10 Days of Halloween Specials – Day 9: Fantastic Fiction Decoded

This one’s specifically for all those who dream of writing for a living…



Learn more here!

Release Day for The Kensei

My good friend Jon Merz returns to bookstore shelves today with a fabulous new installment in his popular Lawson Vampire series with a trade paperback edition of The Kensei!

Meet Lawson.

A cynical, wise-cracking vampire charged with protecting the Balance between vampires and humans, he is part cop, part spy, and part commando — James Bond with fangs. Lawson mixes shrewd cunning with unmatched lethality to get his job done. He tries his best to dismantle conspiracies, dispatch bad guys, and live long enough to get home.

In The Kensei, a battle-weary Lawson heads to Japan for a little rest and some advanced ninja training. But he no sooner steps off the plane than lands in the midst of a Yakuza turf war orchestrated by a shadowy figure known as the Kensei. With the help of Talya, a former KGB-assassin, Lawson must put a stop to the Kensei’s organ trafficking networks, prevent the creation of an army of vampire-human hybrids, and save his own skin in the process.

An urban fantasy novel full of cunning villians, wise-cracking heroes, and realistic martial arts action, The Kensei is sure to please.  Grab your copy now before they sell out!

Theme Week at Genreality.net

It’s Tuesday which means its my day to post over at Genreality.net.   This week are doing a themed subject and all of us are discussing how we landed our first sale as a professional writer.  If you want to hear what Bass Ale, shoeboxes, and the hand of fate have to do with my first sale, drop on by.  And while you’re there, check out Alison Kent’s story about how she received the news of her first sale while filming a television show – complete with video!

The Living – The World’s First…Wovel?

I met Kealan Patrick Burke a few years ago at some writer’s convention or another.  He’s an interesting guy and a more than decent writer.  I’ve enjoyed a number of his works, including The Turtle Boy, Vessels, Taverns of the Dead, and Quietly Now.

Like me, Kealan is always looking for new ways to get his work in front of a wider audience and this time he’s come up with an intriguing concept.  In partnership with Underland Press, Kealan is writing a wovel.

Yes, you heard me.  A wovel.

What’s that?  What the heck is a wovel?  Well, everyone knows that a wovel is a…well it’s…um…

What the heck is a wovel?  Turns out that a wovel is a “web novel” according to the publisher.  Here’s what they have to say about it:

It is the first of its kind. The author writes it. The readers vote on it. Here’s how it works:

Every week, the author posts an installment. Installment length hits the sweet-spot of online reading—long enough to get interested, short enough to read in the cubicle at work. At the end of every installment, the author writes in a plot branch point. Does the heroine kill her lover? Will the zombies catch the soldier? Is the box empty, or is it filled with bees?


On Monday, the post goes up. Voting is open through Thursday. The author writes Thursday and Friday. The editors edit Friday and Saturday. The post goes back up on Monday. Part literature, part exquisite corpse. The pace of print journalism, the imagination of fiction, the spark of reader participation.

Like I said, an interesting concept and in the hands of Kealan, I’m sure it will be an interesting read as well. I’ve just discovered the project, so I’m going back and reading chapter one before catching up with this week’s post, chapter two.

Come on and join me…

Helping a fellow writer – James Reasoner

from the ITW:

Longtime Western writer and Western Writers of America member James Reasoner and wife Livia lost their house and studio, and all their belongings, in a fire earlier this week. They’re OK, as are their dogs and children, but got out with only their clothes they were wearing. Books, pulps, comics, everything else, gone. “This is totally overwhelming,” James says.

To help the family, Western Writers of America and Kensington Books have agreed to make sizable contributions and ask anyone who would also like to contribute to send cash donations to the WWA Executive Director’s office in Albuquerque, N.M. Make the check out to Western Writers of America and put in the memo that the money is for the James Reasoner Emergency Fund.

Checks should be mailed to:
MSC06 3770
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Since James and Livia also lost their sizable library, donations are also being sought to help restock their bookcases whenever they have a new home. Kim Lionetti, Livia’s agent at BookEnds, has generously agreed to accept any BOOK donations and keep them until the Reasoners have a place to put them. Books should be sent to:
Kim Lionetti
BookEnds Inc.
136 Long Hill Road
Gillette, NJ 07933

A Little Progress

Word today is that both Lionsgate and Marvel Studios have reached independent agreements with the Writers Guild of America to allow writers to resume work on their projects. From my view, this is good news – every single studio that breaks from the pack and signs agreements with the WGA makes the WGAs overall position stronger in the negotiations. Maybe we’ll see an end to this in the near future after all.

