Anyone who has had a dream of being a writer professionally since they were a kid knows the age-old ideal: write a manuscript, get an agent, have a publisher pick it up, get paid, do book signings, see your book on a shelf, and become a millionaire.
That idea in 2018 is about as likely as winning the MegaMillions jackpot.
While there do still exist a few writers who “hit it big” with a publishing deal (an ever-shrinking number), it’s not a realistic goal in the truest sense. You should still try if that is your goal, but the world of publishing has changed, mainly because the world at large has changed.
Recently, I attended a Meet Up here in Maryland of other writers who gathered around and worked on their craft. It was my first time, and being the only “indie” in the group, I engaged in a few conversations. Those conversations turned into a sharing of information about all the tools available like Scrivener, Reedsy, and BookFunnel, as well as names of highly successful indie authors like Mark Dawson, Bella Forrest, Michael Anderle, Shayne Silvers, and many more. Many of these fellow writers — most of whom were still under the impression that there was only one way to be a published writer professionally — had no idea these tools existed or any of these writers were so wildly successful. Using KindleSpy I showed that many of them were as successful, if not more, in sales as other authors they had heard of like Sarah J. Maas or Jim Butcher, but of course no one eclipsed the giants of the industry like King, Patterson, Roberts, or Child. I could see the wheels turning in a few heads that their true goal — being able to write for a living — was not a one-way street, but had many paths to get to that destination.
Then, there were those who scoffed at the whole idea.
At this point, I should probably bring up that I had no intention on getting into this discussion. We were there to write, but as humans, we also talk shop. I asked many of those who were there what their goal was as a writer. One person said it was to see his book on a shelf. Another said it was to win awards. Other answers ranged from being famous authors to seeing their book on the New York Times Bestseller List.
I immediately thought back to something I heard on Joanna Penn’s podcast some months ago about how this mindset is the real Vanity Publishing of today. It truly is, by the definition of the word “vanity”. The goals were to see a book on a self, win an award, gain the praise and adulation of others, and few were concerned with writing for a living.
Two ladies in particular, who were older women, spun off into a diatribe about “real” writers, questioned whether “the books are any good”, and a variety of other condescending remarks. They were polite about it, but still dismissive. I pointed to the number of 4 and 5 star reviews for many of the authors mentioned earlier, and one of the women remarked “there are many popular books that aren’t very good”.
That statement carried a heavy stench of arrogance.
I listened, while she turned her back to me because she didn’t want to hear what I was saying, as she went on with the other lady about the subject. She also claimed Stephen King (who was once an indie himself) wasn’t a very good writer. My counter argument was if tens of thousands of people find enjoyment and give high praise to the books any author is writing that person is a good writer. The ultimate point of writing is storytelling. She thought otherwise. To her, the point of “real writing” was impressing literary types with how you turn a phrase (what I tend to call “Literary Masturbation“).
While I understand her view, it is a highly arrogant one. It’s also a view that has nearly scuttled the entire book industry for decades. They dismissed the horror revival of the 70s and 80s, the romance genre as a whole, the initial surge of paperbacks, the rise of ebooks, and now the success of indie authors/self publishers, all because it doesn’t fit their lofty idea of what writing is supposed to be about.
That kind of thinking excludes many people. In fact, I suspect it has much to do with why — until Harry Potter — reading was on a drastic decline in the 80s and 90s. My generation, Generation X, didn’t have a Harry Potter or Twilight or Hunger Games or Divergent to read. We were stuck with the books of the prior generation and a handful of less-than-wildly popular titles for young adults and teens during that time period. Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that when this lady spoke of the books and authors she liked, nearly all of them were from another era.
I don’t shy from confrontation, and this conversation wasn’t hostile in any manner, but I did have to correct many things she was saying. She clearly only had knowledge of her corner of the writing world, which is insulated and stuck in another generation. Despite the enormous number of books sales that are attributed to indies (reported at anywhere from 25% to 35% of the TOTAL book market), despite the successes of famous indies like Hocking, Weir, and Croft, despite the traditional industry mainly being buoyed up by enormous sales of the “big dog” authors while the mid-list author population has dwindled almost to nothing, despite the fact there are thousands of indie authors who clear $100k in annual revenue from their books sales, there will always be people in the industry, like this woman, who will live in denial that the world is changing.
In fact, it’s already changed.
The other lady then argued against that very change. Even though the world has become digital, she was still obsessed with having a “team of people” behind an author and books on shelves. Again, I argued, what for? I’ve sold books in fifteen countries at this point, something that was impossible fifteen years ago when you would need a team of people to do that. That isn’t the case anymore. You also don’t need to go to a record shop to buy music or Blockbuster Video to rent movies. Digital hasn’t replaced physical books, nor should it. What it has done is allowed for many more books to be available … books that may not be appealing to the “high literature” crowd, but books that appeal to a wide variety of people.
