They Tore Down the Zombie Car Wash

That old chestnut “write what you know” is one that I adhere to in a very broad way. I know the story. I know the characters. Anything I don’t know, I can learn later. Then I’ll know it for next time.

However, sometimes I take that advice more literally and write what I actually know. Like working in customer service. And I frequently set stories in my hometown. Now, the people who live here would probably argue that there’s nothing about this small town in the middle of a cornfield that’s worth writing about, but to the people who don’t live here, it’s an exotic locale.

Only a handful of people that I know who also know this town actually read my stories. In most cases, my friends who don’t read my work don’t read it because I don’t write what they like to read (a far from exclusive club since strangers feel the same way). So, there are only a few people who can actually pick out the real locations I’ve used in stories.

One of those locations is the Zombie Car Wash.

It wasn’t always called that, though.

It was an actual car wash (that I always used despite the other two in town) that happened to be down the street from the grocery store. There were only three stalls, two vacuums, and the back lot was lined with trees. Despite being able to see the rear lot of the grocery store right across the street and the house next door, it felt weirdly secluded. It was a great spot. I loved it.

I loved it so much that I made it the opening scene in my short story “Another Deadly Weapon”, which I published in the short story collection Yearly. I didn’t think much about it at the time until one of my friends, Natalie, read the story and it ended up scarring her for life.

You see, if you parked on the east side of the grocery store parking lot, you could see the car wash that I used in the beginning of the story. So, whenever Natalie went to the grocery store and would see the car wash, she’d half-expect to see a zombie stumble out of one of the stalls over there. She couldn’t not think of the story when she was there.

A compliment, indeed.

And it also led to us calling it the Zombie Car Wash.

So imagine my heartbreak when I turned down the road to go to the grocery store one day and saw the stalls down, the vacuums gone, and the lot empty. A landmark gone. It wasn’t just my preferred place to rinse the rural off of my vehicle; it was also a standing reminder that once upon a time I actually wrote something that someone couldn’t get out of their head.

At least the Zombie Car Wash will live forever in “Another Deadly Weapon”. So, if you haven’t read it yet, do so. And if you have read it, read it again.

In loving memory.

Writing–September Projects

SeptemberFall is coming and for me that means a busy season. However, since I was (for once) smart enough to spend some time getting my ducks in their rows, I have a good idea of what I’m doing for the next three months, which is going to help tremendously.

This month I’m going to start revising the Zak Novella (yes, it still doesn’t have a title, shut up) that I wrote back in June or July, I can’t remember now and I’m too lazy to look. Point is that it has sat long enough and I’m ready to take a swipe at it.

The other big project for this month is designing the cover for Spirited in Spite and using the novella for a pre-order experiment. Now that Amazon offers it to us lowly self-publishers (Smashwords has for a while) and I’ve got more than a few titles floating around out there, I think this will be a good time for me to give this a try. There’ll be a whole informative post about it later (and probably another angsty post about it after that because I’m all too familiar with past data relating to me selling my work).

And in case I don’t have enough to do, I’m going to review and possibly revise/polish “Devil Temper”. It was a short story I wrote that I thought I might use for Yearly, but it didn’t end up really fitting in well. However, I think it might work out better for a new anthology that I’m working on.

I also want to start writing a new short story (that I’m eyeballing for a different anthology I’ve got in the works) called “The Seaweed Man”. I need more practice writing left-handed and I kind of want to write a little something new right now, so this will work out. It’ll be a nice brain-break from revising.

Because I’m doing more of that next month.

But that’s next month.

Writing–Taking Care of Business (Sort Of)

Yearly special editionI was supposed to spend this month taking care of the business end of my writing. That’s where my energy was supposed to be focused. Organizing all of my projects and my schedule and trying to figure out how to sell more books, most notably, how to sell the Yearly Special Edition.

Well, I managed part of that.

My projects are organized. I have a good idea how the next few months are going to play out schedule-wise.

