Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Markhat Interrupted

Penguinline | Dreamstime.com - Cartoon Girl Working on Notebook

Well, folks, the other shoe has dropped.

February 28th of 2017 will be the last day Samhain Publishing offers any titles. After that, all the Markhat titles (except WAY OUT WEST) will go dark -- on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Itunes, everywhere.

Samhain officially ceases operations on the 28th. 

Rights reversions of the Markhat titles begins right after that. So I will retain ownership of the series, and will be free to do with the titles as I will shortly after the 28th.

So, all that said, just what will I do?

Beats me. I have several options open, which are:

Shop around for another publisher.

Self-publish all the titles myself.

Go hide in a damp hole, learn to gnaw on raw fish, and make a gollum sound when short furry strangers approach.

Frankly I'm leaning toward the third option at the moment. Damp caves are relatively cheap to own and maintain, and I already have the Gollum look down pat. Seriously, you've never seen me in a tattered loincloth, I can DO this.

But assuming I decide to remain part of polite society, I must choose between options one and two.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Finding a publisher relieves me of the time, work, and expense involved in getting new cover art. Of marketing. Of file conversions and distribution and a host of other practices required to put out a book.

But it also means finding another publisher. That will take months, and could very well take years, and might never happen at all.

Yes, the Markhat books did sell. Pretty well, at times. But modern publishing isn't just a jungle anymore -- it's a freshly-nuked radioactive mutant feral jungle, where each and every one of the surviving publisher-beasts is concerned not just with sales but with enormous sales. I know too many awesome mid-lister authors who are starting GoFundMes because their books got pushed into near-oblivion and the authors can't afford a five-hundred-dollar roofing job anymore.

Too, the time factor comes into play. A year from now, people will just scratch their heads and ask 'Markhat who?"

Which brings us to self-publishing. I can do that. It allows me to set my own prices. Package and brand the series as I choose. Pick my own cover art, my own look. 

Which is all very well and good, until one considers the cost of all that.

The Markhat books have been extensively edited by real professionals. I won't need to go through that process again. Even so, there will be costs. Cover artists don't work for free (nor should they). I could buy back the old cover art, but buying back ten covers even at reduced rates isn't going to be cheap.

So that's where I am with the series right now. There are a number of hard decisions to be made, and there will be an interruption in availability of the titles no matter what I do.

That's life as an author. I wish this was television, where every author is a fabulously wealthy lady or gentleman who travels about solving crimes or having adventures, but reality just looks at us writers and says 'Shut up and eat your Ramen Noodles, loser.'

If you're a Markhat fan, you can help by telling anyone who might like the series to snatch it up RIGHT NOW. Maybe by the time they're done reading them I'll have new books out, somehow.

If you're a publisher sitting atop stacks of cash, you can help by emailing me. Really, that would be incredible, and I won't even bring my loincloth to signings. 

Although I've always said I'd never do this, I'm seriously considering a Kickstarter or Patreon or GoFundMe page of my own now. Just out of curiosity, how many of you reading this would consider kicking in 20 bucks or so? And would anyone think I was making a mistake even asking for help?

I would like to close by thanking Samhain Publishing for all their support through the years. They were great, and I'll miss them.

Mamas, don't let your kids grow up to be writers.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Murder Most Frequent

© Crokogen | Dreamstime.com - Black And White Man\'s Portraite Photo

I commit murder at least three times a week.

I should clarify that statement. I commit murder in my head at least three times a week. No one actually winds up on the floor bleeding, or decapitated, or, as it was last Tuesday, shoved into a meat grinder head-first (I was in a mood). No, the most I do is seethe silently until I can move away from my potential victims.

There are certain types of people I believe deserve to be murdered instantly by the most expedient means necessary. Nazis, for instance. Dog-fighters, or people who go to watch dog fighting. Child molesters. Rapists. I'd gleefully slaughter members of a dog-fighting ring with an old-school Tommy gun and never lose a wink of sleep over it. 

But the most common and frequent cause of my numerous rages is something I never really understood, at least until recently, and it's a genuine neurological condition called misophonia.

My form of misophonia makes listening to people chew (or slurp, or gobble, you get the picture) instantly and profoundly piss me off. It's a primal reaction, one that can't be ignored or simply shrugged off -- if you're making a lot of noise eating, I flat out want to murder you the whole time you're doing it. Yes, it's irrational. But it's also quite real.

