Category Archives: Independent Publishing

POL Christmas Edition: The Dark Servant

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Season’s greetings from the Lightrider Journals!  Today we continue our version of Christmas traditions with the annual Christmas Point of Light series, where we focus on Christmas stories that provide young writers valuable tools in their development.  This year, we begin with a story that not only highlights writing, but actually one of those young, inspiring authors.  In honor of the release of Krampus, the story of the Christmas devil, we straddle the line between horror and holidays, with Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant.

 

The Plot

 In Hancock, New Jersey, the morning of December 5th is rocked by a car accident and abduction of a high school jock.  But this is only the first, as further kidnappings follow, including a high school Heather, a grade school student, and the son of the chief of police.  While the police strive to find connections, all they come up with are bags of sticks left near the crime scenes, and reports of a huge, hoofed, bear like creature.  The chief’s youngest son, Billy, does make a connection- the Krampus, the ancient twin of Saint Nicholas from German folklore.  And indeed, he is right, as the Krampus has come to Hancock to punish the worst of its naughty children- unless they can repent.  Billy and his school crush Maria, must race against time to find the Krampus before it kidnaps again.  But Billy must also come to terms with just what it is that brought the Krampus to Hancock- and his part in it.

 

What Writers Can Learn- Dialouge, Homage, Morals

 The Dark Servant works as a wonderfully twisted Christmas fable and succeeds as a fine debut in a number of ways.  To begin with, Manochio avoids one of the easiest traps for a first time writer- crafting smooth, realistic dialogue.  While I am certainly not claiming to be perfect, my experience with other new writers shows that dialogue can be a challenge.  Often times, writers try more to sound well-written then realistic, and either explain too much or sound stiff and tin eared.  While there are a few missteps, Manochio avoids this trap.  He characters talk like real teenagers and adults, and while the Krampus itself can speak like Freddy Krueger, its dialogue effortlessly flies the distance between scary and funny and back.

That leads into another of the book’s strengths- the knowledge of its material.  The Krampus itself plays into the mythos perfectly, and anyone that knows the creature will see its trademarks- the bad of sticks, its satanic appearance, and its desire to punish the naughty.  But beyond that, the novel clearly patterns itself after a horror movie, and Manochio clearly knows the genre.  The story builds in suspense, slowly bringing us out of the everyday bit by bit, as the Krampus becomes more and more visible.  The elements of blood and gore are not overplayed, the characters are intelligent and fill their roles perfectly, and the Krampus itself is a perfect movie monster- sadistic and witty, but with a clear purpose and goal.

And that goal forms the core of The Dark Servant.  The Krampus exists to punish naughty children, but also to make them repent.  While its victims are trapped, it continually pushes and torments them to admit their sins.  And these sins are not minor.  The kidnapped students are there because they bullied and tormented a classmate to the point of nearly killing herself.  The young boy bullied a classmate and had entertained thought of shooting him.  The Krampus pushes all of them into forced confession, threatening to kill them unless they repent.  But it does show restraint.  It releases the children that do confess, and forces less torture onto the child, even saying there is only so much a child should have to endure.  Only the Heather, who does not repent, is fully punished, and in a way the Krampus’s ‘Master’ would appreciate- throwing her down a lit chimney.  Bullying and suicide are dark topics to go through, and often, they are discussed in a way that comes across as preachy.  But The Dark Servant shows them in a way that is real, and with a grim message- that while the Krampus is a sadistic demon, it is our own evil that calls it- and only our own ability to face that evil that can save us.  After all, Christmas is the time when we are called to be at our best- and to forgive.

 

Further Reading

Those interested in seeing the Krampus on screen would do well to examine the new film, or the anthology Christmas Horror Story, which also features the Krampus, in a more villainous role.   And don’t forget to come back next week, boys and girls of every age, as we travel across the Hinterlands to see a town that more then a little strange.

How to do a Signing: The Checklist

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Welcome back to the blog.  This week, I’d like to reach out to follow authors working to put their books out into the world.  As I’m currently preparing for my first major convention appearance, I thought about all the preparations that go into getting ready for any kind of appearance for an author.  So today, I’d like to present a check-list for any author making their first major appearance, from a local signing to a full con appearance.

