My Experiences in Self-Publishing and the Indie Press Scene

I read a really cool article from Sci-Fi & Scary. It was about small presses and self-publishing here in our indie writing world.
Here’s the link if you missed it: Let’s Talk About It: Small Press Publishing
Having worked in both arenas, I just wanted to share some of my own experiences.
In 2013, I broke into the publishing world with a serial novel I, for lack of knowing any better, self-published in e-Book on Amazon. I did all the editing and formatting, and had a good friend doing the art. Launching off on my own, it could have been a complete disaster. It could have ruined my writing career before it even got started. Luckily, my stories and characters, combined with Jason Lynch’s fantastic cover art, garnered me enough positive attention to make a safe landing.

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One of the scariest things I did while creating this serial was reaching out to review sites and asking them to check out my work. Part of that fear was the everyday creatives insecurity. The other part was knowing that I needed an editor. I was lucky not to be slaughtered by sites like Matt Malgaard’s HORROR NOVEL REVIEWS, and to Joe Hempel’s TOP OF THE HEAP REVIEWS.
It was also in this initial toe-stepping into the self-publishing world/ review site reach-out that I met Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. OH, FOR THE HOOK OF A BOOK reviewed my serial and gave me one of my first interviews. Our shared love of Ronald Malfi really bolstered our instant friendship. Erin’s been editing or helping with book publicity ever since.
Having Matt (R.I.P.), Joe, and Erin in my corner early on was invaluable. This trio saw something in my work that gave me the confidence I needed to keep going and to work harder.
After my 2013 self-publishing experience, I learned that I needed to push harder to get published traditionally. I set my sights on cool indie publishers like Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Nightscape Press with an ultimate goal of landing a book with Don D’Auria and Samhain Publishing.

At the time, PMMP was doing these monthly novelette/Novella releases in a series called, One Night Stands. They were down to their last spot of the year, and I had just finished writing a ghost story/small town mystery novella called, ABRAM’S BRIDGE. I sent it to PMMP and got word it was strongly being considered along with seven other stories for the last spot in the One Night Stands series. It did not get the final spot, but I couldn’t have felt any better. Knowing that I had written something good. Really good. That it had made it past the slush pile and into the ring with the big boys, I was elated. I sent the editor a response to the rejection letter that probably surprised him as much as anything. It was 100% positive and probably the most enthusiastic thank you on a rejection they ever received.
Armed with a story I now had validation was good, I decided to take my chances sending it to Don D’Auria and Samhain Publishing.
That was in December of 2013. In April of 2014, Don sent me an email letting me know that he loved ABRAM’S BRIDGE and that he’d love to send me contract if I was interested.
I ended up signing three novellas and two novels with Don. I got to sit at the Samhain table at the Bram Stoker Awards with a bunch of real writers and got to sell books at the Samhain table at two Horrorhound conventions. By 2016, I had achieved all my writing goals.

In 2016, Samhain announced that they were going under. Samhain’s demise was followed by a number of other small presses closing shop, most notably, Dark Fuse.
I managed to land a fourth novella (CHASING GHOSTS) with Sinister Grin Press, but by mid-2016, I decided I was going to try my hand at self-publishing again.
In my experiences, I’ve learned a few things. If you are going to self-publish, you must have a good editor. One that will tell you if something doesn’t work, or that you can do better. You must have professional looking cover art. And you have to actively seek reviews and readers. You are in charge of getting your book out there. It is a ton of work. And it will try to break you. But in my experience, the rewards can be well worth it.
For example, the year I’ve made the most money from writing? Had to be with Samhain, right? No. It was actually this year. A year when I’ve almost exclusively self-published. To be fair, the success I’ve had this year would not have been possible were it not for the small platform I made as an author on the Samhain roster.
As Joe Mynhardt, head of Crystal Lake Publishing, suggests in the Sci-Fi & Scary article, it is wise for authors to dabble in both traditional indie publishing and self-publishing simultaneously. Plus, working with and having a book contracted by a respected editor or company like a Crystal Lake Publishing legitimizes you and gives you a little extra street cred in the self-pub world. It let’s readers and reviewers know that you’ve been vetted.
As a writer, it is way easier to have a publisher in charge of editing, cover design, and helping to put together a publicity tour. They’ll also submit your book to reviewers and the Bram Stoker Awards jury. That’s a load off a writer’s shoulders. As Joe said, the publisher needs to earn that royalty cut.
I have continued to work with indie’s like CROSSROAD PRESS (they have ABRAM’S BRIDGE and THINGS WE FEAR-which Joe Hempel did a fantastic job on the audio book performance) and SINISTER GRIN PRESS.

Personally, I enjoy the madness that comes with being in charge of all that goes into creating, releasing, and promoting a book. I have a great team to work with Erin and Jason being my top picks for editing and covers.
That said, I am looking forward to a break soon. As with all goals in life, once you’ve achieved all the ones on your list, you create a new list.
In 2019, while still releasing my own work, I will begin my pursuit of this new batch of goals.
I hope you guys enjoyed this unofficial companion piece, and hope you’ll consider checking out one of my works.
Cheers!

LAND OF BONES

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“A rising star in the genre!” – Ronald Malfi, author of BONE WHITE
“A vital part of this generation.” – Brian Keene, author THE RISING

Demon lights, granted wishes, strange things, and brutal love at the Lucky Lounge Motel. A haunted sister, desperate parents, a little human touch, and the end of the world…

These are the stories whispered among dead leaves, the script etched bare for all to see. When the chills sink deep and your heart begins to pound…are you alone?

