Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy 2016

2015 was a great year, and 2016 will be even better

My modest goals as a writer: Write and sell two novels and two short stories every year. I started that practice in 1982, and I completed two novels and ten short stories that year while working a full-time job as a hotel manager. I also served thirty days on active duty as a Chief Warrant Officer with the U. S. Army Reserve. I sold one of those two novels the following year, and the other novel sold in 1985. Four of the ten stories saw print by 1984, and the other six were gobbled up by small press magazines before 1990.

I continued writing two novels and ten short stories each year through 1994. I sold eight novels and fifty-six short stories during that twelve-year period. All eventually appeared in print.

Most went out of print before the start of the new Millennium, although several of my short stories continued to be reprinted in anthologies from Pinnacle or in translations appearing from foreign publishers in various European and Asian languages.

When I returned to writing fiction in 2012, I had the same goal: write two new novels and two new short stories each and every year. I completed Abandoned and Deviants in 2012, Winds and Darkness in 2013, Light, Icepick, and Spilled Milk in 2014,and Meat Cleaver, Axes to Grind, Running Out of Time, and Pinking Shears in 2015. I sold Abandoned and Deviants both in 2014 (Eldritch Press published Abandoned in March 2015 and Damnation Books still hasn’t set a definite pub date for Deviants). Crossroad Press brought out new digital editions of The Devil Made Me Do It, Claw Hammer, and Daddy’s Home in 2014, and they published Pickaxe, Icepick, Pinking Shears, Axes to Grind, Meat Cleaver, and Running Out of Time in 2015.

Three of my short stories appeared in print in 2015. “Dolls” was published in Weirdbook 31 in September, “After the Fall” was published in the Fall 2015 issue of The Horror Zine, and “Who Knows What Evil Lurks” was revised for the August 2015 issue of Pulp Adventures 18.

2015 was very good year.

2016 promises to be even better.

The Devil Mad Me Do It Again and Again, a new short fiction collection containing twenty stories previously-published in anthologies and magazines,  should be out by March.

I’m putting final revisions on Sledgehammer, the latest novel in my Instruments of Death series. Impossible is an sf thriller, part of my Under the Gun series. I’m working on sequels to Spilled Milk, Winds, and Daddy’s Home. Come Hell and High Water is a supernatural thriller about the End of Times. And Final Exam is an exciting forensic science novel with an aging female pathologist who is teamed with a retired detective to teach criminology at a State University. When faculty members become targeted by a serial killer, two over-the-hill sleuths and a handful of students must track down the killer before they become victims themselves.

I’m also experimenting with first-person present tense in short fiction.

2015 was a busy year for public appearances and autographing, and 2016 promises to be even busier. I’m already committed to attending MidAmericon II in KC, Thrillerfest in NYC, Bouchercon in New Orleans, Stokercon in Vegas, and Wiscon, World Fantasy Con, and Windycon in the Midwest.

I wish all of my friends and fans the world over a very Happy New Year. I look forward to seeing you in person in 2016.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Winning the Numbers Game

Winning the numbers game

Writing is a numbers game. The more you write, the better you get at writing.

The more you write, the more stories you have to submit for publication. The more stories you submit, the better your chances of being published.

More is better. The more mistakes you make, the more chances you will have to correct them when you write new stories. We all learn from our mistakes. It takes some us longer than others to learn from mistakes. But, eventually, we will learn if we keep writing. The more you write, the better you will become at writing. Period. End of sentence.

Reading helps. The more you read, and the wider the scope of your reading, the more you learn. You can learn from the mistakes other writers make. And you can learn from the models they provide when those other writers finally learn to avoid making mistakes and do things right.

To become a best-selling author, you must also build an extensive readership of your own work. Building a readership, like most things in life, is a numbers game. Each editor, each reader, who reads your stories will remember your name if you show any talent at all. They will want you to succeed and they’ll watch for your next work and the one after that and the one after that. As you progress as a writer, they will not only spread the word about your talent but they’ll buy much of what you write. You see, editors and readers love good stories and they are always watching and impatiently waiting for good stories to appear. They know the more you write, the better your stories become. Therefore, the more stories you have in print, the better the chances are that your latest yarns are worth a read.

See how this game is played?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

On Fiction Awards

I’ve been the chair person of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award (R) Long Fiction Jury for two years and a jury member for another two. Each year I read hundreds of stories between 7500 and 40,000 words and select ten to nominate for superior achievement in long fiction.
Being a jury member is like being an acquisitions editor for a magazine or an anthology. You read through submissions and select the stories that appeal to you and nominate those stories for further consideration by the editorial board. Other editors have also selected their favorites from slush and make their own nominations. A good editor advocates for his or her own selections, and all editors eventually must agree on (or acquiesce to) which selections should be included in the final product.

