 

 

 

 

 

 

61rf6gkjt-l-_sx319_bo1204203200_13) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

Disturbing. That’s the best way I can describe this story. Delightfully disturbing and this film version is the one I enjoy watching the most out of all the versions I’ve seen.

 

 

 

And maybe some time in the near future there will be a film version of my own Into the Mirror Black or Rhayven House!

Writer’s Block

by C.M. Saunders

For better or for worse (usually worse), I’m involved in a lot of groups on Facebook, Linked In and the like, where writers of varying descriptions flock together to discuss various aspects of ‘the craft.’ The one topic that crops up more than any other in these groups is writer’s block.

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            The thing is, and feel free to fight me on this if you want, but I don’t think writer’s block exists. It’s a myth perpetuated by hobbyists with delusions of grandeur. The kind of people who sit in the corners of cafes and coffee shops with expensive tablets and a skinny latte because ‘that’s where they do their best work.’

            You’ll find these pretenders haunting most establishments. The trendier the better. They’ll sit quietly, smoothing their beards thoughtfully, adjusting their beanies, and making a single hot beverage last three-and-a-half hours. A smug half-smirk will be tugging at the corners of their mouths, and if you listen carefully, you might be able to hear their inner thought process.

            I am a gifted individual. People envy me. I write, therefore I am. My words will change the world. But wait, no I don’t want to write any more. Right now I’d rather be checking the Ted Baker website to see if the new knitwear collection is available for pre-order yet. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Must be writer’s block. I’m a tortured artist! The angst! Oh, dear creative God’s, deliver me from this hell!

            I recently remarked to one of the many ‘WRITER’S BLOCK. AAARGH!” comments that clog up my newsfeed most days that, in my opinion, writer’s block is something that separates the pros from the pretenders. It didn’t go down very well with the supposed victim. I wasn’t being pretentious. The point I was trying to make is when faced with adversity, pros will find a way over, around, or through the obstacle preventing them achieving their goals. Whereas hobbyists, who would just as happily be doing something else anyway, will just give up.

            But here’s the rub. They don’t want to admit giving up so easily. That would show weakness, and a lack of integrity. So they pin the blame on something other than themselves instead. Something intangible and unquantifiable, some mysterious ailment that only the supremely gifted can suffer from.

            Writer’s block is a luxury professionals can’t afford. If they don’t write, they don’t eat and they get evicted. Simple. Have you ever heard of plumber’s block? Dentist’s block? Estate agent’s block? No? That’s because there’s no such thing. Sure, sometimes they have days where they don’t feel like going to work. Just like there are times when you don’t feel like doing the washing up, or changing the bed. That’s when you put your head down, grit your teeth, rise above it and get the job done.

            Just to be clear, I have no problem with people writing as a hobby. Quite the opposite, in fact. Generally speaking, I think the human race in general could benefit from reading and writing more. Then maybe a higher percentage of people would be able to spell and punctuate properly and we wouldn’t be such a nation of fucktards.

            One acquaintance of mine who complained of suffering from writer’s block said the only thing that alleviates the condition is playing video games, so he did that for three months. Three fucking months. Wait a minute, are you sure you wouldn’t just prefer playing video games? Because it sure seems that way. Incidentally, this writer was unpublished, and it’s easy to see why. I’m not knocking his ability. Who am I to judge? The guy might be a very good writer. Hell, he might even be the best writer who ever lived. The thing is we’ll probably never know, because when the chips are down, he boots up Halo. How many dentists out there do you think take three-month sabbaticals where they don’t work, they just play video games?

            I understand that maintaining writer’s block doesn’t exist might be a controversial view.  Message boards and chat forums, even the odd serious article or academic paper, argue otherwise. But what’s really happening here is people misdiagnosing the condition. Writer’s block is an excuse to give up when things get tough. Or, in most cases, an excuse to not do something you don’t even have to do in the first place. Some writers like to blame their inadequacies on things that are beyond their control. It makes them feel better about being fucking lazy.