  • Books- let’s start with the most obvious part of a con- the actual product.  You need to make sure you’ve got a good amount of books.  The worst feeling of an appearance is to run short early and miss potential opportunity.  However, you also don’t want to over-order, and be left with a huge number of books.  The best thing to do is to plan for your appearance and decide how much to bring based on just where you’re going and how many people will likely be there.
  • Money-Box- besides books, the most important thing you need at an appearance is money.  You need to have loose cash to give change to people that pay in cash.  You may also want to invest in a credit card reader, which are often small enough to work with a smart phone and will make it easier for people to pay.  Regardless, you must always have a cash-box, a small, lockable container that holds your change and your profit.  This is one of the two most important things to bring to any appearance.
  • Props- another important part of any event.  You always want to appear professional and to attract attention.  Some simple props can easily accomplish this; a poster of your book or even of yourself can help steer people in your direction and get the first initial interest.  As with the book number, this should be adjusted for your appearance.  You don’t want to overcrowd a library or undersell a crowded convention.
  • The Right Attitude- no one wants to go to a signing for a grumpy author.  Be prepared for the event you’re going to- if it requires you to speak, be polite, informative, and most of all, approachable about your work and as a person.  If you’re going to be in a group, be inviting, but without seeming like a carnival pitchman for your book.  Above all, be prepared to be in one location for a long time, friendly to the people that approach, and above all, grateful for people that purchase your book.
  • Preparations- this seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning.  Whatever event you are going to, know the details.  Know when you need to get there, make sure your give yourself time to set up, know the setup, and make sure all your materials are ready.
  • Help- something many authors don’t think of.  Appearances are built around the author, but they can require more then one person.  Don’t be unafraid to ask for help in setting up appearances, especially at cons.  The larger the event, the more pressure is on to get customers, so don’t be afraid to have someone else there to help you out.
  • Research- we end with the most important step of appearances, finding one.  While your publisher may aid you in finding events, you will likely need to do some work on your own.  Some events are easier to schedule- local signings, events at libraries, are usually happy to host you.  Events like cons however, will take more work and require your efforts to find them.  So get on your computer and find them, it’s the only way to be able to get your book out there.

Hopefully, this checklist will make it easier for new authors to navigate the difficult waters of their first major event.  And don’t forget about my appearance at the Big Apple Con in a few weeks, on Mar. 7th, at NYC’s Penn Pavilion from 10-6 pm.

Equites Giveaway!

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Greetings once again.  Today is the first step of the promotion for Equites, as I announce my first Goodreads giveaway!  It’s simple- all you have to do is enter at the link below, and you’ll be entered to win one of ten copies of Equites.  The only thing better then an epic fantasy is a FREE epic fantasy, so don’t delay.  The giveaway is open until March 2nd, so hurry over and enter!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24522305-equites

Equites Release

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Greetings to all.  Today, I have great news, as my second novel, Equites, has been sent to the printers, and is finally live and available for purchase!  Currently, it can be purchased on the iUniverse website (link below) in hardcover, paperback, and e-book, and will soon be available on mainstream book sites such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.

This marks the beginning of a busy year, as I will be doing even more promotion for the Lightrider series.  This will include giveaways, a national Book Exhibit, and my first venture into conventions, at the Big Apple Con on Mar 7th in NYC, and the Garden State Comic Fest in Morristown NJ over the summer.  More details will be released as time goes on, so please, keep checking back for info and my usual writing entires.  Here’s to a successful New Year.

http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000518643/Equites.aspx

Points Of Light Halloween Edition: Horror Comics

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Greetings from the boneyard as we celebrate All-Hallows Eve. Tonight, we head into the past for one of the earliest examples of horror in the last century, horror made with ink and pen and paints for children of all ages. Today, we end October with a look at the grand history of horror comics.

The Background

Horror comics can be traced back to the early 19th century in America, with Prize Comics’ “New Adventures of Frankenstein” widely considered the first of the genre in the States. While many other publishers produced such books, the most well known was EC Comics, and its three series Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, and Tales From the Crypt. These comics reached a massive high in the 1940’s, with famous artists such as Johnny Craig and Reed Crandall writing and drawing the frightening tales.

