Giveaway and Blog Tweaks

So, first, a business item: My Weird West tale, “The Truck Stop” and a historical novella, “The Man Who Ran from God” are both free this weekend (Aug. 16 and 17) on the Kindle. Stop by and check them out. You don’t need a Kindle to get them, just the Kindle app.


Blog TweaksCover_1_kindle_1_5_12
Next, I just want to talk about this blog. I’ve been trying my best to update it every week. I haven’t always succeeded and it’s been tough feeding the beast with all my other commitments (job, family, life and fiction writing). I don’t think I will be able to deliver every week.

So, here’s the deal: I will TRY my best to do a post EVERY week, with more substantive posts coming every other week, starting NEXT week on Aug. 22. That is, unless there’s a major life event or emergency. I will try to keep those posts bigger, more substantive. Musings on the craft of writing, the state of publishing, philosophical tirades, etc. The off-week posts sandwiched between the substantive posts will be more prosaic posts about where my writing work is at. Today’s post is an example of the later: just a writing update post.


Writing Update
So here’s the first writing update. You can learn more about the works referenced here in last week’s post or my Works in Progress page.

  • I have resubmitted my comedy-horror novella, “AFTA” to a couple of new places. Not a single squeak out of them yet, but, hey, this is a novella submission, so it takes time. Right?…Right. It’s also a cross-genre piece, which I imagine editors picking up with tweezers or fire tongs, hoping they won’t get burned, infected or mutilated. Oh well. Comedy horror can work and it’s a damn fun genre. Problem is, it’s too funny for some horror publishing houses that want “suspense” and too dark for comedy houses looking for light comedy. But there’s someone out there that will fall for “AFTA,” I just know it.
  • I am about half way done editing my science fiction short story, “B.” I’m also working through (FINALLY!) the notes from the writing group (hosted by Lisa Mistry and Jason Van Gumster) that was kind enough to read a beta version of the story. I will polish this one up and start submitting it.
  • Strangelet Journal just put together the Table of Contents for their first issue, with my story, “The Ghul of Yazd” in it. You can follow Strangelet on Twitter as the publication day approaches. I, for one, am super-excited to share my story. Can’t wait.


Musical Interlude
It’s been too long since we’ve had music on this blog. For some reason, I’ve been wandering through the Renaissance and Baroque composers lately…Don’t ask. I love this track, (“O Dolce Vita Mia” by Willaert) especially the beginning note. There’s something undeniably “spacey” about it. Enjoy.

The sounds of Gothic deep space.

Two Years of My Blog + A Giveaway

Well, it’s been two years since I started this blog, “A Writer Begins.” On July 20, 2012 I wrote my very first post. Here it is, in its entirety:


My New Novel

[Jul 20 by dariusjones]

Well, here goes nothing.

My first novel has just been published. It’s on the Amazon Kindle store here. It’s also on Goodreads.

Please take the time to leave a review. And a big thank you to all of you who have already got it and are reading it.

,D


“Well, here goes nothing”??? Wow. I’ve come a long way since then. Here are some of the best things that have happened in my past two years of writing:

  • I sold at least 200 copies of The Library of Lost Books (haven’t counted sales in over a year).
  • I gave away at least 1,600 copies of The Library of Lost Books.
  • Fiction Vortex published my short story, “The Hatchlings.” And it won 3rd place in their Reader’s Choice Award for that month.
  • Self-published an historical novella: The Man Who Ran from God.
  • Finished and submitted a new comedy-horror novella. (Let’s hope the publisher likes it!)
  • Wrote and submitted and submitted and submitted a historical horror fiction piece, “The Ghul of Yazd.” I believe in the Ghul and know he will find a home someday…
  • Written 107 blog posts and had 1,500 views of the blog.
  • Watched followers for this blog grow from 0 to 96.
  • Connected with over 500 Twitter followers. Really loving the interaction with readers and fellow writers over there.
  • Went to my first Con, RavenCon, where I attended all the writing panels I could and a writing workshop.  I plan to be their next year in April. It’s totally kickass, so you should go. Just look for me in the writing panels, I should be there.
  • Switched my writing strategy from purely self-publishing to writing mostly for traditionally-published markets. This means I’m writing my stuff and submitting it to magazines instead of putting it up on Kindle.

I want you to know that I’ve done all of this while keeping down a full-time, pretty stressful job. I write mostly on the weekends (on Sundays) and do the business and blog end of stuff at night when I can. The reason I’m telling you this is not to pat myself on the back, but to make all you guys out there stuck in a 40-hour (or more) a-week job, know that you can do it. You can write in your spare time and make real progress. I know, I’ve done it. The trick is having the discipline and self-confidence to stick to it.

