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Echoes & Bones

My group (of writers), The Deviant Dolls, have released our first anthology, Echoes & Bones. And it’s not your usual collection of short stories. I know. That’s what they all say, right? But I, ahem, mean it. What we did was decide on a theme, then each of us wrote a story adhering to said theme.

The results were… interesting.

Some of us kept things civil, others toed the line. Then, as always, there were a couple who said “Fuck the line,” and took the extreme route. Suffice to say, if this book was a movie it would probably be one of those weird, dark, Eastern European snuff films. Still, at least we can say there’s probably something for everyone.

Here’s comes the blurb, followed by the splendid cover art (shout out to Renee Miller) and finally the hard sell. That’s the best bit.

The Florida Keys, a psychic, and a chipped teacup; not very interesting on their own, but together, they weave dark, sometimes twisted tales of secrets, death, mystery and fantastic discovery. Join us as we listen to the echoes and wade through the bones, to unearth the treasures hidden in our deviant minds.

DDP Antho

Including:

CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL – Michael Keyton
Cheating a houngan is bad news. A classroom won’t save you.

THE LAST READING OF MADAME SHAHRAZAD – Steve Wetherell
Stacey James makes a comfortable living pretending to talk to the dead, but a dangerous stranger is about to put her talents to the ultimate test.

THE PAST ENTOMBED – C.M. Saunders
Amanda has a tragic past. She also has a gift. Or maybe it’s a curse. Psychometry. The art of ‘reading’ inanimate objects. It’s something she has struggled with her entire life, but learned to accept. Until one morning, when she stumbles across an object at a market which brings the past and the future crashing together.

WASHER WOMAN SHOALS – Liam McNalley
Between her part time job mixing drinks at her landlord’s bar and deceiving tourists as Madame Ezora, Belle earns enough money to allow for a simple new life in Key West. A strange object found on the beach, though, turns her world upside down. Now, the only way to avoid certain death is for Belle to actually contact a spirit from the other side.

MISBEGOTTEN – Frank E. Bittinger
Haunted by a memory or haunted by an actual spirit, that is the question. Even in paradise, it seems you cannot outrun the past. Will turning to one who communicates with those who have passed beyond the Veil provide answers or will it only lead to a dead end?

THIS ONE IS MINE – Katrina Monroe
Patty will look into a stranger’s past for a small fee. Now, it’s time to confront her own.

KEEPER – Renee Miller
Ford’s dusty pawn shop in the Florida Keys is full of both trash and treasure. The items he hides in the room behind the store, though, are his most prized possessions, and definitely not for sale. Rare beauty, exquisite gifts; each worth a price only Ford comprehends.

Echoes & Bones is available for a limited time at a reduced price for on ebook and paperback.

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Twenty Years!?

I saw a Facebook post recently which reminded me of something. Well, not so much ‘reminded me’ of something, more like hit me over the head with something. It’s been twenty years since I had my first story published. Twenty fucking years. I was going to say it’s been twenty years since I started writing, but that wouldn’t be strictly true. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. My first published story was called Monkey Man, and it came out in a Welsh literature magazine called Cambrensis some time in 1997. It was a different landscape back then. In the late-nineties there was a thriving small press consisting of various genre mags as opposed to a glut of websites. I also had some early success in Raw Nerve, the Asphalt Jungle, Roadworks, Tales of the Grotesque & Arabesque and several others. The thing was, even back then I was very conscious of getting paid for my efforts, and the vast majority of these titles didn’t offer anything except ‘exposure.’ In fact, when you consider materials, printing and postage expenses, in the pre-digital age it actually cost money to submit to publications. It was a two-way street. Being physical entities, it meant these magazines cost money to put together and distribute.

Having flunked all my exams (even English) I was working in a factory at the time for minimum wage. Mostly, I put things in boxes. Soap, shampoo, pills. You name it, I’d put it in a box. I wanted to find some way of generating extra income, so I started submitting feature ideas to newsstand magazines. This was when shows like the X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were at their peak, and this was manifested in the popularity of paranormal-themed publications like Fortean Times, Enigma and Beyond. I soon found my little niche, and what was more, they paid! They paid pretty well, actually. Sometimes, I would get as much money for one 2000-word feature as I would for an entire week slaving in the factory. My magazine work and general fascination with the weird and fucked-up led to me researching and writing my first book, Into the Dragon’s Lair: A Supernatural History of Wales, which was eventually published by a mid-size Welsh publisher called Gwasg Carreg Gwalch in 2003. Into the Dragon’s Lair set my life on a different path. It was targeted mainly at the tourist trade, and generated a lot of media interest. Several national newspapers did stories about it, and I was a guest on a live Radio Wales programme. It all resulted in a division of the Welsh government giving me a grant to go to university as a mature student.

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I had a choice of two; Carlisle and Southampton. I chose the latter because growing up I was a big Matt Le Tissier fan, who played for Southampton FC. It was that simple. Two weeks later, I was enrolled on a journalism degree and working part time as a barman at the football stadium. I’d hardly left Wales before. In my spare time, I decided to knuckle down and write ‘The Great Welsh Novel,’ a partly autobiographical tale called Rainbow’s End. It took a couple of years, but as soon as it was finished it was snapped up by a new start-up publisher called Flarefont, who promptly went bankrupt. During this time, I also started working on a book about Cardiff City FC, which eventually came out in 2014, again on Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, after another publisher strung me along for about three years until eventually pulling the plug.

From the Ashes F

During university, one of the most beneficial things I did, was go on work experience placements at every magazine that would take me (Front, Ice, Maxim, FHM). I learned more during those two-week placements than I did in three years of university, and I managed to form relationships that would serve me well later in my career. After I graduated from university, I freelanced for a year, writing features for Nuts, Record Collector, Rock Sounds, Urban Ink, Chat… It’s Fate, and anyone else who would pay me, before bunking off to China to teach English. I mainly worked at universities, which meant I had a lot of free time during which I continued to freelance, adding China to my list of specialist topics. One freezing Spring Festival in Tianjin, through sheer boredom, I started writing fiction again, a full nine years after my last published effort. Perhaps this explains why some people assume I am relatively ‘new’ to the scene. Nah, mate. Been here a while. Just had a rest. Over the next couple of years I wrote Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story and Dead of Night (both published by Damnation Books), and Devil’s Island (Rainstorm Press), as well as a clutch of short stories, which would appear in Screams of Terror, Gore, Siren’s Call, the Literary Hatchet, Trigger Warning, Deadman’s Tome, and a few anthologies.

Then, in 2012, I had another huge stroke of luck. A Staff Writer job came up at Nuts magazine and I was given a shot at it mainly because the deputy editor had somehow noticed some of my funny quips on social media. I flew back from China and was suddenly zipping around London fraternizing with models and film stars. But times were already hard in the ‘lad mag’ market, and getting progressively harder. I was soon got laid off as the sector went through its death throes. I reinvented myself as a sports journalist, and landed a job on the new-fangled Sports Direct magazine. That, too, went belly-up for entirely different reasons, and was re-launched as Forever Sports (later FS). After a couple of years as Senior Writer I was offered a promotion and a pay rise, and asked to move to another new launch at a different publishing company. It didn’t work out. I butted heads with my new editor for a while, then left to go back to freelance, and the new launch sank like the Titanic. By this time I was beginning to realize that the magazine industry was a ruthless arena with very little in the way of job security.

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Parallel to my magazine career, I took advantage of the rise in self-publishing and put out a steady stream of material. To help keep a degree of separation from my day job(s) I modified by name for fiction. There were some things I wrote while I was in China (including Sker House, and No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches) which just needed tweaking, and I also started gathering my previously-published short stories into a series of collections. I’ve lost a lot of faith in publishing companies, so I much prefer to put these things out myself. That way I can maintain complete control over every aspect of the process from the cover art to the contents and pricing. These days, I make a living by maintaining several revenue streams, fiction and magazine work being just two components. It isn’t easy, but it’s the life I chose. The past two decades have been a hell of a ride. I’ve done things I never thought I would do, and seen things I never thought I would see. I’ve met some amazing people, more than a few cunts, and lived in 12 different places, in eight different towns and cities, in three different countries. I’ve come to realize that moving around is a big part of my identity. I get restless if I stay in one place for too long. I need the constant sense of ‘newness.’ It keeps me focused. All things considered, I’ve far exceeded my own expectations, and anything beats working in that factory.