Welcome to Glenn Rolfe’s LAND OF BONES
14 tales of the strange and macabre

 

THE WINDOW

What kind of demons await you tonight?

For Richie, life’s constant cheap shots are adding up. When he finds something is watching him, he never dreamed that it would show him everything he ever wanted.

When his son, James, comes to stay for the last month of summer, the changes in his father’s behavior come to the forefront. What is his father doing staring into the window in the middle of the night?
Was the fiery spark in the dark real? Or is Jame’s imagination getting the best of him?

Summer’s almost over.
And life is about to change.
Will James be able to save his father? Or is it already too late?

The Window holds the answers…and the key.

(A Writer’s Corner) A Shiny Star is Not the End…

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Over the course of my relatively short writing career, I’ve noticed varying reactions from writers new and old when it comes to that truly horrifying thing – the 1-Star Review  Duh-duh-daaaahh!!!

What you really should be concerned with is just how many you have for any given piece of work. Trust me, we all get them. There is absolutely no way to please everyone. And you won’t. You’re not that special. I mean it. I’m not being a dick, I’m just saying.  Everyone that writes and releases books to the public will have a number of people that do not get it, do not like it, do not want it near anyone that they care about. Seriously.

For newbies, this first low rating/bad review can be devastating. It doesn’t have to be. Just consider it another of those  “Welcome to the Club” moments. Honestly, this is the age of back-pats, coddles, friends and family reviews, and many other nefarious review sorcery. If you’re actively seeking reviews (which I think everyone promoting their work should be doing), you’re gonna ruin someone’s week with your writing. And if you do have a bunch of people cheering your work, you might still be knocked silly by that one bad apple. Don’t let it ruin you.

Now, to be fair, sometimes, you will get blasted by a troll. Someone who is sick of the good reviews, doesn’t like your online persona, or really, really didn’t like that your characters listened to Poison, Skid Row, and Pretty Boy Floyd.  If you’ve been trolled, take it as a compliment. You’re important enough to irritate someone so much they attack you.  Good for you!

As for me, I take the good reviews with the bad.  Check this one out:

Kimberly Bain’s Reviews > Blood And Rain

Blood And Rain by Glenn Rolfe

Read
Rate this book
Blood And Rain 
byGlenn Rolfe(Goodreads Author)

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Kimberly Bain‘s review

Jan 15, 2016
did not like it

 

I was very disappointed. There are many better options out there for this genre. Don’t waste your time. 

Writing style is amateurish and simple. Very poorly done. Save your money and find a better option. Written by a middle schooler…

 

 

See?  Kimberly judo-chopped me pretty good.  Did it sting? I’d be lying if I said it didn’t, but I didn’t let it bug me for long. I just rolled with it. You can’t please them all.
Plus, I have enough good or okay reviews that it makes ones like these easier to shrug off. And so will you.

Keep your chin up, roll with it, and don’t let the bastards grind you down.

I do have a number of these fine reviews. Including one from a reviewer who read, like, eight pages and 1-starred me.  I’m just telling you that it’s gonna happen.  Feel the pain, then move forward.

And if you have weaknesses in your writing (and we all do), don’t be afraid to reexamine some of the things the lower-starred reviewers point out. They might help you correct them in your current or future work.

I believe in you.

Keep writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Kickoff! Hard at Work, No Whining, Samhain, and Guns N’ Roses

Summer is here! I won’t lie, even though all of us horror writers enjoy Halloween and fall, I still think this is my favorite time of year. Living in Maine, our summer lasts from June through maybe the middle of September. We’re lucky if we get a full two months of hot weather (usually July and August it finds its way to the upper 80’s/low-90’s) . So, when we actually get the hot sun, it is totally time to bask in the warmth and jump in the lake or ocean (which is still freezing). I will make my way to Old Orchard Beach  as much as the wife allows. She prefers the state parks, I like the crazy collection of tourists and beach people by the pier.

Tonight, the wife and I are heading up to Bangor to catch Def Leppard. No, for you younger folks, that is not a disease. They’re a mega-selling rock band from the ’80’s who still make great new music and continue to tour around the world.

AT WORK

I’ve been putting in a lot of writing work behind the scenes, as well. I’m very excited about my three upcoming releases. First up will be a triple shot of short alien-themed stories titled,  NOT OF THIS WORLD. It will be an eBook/Kindle exclusive and launch at a 99 cent special sometime before the end of June. We should have a cover reveal very soon featuring the artwork of my good friend, Jason Lynch.

In August, my next novella, CHASING GHOSTS, will be released. It will be my first work with Sinister Grin Press. We should have a cover reveal for this one soon, too.

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September 3rd will see the release of the new Matt Shaw presented version of my novel, THE HAUNTED HALLS. This will be an exclusive eBook deal with Mr. Shaw in command. Anyone who is interested in receiving review copies will have to talk to him. I am very pleased to be part of the Shaw Family and I’m grateful that he’s seen it fit to release one of my works. Pre-Order your copy today: THE HAUNTED HALLS

I’m currently doing final revisions on my novel, WINDOW, and will be submitting it very soon.