So, I keep writing and you guys keep reading my stuff and supporting me.

Mayan Writer

In my darkest hours, at those times I’ve wanted to quit, to give up the writing gig entirely…There’s been one thing that has kept me going—the fans. I can count a number of times when a glowing review, an enthusiastic note or a kind comment struck me and shook me to the core. So, thank you. Your encouragement counts for more than you’ll ever know.


Giveaway

As a small sign of appreciation I’m celebrating by running a giveaway this weekend. I’m doing a 2-day (July 19 and 20) giveaway of The Man Who Ran from God and “The Truck Stop” on the Amazon Kindle. So, if you haven’t had a chance to get them, grab them while you can.

As for the future, well, one can never tell. But I’m going to keep writing and giving my best every weekend. There’s lots more to come, so stay tuned.

And once again—thank you all for keeping the faith. 

Darius

Another Giveaway Weekend

For you blog readers who want to check out my writing—here’s your chance. I’m running a giveaway this weekend.

My historical novella, The Man Who Ran from God and my short story, “The Truck Stop” are free all weekend long (April 12 and 13) on the Kindle store.

Cover_1_kindle_1_5_12MWRFG_Kindle

And remember, you don’t need a Kindle to download and read the stories.

Enjoy!

Mardi Gras Giveaway

It’s Fat Tuesday and it’s time to indulge.

My historical novella, The Man Who Ran from God  and my short story, “The Truck Stop” are both free today (March 4) on the Kindle store. That’s 25,000 free words.

Cover_1_kindle_1_5_12MWRFG_Kindle

So, whichever Krewe you support, be it Proteus, Orpheus or Zeus, grab the two works before you head out to the parade. You’ll be glad you did when Lent rolls around.

A Giveaway and Musings on Pym

[SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers and plot elements from Poe’s “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.”]

First, my historical novella, “The Man Who Ran from God” is free today in the Kindle store. So, download it while you can. It’s a good way for you guys to check out my writing style. OK, enough self-promotion.


In other news,  I finally finished reading The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. I started reading it way back in October as part of my reading list. Throw in the fact that I moved, went to a wedding in California and that I’m a slow reader and you can see why I finished it just now.

My first impression and one that’s stayed with me is that it was a bit of disappointment. It was Poe’s only novel and I was expecting big things. But I found it long-winded, full of digressions and, frankly, boring.

Pym is a story of a stowaway that turns into a mutiny story that turns into an adventure/exploration saga of the South Seas. It’s set in the date of its publication, 1838.

A good examples of the writing sins that can be found in Pym are collected in Chapter 20 of the work. First, there’s a long digression on sea cucumbers. Yes, sea cucumbers. And yet, it’s hard to see why or how sea cucumbers are important to the plot or have any symbolic value. Poe, using a device that is effective in his shorts, where he includes important technical details to heighten realism, decides to include several paragraphs on the creature:

A description of the nature of this important article of commerce, and the method of preparing it, may prove of some interest to my readers, and I can find no more suitable place than this for introducing an account of it. The following comprehensive notice of the substance is taken from a modern history of a voyage to the South Seas…

Poe goes on for four paragraphs to describe the creature when one would have been more than enough. Why did he spend so much ink on a creature that is only ancillary to the story? I don’t know.

There is also an interesting instance of telling, not showing in this chapter. Now, 19th century literature does have instances of telling, not showing. I’m guessing we have the ‘showing’ mantra/cult/religion thanks to modern short story writers, starting with Chekhov. Anyway, Poe is describing the apparent good behavior of the “savages’’ they encounter as the ship travels further south.

A very short while sufficed to prove that this apparent kindness of disposition was only the result of a deeply laid plan for our destruction, and that the islanders for whom we entertained such inordinate feelings of esteem, were among the most barbarous, subtle, and bloodthirsty wretches that ever contaminated the face of the globe.

That little snippet was so disappointing to me that I wrote “Poe Tells! No!!!” in the margin next to it in pencil.

There are lots of other instances of bad novel writing in this piece: long digressions, suddenly-introduced characters, dairy entries interspersed with traditional narrative, sudden appearances of things or objects which have no later relevance. For me, it validates my long-held belief in the three types of fiction writers:

  • Poets.
  • Short story writers.
  • Novelists.

