1,000 Days

Not too long ago I passed the 1,000 day mark since publishing my first novel back in 2011. I thought I’d recap some of the finer points of this experience and where I think the next 1,000 days might take me.

I’m a better writer.

I’ve put in about a half-million words and I’m getting better at this whole fiction thing. I’ve read maybe a dozen books on the craft and I’ve received some great critique from beta readers and fellow writers (and occasionally reviews). I’m not where I’d like to be (will I ever be?), but I’m getting closer and each book (I think) is better than the last.

I spend most of my time writing now.

With all the research I had to do in the beginning on publishing to Kindle, marketing, book cover design, editing, starting a small business and more, I spent less time writing. With so much of that administrative legwork done, I’m spending upwards of 80% of my time creating & polishing new content. This is where I need to be if I want to build a backlist.

I stopped reading reviews.

I rarely got anything valuable from them as to how to better write my books. The problem is that every bad review seems to negate all the positive reviews (and my books tend to rate 4 stars or higher). I know it’s just me, but my skin isn’t really thick enough for it. I’ve since adopted Kathleen Hanna’s stance: You’re still going to get criticized, so you might as well do whatever the fuck you want. That’s exactly how I see it. I take feedback from those I trust to be honest, critical and supportive and fuck the rest. I sleep better and the work I produce is better for it.

Positive reviews are no different. As much as I love them, they don’t help me to be a better writer. They do, however, gauge reader satisfaction (which I’ll get to later).

I turned off the news.

A year and a half ago I just stopped watching and reading it. I haven’t looked back. Same with Facebook. I’m better for it today.

I track my sales monthly, not daily.

And sure as shit not intra-day. That made me crazy. I check sales rank a few times a month, mostly out of curiosity. I do not let it affect my attitude, confidence or creativity. I have a bunch of reporting that gets the monthly treatment, but I don’t spend much time analyzing it these days.

I’m working toward a five-year plan now.

I’m mostly foregoing marketing until I have a proper backlist. I’ll be finishing up my Badlands series and writing some more novels in the horror and thriller genres. Within five years I should have eight novels (at least), so I figure I can then shift some of my focus over to marketing. Until then I’m plugging away at the keys and writing new words. That’s actually been pretty good for me.

I don’t focus on other writers’ successes.

Not that I obsessed too much over it, but I rarely ever look at it these days. Too busy writing and focusing on my own work.

I’ve rolled with market changes.

The market has cooled since I started this back in 2011. The temporary sales growth was nice, but it’s not reality. I’ve come to terms with this and I’m just working that much harder to produce new content. It never really was about the money anyway.

I’ve learned that I’m just as much of a writer as anyone else.

I sit in a chair, by myself, and pour hour after hour into a manuscript, just like any other trad-pub mid-lister. We both go through editing, proofreading and critiquing. We both get our books sent out into the world with no advertising (aside from what we do ourselves). And like other mid-listers, I do it all while working a full-time job.

By foregoing traditional publishing, I’m not shortcutting anything. I do as much work as any other writer and by publishing myself I incur all the costs and take all the risks. Hell, I’m actually creating more work for myself.

So if you need a publisher to tell you the work you do is worthwhile, so be it. While reader reviews don’t help me as a writer, they do help me as a publisher to gauge satisfaction. If the readers are generally happy, then I’m doing it right. I don’t need a middleman for validation.

In conclusion…

A couple of years after the “Kindle Gold Rush” I’m still writing. I’m here to stay. Where will the next 1,000 days take me? A few more novels, another quarter million words and hopefully a thousand (or more) fans. It’s been a wild ride these past few years, that’s for sure. Now that much of the dust has settled, I’m digging in for the long haul and writing away (and having fun while I do it).

Let’s you and me catch back up again in 1,000 more days and see where it all went. Until then, I’m back to writing.


Two Quotes

Two quotes by Kathleen Hanna (formerly of Bikini Kill) that I find particularly fitting:

I just write what I want to write.


You’re still going to get criticized, so you might as well do whatever the fuck you want.

I think this pertains to any art, not just music. I also find that I’m heading  more toward this mentality the more I write and publish. Especially quote #2.

The Crossover Gene: Sneak Peek

Now that I’ve finished up the first draft of The Crossover Gene, I think it’s solid enough to put the first chapter out as a preview. Here it is, unedited and unproofread, for your reading pleasure!  🙂

The Crossover Gene Cover 100x160


Chapter One

Andy Davis squinted through a vodka haze as he waved to a pale girl in a white tank top behind the bar.

“Another,” he said with a drawn slur, trying to be heard above the loud music.

She flashed him a fake smile. “Sure thing, hon.”

She flipped over a shot glass and filled it with with rail vodka before sliding it toward him. “Four dollars.”

“Jesus. No wonder I drink at home.”

He handed her a five dollar bill and kept the change.

White Tank Top’s smile faltered.

Andy frowned. It’d taken her five full minutes to even notice him. Then she served two people in front of him. What did she want the tip for? Her deep cleavage?

He slammed the shot, recoiling at the burn as he snagged a glance at White Tank Top’s ass. His mind wandered until he had to remind himself that he’d never had a chance with her anyway, even before he stiffed her on the tip. He should have been going home to Jenny, but that ended months ago. The best he could hope for was to keep it up long enough to jerk off before passing out.

Some life.

Today’s shit-storm at work (and the primary reason for being drunk again on a Wednesday night) had been over claims processing quotas. They wanted more work, Andy did less. He got seven different kinds of shit over it. It would only be a matter of time before they tossed him out on his ass; then he’d be scrounging for rent again.

And, of course, for another fix.

The smack was a nasty little fucker. He’d kicked it a half-dozen times, only to fall off the wagon each time. Currently he was off the wagon and lying in the middle of the road. The vodka didn’t quite feed the hunger the way the heroin did, but it helped. Surely better than nothing.

He waved a hand in the air for another shot that he knew he’d regret. White Tank Top ignored him again.

Well, whatever. Fuck her then. He still had ten bucks in his wallet and that would buy him a twelve pack at the 7-Eleven. He could use that to stretch out the night’s buzz. Besides, the guy at the convenience store didn’t expect a tip just for doing his goddamn job.

Andy dismounted the bar stool, nearly losing his balance. He used the bar to steady himself before shooting one more look back at White Tank Top. She remained oblivious to his existence, her back toward him as she washed shot glasses.

Oh, that ass…

He knew he should just give up on women altogether, but it was an odd sort of torture to want rid of something he couldn’t live without. A lot like the drugs, when he thought about it.

He checked his pockets for his phone and wallet before stumbling toward the front door. On the way out he glanced at the bouncer, a guy he knew from high school.

Their eyes met.

No recognition at all.

Andy stumbled through the door and onto the sidewalk. Outside, the sweltering humidity of the night air threatened to suffocate him as sweat beads ran down his back. August was the worst in St. Louis.

He suddenly realized he had to piss. Begrudgingly he headed back to the bar.

The bouncer held up a hand. “No way, pal. You’re cut off.”

Andy glared. “But I have to piss.”

“Piss in the alley then.”

Andy thought of telling the guy he’d just piss in his eye instead, but thought better of it when he got a look at the bouncer’s arms. As big as Andy’s legs. No wonder he was a bouncer.

Grumbling, Andy sauntered off in search of a suitable alley in which to relieve himself. He turned a corner and stumbled into the dark and narrow corridor behind the buildings. Beneath his feet, large swatches of the original brick still showed where the asphalt had begun to crack and break away.

He walked a few dozen feet into the shadows to avoid detection. Public urination could get somebody listed as a sex offender if they weren’t careful. He didn’t need that shit on top of everything else. He found a dumpster and sidled up to it. A quick glance around revealed no onlookers. A strong odor of rotten eggs wafted from somewhere.

He unzipped and let go.

Sweet relief.

A voice behind him caused him to jump.

“Andrew Davis.”

Andy closed his eyes. Shit. The cops.

He zipped and turned around. Before him stood three men; two wearing Fedora hats and something resembling pinstriped zoot suits with the third dressed in casual street clothes. The two in suits looked as if they’d jumped straight out of an bizarre gangster movie.

“Andrew Davis,” the man on the left repeated. Tall, his face covered with a couple days’ worth of stubble, his accent sounded strange. Andy couldn’t place it.

The man on the far right spoke with the same strange accent. “Your posterity statement?” he said.

“What the hell’s going on here?” Andy said, struggling to concentrate through the vodka.

The man on the right spoke again. “A posterity statement. Do you wish to make one?”

Andy only stared, befuddled.

The man in the middle spoke. He had an American accent. “Looks like no statement, boys. Go ahead.”

“On your knees,” the tall man on the left said.

Andy shook his head. “Wait…what?”

The man on the right grabbed Andy by both shoulders, forcing him down on his knees.

“What the hell, man!” Andy slurred. “I don’t know who you guys are, but this isn’t funny anymore.” The sulphuric smell of rotten eggs reeked so badly that he thought he might vomit.

“Close your eyes, kid,” the man with the American accent said. “You don’t want to see this coming.”

Andy felt his balls constrict as the two large men produced revolvers that looked like miniature Gatling Guns. They pointed them at his face.

Andy closed his eyes. Tears began to well. This is how he would die: killed in a filthy alley with a bullet in his brain, put there for reasons he couldn’t understand.

He always thought it would be with a needle in his arm.

He kept his eyes closed and waited for the end.

Two shots rang out, back to back, followed by the thud of bodies striking the pavement.

“Get up,” the American said.

Andy slowly opened his eyes. Before him the man stood holding a 9mm pistol, the bodies of his comrades crumpled on the ground on either side, surrounded by growing pools of dark-red blood.

The man extended his hand. Andy could only stare.

“There’ll be more where these guys came from, I can guarantee that. Especially once they find out about all this.” He gestured toward the dead bodies. “I think you’ll want to come with me.”

Andy slowly extended his hand. The man pulled him to his feet.

“I’m Cliff. I’ll explain on the way.”

“The way to where?”

“Just come.”

As Cliff and Andy disappeared into the shadows of the alleyway, the bodies of the two dead men behind them began to smolder, quickly disintegrating into a gelatinous pool of brown sludge.

# # #

Stay tuned for more!

Five Questions: The Desolate

Old Farmhouse Stormy SkyIn an obvious attempt to generate some exposure for a book I’d like more people to read, I’m interviewing myself so that I can dig deeper into what the book is all about.

So, without further ado, I’ll start the questions.

1. What’s this book about?

Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Not really. 🙂 It’s about a guy who has some serious mental problems. After his divorce, he moves to a new town to escape his ex-wife and the problems he’s caused for himself. Everything seems to be going well until a series of murders occur and our protagonist finds himself in the middle of a situation from which he can’t run away. He finds his true nature in the process, but what he finds isn’t at all what he expected.

But on a higher level, on a more existential level, it’s about accepting who we are as people. You can’t change who you are by simply changing your surroundings. You have to start from within. You have to be honest with yourself. Scott (our protagonist) realizes this, but not soon enough. It’s also a story about perception of reality and how mental illness can alter that perception (thus, altering reality). It’s kind of a mind-bender, in that respect.

2. You say it’s a horror thriller. What does that mean?

Effectively that means it’s written in the style of a thriller (tightly-plotted and fast paced), but with clear horror overtones. Pretty much all my books are thriller-style in terms of prose, but tend to have very genre-specific overtones (post-apocalyptic, horror, even sci-fi).

3. Is this book for thriller readers or horror readers?

Definitely for horror readers. Straight thriller readers? Well, that depends. If some gore and darkness aren’t your thing, you’ll probably want to steer clear. The horror crowd should be fine with it. It’s also a bit of a murder mystery, so mystery fans with a stronger stomach might also enjoy it.

Oh, and there are four-letter words, so there’s your warning. Don’t even get me started on people who give 1-star reviews to horror novels for language. It’s a horror novel! What did you expect? If you’re squeamish about the word ‘fuck’ then don’t read my books. They’re not for you. I’d rather you buy someone else’s book and save me the bad review. I think most of the Christian and YA books are pretty clean, so those with fragile sensibilities might want to start there.

4. What was most rewarding for you about writing this book?

This book came from a premise I’d toyed with back in the late 1990s. That premise–then heavily steeped in the supernatural–died on the vine at around 20k words. The idea never really went away though, and always seemed wedged tightly in my subconscious. Dusting that idea off and making it a reality was incredibly rewarding, mostly because the finished book grew into something much more substantial and important than the original idea. I think it ended up having real substance in the end. I’m pretty proud of it.

5. Where can folks pick up a copy of the book?

On the Kindle, Nook and Kobo ereaders, as well as at most other major outlets. It’s also available from Amazon in paperback.

So there you have it, my first interview with myself. I know the format of this piece is a little silly, but my hope is that you know more about this book than you did before. Maybe you’ll even decide to add it to your summer reading list.