I'll link to an article explaining misophonia in clinical terms, but basically, people with misophonia were stuffed into MRI machines while being subjected to the usual trigger noises -- people chewing, people smacking on gum, people gobbling down lasanga with their mouths open like a bunch of damned orangutans. I can only assume the test subjects were shackled and chained during the MRI, because frankly after a few minutes of that I'd be up and looking to whack the nearest neurosurgeon with a solid length of steel pipe.

What the researchers found was clear evidence of abnormal structures in the brain among misophonia sufferers. Here's a quote from the article: "People with misophonia had more myelin, or insulation, around the gray matter in their prefrontal cortex. They also showed abnormal connections between this cortex and the anterior insular cortex, which is involved in processing information and emotions."

My brain is composed almost entirely of abnormal structures. I'm pretty sure there's a working pinball machine in there somewhere. Also one of those antique fortune-telling machines, because every day at 4:11 PM a squeaky mechanical voice says "Zontar knows your past, sees your future, insert a nickel."

Finally, science has explained why I become enraged when the guy at the next table chews with his fat stupid mouth open. 

Now that Science has explained misophonia, perhaps Law can offer me a defense. "I was clinically unable to contain my rage, Your Honor, and I still have no idea where I found that bazooka." 

Here's the link to the article. Here's another link to a parody video showing the Mr. Bean version of 'Fifty Shades of Gray,' because why not.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Alternative Facts and Where To Find Them

© Elnur | Dreamstime.com - The Woman Magician Isolated On The White Photo

I've had an epiphany.

All my life, I've been shackled by the chains of objective reality. The cold, unfeeling digits of my bank balance denied me the finer things -- Ferraris, thrice-yearly vacations in Spain, the powers of flight and invisibility. 

Like a fool, I toiled on, heavy laden by the seemingly inescapable burden of 'facts.' Worse, I bowed to the purveyors of so-called facts. Loan officers, 'No Trespassing' signs, doctors and their joyless pronouncements that a diet consisting entirely of vodka and Twinkies would soon prove fatal -- these were my jailers.

My only outlet, my only escape, was in my writing, but even there I submitted to what I believed were the harsh realities of publishing, best exemplified by my continual use of duct-tape to effect home repairs and minor first aid.

But no more. I am inspired by current events, empowered at last by brave leaders unfettered by reality. Because objective reality is merely one facet of existence -- there is another, more pleasant realm, that of alternative facts. 

Thus, it is with great pleasure I announce that the Markhat books have sold, in the last few moments, 2 million copies. 

Do my Amazon rankings support this statement? No -- but that's just another example of my suppression by the publishing elite. The true sales figures, the alternative fact sales figures, just jumped to four million copies. I mean eight million. Let's make it ten.  With options for movie rights, Markhat and Darla action figures, and of course the ever-popular Evis vampire doll, with Kung-Fu grip and rotating normal and fanged faces. 

I have never felt quite so relaxed. 

As a best-selling author, I will now enjoy the fruits of my alternative labors. I shall surround myself with opulence, demand only the freshest Twinkies, refuse suspect home-brewed booze in favor of something with an actual machine-printed label. I'll use only Duct Tape(tm) brand adhesive, not that knock-off crap from the Dollar Tree. Yes, it's wine and roses from here on out.

It appears the nearest Ferrari dealership is an inconvenient 80 miles away. Or is it? Presto, my Corolla is a Toyota no more -- now it is a finely-crafted Italian sports car, lovingly maintained, eager to conquer the road with the throaty roar of its high-performance engine. When the highway patrol pulls me over and suggests I was speeding, I'll confound them and be on my way after a quick explanation that while their radar may have claimed I was going 106 in a 30 MPH zone, my alternative explanation that I was maintaining a steady 28 MPH overrides their ludicrous assumption and have a nice day.

I urge all my friends to join me in this simple rejection of objective reality. We can be free!

Let's all meet up in Spain on Tuesday. Tell the airlines you fly for free, for life, because Frank said so. Be sure to seat yourself in first class. Take the plane controls for a while, you're a qualified jumbo jet pilot, and anyway those things fly themselves now. Mostly. But gravity is just a theory, I'm told, and pilots make a big fuss about how hard it is to land a 767 just so they can get in the plane first and not be pestered about the size of their carry-ons. 

