On Nov 20, 2016, I hosted the 4th annual Local Author Showcase at Acadia Cafe in Minneapolis, MN. This year, we called it Wordbrew, and it was a huge success.
Speed Dating For Speculative Fiction
4 years ago, I’d been thinking of how to provide the MNSpec writers group with a public-facing event, something to show the world what the group actually does. It’s hard for muggles to understand why someone would lock themselves in their basement for the entire month of November during nanowrimo. A showcase seemed the perfect solution. My band-booking skills from the Jagged Spiral era could be applied to writers! Presto! We’d have a way for us to show the world “this is what we do” and a way for the world to connect with the authors they liked.
So I created an event, loosely based off First Avenue’s “Local Band Showcase.” I booked a dozen authors, put them onstage and had them perform a short section of their work. I called it “speed dating for speculative fiction.”
And for three years, it was awesome. But for three years, it didn’t really grow, and it didn’t really extend outside the MNSpec group. Each year, I’d make a note of the MNSpec members-to-public ratio. I’d assumed that if twelve authors were put onstage at an event, that we’d have an audience full of their friends, their family, their fans. But that wasn’t happening.
Where Is Everybody?
Problem #1 – I was relying solely on people appearing in the event to handle the event promotion. There are plenty of businesses that are successful at this business model – Pampered Chef, Cutco, Watkins, Amway, etc. These businesses don’t advertise. They rely on referral/associate marketing combined with the quality of the product that “sells itself.” But that model wasn’t working for the showcase.
There is a strange effect that I noticed when travelling. If you TRY to speak the foreign language, people are much more accommodating and will even give you their best English to help you communicate with them. But if you walk around asking everyone “Hey, do you speak English?” You won’t get nearly as far, because you’re not even trying.
I see this effect in social media as well. For lack of a better term, I’ll call it the Rich Get Richer. If you show me that you’ve promoted your event like mad, and want me to help, then my 60K+ twitter feed is yours. But if you come to me with nothing but a press release, and a 200 follower myspace account that hasn’t been updated in three years, then I certainly won’t be as excited about helping you out. Why should I do all of your promotion work for you?
The Lord does not help those who help themselves, but gatekeepers will. Which sucks, because those who really NEED the promotion don’t get it. Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman’s tweets spread like wildfire, but he’s the last person on the planet who needs your help.
Short version is, it’s my event, and I shouldn’t be expecting other people to promote the showcase more than I was… er, wasn’t.
Which leads me to Problem #2.
Sorry, But We Have Zero Conrad In Stock
Problem #2 – I was doing it all myself, and there’s only so much of me to go around. Between booking the event, finding/inviting the talent, listing the event, answering author questions, event planning, recording and MC-ing the event, my attempts at promotion were limited to reminding the authors and MNSpec members to “Share this on social media!” Which gets the same results as your dentist telling you to floss.
I knew the event had huge potential, but the only way it was going to grow was if I had help. Good thing I know people.
Solution #2 – So I reached out to people who are good at promoting themselves, like Michael Merriam and Kate Bitters, people who are good at hosting kick-ass events like Michael O’Leary Jr., and smart people who have good ideas like Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Vu Dang, Margaret Taylor, and Terry Faust. We met at Acadia and talked about what was great about the Showcase, and what could be improved. We came up with a list of tasks and people volunteered to handle them. Press Releases. Social media graphics. Facebook advertising. Event poster. Mailing list. Speed sketches. Giveaways. All things that weren’t being done before, and couldn’t possibly be accomplished by myself alone.
The Birth of “Wordbrew”
And just as we were tossing around ideas, someone suggested that the event have a name, something unique. Abra Staffin-Wiebe threw out the name Wordbrew, and everyone agreed it was a hit. It gives the event a personality AND it’s much easier to hashtag than Local Author Showcase.
Facebook Sucks (but you should still use it)
True Story: I hate facebook with the bright, blazing energy of 10,000 supernovae. Every dollar that website makes undermines all the good application interfaces on this planet. (And I’ll gladly cut that back to 9,999 supernovae after someone explains to me what the fuck a “poke” is.) So when I tell you that, despite my hatred, you still need to make a facebook event and drive traffic there to make your event successful, you should listen.