The idea that reading should be exclusive only to a certain type of people is counterproductive, arrogant, and dangerous.
Having a team of people who take a percentage of my book sales is not appealing to me when I don’t need it. Seeing my book on a bookshelf at Barnes and Noble — when it’s highly uncertain whether Barnes and Noble will even be around in five years as brick-and-mortar stores — is for my own ego, not for writing. Winning awards from people who enjoy their exclusive groups is not a goal of mine. Those are not the reasons I wanted to write when I was a kid. I wanted to tell stories, have people enjoy them, and make a living doing so. Who is the “real” writer? The one who does it for praise or the one who does it because it’s what they want to do for a living?
I left the MeetUp feeling that I had encouraged a few people to look beyond what they had been told was “the way” their entire lives. Maybe some will see that there’s a whole new world out there. The two ladies who were wrapped up in their own smug view of the writing world (again, turning their backs to the rest of us for most of the conversation) will continue to be in that world. And that is fine. That group is slowly dying off. They can continue to be, in their minds, failed writers who will only consider themselves successful IF an exclusive group of gatekeepers deem them worthy. The rest of us who embrace the new world, and the world that’s coming, will enjoy the opportunities out there, and many will have great success, as this new era of reading and writing is still in its infancy.
THE DARK WEB MEETS THE PARANORMAL IN THIS NEW COLLECTION OF HORROR!
What Is The Immanent World: 404 About?
David Clegg’s experiences on the Dark Web drag him into the strange place we know as The Immanent World …
When one of his conspiracy theories is picked up by a mysterious hacker known as KUTTNER, Clegg is shown the truth of reality and the twisted possibilities of technology.
Told in SIX TWISTED SHORT STORIES, this dark sci fi/horror anthology will make you think twice about where you go on the internet, and who out there might be watching you.
It’s Halloween, and around here that means one thing:
This year’s edition of The Immanent World.
This year, horror author Clive Reznor brings six new tales of horror in this Dark Sci Fi/Horror collection.
David Clegg is a programmer by day, writer of manifestos on the Dark Web at night. When one of his conspiracy theories is picked up by a mysterious hacker known as KUTTNER, Clegg is shown the truth behind his theories and the consequences of discovering them.
Being released on October 26th, 2018.
Available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, and Smashwords in paperback and ebook formats.
This is a rough draft except from the upcoming horror anthology “The Immanent World: 404”. Clive Reznor’s yearly series continues with more gripping tales of horror, dark sci-fi, and black humor, wrapped in the story of David Clegg — a computer programmer who finds that his conspiracy theories about the government and the nature of reality itself might be more on the nose than he anticipated.
A SLIGHT CASE OF TROLLING
Dealing with the minds and emotions that populated–or according to David Clegg, infested–the internet varied from the mundane to the magnificent. Where others thought of themselves as enlightened, experienced, or enigmatic, Clegg, as he was known by his friends and online associates, had a knack for destroying whatever illusions many of these people had.
It’s what social media was for, in his opinion. Come with your best, comment on the world through keystrokes and icons, pull quotes from others as if they’re your own, and masquerade as a prince among the electronic filth of poppers.
Tonight, he couldn’t be bothered with the drivel. He’d only engage with others online when he saw something so idiotically incorrect that his ego couldn’t help but squash the person who dared to soil his eyes with their terrible grammar and sub-elementary school intellect. He had bigger fish to fry now, a chat room he discovered deep in the dark web, suggested by like-minded associates he communicated with in the most exclusive of message boards. Alpha level hackers and the philosophic were the patrons here, and among this inner circle, news of a sub group emerged. Clegg had heard of this place for weeks now, a board where the conversations comprised concepts and theories so intricate a thorough understanding of astrophysics, molecular biology, ancient and modern philosophy, and half a dozen other disciplines were necessary. The posts were long, detailed, and provocative. He spent two hours scanning the pages, his finger clicking his mouse to lead him from one subject to the next.
A chat window interrupted his journey down the rabbit hole, popping up on one of his three monitors.
“Now really isn’t the time,” he muttered, hovering the white arrow over the top corner of the window, turning it into a hand with the index finger extended toward a grey “x” mark.
Sandy: Why are you up so late?
Clegg: Just reading some stuff online. What are you doing up so late?
Sandy: Couldn’t sleep. There’s been a noise in the basement all night. It’s keeping me up.
Clegg: Do you know what it is?
Sandy: No. I hate going down there at night. I’m not doing it if there’s a noise down there.
Clegg ran his hand through his thinning head of brown hair, the small bald patch feeling slick on his palm. He huffed, now maximizing the screen and pushing the chat box into the forefront. His curled his fingers, not wanting to type the first thought that came to mind. He waited a few beats, lingering on the square pale box blinking on the black screen, hoping Sandy would grow impatient and continue the conversation on her own.
