Of Prose & Cons

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 novella Birthday Girl outsold 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!

Met Greg Nicotero (creator, The Walking Dead)
Me and R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III)
“Don’t Mess With Texas…or Bill Moseley!” (Otis, The Devil’s Rejects)

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?’)

A “Ted Talk” with actor Tony Todd (Candyman, Hatchet II)

“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.

Me and my AWESOME friends! They were gracious enough to help me set up for the weekend 🙂

“If You Have Ghosts…”

I got to see the band “Ghost” in concert last night! They’re a band I’ve been listening to for the past two years or so, and their live shows have always looked enjoyable to me. They have a “Gwar”-type setup, where they’re performing as characters with backstories and lore, and their music is a 70s/80s rock throwback.

The show was everything I hoped for! Tobias Forge, who plays every iteration of the lead singer (the character changes every album) was full of energy and wit, and he put on a great performance with his nameless ghouls.

My good friend DJ AudioFlesh went with me, and it was a great night of catching up, discussing ideas for our various projects, and enjoying a rocks how. If you’re not following AudioFlesh, you can find him HERE.

I posted a few videos to my Instagram account, so you should follow me there.

The official release date for Moving Through was Valentine’s Day, and support for the book has been overwhelmingly generous. Thank you all for helping promote the book and expressing your support. It means a lot to me, since writing is a lonely business.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to know another ambitious artist named Casee Allen, who’d go on to later become one of the best names in modern Country music. I’m very proud of all the success he’s found, and he deserves every bit of recognition he’s getting for his work. Casee’s a truly great dude, and he even took the time to mention my book on his Instagram story. I can’t say this enough: people from Coshocton, OH are there for you FOR LIFE, and they’re some of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet.

My friend Dubz made me a second book trailer for Moving Through that you can watch below. I’m very impressed by the work he did, and if you’re not following him on YouTube, you really should be–he’s going places.

The Coshocton Tribune also did a story on Moving Through. If you’d like to read the whole article, you can do so here.

I’ve got a few new things in the works that I’m excited to talk about soon…but I don’t want to say too much just yet. Better to wait and see if my ambition carries me through rather than promising more than I can deliver. If all goes according plan, however, you’ll be seeing a few new projects from me in 2022…and not all of them are books.

More news coming soon. Thank you all!

The Journey to “Moving Through”

WOW it’s a blizzard here in Northern Ohio! Most schools are closed today, as well as local businesses. Fortunately, my day job is remote, so I don’t even have to leave my kitchen table to get a good workday in.

I spent last night editing Parasitic Host. This book’s vastly different than Moving Through, and while I’d consider both novels “dark comedy” in some regards, this one is DARK dark. It falls more into the “new adult” category, since it takes place on a college campus. More details later…I don’t want to put the cart before the horse and talk too much about a book that’s still in development.

I’ve also been binge-watching the James Gunn’s Peacemaker on HBO. This is easily one of the best shows I’ve seen in the past few years, and John Cena really impresses me as an actor. While the title character is the show’s main attraction, the character Vigilante really steals the show. Also, he has a pretty cool last name, but I guess I’m biased.

With just a little under two weeks left until the release of Moving Through, it seems appropriate to give a little background on the book. I promise I’ll try not to be too self-indulgent.

I wrote the first draft of Moving Through fourteen years ago while I was a Senior at Coshocton High School. I’d written a few other books by that point, and I was keeping a nightly writing schedule and sending short stories out to various magazines and contests. I never got any of these short stories published, but I won a few statewide contests and got plenty of support from the CHS faculty and a few friends around school. I knew writing was what I wanted to do with my life, one way or another, and I experimented with a lot of different genres and styles. But Moving Through became more than just a story for me; this project dominated my attention, and I even lost nights of sleep working on early drafts.

Then I went to college, and Moving Through got put aside for the most part. I worked on projects for classes, partied hard most nights, and found a passion for Theater. I’d go months at a time without thinking of Moving Through, but every now and then the story would invade my dreams, and I’d end up returning to it.

I’ve revised the book many, many times. I changed characters, deleted whole sections, added and subtracted subplots, and even tried re-writing the story as a screenplay. I didn’t know if the book would ever go anywhere, since no matter how many times I rewrote it or found renewed vigor for completing it, I always ended up unsatisfied with it. I did, however, end up scoring a girlfriend after submitting the first chapter to a writing workshop, so that was pretty cool.