As for another novel I’ve finished….BECOMING has become…a headache! As a songwriter, you write like ten songs to get one good one. I think the same idea might apply to writing. Not as bad, but to some extent. Sometimes as songwriters, we work and work on a tune that we believe has something, but for whatever reason, it never turns out right. I feel I’ve reached that point with this novel. After like three re-writes, I don’t feel it is up to the standard I’ve set for my own work. Quality control should start with the author. I think the final work is okay, but I want to release work that is better than okay. So, it is going back in the trunk. I’m sure I’ll take another crack at it, but for now, I have plenty of other stories to finish.

CRY, CRY, CRY

I want to thank everyone who read, shared, and commented on my last post, Why You Gotta Be So Mean….Again.  I’m happy to see I wasn’t alone in thinking that some writers are worse cry babies than the bad reviewers. I’ve still seen it on social media in the few days since my post, so I guess I’m just going to have to learn to use that “unfollow” option on my Facebook feed. Some of the whiners are friends of mine. I like them and their work too much to unfriend them, but I can definitely stop getting their sloppy tears on my computer screen and their over the top bashing of “bad” reviewers. I think its pathetic and childish. And with that, I hope to put the whole conversation to bed. I don’t like letting their negativity induce my own. Let’s move forward and keep it on the pos!

 

SAMHAIN PUBLISHING

I also want to touch on the latest news from the Samhain Publishing camp. After all the cuts and streamlining of the company, Samhain has decided that they can in fact carry on. I’m pleased with this decision and hope they will make better decisions moving forward. I’d love to see them rise up and become favorite destination for horror. That said, I got my rights back for the one book I had lined up with them and have no plans currently to send them any future works. I’m not ruling it out, I’m just busy in other places right now.

And lastly, GUNS N’ FUCKIN’ ROSES

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Guns N’ Roses kicked of the Not in this Lifetime Tour last night in Detroit. Axl is back on his feet after breaking his foot at the surprise gig in April, and the reviews have been great.I cannot wait to see them in July. This has been my favorite band since I was 11 years old. They were my first concert back in 1993, and I’ve been dreaming of the day that Axl and Slash would patch things up and get back in the ring together. I’m psyched to see them play personal favorites such as “Estranged” and “Coma”, but also, I’m really hoping they add “Madagascar” to the set. That was my favorite song off Chinese Democracy and I’d love to see them play it with Slash and Duff. July 19th can’t come soon enough!

 

 

Okay, I’m done. carry on.

 

Why You Gotta Be So Mean….Again.

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I’ve been down this road already, but it seems like some writers are still being offended and hurt and feel the need to take it out on people who “don’t get” their art. I’m really sorry that not everyone liked your book. I know, I know, you thought those five star reviews meant your book was amazing and that it somehow gave you the right to treat anyone that doesn’t get it like they’re a moron.  Let’s make fun of their grammar, let’s point out that they should learn how to write a review.

What? Seriously? Yes. Even among well respected authors, I have seen this ugliness pop up. Look, I get it. You don’t understand or agree with their review. Maybe a line or two in there even hit a nerve and hurt your feelings. Get over it. Stop staring at the one or two bad reviews and move on. Not everyone is going to get your piece. And guess what? That doesn’t automatically label them ignorant or less than you. You don’t need to post the review on social media where your friends are going to come on and pat you on the back, hand you a baby bottle, and oh…maybe they’ll join in on the beat down of that “stunted intellectual” who didn’t get your masterpiece.  Fuck.  I’m so tired of all this negativity.

We’re writers, we’re artists. We create these pieces with everything we have and we’re lucky if someone sees that and agrees to put it out or display it. But you know what? Once you make your art public, the public is allowed to have their opinion. And they will. And it’s not all gonna be sunshine and IPAs. Someone is gonna miss the point, someone is gonna be rude, someone is gonna be a straight up troll. My advice to you is this: If you can’t handle the awful or not good reviews, you have two choices: 1) Only read the 3-5 star reviews. (I wouldn’t advise this, because sometimes you get a kernel of truth your friends won’t share with you)  2) Stop putting your books out to the public. That’s right. Just keep them to yourself or only give them to your friends.

I hate that this post came off negative, but sometimes people need to grow up and deal with adversity (even something as miniscule in the world as a bad review-fuck me, haven’t you seen that there is real shit going on nearly every goddam day? People are starving, getting blown up, living in shit and piss, Trump is aiming to be the emperor of the world and on the verge of attaining that despite his racism and ignorance????)

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Let me relax a second here….

Look, it is not easy being told something we poured our hearts into misses the mark with someone who happens to come across it. Sure, in a perfect world we would love for our words to make every heart, mind, and soul sing. Our art would be in perfect harmony with each reader. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works and that’s never going to change. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you can learn to shrug it off and keep moving forward.

Bono once sang, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”  Don’t. Keep your chin up and walk on.   That means don’t go putting the poor sod up on your Twitter or Facebook as a dart board. Let it go. Be the better person. I know you can do it.

 

(#Share the Horror: Interview) Heather Herrman Touches on Horror in the Heartland, Women in Horror Month, and Her Mom’s Book Club Reading Her Novel.

HHH

 

Glenn Rolfe:  Hi, Heather! Thanks for doing this interview with Share the Horror! Congratulations on your excellent first novel, Consumption, and an extra hell yeah! for making the preliminary Bram Stoker Award ballot for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. That’s a whole lotta awesome.