The Stoker Jury Chairs are not the same as senior editors or editors in chief who make the final decisions. Chairs have only one vote, as do all jury members. The duty of the chair is to ensure the rules are followed and a list of ten superior stories will be presented by January 15th of the following year.

This year I have had the pleasure of reading many outstanding stories that should all receive recognition.I had to re-read several before making my decision which ones I liked best. I narrowed down my selections and sent my list to the other jury members. Now the jury deliberates and decides which to send to the HWA for inclusion on the preliminary ballot. The entire membership gets to vote and select the stories for a final ballot. Then we all get to vote again and the winners receive awards at the annual award ceremonies in May.

Reading great stories is a joy. It is also a very humbling learning experience for a writer in the same genre. Instead of saying “I could have written that” I find myself saying “I wish I had written that” or “I wish I could write like that.”

I have harbored mixed feelings about the value of awards. Award-winning stories can act as role models for other writers and give us something to strive to attain or possibly to surpass. When awards mean more than merely a popularity contest, they can motivate us to achieve our absolute best. Because the HWA Stokers have a juried component, they avoid being only a popularity contest.

Sitting on a professional jury is time-consuming and takes time away from one’s own writing. It’s especially hard when one also has a day job and a family demanding attention. But it is important work and somebody needs to do it.

I want to thank all of the other jury members and the HWA Awards co-chairs, as well as the HWA officers and board members, for volunteering their time. The Stokers are, and always have been, a labor of love.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Win 30 Crime Novels - Crime Writer Sue Coletta

Win 30 Crime Novels - Crime Writer Sue Coletta

Joe McKinney is a great writer

Joe McKinney is a great horror writer and a really nice guy. I was out of the horror industry when Joe burst on the scene with Dead City a decade ago, and I’m only now catching up on all of the great stories and novels Joe’s written since. The Savage Dead (Pinnacle, September 2013) breaks from Joe’s usual “everyman” (average person caught up in extraordinary events) archetype and features three extraordinarily capable characters. Juan Perez and Tess Compton are Secret Service agents assigned to protect Senator Rachel Sutton, an anti-drug crusader in Congress. Pilar (aka Monica Rivas)works for Mexican drug cartel czar Ramon Medina. Juan and Tess foiled two earlier Medina plots to kill Senator Sutton, so Medina goes all out and unleashes a bio-engineered zombie plague aboard a cruise ship where Sutton and her husband, guarded only by Tess, try to save their failing marriage. Medina places Pilar on the same ship with instructions to disable the ship and ensure Sutton dies.
Juan, while investigating the Medina cartel,discovers the zombie plot. He pulls strings at the White House and gets priority to lead a Delta Force SOG rescue of Sutton and Tess. But Juan’s rescue teams are killed by the zombies, and Juan must face the zombie hoard and Pilar’s guns in a desperate race against time. Two F-15s are coming to blow the ship out of the water within minutes. The tension mounts, each chapter is literally a cliff-hanger, and the big-bang finish caps a well-told story that’s a thrill a minute.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz is an entertaining thrill ride

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster, March 2016) is a first person narrative by Tanya Dubois aka Jo aka Tanya Pitts aka Jane Green aka Amelia Keen aka Debra Maze. Tanya/Amelia is on the run after her husband Frank Dubois dies. Did Tanya kill Frank? Or was Frank’s death an accident? One mystery leads to yet another as Tanya flees from lie after lie, life after life.
Tanya meets Blue in a bar in Austin, TX. When Mr. Oliver sends 2 men to question or kill Tanya, Blue and Tanya kill the men and escape. They begin visiting funeral homes to steal identities of deceased women. When Blue tells Tanya she’s killed her abusive husband, Jack, Tanya helps Blue bury the body. Blue suggests, since they can’t find a suitable cadaver look-alike, they simply switch identities. Tanya becomes Debra Maze, Blue’s real name, and Blue becomes Amelia Keen.

Tanya seems most at home in a bar. As she moves from town to town, changing identities on the fly, she keeps meeting men in bars. From Austin she flees to Recluse, Wyoming, where she kills the real Jack Reed in self-defense. She flees Recluse for upstate New York.

I won’t tell you Tanya’s real name. I won’t tell you about Ryan nor Mr. Oliver nor why Tanya went on the run in the first place. I don’t want to spoil the mystery.

I will mention Dominick because he’s a recurring figure in Tanya’s life. He’s the one genuinely nice and honest guy in her life, but he’s a cop and he suspects she’s not whom she claims to be and that she might be a wanted murderer.

The Passenger is a well-written mystery story with a compellingly strong female character who grows on the reader as complication after complication screws up Tanya’s life even more. There are so many wonderful twists and turns in this book that you won’t stop reading until you have read all of the story. Despite all of the foreshadowings, the ending comes as a real surprise.

My hat’s off to Lisa Lutz for an entertaining thrill-ride that made me hold onto my seat.