In a rare turn of events, Facebook proved useful for something by dredging up a memory of a post I put up three years ago. The original post, from Feb. 23, 2014, was to celebrate the release of my debut novel, Convergence (which, ahem, you can find at various ebook retailers and in paperback).
I've been thinking a bit about my writing career of late, where it's been and where it's going, and what's in store for both myself and my readers over the course of 2017. For three years now, I've been plugging away at this whole writing thing, this business of being an author, and it's been a surprising ride.
I've made friends with a number of writers over the last few years, which have helped open a number of doors for me professionally, and readers, which has been personally rewarding. This has led to a wonderful base of support in various corners, as well as invitations to appear in various anthologies (in fact, just yesterday I had to make the unfortunate decision to turn down an appearance in a charity anthology due to my current workload), and even a chance to dabble in another author's world. A few years ago, Nicholas Sansbury Smith read Convergence and offered me a blurb. You'll see it at those various retailers, but I certainly don't mind posting it here as well:
"From the opening page of Convergence I was hooked. The dystopian world building is well done and the descriptions are vivid. The technology is imaginary and different...great characters and plenty of suspense/action." - Nicholas Sansbury Smith, author of Extinction Horizon and the Orbs series
Late last year, Nick partnered with Amazon to launch the Kindle Worlds platform for his best-selling series, The Extinction Cycle. Nick invited a handful of authors to contribute to the launch, including me. The invitation came at a bit of an awkward time for me, but also at a point where I absolutely welcomed a distraction.
My mother passed away in July, and I was dealing with the very long first day of the funeral viewing. Emotionally, I was wrecked, and Nick was one of the first people to reach out a few days prior when my wife made the announcement on my behalf. I was surprised, but also delighted, when a few days later he asked me if had heard of Kindle Worlds and broke down the news for me, and asked if I had a story. I didn't then, but the more I thought about it, the more an idea began to take shape. It grew and all of a sudden I had Extinction Cycle: From the Ashes, my Detroit Zombie military action book. (Oddly enough, around the time of my mother's death, I was also reading an advanced copy of Nick's then-forthcoming novel, Hell Divers. I don't know if Nick realized just how much a part of my life he was at that particular moment in time, but the dude was a much needed bit of support and entertainment.) From the Ashes came out a few months ago, in October, and has been selling pretty consistently since then - good news for both myself and Nick!
When I started on this path back in 2014 -- well, even that's not quite accurate. The path itself began way back when I was in high school in the late 90s and into my early college years. I wrote three full-length novels, which will never see the light of day. My first published work was Catechism, a short story that appeared in a long-since out of print issue of Revelation from Fourth Horseman Press in 2004. Good luck finding a copy of that!
Cut to nearly a decade later, to what I consider the official start of things with the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 contest. I submitted Convergence on a lark, along with 10,000 other entrants, fully expecting to get axed immediately. Instead, I made it to the quarter finals and was one of the final 100 authors for the science fiction category (by this, 9,500 other books had been removed from the competition overall). In addition to some early support from readers and Amazon editors, I was among the few to earn an awesome review from Publisher's Weekly, which still makes me giddy to this day.
"[A] smart splice of espionage and science fiction. ... frighteningly realistic. Well-drawn characters, excellent pacing, and constant surprises make this a great cautionary tale about technology and its abuses." - Publisher's Weekly
The Breakthrough Novel Award Contest gave me the encouragement I needed to pursue a path as an independent author-publisher. I joined KBoards to seek out some knowledge on how to launch my book and read up on things at Joe Konrath's blog. I found other authors to follow along the way, like Chuck Wendig, who routinely writes about writing and publishing and always has sage advice wrapped up in all kinds of swearing and odd-ball tangents. While on KBoards, I began chatting with another indie sci-fi author who was also preparing to launch his first novel. Lucas Bale released his first book in the Beyond the Wall series with The Heretic in June 2014, just a few months after I dropped Convergence. (He's now co-writing some books with Matthew Mather, by the way, so go check out their Nomad series!) We became friendly with a few other writers over there and banded together to release our first anthology, No Way Home.
We had been paying attention to what Samuel Peralta was achieving with his line of The Future Chronicles anthologies, and we wanted in on the action. We were hungry! We were also fans of what Samuel was doing, and I had hoped to one day to appear in a FC anthology myself. To me, that would have been the mark that indicated I had really made it.