Unfortunately, these books also experienced a tremendous backlash as parents of the time preached on the bad influences of horror and crime in comics. Dr. Fredric Wertham also published Seduction of the Innocent, which claimed that violent caused children to be violent, painted the comic industry as a shadowy, Mafia like operation, and even pointed to Batman and Robin as propagating homosexuality. In response to the claims (which were based on largely undocumented anecdotes), the Comics Code was formed, which put a ban on many of the essential details for horror and crime comics. As a result, most horror comics faded away, though some were repackaged under sci-fi and mystery.

However, horror comics did find their way around these guidelines, and in the 1970’s the code did relax enough to allow Marvel to create the vampire Morbius, and even their own version of Dracula. Alan Moore also had great success at DC resurrecting the Swamp Thing and modern comic writers have found success with characters like Hellboy, and series like 30 Days of Night, Deadman, The Midnight Sons, and Marvel Zombies.

Legacy

While many horror comics were generally simple horror tales, their influence has allowed for much of the creativity in comics today. Without their influence, it is unlikely their would be much, if any, supernatural influence in the comic world today, or any real seriousness. Indeed, many look at the Silver Age of Comics (done under the Comics Code), as one of over the top stories, with such gimmicks, as Lion-Headed Superman, and Bat-Baby (really. They both happened). Even a long lived character like Batman suffered without the elements of those early horror comics, becoming farther and farther removed from his grim beginnings until the 70’s and the loosening of the Code. Because of that, comic writers today have further freedom and creativity to weave not only frightening tales, but to explore darker, more serious elements that challenge readers instead of merely satisfying them.

Further Viewing

As mentioned the EC Comics are largely among the most popular horror comics, with various anthologies existing today.  The titles mentioned previously are also worth looking for the modern ramifications of horror.  However, those with a taste for the silver screen can also be satisfied.  The classic TV anthology Tales From the Crypt, is based on the comic of the same name, and many episodes are direct adaptations.  Stephen King and George Romero’s Creepshow is a feature length tribute to EC, featuring graphics and stories straight out of the classic comics.   So if you’re looking for a way to get some scary fun next Halloween, take a trip to your local comic story.  Until then, boils and ghouls…

New Project: Comic Book Crossover- Ghostbusters/Back To The Future

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Greetings once again. I currently find myself in a lull as the Lightrider sequel is being edited. As such, I’ve found a new project to occupy time between books. As with many children of the 80’s and 90’s, I am a major fan of Back to The Future and Ghostbusters. As both films are either at, or nearing their 30th anniversary, I’ve been working on a comic book script to bring the two franchises together. The mere concept script has thus far gotten great reviews from fans of both francises, and as such, I have decided to implore the studios invovled (Columbia and Universal) and IDW Publishing (the current publishers of the Ghostbuster comic) to bring these two together through my work. I’ve created a peition on the link below, as well as a basic outline of the story. If you check it out and want to see it, then please, sign and help get it to the attention of the people involved. We’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to gain so please, check it out, and help bring two 80’s icons together.

https://www.change.org/p/idw-comics-universal-studios-columbia-studios-give-the-permit-for-a-ghostbuster-back-to-the-future-comics-crossover-event

The Publishing Process: Marketing Part 7: Blog Tours

This edition of marketing advice is a more recent invention of the social media age- the blog tour. As social media and the internet has become more prominent, it has become easier and easier to post opinions online, hence the tremendous amount of people writing blogs and posting videos on everything from movies to politics to, obviously, books. A writer has to use this new avenue to expand their book across cyberspace, which is a far speedier way to get a lot of attention then having signings. But obviously, reaching out to individual blogs one at a time takes patience and effort. Therefore, setting a blog tour to post info about your book is a surefire way to reach a large group of people very quickly.