Even if you decide not to use fb, you should have someplace to drive internet traffic. That place should have all the info a potential fan could want about the event. Bonus points if that place includes a way for interested people to rsvp and receive status updates regarding the event. Facebook does all this for free, as long as you can tolerate their complete disregard for intuitive user interfaces.
So we made the event on facebook, and told everyone to direct traffic there. I created a project folder on airtable.com to manage all the media, contact info, and task lists. (Airtable is free and downright magical. Someone tell Zuckerfish to fire all his programmers and hire the people at airtable.com to fix facebook. I’ll wait.)
With a new team, a new name, and a game plan, we launched Wordbrew 2016.
We packed Acadia to the hilt, and quite a few people turned away when they arrived and saw it was standing-room only.
As always, the authors were stellar. I recorded the readings (except for when the camera died during Naomi Kritzer’s reading! Sorry Naomi!) The videos of the event are up on the MNSpec youtube channel here: Wordbrew 2016 on YouTube
We put together a mailing list signup sheet, and after the event, the intention was to provide a “commemorative email” list of the author/readers, so no one would have to take notes. Why am I laughing as I type this? It’s because I’m somehow incapable of sending an email, when a Wordbrew 2016 Artist Lookbook would do just as well. Welcome to my world, where the simple act of sending an email turns into a three-week publishing endeavor.
So please do check out the lookbook. I think it’s one more way we can enhance that connection that makes Wordbrew so great – helping authors reach new audiences, and helping audiences find their new, favorite, local spec-fic authors.
I hope you’ll come to Wordbrew V in 2017, because this show keeps getting bigger and better. It will be interesting to see where it goes.
COMET.TV has an incredible array of movies that you simply can’t get with a subscription to streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. From wild adventures on Mars to critically acclaimed classics, COMET is the ultimate home of sci-fi and horror… and it’s all totally free, no subscriptions needed.
I checked it out, expecting there to be some kind of membership, or sign up, or other marketing BS. But the fact is, Comet is the real deal. Jump on and, as their tagline says, “Space out.” Good luck trying to understand how their business model works, but it’s nice to see a channel dedicated to science fiction, supernatural, horror, adventure and fantasy series and films. And with over 1500 hours of programming, there’s plenty here you’ve probably never heard of.
Oh, and they just aquired the rights to Mystery Science Theater 3000, so watch for that…
From Squick To Library-Friendly in Six Easy Spices
Blame it on the word, “Eviscerated.”
More specifically, blame it on this bit of dialog:
“Did you kill him?”
“Heck no! I just eviscerated him. He died all on his own.”
That quote comes from my very first Invisible Flying Pony story. Until that moment in the story, it was ya/mystery/comedy. But the word “eviscerated” pushed the story over the line. My beta readers had two distinct styles of fit:
“Eviscerated really came out of nowhere. I wasn’t prepared for that.”
So I had some options to ponder.
Was it my intention to Shock and Eww my audience? If so, then it was safe to leave as-is.
Was I going to cater to the Rated-G crowd? If so, then I needed to change it, and several word choices later in the story.
Or was I going to own that R rating? If so, then I should probably seed that first third of the story with words/situations that let people know what kind of story this is. That way, the word eviscerated wouldn’t be such a surprise.
Eviscerated isn’t a swear word, but certainly is an adult idea, and I did have some swear words that came up later in the story. They all had the same effect, in a story with a 13-year-old protagonist. But I was surprised that none of those spice words had the impact or reaction of the word eviscerated. The options haunted me for a long time, as I tried to decide what type of story I was writing, and what kind of audience I wanted to enjoy it.
In Oct 2014, I wrote this analysis of using and avoiding swear words in fiction, and it was around that time that I decided to take my own advice. I’d used alternative swear words before. (I used “Static!” as a curse word in my 6th published story “Homeward Through Darkness”) I saw no reason why I couldn’t use some other kinds of spice words that would imply the ideas I wanted to convey, but wouldn’t keep my books out of the library.