Sandy: Can I come over?
He laced his fingers behind his head and leaned back, his weight causing the joints of the chair to creak and moan. He rocked a few times, his index fingers pushing up against the bottom of his unshaven chin. With another deep inhale, he sprang forward in his seat and typed again.
Clegg: If you need to. I can’t say I’ll be much company.
Sandy: That’s fine. I just don’t want to be here alone tonight.
Sandy: I hope I’m not imposing. You’ve been distant lately.
Sandy: Forget I said that. I’ll be over in a half hour.
Clegg closed the chat window and took a sip from his cup sitting on his desk. Trash covered the desk, from crumpled balls of paper to twisted candy bar wrappers to empty cans of soda. It was later than he thought, almost midnight, which meant he’d spent six hours downstairs in his basement on his computer.
He rubbed his eyes and spun around in his chair, taking a break from staring at the three computer monitors for a minute to survey his man cave. The place was a mess. Before Sandy arrived, he’d have to clean up and make it presentable. At the very least, he’d stash away most of the loose trash in a bag and stuff it in a closet out of sight, wipe down his desk, and head upstairs to make sure the two days of leftovers weren’t stinking up the trash can.
Ten minutes later he had made little progress in cleaning, his attention drawn back to the internet and the chat board. Page after page he read, and once he was comfortable with how his own acumen would stack up against the other posters, he added his own contribution.
Most of what he wrote was his own personal mantra, pulled from his mind and transferred onto the screen with lightning fast keystrokes. He opened a folder on his computer and scanned the various files he had kept in secret. From here, he copied and pasted his thoughts on multiple dimensions, String Theory, the Theory of Eleven, and a few of his own observations, cobbling them together in a series of responses to other users’ posts as well as constructing his own thread on the chat board. Switching back and forth from screen to screen, beads of sweat formed just under his hairline, his face flush, his eyes darting back and forth.
The buzzing of the doorbell upstairs snapped him out of his work. The visitor was insistent, pressing the buzzer repeatedly. Clegg rolled his eyes, pushed himself away from the desk, and stomped up the basement steps.
He opened the front door of his house to see the face of his girlfriend, lips downturn and brow wrinkled.
“Didn’t you hear the doorbell? I’ve been standing out here for five minutes,” Sandy said.
Clegg put his hand to his forehead, wiping the sweat away and closing his eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear it. Come in.”
Sandy rubbed her hands together before entering the house, the chill of early Fall following behind her. Clegg took her coat and hung it on the coat rack next to his skateboard, a set of keys, and his leather jacket with the Ramones patch stitched into the sleeve.
“You tidied up I see,” Sandy said.
She circled the kitchen table, running her finger across the still wet surface that smelled of disinfectant. Clegg’s house wasn’t that big, a functional kitchen and a modest sized living room making up this level of the house with a wooden stairwell that connected it with the upstairs and basement. Clegg watched her as she inhaled, wrinkled her nose, and then took a seat at the kitchen table. He repeated the same sequence, the scent of chemical cleaners making him cough.
“Look at it this way: at least I care enough to make a good impression on you,” he said.
Sandy crossed her legs and pushed a few strands of dark hair from her face. “I didn’t mean to be pushy earlier. We haven’t talked for a week though.”
“I mean, I didn’t want you to think I was being stalkerish or anything.” Sandy rubbed her hands together again, looking around at the kitchen. “Do you have any tea?”
“Sure, I can make you a cup. Sweetener, right?”
“Just a little.”
Clegg got up from the table and opened the kitchen cabinets, the mismatched collection of mugs, glasses, and cups clattering against each other as he searched for a tea cup. He pulled a mug from the collection, examined it with one eye closed to make sure it was clean, and then filled it with water from the kitchen sink.
“Are you that afraid of the noise in the basement?” he asked while washing out the cup. “Your house is older than mine. It’s the pipes.”
“Didn’t sound like pipes,” Sandy said. “This was something else. I’m sure I’m just hearing things and being silly, but I’m not like you. My basement isn’t a computer control center like yours. It’s old, dusty, empty, and I only go down there to do laundry.”
Clegg pushed the stainless-steel faucet over from hot water to cold, filling the mug just under the brim before putting it in the microwave. He pressed a few buttons, setting the timer for a minute and a half, and hit the start button. The appliance hummed as the cup spun in a slow circle.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” he said, leaning against the linoleum countertop.
Sandy left her seat at the kitchen table and sidled up next to Clegg, leaning against the counter in the same fashion so they were shoulder to shoulder. A hint of her perfume swirled around her, a sweet strawberry scent that Clegg had grown fond of in the months they had been together.
“Well, maybe tomorrow I can come over and check out the scary old basement of yours and tell the big bad monsters to leave,” he said.
