Amazon wants to take some of the mystery out of predicting what books will sell with its new Kindle Scout publishing program, which lets readers vote on their favourite excerpts from unreleased books to determine what does (and what doesn’t) get published. Welcome to the court to common opinion, aspiring authors.
In exchange for their participation in the program, Kindle Scout users will get free book credits, based on their ability to successfully pick winners. Those who nominate books that eventually get published will get a free Kindle version of the e-book a full week before publication day.
Readers will determine which books rise to the top of the voting pool, but a dedicated Kindle Scout team will have the final say, choosing from a selection of the most popular titles after a 30-day open voting period to determine which ones get the final publication nod. The whole process…
Consumption means a lot to me, and it’s a bit of an ode to the sort of horror I love. It’s a gory, fatalistic creature feature, full of atmosphere and creepiness. I had a tremendous amount of fun writing it, and I hope that joy comes through in the story. I’ve already written about how this story came about, and it’s a huge departure from my debut work, Convergence.
I talked about all this with S. Elliot Brandis over the weekend, and he’ll be posting his interview with me over at his site. Keep an eye out for it soon. I think it’ll be a pretty good read, if I do say so myself.
Then, head over to your favorite eBook hustler and plunk down a mere 99 cents for a good old-fashioned Halloween treat.
At the tail end of May, my wife and I were watching a few episodes of Food Network’s CHOPPED. It had been a while since we’d last seen the show, and the opening credits had gotten a bit of a makeover in our absence. As the sequence ended, the camera flashed on a weird, tentacly creature that surprised us, and we weren’t sure if it was a squid or octopus, or what. I made a joke, something like, “In tonight’s basket: Cthulhu!”
It was one of those stupid off-handed comments, but for whatever reason an idea took root. It must have been a Thursday, and by that weekend I was off to the races, writing more than three thousands words each day. By Monday, after a feverish writing sprint, the first draft of the story was finished.
I hadn’t written anything quite like it in a while. When I explained the premise to my wife, her first reaction was “Isn’t that a bit out of your range?” I’ve only dabbled in horror, long ago, and my last serious effort was a bit of a non-starter, one that aborted early on. In fact, for a look at my first and only published horror story to date (until CONSUMPTION releases on Oct. 14, that is!), you’d have to go back a whole decade, to June 2004, when my short story CATECHISM was published in the magazine REVELATION by Fourth Horseman Press. Since then, I’ve been much more on the side of consumer than producer in the realm of horror. This story, though, was an ugly little baby, and I couldn’t turn away from it.
The initial concept was a bit of extreme cuisine by way of H.P. Lovecraft, a sort of satirical look at foodporn culture and Instagram dinners by way of a splatter-gore creature feature. Granted, I’m guilty of indulging in foodporn culture myself. I love food, and if it’s presented well enough I have no problem commemorating such a dish. The Food Network is my go-to station; CHOPPED, IRON CHEF AMERICA, even some of their home-cook turned celebrity shows are entertaining. I am an unabashed fan of Anthony Bourdain. And I think that NBC’s HANNIBAL is one of the best damn shows on television and is the perfect representation of culinary horror.
So naturally, I wanted to take this stuff to the point of excess and linger over some of the more disturbing intonations of it all. Originally, I was going to call the story YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT but that was a bit too on the nose for my tastes, and felt like more of a parody title than what I was going for. CONSUMPTION was more evocative to me, more mysterious, darker, and captured the sort of predatory feel of the piece itself.
My wife is right, though. It is a bit out of my wheelhouse. It’s more experimental that my previous science fiction novel, CONVERGENCE, but experimentation is one of the joys of writing and self-publishing. I can try whatever the hell I want and let readers decide how worthwhile it really is. There’s certainly a part of me that prefers being a writer as a whole, rather than pigeon-holed into a single category or type of writer. I want to dabble. I want to play with all kinds of ingredients and different flavors, if you will. On the other hand, I fully embrace the category of speculative fiction, which is broad and murky in its definition. All you need is a ‘what if.’ And CONSUMPTION began with one hell of a what if, one that, quite literally, consumed me for days on end.
Almost as soon as I finished writing it, I began editing. I carved away quite a bit, added new stuff, fleshed out the characters a little bit more, and amped up the gore. If the first draft was about just carving loose a horror story, then the second draft was a very deliberate attempt to make readers feel dirty by the end of it. By the end of the second draft, I felt that I had a tighter, better written piece, and that it was ready to go to a professional editor (and author herself) for the next round of work, and Carol Davis did a bang-up job fixing my mistakes.