            I want to leave you with this thought. Real writers write. They don’t sit around pissing and moaning about how hard it is. Those that do it on a regular basis know it’s hard. It’s not the exciting, romantic existence some people seem to think it is. If you’re not enjoying it, or you’re struggling with your latest case of writer’s block, the one that stops you from ever actually writing anything, go find something else to do. Don’t take to social media to bare your soul every ten minutes. It’s boring.

            If you want to be a professional, or at least acknowledged as such, act like one. Grow a backbone. Learn about sacrifice, resilience and endeavour. I’m sure Stephen King, Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum would love to kick back and spend three months at a time playing computer games, or watching Friends, or whatever the hell else floats their respective boats. But they don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t have written all those books.

            You see? Pros and pretenders.

Privately Publishing and Promoting Your Novel

By Frank E. Bittinger

            After you have written your manuscript and polished it to the best of your abilities, your attention turns to putting your novel out there for the public to read. Deciding to privately publish your written work, instead of or after you have submitted your manuscript to mainstream publishers, is arguably the second most important decision you will have to make in your professional writing career—the first being your decision to begin a writing career.

 Speaking as an author who has chosen this route, I know the effort that goes into researching private publishers, for there are literally dozens and perhaps hundreds out there from which to choose.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to select a publisher who can make your book available to Ingram Book Group, the largest wholesale distributor of books in the world, because most book stores order product from Ingram instead of from individual authors or publishers. If one of your goals is to make your book available to chain stores such as Borders or Barnes and Noble, it is imperative for your chosen publisher to have the capability to make your work available to Ingram. This also gets your foot in the door when approaching book stores about scheduling signings for your novel, but we will talk more about that later. Amazon also offers a nice publishing set up and your work will be available on their sites worldwide.

My second piece of advice is to select a publisher who can offer you the total package. Watch out for those who will offer you a list of services—such as cover design, ISBN assignment, etc—priced individually as extras even if they claim the basic publishing is free. Request publishing guides so you can gain a better understanding about what the publishers have to offer you. And look for deals. Many times publishers will have incentives for submitting your work by a certain date. For instance, if you submit your manuscript by such and such date, providing it is ready to be submitted, you may get a bigger discount on copies or a certain number of copies free. And do not be afraid to ask the hard questions such as “If I am paying to have my cover art designed, do I retain the copyright or will I have to pay a royalty to the artist if I choose to use the artwork on publicity posters or postcards printed in order to promote my book?” (A hint about cover art or editing: Local colleges and universities are full of students looking for projects as part of their class work or work experience; seek them out!)

Take your time and do the research, get the most for your time and effort. It will be worth it.

If you find one or more publishers who look good to you, remember you have the ability to go to the bookstore or library to check out books they have published, to see firsthand the quality of the merchandise. Look at the binding, the quality of print and the paper on which it is printed, the dust jacket, and any and all artwork on or in the book. You want your published work to be something of which you are proud, as well as a book that will hold up to more than one reading.

Once you have made your decision and your book is in the process of being published, the next step is planning your battle strategy for promoting your novel. It’s never too early to begin promoting, unless you have not yet written the book.

Local newspapers and magazines are a terrific way to get exposure. They are usually interested in artists living in the community and may be able to offer you an interview or an article. Radio stations are also a viable option. Remember, you can offer one or two autographed copies of your novel as “give-aways” to the above-mentioned to sweeten the deal.

Bookstores are always on the lookout to host author signing events. This is why it is imperative to have your book available to Ingram Book Group. Don’t be afraid to go to bookstores and introduce yourself. Tell the manager or assistant manager you are an author, take a copy of your book with you, and you are interested in scheduling local book signings. Ask if your book is available for the store to order. Persevere, for every no you get, you will get a yes.

Libraries are also places which host author signings and offer a great opportunity for promotion. In most communities, when an author donates a copy of his or her book to the library, the local paper or magazine will print an article and perhaps a photograph.

