Saturday, June 9, 2012

Solitaire Parke: The Interview

Whether a writer or a reader, Goodreads is a pretty terrific place for lots of reasons. Having a place to track our voracious appetite for storytelling is the most obvious, but another is in some of the people you meet. Recently, I had the honor and privilege of meeting author Solitaire Parke through GR. If you haven't checked out Vengeance of the Wolf, then you really should, horror/sci-fi fans. He has a clean writing style, a lush talent for description, and a deft hand with characterization. Some people want to write, but have no business doing it. Solitaire is NOT one of those people. Recently, he swung by for an interview. Let's get to it. 

What do you want people to know about you as a person, as a writer? 
I'm really not much different from most people at least down deep where it counts.  I try to calibrate my moral compass every day and work as hard as I can.  As a writer, I try to never box myself into a genre corner and just write what I feel, or what I dream. 
Describe your publishing journey for readers. 
Like so many other authors, I have file cabinets full of rejection letters.  I got to a point in my life where I didn't trust anyone else to publish my work, so I decided to do it myself.  Indie authors understand exactly what I mean.  In the independent world it's more important to help others because what you do for them comes back tenfold.  I discovered it's easier to help them than to stress over me.  In the end, your work reaches the public and we as authors control our own destiny.   
What are some of the best/worst writing tips/advice you’ve ever received, and what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
I think the worst tip I ever got was from a publishing house in regards to my poetry and was told that real poetry died two hundred years ago, ergo...go get a real job.
The best advice I have gotten came from an Indie author who told me not to listen to negative advice and just keep writing.
When did the writing bug first bite and who, if anyone nurtured you into what you would become?
I got bit on my twelfth birthday after being introduced to the writing of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of A Princess of Mars.  So I guess it was his fault.
Employers always ask about the 5-year plan. If you had an employer in indie writing—and thank God we don’t—what would you tell him your 5-year plan is? 
Write a lot, laugh a lot, love with abandon and make as many friends as possible.  Oh, and sign on for five more years.
From inception to The End, discuss your process for getting a book like Vengeance of the Wolf ready for the public?
That book required a massive amount of research into the paranormal.  I sat down every day and wrote my brains out.  Once it was finished, it went through multiple edits and I had everyone I knew read the book, sometimes more than once.  I'm sure it was more grueling for them than me.  I sent it out for reviewing to as many people as would say yes and then sent it to every publishing house that would read horror.  The rest as they say is Independent history.
On the business end, how much do you handle, and how much do you outsource, and what personal time/money costs are involved? 
I'm not a business man, and have never been.  I'm blessed with an incredibly talented family and so most of the expenditures that authors incur were simply bypassed.  My daughter is one of the premier digital artists in today's industry and I worked building web sites prior to becoming a full time writer.  Everything except ordering the finished hard copy is done in house.  I'm a very fortunate man.
You are quite varied in the style of writing you represent. How do you feel this helps or hurts in your overall career goals?
I'm sure that the reading public probably thinks I'm all over the board, but in the end I think they will see that I write from passion and not for any particular genre or just for remuneration.
What marketing techniques have worked best for you? 
I'm not sure there is a patented method that if you do a thing, then all will be well.  I'm pretty sure it amounts to hard work and diligence.
In VOTW, there are several unfortunate, ill-fated politicians. As a journalist, who covers politics, it was a nice bit of escapism for me. What are your views of the American political scene?
Hehehe...I think the book intimates my feeling about American Politics or just politics in general.  An oxymoron no matter how cleverly disguised...Jumbo shrimp, freezer burn, or honest politician is still...I think you can see where I'm going with this.
You have a passion for music, design and photography, it seems. Where do these things fit in to your writing time, how do they help you in your work as a writer, and what other hobbies capture your interests? 
All of my previous occupations have helped me to feel, hear or see with a different set of senses.  It has given me a unique way to describe what the mind's eye dumps into my consciousness.  At least I'd like to think it does. 
What special writing rituals do you employ when prepping your books—anything from creating and working from an outline to OCD’n it is welcome :).
I generally dream the books first.  From there it's translated to an outline and which piece of music it makes me think about.  I stick with the same kind of music until it's finished.  I guess the inspiration is fueled by how the music makes me feel.
What are your favorite or most influential books/movies, and why?
Edgar Rice Burroughs - A Princess of Mars and Bram Stoker's Dracula were the two most influential books for me.  Both authors had style, flair and were just plain gutsy.  Both have been turned into movies and although the movies weren't as good as the books, they still hold a special place for me.
Which dream projects do you just HAVE to tell that you haven’t gotten around to yet, and what’s currently in development?
I recently dreamed a new sci-fi project that I'm very excited about, but sadly hasn't been fitted into the docket of front burner writing.  The project I'm working on presently is "The Emerald Dragon" which is going up on my blog one chapter at a time until sometime later this year.  It's my first Urban Fantasy and I had no idea it would be this much fun.
Series fiction is, marketably, a good idea for indie and traditional writers alike. What are your thoughts on it—do you find it easier or harder than one-and-dones? 
I like the series fiction concept.  If one takes off on you, it gives you the direction you need to go, but sometimes the urge just smacks you in the head to write one for which there is no return.  Single standalones are easier because you don't have to hold back, it's just total disclosure by the time you finish and that's pretty satisfying too.
What’s your very next book?
The next one up will be released this month and is entitled "Tinker Smith & the Conspiracy of OZ."  "Tinker Smith & the Conspiracy of OZ" is the story of ten children stolen from their parents and genetically altered. Their new found abilities cause them to become outcasts to society and ultimately superstars that can save the world from the geneticist who made them. Oscar Zoroaster, the self proclaimed Wizard of Oz and his private army, follow on the coat tails of global destruction to affect his dream. His technological prowess is far beyond standard science and he deploys it on an unsuspecting populace. This evil genius wants to reshape the world into the image of his children. His "OZ" on earth.

