I’m at my hotel in New Orleans, and I’ve finally gotten a two-hour-or-so nap in after 24 hours awake. I wish I could say I’ve spent all those waking hours writing and finishing up on projects that have been haunting my calendar for far too long, but it was mostly spent preparing for a work trip, packing, driving, and hanging out at airports. But, all things considered, I made it here alive, and that’s a pretty cool consolation prize.
I’ll be in Louisiana all week on a business trip. Although I’m planning to cut back severely on travel in the coming few months, this leg of my travels has always been a favorite of mine. New Orleans has its own vibe, and the energy here is great if you can understand it and endure it long enough. Also, part of an upcoming novel of mine takes place in NOLA, so it’s not far from truth to call this trip “research.” I’m currently “researching” how many liquid hurricanes the human body can take.
Aside from coming up with titles for a few new projects (something I almost always postpone until the last minute), things have been going great on the writing side of things. I wrote part of a new bizarro story last night before departure, and I’ll probably wrap it this week along with a dark sci-fi/horror short story I intend to submit to a magazine.
I was at Scares That Care VIII last weekend, and I had an absolute blast. Although I didn’t have the energy to do much else other than sling books at my table and attend a few discussions, I loved the overall energy of being around so many other creative people. A highlight for me was being on a panel with author Kristopher Triana, one of the most creative names in splatterpunk, and reading a snippet of my 2018 book Birthday Girl in front of an audience. I was WAAAY overcaffeinated by that point in the day, so I was shaking visibly while reading, but the words came out well and the audience seemed to enjoy the chapter. Granted, I was also pretty nervous, since this is the first live reading I’d done in three years, and attendees included the man/myth/legend himself Ronald Kelly (my guest on an upcoming episode of The Family Fright Night Horror Podcast!)
The topic of story titles came up during a panel discussion, and I was surprised to hear from another author that he doesn’t even begin a story until he knows both the ending and the title. I certainly don’t write that way, but I’ve heard this from several authors during the recording of my podcast, and it’s always a surprise. I like hearing about the various methods employed by other writers, and sometimes trying things their way helps.
So, for now, the title of my bizarro horror story is “Toe Babies.” I’ll leave the premise to your imagination but, suffice to say, it’s a gross one 🙂
Until next time, keep smiling and keep on keeping on.
It’s been a good week. Although I didn’t accomplish my writing goal meant for my retreat (100 handwritten pages in 5 days; 20 pages per day), I got about 60% of my goal while also visiting family and having a great time in my hometown. Also, who needs goals when you’ve got home-cooked meals every night of the week? Love you, Dad!
My cousin’s wedding was yesterday. Although I wasn’t able to make the ceremony due to previously scheduled obligations, I was able to attend most of the reception, which was pretty fun. Admittedly, I was pretty damn cranky the entire time because A) I was tired as tired can be, and it showed, and B) I’m really not much for weddings, mostly because of social anxiety and the pressure to participate and dance. I love revelry, and I’m always happy for people who find love and get married, but I’m much more comfortable watching everyone else have fun and dance the night away while I just sit and enjoy a beer unnoticed. I don’t think I’m an introvert, but I definitely have introvert tendencies like that.
Author Ty Roth was at the wedding. He did a great interview with me this week for his blog, which you can find here. Ty is a family friend and an amazing writer, and I’m always grateful for the time he makes to teach me things I may not already know about the industry, being that he’s been through the ringer and back with publishers.
Yesterday morning I had my sales table set up at an art show just off State Route 53 in Lakeside Marblehead. Although I didn’t sell many books, I was surrounding by chickens, which made me smile like a little kid the whole time. I tried to catch one and pet it, and I’m happy to report it’s just as hard as the movie Rocky has led us to believe. Fast little creatures.
I also found out earlier this week that I’ll be in the same reading/Q&A block as author Kristopher Triana at Scares That Care VIII at the end of July. Triana is one of my favorite horror authors, and I got to hang out with him on my podcast recently. You can find his episode here. I’m VERY excited about this!
I started a Patreon page for The Family Fright Night Horror Podcast. This is a great way for listeners to get involved with the show while helping to offset hosting fees for the podcast (which add up FAST) and help me purchase updated equipment for better sound quality. If you’d like to check out the different reward tiers and share the page with friends who might also be interested in the show, click here.