Find out if there are any book clubs in your area. A good source for this information is the library and the newspaper. You will often see blurbs in the paper or flyers in the library for these events. Make your offer attractive to the book club, tell them you are available to come to the club meeting to discuss your novel and to answer any questions. Trust me, readers discuss the books they read with family, friends, and other people they know. My experiences with book clubs have proven to be enriching and worthwhile.

Offer to give readings: this is where an author will read excerpts from his or her work at events. This is an excellent way to intrigue people who may be walking by or merely browsing. Select what you believe are some of the best scenes from your book, ones which will capture the attention or imagination of your audience.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer about promotion and publicity is to network, get out there and get to know people. Hand out bookmarks and flyers, mail postcards, and, yes, even give away a few copies of your novel. Word of mouth has proven to be the most effective method of advertising and it’s free in most cases. The more people you have talking about your book, the more publicity you will have.

You can’t sit back and wait for it to happen. Be active.

Get your book out there—get the buzz going.

Would the ‘Real’ Stephen King Please Stand Up?

 

By C.M. Saunders

 

 

stephen-king-cover-ftr

I don’t know if you’ve noticed (okay, people with actual social lives probably haven’t) but there’s been a storm brewing over on Amazon for some time now. It concerns the prolific writer Stephen King, who has sold somewhere in the region of 350 million books since his first novel Carrie came out way back in 1973, and another writer, also called Stephen King, who hasn’t sold quite that many.

The thing is, he’s sold a few. Probably a few thousand. Mainly to people who think they are buying books written by the other Stephen King. The famous one. Or, as they like to call him, the ‘real’ one. People are upset. Some call bullshit, others throw words like ‘fraud,’ ‘charlatan’ and ‘fake’ around. Some have even alluded to some kind of Amazon conspiracy geared to selling more books. As if the ‘real’ Stephen King didn’t sell enough for them as it is. The vast majority of these readers feel they have been duped and leave scathing reviews mostly centred around the fact that they didn’t receive what they thought they would be receiving, i.e. a book by the right Stephen King. Some sample review headlines include: Buyer Beware! NOT the real Stephen King! Beware of Imitation! Why Try and Fool the public?! Fake! Outright Lie! And my own personal favourite… Muck from a Loser!

I think it’s fair to say this guy is really suffering at the hands of the buying public. There have been masses of complaints, a lot of discussion, and it’s a hot topic on various forums and message boards. Even one on the ‘real’ Stephen King’s website, which was forced to issue a response. 

It’s also a common topic on fan sites, and personal blogs, where people, quite simply, be losing their shit…

Even other well-known writers are having their say. 

It probably doesn’t help that when you search Amazon for Stephen King books you get a selection from both blokes, and a lot of the ill-feeling seems to stem from the fact that Amazon ‘recommend’ books by both blokes to readers, based on their buying and search history. This begs the question, would you buy a Morris Minor just because it had a Rolls Royce badge on it? Of course you wouldn’t. Unless you either wanted a Morris Minor with a Rolls Royce badge on it, or are just dumb as fuck. Amazon as an organization are very strict when it comes to fraud and other such matters, and rightly so. You can bet after they received the first batch of angry complaints they investigated the issue thoroughly.

Now, here’s what I think happened…

Amazon approached the ‘fake’ Stephen King and demanded he prove his identity. And you know what? He did. Because his name really is Stephen King. It’s quite a common name, believe it or not.

I might be in the minority here, but I can’t help feeling a bit of sympathy for the guy. Imagine his delight when his book suddenly started selling by the proverbial truckload, then his dismay when he realised most, if not all, those people who bought his book did so accidentally. And then blamed him for their mistake. It’s hardly his fault he was given the same name as one of the greatest writers on the modern age. It might not even be his intention to try to ride the ‘real’ Stephen King’s coattails. We don’t know, because he hasn’t broken his silence yet. He’s probably in hiding because of all the people who want to string him up by his balls.