What It Is and How to Do It

A blog tour is basically a book tour done electronically- a large group of blogs all reviewing your book in sequence over a period of time. How many blogs and how long the tour goes are affected by a number of things, but the first part of the tour is to get a solid number of blogs to work with you. In my experience, this is best achieved by a blogger that already sets these tours up and has a large number of connections. Many blogs are independently set up, and therefore work in a community, depend on each for promotion and materials review. As such, a blogger that can use connections to promote both an author AND their fellow bloggers are vital assest. And this should not be a hard step- most bloggers are eager to review, so they are skilled with promotions like this, to boost themselves and others.

That said, it doesn’t make the process any easier. I was fortunate in that I was able to get a blogger that already had set up tours for authors, and did the work herself to get the bloggers a copy of my book (which saved me some expense). She even set up the dates for the promotion to take place, so that I could post information myself and bring more views to the blogs (another reason for bloggers to support these tours). Obviously, if you don’t have that source, you need to organize all the dates and blogs yourself, so ideally you want to have someone helping you.

But beyond setting the dates and getting the product (sometimes), an author is also responsible for providing some information. To help make the tour stops more informative, I filled out several interview sheets for different sites, with questions ranging from inspiration for my book to what foods I liked. It might seem strange, but it’s still good prep work for future interviews and strange questions in future interviews.

Final Thoughts
All In all, a blog tour is a great tool for an author to reach a large audience quickly. Many of the blogs that hosted me were actually in other countries like Australia, so I was also able to reach an international audience as well. But the best part of all was that aside from the interview sheets, I didn’t have to go tour those far-off places and my book was still promoted. And while that might not be the case if you don’t find the right person to set things up, it’s more than a reason to try and set up a tour for yourself.

And on a personal note for the readers that are also fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Nostalgia Critic has finally posted his review on the unholy abomination that was the film adaption. Please go and support this wonderful takedown of one man’s failed adaption of my most important writing influences.

The Last Airbender- The Nostalgia Critic

The Publishing Process: Marketing Part 4: Conventions

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In today’s marketing piece, I’m going to speak on a promotional method that has become a large part of the writer’s resources- the convention. While think of cons as massive places to debut films, TV, and comic books, there are still many smaller cons that authors can use to show off their work and gain fans and notoriety. While the Internet and social media are incredibly important for building a fanbase, cons allow for personal connections that will help to strengthen your name and help to get your book across.

The Con- What it is, How to find It, and What to do

Conventions are large gatherings, usually built around popular media that take place across the country. The most well-known is the San Diego Comic-Con, which draws fans from around the world and has become the mecca for panels on upcoming films, TV, and comic books (I personally went a few years ago, and can truly say it lives up to the hype). However, you’re unlikely to start there. Many smaller conventions take place across the country, and it is easy for writers to check into cons that are happening in their area, which are usually advertised. The Internet is your best bet, but local papers and comic shops will also help, and the closer you are to a big city, the better your chances.

When you have found a con, the next step is to get a seat there. This usually involves calling the con and getting a booth to display your work, but this can be expensive for a first time writer. A better suggestion is to find a con with an Artist’s Alley, which showcases a group of local artists/authors and is far less costly. Once you are set, you will need to promote your area, usually with posters, a display of some kind, something that will bring attention to you and your work. Make sure your display is of good quality, so that it can be reused and save you money in the long run. And of course, you will need to order copies of your book to sell. However, remember that this is your first con, and you do not want to over order. Try to make a reasonable estimate given the size of the con and how many fans you feel you can attract.

This leads to the most important part of a con- being social. You will be standing at a booth all day, with people stopping by the whole time. These are your potential fans and buyers, so you must be ready for them. Answer their questions, be friendly and sociable, and do as much as you can to appeal to them without going into salesman mode, because that will drive fans away. Hopefully, you can find that balance and use it to promote your book efficiently. I can personally relate to this being effective; at Comic-Con, I was fortunate enough to meet Brent Maddock, one of the writers of Tremors. While I did pay for an autograph, he was gracious enough to speak to me for almost fifteen minutes about Tremors rumors and the state of horror movies today. When I got home, I almost immediately went out and bought the four Tremors movies and the short lived TV series.