I can’t wait to see what the next twenty brings.

 


Adventures in Independent Publishing – Part 2

Up to Scratch

Once your book is written, it’s up to you to make sure the finished product is up to a high standard. It has your name on it, after all. The average buyer probably won’t be expecting the next Pulitzer Prize winner, but they will be expecting a professional job, and rightly so. Especially if they paid good money for it. Wouldn’t you? So make sure there are no gaping plot holes, silly typos, spelling mistakes, or continuity errors in your manuscript. This is where a good editor comes in. The spelling and grammar check on your word processing software alone just won’t cut it, I’m afraid.

Believe it or not, it’s quite difficult to edit your own work. You are just too close to it. Professional editors are not cheap, but there are numerous copyediting and formatting companies out there who will do different aspects of the job to for a fraction of the cost. Alternatively, you could send the rough draft out to one or more beta readers who will be able to offer a different perspective on things, or at least a fresh pair of eyes.

Cover Story

While it’s probably true that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the reality is that people do. By nature, humans are very visual creatures. We are attracted to things that we think look nice. Fact. Getting the cover right is probably the single most important aspect of the whole independent publishing process. If you have any existing knowledge of Photoshop, or the time to learn, try doing your own. Especially if you are on a limited budget. There are some good tutorials available online, and some decent websites dedicated to book design. Otherwise, KDP has a ‘Create a book cover’ function but be warned, this is very basic. If at all possible, pay a pro and get the job done properly.

Having very limited capabilities I enrolled the help of one of my friends, Greg Chapman, who designed one for me.

http://darkscrybe.com/

He did a pretty fucking awesome job, too.

Click for more info

Click for more info

Be warned, some designers, high on their sense of self-importance, price themselves out of the market. I was quoted $500 by one graphics artist for a job that would take anyone worth his or her salt no more than an hour. Probably a lot less. No thanks.

Priming the Market

So now your book is written, formatted, and proofread so it reads smoothly and is completely free of errors. You have a cover and a KDP account all set up, so you are ready to go! Or are you?

Well, not quite. There are a number of things you could and should do before you put out your book. Firstly, tell all your family and friends. They will be your biggest supporters, your inner circle. You don’t have to tell them all directly and individually, just post a Facebook status update or two. If you have a blog, write a post about the imminent release and upload your book cover to your social networking sites before it goes live. People are visual creatures, remember? Try to draw comments by captioning it with something like, “this is the cover of my book. What do you guys think?”

It’s becoming increasingly popular amongst writers to make video trailers advertising their book, which is then posted on their website and uploaded to video-sharing sites like YouTube. To me, this seems like a lot of trouble. I’ve never done it. Possibly because I wouldn’t know where to start. If you have a big enough budget, you could pay a production company to do one for you. From what I hear the costs aren’t too prohibitive. You could also use a bit of initiative. One of my writer friends has a brother who is a musician, so she uses his tunes as background music in her book trailers. That’s a good bit of promotion for them both.

Another way to help prime the market for your book is to send out a press release, which automatically goes out to various media outlets and industry-connected individuals. Most outlets charge for the privilege, but there are some free services around. I used this one:

http://www.free-press-release.com/

Party on, dude!

It’s also worth thinking about holding a launch party. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, you could just invite a few friends over to your house, get them drunk and persuade them to buy your book. This is a great way to start a bit of word-of-mouth, the best kind of marketing there is. If throwing parties isn’t your thing, an increasingly popular alternative is to get involved in online chats and hang-outs. The wonders of modern technology means you can hold a party on your computer and invite anyone with an internet connection.

My first indie offering, X: A Collection of Horror, is out now:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/X-Collection-Horror-Christian-Saunders-ebook/dp/B00IGHTFC8

Part 1 of Adventures in Indie Publishing, featuring an overview of the industry and an introduction to Kindle Direct Publishing can be found here:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/adventures-in-independent-publishing-part-1/


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