Keep it up, folks!

Publishing as Blood Sport

A few months ago I was chatting with friend and fellow writer, Jon Merz, about ideas for a book to work on together. It just so happens that we are both martial artists and follow the sport pretty avidly. Mixed martial arts, or MMA as it is known, is the fastest growing contact sport in the US, with a fan base that makes Nascar fanatics seem tame in comparison. Knowing this, we brainstormed different ways we might combine our passion for mixed martial arts with our passion for writing and came up with the idea to do a non-fiction expose on one of the major MMA organizations.

Jon had just finished writing The Complete Idiots Guide to Ultimate Fighting and by chance happened to know one of the senior executives at the International Fight League, a major MMA organization and the only one who approached the sport as with a team, rather than individual, concept. The IFL is a truly innovative organization when it comes to MMA promotions and we believed they would be an excellent partner to work with, so we arranged a meeting and pitched our idea to their top execs.

The folks at the IFL loved what we came up with and enthusiastically endorsed our concept. They gave us unparalleled access to the organization, from the day-to-day operations to the coaches and fighters themselves. Whatever we needed, they said, just ask. With their complete backing, Jon and I took our proposal to our agent.

Like the guys at the IFL, our agent was excited to take the project out to publishers. A sure hit, he called it, a blockbuster if he ever saw one. And he wasn’t just blowing smoke up our asses – he loved the idea as much as we did and after working in publishing for more than thirty years we were confident that he knew what he was talking about.

We turned the proposal into an event, sending it to a dozen publishers with a specific deadline attached, and sat back waiting for the offers to come in. This was it, our ticket to the big leagues, we thought.

Trouble was, we forgot that getting a deal isn’t as easy as just convincing an editor that the book is a good one.

For those who have never been through the process, here’s how it works. A writer puts together a proposal and send it off to the editors he’s carefully selected (or, as in our case, let’s his agent do so). The editor decides if he likes the proposal and, if he does, agrees to take it to the editorial board meeting. At the meeting, the editor pitches the book to the representatives from the various departments – editorial, marketing, sales, art, etc – and tries to convince them that one of the precious slots they have open on their publishing schedule should go to this project.

We heard from several editors who agreed that the project looked excellent. They informed us that they would be pitching at the next editorial meeting and would get back to us as soon as they knew something more. Convinced that we would have a deal in place, Jon and I travelled to the Open Tryouts that the IFL was hosting to build up their roster for the 2008 season, figuring it would make a terrific chapter in the book. We interviewed prospective fighters and some of the IFL top coaches, we took a few hundred photographs, and generally had a great time.

Meanwhile our enthusiastic editors were being shot down by, of all people, the sales departments.

See, there are only a handful of books out right now on mixed martial arts. Of the five I can think of off the top of my head, three of them are personality books, meaning they focus on select individuals in the sport rather than the sport overall. The other two happen to be instruction manuals. Which meant there wasn’t anything our there for the sales departments to compare our book to, to help them figure out what to expect with regard to sales, returns, and the like. In addition, there wasn’t any statistics that they could point to in order to show that the millions of fans who tuned into the weekly television shows and pay-per-view specials would pick up a book about the sport.

It didn’t matter what ammunition we provided to the editors – and trust me, we had it all, from network ratings data to growth projections for 2008 and beyond – each and every time the book was presented the sales departments shot it down, claiming that they weren’t sure that they could sell it.

And just like that, our brilliant idea died a quiet little death through no fault of our own.

We’d written a terrific proposal. We had the complete backing of a major MMA organization who was offering us unbelievable access to every aspect of the 2008 season. We had hand-picked editors who routinely bought sports-oriented books and publishers with an excellent track record of promoting such works with enthusiasm. In short, we’d done everything possible to make the project a success.

And it still wasn’t enough.

Sometimes, timing is everything. If one little cog of the publishing machine jams up, the whole thing can swiftly go out of whack and that’s exactly what happened to us. The idea was new and original, the sport was relatively new, there hadn’t been more than a handful of books on the sport with which to compare it – all the things that got the editors excited about the project were exactly the things that made the sales departments nervous. If there had been a track record of best-selling mixed martial arts books, we would have struck gold, as every other department was as excited about is as we were. But since there wasn’t, all it took was that one No to send us packing.

What’s the moral of the story? Remember that convincing the editor that your project is a good one is only the start of the battle. There’s an entire team involved in publishing and you need each and every one of them on your side in order to be successful.

(Originally published at www.storytellersunplugged.com)


Several months ago I submitted a story to an anthology called Holy Horrors, edited by T.M. Wright and Matt Cardin.  The anthology was designed around the idea of collecting horror tales with a religious theme, one that certainly appealed to me given the usual content of my writing.

