I got my first taste in publishing when I was in high school. Some short story of which I have long since forgotten the title for and have long since misplaced the letter of authentication. Given my moody teenagerism, it was probably something dark and depressing. It would be another 15 years before I’d publish again. In 2014, I put out my second short story, Hobo, and followed it closely with Are You Hungry, Dear?, and then released my first novel, Reinheit. In that very short span of time, I’ve been able to launch 4 more novels in a continuing series called The Subdue Series (Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging), 2 solo shorts, contributed to 7 published anthologies (the 8th to be published later this year), including a serial short story exclusive to the 13: An Anthology of Horror and Dark Fiction series, my first collection called The Hobbsburg Horror, AND 2 novellas, Lanmò and Feast. That’s what? Some 20 published works, most of which are shorts. I’d say I was simply prolific, but I know more authors that do way more than my meager sum.
No, the aim (for me) cannot be about out producing the competition. I’d go nuts trying to keep up. What I can aim to do is provide quality entertainment in the vein of horrifying reads. I want to tell stories, plain and simple. I don’t want to out do anyone. I want to tell tales and get them out there to be read. Easy enough, right? What’s interesting, in this current era we find ourselves, is the constant development of technology that allows schmoes like me to publish our works. Amazon wasn’t around when I was a grump moody teenager. Self publishing was unaffordable. And traditional publishing took knowing someone who knew someone who knew someone. If you didn’t have that connection to your father’s brother’s uncle’s cousin’s former roommate, you were SOL. And the BIG 5? Forgetaboutit.
But now? Man, the entire system has expanded exponentially. With the development of eBooks (and its popularity) which later gave rise to print on demand (I use CreateSpace), publishing became insignificant. Not to belittle it, just that anyone can and many do. In fact, its not uncommon to stroll into a cyber writers group and read at least a dozen complaints about how saturated the market is. Its a favorite word to toss around that makes you sound more knowledgeable than what you really are. Saturated. Saturated. Saturated. Martha. Martha. Martha. And its true, the market IS super saturated. Personally though, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. Now readers have more of what they want. They have options outside of what they thought they could only get from the BIG 5.
But there’s a trick.
You cannot just put something out there and expect readers to flock to you. That’s just insane. Unless you have a known name, readers are not going to flock to you. Connections help; making connections is even better. What I’ve found most appealing with how this publishing world has evolved is how much of a community it has become. Embrace it. There will be some who try to take advantage. Don’t let a few turds keep you from making lasting connections. If people are willing to not only share your stuff, but also interact and maybe even give advise, those are the connections worth holding on to.
Experimenting with marketing can lead to surprising results. Ever heard the phrase, “Put your money were your mouth is?” The same applies to marketing your wares. I think “nut up or shut up” also applies, but its a tad cruder to tell your 80 year old grandma who wants to self-pub her book of recipes. In lieu, sometimes you gotta take a risk. Just don’t bet the farm. Play it smart, ask and listen to those connections, share what has worked or hasn’t worked. A word to the wise, among small press folk, BookBub is a known book promoter that lives by the slogan, money well spent.
Above all this noise, the most important thing publishing schmoes can do is keep writing, keep publishing, keep moving forward. And if you want those quality stories to reach more readers, you need to be willing to adapt to new technology. Last year, I was introduced to a little thing called Audiobooks. This is not new, per say. The spirit of audiobooks has been around a long time, back in the land before TVs and cable networks. Audio entertainment is not a new idea, but the tech behind it has come a long way since The Shadow and Little Orphan Annie broadcasted to delighted listeners gathered around a cherry red cabinet Philco radio. Cassette tapes came, followed by CDs. Nowadays, we’ve got digital recordings. At first, it was new and I didn’t want anything to do with it. I turned my nose up at it. But then Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) made everything so bloody simple its almost scary. I jumped in and released 4 titles on ACX last year and have released 2 titles thus far in 2017.
The idea here isn’t that your putting out even more stories (though you ought to be working on that). The idea is to use the technology available in order to put your work on as many platforms as possible so you can reach readers on the format that suits them best. And you’d be surprised. Audio is a expanding market for books. And the more this tech develops, the more affordable it becomes. Readers are now listeners, tuning in while driving to or from work or school. City and urban consumers plugged into YOUR book from their phones or tablets while they ride the train or bus or even airplane. Times are a-changing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless we let it, right?
Thomas S. Flowers is known for his character-driven stories of dark fiction ranging from Shakespearean gore feasts to paranormal thrillers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books and hosts a gambit of guest writers who discuss a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can follow Thomas by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.
Now Available for YOUR earbuds!!!
In the spirit of Halloween, as I, and I’m assuming most of you do as well, love this particular season of fright, I wanted to do something special and offer an excerpt from my recently published book, Reinheit. The following excerpt is from the very beginning, so it does not give anything away, but hopefully it does instill the mood and tone of the books entirety. Others have reviewed and have called Reinheit a dark thriller, heavy, and full of difficult conversions. Inspiration for Reinheit came from several different facets. Here are a few.