But I’m really no closer to figuring out a selling plan than I was at the beginning of the month.

Here’s the deal.

I think I have a good enough position in the Internet world to throw out links to my ebooks. It costs me nothing and I don’t do it enough to annoy people or turn them off. If nothing comes from my tweets/posts, then I really didn’t waste anything. It’s easy and comfortable and guaranteed.

However, I have no position in the Real world and not enough position in the Internet world to try to sell a physical book. It’s easy to ask people to spend a buck or two on my words. It’s a lot harder for me to ask people to spend 10 or 12 bucks because I’m nobody. How can I say I’m worth it?

Because of this uncomfortable uncertainty I don’t want to make the monetary investment it would take for me to sell those books in the Real world. It’s available online and I could do the same ol’ link-and-leave-it maneuver, but there’s a bit of ego that really would like to shill this thing in a hands-on way. There’s a bigger bit of ego that would like to actually sign these books and give a few away as part of a contest that drums up readers and such.

There’s a bigger bit of practical sense that says I will lose my ass doing this. This bigger bit of practical sense points out that I’ve never been a good salesman, that I’m not exactly popular, that I’ve got no place to store unsold books, and that my credit card would probably be happier if I didn’t buy books I couldn’t sell.

I really envy people who can do this sort of thing. That can make this kind of investment and then pull it off. I just don’t have the skills for that, which hurts like road rash on your ass in the self-publishing world. Doesn’t look good to agents/publishers either when nowadays getting published means you do most of your own marketing.

I guess I’ll stick to what I know for now until I get a sign that I’m ready to scooch further out on the selling limb.

At least my credit card will appreciate it.

Writing–August Projects

sunI’ve decided to take a slightly different route with my projects this month.

I’m still feeling a bit burnt out on the whole revising thing. I looked at my list of projects that are still on the editing block and went, “I don’t feel like it”. And though I got a great rush from writing the Zak novella, I really don’t feel like it’ll be a good idea to spend another month working on something new, especially when I don’t think I have anything that in my mind is ready to be put down on paper. I don’t feel like spending a month struggling to get a first draft down just because I need something to do.

So I’ve decided to make August the month that I focus on business and organization. There are a couple of little writing things that I’m going to do so it’s not like I’m totally slacking (“She’s Not Here Anymore” needs to be polished and there’s an idea that’s been gnawing away at my brain that I want to get out and into a notebook before I lose any of the fun bits) and there’s nothing that says my revision burn out won’t become a flame before the month is out and I pick a project to work on. But I think my main goal this month needs to be a little bit to the left of writing.

The special edition of Yearly is currently available on Lulu. If it passes all of the distribution muster, it probably won’t hit any other distributor (Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, etc.) until September at least. I feel like I should use this as an opportunity to generate some sales and interest. When I did my first print anthology, I pretty much did nothing outside humble suggestions to buy it (and that got me to a place known as Less Than Nowhere).

But the difference with Yearly is that it is selling as an ebook. I’m wondering if I could get bold and offer the opportunity to get autographed copies (my ego!) or maybe even hold some kind of a contest to win copies. Something. Anything. I really need to work on this part of the business, the drumming up business part of the business. I have something that people are interested in. I should probably capitalize on it.

I’m also feeling a bit disorganized. I’ve got one more project going to the e-presses this year (Spirited in Spite is coming out in October! And it needs a cover still, but whatever) and I feel like I need to start lining up things for next year. I’d like to keep the same sort of publishing schedule, putting out two or three projects. I need to figure out what’s going to go out and when so I know how to really focus my project energy.

It sounds easier than it is considering this year I was so sure two of the projects I was going to publish this year aren’t even ready yet.

I think this month is going to feel weird because I won’t be so focused on working on the individual projects, but it’ll still be productive nonetheless.