Of course, he might just be trying to make a fast buck. Maybe he doesn’t even like writing. Judging by most of the reviews, he isn’t very good at it. In which case he deserves everything he gets, but let’s err on the side of caution and go with ‘innocent until proven guilty.’

I can’t help thinking most of the fault lies with the people who allowed themselves to be ‘duped’ then kicked up a storm over it, probably because they are angry with themselves. I mean, any release by the ‘real’ Stephen King is big news. You hear about it all over the mainstream press. His books don’t just slip into the Kindle Store unannounced. And if people had enough common sense to do the most basic research before hitting the ‘click to buy’ button, none of this would have happened. How about checking the ‘real’ Stephen King’s website, or doing a quick Google search to see if there are any new releases?

The more savvy might note that the ‘fake’ Stephen King’s books aren’t put out by Simon & Schuster, the ‘real’ Stephen King’s publisher. Or, indeed, any publisher. On top of all that, the covers are amateurish. At least, they aren’t what you’d expect from a major publishing house. And any self-respecting ‘real’ Stephen King fan should be able to smell a rat just from reading the book description. To make it REALLY easy for the dullard consumer, Amazon even post a disclaimer next to fake’ Stephen King’s books.

Please Note: If you are looking for books by Stephen King, bestselling author of Doctor Sleep and The Shining, please visit his author page.

Yet, ‘fake’ Stephen King still has three books in the Amazon #10 at the time of writing. That’s more than the ‘real’ one.

Isn’t it ironic?

 

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Do you love a party?

 

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Happy Friday, Dolls! Here at Deviant Dolls we have two priorities: writing and readers. Keeping that in mind, we try to make sure we thank you, readers, for your support. For example, every Monday on our Facebook page, we give away freebies to a lucky reader. Of course, you have to like the page to be eligible for said freebies, but that’s easily done, right? Right.

And we’ve committed ourselves to connecting with you in whatever ways we can manage. This includes hosting regular virtual “release” parties. That sounds kind of kinky, eh? It’s not that kind of release. Some of us publish new books on a somewhat frequent basis, and others are simply too shy to make a lot of fuss when new titles are available. We also know you guys are too busy to get excited about every new release we offer.

So, we’re going to celebrate both our new books and you, lovely reader, every few months by drowning you in shits, giggles, and goodies. Sounds exciting, yes?

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Over the next few months (and during the past few months) your Deviant Dolls have been working hard to give you something new and exciting. For example, this summer, Christian Saunders released No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches, while Renee Miller released Mind Fuck, Steve Wetherell released the audio version of Shoot the Dead, and Katrina Monroe popped her self-publishing cherry with A Tale du Mort. In September, we look forward to the third installment of Renee’s Fangs and Fur Series, titled Dragons, Dicks, Sins and Scribes (she’s nuts), and Katrina will be releasing All Darling Children with Red Adept Publishing. And we’ve got more to come.

For now, look at this delicious cover…

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Keep an eye on the Deviant Blog, because we’ll also be doing a Christmas Blog Hop and virtual party to celebrate new fall/winter releases by dolls such as Tony Bertauski, and yeah, probably Renee too.

The first of these parties will be September 18th. You can get all the details on our event page on the Facebook. Goodies will include Deviant Doll titles, as well as a few new books from our Deviant friends. We’ll also be showering you with cool “fan” stuff from our store. You can check out some of that right here.

Can’t make it to the party? Don’t worry. We’ll still be giving away cool stuff every Monday, and we’ll offer a few goodies in the weeks leading up to The Big Day. Stay tuned.

 

 

Books You MUST Read Before You Die

 

Pretty dramatic with the titles, aren’t we?

Most people keep a bucket list of things they’d like to do before they die. It might be a literal list, or just something we keep changing and adding to in our heads. Some of us don’t really care what we do, our bucket list is about what we want to read. So, a few of the Dolls thought maybe you’d like some help on your reading bucket list. Here you go. Five books we think you MUST read before you die and why we think so.