1. Reality. While ghosts and goblins and witches and werewolf’s and aliens and vampires are fantastic stables of horror, sometimes reality can be even more terrifying. Reinheit draws its heavy dark energy from the norms of the world. The story follows two time lines: 1940’s and present day 2014. The bulk comes from present day, while the 1940’s segment highlights the power the armchair has over particular people. It also showcases the historical context of the reality in this story, as well. The reality used in the context of this book include: The Holocaust, Einsatzgruppen, Nazis, hate, abuse, fear of the other, us verses them, immigration, and school shootings. Intrigued yet?
2. My Horror Modus Operandi: When I first started writing horror, or I should say, when I first starting taking writing horror seriously, I read up on what master horror authors had to say on the craft. I forget who actually wrote this, and this is probably terrible paraphrased, but the jest of some of the best advice I read was: “Write what scares you. If you are terrified, freighted, and find writing the story difficult because its so damn spooky, it’ll come across to your readers, and even though they may not fear the same things you do, they’ll understand your fear and feel it. By reading your story, they will become terrified as well.” This is the best advice I’ve ever read and I can’t even reminded who wrote it! But anyways, it makes sense, doesn’t it? If your not afraid, why should your readers be? The subject and context of Reinheit terrifies me, the conclusion of a “us verses them” world is troublesome and, speaking from my own personal experiences, and experiences read from history, can lead to horrible things.
Okay. Well, without further ado, I give you the excerpt from Reinheit. Enjoy!
Copyright © Thomas Flowers. October 02 2014. All Rights Reserved.
It was cold. The room was cold. His body was cold. Schröder buried his icy fingers into his armpit. It was no use, his entire being shivered. He sat, staring into nothing, into the cold dark pit of a fireplace. The coals had longed burned out. Pillars of white grey smoke slithered up into the chute. Where am I? He wondered, but could not yet recall. The room was — familiar. And so was the armchair he was sitting. His mind tittered on a sea of confusion. He felt nauseated. Getting up on numb legs, Schröder peered out the adjacent window and down into an open courtyard. There was a single road made up of loose dirt and pebbles that lead –somewhere, he could not be for certain. The path was swallowed by the same pitiful darkness that seemed to consume everything around him. The moon above was fat, perched upon hazy grey clouds. Its color was an eerie shade of emerald green, casting strange slender shadows on the pine trees that lined the perimeter of the grounds below. The unnatural green light came in through the window, painting the flower print wallpaper, the floor, the door, the fireplace and the armchair. This is all wrong…
Schröder looked back over at the armchair thinking he’d heard a soft moan. It was a terrible yawn, both sad and haunting. He turned and saw – something, a shape in the emerald green, peeking just over the edge of the high backrest of the chair. Is someone sitting there?
“Hello?” he called.
Whispers grew from the armchair, the sound of a thousand mumbling and hissing voices talking all at once. The whispers crawled over everything. It penetrated the walls, along the floor boards, slithering up his frozen body, scratching, clawing into his ears. The voices became screams, louder and louder. Schröder crept closer to the shape.
“Excuse me?” he called again, sounding weak. His teeth clinched. This isn’t right…wasn’t I just sitting there? Who is this? Who is this? How did I miss them?
Still no answer.
Schröder began to gag. He smelt the putrid and nauseating stink of rot – of some dead thing, bacteria, perhaps, blooming in hideous black and purple-green flowers, evaporating into the air in sulfuric fumes. His eyes watered. He could not breathe. Yet, despite this sudden lurching in his gut, he was compelled toward the decomposing muck, compelled to discover who it was, what it was, and why it was sitting in the armchair.
Do I know you?
Schröder approached the armchair. He gazed down at the body of — a man. He was young, slim, and not unattractive. He wore a black uniform and a red armband with a swastika at the center. His boots were polished to a high shine. His hair was blonde and unkempt. He was not shaven. Blonde stubble grew on the chin. The man’s eyes were wide and opaque as milk. His skin smooth and chalky.
“You…” Schröder started but trailed off. He was dumbstruck by those blank lifeless eyes glaring into some unknown place and time. My God! Slowly, the face came into focus. The corpse was petrified in a horrifying scream, distorted beyond imagination. Once red lips, now chalky white, pulled back and stretched beyond human limit. Schröder stepped back. He knocked over an empty bottle of schnapps on the floor. It rolled and pinged against the stone frame of the fireplace. With wide eyes, Schröder examined the man’s face. On his forehead there was a gapping black hole of mangled flesh and tissue and splintered bone. You? He thought. What happened here?
Schröder moved away from the armchair, unable to look at the dead man and the blood spattered against the tall backrest of the armchair, and those awful cloudy eyes. A growing feeling of unease began to take over. The whispers that seemed to come from every crevasse of the armchair continued its pursuit. The deafening moans scratched at the center of his brain. Schröder felt a trickle of warmth flow slowly down his face. He jerked from the sudden sensation. With a trembling hand he reached up and touched his head and pulled back. His fingers were black and simmering green from the moon. With soiled fingers, Schröder traced the path and felt parts of his skull were missing. He pushed his fingers deeper to see how far the damage went. At the center, he touched something grotesque, wet, and malleable.
Schröder snatched his hand back. He screamed. He tasted smoke and ash. There was a dry itch at the back of his throat. He was shivering harder now, struggling to deny something too horrible to be true.
“It can’t be,” he hissed, turning back to the dead man in the armchair. It’s not me! It can’t be me. This is impossible. I am not dead.
The armchair stopped whispering. The room was still. Cold. Dark.
The door began to move. Behind the vibration came a chorus of sorrow, pain, agony, and despair. The sounds grew in the waves emanating from the hallway, just beyond the door. It was the shrill of women and men calling out, and other softer voices, frightening sounds of infants wailing, and children crying, and the infirm pleading – they all bellowed in despair and in thrashing fits of anger. The oak door quaked violently. The wood exploded in a deafening boom. Schröder shielded himself in a protective cradle. He fell back toward the armchair.
He peered over the top of the armchair. He watched in horror as dozens, hundreds, thousands of shambling dead things came in through the broken door. The cream of their eyes locked with his. The dead quickened their pace. The bodies shimmered in the emerald green of the moon, which seemed closer now, just outside the window, as if it were peaking in and laughing at his misfortune. The dead bore no clothing, except for the mud and moss and earth that clung to ruined flesh. The worst of them were the mothers – carrying bruised blue and purple babies still suckling at the tit. The dead reached with bone chewed fingers, grasping for some bit of flesh to call their own. Schröder could not move. He stood petrified as these – things – people (perhaps once) came for him. The corpses pulled and heaved him up into the air. Schröder looked down into the armchair. His dead body was smiling up at him. He screamed and was carried through the door. Schröder desperately wanted to kick and throw himself off, but his legs and arms would no longer work to his will. He was silenced. His muscles congealed in the sack of his skin.
Outside, Schröder watched as the building he was carried off from ignited in a brilliant blaze. The red of the fire grouped together with the emerald green in a queer sundry. He watched from on top the dead mob as the fire quickly spread. Glass shattered. Flames licked from the windows. He could hear men screaming from inside. Are there people in there? He wondered. I don’t remember seeing anyone… Schröder was hauled down the dark pebble path and then the scene faded and dissolved and he found himself in a dark forest, lush with spruce and pine. The dead things with dirt caked nails scratched and bit his flesh. Voices howled in low roar from below.
“Spare my children…”
“Spare us, please…”
Schröder wanted to scream. His heart felt burdened. His body shivered against the frigid grasp of the desolate things hauling him along the way. The march continued along a path through a maze of cold damp mist that hovered waist deep from the ground. Some of the haze dissolved into something oddly familiar. I know this place, he thought. I’ve been here before. Schröder clutched at his clothing from a gust of distant memory, as if a ghost had walked over his grave.
The parade of corpses halted. Schröder peered down and saw a large wide mound of earth, swollen over the foliage. The shambling things tossed him upon the ground. The dead stared in terrible silence. Thousands of soupy eyes looking at him, judging him. Why are they judging me? He wondered. Schröder laid there on the ground, unable to move. And then the mound began to quake – shifting – shuddering – dirt peeled and rolled off the makeshift hill. Blue-grey rotting hands came up from beneath. Reaching, they took hold of Schröder before he could crawl away. Rotting hands pinched his wrists and ankles, grabbing at his uniform. One tore off his swastika armband while the other ridged fingers began to pull him under.
“What is going on!” he screamed. “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done? What have I done? Answer me, I demand you answer.”
Schröder watched in terror as the dead hands became arms, and then torsos, and finally heads with white hideous eyes that burst like grapes. The teeth were broken, bodies naked and covered in puss, grabbing onto him, taking him further beneath the earth and mound. The dead smelled yellow. He wanted to scream. He had no voice. Schröder watched powerless as the dead things pulled him into the grave. His legs sunk under. Then his hips. Then his soft belly and arms, till only his head remained above the surface. In a shrill muffled cry that echoed across the cold misty forest Schröder disappeared with the dead into the pit.
If you like what you read and what to check out the rest, you can get the full version of Reinheit here.
And if you’ve got a few more moments, I’d like to ask you a favor. All writers thrive on reviews from awesome readers such as yourself, but especially for indie writers like me. If you could, leave a review with Amazon or even here on this blog so other folks can see what you thought of the story. What was good? What wasn’t? And, also, so I can see what you thought of my work. If there is anything else a storyteller wants in the world, it’s a way in which they can improve their craft. The best way for writers to improve is by hearing from their readers!