Poe was a gifted poet and short story writer. Reading Pym left me with the feeling that Poe was really struggling with the long form. It was as if he knew short story writing too well. He knew how to keep a short story terse, rich and taut. But when it came time to write a novel, he got a bit lost. There’s not that structure or character development you’d find in say, Dostoyevsky or Steinbeck. [It’s also interesting to note that poets can often be great short story writers, but usually make lousy novelists. Pushkin, Poe and Borges come to mind. And also, novelists rarely excel at poetry.]

But maybe it’s just as well. Pym didn’t do so well and Poe quickly turned back to his forte: short stories, poems, literary criticism. And in his last ten years he churned out some of his best stuff, including one of my favorites, Eureka.  

As I’m turning my hand to short stories now, I’m finding the short form very, very challenging. As the saying goes: “Writing short is harder than writing long.” It’s nice to know that even the greatest writers, like Poe, struggled when they tried to tackle a new form. As I delve into shorts, I’m going to remind myself to cut down on the self-criticism and realize learning a new form takes time. It makes me wonder what might have happened if Poe had done the same.


PS. There is one great part in Pym. The end. Seriously. And I’m not just saying that because it was over. The end is the most famous part and the narrator doesn’t explain who/what the “shrouded figure” they encounter is. It’s a great moment, a great example of “showing” and not telling and one that stays with the reader long after the story is over. It’s illustrated above.

Grab bag: Giveaway, October Reading List Update and More

Time for another edition of Grab Bag. This is one of those posts I write when everything stacks up and I have to take on a whole bunch of things at once. So, reach on in and let’s see what we’ve got.


Giveaway MWRFG_Kindle

First, there is a giveaway today and tomorrow (Nov. 15 and Nov. 16) of my historical novella called “The Man Who Ran from God.” The story is set in 800 B.C. in the Assyrian empire and Judea. Stop by the Kindle store and get it for free while you can.


October Reading List Update
Damn, I’m a slow reader. I have to underline, write notes and analyze everything I read. So, it takes time. Having a full-time job, writing fiction and blogging don’t help either. Anyway, I’m making headway on my October reading list. Here are my thoughts on the works I’ve read so far.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.
Despite its rather dated language, I really enjoyed this tale. It’s a quick read and is a sort of celebration of autumn in the New York countryside. There’s also nice little tidbits on the culture of the Dutch settlers of the Hudson valley. One thing it clearly focuses on is the competition between Ichabod, the protagonist and his nemesis Brom Van Brunt (who was “always ready for either a fight or a frolic”) for the hand of the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel, the “daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch farmer.” Ichabod is a sort of itinerant school teacher and Irving’s description of his favorite past time (collecting ghost tales) gives a good feel for the tone of the work:

Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was, to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvelous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would delight them equally by his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed in the earlier times of Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully with speculations upon comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming fact that the world did absolutely turn round, and that they were half the time topsy-turvy!

If you’ve never gotten around to reading it, I highly recommend it. It was refreshing to finally read the unadulterated tale after seeing the Disney adaption as a kid and the highly entertaining Fox show which brings a British Ichabod (he was American colonial in the original) into the 21st century. If you’re following the show, I especially recommend reading Irving’s original to see how the two compare.

“The Thing on the Doorstep” by H.P. Lovecraft.
I loved this one. From what I’ve read of Lovecraft so far and what others have said, it seems his stories vary widely in quality. Well, this one definitely hit the mark. It’s a cautionary tale (this one, a warning to those who dabble in the occult). Again, for a taste of the tone of the piece, here is Lovecraft describing the main character, Edward Derby.

What he did do was to become an almost fanatical devotee of subterranean magical lore, for which Miskatonic’s library was and is famous. Always a dweller on the surface of phantasy and strangeness, he now delved deep into the actual runes and riddles left by a fabulous past for the guidance or puzzlement of posterity. He read things like the frightful Book of Eibon, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, and the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, though he did not tell his parents he had seen them…

It was a great read, full of demonic metamorphoses and possessions. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re new to Lovecraft and looking for a strong short piece to start with.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” by Edgar Allan Poe.
I’m struggling through this one. So far, it’s been a bit of a disappointment. It’s Poe’s only novel-length piece of fiction, so I went in with big expectations. I’m a little over half-way through and I’m finding it very slow going. Unlike the other two pieces here, the pacing is slow, the digressions are long and don’t build  the plot. I will get more into my what I think the reasons for this are when I finish it. Suffice to say, I feel that Poe felt pressured into writing a longer piece and didn’t quite know what he was doing. His short stories are crisp, well-paced and tight. This feels (so far) long-winded, unfocused and unnecessarily long. But enough for now! I will address this once I finish the piece.

Also, I still have to read “The Dunwich Horror,” but will share my thoughts when I’m done with it.


UnRejectionable Ghoul Update
As promised earlier, I’m keeping you updated on my latest story’s progress. Right now, “The Ghul of Yazd” continues to wait for acceptance/rejection. He’s been persistently haunting (moaning, scratching at eyeballs, etc.) the editors of his latest magazine for 16 days now. Actually, he’s probably just lurking in their email inboxes and slush piles. No word on whether he’s made it out yet. But he’s a tough, persistent bastard, so he’s got a good chance. Good luck, buddy.


New Visitors
In a continuing sub-series, I’m mentioning each time viewers from a new country visit the blog. This past month the blog had its first visitors from:

  • Egypt. (This is a special one for me because Egypt was the first country I ever travelled to, outside the USA and Canada. It’s great to see a visitor from Masr.)
  • Bahrain.
  • Finland.
  • Bangladesh.

Welcome to the blog, everyone!

My Historical Novella is Free All Weekend

My Biblical historical novella, “The Man Who Ran from God” is free all weekend long  (Oct. 19 and 20) in the Kindle store. It’s a reimagining of the tale of Jonah based on Biblical and other sources. 

MWRFG_Kindle

And if you read it, please leave a review on Amazon. Good or bad, I want to know what you think.

Also, don’t forget you don’t need a Kindle to download, just the Kindle app.

Thanks!

It’s Fan Appreciation Day and Everything Is Free

As a big thank you to everyone one who has read this blog, downloaded my books, bought them, reviewed them, followed me on Twitter, mentioned me on their blog, or told their friends about me, etc., etc…I’m offering ALL my books for free TODAY ONLY on the Kindle store. Check it out:

Fan Day

That’s right. My short story, novella and novel are all free today. Stop by and download and spread the word.

It’s the first anniversary of the launch of The Library of Lost Books, and I wanted to celebrate in style. I figure with all the appreciation you’ve shown me over the last year, it’s the least I could do.


And A Little Housekeeping

Next week, this blog will return to more regular programming. There will be more posts about the Craft, Rare B Sides, Past Masters and works in progress. And most importantly my Rules for Writing, which I’ve neglected for far too long. (I’ve only posted one so far and promised five).

I hope you’ll join me. Until then…

Keep reading, keep writing,

Darius

A More Modest Giveaway

MWRFG_KindleI gave away 93 copies of my new novella, “The Man Who Ran from God” this past weekend. It was a bit of a disappointment, after my 400-download day for The Library of Lost Books.

There may be a couple of reasons for this. The first thing I asked myself  was: What did I do differently from that first giveaway? Here are the key differences I came up with:

  • The giveaway lasted two days, so people might have felt they had more time to download and forgot about it.
  • The book has the word “God” in its title. Face it, it’s a loaded word. It may have turned off more people than it turned on.
  • It’s a novella, not a novel. And so, it may have been less enticing: a free NOVEL is a easy choice, more free content. A novella, less so.
  • It’s not a new world/universe, but the retelling of an old, well-known story.  The ‘Library’ had more of an obvious hook. The hook here is subtle: an old story, told in a fresh way with a familiar character, reimagined.
  • I did the giveaway the first weekend the book was out, before reader interest had a chance to build or word of mouth developed.  
  • It’s historical fiction and not fantasy. It’s simply a less popular genre (I’m guessing here) with fewer readers. Hilary Mantel’s popularity notwithstanding.

I’m not too worried about it, though. I always figured ‘The Man’ would fare a little less better than ‘The Library’ because it’s shorter. I mostly attribute it to the relative popularity of the fantasy versus historical fiction genre. I know, I know. You historical fiction readers are pretty voracious (I think of Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Shogun, other historical fiction tomes), but those fantasy readers devour long books. The A Song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of the Rings epic cycles are nothing to sneeze at. (By the way, they’re histories, too, just of imaginary worlds).

Anyway, it’s early days yet. I think with time, once this book finds its audience (I see indications of this already on Amazon), it will do much, much better.

It’s all about expectations. Two years ago, I would have been thrilled to give away 93 books. [“Almost 100 people could be reading my book!”] Now, I know I can give away hundreds in a day if everything goes just right. Maybe I should just relax and enjoy the ride. 

So that’s what I’m going to do.

,DJ

PS: For those wondering, these are the country breakdowns for the giveaway:

  • 72 in USA.
  • 17 in UK.
  • 2 in Germany.
  • 1 in Japan.
  • 1 in Canada.

PPS I would be interested to know any other Indie writers’ experience with giveaways, in numbers. Feel free to leave details in the comments below.