“Oh, and could you install a nightlight too? I need one of those,” Sandy said with a smirk. “It can be like one of those clap-on, clap-off kinds, so if I ever get scared I can smack my hands together.”
“Maybe. But I think you’d be too scared to clap, so I could rig the light to turn on whenever you make a smart-ass comment. The only problem is it’d never shut off.”
Sandy put her hand to his cheek, her pale thin fingers rubbing against his patchy beard. “It takes a smart ass to know a smart ass,” she said, kissing his lips.
The ding of the microwave drew Clegg’s attention. He removed the cup from the appliance and dipped a tea bag into the steaming water. Sandy grabbed a clean spoon from the drawer next to the sink, took the cup from Clegg and sat down at the kitchen table again. Clegg watched her blow into the cup, her cherry red lips pursed as she tried to cool the drink, the echo of her kiss still on his lips.
“What have you been doing all night?” Sandy asked.
“Not much. Same old stuff, you know,” Clegg answered, taking a seat across from her again.
“In the basement hard at work?” Sandy watched Clegg for an answer and all she got was a shrug. “I’m not judging you, David. It’s good to come up for air every so often.”
“I get sucked down the rabbit hole, I’ll admit. You know how I love a good debate. This new website has smart folks on it. They’re talking about all kinds of theories, some I’ve never heard of. There’s a few leakers in there too.”
Clegg leaned forward, folding his hands together as he explained.
“Government types. Former employees of the NSA and the CIA.”
Sandy cocked an eyebrow. “Are you sure they’re legit?”
“Trust me, they’re the real thing. They’ve reported quite a few stories that turned up on the news a week later. It’s stuff no one could have known about unless they worked for the State.”
“Sounds interesting,” Sandy said, sipping her tea.
Clegg sucked in his lower lip and leaned back in the chair. He felt Sandy was skeptical about the conspiracy theories he held to as gospel. They never discussed it at length, Sandy expressing a general dismissal about the subject that stifled any desire Clegg had to share.
“How’s the tea?” he asked.
“It’s good,” she answered.
A long pause followed. Clegg tapped the top of the table with his fingers while Sandy took a few more sips. She squirmed in her seat, fidgeting between sips. After her fourth sip she set the cup down, cleared her throat, and sat up straight.
“I have a favor to ask,” she said. “Can I stay over tonight?”
“Are you that afraid of your basement?” Clegg said, a sort burst of laughter following.
“There’s that and, I don’t know, I just want to spend time together this week.” She swirled her finger around the rim of the cup, her large brown eyes batting. “I’ll make it worth it to you.”
Clegg’s grin disappeared, replaced by a tight mouth and a blank stare. He hadn’t prepared for this. His mind was still in the basement, on the keyboard and monitors, wondering what he was missing out on this entire time while Sandy was visiting. If she stayed, he’d have to attend to her and put off finishing his online mantra until the next day.
“Thanks Sandy…” is all he could muster as an answer.
Sandy waited for him to say more, and after a few minutes, realized he wasn’t going to.
“But?” she asked.
“I’m in the middle of something. I’m sorry, but tonight’s probably not a good night. I’m pretty tired too. I wouldn’t be great company.”
She sucked her teeth and turned away from him. Clegg immediately felt guilty watching her look away, hiding her face beneath her hair. He knew he’d made her feel foolish for coming over, unwanted by rejecting her, and stupid for even suggesting a sleepover.
“That’s fine,” she said through clenched teeth.
“It’s not that I don’t want to. I’m just very, very busy with all of this. How about I come over tomorrow afternoon and I can play ghost hunter in your basement?”
She was still avoiding eye contact, brushing her hair from her face. “Whatever you want, David.” She tilted her head back to swallow the rest of the tea before setting the mug down on the kitchen table with a noticeable thud.
“I guess I’ll go home then,” she said with a huff.
“Don’t be like that, Sandy.”
“No,” she stood up from the table and marched past him to the coat rack. “You have things to do, as you said. It’s very, very important, right? I don’t want to be in your way.”
She grabbed her coat from the rack and struggled to put it on, her arm missing the hole for the sleeve a few times before she got it right. Clegg followed her to the front door, reinforcing how he didn’t mean for it to sound the way it did. He promised to come over the next day. He promised to take her to whatever movie she wanted to see. Promise after promise, none of it stopped her from opening the door and leaving the house.
“Stop,” he said.
Sandy froze in place. Clegg stammered now, his mouth trying to form a word and then changing to form another, all without saying anything until he found the right phrase.
“You matter,” he said. “I’m in the zone right now. All I need is tonight to get through it, to get my thoughts out there to those who I know can confirm them. If even one person of any significance can see what I’m writing–can back up what I’m saying–then I’ll know what the truth is. Isn’t that worth one night?”