Yes, I admit, I wanted my books in the library. Someday. Maybe. And if it’s just a few key words to change, then I figured it was worth the effort.
Looking to pop culture for guidance, I toyed with using “Barnacles” and “Tartar Sauce” from Spongebob Squarepants. Then, “Schtako” from Defiance and “Baktag” from Klingon, both of which translate to “excrement.” Weeks of manga research kicked up a handful of words, but nothing really catchy that would be understood outside that community. I even tried using “Fish!” from BoJack Horseman. But in the end, none of them really fit the prose.
So I parked the upteenth revision of Spider-Leeches on the shelf. It sat there for a long time, as I moved on to other projects which lent themselves better to the natural language of flat-out swearing.
Kitchen Spice Rack to the Rescue!
I think it was the word “Shiny” (from the Firefly TV series) that actually sent my brain seeking out some other word implying Desirable:
The word just popped into my head. And it was perfect. Right on the heels of that came the opposite:
And the four-letter f-word, FLAX!
I dashed to the kitchen and rummaged through the spices. Every single one was a hit. BASIL! FENNEL! NUTMEG! CINNAMON! DILLWEED!
I opened up the Spider-Leeches manuscript and loaded it with spice words. Done and done, I thought, and sent it off to the editor.
Turned out to be too spicy.
The editor came back and said all the slang was too much. So I dialed it back. Sugar and Salt are the primary swear words, Sugar replacing “Cool” and Salt replacing “Shit” of course.
The rest of the words I’d use very sparingly, if at all. I decided to introduce a new one in each episode of the series. Flax would mean Fuck. Dillweed was… well, probably Dickweed for people who remember a time when “Homeslice” was a thing. (And to this day, I still don’t know what homeslice means.) Cinnamon is reserved for ultimate bestness.
New Swear Words? Cinnamon!
I expect to get decent use out of these new words in the Invisible Flying Pony series. I’m hoping other authors can make use of them as well.
In fact, I’ve started using sugar and salt in conversation. It’s amazing how natural and effective they are.
I really hope these words catch on. It would be sugar if we could embrace a whole new category of spice words to spice up our conversation.
And if you don’t agree, then you’re a dillweed and you can go flax off.
I’ve been attending the Speculations series readings at Dreamhaven Books for years, and it’s an honor to be invited to read there myself!
On Aug 31, I’ll be reading at Dreamhaven books in Minneapolis.
This will be my first “solo gig” since the days of Jagged Spiral. (I think our last show was around 2011?) I’m both nervous and excited to share what I’ve been working on. Expect readings from my published works of dark fiction, science fiction, paranormal adventure, horror and humor, along with some Authorly Q&A. I’ll definitely be reading pieces from my upcoming work, The Gloom Queen, which is described as Stephen King’s Carrie meets E.A.Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart.
The reading starts at 6:30, but you’ll want to get to Dreamhaven early and browse the collection of rare and out of print books, comics, and collectables. And if you’re interested in autographed copies of works from local authors like Neil Gaiman, Emma Bull and more, you’ll want to get there REALLY early!
It doesn’t get much easier than zenpen.io. If you figured out how to view this blog post, then you’re qualified to write text and save it using the wonderfully minimalist and completely free writing tool.
You type in the big open area. You hit Save when you’re done. If that’s too complicated for you, then you’d probably have trouble figuring out a ball-point pen without an instruction manual. In which case, you might wanna consider another medium, like maybe yell your stories out loud at the Mall of America courtyard. Good luck.
Zenpen’s features are accessed through four buttons (maximize screen, light/dark, target word count and save text) and there’s a question mark (about) at the bottom of the page.
Setting the target word count activates a thin meter on the right side of the page. It goes up the page as you type, turning green when it hits the top of the page and you hit your target word count.
Aptly named, beautifully minimalist, and completely free, zenpen is a great way to minimize distractions including those of the writing software which promises to make writing easier, but just clutters up your life. (You heard me, Scrivener.)