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The Price of Salt

By Patricia Highsmith

Recommended by: Katrina Monroe

 

 

From the cover:

A chance encounter between two lonely women leads to a passionate romance in this lesbian cult classic. Therese, a struggling young sales clerk, and Carol, a homemaker in the midst of a bitter divorce, abandon their oppressive daily routines for the freedom of the open road, where their love can blossom. But their newly discovered bliss is shattered when Carol is forced to choose between her child and her lover.

Author Patricia Highsmith is best known for her psychological thrillers Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Originally published in 1952 under a pseudonym, The Price of Salt was heralded as “the novel of a love society forbids.” Highsmith’s sensitive treatment of fully realized characters who defy stereotypes about homosexuality marks a departure from previous lesbian pulp fiction. Erotic, eloquent, and suspenseful, this story offers an honest look at the necessity of being true to one’s nature. The book is also the basis of the acclaimed 2015 film Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

I avoid the “Gay and Lesbian” section of the bookstore like the plague. It’s mostly a black hole of straight-woman aimed erotica and stereotyped love stories. It’s hard, but not impossible, to find GOOD gay fiction. Many of you probably saw the movie “Carol” with Cate Blanchett and Noomi Rapace. EXCELLENT film. It was a book first, though, called THE PRICE OF SALT by Patricia Highsmith. Not only is it an accurate portrayal of lesbian relationships circa 1950, it transcends stereotypes of what a lesbian ought to look like, decades ahead of its time. It’s a quick read (I finished in an afternoon) and definitely a must for readers.

 

 

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A Prayer for Owen Meany

By John Irving

Recommended by: Renee Miller

 

From the cover:

Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend’s mother. Owen doesn’t believe in accidents; he believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul is both extraordinary and terrifying. At moments a comic, self-deluded victim, but in the end the principal, tragic actor in a divine plan, Owen Meany is the most heartbreaking hero John Irving has yet created.

“Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!” — A Prayer for Owen Meany

I read this book when I was in high school. We had “free choice” of any book in the library and were told to choose wisely, as our final assignment would be based on the book we decided to read. I’d like to say I had a reason for choosing it, but I can’t. I just picked the first cover that appealed to me. With the armadillo on the cover, I thought it looked weird, and I only had a few minutes before the bell would ring and we’d have to leave the library, so Owen Meany it was.

From the first words, “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice,” I loved this book, and I know this sounds cliché or weird even, but it changed high school me forever.  A Prayer for Owen Meany is perhaps one of the most perfectly written stories I’ve ever read. From pace to characterization to plot to dialogue; everything in this book is spot on. It is about faith, but not just in God. It’s about faith in yourself and the people close to you. It’s about feeling like an outcast, even if you’re surrounded by friends and family. For high school me, it was about learning to accept the weird inside of me, and knowing everyone, from the kindest to the meanest, has a place in the grand scheme of things. I needed this book when I read it, although I didn’t realize this until much later, so it’s kind of cool (and a little unnerving) that I stumbled across it when I did.

Later in my life, I found myself recalling certain passages at different times, and the words Irving writes hit their mark again. For example,

“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.”

It is rare to find a novel that can affect you no matter where you are in life. It’s also rare to find an author who can inspire you to be a better writer (or even a better person). With this book, Irving creates a timeless story that is relevant to the reader at any stage in life, no matter what pile of shit you’re trying to find your way out of.

 

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Sleeping Beauty Trilogy

By Anne Rice

Recommended by: Lacy Grand

 

From Amazon:

“Something very special . . . at once so light and yet so haunting.” -The Advocate

In the traditional folktale of “Sleeping Beauty,” the spell cast upon the lovely young princess and everyone in her castle can only be broken by the kiss of a Prince. It is an ancient story, one that originally emerged from and still deeply disturbs the mind’s unconscious. Now Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquelaure, retells the Beauty story and probes the unspoken implications of this lush, suggestive tale by exploring its undeniable connection to sexual desire. Here the Prince awakens Beauty, not with a kiss, but with sexual initiation. His reward for ending the hundred years of enchantment is Beauty’s complete and total enslavement to him . . .

 

Most people are afraid of erotic novels. Perhaps they believe such books are poorly written, or they contain elements that are distasteful or uncomfortable (if they’re written properly they do), or maybe, if they’re honest with themselves, they’re afraid they might like what they read.

If you’re new to erotica, please, for the love of God and whatever else you hold dear, do NOT begin with 50 Shades. Begin with master storyteller, Anne Rice. I spent my teen years obsessed with everything written by Anne Rice. The Vampire Chronicles, Lives of the Mayfair Witches, and in later years, I continued this obsession, with her Life of Christ novels, and eventually, my reading led me to her exquisitely written Beauty series.

With these books Rice shows the reader that erotica is not just about sex. Yes, the sexual elements are distinct. They’re graphic and (sometimes) disturbing, but she also skillfully weaves plot and characterization so that you’re not just reading to “get off.” You’re actually invested in the story and its players.

Yes, this is what erotica should be. It’s what any well written book should be. Happy reading!

 

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Wyrd Sisters

By Terry Pratchet

Recommended by Steve Wetherell

 

From the cover:

Terry Pratchett’s fantasy classic Wyrd Sisters, a novel in the Discworld series, is the story of Granny Weatherwax, the most highly regarded non-leader a coven of non-social witches could ever have.

Generally, these loners don’t get involved in anything, mush less royal intrigue. but then there are those times they can’t help it. As Granny Weatherwax is about to discover, though, it’s a lot harder to stir up trouble in the castle than some theatrical types would have you think. Even when you’ve got a few unexpected spells up your sleeve.

Granny Weatherwax teams with two other witches — Nanny Ogg and Margat Garlick – as an unlikely alliance to save a prince and restore him to the throne of Lancre, in a tale that borrows — or is it parodies — some of William Shakespeare’s best-loved works.

 

Everyone knows that Douglas Adams is the undisputed don of zany, snarky British comedy. Everyone, however, is wrong. It’s Terry Pratchett, a man who took the swords and sorcery genre, filtered it through a wryly critical brain, and created one of the most magnetic and strangely logical fantasy worlds in literary history; the Discworld. When people ask me which Discworld novel to start with, I usually just laugh and throw books at them until they retreat, but perhaps the safest place to start is where I did with Wyrd Sisters. The Discworld is a depository parallel universe where the rules that govern our stories are very real forces, so when the plot of a familiar Shakespeare play begins to unravel, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve guessed the ending. However, the witches in this world are no-nonsense, iron-willed matriarchs, unwilling to see themselves re-written as meddling old hags (even if they are.) Narrative satisfaction runs headlong into sheer bloody-mindedness in this hilarious and wonderfully written novel.

 

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The Dice Man

by Luke Rhinehart

Recommended by: C.M. Saunders

From Amazon:

Classic novel of the 70s, back in print.

The cult classic that can still change your life…Let the dice decide! This is the philosophy that changes the life of bored psychiatrist Luke Rhinehart―and in some ways changes the world as well. Because once you hand over your life to the dice, anything can happen. Entertaining, humorous, scary, shocking, subversive, The Dice Man is one of the cult bestsellers of our time.

 

When I was a mature student with a lot of free time on my hands, I read a book called The Dice Man. What grabbed me was the sub-head, ‘This book will change your life.’ In a nutshell, it tells the story of a psychiatrist (called Luke Rhinehart) who, feeling bored and unfulfilled with life, decides to stop making decisions. Instead, he rolls a dice, and lets fate decide which path he should take. As far as I remember, the rule of the ‘game’ is that you give yourself six options, one for each number on the dice. Five reasonably attractive things that you wouldn’t mind doing, and one thing that you don’t want to do.

On the surface, its a book about freedom, and fucking the system. I was so taken with the concept that I bought a one-way ticket to Spain and decided to live by the dice for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t let it decide anything important. Just things like which places I should visit and in what order, and when I got there which cafe I should I stop at and which hostel should I stay in. It was a liberating experience, but slightly unnerving. I wasn’t in control of my life anymore. Something else was, some higher force. Call it what you want; fate, destiny, the cosmic joker, God, whatever.