He watched Sandy’s head turn to the side, her profile caught in the yellow glow of the streetlamp a few feet away, highlighting the long slope of her nose, the curves of her lips, the strands of her dark hair as the wind blew through it. She didn’t look back at him, but down at the sidewalk leading away from his house, denying him her beautiful brown eyes.
“Truth,” she said, just above a whisper. “Yes, David. Go find your truth. I think it’s time I found mine.”
Clegg opened his mouth to continue the conversation but stopped as Sandy walked away from him. He stepped out the open door, part of his conscience telling him to go after her while another side felt relieved she was leaving. Frozen in place outside his home, Clegg watched as Sandy opened her car door and threw one final tight-lipped glare at him before getting inside and starting the engine.
The dual monitors set up at Clegg’s desk lit up once he touched the mouse. The website he visited earlier in the evening was still on screen. Clegg continued his work, pasting together his manifesto and posting it in chunks on the website.
Several comments had been attached to his prior posts in the time he had been away from his desk. Most were complimentary, others were questioning his logic about the nature of a multi-verse, claiming his knowledge on the subject as far-fetched. He frowned as he read those posts, but dismissed them, choosing to return to completing his posts.
What had escaped him while reading the dissent over his philosophy was a command line chat box in the lower left corner of his third monitor. The window’s black background and blue-green text took up a tiny fraction of the screen, its cursor blinking behind a single line of text he read, and then reread to make sure he comprehended it.
Kuttner: Hello, David Clegg. We must talk.
“Who the hell is Kuttner?” Clegg asked, turning his full attention to the chat screen.
Using a series of keystrokes, he typed in several commands to track down the identity of this mysterious person. He found his efforts pointless. The stranger’s identity was hidden behind so many proxies and false IP addresses it’d take a day for Clegg to figure out. He stopped typing and bit his nails, bouncing his right leg up and down under the desk until he responded.
Clegg: Hello, Kuttner.
A response didn’t come immediately. Clegg looked around the basement, scanning the walls for any sign that something was off. There were no windows, only four walls covered in posters of rock bands, a few abstract paintings of multiple colors and irregular shapes, and a stack of servers he used for his own personal intranet. This was a remote hack, he thought.
Whoever Kuttner was hacked into his system off-site.
Kuttner: No, you don’t know me. I know of you.
Clegg: How are you hacking into my system?
Kuttner: That is not important. What is important is that I believe what you are saying.
“He must have seen my posts,” Clegg said to himself.
On the one of his other monitors, Clegg scanned through his prior posts on the site, taking note of every handle that commented on what he had written. None of the names were Kuttner’s.
Clegg: What do you want?
Kuttner: It’s more about what I know. Do you want to know?
Clegg: Is this about my multi-verse theory?
Kuttner: In a way.
“In a way? Oh, so you want to play word games, is that it?” Clegg said. “There’s no way this is real.”
Clegg: Are you trolling me? Is this Josh?
Kuttner didn’t respond. Clegg grabbed his cell phone to call Josh, shaking his head as he scrolled through the list of names.
Kuttner: No, this is not Josh. I wouldn’t try to call anyone either.
Clegg’s eyes widened as a chill crept up his spine. Goosebumps formed on his arms as his eyes darted back and forth, reading the sentence over and over. His hand covered his mouth as he struggled to breathe, a pressure forming inside of him as if he was being squeezed by some unseen force.
They must be watching, he thought. But how was that possible? Again, he spun around in his chair, searching the basement for anything was out of place; a hole in the wall, reflected light from a camera lense.
The black chat window drew his attention again. Sweat beaded on Clegg’s forehead, a few drops rolling down his reddening face to his chin.
Kuttner: I will say that your theories are accurate, Clegg. I’m not here to threaten you. I am here to enlighten you if you can embrace the knowledge. You have gained my attention and that of many others, some not as forgiving as I am. You have only two options: continue as you are and suffer the consequences of your government, or…
Seconds passed as Clegg rocked in his chair, waiting for Kuttner to give the second option. He couldn’t stand it. His fingers went to work on the keyboard, typing so fast he had to correct his spelling a few times before pressing the Enter key.
Clegg: Don’t play games with me. Or… what?
Kuttner: Or, I can show you the multi-verse, tonight.
Clegg: How are you going to show me the multi-verse?
Kuttner: Reality is nothing more than code. What you think of as physics, chemistry, laws of attraction, mathematics, all the base code–to use a way you’ll understand–of reality. If it is manipulated, upgraded, tinkered with, you can take a glimpse into another reality. The government, as you’ve suspected, has this technology. They’ve had it for quite some time. I can show you.
“Bullshit,” Clegg said. “Who the hell is this?”
The original thought of tracking down Kuttner’s identity seemed like a better use of Clegg’s time now instead of continuing this conversation. He switched to his other monitor and restarted his trace program, tweaking the code as he went. He could only write a few lines before his keyboard froze. Confused, he retyped his prior command. Still no response. He hit the enter key, hammering it with his index finger repeatedly. Again, no response.