Writing–Back Into Print

Yearly special editionThe very first self-published thing I did was print. There was something very exciting about holding a physical book, even if it was self-published. It was a real thing with weight and dimension that contained my words.

And then it didn’t sell and the luster faded and I decided that eBooks were they way to go. They were easier to format, with fewer distributing requirements, and they were cheaper. They didn’t cost me anything to do whereas the actual books required me to buy a proof copy and verify everything was golden if I wanted wider distribution. As cheap as it sounds, I didn’t always have the money to do that.

However, when I realized that Yearly was selling well as an eBook and it wasn’t a fluke that it was selling well (by selling well I mean relative to the meager sales of my other works, not like selling well I can buy a yacht), I started thinking about print again. I wondered if a physical copy would sell as well as the digital one.

I think I already know the answer to this.


There’s actually something egotistical about print copy. I can SIGN a print copy. I can scribble my name on the inside page with some not-nearly-clever-as-I-want dedication. I can actually physically hold this thing as I look at someone with crazy Gloria Swanson eyes and say, “Have you read my boooook?”

There’s also something about the physical form of a book that pushes me to be more of a salesman. Let’s face it, as an indie author, it’s just me trying to hock my cheesy wares out here. And I’m not very insistent about it. I’m very uncomfortable with forcing a product. I was a shitty up-saler in retail and the fast food industry. Nobody got the credit card or the extra nachos for sixty-nine cents. But if I’m going to build a fanbase (and more and more that’s what agents and publishers want to see, that you’ve already got people ready and waiting to buy your shit), then I need to learn to be a little more involved, I suppose.

The eBook of Yearly sells itself.

The special edition print version is going to have to be sold by me.

So watch this space for details.

Writing–July Projects

Rainbow paperIt’s official. I am burned out on revising.

This revision/rewrite of The Timeless Man has been most successful. I think I’ve fixed most if not all of the major story problems that were plaguing it. It’s not nearly as boring now! Everything in it now has a purpose. The only thing left hanging right now is the ending. It needs to be changed, yet be the same, if that makes any sense at all. Don’t worry if it doesn’t. I’m not exactly sure how to work that either.

But since I’ve had my revising, I’m going to take a step back from that and focus some energy elsewhere.

The read of (Vampires) Made in America continues (I got a late start on it last month and I measure out the reading so I fully digest what I’m I’m dealing with). The ideas I had for fixes going into the reading are sort of not going to happen at all. It seems that the first draft was a better than I remembered it being, so far story-wise. There are some changes that need to be made, but they’re not nearly as big as I thought they’d be.

I’ll be honest with you. When I got to the end of the first chapter, the last line made me laugh out loud. Now that doesn’t mean I’m fucking brilliant or anything, but it did signal to me that maybe this story wouldn’t be so bad after all.

To counteract my revising fatigue, I’m going to write something new. Sure that seems counter-intuitive since I’ve already got a huge list of projects that need revising and duh, stupid, why are you adding to it? But I need to flex my first draft muscles more often than just in November. The idea is for a longer short story, possibly novella, something that I’ve been kicking around in my brain for a while. I think it’ll be nice to just take the month and play in that world for a while.

And finally, I’ve decided to journey back into print, at least for a while. I’m going to put together a special print edition of Yearly featuring Gone Missing. I may throw in the first part of Night of the Nothing Man, just to see if I can’t drum up some interest in it. If this project goes well, I might look into giving other projects the same type of treatment, most notably A Tale of Two Lady Killers, since it is a novel. It’s going to have sell a more than a few more copies before I commit to that, though.

I’m really looking forward to shaking things up in July. My brains need the break.

Writing–I Think I Got a Hit

YearlySo, Yearly has been selling pretty well, much to my surprise.