If you’re looking for something similar to zenpen, but with online storage and features like stats tracking, google docs sync, and export directly to ebook formats, check out novlr.org. (Monthly fee required)
Don’t know exactly how it started. I have a shelf overflowing with books about writing, publishing, marketing, philosophy and many other subjects, both savory and unsavory. But I noticed that recently my non-fiction book purchases have been fewer and further between. Was I slacking? Was I falling out of love with writing? Had I learned all there is to know?
I logged into my Udemy account and there was the answer: over twenty courses. Twelve on Lynda.com And Skillshare? Twenty five. Writing. Marketing. Publishing. Productivity. I haven’t even started half of the courses, but like really good books, I can’t put them down, and the more courses I watch, the more I want.
It’s official. I’m a “course collector.”
It seems that online courses are the new textbooks, and if you’re an author, you’re in luck. Online courses for authors are BIIIG right now. If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to improve your writing, self-publishing or marketing skillsets, or if you’re a more visual learner, you need to check out the big three. Udemy, Skillshare and Lynda.com.
I’ll give a more complete review of each one later. But for now, here’s some things to think about to help decide if online learning is for you. Or if you just want to jump in, click my affiliate link to get 25% off at udemy.com.
What Can Authors Learn In Online Courses?
Holy Hannah, you can learn a lot from online courses. Authors especially are going to love all the great classes available. I’ve highlighted a few udemy courses below. I have personally purchased all of these courses and either taken them or look forward to using them to advance my writing career. [Yes, these are affiliate links, which help to pay for this lovely website. Thanks for your support!]
Online courses are generally made with a goal in mind, and often the websites will help arrange and track your progress toward your goals.
For example, Lynda.com has a series of pre-determined “Learning Paths” that will help you to achieve real-world goals of mastering specific skill sets like network security management, or recording engineering or a Java programming. Pick your learning path and the courses are laid out for you in the order you should take them.
Skillshare.com has “workshops” where you work in the same class on the same schedule as other students. When you finish, you have a tangible, completed project, whether it’s an awesome Instagram account with hundreds of active followers, or a screenplay you wrote in a month.
All online courses will tell you the duration of the content up front, so you’ll know the minimum time you’re committing before you enroll. Udemy and Skillshare have buttons that let you skip backward 15 seconds for those ‘huh, whassat?’ moments. Udemy has a skip forward 15 seconds for those “yeah, get on with it!” moments. Best of all, Udemy and Skillshare both let you speed up or slow down the video playback, essential controls for those challenging/boring parts.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a thousand pictures. Especially for complex applications like photoshop or google analytics. To see it done live (or recorded live on video) can get the point across much better than flipping through step-by-step pix of a process.
Connection with the Instructor
Skillshare and Udemy allow you to ask questions in the course forum, which the instructor or helpful classmates can answer. The discussion can be a really nice addition to the content.
Online Courses – Beware!
Too many non-fiction books are actually a pamphlet of information that’s been puffed up and fluffed into a 180 page book. That can happen in online courses, too. There is no developmental editor (or line editor, or any kind of editor for that matter) for the instructors. Be wary of courses with an ungodly number of hours of content. “Over 45 Hours Of Lessons!” one touted. As you can imagine, it was a major snoozefest, even cranked up to 2x speed. Even when the teacher was on-topic (which was rare) he dragged and droned and repeated himself. The “bonus” content for the course was a series of out of date tutorials, which really should have been deleted.
I look for more realistic times measured in hours not days. If it’s more than 6 hours, the scope is probably too large. If it’s less than a half hour, it’s probably not large enough. When considering a course, consider how long it would take you to read a book on the subject and how much that book would cost.
Online Courses as a Gateway Drug
Be wary of instructors offering one on one consultation of the topics they teach. No doubt there’s a difference between teaching you how to make facebook ads, and actually managing a facebook campaign for you. But if you’re taking an online course to learn how to do it yourself, and the instructor wants to both teach you how to do it yourself, AND sell their services doing it… then it becomes a conflict of interest for them. If they teach you how to do it all yourself, then you will, and they lose a client.
I’m not saying all instructors are like this. And there’s nothing wrong with offering both training and consulting. I’m saying there definitely are people who consider online courses (especially FREE online courses) to be a way to load people into their sales funnel. They may choose to hold out the good tips for the upsell, or teach less intuitive methods to make you think the process is more difficult than it really needs to be, then pitch a personal consultation for your pain point.
If you do consider buying a consult with a online course teacher, make sure it’s because your time is better spent somewhere else. And do your research.
Online Courses With Dated Info
I saw a course that explained Facebook Ads in detail, but then Mark Suckerfish changed the interface, and now half the lessons are useless. Some teachers will go back and update their lessons with revised info, some will not.
Check the most recent reviews to see if they say anything about the info being out of date. And look thru the date(s) of the lessons, to make sure they are current.
Online Courses – Twitter Reviews
Visual Learner? Check out online courses! #AmLearning https://conradzero.com/online-courses-new-non-fiction-books/
Bored with Books? Check out Udemy, Skillshare and Lynda.com #AmLearning https://conradzero.com/online-courses-new-non-fiction-books/
Learn to increase your creativity and your word count with online courses! #WritingTools https://conradzero.com/online-courses-new-non-fiction-books/
Bonus Udemy Discount for Fans of conradzero.com
If you didn’t see any courses you liked from the above links, browse the catalog anyway! You’re sure to find something. And take advantage of my affiliate link here to get 25 percent off some great Udemy courses.
I don’t sign up for many email lists. Once I do, it takes a lot to get me to unsubscribe. But I wanted to share a recent experience of how one fellow author succeeded in upsetting me enough to make me unsubscribe:
I won’t name her here, but she’s awesome. I love her posts and she has a lot of great courses for authors. So I signed up. For several weeks, I got quality authorly tips.
Today, I opened my inbox to discover an email from someone else, not the person I subscribed to. Turns out she needed to take a medical ‘leave of absence’ from authoring/blogging/emailing. So she had someone else come in to take over emailing her list while she is out.
When I hit the Unsubscribe button, I was asked for a reason why. Here’s my response:
Don’t like getting emails from someone other than the person I subscribed to. If you need to go on leave, then go on leave. Or batch a bunch of posts and drip them out while you’re gone. Or rebrand as “Writers Tips” instead of [Author’s Name Removed] But handing the keys to my email inbox over to someone else is a violation of trust.
I understand the author wants to keep reinforcing her brand. She is using repeated contact to stay on “top of mind” with her audience and not let that connection atrophy. But there are two problems with the way this was handled.
She’s not just running a writing advice website. She’s running a site where She give writing advice. She’s branded herself as an authority to give writing advice. Her name is in large, capital letters on her website, email list, and all things surrounding her brand. In her training videos, she looks right at you and tells you how she is going to help you succeed.
I signed up to her email list. To get writing tips, sure, but to get writing tips From Her. There are about 50,000 writers tip lists out there. I chose her list because I trusted her, and she violated that trust.
Keep this in mind when you start any kind of online business. It’s called branding. And it needs to be consistent, or you’re going to lose people.
Consistency is more important than being top of mind.
You might be thinking, “Why you mad bro? That’s just like ‘guest posting’ on a blog, right?”
No, it’s not.
Your blog is your own playground. Fill it with the toys you want. Change the colors. Change the graphics. Let people post and comment away. It’s your house. When I come to visit, I’ll see whatever content you’ve chosen to decorate with, even if it’s not your own.
But my inbox is mine. And I’ll decide what goes there and what does not. And if I trust you enough to let you add content there, that doesn’t mean you can just let other people add things to that space. That would be like me inviting you over to play cards on Friday but instead, you send someone else in your place. Very not cool. Especially from someone who gives marketing advice to authors.
Respect the inbox of your email subscribers.
I don’t email my list unless I have real news to share, and there is definitely plenty of exciting news and free stuff coming soon. Sign up here for free ebooks and updates! I promise I won’t hand your email over to anyone else.
Térata does All The Things, drowns them in Red Bull, lights them on fire and throws them off a cliff.
The title Térata is from the Greek meaning “Monsters,” but this is more than just a monster story. It crosses horror with science fiction and fantasy. But above all, Térata is full-throttle action-adventure.
From the Publisher
Hidden in the folds of the world we know is a world of monsters. Forced into discretion by the rules that govern reality, these powerful beings fight, love, and die in the shadows around us. This is their story.
The sheer number of characters and names in Térata would give the Silmarillion a run for its money. Many of the characters are shifters, meaning they have two types of physical bodies – a monster form and a human form – which gives some characters two names.
Many of the characters are POV characters too. With so many characters going after (or running away from) so many things, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Those wanting a single headspace will want to look elsewhere.
The monsters in Térata have super powers on the level of demigods. They are super-fast. And super strong. And they heal like Wolverine on crack. Sniper headshots and severed limbs hardly slow them down. I appreciated the quick fight scenes, and the fact that characters did occasionally die, which lent real danger to every fight.
Plot / Story
Térata is a great example of Speculative Fiction, that is, “What happens when we cross fantasy, science fiction, horror, thriller and action-adventure?” The book lists under Occult at Amazon, but it is much more than that – nanotech, DNA manipulation, tarot cards, alternate realities and talking swords that absorb souls. All the things are here.
As I mentioned, the story has so much going on, it never lags. All the interconnected plotlines reminded me of Game Of Thrones, a large and busy world. But the writing always makes it clear what the current character is doing. Goals are clearly asserted and how-did-we-get-here is clearly explained, so you’ll always know what people are doing and why.
Térata contains more doors ripped open and limbs torn off than all the stories I’ve ever read put together. Characters ripped doors off of houses, cars and even safes because it was faster than opening them conventionally. They ripped their own limbs off to reduce their body mass. (And shouldn’t one really do that in the shower? Makes cleanup a snap!) The levels of speed and aggression even during the non-fighting scenes lent a fantastic, comic book feel to the story.
Térata is mostly set in modern-day Minnesota. From Minnehaha Park to downtown Minneapolis to the banks of the Mississippi River, Michael gets the details right, using just enough description without slowing the story.
Some of the story takes place in an alternate reality realm called the Confluence. I was really interested in this place and it played a major part in the story, but it didn’t spend enough time or detail there. I definitely wanted more of the alternate reality and how it was different than the real world.
Language / Voice
Michael’s writing is snappy and clean. Térata almost reads like a graphic novel, with quick, broad strokes.
The sense of humor is superb, the timing of the jokes breaks the tension perfectly. And a broad range of pop culture references abounds. Much of the dialog contains a clever snarkiness and biting wit.
[easyazon_link identifier=”0692269797″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Terata on Amazon[/easyazon_link] (affiliate link)
Check out Térata by Michael Allen O’Leary Jr. #AmReading #Book #Review #Monsters
#Action #SciFi #Fantasy #Thriller #Monsters Térata has it all!
Don’t know about you, but I liked 2015. I wouldn’t trade my 2015 for SIX 2014s. Hope your 2015 was great, too. Here’s some highlights from last year, and a look at what’s to come…
Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as Lemmy, the demigod behind Motorhead finally ascended to full godhood. I’m reminded of a joke:
Q: If Lemmy and God got into a fight, who would win?
A: Trick question. Lemmy IS God.
He was once quoted as saying he would continue wearing black “until they come up with something darker.” My onstage look in Jagged Spiral was definitely influenced by Lemmy, and I won a costume contest in 2014 with my Lemmy impression as you can see here.
See ya buddy. You’ll be missed. Tell David Bowie and Alan Rickman that I said “hi.”
[easyazon_image align=”right” height=”500″ identifier=”1613747969″ locale=”US” src=”https://conradzero.com/wp-content/uploads/61m1eu2ck9L-1.jpg” tag=”zero00b-20″ width=”329″]Ytasha was guest of honor at the 2015 Diversicon convention, where she presented her book Afrofuturism – the world of black sci-fi and fantasy culture. Now Afrofuturism is more than just a book. It is a movement of art, music and literature that strives to “…break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.”
I had several great discussions with Ytasha about her book and the topic of Afrofuturism. Ytasha did not create Afrofuturism, but she is a champion of it. Her book and her readings and discussions are really helping to raise awareness that #BlackArtsMatter and she does it in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening. A must read.
[easyazon_link identifier=”1613747969″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture on Amazon[/easyazon_link]
Fiction Highlight Reads of 2015
I succeeded in my 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge by reading 24 books in one year. 8 Fiction, and 16 Non-Fiction. My Fiction Reading Highlights of 2015 included a diversity of great fiction stories. (Amazon affiliate links – Thanks for your support!)
[easyazon_link identifier=”B00VR2F5DC” locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]10,000 lines by Kate Bitters[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”1442497653″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Ambassador by William Alexander[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”0986377503″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]A Circus of Brass and Bone by Abra Staffin-Wiebe[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”B019ABWGJC” locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Child of the Daystar by Bryce O’Connor[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”B00YDGI98C” locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Orphans by Roy C Booth and Axel Kohagen[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”B012EI9M4A” locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Blade of the Destroyer by Andy Peloquin[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”0990815765″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Joy to the Worlds by Raven Oak and Maia Chance and several others….[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”1596066199″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]The Adventures of Princess and Mr. Whiffle – the Dark of Deep Below by Patrick Rothfuss and Nate Taylor[/easyazon_link]
And I haven’t quite finished [easyazon_link identifier=”B00UO08J18″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Doctor Dead: A Percy and Quincey Adventure[/easyazon_link] by Tyler Tork
My best surprises were Ex Machina and The Martian. I had no real expectations for either one, and they both really delivered. Spy was also pretty funny. And Terminator: Genisys was a clever way to sort of ‘reboot’ that series. Crimson Peak was so beautiful, you could watch it with the sound off.
Spectre was classic Bond, although I have to agree with the people calling “try hard” on the villain. “The architect of all your pain…” ugh. Skyfall still reigns supreme as the best Bond film ever.
Mad Max: Fury Road delivered way more than I thought I would. And Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well. Must have been tough to honor the originals and still live up to the hype. Avengers and Ant Man were good too, although I see the Marvel brand getting weaker (Sony’s Fantastic Four didn’t help) and the DC brand getting stronger.
Jupiter Ascending was meh because it tried to do ALL THE THINGS. Didn’t even see the final two Hunger Games movies, but I did see Insurgent, which is pretty much caps off all the YA stuff for me. At this point, Hollywood has turned the YA genre into one contrived, “Chosen One” dystopian mess.
My friends paid me to watch The Hateful Eight, and it was the same dreadful Tarantino film he always makes. And It Follows was downright dumb. I didn’t catch Straight Outta Compton or Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in the theater, but I’ll watch for them on netflix…
I blogged about Arcana 2015, which was a major convention for authors and fans of all fiction spooky, weird, horrific or otherwise “Dark Fantastic.” Catherine Lundoff and Benjamin Percy were Guests of Honor. Made some nice connections there.
#AmWriting – Invisible Flying Pony Saves the World
They say self-publishing your first book is the hardest, and it better be. For a short story, this is taking an incredibly long time to finish. I’ve been bouncing this manuscript back and forth with editors and layout people. The first book for the series is DONE as in, I hold the virtual copy in my digital hands. But the rest of the series and the world-dominating gameplan is still being developed. I want to have a good headstart with this series before I pull the trigger.
When I do, y’all going to wanna stand back.
This much I do know. The first story will be free to members of my mailing list. So sign up here, and you’ll have it the microsecond it goes live.
#AmWriting – Secret Projects
I’m writing a story which essentially crosses the Loch Ness Monster with Hill Lake, MN, and a healthy dose of Lovecraftian… ah, I’ve already said too much. Currently, Lure is in rough draft format, going through critique. Hope to have this done in 2015, maybe even include from pix from Hill City, MN, where the story is set.
The Reason We Don’t Have Flying Cars Yet
It’s 2016. Where the hell are the flying cars? Instead we got drones, which are cool, but you can’t ride one to work. And it kinda pisses me off. I decided the automotive industry must be cursed, and that struck me as a great idea for a story. Think Christine with a flying car. It’s coming along nicely, not sure how long it’s going to be at this point. Don’t even have a real name for it. Probably looking at early next year.