Heather Herrman:  Thanks, Glenn! I’m really excited about it and very honored to be considered.

HH

GR: Let’s talk about the book. How long did it take from first draft to final manuscript?

HH: The first draft was completed in about seven months. I was very disciplined about writing 2,000 words a day because, frankly, it was the only thing keeping me sane. My husband and I had just moved across country from Portland, Oregon to Minneapolis, MN, in the middle of the recession, and despite (or maybe because of) my multiple, incredibly useful humanities degrees, I couldn’t find a job to save myself. I finally found an amazing VISTA position with the Minnesota Literacy Council, with whom I then worked for another four years, but my job didn’t start until noon, so I had the morning free to finish the novel. After that, I got an agent in about a month by sending out about sixty or so queries. And then… nothing. Nada. This was 2009, before the Walking Dead, before the zombie craze, and at that point my book was about 145,000 words long. A tome. And there weren’t any publishers willing to take a chance on that for a first novel. Fast-forward four years to my agent sending it out again, Hydra picking it up, and me completely revising the novel to cut about 50,000 words. I still mourn my earlier version, but I think what it is now is what it needed to be to get published as a first novel, and I’m really proud of it.

GR: I always wonder what it would be like to sneak a peek at the original versions of certain novels. I bet Consumption would be great. Wonder what else you did to this town?Why did you bring this evil to poor little Cavus?

HH: Dude, Cavus was asking for it. JK. But seriously, I am very intrigued by the transformations small middle-America towns have experienced in the last few decades. I grew up in farm country, spending a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm in the small town of Bennington, Kansas. And even from when I was a kid to now, I’ve seen so much change, specifically in the way farming happens. For example, I just did a harvest ride along with my uncle, who still farms and is now, in fact, one of the bigger farmers in the state. He said that whereas before his dad—my grandfather—used to work from dawn ’til dusk during harvest, now they worked all night sometimes, because technology provided lights and automated steering to make this possible. This meant that for farmers, there was no longer any natural “end of the work day;” the natural cycle had been shifted. He and I talked about how this was a really hard thing for a farmer and a farmer’s family. But technology had to happen, and it is, in a lot of ways, a good thing—farms can produce much higher yields than they did before. However, at what cost? Because now we’re talking about mono-crops with giant yields and what struck me is that even though I grew up in the middle of farm country, when I come back home I can’t eat any of the food that the farmers are growing. All of the food in restaurants is flown or trucked in. This—along with small farms disappearing and with them their lifestyle—seemed to beg the question, if we aren’t consuming what we grow, what are consuming? And obviously I mean that on more than a literal level. What is filling what the disappearing farming lifestyle left behind? And thus Cavus was born. I didn’t set it in Kansas because I needed the mental distance to write about it honestly. Cavus is actually based on a small town in Montana that I drove through on the move to Minnesota.  I can’t for the life of me remember which one, just that it had this incredibly creepy energy.

GR: One of the aspects I really enjoyed was the bizarre creatures your Feeders become when they slip their human disguise and take form. That, among other things, reminded me of Bentley Little. More than just horror or monsters, The Feeders (or you) put these really macabre images in my head. And it’s always alongside something ordinary or something that appears ordinary. I think there’s a scene when John is walking back to Bunny’s and there’s this little girl, and thanks to all of the previous freaky imagery, we’re sort of on the edge of our seats to see if it’s really a little girl or something else. I loved that. I’m assuming Little is an influence for you?

HH: Man, it’s so interesting you say that because a few people have made that comparison. I’m completely flattered, but I don’t think he is an influence that I realized until hearing people say so. I read several Little books in the past years, and going back to think about those books, I think they really did creep into my sub-conscious, especially some of those gorgeously disturbing images he creates (I’m thinking of the dead in The Walking). Anyway, if asked I’d put King or Katherine Anne Porter as immediate influences, but I wonder if the more powerful influences are sometimes the ones buried in the deepest depths, the true raw stuff that just kind of oozes out when you write.

GR: I love Little, so it is definitely a compliment. Of those Little books that you have read, any stick out to you?

HH: As I said before, I loved The Walking. The Summoning is also great. In both of these books you get monsters that go beyond the traditional, which I really appreciate. A vampire isn’t just a vampire, and a zombie isn’t just a zombie. Anyway, thanks to you, I’m going to go back now and try to read all Bentley’s work at a stretch, which is something one of my old professors did with any author he really liked. He’d take a summer and work his way through an author’s entire publishing catalogue, no matter how deep it was. He said this was the best way to get to know an author as well as learn from them as a writer. I’ve only done this a few times, but I think Bentley and I are about to spend the summer together. I hope he likes tequila.

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GR: I thought the factory bit, these mother fuckers getting ready to unleash this to the rest of the world was scary as hell. I know King brings religion and God into a lot of his works. You used the communion wafer in here as that potential weapon to take down the world. Is there a religious stance going on here? Or is that just where the story demanded to go?

HH: Did my mom put you up to this? Seriously, she just gave me a talking to about those poor church-goers and their communion wafers a few nights ago. For whatever reason she and her nursing friends have decided to read Consumption for their book club (god love them), and my mom wants to be prepared with an answer about why her daughter is going to hell.