By selling well, I mean that it sold an average of a copy a day last month (the final count was 33). That’s pitiful if you’re someone else, but that’s fantastic if you’re me. Thirty copies of one title in a month is more that I’ve sold of everything else in over a year. I’ve sold over 60 copies of Yearly since its release in February. And things are already looking good for this month, too. If I could hit 100 total by June, that would be like meeting a goal I didn’t think I could even set. Sad, but that’s just how my writing career has gone so far. Slow build.

And by surprising I mean that I didn’t expect Yearly to do much of anything. It’s a short story anthology. I didn’t expect it to really hit on anyone’s radar. And yet, it seems someone finds it nearly every day. I’m not sure if this is the power of word of mouth or keyword searches or what, but I like it.

I think it also automatically sets me up for disappointment.

My own publishing schedule had me putting out something new next month. There’s almost always a surge of interest right after I publish something (except for Night of the Nothing Man, that’s just hated) because it’s new and people want to see if it’s worth the time and money. Inevitably, after that first week, interest disappears.

At least that’s the norm.

Right now, Yearly is a hit, but it’s also an anomaly. I’m not sure that the next thing I do will do so well. I may be a one-hit wonder instead of a chart topper.

I hope I can handle that.

Writing–Bestseller, Baby

Rainbow paperI am not what you’d call a bestseller in the strictest sense of the word. You wouldn’t even call me that in the very loosest sense of the word. If you add up all of the copies I’ve sold, it wouldn’t come even close to one hundred. It wouldn’t even break fifty.

I am definitely not a bestseller.

But, I feel like one.

See, I published Yearly at the beginning of February. I sold  twelve copies that month. Twelve! It took me months to see that many copies of Gone Missing. I haven’t even come close to that with anything else (Night of the Nothing Man has sold a grand total of three; Cheaters and Chupacabras has sold 8). So, to me, selling twelve of one thing in one month is huge.

And then last month, Yearly sold nineteen. Nineteen! Amazing!

It’s hard to explain to people familiar with the sales of Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, and the like how successful selling less than twenty copies of something can feel. But when you’ve gone your career until this point selling mostly nothing, when selling four copies of all total of every thing you’ve published in one month feels huge, selling nineteen of ONE thing in one month feels like some kind of arrival.

Okay, maybe that sounds overly dramatic, but like I said, it’s hard to explain.

I’m not the best self-promoter. I don’t have a very strong word-of-mouth existence. I’m not exactly clamored for. I usually know everyone who buys my stuff. when I hit the point that I don’t know who bought it, when I hit the point that it’s possible that strangers might be buying my work, I can’t help but get excited. It makes me feel like a real writer. It makes me feel validated.

It makes me want to write more.

Writing–December Projects

Snow Cat

December is always a rough month writing-wise for me. Between the NaNoWriMo hangover (which, I admit, can’t be bad this year since I was done in two weeks) and the holidays and the holiday obligations, writing seems even more of a chore than it should be. In order to combat that, the writing-goals for December get toned waaaaay down.

This month I only have a few goals which shouldn’t tax my brain and my patience too much.

I need to get the cover art done for the Ivy novella, which finally has a name! I’m calling it Cheaters and Chupacabras, which is a crappy name, but it’ll do, pig, it’ll do. And once I get the cover art done, I will be publishing it so you can find out if the novella itself is less-crappy than the title (I think it is).

I also need to get the cover art for my next anthology, Yearly, done. I’d like to have that published in January. And don’t let the title fool you; it’s not a yearly thing. It’s just the way the stories ended up representing months and I decided to capitalize on it.

And finally, I’m revising “She’s Not Here Anymore”. It was originally written as a novella, but after reading it again, I’ve decided to rewrite it as a short story. I’m taking out certain elements of the story because it ended up not being what I wanted and the new way will be better. I’m giving myself the whole month to do it because I’m not exactly enthused about it, but I think it needs to be done. Once I get the rewrites finished, I think I’ll be happier with the story and therefore, a little more inclined to work on it.

So that’s what I’ll be doing in December. Enough to keep me productive, but not too much to make me feel like an utter failure.