Welcome to my brave new world. Now, if you'll pardon me, my shuttlecraft awaits, and my orbiting battle cruiser needs a shakedown cruise.

I think I'm going to like this place.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Into the Badlands

© Joeygil | Dreamstime.com - Man In Ruins Watching Television Photo

Fans of my blog (both of you, thanks gang) may have noticed I missed a few weeks.
I did, and I'm sorry about that. I'd like to say I just ran out of things to say, but the truth is quite the opposite -- I was full of things to say, but decided you'd probably had your share of furious rants and really didn't need another one shoved in your virtual face.
So I declared a hiatus. 
Now I'm back. No less frustrated, no less fearful, but back, and still determined not to add one iota to the miserable situation we must now all endure.
I'm also determined to detach myself from this mess somehow, to get back to work. Determined to do so, but utterly clueless as to how to accomplish this.
It seems easy enough, doesn't it? Just fire up the Beast of All Words, conjure forth Word, and start writing. 
Ah, if it was truly that simple. Because what I've been producing lately has been toxic. Even Mug and Meralda lost their spark, becoming suddenly older, wearier, bleakly cynical. And Markhat? That got so dark I deleted the last several chapters. I will not do that to my characters, or my readers. Neither deserves such treatment. 
Long I pondered. Many beers were consumed. Walls were stared upon. Much Pink Floyd was played, because if you need a soundtrack as you stare into the abyss nothing fits the bill quite like Pink Floyd.
I still haven't found any answers, aside from the flippant one I cited earlier -- fire up the Beast of All Words, conjure forth Word, and start writing. Again.
It may well be that the only way out of my mental morass is through it. I may have to let Mug and Meralda and Markhat and Darla have time and space to work through this, just as I do. Which will mean delays in getting new stuff out. But I suppose that's preferable to never getting anything new out at all.
I have at least decided I won't quit. No matter what strange shape the world takes on in the next several years, people will still, I hope, want books. I hope they'll still need stories in which good triumphs over evil. I want to believe people will still want to cheer on heroes. 
I won't quit until I stop believing all that is true. I hope that day never comes.
So, if you're  out there, and you're worried too, you're not alone. And if you've found a way to regain some sense of hope, please, email me the recipe. I could certainly use a fresh batch right now.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Steampunk Forever


The present, it must be noted, sucks.

Part of the reason it sucks is because today it's perfectly acceptable to say 'this sucks.' Our forebears would have expressed the same emotion with far more eloquence and wit, stating perhaps something like this:

The times in which we find our ourselves inspire equal portions of horror and dismay. Chaos and banditry surround us at every hand, and unrest greets us at every turn. Men and women of all ages have been eternally subject to the whims of fate, but never before have these whims been so full of malice and contempt for the very faces upon which they blow.

Now that's just lyrical. But it won't fit in a Tweet, so we moderns proclaim 'this sucks' and go on to yell at people on Facebook.

So I'm resetting my personal clock to an 1888 that never was. In my new reality, Charles Babbage's mechanical calculating engine worked. Nicola Tesla found a wealthy financier, and from his laboratory came wondrous machines that put those of Edison to shame. 

Mighty airships ply the skies. Air piracy rises as well, and battles are fought in the heavens using Tesla's deadly rays, which dwarf and outshine the lightning. 

Scientific progress made leaps that our own history skipped. A new world emerged, sounding of the hiss of steam, the determined turning of gears, and the crackle and hiss of strange energies barely contained.

I think that's a world worth living in.

Of course, I can't live there full-time, but I can don my steampunk ghostbuster's aether pack and my Victorian clothes and wander around SF/F conventions without getting hauled away to answer a lot of nervous questions about the machine strapped to my back. 

I'll be cosplaying as a steampunk ghostbuster at the upcoming Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention, where I'm also on a number of paranormal panels. 


Yes, these are images of me, transformed into period-accurate photographs. I like posing for these, because no one smiled in photos until after 1950, and I just can't smile on command. 


I know, I know, cosplaying is generally thought of as a pursuit for a younger, thinner crowd. But I enjoy it so I'm going to do it. 


One of the (few) advantages of getting older is the realization that one no longer cares what anyone thinks of them. Act my age? No. I'll act as I wish, and if that offends anyone, I simply don't care. 


So, if you are planning to attend the Comic and Fantasy Convention, and you see this gentleman in the halls, stop and say hello. 