Truthfully, I find much to loathe and admire about organized religion, and I think the communion wafers were just my way of exploring that. Any organized institution begs corruption of power, and religion has had some splendid examples of this. At the same time, you most often find your Everyman there, trying to do good, trying to find something to believe in. For me, those communion wafers harkened back to the consumption theme. As in, what are we consuming beyond the physical food we’re eating? Communion wafers are symbolic, and they’re meant to represent something holy and good, and yet what if even this isn’t safe from globalized capitalism in its greediest form? In what ways do we already infuse religion with politics and use it to sway the opinions of believers from all walks of life? Which is not to say that I am not a believer, or that I don’t think religion is important or doesn’t produce some very good things like charity and a structured belief system that can be a strong foundation for families and communities. But. And. To believe in such a system is to question it. And if you can question it and still find belief, if you can step outside of your glass bubble where everyone thinks the same thing as you and believes the same things you do, and still find a way to bring that belief to life, then, I think, you have something truly worthwhile.

GR: How are things going with Hydra? How is their marketing team and your overall experience with the publisher been?

HH: Hydra is incredible. Truly. Sarah Peed and Ashleigh Heaton in particular have worked really hard on getting the book out there and making sure it was all it could be. I certainly have had to do a lot of my own publicizing (as do all authors these days)—for instance, I came up with the idea of a blog video to go with Consumption’s release—but any time I had something like that I wanted to do and asked for their help they were completely on board. I also did a Mary Shelley b-day party on Facebook with two other Hydra authors whom I really admire—Michael M. Hughes and Adam Cesare. That was a lot of fun. What I really appreciate about Hydra is the level of talent that they bring in. I think the books that they have out there and are currently curating are top-notch.

GR: Growing up in Kansas,  are there any scary incidents from your youth that may have led you down this path?

HH: The usual childhood stuff, I guess. As do all kids, I experienced some rough patches growing up, and I remember one of my earliest horror books was King’s It. I was in sixth or seventh grade and borrowed it from my aunt’s house (she didn’t know), and it scared the shit out of me. But more than that, it comforted me. It took me out of any bad stuff happening in the real world and let me not just escape, but believe in the importance of small actions and small people. Which I think really good horror does. By which I don’t mean handing us a neat good and evil dichotomy on a platter, but forcing us to find the grayness and walk within it. As for any particular scary events happening, I think its more landscape for me. As I said before, I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm, and at night I would go outside and listen to the coyotes, and there was such beauty and wildness there, that I just knew there was so much more than what we were seeing. I still find a magic when I go back there. And also my friend’s basement was completely haunted, so there’s that.

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GR: I know that February is Women in Horror month. With all of this blow up over the Oscars and whether or not African-Americans are getting hosed or not, I was wondering your feelings on Woman in Horror vs. Men in Horror. I saw actress Stacy Dash, who happens to be black, on Fox News talking about how having channels like BET and the BET Awards where you can only be nominated if you’re black is a double standard and that they need to do away with those if African Americans are going to try and play this card. I know this isn’t as deep rooted an issue as race, but some do bring discrimination into it. Personally, I think ladies can be twice as vicious as guys, but WiHM did make me look at how many male authors I was reading vs. how many woman authors. It was predominantly male for me. It did convince me to purchase books by Shirley Jackson, Rena Mason, and Mercedes Yardley. Does WiHM mean anything to you? Do you see it as something that’s necessary or not? Is there a problem in our industry?

HH: First let me say I think it’s really badass of you to actively take a look at your reading list and think proactively about what that meant and how you could change it. Kudos.

Actually, inequality of race and gender are old bedfellows, going all the way back to suffragettes and abolitionists. So I think talking about them in tandem is gonna happen regardless—though obviously each also contains its own, complex issues. But to your specific question, I’ve said a lot of things lately about women in horror, and posted a video about the lack of women on the Stoker ballot. That video kept me up a few nights—I posted it right when the ballot came out, and we were on vacation, and I kept second-guessing myself and thinking that I should have polished it more, or said things in a clearer way so that men didn’t feel like I was specifically attacking them, but at the end of the day I just needed to say something and get it out there without overly-censoring myself which, I think, is a real danger for women. And honestly, almost everyone in the horror community—especially HWA members, have been incredibly supportive. They were and are already talking about the issue and recognizing a need for change. I admire a lot of what they’ve done with, for example, recruiting more women for specific chapters and creating a Diversity Committee, but I think we’re all on the same page in saying there’s still a lot of work to be done. When you’ve got the Stokers preliminary awards ballot with over 70 percent men on it, there’s a problem. Let’s not sugar-coat it.

By and large I think horror readers and writers are one of the smartest groups out there—people who haven’t maybe always fit in elsewhere but find a home in horror. Horror can either reinforce the status quo or explode it, and obviously, at least for me, it’s the latter possibility that’s the most interesting. Which would, in my mind, dictate a need for inclusiveness in storytelling. You’re going to see the exciting stuff happening in genre first— we already are—and that’s why I think horror and specifically the HWA is an important place to honor this.

But, you know, I’m new to this game. I should just make sure that’s out there. Plenty of other women horror authors have already taken up the cause of getting great work by women published and noticed. HWA president Lisa Morton comes to mind. So I don’t want to have the audacity to come in an presume to speak for all women. It’s a complicated topic, and we’re all just figuring it out, but we’ve got to figure it out together. And to answer your specific question, yeah, I’m all for Women in Horror month. Do I wish we didn’t need it? Sure. Is there a danger that it boxes women into a little, safe corner where they can just eat crumpets and drink their tea? Absolutely. But anything that brings more women’s fiction to the public is fine by me.