Luke Rhinehart is the pseudonym of George Cockroft, who has written numerous other books and essays, including several other ‘Dice’ books. The original, first published in 1971, has attained cult status, and been published in over 60 countries. In 2012 he pranked his own death, but in reality is still going strong at the age of 83. Throw a dice for him. You won’t regret it. Actually, you might regret t. But that’s part of the fun.

And there you have it. Got any recommendations for us? We’d love to add to our bucket lists, so please share.

 

 

Deviant Book Review: Babes in Gangland

 

 

 

 

 

BABES IN GANGLAND

By Bix Skahill

Babes in Gangland

 

Review by Katrina Monroe

 

 

From the cover:

No Woman Could Change His Ways, Only His Diaper…

When Marrowburg’s most fearsome gangster, Kid Phoenix, gets gunned down behind Stripping Through History (a titty bar that combines nudity with feminist history), there is a silver lining: he gets a second chance at life.

Coming back as Baby Jaydon, whose perpetual five o’clock shadow and penchant for swearing aren’t going to win him any friends on the playground, he’s adopted by a well-to-do family and goes to live in the suburbs with no memory of his former life. But after a chance run-in with his ex-henchman, Ram Bountybar, Baby Jaydon begins to recall fragments of his former underworld life. He forsakes his quiet existence of building blocks and afternoon naps to find out who put five slugs in his back behind Stripping Through History.

With the help of Ram and Kid’s former moll, Ruby Redd, who’s now a nun, Baby Jaydon goes on a dangerous journey through Marrowburg’s twisted underworld to find out who killed him. Blood and formula flow as Baby Jaydon, Ram, and Ruby Redd encounter onion and chive-scented mobsters, rabid ocelots, and the world’s angriest travel agent.

 

The best thing about bizarro fiction is the anticipation of the unexpected. Picking up a story like BABES IN GANGLAND, you know you’re going to get something insane and you just hope your psyche is malleable enough to take it in.

The tone is set right away—noirish without boxing itself into the genre. Bad guys and cops. Dames with bodies men kill to get a closer look at. But surrounding it all is an air of what-the-fuck. Is there such a thing as subtle bizarro? If not, Skahill might be its founder. Details like a tanning salon/hospital and a feminist strip joint that features ladies attempting to teach their patrons while grinding on them come at the reader from left and right, jarring the story just enough to knock the reader around a bit before getting on with the plot.

“It’s always a fucking surprise when I see my fucking reflection.”

“The darkness is scary and Berry Bear protects me from that shit.”

I’ve only read one other novel with a baby point of view and it wasn’t pretty. The tool can typically go one of two ways: badly, or less badly. But Skahill pulls it off with hilarious results. Baby Jaydon is the epitome of what parents, over-tired and frustrated, imagine their infants to be beneath all the goo-gooing and glazed smiles—tyrants who wouldn’t banish the thought of putting a bullet between your eyes if you don’t hurry up with that binky.

After his mom’s—er—untimely death, Baby Jaydon and his loyal henchman, Ram Bountybar, set off to seek revenge on the sonofabitch who twitched him. At a little less than a hundred and twenty pages, this story moves quickly, with a straightforward style that pushes the reader to keep up, lest she get left in the dust. Move too fast, though, and you’ll miss little details that send the bizarre of the story over the top.

And some of these details hide within the characters themselves. Each has a quirk that makes him memorable—French onion B.O., progeria, an I (heart) snatch tattoo. With few words, Skahill gives the reader just enough that you’re certain you know these people, though you’re scared to wonder what unfortunate bender introduced you to them in the first place.

BABES IN GANGLAND is one of those books that, once the last page is turned, the reader hugs her knees to her chest and rocks, gently, murmuring until the white coats come to pick her up. Strange, monumentally screwed up, but a pleasure to read.