Kuttner: I don’t have all night. You won’t find me. I won’t allow it. Stop wasting time and answer me.
The pressure pushing in on him from all sides was suffocating now. He didn’t like being forced into anything, much less being given a false sense of choice by a manipulator masquerading and a mentor. This was a tantalizing predicament once he pushed past his anxiety. To see the multi-verse, his theories and thoughts made real, was enticing, even if this all turned out to be a game. What wonders would he see? The notion that this was a trap didn’t escape him either. Kuttner could be a government plant, setting up a calculated string of traps that led to prison or worse.
Clegg: I’ll bite. How does this work?
Kuttner: Excellent! Do you see the icon at the bottom left of this chat window?
Clegg noted the icon, a sienna symbol that looked Celtic in origin. He moved the cursor over to it and waited.
Clegg: Yes, I see it.
Kuttner: Click on it.
Following the instructions, the symbol turned black and a new window opened, filling his monitor while the chat window remained in the lower left corner. The screen was black and came with no controls, instructions, or icons that would allow him to close it.
Kuttner: What you’ll see is a series of real-time videos from the multi-verse. Other dimensions. Other realities. We’ve made it so that almost any perspective can be viewed, you’ll understand how as we go along.
Clegg: We? Who is we?
Kuttner: Again, not important. Keep in mind that once we start, there is no going back. What you see is real life, no matter how far-fetched you may think it is, these are people–flesh and blood–just like yourself.
Clegg: So, I’m just watching videos?
Kuttner: More than video. Experience let’s say. You’re a fly on the wall. There is one difference. For each of these you will have one chance, and only one chance, to communicate with someone under your surveillance. It’s taxing on the system to allow for more than one interaction. You choose what to say to them.
This sounded more like an interactive video game by the minute to Clegg. What a disappointment. Regardless, he considered this to be far more entertaining than he had assumed. Tomorrow, he’d track down what marketing or gaming company had devised such an ingenious interactive experience. For now, he’d play along.
Clegg: Sounds fun. What’s this going to cost me?
Kuttner: Only what you allow it to.
Kuttner: I will warn you, this is not a game. How you interact with them has consequences for more lives than you realize. Do you understand?
Clegg laughed at the ominous warning. He wiped the sweat from his forehead, and in a sense his prior nervousness, and clapped at the screen.
Clegg: I understand. Are we going to do this?
Kuttner: Absolutely. Let’s begin…
The chat window minimized itself into a single grey rectangle at the bottom of the screen. A digital flicker flashed on the larger black screen, runic symbols appearing in scrolling lines of code mixed with numbers and characters Clegg had never seen before in any programming language he was familiar with. The light green symbols scrolled off screen, giving way to an image fading in to view. Clegg leaned back in his chair, folded his hands behind his head, and waited for the experience to begin.
The point of Amazon is to give users the premiere online shopping experience. You can find almost anything you want on the site from video games to movies to clothes and, for our purposes, paperbacks and ebooks.
One particularly helpful part of the site is the bestseller or Top 100 list that displays books the Amazon algorithm deems exceptional using a combination of number of books sold, positive reviews, the number of reviews, and the amount of times a books sales page are viewed among other factors. This is extremely helpful in the ability to see what’s new, what’s fresh, and what other people find exceptional.
Everywhere except the Top 100 Horror titles list.
Why is this the exception. To put it bluntly, authors of genres that have the slightest of relations to anything you’d consider “horror” are using this keyword to stuff their books in the Top 100 because the higher ranking here helps them elsewhere. It’s even possible to get a number one ranking by having your urban fantasy book that might happen to have vampires in it classified as “horror”.
The reason this is a practice is because horror fiction, despite the recent resurgence in the realm of horror movies and video games, remains one of the lesser genres for readers. Many books in the bestseller list may be on there with only two or three sales being enough to bump them from obscurity into the list. So, authors whose books are in more popular genres can use the thin link to their works and horror fiction to secure a higher ranking.
The problem with this is that actual horror books are often pushed out of the Top 100 spot. A consequence of this is that actual horror books (those made for the purpose of being scary) aren’t given the visibility because books of another genre, that gain more buys and reviews than the average horror book not penned by Stephen King, have an advantage in the rankings and dominate. This also makes readers who are actually looking for horror to either think the lower ranked books just aren’t any good or that there is no “real” horror coming out because most of the books in the Top 100 are not what one would think of as scary stories.
How to get around this issue is difficult. Authors have the ability to list their book under a variety of keywords with little, if any, limits. Amazon can remove books that are miscategorized but horror can be considered a lot of things that don’t necessarily aim to be frightening. For instance, you can write a comedy about zombies or use paranormal tropes in your YA fantasy novel and it can be considered “horror”.