In regards to Stacey Dash and her comments—when she said what she said, I think you also have to look at the context in which she said it. Which means thinking about who her audience was, and what the benefit vs. the risk of saying what she said might be. She is absolutely entitled to her own opinion, and discrimination of race or gender, while tied in many ways, are also their own very complicated issues. I would never presume to know what a person of color, for example, might be experiencing. But I will say that in terms of gender and writing, we’ve got a problem that is deeply systematic. I would never say let’s just throw more women’s names on the Stoker Ballot, for example, because that’s not going to solve anything. We all want work based on merit—there’s never a question of that. But we need to think about the deeper issues—like how do we even get women’s work and voices to the table in the first place and, in my mind, perhaps more importantly, deeper into the publishing and literary world so that more of the behind the scenes decisions such as what books are being published and reviewed are in the hands of a much more diverse membership. This of course goes for race and gender both.

There are so many stories that need to be told, and giving voice to them will only make horror, and all genres better. What we absolutely don’t need to do, however, is to demonize one group of people—let’s say white men—because that gets us absolutely nowhere. And some of the biggest advocates for increasing women’s recognition in horror come from men. But what we do need to do is have a dialogue that goes beyond the usual finger-pointing or victim vs. man in power that we’re so used to having. This is a nuanced issue and everyone, including men, should feel that their story is valid. We may, however, need to do more thinking about what that actual story is and the inherent privilege (of which I also as a white, cisgender, hetero woman enjoy) that entails. But this doesn’t have to mean a winner/ loser situation. It’s like thinking, as an author, that for me to do well, somebody else has to fail. When in truth, we both do better if we both succeed. The more books out there being valued, the wider the audiences reached and the stronger the market.

GR: I do my Share the Horror page partly because I love to bring things to people’s attention, partly as a way to pay it forward, and basically share any knowledge that I have or that of my interviewees. You’ve done some great YouTube videos offering up advice to writers. Is that kind of the same deal? Is it something you enjoy doing? (You guys can check her YouTube Page HERE )

HH: I love the concept of Share the Horror. A sincere thank you because you are truly bringing a much needed resource to the genre. And yeah, that is, I guess, what I like to do with my videos and blog in regard to writing in general. Not that I have it all figured out, far from it, but I have taught it a lot and had some great teachers myself, and so when I start thinking about a topic in my own writing, I’m interested in putting it out there just to enter the ever-evolving dialogue of what it means to be a writer

GR: What’s next from Heather Herrman?

HH: Currently I’m about 3/4 of the way through a new manuscript with the tentative title ’Til Death. It features a failing couple at a marriage retreat that also happens to harbor a serial killer. This book has been a lot of fun for me, and whereas Consumption tackled a lot of big ideas, this one has allowed me to cut loose a little and just enjoy the blood.

GR: Okay, it’s time for some rapid fire!Give me three of your favorite scary movies:

HH: The Descent, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and High Tension.

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GR: Name a book you got so caught up in that it made you yell out loud:

HH: Not yell but just kind of put it down with a sigh and think motherfucker, I will never be able to write like this, how did you do it and why didn’t I think of it first? That was Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind. Oh! And also the short-story “The Debutante” by Leonora Carrington. Go read it right now. The BEST, gorgeously insane horror story ever. Now, if you’re talking about throwing a book in anger, pretty much any book every written for a child under two. It’s called iambic pentameter, people. Learn it. And dear god can someone please write something that I can read 500 times and not vomit? I think a children’s book line penned exclusively by horror writers is definitely needed. Maybe featuring titles like, Even Zombies Potty. I’ll keep working on it.

GR: An album that you own that you don’t want anyone to know you own?

HH: Hey, I’ll claim them all. No shame here. Shakespeare Sisters, maybe? I busted out “Stay” at a New Year’s party we were hosting last year and had to by dragged off the living room table with boos for my rendition. I like a lot of classical music as well because I used to play cello, so there’s some pretty over-the-top tear your coattails and bleed your suffering stuff like Rachmaninoff in my collection.

GR: You have a day completely to yourself. You’re not allowed to write. What are you going to do instead?

HH: First I’m going to get outdoors some how some way, maybe a quick game of basketball, and then I’m going to hit up a brewery. I am a big fan of small-batch local beer, and there’s such exciting stuff happening with it right now. Surly, though not so small anymore, will always hold a special place in my heart. Since this is fantasy, I would also like a giant truffle (fungus, not chocolate) to eat like an apple while this is happening. And of course capping all that off with a scary movie while eating popcorn with milk-duds (and you gotta put the milk duds in the popcorn) couldn’t hurt. I realize I haven’t mentioned my kid once here, poor little dude, but I’m gonna assume he is with a babysitter who is exponentially more fun than I could ever be. Oh, and there’s definitely some reading going on in there somewhere. Maybe during the Surly-drinking/truffle-eating phase? Okay, wait. Can we pretend my liver and stamina are still 21? Because then I’d throw a live show of some sort in there. Maybe catch a band at the Slowdown or something and stare creepily at the lead singer while dreaming about what it would be like if I could actually sing. But if I do that I’m going to also need some late night pizza from Gumby’s, and they don’t deliver to Omaha, so…. Also, this is sounding like a lot of work. Let me just revise and say Read. Beer. Truffle. Movie. Perfect day. Done.

GR: Thanks for doing this, Heather. Good luck with Consumption and the Stokers.

HH: Thanks, Glenn!

 

Find Heather at her official site: Heather Herrman

And go buy CONSUMPTION!

She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

 

 

The Horror of Self-Promotion

 

I read an interesting blog post this morning about the horrors and uselessness of self-promotion on social media. While it brought up some valid points, such as Facebook BUY MY BOOK posts are annoying and next to fruitless, I couldn’t get on board with all of what the writer had to say.
Look, I know as writers going on about ourselves can rub people the wrong way and have the opposite of our posts desired effect. I say this: There is such thing as overkill, but in my experience, using what tools we have in the social media realm does work fairly well if you’re smart about it.
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You do need to put in the footwork, you need to make real connections, you need to take chances, and you need to be considerate rather than assumptive. I primarily use GoodReads and Facebook. I look at my fellow horror authors and their pages, their friends, their more successful posts. I study what seems to work for them and do my best to add their best plays into  my game plan.  It is scary to reach out to someone who has no idea who the hell you are. That’s why you must go into it with respect and humility. I introduce myself, Glenn-horror writer, mention how I found them- saw you enjoyed my friend Hunter’s book, just wanted to see if you’d be interested in receiving a free copy of my title, Book X?  I make sure to follow that up with  If not, that’s totally, cool. Thank you for your time. If you are interested, let me know.   I’ll send out a few of these messages a month. Then  I go back to reading or writing. I don’t expect an answer from these strangers. After all, who the hell am I? But you’d be surprised to find how many conversations these messages start. And like the blog post I referenced earlier points out-conversations lead to relationships, which maybe leads to sales.
Don’t forget, I’m not selling my books, I’m offering them. I’m the lucky one if they reply. Even if they say, “wow, that is so nice of you.”  In my world, it is the reader or reviewer who is the rock star, not me.
Now, I’m still a fairly new writer. I got my first story published in 2013 and my first bigger piece published last year. I’m not with a major publisher, so there’s maybe more self-promotional duties on my plate. I’m okay with that. I understand being shy and timid, and not wanting to ruffle the feather’s of strangers or friends. You’re friends will understand and  they can always “unfollow” you if they don’t want to see what your promoting. Besides, they probably have your number and can still hold regular conversations about day-today stuff anyway.
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That brings me to how much promotion you should do on Facebook. Yeah, it is pretty freaking hard to get anyone to really see your posts on Facebook. Regardless, I still have writer and reader friends who like to see what I have coming up or what I’ve recently read and enjoyed. For me, reading is still #1. I write, but I definitely read more than I write. After the release of my first novella with Samhain Publishing I did so much talking about the book and the road to getting published, and what inspires me and what terrifies me and me, me, me… you get the picture.  Anyways, I made two changes after that first book: 1) I cut my self promotional Facebook posts in half and  2) I started promoting my friends and heroes.  This made me feel a little better when I did blab about my new release, and made me and my fellow writers feel good whenever I shared a review of their latest book or interview or podcast appearance. I decided to start a page called, “Share the Horror.”
I read, I review (some writers opt-out of reviewing, because of relationships and hurt feelings-I’m not one of them), I promote myself and the pieces I enjoy. I also promote authors and books based off what my friends have to say about them. If Kristin Dearborn says a book or writer is good, I’m sharing the news. I try to be cognizant of the fact that “Hey, my new book is out, you know what that means? It’s hammer-time!” is not the best way to go about things. Use common sense. It won’t pay to flood your page every hour of every day in an effort to convince anyone to purchase your book. As with approaching readers who don’t know you, leave the hammer at home- promote with respect and humility.
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Not sure if you wanna try any of my methods, but I was inspired to share them. Nobody likes self-promoting….but it is a part of the publishing world, especially the indie publishing world.
Good luck and stay positive!

Staying Positive: My recent guest post over at The Horror Bookshelf blog.

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“Staying Positive”

Positivity breeds positivity. That mantra can get a writer through many situations big and small. It helps you keep the belief and faith, even when you hit a wall, that your story will tell you where it wants to go and how you plan to go about getting the finished draft published. Not everyone is going to get your story or love that you wrote a werewolf story without leaving the werewolf’s identity a mystery. You will get rejected, but if you have written the story you wanted to write (which, it most certainly should be if you’re submitting it) you must have faith that your baby will be adopted and find a home.

Tomorrow, Annie… the sun will come out tomorrow.

Another place where staying positive comes into play is in promoting yourself and others in your genre/field.

To read the rest click HERE

Blood, guts, and gory meet character and heart: The Gentle Art of Finding the balance

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This week, I started writing a brand new novel. Anyone who has paid attention to me knows that I’m already working on more than four other pieces. So, what the hell am I thinking starting something else? That’s just how my ADD writing brain works. Part of the inspiration was trying to choose my summer re-read (every summer I like to re-read one of my favorite books). This year, I was trying to choose between one of my favorite Richard Laymon novels, The Woods Are Dark, and Jonathan Janz’s Savage Species. Holding the two righteously vicious novels and thinking about my first Laymon-inspired debut, The Haunted Halls, I felt that old familiar pull to scribble another chainsaw attack of a horror story. One that would make Ketchum or the late Laymon smile.

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I decided to go with Laymon’s re-stored classic.

I got ready to read it and a light bulb went off in my brain.

I opened a new word document and started typing.

In less than 24 hours I typed up the first 8K words for a new novel I’m calling, The Last Show.

Unlike with The Haunted Halls where I had to go back and re-work the story to make it more than just a outright trail of blood and scares, this time around, I want to add great characters and a dump-truck load of heart. Will I succeed? That’s the real trick, isn’t it? Finding the balance between vicious and tender. Heart and outright gore-a-palooza.  Sometimes these mad romps of killers tearing apart semi-innocent campers and travelers don’t really call for any Love Me Tender moments, but I believe the ones that stick with us have other memorable characters outside of our violent death dealers. There can be more magic moments than the jaw dropping scenes that scorch our brains. Scenes like, well, almost any in Ketchum’s Off Season, or the fantastic kickstart opening to Laymon’s Woods…(A hairy, half-bodied man who chucks a severed hand at two girls driving down a back road????). These things stick with us, for horror writers, the do a little more. These scenes stain us.

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My favorite thing about a guy like Laymon is the surprising helpings of heart he manages to slip in between the line of entrails and the cock with razor sharp teeth that is also a pleasure machine. The Traveling Vampire Show’s childhood romance between its two main characters brought me back to those early episodes of The Wonder Years. Watching Winnie Cooper and Kevin Arnold kiss for the first time.

How can we replicate this masterful art of blood and beauty? Well, it ain’t easy or everyone would do it. I think the key is one word: honesty.  Keep it real (as real as your monsters will allow). It is far easier said than done.Our imaginations can get pretty fantastic. It is easy to get lost on the dark side. To get caught up in the crimson pool of guts that we paint the page with. Sometimes, that’s all a story calls for. I couldn’t write that way, but I know some authors who do and pull it off. For me, I have to push a couple more buttons on my readers. I have to hit those buttons in myself first. I bring up my own guts, my own pain, my own joys, and then I let the monsters terrorize the hell out of all that goodness, all those emotions, all of the honesty.

I hope when I write THE END on the last page of The Last Show, I’ll have accomplished all of that.I promise you one thing–I will give it my best shot.

Here’s to heart, horror, and that crazy Laymon inside of us all.

Cheers!

Follow Your Arrow (Part 2): Stay Gold, Ponyboy

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Stay Gold, Ponyboy…

I started writing in 2011. It took me four months to write the first draft of my first novel. Ever since then, I’ve been working on getting better as a writer. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was: “Don’t let schooling change how you write” She was talking about my voice as a writer, but I think that line of advice can be applied to any sort of lesson or instruction you may receive on how to be a writer.

I know plenty of people, great authors, who pay good money to attend writing classes, or workshops, or writing boot-camps,  and I think if you can afford them and have the time, go for it. The concern in taking classes and instruction is that you may take every lesson as a “how-to” manual. The problem there is that, for some writers, you begin to think that anything that doesn’t go step-by-step the way you were taught is somehow wrong.

Writing is more than that. There is definitely some structure involved. It’s not an “anything goes” venture. Not everyone can or should do it (even though Amazon says you can). You have to have an idea about how a story should flow, how to bring characters to life, write dialogue, and have a decent grasp on grammar. I believe the best way to learn is simply to read. Read your favorite authors, read the classics, and mix in some riff raff. Yes, you can learn plenty of what not to do by reading through those bad books, too. The key is to find a few authors you truly enjoy and marvel over, and note in your writing brain what they did that worked so well for you. And likewise with the bad ones–what really killed the book? Where did it all go horribly wrong? I read like crazy. I read more now that I’m writing than I did before.

I like to look at learning as taking advice. Use what works for you. Use what you’re comfortable with. I often will send my pieces to another writer friend or an editor and ask them what they think. More times than not, I get a great piece of advice in return, or some little nugget that I never thought about. When I first started the process of using beta readers, I took everything I was told to heart. Besides, the rules and suggestions were coming from professionals. Then, I began to notice things in books I love that went against the rules. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like the move from innocent reader to writer/reader, but this enlightenment is inevitable. After a while, it got a little better.  Like anything in life, we go from not knowing, to thinking we know, to understanding.  I started to see that what we are taught, the advice we are given, is just that–advice. Yes, the lesson is coming from a professional, someone who has been there, done that, but that does not mean you must play strictly by these rules.  Your story doesn’t have to fit into the Writer’s Box.  Some of the ones that fit perfectly in that box are heartless. Almost like someone was doing paint-by-numbers with their book.  That is the travesty.

“Permission to Boogie”

Writing is about heart and soul. You can learn how to build the robot, but can you make it move? It’s about finding your voice. To do that you have to use what moves you to move the reader. What scares you? What breaks your heart? What makes you trust somebody? Hopefully you don’t have first-hand experience in disemboweling people (unless maybe you’re a doctor, or a mortician), but you need to use what makes your blood pump in real life and transfer that into your story. When you succeed in doing this, the magic comes to life. Your book comes alive. Your robot begins to boogie.

So yes, take the class, do the workshop, take notes when someone explains what didn’t work for them or what they would like to see, but don’t let it erase what makes you special. Apply the advice to what you already do. If your story doesn’t fit exactly into the manual, if your colors don’t stay in the lines, so be it. Art is about doing your thing, expressing who you are.  Readers will find you through one of your books or stories, but they’ll keep coming back to you for you.