For the cover design, I turned to Debbie at The Cover Collection for a custom job. While I was writing, I was also thinking about what sort of image would best represent CONSUMPTION. I very much wanted to see a kind of old-fashioned butcher’s chart, and came across this vintage diagram:
Instead of a pig, cow, or chicken, I wanted a nasty looking beastie. Debbie sent me a terrific stock image, and I asked for some specific alterations to bring it more in line with the creature of CONSUMPTION. The end result is a pretty close, neatly dissected representation, that was then grunged up a bit, and which focuses on the culinary themes of the story.
Hopefully you’re ready and willing to join me on this little adventure of food-gore. I hope you’re well fed, perhaps full of long pig, and well-satiated, yet ready for one more small morsel as the night deepens.
You can pre-order CONSUMPTION at Amazon, or check here for links to other fine eBook retailers where the book is available.
Today, I’m turning the blog over to Casey Peterson. His debut novel, Just Another Job, is on sale this month at Amazon for 99 cents. With this book, Casey has set out to tell a superhero story with a bit more depth and literary oomph, using not only some marvelous Marvel flair as inspiration, but some decidedly older works as well. Read on for Casey’s piece!
Life’s script takes Chris Byrne from a passive tech support role to an active world saver.
A simple drudging existence was on tap for Chris before an attempt at bravery places him as a sidekick for newly discovered superheroes.
With government backing, Chris awkwardly attempts to live up to the heroic image while tagging along on Super missions. Although he may look it and proves slightly capable, Chris knows he can’t keep up the part and decides to quit.
But walking away is the most daring performance in front of him. He stands to lose financial security for his family, a best friend that is also playing sidekick, and a new friend in the form of a Super. Then Chris sees the machinations behind it all.
Commercial Fiction with a Literary Bent
Thank you Michael for the opportunity to do this guest post.
I feel my title at the top best describes the genre I set out for with my first epublished book Just Another Job. Because as much fun as a superhero romp is, I never could entrench myself in the soap operas of Captain America and the X-Men for too long. I always needed something deeper for my brain to chew on.
Sure Steve Rogers throws a wicked fastball with that nigh-indestructible shield of his, but he’s also a bit of a cry baby. A man out of time eventually needs to get his head together and find an identity. When written well I can totally dig it. The mask gives him a purpose, without it he struggles. In the 1000 plus comics he’s appeared in, half give this identity crisis justice. The other half; a lot of pity parties that you don’t want to see from the first Avenger.
I wanted my protagonist to deal with a similar struggle, because, like I said earlier, when done well I relate. I also felt that that stoic, chiseled jaw figure rarely second guesses himself even without super soldier serum running through his veins. So I went for a common man, less self-assured than most, thrust into the spandex wearing world. He has little choice as the money a sidekick brings home is much nicer than a tech support provider. As cool as it is to stand next to real superheroes kicking ass, he can’t not help but wonder if there’s a safer option to gain a middle class existence.
But you can’t have a superhero story without some stoic, chiseled jaw figures running and jumping around doing amazing things for truth, justice, and the American way. Like the X-Men, I had to have a team because the dynamics and opportunities to play off each other were what drew me to comics as a kid. First with the classic 90s X-Men cartoon and then simultaneously the Marvel Masterpieces trading card line alongside the original comics. The X-Men I grew up with always had a strong female leading a group or the entire group in their fights against prejudice. My first real superhero had to be female; a mix of Storm’s natural elegance with the intense ferocity of Wolverine. The rest of the supporting cast was made up from the hundreds of other characters I’ve run across in my comic collection.
Of course, that’s only half of what I intended. Beneath the superhero surface, I wanted something more, and as grandiose as it may seem that meant using Shakespeare as inspiration. Like the X-Men, Shakespeare sunk his hooks in me at a young age. I remember getting strange looks in 6th grade as the only student to get a copy of Romeo and Juliet from the Scholastic book orders. I’d heard of this William Shakespeare guy and how great he supposedly was, so I had to give it a try.
The first thing to shock me was there was no happy ending for those star crossed lovers. Or for Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and Othello. Yet these tragedies spoke more truthfully to me about the world than any Michael Crichton or John Saul book I ran across. Which isn’t a very fair comparison but those were the only serious reads I had to put up against the Shakespeare juggernaut. After reading most of his plays, and many a few times over, I just don’t think I can pull away from the gravity of his work. All my writing will be influenced directly or indirectly by the true king of language.