A possible new subcategory might be required to separate the scary books from the ones that just have elements of horror in them. There already exists a few but searching through the titles and covers in the Top 100 Horror Books category should likely not include YA Fantasy or even Urban Fantasy which is more in line with superheroes than scary ghost stories.
Until there’s a solution, readers will continue to look for sure things like Stephen King’s novels or that of his son Joe Hill and, well very few others. Even names that appear frequently on the horror Top 100 due to sheer number of novels like Willow Rose aren’t selling as many books as one might imagine being a frequent name seen in the bestseller list. When a solution does present itself, it will help both authors and readers of the once wildly popular genres of true horror to find the diamonds in the rough.
So, after receiving the edit for the first Kana Cold story, it has dawned on me how long a process this was. While I’m currently in the middle of writing the 3rd full novel (4th story when you include the novella) in the series, the process of aligning schedules, beta reads, organizing other things in life have made this process take way longer than I anticipated.
It goes also to this speed discussion that I engaged in last year on Mark Dawson’s SPF Facebook community. I asked then why there was this obsession with speed for new authors (although, established authors took it as a slight against them incorrectly) when there is so much to organize before you can release a novel.
If you have a solid editor, they usually take two weeks to thoroughly go through your manuscript at minimum. Add in time for beta readers to review your book and provide feedback, and of course, actually writing the book.
It always fascinated me when I’d see new indie authors bragging about writing an 80,000 page novel in a month and proclaiming they were “done” and ready to publish. Others I saw lementing, and at times saying “I quit, I can’t do that”, because they couldn’t produce a book every one or two months, or within the “30 day window” for Amazon.
Having gone through the process in both ways — flying through the time between finishing a book and publishing as well as going through the lengthy process of a full edit, full beta read and review, full ARC read and review — 30 days for brand new authors is not easy to do. It’s possible, but if you’re just starting out, I wouldn’t suggest doing so.
Summer time is for reading by the pool, in air conditioning, or while traveling to the beach. Urban Fantasy is one of the most popular genres today on Amazon full of fantastic series and quirky characters for your enjoyment.
Here are the Top Ten FREE Urban Fantasy eBooks for the hot days of summer 2018.
Magick and Monsters: A Collection of Fantasy and Urban Fantasy Novels
Deadly Awakening (The Ashdale Reaper Series Book 1)
This is a rough draft sample from the upcoming novella KANA COLD: Case of the False Incubus coming this May for Amazon Kindle.
Colors and shapes formed before his eyes. The harsh red grew brighter from the center while the corners of his vision pulsated with blobs of auburn and splashes of ochre floating from the edges. A black dot, no larger than a pinprick, pierced the red and then grew, second by second, turning and morphing as it expanded, chewing away at the center of his sight. A pressure built up at the back of his skull and then thinned itself out down the length of his neck and spine. He wanted to speak out, to tell AJ to stop the experiment, but his lips didn’t move nor could he summon the breath to form a word if they did. He was a slave to this inner dimension, and a passenger, the destination unknown.
The voice came from behind the white noise. Not quite man or beast, but something in between, coarse and deep.
You do not understand what you are doing, do you?
With each syllable the voice grew louder, the power of it shooting a stabbing pain through Mark’s temples. There was no doubt this was the creature that haunted his little girl.
Speak little man! Speak or leave!
Mark felt a tickle in his throat, like a spiky ball scratching at his esophagus. A bundle of words ached to challenge this bastard, and he’d force them through his lips despite the pain.
“Leave her alone,” he warned. “My daughter… she is not for you.”
You’ll have to do better than that.
The incubus laughed, it’s bellowing chuckle pounding the inside of his skull. Mark could make out the outline of a chin, and then a nose, later the furrows of a forehead, all sketched by the floating black mass swirling in his mind’s eye.
“Who are you? What do you want with my daughter?”
Oh, you want me to tell you my name, is that it? You are a foolish, pitiful little creature who dabbles in what you don’t understand as if you have authority here. Of all places, here!
“You invaded my home, I invade yours,” Mark said, not bowing to the spirit’s threatening voice. “I am ordering you to leave my daughter, leave my home, leave my family in peace.”
Peace? Your family has never known peace. I have watched you all—yes, for some time—watched as you and your wife squabble and ignore your child. I’ve watched as you fumbled together in the night, her passion that of a slug, trying to create another child that will never be. Your home is one you can barely afford. Day after day you toil at a meaningless job and come home to a loveless marriage and a daughter you have no hopes of understanding. But I do. Oh, yes, I understand her completely. It’s why I chose her. It’s why she’s mine. She is special; a diamond hewn from the most unspectacular mounds of coal, and she will serve me in any way I choose.