Exciting stuff is happening with Moving Through and its sequel, Clive (working title). The hardback edition of Moving Through is coming out in October, and I’ll probably have one or two other things ready to share by New Year’s Eve.
It’s been a rather eventful last few weeks, and I’m happy to report everything’s starting to feel (knock on wood, please) balanced in my world. I still work two jobs; I work full-time from home and sporadically on the road, and I also work as a host/bartender at a local restaurant. When I’m not working, I’m almost always either reading a book I’ve agreed to review, prepping for upcoming episodes of The Family Fright Night Horror Podcast, or writing/editing. Fortunately, I have plenty of friends with similar situations, and therein lies the true value of attending horror conventions and other events where I get to meet other writers.
I attended The Living Dead Weekend in Monroeville, PA last weekend, which was a total blast. I hung out with my good friend Brent, met lots of horror celebrities, sold several copies of my books (unsurprisingly, my splatter novellaBirthday Girloutsold my YA coming-of-age novel Moving Through) and, more importantly, I got to network with a few great people as we held each others heads up throughout a grueling three days…which never looks difficult on paper but, man, smiling and being personable for several hours each day can be draining!
But someone asked me a question while I was there. They asked, “Why do you bother purchasing a table at cons if you don’t know for sure you’re even going to sell enough books to cover the cost? And then you have to factor in hotel stays…food…gasoline costs…”
Yeah, I know, it seems like sorta a mean question at first glance. But it’s also a fair questions. I’ve spoken with other authors about this very thing in the past, and they’ve openly admitted they ask themselves this question a lot, particularly during slow sales periods. What we’re doing is a job, and jobs are supposed to pay, so it stands to reason we’ll sometimes pause in our gratitude to take stock of whether or not we’re in the red financially.
If you’re an indie prose author like I am, and all these convention costs come out of your own pocket, you can start to feel like a bit of a whore when you’re pushing your product near the end of a show in hopes of selling enough to justify the cost of attending. I’ve done it; on the final day of conventions I typically knock 25% off the sticker price on my books in order to meet my sales goal. And we all ask each other, when the convention’s over, “Did you make back your table?” (i.e., ‘Did you sell enough books to cover what you spent to be here?’)
“Reality” can be a trigger word, I suppose. And this is the reality of being an indie author. Or, really, an indie anything.
As I told the person who asked the aforementioned question: I’m just starting out as an author. Pardon the cheap wordplay, but I really can’t afford to only worry about making money. I go to these conventions because, whether my table costs $100 or $500, it’s a way to get my book in front of people. I go to these conventions because, at the end of the day, indie authors need to stay visible any way they can, and handing out freebies like bookmarks or stickers is a valuable way of connecting with people who will hopefully give your work a chance someday, whether that day is tomorrow or twenty years from now. Most importantly, I go to these conventions because I get the type of education you really can’t put a price on: I get to meet people who have been doing this sort of thing for way longer than I’ve been doing it, and I get to learn from the experiences they share with me.
I’m a writer, but I’m also a learner. I often tell people that I love learning new things, and they seem to think I’m joking most of the time, but I’m being absolutely serious. If I’m at an airport waiting in line for my plane and someone starts talking to me about their work as a plumber, I love listening to them. Am I ever going to be a plumber? Probably not (never say never), but I get to learn some things from this sort of small talk that I may never have learned otherwise.
So, without belaboring the point any further, I’m only trying to say this: money is only part of the gig, and the learning experience is what you’re paying for when you’re just starting out.
If you’re lucky, someday your work will ignite an interest in a wider audience and all those times you didn’t “make back your table” will finally pay off. I’ve heard plenty of stories from indie authors who kept grinding for five years before they were able to cultivate a big enough audience to accurately project what they could expect to make at shows and signings.
Birthday Girl has been out since 2018 and it’s only just now starting to find its audience through conventions. Someone at a recent con actually came to my table and told me they bought that book at a show I did a few years ago called Dark X Fest, and that they’ve read it four times and can’t wait for the sequel.
THIS is all I really hope for when I book tables at cons. THIS is the real reward and the reason anyone who loves writing should put their work out there for the world to see. I’m a firm believer in the idea that monetary success from your passion is only begat from hard work and persistence.
So, fellow indies who may be reading this, here’s the part you can skip to and highlight: keep learning, keep fighting the good fight, and keep putting in those small efforts from day to day…efforts that–it may seem–no one but you notices or takes any interest in.