Final thoughts

While the Internet and social media are of far greater reach, cons offer that personal, one on one experience that bring you a greater connection with fans and help you to build your reputation as an approachable writer that fans will pay to see. And it can lead to some surprises, as I ended my day at Comic-Con playing guitar in an Irish pub with Lindsay Ellis, aka the Nostalgia Chick from ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com (I’ll post the photos after I finally get them on file). So look for cons that will work for you; be smart, be realistic, be frugal as needed, and above all, be social and friendly, and you will build a new army of fans (though some may be dressed as Megatron. Just roll with it).

Special thanks to Derrick Fish, writer/artist of the Wellkeeper, artist for Lightrider, and con veteran, for his invaluable expertise in writing this piece.

Big News

Big announcement everyone. After months of work, I’m pleased to announce I have completed the first draft of The Lightrider Journals sequel- Equites. I’ve still got plenty of editing to do, but as of right now, we can start looking forward to the next adventure of Joe, Nightstalker, and all the rest. And if you want a hint as to the plot, look up the title (hint, it’s Latin). And since you’ve all hopefully had a chance to read the first book by now, I’m interested in your feedback as I start editing. So please, drop a comment about what you liked, what you didn’t, what I can do to imprve things for this new tale. Remember, I’m nothing with you guys and what you have to say, so feel free to write whatever you have to say!

The Publishing Process: Marketing Part 3- Book Signings

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By this point in your marketing process, you should hopefully have a great, eye-catching cover and someone in place to help guide you through getting your name out there. Now, you need to focus on setting up events where you can see people and get your name out there. One of the most basic events a writer can set up, is the one we will be discussing today- the book signing.

The Set-Up

If anyone has ever waited in line to get an autograph, you have experienced the basic concept of a book signing. It is a great way to meet readers, talk about your book, sell some copies, and get a nice ego boost as well. However, these events take time to set up, and even more time for new authors since unlike the people you have waited in line for, you are probably not famous yet. The first part of getting a signing is to first find places that you can host a signing in. As I mentioned before, you do not want to spread yourself in areas that are far away, so you should first examine your local area for spots you can use. These can be anywhere from libraries to bookstores to even schools. And again, if you use places that you have some history in, you have a better chance of being able to set one up.

Now even with a local setting, you will still need to sell the signing itself (which may also involve spending money for an event). After all, these places are going to be giving you their time and space, and don’t want to give them for nothing. Therefore, be able to promote the signing to the owner. Have a strategy for how you will help to raise awareness for the event, and what exactly makes your book a standout. And while you don’t want to do this in great detail, it is not bad to invite a few people to the event. It will guarantee the event will have an audience, which will help to assure your promoter their will be a draw. So try to use methods like newspapers, online media, and as much word of mouth as you can.

The Event

Once you have an event set up, then you need to start making preparations. Obviously, you need to make sure you have copies of the book to sell at the event, as well as some signs and decorations for the inside. You should make sure you have a general number of how many people will be at the event, and plan accordingly; being short on books will greatly hurt your image to fans and to promoters. And obviously, you need to have some way to keep money from the book sales safe. Your first step can be to get another person to handle the cash, so you can focus on the event. It might also help to get some additional devices, like a portable credit-card reader, to accent your intake.

The most important thing you need however, is a speech. As much as you will be sitting and signing, you aren’t going to grab loyal fans by just sitting there. After all, when you go to a signing, you want to speak to the person, even if only for a few seconds, and try to ask them something. And you should be able to talk about your work and grab their attention. So before the signing, write out a speech where you discuss the book. You can talk about your influences, the process of writing and publishing, read passages from the book, anything to explain how you came to this point. And if there is time, have a q & a section for the event. Readers like nothing more than asking about a novel, and this gives you a chance to connect with them, as well as learn the vital skill of thinking on your feet.

Final Thoughts

A signing can be a great deal of work, and even scary to a first timer. But they are essiential to all writers’ promotion, and should not be half-assed in anyway. Using local places is a great way to get started, and it will help you to later set up events in places where you are less known. But most importantly, they can be a great deal of fun for the authors. I can personally attest to the joy of being asked great questions about a book I had poured so much work into, and hearing people give such positive feedback. So when the time comes, look around you for places, use your connections, plan things out as much as possible, and be ready to conquer your stage fright.