We of the year 1888 enjoy conversations with strangers, who most often are revealed to be friends we are meeting for the very first time. 


Also, look up my panel schedule, and sit in on a few! I'm bringing some of my DIY paranormal investigative gear, and we'll swap stories. It will be, as we say, a smashing good time.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Proton Pack Redux


I made a few changes and additions to the Steampunk Ghostbuster Proton Pack this week. 
Most notably, it now has sound!
The small lighted Bluetooth player mounted at the top takes microSD cards, so I built a looping sound file to add some life to the thing. The track is 15 minutes long, and then it just repeats until I turn the player off.
I went through several sound builds until I found one I liked. The first couple sounded great, but were a bit too modern to fit the steampunk theme of the pack. Finally, I went back to the drawing board, laid down a background of hissing steam and shuttling gears, and then added in a few bells, the scrape of metal on metal, a bit of antique sewing machine, and a dash of randomly-reversed chime sounds.
I think the end result fits the build perfectly. I posted a short video with the sounds and lights running below.
If anyone is curious, I built the soundtrack using Audacity, which is a free sound editing program so easy to use even a Frank can run it. The image below shows part of the audio creation process. Each row represents a different audio track. You can move them, apply various effects, add, delete, and re-arrange as much as you like. Then you merge the tracks, and viola! Your very own audio track.


You can probably guess by looking at what some of the tracks represent. The top one, the fat one, is the steam hiss. The second from the bottom, the regular series of small ticks, is a clock. The rest are bursts of sounds I thought were interesting.
All the sounds were free, downloaded from www.freesound.org. 
As promised, the video is below. It's pretty dark, but dammit, Jim, I'm a writer, not a cinematographer.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Markhat Art!



The painting above was done by local artist Thomas Grosskopf, and it's a beauty. Depicted are Darla, Markhat, Mama Hog, and a few of their fanged foes.

Thomas lives in Abbeville, a small town just a few miles from Oxford. We'd never met, until the librarian at my old alma mater, Lafayette High school, asked me to come and give a talk to the book club a couple of Fridays ago.  

I did, and I was gobsmacked when Thomas presented me with the painting above. Turns out he's a Markhat fan, and he certainly captured the characters. Mama Hog has never made a book cover, but that's a perfect rendition of her.

You can see more of Thomas's art at the Bozarts Art Gallery on 403 Main Street in Water Valley, Mississippi.

Thomas, thanks again for the stunning painting! It's always an incredible experience when your books inspire art. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Knocking Man


Finally. It's October.

I love everything about October. The scary movies, the Halloween decorations, the first hint of chill in the air. The falling leaves. The sight of my lawn mowers sitting idle in the corner of the garage.

Yes, it's my favorite time of the year.

In honor of October, I'd like give you a free audio story that I think fits the spooky mood perfectly. By following the link below, you can listen to me reading my short story 'The Knocking Man.'

It's a half hour long, so settle back, grab something to drink, and hit the play button. I hope you like it. 

THE KNOCKING MAN on YouTube.

For next week, I hope to have some new ghostly EVPs for you to listen to. I'll be taking my gear out to various cemeteries in hopes of capturing voices that are hard to explain. 

Until then, enjoy The Knocking Man. 

I've also added some new lighting features to my steampunk ghostbuster's proton-aether pack. The pictures are below. I plan to wear this somewhere, for Halloween, despite the sad fact that the things weighs as much as a brand new Chevy Volt.

Here it is, propped against my workshop wall, in dim light:


The shot below was taken in the dark, with all the lights set for always on -- they can also flash, which is the setting I'll use for some of them.


I'm pretty happy with it, especially since it's made from junk plumbing parts, an old motorcycle clutch, and the guts of a vacuum cleaner. 


See you next Sunday! And remember, if you want to leave a review for WAY OUT WEST, it's only a click away...

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Broken Promises



Just last week, I claimed I wouldn't be talking anymore about the new Markhat book, Way Out West.

Turns out I lied. That happens a lot -- but Big Al's Books and Pals, the renowned indie book review site, featured Way Out West last week, and I just can't let that pass unannounced.

You can read the full review by clicking below:

Review of Way Out West by Big Al's Books and Pals

Did they like the book?

That's always the first question that springs to mind when I get notice of a book review. Here's the book you spent months slaving over, sweating blood over, pouring your heart and soul into -- and now it's out there, all alone in the wild, facing its audience for the first time.