A decade went by, and I worked for online magazines, local newspapers, film crews, slaughterhouses, and traveling sales jobs. Time was flying by, and post-college blues hit hard. I still worked on my own projects most nights, but nothing felt inspiring anymore. So…I tried something different.

I wrote under a pseudonym, allowing me to experiment with EXTREMELY dark stories for a very niche audience. I published one of these novellas, and enjoyed the process of taking it to horror conventions, promoting it on radio shows, and gaining a bit of notoriety from the story. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you want to find it, I’m sure you’ll find a way. I gave the last existent paperback copies to be auctioned off at Ariescope Pictures’ Yorkiethon 6 last year, which raised money for dogs, so at least some good came out of the experiment.

Writing gross-out horror for an extremely limited audience was fun, and I’m still keeping up with writing those books, but I kept going back to Moving Through. The book was becoming my white whale.

Then I lost my younger brother to cancer in 2019, and everything came crashing down. Emotions I’d never experienced before took over my life, and the vivid nightmares and late-night hallucinations took me to some dark places.

My brother left me a video recording before he died. In that recording, he told me how proud he is of my writing and that he wants me to keep doing it.

Writing something that was truly satisfying was no longer just an option or a lifelong dream: it was a promise. I knew I had to finish Moving Through, once and for all finding the definitive version of the story and ditching the hundreds of pages of rewrites and hackneyed subplots that might’ve made the book more “mainstream.”

Grief and insecurity had always been a big part of Moving Through, and when I wrote the first draft all those years ago, I only knew a part of how bad those feelings could get. The story’s 100% fiction, and not a single character is based on any one person, but there’s an intimacy and truth to this final version that was lacking in earlier drafts. It was an exorcism; all my demons and worries were pulled out of my soul and trapped on the page.

If that all seems trite to you…okay. I get it. But I can honestly say the final product is everything I ever wanted the story to be, and even if it doesn’t connect with everyone who reads it, it’s the story I set out to tell fourteen years ago. We face tough times. We move through. We face even tougher times. We move through those, too. Life’s rarely easy, but there’s humor and hope even in the ocean-floor-lows. While I hesitate to call the book “mainstream,” and I doubt it will ever reach the levels of John Green or J.K. Rowling, I hope it helps someone out there who’s fighting their own demons, whatever they might be going through.

Rise up and rebel against the dark times. Smile in the face of dejection. If you look inside yourself and see a billboard reading “Give Up Hope,” DEFACE IT with a giant spray-painted “Fuck You!” Move through. You’re more resilient than you think.

“Moving Through” is #1 in Pre-orders!

Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered their Moving Through eBook, it’s now NUMBER ONE in its category! This was a great thing to wake up to, and although I’m certain the number will fluctuate as weeks pass, I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who took the time to pre-order! If you’re interested in getting a digital copy of Moving Through, click here. Every order helps!

In other writing-related news, I’m working on my fourth draft of Parasitic Host, my horror-comedy novel planned for later this year. I can’t say much about the story yet, but I’m excited to see what everyone thinks of this one. It’s in an entirely different category than Moving Through, leaning more toward “New Adult,” and it involves a monster with an identity crisis, unlikely college romances, and a multi-level marketing scheme. More on Parasitic Host later…

I have a radio interview with FM 99.3 WTNS tomorrow morning to talk about Moving Through. If you’d like to tune in and hear it live, I’m expecting to go on around 10 a.m. EST. You can check it out here. I’m especially excited about this interview because WTNS is known as “The Spirit of Coshocton,” where I grew up. The city of Coshocton was very influential on me as a writer, and for as small as the town is, it’s been home to successful Country artists, record-holding athletes, painters, and other writers. Gotta do my hometown proud!

I’ve been catching up on movies lately, since I need a break after working several hours a day at my day jobs and on my books. Tonight, I’m watching Pretty Boy, Marcel Walz’s follow-up to 2019’s Blind. Both movies were written by friend and fellow author Joe Knetter, who’s one of the kindest and most down-to-Earth dudes I’ve ever met, and also one of the funniest. I interviewed Joe for my show “CryptTeaze Family Fun Night” last year, and you can check out part one of the interview here.

Do you have any movie recommendations for me? Send ’em over!