Vengeance of the Wolf is available in all sorts of ways, along with Solitaire's other works, at the official Solitaire Parke website. Check him out! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jodi Picoult: Out of Touch with Reality

With more and more of us earning a living through self-publishing, it’s kind of amusing when you hear someone as out of touch with reality as Jodi Picoult chime in about what a writer should and should not be doing with his career.

In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Picoult gave the following advice to aspiring authors: “Take a workshop course. You need to learn to give and get criticism and to write on demand. (Me: Agreed.) And DO NOT SELF PUBLISH.”

Great advice if this was 2005.

What we have here is a New York Times Bestselling Author giving career advice to a different kind of professional, whose platform she doesn’t even remotely understand. It’s like a lottery winner telling you to spend all your money on tickets instead of investing in a 401K or IRA.

Picoult was lucky enough to win the New York lottery. Yes, she pounded the pavement tracking down the lotto tickets until she found the winning numbers, but in the end, luck rewarded her hard work and unwillingness to give up. Same as any indie author making it on their own terms.

And there are several.

Of course, what’s really happening here is Picoult is defending the platform, which made her a success: traditional publishing. She’s doing so because she’s a star in brick-and-mortar bookstores, which are quickly cutting hours or disappearing altogether.

An endorsement of an alternative system threatening the one, which made her a success, is bad for business. When eBook sales are the majority of the market, and more bookstores are closed, it won’t be as easy for her to make those bestseller lists the way she does now.

So of course she’s going to say something stupid and short-sighted like “And DO NOT SELF PUBLISH.”

She’s going to say that because she has a skewed impression of what success at self publishing actually means.

She doesn’t realize successful indie authors are making it on their own terms because they know how to seek and accept criticism. They know how to respond. They know how to keep at it until the book is as polished and well-formatted as anything New York puts out.

Yes, there are tons of horrible indie authors, who aren’t doing any of the things they need to do for success, and yes, they give the rest of us a bad name. But the market and these writers’ own continued failures will eventually sort them out.

Picoult’s blanket condemnation shows no respect for those of us, who do get it. Those of us who are looking at our own work with an unflinching eye. Those of us who are seeking the help of professional editors and proofreaders. Those of us who are investing in top-notch covers. Those of us who are willing to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite again, however many times it takes to get the work to professional quality.

She assumes we are amateurs even when we’ve moved over 1,000 copies of our book in a short time period and out-earned the typical traditional publishing advance of $5,000 in less than a year.

Picoult assumes much, and I’ll just let the familiar cliche about assumptions stand on its own without spelling it out for you.

After all, I'm going to assume you do get it, even if you're one of us stupid, misguided indie authors Picoult bites her thumb at.

Monday, March 26, 2012

How do you handle a bad day?

March 16.

The day I became a full-time freelance writer. It was not without its share of hardships. For one, the full-time income wasn’t quite there yet, meaning poor-pitiful-me had to produce some pretty awful dreck to get paid. If you’ve been around the freelance game long enough, you know what I speak of:

Content Mills, duh-duh-duhhhhh!!!

I had a handful of decent assignments, but they were more like fine China around my house. You didn’t eat off them very much.

Slowly but surely, like the Little Engine That Could, I kept chugging along, believing in myself, saying my prayers, taking my vitamins, and inexplicably watching a lot of Hulk Hogan reruns on YouTube.

Today, I’m a full-blown work-for-myself kind of guy, and I feel a lot better about making the rent when it comes due every month. Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is. But it’s not perfect. Take today, for example.

One of my many jobs is I’m a reporter for a new media organization in Fort Smith, Ark., known as We’ve recently expanded to Northwest Arkansas, which would mean something to you if you actually lived here.

(Hint: NWA, as we sometimes refer to it, is where you’ll find the Walmart Headquarters. I’ll wait for the boos and the hisses to die down if you hate Walmart.)


Anyhow, tonight I have two meetings, which take place at the same time. I have another story due before the end of the night. And I’ve got one hush-hush project I’m working on, which could put me in hot water with one particular branch of local government you don’t wanna piss off. My objective will likely piss them off.

So I woke up this morning. My throat felt like a little person was on the inside of my mouth taking a tiny switchblade to my uvula.

My muscles, back, bones, ache—from what, I don’t know. It’s close to 2 p.m., and I haven’t had the energy for a shower or a meal. Just really not the kind of day you should be working, in other words.

Yet here I am, starting my day with a laundry list of complaints in the hope maybe it will energize me to do the actual paid work.

Working for yourself, ladies and gentlemen, is not always a picnic. You’ve got no sick days to run to for help. No personals. No vacation time. You don’t work, you don’t eat. Pretty simple. Throw into the mix, I’m down to the last 10,000 words of my workable draft of The Vacant, which will finish out tomorrow, come Hell or High Water, and you’ve got one tired me.

If you’re serious about working for yourself, you’ve got to realize there are going to be days like this, and you’ve got to find ways to work wthrough them. This bitch-fest blog post is how I’m doing it. I don’t want or need sympathy. I just need to throw some thoughts out on paper, get my fingers working on something with a point, and work out the cobwebs enough so I can do my jobs. All of ‘em.

And already, I feel better.

How do you handle the tough days when your body and/or mind is not cooperating? Horror fans…writers…share your thoughts below.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Kindle Fire Giveaway Finals

If patience is a virtue, and believe me sometimes I am not so sure, then you people are saints for waiting on me to get this up.

On Jan. 1, the deadline I set for the Kindle Fire giveaway, The Congregation finished with only five reviews on Amazon. Luckily for my bank account, I sold quite a bit more than that. It is still a loss leader for those of you curious, but nothing near what I feared. In the process, I picked up five reviews, and since a deal is a deal, only five of you will be slugging it out for the Fire.

Now, per the original rules of the contest, this is for my blog followers to decide, so if you are one, feel free to vote for yourself and direct your friends and family to sign up here at the site and vote as well. The full list of reviews are at this link, so read through them and choose your favorite. The participants, who made it in by the deadline are: S. Mark Dancer, Brad Molder, S. Lawrence, HLLivingLoco, and RedSoxFreak67.

(You all don't hold it against him that he likes those Red Sox, he's actually a swell guy.)

For the sake of transparency, vote in the comments section below the post you are now reading. Simply write the Amazon user name you liked the best. Vote only once. Anonymous votes won't be counted for obvious reasons. Voting closes a week from today at 11:59 p.m.

On Saturday the 14th, your Fire will be ordered and on the way to the address you specify. The rest of you get a free $9.99 (or less) ebook from the author of your choice just because you were such good sports for playing along. Now maybe the next time I do a giveaway, maybe more of you people will take me seriously :).

Seriously, thanks guys, and please tell all the friends and followers you can to buy The Congregation today! It's bloody, it's messy, it's nasty, it's mean, and it's fun. And it won't take up too much of your time.