It's a scary moment. No two people are going to come away from a book with the same experience. I know of books that are beloved by people -- smart people, people with taste and discernment -- that left me scratching my head and wondering what all the fuss was about. There are even highly-touted books that I read and loathed. Which isn't to say they're bad books, by any means. They just weren't right for me.

So what if my book wasn't right for that particular reviewer? What if they read it, and hated it with the burning fury of ten thousand bright young suns? What if they publicly declare their hatred for the book to an audience of hundreds, or thousands? What if I've crawled so far under this heavy sofa out of sheer terror that I can't get free and my corpse is found years later, much to the amusement of the readership of Fark?

Two things happened, concerning the review in Big Al's. First, they liked the book. And second, I was able to squirm free of the sofa after a forty-five minute struggle. 

So it is with an immense sense of relief and no small level of back pain that I can post an excerpt from the review.

"It’s a wild ride of murder, intrigue, and time warps. New characters who play important parts are written with depth and style. Darla is sharp and takes on an impressive role as Markhat realizes he married up in class.

There are delightful surprises among the darkness of this tale and more twists in the plot than any roller-coaster ever invented."

Now that's the kind of review that I live for. Because it means that maybe, just maybe, the book worked.

Novels are a lot like engines made out of words and pauses and pacing. Mostly words. You try and put the right words in the right places, in the hope that the whole of them will take on a life of their own. You hope that the reader sits down and turns the ignition with the first dozen words, and that the book cranks right up and takes the reader on a ride they won't soon forget.

That's the fear of every writer when a review comes up. The fear that somewhere along the road from Chapter One to The End, the engine just sputters and dies, or veers into the dread ditch of boredom. When that happens, it's trip over, and another book is always ready to pick up the stranded and offer them a ride.

But that's the nature of the beast. You do your best and then sit back and hope for the best.While you work on yet another little engine that might.

I am especially glad that the reviewer picked up on Darla's growth too. I've got big plans for her, and she is rising easily to the demand. So much so that The Darla Diaries may start appearing sometime next year.

So that's one important review I can file under 'five stars.' 

Makes all the blood, sweat, and tears worthwhile.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Who's Reading My Books?


I've been compiling statistics concerning my readership, particularly of the Markhat books.

How do I collect this data, you ask?

Nosey, aren't you, I reply. But since you asked, I managed to crack Amazon's mysterious book-ranking feature, so I now have access to some data not available to the public. 

Here's how my readership breaks down, ranked in descending order of total impact:


  • Readers chained in my basement.
  • That guy who's been stuck in the Dakar airport in Senegal since 2010.
  • Mrs. M. O. Feinstien, of Flushing, who still disapproves of the name 'Markhat.' Sorry, Mrs. Feinstein, it's too late to change his name now.
  • The pair of NSA analysts who started compiling a dossier on me since I searched 'airports in North Africa' just a few minutes ago.
  • The students of Miss Krieger's fourth-year World Cultures class, who despite being in Liechtenstein were assigned 'Brown River Queen' as required reading material. I think this was a clerical error, kids, but my no-refunds policy is still in play. Deal with it, or, as they say in Liechtenstein, 'komm damit klar.' 
  • The Dalai Lama. Thanks for all the fan mail, dude, and yes we've totally got to 'throw back a few suds' one of these days. You party animal you.

Armed with this vast array of data, I can now fine-tune my marketing efforts. And by 'marketing efforts,' I mean increase the frequency of the beatings down in the basement.

 Way Out West has already garnered reader reviews on Amazon. My favorite of these is the one below, which is a direct quote from the book:


Well done, RedHerrin, well done! And thanks. 

Seriously, book marketing is hard. I really have no idea what to do -- blog tours? Tweets? A barrage of 'Hey read my book' posts (like this one)? 

I've decided against pretty much all of those avenues. My plan is to just work on a new book and hope people like Way Out West enough to talk about it. 

So this is probably the last time I'll mention the book, unless there is an actual need to discuss it. I will announce the availability of the print edition, which should be ready in a few days. It will be priced at $9.99, which is about as low as I can price it without actually losing money on each sale.

That said, here's one more link to the book, and one more picture of the cover, for anyone who missed the previous blog, which announced the book's release.

WAY OUT WEST for Kindle

WAY OUT WEST for Nook


And the cover, which I love with a love most unseemly: