Posts Tagged ‘authors’

You’d be surprised how many people would want to see a ballet with this guy.

Many of you already know that I’ve been a huge fan of ballet for the past several years. Those of you who didn’t, now you do (and can read this post for my full thoughts on the art form). Ballets and dancers sometimes appear in the stories I write, and I have even had a few ideas for ballets that I’m keeping in reserve.* And since this pandemic began, I’ve missed going to the ballet and seeing these amazing shows. I hope that when the pandemic ends, I can see them live again.

And I hope that some of those ballets might be based on or around horror stories.

Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking. Ballet based on horror stories? When it’s so beautiful and sophisticated? But hear me out, it’s not such a crazy idea. There actually have been ballets written around horror stories or dark subjects. Dracula has a famous ballet, after all, and Frankenstein, Sweeney Todd and The Tell-Tale Heart, among others, have been adapted for dance. Giselle‘s entire second act is a ghost story involving vengeful female spirits; La Syphide features a spirit called a sylph and a coven of witches; The Rite of Spring was literally designed to unnerve people with its music and choreography; Fall River Legend is a loose retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders; and The Cage is literally about insectile females who eat their male counterparts!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Black Swan, which melded psychological thrills with ballet, albeit being very inaccurate about life in a company.

So clearly, there is already a history of horror in ballet. And I think it would be cool and perhaps even groundbreaking to write some new, darker ballets after the pandemic ends and companies have had a chance to get back to putting on shows.

Were you aware ballet could be so scary?

And before you say, “But lots of families go to the ballet. Won’t these stories traumatize them?” I do admit that’s possible. However, I’m sure plenty of kids have come out fine from seeing Giselle or Rite of Spring. Besides, kids are often more resilient than we give them credit for. And nobody seemed bothered enough to ask that question when they were making family films in the 1980s (*cough* Secret of NIMH, Return to Oz, The Witches *cough*).

And there are plenty of properties and stories to adapt from. Obviously, I’ve got a few stories up my sleeve.** But if you’re still unsure, here are some stories I think would make great ballets if a company were to try:

I really think The Shining could make a great ballet if given the chance.
  • The Shining. I know this one has already been made into a movie, a TV miniseries, and an opera, but I think The Shining could make a stunning ballet. Compared to King’s other works, it’s not very complicated, and the story is quite personal as well as scary. The Overlook Hotel would make for a great set piece. And besides Carrie, The Shining is the only story I can think of suited for dance (and Carrie already has a so-so musical already, so perhaps not).
  • Friday the 13th. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. Friday the 13th has a passionate fanbase who will go mad for anything new in the franchise, including fan films. The films always feature a lot of action, which could easily translate to dance. And I’ve seen people bring up a Friday the 13th ballet on Twitter and get enthusiastic responses. Granted, when I did a poll on the subject, I only got two responses, but they both said they’d pay to see that kind of show, and the poll only went on for three hours. A longer poll might get more responses.
  • Something featuring a werewolf. As vicious beasts, as warriors against witches, and as tragic figures trying to understand their place in the world, werewolves are versatile creatures with an extensive mythology. It wouldn’t be too hard to come up with something involving them.
  • Something with cosmic horror. Again, I know what you’re thinking. But as I said in a previous post, cosmic horror is on the rise, and there are plenty of ways to tell an excellent story about great, indomitable entities without actually featuring them (or all of them). Like werewolves, it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with something. Just needs a little imagination.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Washington Irving’s tale lends itself well to adaptation, so I think having a ballet around it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
  • Carmilla. A vampire novel predating Dracula, it’s famous for its Gothic storyline and lesbian themes. I think with a few tweaks (not to the LGBT romance), it could make an enchanting story.

As ballet is a constantly evolving art form, I think there’s plenty of room to experiment with adding horror to a company’s repertoire. Sure, it might not be conventional, but it could be a lot of fun. And who knows? In addition to bringing in new fans, a ballet based around a horror story could become as big as Nutcracker or other famous ballets. You never know.

What do you think about having horror-themed ballets? Are there any stories or storytellers who would be well suited to the art form? Let’s discuss.

*BalletMet, or NYCB, or any company who might be interested. Give me a call or send me an email. I’m not only easy to work with, I don’t cost an arm and a leg.

**Seriously, just email and ask.

I looked for a cosmic horror GIF, and this was my favorite.

Cosmic horror is everywhere these days. Since HP Lovecraft first kicked off the subgenre in the early half of the 20th century, it’s spread from pulp magazines to all corners of horror literature, to table-top roleplaying games and video games. And while cosmic horror has been in the movies and on TV sporadically since the 1960s, in the past couple of years we’ve seen a glut of it on those mediums: Annihilation, Stranger Things, The Color Out of Space, Underwater, Lovecraft Country (which I’ll be watching soon now that I have HBO Max), The Endless, and most recently, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s fourth season (though not very well).

And there are more on the way. Just today, I heard about a new film called Sacrifice coming out next month that has Lovecraftian themes (click here to check out the trailer). Sometime this year, the long-awaited anime adaptation of Uzumaki by Junji Ito is supposed to air. Richard Stanley, the director of Color Out of Space, hopes to do a trilogy of films based off Lovecraft’s work.

And there’s a lot more that I probably don’t know about. Plus new games, novels and short stories, comics, manga and anime, poems and art! Cosmic horror is kinda going mainstream right now. Or as mainstream as horror can get.

Color Out of Space was awesome. And we may have more like it in the future.

The question is, why now? Why is this particular subgenre only now just getting mainstream acceptance? Why the sudden enthusiasm?

I think there are a few reasons. One is time and a devoted fanbase. Cosmic horror, as I said, originally came from pulp magazines with very small circulation. However, the fans who enjoyed the stories of Lovecraft and those who played in his world–what would later be known as the Cthulhu Mythos–preserved and kept the stories going even after the deaths of the magazines and of Lovecraft. Through hard work and advocacy, more fans found cosmic horror and found themselves drawn to the stories. Then as now, fans would then tell other fans, or create their own work based on these stories, which has a looping effect of creating more fans through exposure. So, it may have taken time, but cosmic horror has been able to spread with patience and the love of many who follow it.

Almost sounds like cosmic horror is an eldritch deity in and of itself, doesn’t it? I find that hilariously appropriate.

Another factor at play, I believe, is that modern audiences are more receptive to that kind of horror than they have been in the past. Like I said, it’s taken time for cosmic horror to penetrate the public consciousness, and so for many people, cosmic horror may be a nice change of pace from the usual horror fare. We’ve seen plenty of haunted house stories, slashers, and sequels and ripoffs of possession or ghost stories. Those elements are not normally part of cosmic horror. In fact, it could be a breath of fresh air for audiences.

And finally, while cosmic horror normally deals with ancient, otherworldly gods and terrible secrets, it’s a great place to talk about modern issues. Granted, horror has always been a place to explore our everyday fears and anxieties, but cosmic horror, through the perspectives and interactions of its human characters against these terrors, can do it in a unique way. Lovecraft Country uses cosmic horror to explore racism, which both was part of the genre’s start and which is a current problem today.

Is it too much too hope that one of those works might be a kickass, terrifying adaptation of Hellstar Remina by Junji Ito?

And I wrote a novella, What Errour Awoke, that combined elements of cosmic horror with the current pandemic to explore the fear with the latter. And yes, I still hope to get that published.

So, with all these factors, can we expect more cosmic horror in the near future? I think so. Maybe not in huge numbers from the movie industry, as cosmic horror tends to have a spotty track record there.* But certainly in other mediums. Horror-themed TV has been booming, so we’ll likely see plenty of shows exploring those themes in the future. Comics and manga have always loved cosmic horror. And, of course, we’ll likely see many, many new books or short stories in that vein.**

So long as they’re made with lots of love, both for the subgenre and for the projects themselves, rather than for the money, I look forward to it.

Are you a fan of cosmic horror? Are you enjoying the wave of new works in the subgenre? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*While they were well-received by critics and moviegoers, Annihilation and Underwater underperformed at the box office, and Color Out of Space only had a limited theater release.

**Hopefully, I’ll be able to add to this. I’ve a few cosmic horror ideas waiting to be written. I’d love to share them with you all someday.

Fun fact: apparently Scott Carson is actually Michael Koryta, an award-winning author who does both crime and supernatural fiction. If what I’ve heard is true, his fanbase is pretty divided between his crime and supernatural books, so he created a pen name for the latter going forward. Everyone got that? Good. Onto the review!

The Chill takes place in the fictional Torrance County, upstate New York, home of the fictional Chillawuakee Reservoir, or “The Chill.” This reservoir was built at the loss of a small town called Galesburg, which was submerged after the dam went up. Prior to that, some of the Galesburg residents didn’t take kindly to being evicted so New York City could have another freshwater supply, and reacted violently. Even after the dam went up and many of the protesters died, some still swear revenge. Now, nearly eighty years later, the dam is old and in need of repairs, and the dead are aware of this. They’re active, they’re working behind the scenes, they do not forgive and they do not forget. And they want their revenge.

So, the concept of the story is pretty cool. It kind of reminds me of The Shining, though instead of ghosts at an old hotel, it’s ghosts by a dam and the afterlife is kind of busy and cult-like as well. You can tell the book was meticulously researched by how it goes about explaining the inner workings of dams and reservoirs, as well as (what I assume to be) the problems with maintaining them. And the prophecy in the story makes a clever twist on the trope that I like.

However, there were a lot of problems with the novel. For one thing, it seemed to take forever before it got interesting. Several times before the halfway point, I wanted to put the book down and not read anything else because of how slow it was going. We also don’t meet one of the focal characters, Gillian Mathers, until about a quarter in, and it takes even longer for us to identify with her and see her as more than just a trope in a story. I feel like Carson wanted to focus less on her until she was needed because she is a type of trope, and instead focus on another character, Aaron Ellsworth, because he’s got a much more interesting character arc.

Another issue was that, while the dams were well-researched, I had trouble visualizing certain things in my head. I’m not familiar with dams, and I don’t know many people who are beyond the fact that they hold water back. It would have been nice if a couple more paragraphs were shown to help readers like me visualize the structure, the discharge tunnel, etc.

However, past all that, it does get interesting. There are some spooky scenes, an epic disaster scene, and some excellent writing. I just wish we’d seen more of that in the first half.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I award The Chill by Scott Carson a 3 out of 5. It’s okay, but there were definite areas to improve in.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m still relaxing so that when I return to writing, I can be as refreshed as possible. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

As many of you know, I have a YouTube channel that I post to every now and then. Today, I had a bit of time and decided to film a quick little video. What was it about? Well, it’s about reviews. Specifically, how you should help your favorite authors by leaving reviews online for their books, as well as why.

I’m not going to lie, I’m proud of this video. It’s not very long, but I managed to make a nice thumbnail, do some fun editing tricks, and even add music and a short title card at the beginning of the video. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. I may still be an amateur when it comes to video production and editing, but I am getting better at it.

And yes, I did mention Rose‘s audio book in the video. Can you blame me?

Anyway, as the video said, if you like an author’s book, please leave a review with your thoughts online somewhere. Even a short tweet or post on Facebook or Goodreads can be a momentous help to authors. Especially those who aren’t very well-known. Every review helps an author improve, helps other readers find the book, and lets the authors know their work is being read and hopefully appreciated.

And if you would like to support me, I’ll leave the links for my works below. Please consider checking my stories out and letting me know in a review what you think. Because…well, you know why.

And if you liked this YouTube video, please consider subscribing to my channel. I don’t post often, but when I do, it’s usually because I’m passionate about whatever I’m posting. And I would love to see you all there.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to dispose of Santa’s body before the authorities find me. Until next time, Happy Holidays and pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

My copy of Remina from the library.

I’ve been looking forward to this book getting an official translation and release here in the US for quite some time. And I was so excited when it arrived at the library, I stopped by yesterday afternoon to pick it up rather than wait till Friday. As you can guess, I stayed up late reading it, hoping the story within would give me some pleasant nightmares.

Known as Hellstar Remina in Japan, Remina kicks off with the discovery of a new planet that seemingly appeared from a wormhole several lightyears away. The discovery is hailed as the greatest development in astrophysics ever, and its discoverer, Dr. Oguro, names the new planet after his beloved, beautiful but shy daughter Remina, causing her own star to rise alongside the planet bearing her name. However, planet Remina is moving through space in ways that defy physics and sense. Planets and stars disappear in its wake. And it soon becomes clear that not only is this planet headed to our solar system, but it spells doom for all on the Earth. Especially the young woman who shares a name with it.

Oh man, I don’t think I’ve loved something from Ito this much since Uzumaki!

First off, the concept is well-executed. Ito takes this idea of a planet flying through space towards us, threatening everything we found our worldviews on as well as our lives and our planet, and turns it into this strange, dread-inducing story that somehow manages to ramp up more and more with every page. The planet itself is rather terrifying. There’s so many unknowns about it, and the more you learn and see of Remina, the more questions you have and the more you learn to fear it. It really puts the “cosmic” into cosmic horror.

I was also impressed with the human characters. Remina Oguro, the planet’s namesake, is easy to like. She’s shy and humble, and really only becomes an entertainer because she’s suddenly famous, so she might as well use it to get through life more easily. Which makes the hardship she goes through later so heart wrenching. As the planet bears down on the Earth and no solution seems to work, people begin to wonder if the Oguros, particularly Remina herself, have some hand in bringing the planet to them. In their terror, many abandon reason and decide the only way to save humanity is to kill Remina Oguro herself.

It’s not only an excellent example of cosmic horror–of humans dealing/reacting to their insignificance in the universe in the only ways they know how–as well as making you feel for Remina, but it feels really relevant to our current predicaments. Whether it be COVID-19 or the national election, you see people embracing the most insane conspiracy theories rather than accept an obvious reality. That is illustrated so well in Remina, and I felt a chill reading that.

This shot encapsulates so much of what makes Remina great.

Other aspects of the story worked as well. Ito’s art is amazing, as always. Earth in this manga is portrayed as being a few decades ahead of us a la The Jetsons, flying cars included, and it’s cool to see Ito give Earth this futuristic look. The characters are well-drawn, with our protagonists given a more realistic look while those driven mad by fear or anger are hyper-exaggerated to best portray their emotions. But the best illustrations are the spreads taking two full pages. They portray that cosmic dread so well, I spent quite a bit of time looking at them.

And as for the science aspect of the story, while more pseudoscientific than based in reality, it seems plausible enough to believe in for the moment.

The one aspect I disliked was just how quickly things escalated in the first chapter. Within about thirty or forty pages, things go from excitement and new promises to gloom-and-doom and psychotic, murderous behavior. I would’ve preferred things to move a bit more gradually before getting to that level.

All in all, Remina by Junji Ito earns itself a splendid 4.5 out of 5. It’s terrifying in both its cosmic and human aspects and will be hard to put down for any reader. Pick it up, settle in for a terrifying ride, and never name anything Remina.

Also, someone please adapt this story into a movie or miniseries! Live action or animated, this would be a great spectacle to see on screens. Just lay off the CGI except when absolutely necessary and it could be awesome.

Audible’s audio edition of Dracula by Bram Stoker. Turns out, it was just what the Count ordered.

Everyone has heard of Dracula. Most likely, you’ve seen some version of him in a movie or a TV series .* But how many of you have ever read the original novel? Not many, surprisingly. Besides the fact that Dracula’s melted so thoroughly into pop culture, the source material is a Victorian novel written in the form of diary entries and letters. Even veteran bookworms have to steel themselves for those!

I tired once or twice in my younger years to read Dracula, but found it harder to get through than some Lovecraft stories and had to stop reading. Last month, however, Audible offered its own audio version for free as part of my subscription. I was like, “Maybe I’ll enjoy it more in audio form” and downloaded it.

Turns out, while Audible may have a dumbass exchange policy (and yes, fixing Audible and Amazon’s issues are still works in progress), the audio book was just what I needed. Great cast that brought the story to life and allowed me to get into it while driving or working out or cooking.

And let me tell you, Dracula the novel is good! It’s a slow burn Gothic story that takes its time building up an atmosphere as well as a conflict. By the time the action really gets rolling, the suspense and dread is so well-constructed that you actually feel a bit of worry with every encounter or setback the characters endure.

I also liked how a lot of my expectations were subverted while listening to the novel. Yes, his name’s on the cover, but Dracula himself doesn’t show up that much in the story past the first act. He’s mostly on the edge, only showing himself every now and then. While this may upset some readers who expect the Count to be front and center, it’s actually pretty effective. Whenever Dracula shows up, you know shit is likely to get real, and you’re waiting for that shit to happen.

Contrary to what the movies portray, Dracula is more on the edges and backgrounds than front and center.

Another surprise: while I expected Dr. Van Helsing to be an important character, Mina Harker (nee Murray) really stole the show. She’s easily smarter than most of the other characters, including the doctor, and could almost be seen as a proto-Buffy. The only reason she doesn’t do any slaying is because Victorian mores made it impossible for anyone, including Mina herself, to see her taking on a more active role against Dracula (much to their regret later). Kind of makes you wonder if Stoker was making some sort of feminist statement there. I’d love to see an adaptation where Mina’s the one kicking ass. You know, instead of falling for the Count and/or being totally helpless.

And there were some details in the story that I found fascinating, simply because they never make it into any adaptation. For example, Van Helsing hints that Dracula, for all his power and evil, has a very childlike brain when it comes to planning or deep thinking, and that hinders him when he comes to England. It’s amazing what never gets translated to the adaptations.

All that said, the novel isn’t without flaws. The character of Renfield, Dracula’s faithful madman, is pretty extraneous to the plot. He’s really just a vampire radar, and other than that, he doesn’t do much beyond be crazy and help develop Dr. Seward’s character. Then there’s Quincy Morris, a character from Texas who feels more like a parody of Texans from Western novels than a real Texan. And yeah, I would have liked to see a bit more of Dracula, as well as him being a big bad. That might just be my pop-culture image not lining up with the novel, but can you blame me?

All in all, though, I think Dracula is deserving of a 4.8 out of 5. It’s moody, well-written and worth the read if you find a format that works for you. Hell, I think I might go on a binge of Dracula-related media: some essays on the story’s deeper meaning, some adaptations, that novel co-written by Stoker’s descendant (yes, that’s a real thing). I might also write a story involving Dracula and characters in the novel. Who knows?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you need me, I’m celebrating the first night of Hanukkah with vampires and jelly donuts (weird combination, I know). Until next time, happy holidays and pleasant nightmares!

*Speaking of which, I’m still sad that the 2014 NBC TV show was cancelled after one season. All because they didn’t give it the advertising it deserved. The fact that this might be the first you’ve ever heard of it unfortunately proves my point.

Yep, I’m doing this again. But I just released a story, so can you blame me?

So, if you’ve never seen me do one of these before, #FirstLineFriday is a tag that was popular for a split second among writers online for a split second, and that I still do here on the blog from time to time. On Fridays, you:

  1. Create a post on your blog titled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed/published story.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and try to get them to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

The story whose lines I’m showcasing today shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone. Yes, they’re the first lines from “Mother of the King,” my Arthurian fantasy novelette which was released earlier this week. The story revolves around the fabled return of King Arthur, as told from the point of view of the woman chosen to be his mother. Enjoy:

I want to tell all this to my son. After so many years, I feel like I owe him this, the story of how he came to be.

Well, it’s not much, but it sets up the story nicely in my opinion.

Mother of the King. Available now from Amazon.

But what do you think? How would you improve this? Or is it fine as it is? Let’s discuss.

And if these opening lines got you at all curious about the story itself, “Mother of the King” is available to buy as an ebook now. It’s only been a few days, but it’s already gotten some good reviews. If you haven’t checked it out yet and would like to, I’ll include the links below. And if you read it, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me and other readers in the long run.

And as for who I’m tagging, I TAG YOU, READER! YES, YOU!!! I’m tagging you all, my Followers of Fear, plus any unfortunate who has come across this post by accident. You must now do the #FirstLineFriday, and tag back to me when you’re done! Mwa ha ha!

Sorry I’m so extra this morning. It’s Friday, and I just want it to be the weekend.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll see you all very soon (most likely to push this story a bit more). Until next time, stay safe and warm, pleasant nightmares, and don’t let Krampus down your chimney tomorrow night. I hear tomorrow night’s his night…

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

I’ve mentioned a few times that “Mother of the King” and any other short(er) stories I self-publish over the next year will only be available in print as chapbooks to be sold at conventions and other events. The conventions and other events part is easy to understand, but I’m sure some of you have wondered what a chapbook is. Well, as promised, I’m going to explain what those are and why authors make them.

To put it simply, a chapbook is a small pamphlet or booklet of 40 pages or less, either folded from a giant piece of paper or stapled together from several sheets of paper (fun fact: the latter is known as saddle-stitching). The practice of making and selling chapbooks began around the 16th century and were named after the men who sold them, chapmen, who were early traveling salesmen and dealers. Modern chapbooks are often made by authors using printers and staplers, or assembled in print shops and sold at events or sometimes in specialty bookstores.

So, that’s what a chapbook is. Why do we have them? Why would an author make them?

Well, chapbooks were originally printed for working class families who could read but couldn’t afford books on their own (even with the printing press, those things were expensive). They were easy to transport and helpful in disseminating ideas, information, entertainment and (often inaccurate) history into popular culture. They were also used to develop literacy, much like comic books and graphic novels help teens and people who don’t speak a nation’s native language learn and develop language and reading skills.

“The Chapbook, promotional poster” by MCAD Library is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Fast forward to today. Books are cheaper and libraries exist, but chapbooks are still around. They’ve been especially popular during the past couple of decades in certain circles thanks to copying and printing technology. For the first time, people could sell their stories and poetry directly to the people without the aid of a major publisher or someone who owned a printing press. It was kind of an early form of self-publishing, if you think about it.

With people making chapbooks and small circulation magazines from home, the chapbook has made something of a comeback. And though it’s still not as popular as the your regular hundred-plus page book, they’re still being put out every year. Authors and poets like how easy and cheap they are, and how they can make something of a profit from them while also giving potential fans something quick to enjoy and maybe get hooked on their work. Like I said, a form of self-publishing, though some presses also do chapbooks alongside regular books.

And presses and authors aren’t the only ones who have seen value in these little booklets. There are bookstores that sell chapbooks alongside regular paperbacks, events devoted to them as an artform (looking at you, NYC/CUNY Chapbook Festival), and major publishers using them as advertising tools for their catalogs. And sometimes, depending on the chapbook, who made it, the method of production, and how many exist, these babies can go for quite a bit of money. Sometimes hundreds of dollars.

Not bad for a cheap little booklet that was often recycled as toilet paper after the buyers were done with the story (yeah, that’s true. As well as strips of old newspapers. Beats a stick or a corn cob though, right?).

Anyway, I don’t expect to make hundreds of dollars off chapbooks of my work. Especially when they’ll still be available as ebooks online. But as I said above, they’d be a good way to get my work out to more people. For events out of town, they could help fund those trips. And let’s face it, they could be fun to have and to show off at my next convention. Whenever that is. Damn you, COVID-19!

Anyway, that’s a chapbook. A form of literature with a cool history and a revival in an age when people can control when stories come out. A diverse artform that takes very little time to make and enjoy. And I hope I can start making them (or going to the print shop to make them) very soon.

In the meantime, I already have one story out in a digital format, so it’s kind of like a chapbook. Yeah, you knew this was coming. My Arthurian fantasy novelette, “Mother of the King,” is out now and available as an e-book. The story is about the fabled return of King Arthur, told from the point of view of the woman chosen to be his mother. It’s been out barely two days, and it’s already garnering some great reviews! I’ll include the links below, so check it out!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off with a priestess, a dragon and a Deep One to find Arthur’s casket. Until next time, good night, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

So, you just finished a short story. It might be a short story or a novel. Either way, it’s finished and you love it! You think it’s great, that it has potential, that it could even get published somewhere. Hell, you even dream of it getting awards and adaptation offers and so much more! With all that in mind, what do you do with this awesome story of yours?

If you said, “Rush to get it published,” I’m only going to say that that’s not the answer I was going for. If, however, you said “I’m going to get a beta reader or two to look at the story,” then congratulations! You got the answer I was going for.

As you likely already know, beta readers are readers who look at a story somewhere along the editing process and give critiques and feedback. They may also give help with the spelling/grammar/punctuation issues of the story, depending on what they can offer. And over the past year or two, I’ve made sure to use beta readers for every one of my short stories.

Let’s face it, authors can be our own worst critics, and our own worst editors. We can see a lot, but occasionally things slip by our notice. In fact, a lot of things can slip by our notice. Typos, plot holes, inconsistencies in character development or backstory, implausible situations or things that don’t jive with reality. Beta readers point out things authors miss, or don’t want to think of as problems because they love their stories too much (it happens).

Take my recently-completed short story Afternoon Tea, the one about the cursed silent film. I found two beta readers who were willing to read the story and give me feedback. Both of them got back to me really quickly, and they said the story had a lot of potential and that they liked it. They did, however, both notice something that made no sense to them. One actually wrote quite a bit in their notes about why that plot point made no sense or was confusing.

Seeing that they both mentioned it made me realize that they had a point. That single plot point did have its issues. I had to take it out, which made me realize I needed to rewrite that section of the story. Which I was able to do with a bit of brainstorming. And I think it makes for a much better story. One of those same beta readers has already gotten back to me about the second draft and said there’s a lot of improvement, so listening to them was a good decision.

Not only that, but sometimes beta readers bring their own life experiences to help improve a story. Earlier this year I wrote a short story called Primordial Nuclear Soup, which involved a number of military characters. My beta reader happened to be a veteran, so in addition to pointing out numerous flaws with the early draft, they gave me their military experience to help with those characters and scenes.

Without the strong eye of a beta reader, you can miss much. Photo by Wallace Chuck on Pexels.com

None of this stuff I would have known or spotted without the help of my beta readers.

Of course, you do meet the occasional beta reader who turns out to not be so helpful. They send back a lot of praise for the story, but they don’t point out that much that you don’t realize needs fixing. Which can be an issue further down the line when you’re trying to get the story published. What can I say? The majority of them are human (I’m an exception).

But after a while, you do figure out how to spot a helpful beta reader from an unhelpful one. It usually shows in the notes they send back. If that happens, keep looking for more beta readers. You eventually will find someone who can give you the feedback you’re looking for. And sometimes, you even create a circle of beta readers who will gladly look at your work when you need them to and provide the feedback you need. When you do that, you know you’re in good hands.

Suffice to say, beta readers are a great help in making sure your stories are the best they can be. It may not be easy seeing all the problems in a story you’ve poured sweat and tears into, but in the end, listening to them and fixing the story based on what they said helps out immensely.

“Mother of the King.” Available Dec. 1st

Getting the stories published afterwards, however….that’s another fight altogether.

What are your experiences with beta readers like? How have they been helpful with your storytelling endeavors? Let’s discuss.

And before I forget, my Arthurian fantasy story “Mother of the King” releases day-after-tomorrow! If you haven’t preordered a copy of the ebook yet, you can check it out with the links below! Believe me, both beta readers and eARC readers have been raving about this story, so why not check it out? And if you do, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story.

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

Audible company logo.

If you’re not familiar with Audible and Audiobook Creation Exchange (aka ACX), let me fill you in. Audible is Amazon’s audio book wing. They distribute thousands of audio books and have just as many subscribers (I’ve been one since 2015). ACX is part of Audible: it’s a places where authors and publishers can hook up with narrators, produce audio books, and then upload them to Audible.

With me so far?

Recently, Audible and ACX have been in a bit of hot water. It’s come to the attention of several authors that Audible has a rather questionable policy on the books. Audible Premium Plus subscribers have the option to exchange an audio book they’ve bought through their subscription within 365 days of purchase! And get this: if an audio book is exchanged within that time frame, the authors or publishers get their royalties deducted for it!

You read that right: somebody can exchange any audio book they buy within a year of purchasing, and the author gets punished for it.

Most people’s reactions to the exchange policy abuse. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

And lately, this has become a huge problem. Many authors, mostly indie authors, have noticed an increase in exchanges and deducted royalties over the past several months, In fact, some have speculated that use of the exchange policy–or should I say abuse of the exchange policy?–has boomed because Audible’s been using the policy in some of their advertising to attract new members.

Spurred by reports of this, the Authors Guild, along with a whole bunch of other author organizations, have drafted a letter to Audible and ACX to get them to, among other things, change the policy and create a more reasonable exchange policy. At the time I’m writing this, the letter has over twelve thousand signatures, and it’s still growing. To quote the letter,

This policy is in clear breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing implied in the authors’ agreements with Audible and ACX as it allows books to be purchased and listened to without paying the authors and narrators their royalties.

Authors Guild Letter to Audible and ACX

Now, I have only have Rose‘s audio book on Audible, and so far as I know, it hasn’t suffered from this exchange policy much. However, I have heard from a couple of colleagues, including some I consider good friends, who are upset by the policy and are considering pulling their works from Audible and ACX because of the policy.

And even if I didn’t know anyone affected by this policy, once I learned about it, it was hard for me to sit still. This is a terrible policy that hurts authors and publishers alike! These are the people that Amazon needs to continue selling through Audible, and yet they treat them this way?

And why is the exchange window a year long to begin with? That’s a terrible business strategy. Can you imagine if a hardware store allowed you to exchange a tool within a year, even if it’s likely been used? Or a shoe store? Or a computer business? They’d be out of business within a year with a policy like that! What the hell, Amazon?

The letter I received from Audible about the change in the exchange policy. Feel free to enlarge and read it in full.

Thankfully, it seems that news of the abuse and the letter made Audible realize their mistake. While they’ve defended the policy, saying that they do monitor for abuse and that such abuse is rare, they are changing the policy effective January 1st. After that, the exchange window is limited to 7 days, and Audible will pay for any exchanges made after that timeframe. They later confirmed this in an email to ACX creators, which I got as well.

And that is good. That is a good change. It’s harder to abuse an exchange policy limited to only a week instead of a year. Still, some aren’t satisfied. In fact, the Authors Guild letter suggests shortening the window to 48 hours. And I like that idea: not only is it even harder to listen to multiple audio books over the course of two days than it is to do over a week, but it should be easier to spot abuse when an account is making multiple exchanges within a two day period.

So, what can you do? Well, you can sign the letter, which at the time of writing is only 440 signatures away from the Authors Guild’s goal. Even if Audible has changed the policy, every signature is a reminder to the company that this sort of malarkey won’t be tolerated by the very people the company needs for products if it continues.

You can also share with other authors and readers. The more people who are informed about the issue, the more people who will be weary and on the lookout for policies and abuse like this. People, and companies, are more likely to be better behaved if they know they’re being watched and kept under pressure.

And finally, if you have or plan on getting an Audible subscription, don’t be the kind of subscriber who does this sort of crap. I’ve only exchanged a book on Audible once, and that was because I thought it was one kind of story, and it turned out to be another. Otherwise, I would never rob another writer of royalties! Instead, keep the book once you buy it, and wait for your next credit. Don’t make someone else lose money just because you want more listening material!

And if Audible doesn’t address the problem, maybe consider giving up your membership. Yeah, it’ll suck to not get that credit for an audio book each month, but it’ll sure send a message to Audible.

And if you do enjoy an audio book purchased through Audible, make sure to review or at least rate it afterwards. Trust me, ratings and reviews left by readers help both new readers and the writers who put their books on the site. I speak from personal experience on that!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thank you for reading this far and giving a damn about this problem. I hope you’ll consider helping out authors and stopping abuse of Audible’s exchange policy.

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving and pleasant nightmares!