“No!” Mark howled. “I told you to leave! Leave my daughter alone! Or, I swear to God—”
God? The monster laughed. He has no power here. He left you long ago as you left him. Your threats are as impotent as you are. But those who you brought with you are making this harder than it should be. I’ll just have to… adjust.
Today’s average reader is not the same as those who were considered bookworms thirty years ago or even ten years ago. The industry itself has changed quite a bit and with the advent of audiobooks, the rise of ebooks, the indie author revolution, and the changing tastes in genres every decade or so, there are some pet peeves that today’s readers have specific to this era.
We take a minute to look at ten things modern readers really hate.
10. Unhappy Endings
While in the horror genre this is pretty much expected, your romance novel should likely not end with the protagonist not getting it on with the hunky bartender or her husband finding out about her affair and murdering her. There’s also the trend lately of scifi and fantasy stories (we’re looking at you George R. R. Martin) killing off loads of main characters which can leave a bad taste in the mouth. It can be effective to have a bad ending but too many books seem to want this edge where it’s really not needed.
9. Inconclusive Series
You’ve read fifteen books in this series. You’ve stuck with this author even though books five and six were a bit shaky. You’ve invested in these characters over months, sometimes years, and now we’re getting to the ending and … there are still six or seven plot threads left unanswered. This is probably something we should eradicate entirely from the literary world simply out of the frustration it causes readers.
This one ties into number 9 but since it happens more often due to simple mathematics it goes higher on the list. Many series tend to have cliffhangers and while you’ll read a good amount of book reviews that complain about them, they are effective in getting audiences to read the next book in the series. Personally, I have vowed to not use cliffhangers unless it serves a purpose, and even then limit it to maybe one or two books I may ever write again.
7. Author Names Bigger Than The Title
Now, unless you’re Stephen King or someone on that level, your name shouldn’t eclipse the title of the book (according to many readers). It’s confusing, especially if you’re a new author or an author not widely known. Is that the name of the main character or is that the author? Many readers feel you have to earn that kind of book cover.
6. Vague Amazon Reviews
We know not everyone has the time to craft a 1,000 word review of the book going over every detail. I appreciate anyone who leaves a review for one of my books, it’s the most helpful thing to any author. Readers on the other hand have told me some of the less-detailed reviews of books aren’t very helpful when they’re trying to decide whether or not to download or purchase a book.
5. Movie Poster Book Covers
We’ve all seen them. Whether it’s The Martian or Annihilation, a book that’s been around for a while gets a new edition where the cool cover from before is replaced with the face of some Hollywood actor. To avid readers, that’s about as enticing as bug spray is to a fly. Yes, Matt Damon is a handsome man and we know you’re proud there’s a movie made from this book and most of the unwashed masses who don’t read wouldn’t be able to make to connection … it still doesn’t keep readers from finding it annoying.
4. Too Much Description
This is one that I personally as an author take issue with. However, I believe (or hope) this is not readers complaining about detailed prose where you get into the psyche of a character or flesh out an environment or scene. After all, the ability to use words and invoke emotional responses or spark imaginations is the entire point of writing novels in the first place. I believe this is should probably be called Unnecessary Description where the author is going into great detail about a ping pong ball and how it bounces across the table. That’s fine if the ping pong ball is important, but if it isn’t, you’re just wasting time. And God, how many times to do we need to read about someone detailing every aspect of a tree?
I’ve gone on extensively about the rise of what I call Hack Publishing, which is often confused with Writing To Market which is more about finding the right genre to write your book in. Hack writing is more about ripping off someone else’s work or using cliches in a genre with NO twist to them whatsoever. How many Edward Cullen clones have you read in the last ten fantasy/romance/adventure books starring teenage girls who are infatuated with them for no reason, and he’s a vampire?
Spilling over from number 3 is the InstaRomance: the overwhelming tendency for the lead character (usually female) to fall completely and madly in love with the mysterious bad boy for no reason whatsoever. It has been done for eons. Some will argue that you clearly can’t give the entire backstory to a romance in a 300 page novel. However, modern readers seem to be souring to the InstraRomance these days.
1. Bad Editing/Formatting
Perhaps the biggest hindrance to the self publishing world, and even in some cases the traditional publishing world, is bad editing and book formatting. Believe me, I’ve experienced this first hand and as a writer there’s nothing more annoying than when you’re first publishing, give it to an editor (or two), and accept their changes ONLY to find out from friends, your mailing list readers, or even worse from a review on Amazon that there are spelling and grammar errors. What did you pay the editor for?
In traditional publishing, it tends to go more to formatting than spelling and grammar. Some books just aren’t well produced (text is too small or too big for instance). It is perhaps the single most important thing to get right and readers do notice. Some claim not to care but a good scan of 2-star and 3-star reviews of many books today will reveal how many readers are actually infuriated by bad editing and formatting.
What are your pet peeves as a reader? Let your voice be heard in the comment box below or by sending us an email at email@example.com.