I procrastinated with the story for some time, but finally finished it up just a day before the deadline.  My story, “On This Day of Reckoning” is a tale told through the eyes of a Catholic priest who has a crisis of faith just days before the Rapture and as a result is left behind when the apocalypse comes.  I was pleased when Terry wrote to let me know that my tale had made the cut.

Yesterday, the editors released the final Table of Contents (TOC) for the book and I’ve posted it below.  The mix between known authors and newcomers is very good and the number of stories is excellent.  This is an anthology I am highly looking forward to.  (No news yet on who the publisher is, but I’m sure the editors will arrange a quality one.)

So, without further rambling, here is the list: (title, authors, word count)

HOLY HORRORS Table of Contents

1. “Intentions” by William Freedman. 7800
2. “Saviour” by Gary A. Braunbeck. 6200
3. “The Sect of the Idiot” by Thomas Ligotti. Reprint
4. “The Dead Must Die” by Ramsey Campbell. Reprint
5. “The Editor” by Pamela K. Taylor. 1300
6. “Hate the Sinner, Love the Sin” by Brian Hodge. 10,000
7. “Darshan” by William Eakin. 3900
8. “At the Feet of the Forest Primeval” by Randy Chandler. 6000
9. “Vom-Beist” by Mike Norris. 4100.
10. “Porta Nigra” by Darren Speegle. 3600. Reprint
11. “Purifying Vows” by Kim Paffenroth. 5000.
12. “Magog” by Craig Holt. 9300.
13. “The Hands of God” by Michael McBride. 4500.
14. “Sanctuary” by Jim Rockhill. 330
15. “Redemption” by David Niall Wilson. 5500.
16. “Thunder of the Captains, and the Shouting” by Tom Piccirilli. 5500. Reprint
17. “The Dreams of Cardinal Vittorini” by Reggie Oliver. 7300. Reprint
18. “The germ of his ideas” by Jose Lacey. 6400
19. “Abandon” by Adam Browne. 7200
20. “Bavel II” by Jens Rushing. 5500
21. “A Prayer for Captain La Hire” by Patrice E. Sarath. 6900. Reprint
22. “Behind the Bathroom Door” by Sarah Berniker. 4900. Reprint
23. “Sicarii” by Andrew Tisbert. 6700
24. “Cold to the Touch” by Simon Strantzas. 6500
25. “Darkness” by Jude Wright. 5000
26. “Ezekiel Remembers” by Kurt Dinan. 2000
27. “Bad Religion” by Douglas M. Chapman. 5000
28. “Anubis Has Left the Building” by Tim Waggoner. 3900. Reprint
29. “The Bishop Receives a Visitor” by Marion Pitman. 6500
30. “The Tattoo Artista” by Eric S. Smith. 4200
31. “In the Name of God” by Stuart Young. 5000
32. “Uncaged” by Paul Finch. 6000
33. “The Monsters We Defy” by Karen Williams. 4800
34. “The Shaft” by Brian Hodges. 6600
35. “Waters Dark as a Raven’s Wing, Flames Bright as a Dove’s Breast” by Dru Pagliassotti. 1900
36. “The Temple” by Quentin S. Crisp. 5200. Reprint
37. “The Wound of Her Making” by Gerard Houarner. 6100. Reprint
38. “And You Shall Be Adored” by Regina Mitchell.
39. “On This Day of Reckoning” by Joseph Nassise. 4500
40. “Rapture” by Robert Morrish and Harry Shannon. 3700

Charles L.Grant

An extraordinary writer passed away this weekend. Charles L. Grant – Charlie to his friends – died on Friday evening after a long illness. A few years ago I had the pleasure of making Charlie’s acquaintance and in 2004 was part of the silent auction held by the Horror Writers Association to raise funds for his medical care.

I can’t really say I knew him – five minutes of conversation a few years ago doesn’t give me that right – and yet, in a way, I can.

I knew him through his work.

Charlie was one of three writers who have had a major effect on my own career. His Millennium Quartet series made me want to write as evocatively as he did. His Black Oak series made me want to write a series of my own and the Templar Chronicles owes a lot to Black Oak – his Ethan Proctor character inspired my Cade Williams. Charlie’s short fiction showed me time and time and time again that I had miles to go in order to hone that part of my craft. In short, he was an icon to me. A writer’s writer.

I’m deeply saddened at his passing. And yet, for me, and for dozens of other writers I know, he will live on forever through his work and in our memories.

Godspeed, Charlie.