Well, I got an invite in 2015, after the release of Emergence, the sequel to Convergence. I wrote a stand-alone DRMR short story for Samuel's The Cyborg Chronicles, which came out in late December 2015. A few weeks before that book's release, Lucas and our merry band of crazed, cutthroat, mercenary author-publishers put together a second anthology, Crime and Punishment, to celebrate the success of No Way Home.
Obviously, Convergence has been very good to me from a creative stand-point. Things have changed a bit over the last several years, though. I've changed, both as a writer and as a person. In the various interviews I've done over the last few years for podcasting authors like Hank Garner and Nadine Matheson, I've named Stephen King as a tremendous influence. King and Tom Clancy were the giant staples in my early reading years. They were the two authors that made me a reader, and opened the door for me a bit to explore other writers in their spheres and genres. I found Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, Preston & Child, James Rollins, Barry Eisler, Richard K. Morgan, and so, so many others. But, really, it all started with Stephen King and his little, itsy-bitsy novel, IT. King was always at the top for me. I was writing science fiction, mostly, but I had ambitions to write some horror (in fact, "Catechism" was my first apocalyptic horror story).
After I finished Convergence, I needed a break from sci-fi. I'd lived with that book for several years, and I was yearning to do something different. Inspiration strikes in the oddest places, you know? One night my wife and I were watching Chopped, and the basket ingredient included a big bundle tentacles. I saw those and joked that the evening's ingredients were Cthulhu. And right away, just like that, the idea for Consumption was born - Chopped by way of H.P. Lovecraft. I wrote that story in a feverish frenzy over the course of three days, the words just pouring out of me. It was graphic, violent, with a smidgen of sexiness, and a lot of weirdness. Consumption got a 4 1/2-star review in SCREAM Magazine, and an awesome cover blurb from fellow No Way Home author S. Elliot Brandis:
"Your stomach will turn, your throat will restrict, and jaw will clench tighter than a bull's arsehole in fly season."
- S. Elliot Brandis, author of Irradiated and Once Upon A Time At The End Of The World
Thanks to Stephen King, horror has always been a bit of a first-love, even if sci-fi was where I made my initial splash (although Lucas has insisted to me before that I have always been writing horror, even if I thought it was sci-fi...I might have split the middle ground a bit there with Revolver, a book that wears it's King influences proudly on its sleeves.). My short story, Black Site, originally published in Daniel Arthur Smith's tome, CLONES: The Anthology, and due out later this year as a solo title, was definitely a sci-fi and horror infusion, and another Lovecraftian lark. I'll talk more about this at a later date, I'm sure.
Currently, I'm settling into a groove with horror. I'm reading more horror than ever before, and it has seriously become my favorite genre. I've found a number of terrific go-to authors over the last couple years, and even a few, like Hunter Shea, who have become supporters of my own work. Hunter read and blurbed Let Go, and you'll soon see that he had some ridiculously kind things to say about Black Site once I can share the cover for that story.
I certainly feel at home in the horror genre. My current work in progress is horror, with a definite historical setting (a first for me!), and I'll have a horror novel out later this year. I can't talk about this novel just yet (although I've teased it a bit to my Patreon supporters) as it is currently under review with a publisher. I have a novella also under review with a different publisher, and depending on which way the wind blows with these two titles, 2017 could certainly be my Year of Horror. If I'm lucky enough to publish with either of these presses, it'll be a huge coup in my career.
Yeah, that's right - career. I've said it a few times in this post now. I'm not doing this author gig full-time just yet, but I know for a fact I'm in it for the long haul. And that's all thanks to you. You've maybe read my work, or maybe you haven't and somehow stumbled your way here and stuck with me long enough to get this far (sorry for rambling). Either way, you took a chance. Thank you for that.
I think 2017 is going to be a year of growth for me, both professionally and personally. I've got plans for this year, and hopefully they'll keep you entertained. There will, of course, be plenty more to come in the future. I'm not done yet, and there's still plenty of stories I want and need to tell, and a fair amount of blood to spill across the pages...
Although my books are available at various retailers, I'm also giving them to my Patreon supporters in a Book of the Month style format. $1/month = 1 book/month. This is my first month on Patreon, and patrons have already received Convergence. Its sequel, Emergence, will be posted in March. Both of these ebooks retail for $3.99, so becoming a Patreon supporter is a great way to get my stories for cheap, and you'll get access to advanced reader copies of my upcoming independently published work before they launch anywhere else. Check it out!
Visit my Amazon Author Page at http://amzn.to/2lcTTaW, and click Follow for updates on new releases.