For Just Another Job, the themes I wanted to delve into best mirrored the themes so masterfully explored in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Two worlds run into each other in Dream and my book in which the characters can only catch glimpses of. And having just part of the whole picture affects them considerably in their choices. The power of dreams and the unsure nature of sleep felt like the right fit for my narrative as well. When we think of power, we forget how much sleeping and dreaming dominate our lives. Whether you’re catching a quick nap in the afternoon or daydreaming at work, the two patiently wait to take over your consciousness. Of course the most predominant theme of Just Another Job and one of Shakespeare’s many works of genius, was the engrossment of the theater/entertainment in our lives. Even more than any other time in history we seek out the pleasure of entertainment. So much media from so many different platforms fills up our headspace. The presence of superheroes is just that; entertainment. They are a spectacle that grabs our attention immediately, whether good or bad or the many forms in-between. I doubt I came anywhere close to mining the deepest depths of this idea but that’s why there’s always a next book.
It Was All for Nothing comes out this December in which Shakespeare’s influence on me goes even further in shaping my work. It’s a bit of a slow build horror novel about a valedictorian who wishes to balance out all the hard work he put in for high school with a debauched summer that ends in a legend trip.
I’m a burgeoning writer with just one book under my belt and another one on it’s way for fall 2014. When I’m not dabbling in the written art, I’m teaching the art of the English language to junior high students. Beyond those two time consumers I also wile away the hours with Lego building sessions with my two boys and searching the recesses of Netflix for something usually scary with my wife.
Earlier this week, I signed up with BitLit to give my print readers the opportunity to obtain the digital copy of Convergence absolutely free.
Although Convergence is enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook program, there are a few limitations to it that I’m hoping BitLit will help correct while offering my readers extra flexibility in their eReader options.
Here’s the skinny on Matchbook – if you buy the paperback copy of Convergence at Amazon, and only at Amazon, you can get the Kindle edition for free. But, if you ask your local indie bookstore or Barnes & Noble to order you the print copy, you’re out of luck on taking advantage of Matchbook. Should you ever wish to have the eBook edition, on Kindle or any other platform, like Nook or Kobo, you would have to repurchase it.
Matchbook is an Amazon-exclusive program, and ties your print copy purchase to the Kindle edition eBook. That’s fine for a lot of people, myself included. But there’s plenty of readers out there who would be missing out on this advantage.
I played around with this app last month, and you can read my thoughts on it here. I am a big, big fan of bundling print and digital purchases. Marvel and DC Comics have been doing this for a while, and I applaud them for that. My big wish, particularly as a reader, is to see more publishers follow suit.
With BitLit, you don’t have to be an Amazon customer. You don’t have to be a Kindle user. If you want a digital copy of my book, and you already own the print edition, then, damn it, I want to give you that copy.
So here’s the skinny on BitLit – buy the paperback of Convergence anywhere you want. You can get it at Amazon. Buy it through Barnes & Noble. You can have a bookstore special order it for you. Whatever works. Frankly, I don’t care where you buy it, just so long as you get a copy. Then, you just put your name on the copyright page, scan the cover and your signature with the BitLit app, and within a few minutes you’ll have an e-mail with a DRM-free eBook edition of Convergence that you can read on whatever platform you want. You’ll get an ePub file for Nook or Kobo, a PDF to read it on your computer, or a mobi file for your Kindle, even if you didn’t buy the paperback at Amazon. Check out BitLit’s How It Works page for the step-by-step.
Forget all about that Matchbook exclusivity. It’s still available for anyone who wants it, and always will be. But for all those other readers, BitLit and I have got you covered now.
Welcome to another installment of Author Wednesday. Michael Patrick Hicks joins me today to talk about his first novel Convergence. This science fiction technothriller features Jonah Everitt as your everyday drug addict, memory thief, and killer. There’s bound to be an edge-of-your-seat story in the telling of his journey!
Hello Michael! Your book sounds exciting and chilling at the same time. Tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer before we delve into the plot of Convergence.When did you first discover your voice as a writer?
Probably in high school. I always dabbled with writing as a hobby, but in my senior year of high school–way back when now–I decided to get a little bit serious about it and took a creative writing course. I wasn’t quite prepared for the worlds it opened up for me, and I completely fell in love with the art. I’ve…