Evil Looks Good
Ah, the creative hostage I have tied up in the basement. I was forced to realize that the sheer scope of this project outweighs my own abilities right now, but only because I’m currently working on seven short stories at the same time. As I unload those projects from my brain and build my mad book business and marketing skills, this project will become an epic event. Think book+music+theater. I’ll get a freaking tattoo if I manage to pull this off.
If any of these projects sound interesting to you, you’ll want to jump on my email newsletter and I’ll keep you up to date.
Back in May 2015, I gave a discussion of writing groups at MNSpec, and at the next meetup, I received two offers from two different people to join two different writers groups. I had no idea these groups even existed. In fact, no one knows they exist, because they are secret. (Btw, you are sworn to secrecy…)
So I’m now officially in three different writing groups. Time will tell if this is too many. For now it’s giving me plenty of work to critique, and plenty of feedback on my own writing.
Mastering Social Media On An Author’s Budget
Writing quality stories is hard work. So is publishing. Therefore, self publishing is hard work squared. There’s lots of pieces to master, marketing being a part that often gets glossed over with the answer “Social Media!”
But social media is not an answer to marketing, it’s a tool. And even within each different social media platform, there is much to learn.
I have a presence in many of the social media, but I was by no means a master of any of them. In 2015, I decided to change that. I decided to pick two platforms to master, and work on growing them.
I’ve always liked Twitter, even though I didn’t understand it at first. What’s cool about Twitter is that it doesn’t filter content. If I share something with my 22,000 followers, and they all happen looking at their twitter feed, they all get it.
Over 2015 I read a bunch of books and watched several video courses on mastering twitter. Just learning about tools like tweetdeck and using lists completely changed my experience of twitter. Once I had the tools down, twitter became a fun and easy platform to connect with real fans of dark fiction, as well as other writing resources.
Goodreads is made for people who love books. It’s a great way to get recommendations for new books and authors, which makes it a natural extension of authorship. I wouldn’t expect every author to have a twitter page, but I would expect them to be on goodreads.
This one was kind of a cheat, because I was already using it. LOL. I’ve used goodreads for years to track my reading progress. But using goodreads as an author is a little different, so I read some books about it and got more active in some communities there (along with some splash damage from my twitter following) I’ve made quite a few new connections. I’ll hit the 5K limit on friends this year, so you should hurry if you want to friend me up at goodreads.com/conradzero.
“But Zero, What About Facebook?”
Um, probably because IHateFacebookWithThePassionOfSevenMillionSupernovae. It’s proof that Billions of people ACTUALLY CAN BE WRONG. Ahem.
[insert visual of tear on cheek]
Aw hells, quit yer cryin already. Fine. I built a damned author page on fb too. You happy now? But I haven’t promoted it at all. Although I see I got a few hundred people spilled over from twitter to friend me up there as well. Now that I’m more confident in what I’m doing with twitter and goodreads, I’ll make 2016 the year I take fb seriously so you can expect to see some growth there very soon.
Sadly, I never heard from Adrian Swartout. I can only guess this isn’t going to happen, but at least I tried.
Wow, I’ve got so much up my sleeve that I’ll have to modify my wardrobe.
I love youtube, and use it a bit, but not nearly enough. I’ve tried out periscope and I’m looking into vine now. My goal is to dial in a method of connecting with fans through video in 2016.
While cleaning up over the holidays, I found enough items that I could have a garage sale. Not crap, either. I’m talking movies, books, music and even some electronics. Instead, I think I’ll try giving some things away online. Somehow. I’m still not sure of the best method for the giveaways, any suggestions?
I’m spinning up a couple new websites in order to get reviews and other things off of my author blog. Expect those to go live early in 2015.
New Fiction Format
This one is the hush-hushest of all. I’m creating an entirely new format for delivering fiction stories. Stay tuned.
I’ve revamped my email system, and more importantly, this is where I’m going to start putting much of my authorly efforts in 2016. It won’t be nonstop pleas to buy my book, I promise. I plan to keep it short and really sweet, so people will actually look forward to receiving it. Sign up here, so when I do take over the world, you’ll be on the insider’s list: https://conradzero.com/cult-of-zero