Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
Today I fell back on the old standby activity, hiking at Crowders Mountain State Park. My main purpose was to hike to the summit of Crowders to see if I would have the opportunity to photograph Turkey vultures. They’re one of the most common large birds around, and they use the cliffs and thermals around the summit to launch themselves into the sky to scan for the scent of carrion.On a sunny day it’s hard to miss them at either of the two peaks in the park, Crowders and Kings Pinnacle.
I have to say, it was a hot day for hiking. I arrived at the trailhead at about 10:00 am. The lot was about 2/3 full, and it’s a vast parking area. There is very good reason that local hikers refer to it as “Crowded Mountain”. On some days you can encounter as many as 100 people arriving at the summit every hour or so. Today wasn’t quite that busy, but nearly so.
After reaching the top and toweling all of the sweat off of me, I staked out a shady spot at the edge of a cliff and began to take landscape photos and to scan the area for signs of vultures. One of my friends, writer/photographer Michael Hodges had suggested a lens to me: a Canon 24mm pancake lens. He told me that photographs taken with it would “pop”, and he wasn’t kidding. It captures crisp, colorful, brilliant images. This was the first time I’d used it other than to take a couple of test photos. Michael was spot on.
I stayed on the summit for about three hours taking photos, drinking lots of water, and enjoying the views. The people arrived and left at a steady pace. Sometimes it got quite noisy, then the voices and music would subside as the numbers of people dwindled. (I never have figured out why anyone would bring music with them on a hike. I find the idea pathetic.)
Over the course of my time there I took well over 200 photographs of the crew of Turkey vultures who passed in front of and above my patch of rocky cliffside. I think I’ll salvage about a dozen images good enough for me to add to my online portfolio of photos that I sell through some online purveyors of stock photos. Every month I make a little more than I did the month before. It has become my part-time job. A job, for once, that’s fun (aside from writing).
|Say what you will, they’re actually quite the majestic bird in flight.|
|I don’t know if this bird is just old, in the midst of molting, or the victim of a tussle. It seems healthy and flew and cruised the thermals as well as the others. But it looked rough.|
|Aside from the Great blue heron, the Turkey vulture is my favorite bird to photograph.|
|Michael was right. That lens makes the image really stand out.|
What struck me in thinking specifically of my novels and stories was of how many of them deal with racism. Sometimes with intent, but often just a product of ideas percolating out of the subconscious and ending up on the pages.
The only time I actively wrote a book with an intentional undercurrent of commentary on racism in the USA is my book THE EMISSARY. I wanted to write about the subject in a way that I could treat with it over the course of a story in a horror novel. What I wanted to do was actively write a book with an overt delivery of the problem of racism in the US.
But many of my other books have dealt with some aspect of racism, which I think is far and away the most awful part of our national history. It’s always there, and won’t go away, existing persistently decade after decade since the times before our nation even existed.
Years ago I was writing zombie novels. And while on the Internet to promote one of those novels I went from bulletin board to bulletin board to make connections and see how I should go about promoting my books there. What I thought I would find I did not, and what I did discover horrified me. Pretty much every public bulletin board devoted to zombie fiction onto which I logged was weighted heavily with racists, many of them neo-Nazis. These guys would post links and you’d find yourself looking at boards promoting hatred and white-race “superiority”. I saw vile imagery and threats of violence and extermination spelled out in plain terms.
Frankly, after that, I didn’t want to write anymore zombie novels and decided not to engage in promotions of my work on any of those boards. When one of my publishers asked me to write them another one I at first refused. But then I recalled a short story that I’d written that had later been produced as a comic story. The idea of turning it into a novel had occurred to me for years but I had never followed through. I agreed to an advance and set about writing it.
Thus was born the expansion into novel of my short story THE NEW ECOLOGY DEATH. I thought about what I wanted to do with it. I never once mentioned racism or anything directly related to it. I set about burying any mention of anything attached to the subject in an atmosphere both cold and hopeful, and also cautionary.
But two things that I actively did was make all of the principle characters Jews. And I took guns and gun-play totally out of the picture so that I would rob the reader of what I have come to think of as gun-porn. There is the reference to distant gunfire once in the book, and an actual scene with a firearm is played out near the very end with unintended consequences. I specifically set out to create a zombie novel with almost none of the plot elements that most racists lust for in their zombie novels. I made it so that the tables are turned and the setting is one in which zombies are all but defeated and are only a marginal and fading threat. The main characters are a Jewish family. There are almost no guns, and none of the jargon that gives gun-loving racists a specific thrill (which I am convinced is sexual).
It was the worst-selling book I ever wrote. I don’t know how many copies it sold, but not many. It never came anywhere near to earning back its advance. The only feedback I ever got on it was from a couple of racists raging about how there were no guns in the book.
Someday I’d like to get it back into print. Of all of the books I’ve written, I can think of nothing in it that I’d want to rewrite. It was pretty much everything I wanted it to be and which I set out to do. So getting it back into print would be easy on a technical basis (no rewrites). I’d just need to figure out how to get it into the hands of the right audience.
|THE EMISSARY. A horror novel wherein racial and sexual hatred manifests itself as lycanthropy.|
|DEADLOCKED, a novel with major elements of race, philosophy, struggle, and hope.|
|My out-of-print THE NEW ECOLOGY OF DEATH. Returning to print one of these days. Maybe this year. (But maybe not.)|
I enjoyed corresponding with him from time to time, and I always got a kick out of his posts about has fascinating career and how he ended up producing movies. And he had great stories about famous writers, directors, and actors who had created the movies he produced. He was the kind of interesting and famous friend you never think you are going to make on Facebook.
After a couple of years, though, he began to complain that he had too many Facebook friends and that he was going to start paring down the list. I seem to recall he had a couple of thousand at the time which actually isn’t all that many in the scheme of things. What he said he wanted was a few hundred people that he felt made his experience on Facebook fun, and with whom he could actually exchange ideas and stories.
He was one of the very few people on the platform that I worried about not seeing anymore. But he would text me from time to time to assure me that I’d made the cut. This went on for about a year as he shed friends.
One day he started up a conversation about work. Retirement came up. I was still several years away from retirement. Close enough that I could taste it and wanted the day to come so that I wouldn’t have to punch a clock and stress myself out by keeping myself from punching managers or supervisors. I mentioned to him that I thought everyone should be given the opportunity and pension to retire by age 50. I thought that was a reasonable amount of time to toil away for the capitalist system and then kick back and enjoy twenty to thirty-something years of fun.
This idea upset him. I mean…he actually got angry. I never would have figured it, coming as he did from the counter-culture of the 60s and early 70s. But it did piss him off.
A few days later I noticed that I was no longer on his friends list. I suppose at that point he must have been actively looking for reasons to shed anyone and everyone to get down to his magic number of Facebook friends of 400 or so. In the end, I didn’t make the cut, as he had put it. I must admit that I missed his stories. He was pretty cool.
I finally did retire. Being retired is glorious. Fuck working. If you don’t have to work you shouldn’t do it if it’s making you miserable and you have the means to give up your job. I worked from my teens until I was 62 years old. That was freaking long enough. I know lazy bastards who do things like leech off of their parents and make their wives support them. I’ve always worked. For the past ten years that I did work all I could think of was making sure that I could retire at 62. I was freaking finished.
And I think of my old Facebook friend and I wonder what it was about the idea of people being able to retire on a government pension at 50 that pissed him off so much. Maybe he was just a right wing curmudgeon with the aura of the counterculture about him that was totally false. I’ll never know. Not only did he cease to be friendly with me via Facebook, he subsequently died.
No, don’t ask who he was. It doesn’t matter, now, and I’m not going to mention it. If his name wouldn’t be familiar to you, the films that he produced almost certainly would have.
As for me, I freaking love being retired. I have time to have fun. I don’t stress out over getting up before light unless Carole and I are going on a trip, or I’m going to drive to a park to go hiking or camping or kayaking. I can stay up half the night working on a new novel. I can plan out an ad campaign for my novels. For years I talked about planting a garden and never did. Now I have and we harvest vegetables from it almost every day.
Fuck it. That famous producer was wrong. I was right. Retirement is amazing. You don’t have to sit on your ass and wither away or become stupid in front of the television.
In fact, I wish I’d been able to do this at 50 instead of 62. Or earlier.
|My favorite view of Stone Mountain while being on Stone Mountain.|
|Seven of the eight wild turkey chicks I saw.|
|The mother hen.|
|One of thousands of rhododendron blossoms today.|
|A small cascade above a larger waterfall.|
Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
So, one of the first things I did after that was look into the process. Very little effort was involved with it, once the task of conceiving, plotting, writing, and editing the novels (that’s always a lot of effort). I did as she had told me and after figuring out how it works I jumped in, both feet.
I’ve been lucky landing excellent voice talent to read my books. Five have been done, with one having been held up in production for some reason and has yet to be released. Beyond that one glitch, it has been a relatively easy process, and sales have generally been better than I had figured.
Here is a listing of the four books that have so far been completed and released. (Still awaiting the approval of DEADLOCKED).
In no particular order they are:
FOUR FROM MANGROVE, my collection of four short stories of high fantasy, all set within the mythical city-state of Mangrove.
THE COALITION Zombie Trilogy. My three novels of the tales of Ron Cutter surviving in his post-apocalyptic world of zombie pandemic (now under one cover).
THE EMISSARY: A Novel of Fantasy and Horror. Set in Elijah, in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Martin and Amy Braun find themselves surrounded by hatred manifesting itself as lycanthropy. All while trying to protect a mysterious foster child who may be an herald for that event, or somehow there to save them from it.
WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of a Superhuman. An affliction has struck a tiny few of humanity, giving them superhuman powers. The government steps in and recruits each of them as protectors of large urban areas around the nation. Once your powers manifest themselves you either work for Uncle Sam, or Uncle Sam puts you away. This is the autobiography of one such hero, Billy B; in his own words.
However, after years of trying out various advertising campaigns at Amazon I have never encountered a situation wherein I profited from putting my money there. That is, no ad campaign returned to me even as much money as I put into it. The opposite was almost always true. If, say, I put $400 into an ad campaign I might get $150 or $200 in cumulative sales over the course of the campaign. Only once did I squeak out a tiny bit of profit from an Amazon ad push, and only by a few dollars.
So, for me, advertising on Amazon is a complete waste of my money, my effort, and my time. My last bit of money spent there advertising my work was, in fact, the last money I will ever spend there for that purpose.
That is all.
|I’m not sure why, but my COALITION: Zombie Trilogy is the best selling of all of my books since I republished a number of my titles after regaining publishing rights from a former imprint. It has done well in ebook format, but dollar-wise is doing even better in audio book sales. WORKING CLASS HERO has the edge in total ebook numbers, but the audio of that book isn’t nearly as high in sales.|
I have been surprised at the sales of the audiobooks. All I have to do is promote my novels as I normally do, and the audiobooks tag along, sometimes outstripping the ebooks in dollar sales, if not actual numbers (since audiobooks are more expensive than ebooks).
It’s part of the massive learning curve of having to promote my fiction rather than leaving it up to a traditional publisher who might be incompetent at the task, or who doesn’t care (sometimes both). I may not be great at promotions at this point, but I’m better than I was at it, I’m still learning, and I definitely do care.
Here’s a question and answer bit I did at a website concerning my superhero novel, WORKING CLASS HERO. I’ll be adding the second book to that series very soon, and have plotted a third book. If sales and/or my desire to continue warrant, I’ll be doing more in that series. I like the characters and I enjoy the act of creating new stories in that world.
So, if you want a way to land a whole lot of excellent reading, plus help out a good cause, all at a super-bargain price, grab one (or all) of these book bundles!
Explanation and link below.
|Thirteen great superhero novels!|
The way I saw it back then (and justifiably so), it was up to the publishers to promote and advertise the stories, scripts, and novels I had spent so much time creating. As I like to paraphrase, “I’m a writer, not a salesman, dammit!”
These days, of course, I have to promote and advertise. All on my own dime. And I have to do a lot of experimentation, because by and large other authors who know how to do this will not share such information in a market that is already packed beyond capacity and highly competitive. (Writers some years back ceased to consider fellow writers as colleagues and see them now as competitors.) So a huge learning curve has ensued.
I have had to learn where to advertise and how to do it. I won’t belabor the finer points but even when you find a good spot to advertise you have to tweak the parameters of what is advertised and how to utilize various codes to ensure maximized results. It’s not easy and even though I’ve figured out how to get positive results, I’m still not skilled at it. But what I have learned over the past few months is where to put my ad dollars and how to pull an ad when it’s not generating more income than the cost of the ad campaigns. Fortunately, the two methods I now use most often do give me that option. I can edit, or pause, or completely halt an ad campaign if I’m not making more than it’s worth.
Disappointingly to me, most of my sales–in fact about 90%–come in the form of ebooks. I never have become accustomed to reading ebooks, but I reckon it’s because I’m too conservative to have ever given my reading habits over to that format. I do read more ebooks than I once did, but I prefer to buy print books. I will be purchasing more of my books in print format to sell at convention and library appearances in future and hope to see those gain a larger portion of my overall sales.
At any rate, the books I’ve been pushing most of late are titles that I’ve gotten back into print since retrieving the rights from a former publisher. All three have been rewritten, re-edited, and graced with new cover art and contain my preferred texts. So grab one or all of them if you want to spend some quality time living in another world for a few hours. All books are now also available in audio book versions.
|WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of a Superhuman.|
|THE COALITION Zombie Trilogy. The three original titles all contained under one cover as a single volume. In audio book, ebook, and paperback!|
|DEADLOCKED. My first zombie novel back in print in my preferred text with many added and restored sequences. Three formats: audio, ebook, paperback.|