Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking Back In Time At the Writing Accomplishments of 2017

A model of a 19th Century/steampunk-style time machine

I hope everybody’s been enjoying this Holiday Season! I had a groovy Christmas Eve and Day. I was in Fresno during that time visiting the family there. My brother took me and his son to see Star Wars the Last Jedi which was just awesome! And only last night, did I see The Force Awakens on DVD. That is, I saw it for the second time only yesterday since seeing it in the theatre two Christmases ago, also with my brother and his son. (Hey, I think a new Holiday tradition is forming in my family!) Now you’re probably wondering why I’m watching the two movies out of order? Well, I hadn’t actually planned on watching the latest movie until I returned here to Sacramento, because I wanted to refresh myself on Force Awakens first. But since I only see my brother and his family a few times throughout the year, I couldn’t resist an invitation to see a movie like Star Wars with them. But now that I’m back, I’m watching the two movies in order and so will see Last Jedi again by the beginning of the new year. So this year’s been ending well.

Often a person feels a little sad when the year’s coming to an end, and you don’t quite know what to expect on the other side of the door between the old year and the new. But if great things happened in former then great, if not greater, ones will happen in the latter as well. So I thought it would be good to close out this year by looking back on my writing accomplishments of 2017 and what I learned from them that I can take into the upcoming year. These accomplishments were:

1. Guest-bloggingabout RPG and writing on Christine Rains Blog: when you guest-blog on a fellow author’s website, it introduces you and your work to other authors and readers. I don’t guest-blog as much as other authors already do, so I consider this a big accomplishment in any year.

2. Completing myfirst novella’s first draft: I’m not a big writer of long fiction such as novels, so completing my first novella in its rough draft form has been a significant success for me. I read over it too, and noted revisions that needed to be made but then decided, at least for now, not to continue with the revision process. It’s not a story that I think I’ll be able to stick with, knowing the short attention span I have. What is important about this accomplishment, though, is that I committed myself to writing a full first draft of a long work, a form of fiction that I’ve never written before. Having done that, writing the next novella will probably come easier to me.

3. Publishing thepaperback edition of “Circa Sixty Years Dead”: This isn’t the first time that I’ve published a paperback, but even the self-publishing process can be trying whether it’s for a print book or e-book, and so this is definitely a significant accomplishment for me.

4. Producing mybusiness card: For at least two years I had been saying that I was going to officialise myself more as a pro author by coming out with a business card but kept putting it off. I did that just so I could work on the product of the business, the writing itself. Not so in 2017!

5. My first vendortable at a convention and making sales from my books: Like with the business card, I kept telling myself I would set up a vendor table and kept putting it off until this year. One of the reasons why I kept postponing it was because I knew how hard it was to break even by selling books at live events. And do you know what happened? I didn’t break even. But I did sell some books. Now what’s so successful about selling books but not making a profit? The success is about the promotion of those books. The more books you get into people’s hands and the more money you make in doing so, the more you enhance your rep as a professional author regardless of profit.

6. Participating ina blog hop: This past Halloween I volunteered my time posting for author Patricia Lynn’s Trick-Or-Treat Blog Hop. As with guest-blogging, I probably don’t do blog hops as much as most indie authors do, and so this too was a major achievement in promoting my work.

So, what have I made of all these accomplishments? I’ve learned that when an author puts him- or herself out in the community, online or off, it can make a big difference. I’ve promoted and sold plenty of my books online. But I didn’t imagine I would sell any on my first day of retailing them at a live event, which is exactly what happened at Sac Con back in October. The more you put yourself out there in the community, the better connection you’ll make and the more sales you’ll make. But even if you don’t make any sales, readers of your genre get to know you more both as an author and reader. So expect to see me at at least one other live event selling books and talking sci fi/fantasy in general this upcoming year of 2018.

So what are your writing accomplishments of 2017? For those of you who are more avid readers than writers, what are your reading accomplishments of the year? For example, did you get through a bigger number of books this year than you did last year? Or did you finally start reading that author you’ve been declaring to read for several years?

Until next year of 2018 . . . !

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Holiday Post: Krampus’s List of 6 Tales of Terror Toys

Credit: Pixabay

What does a writer of dark fiction like myself write for a Holiday blog post? I’m not really a fan of black Christmas fiction, but I do love the comical holiday fairy tale flick, The Nightmare Before Christmas, as well as other weird Holiday films such as the cheesy Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. But since this is more of a literary fiction blog, I thought I would do something in the line of that. I decided to do terrifying toys in speculative fiction that doesn’t necessarily take place during Christmas. So below is a list of mostly horror stories about terrible toys. And I don’t mean “terrible” as in cheap or defected like the Misfit Toys in Rankin/Bass’s “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”. I’m talking about terrible toys that the Krampus might bring to naughty boys and girls. Some of them are so terrible that even Krampus may be too nice to bring. Instead he might bring those to evil grownups. The list is in no particular order.

1. “Don’t Ask Jack”, by Neil Gaiman; from his collection, Smoke and Mirrors: In this dark tale, the kids are afraid of the Jack-In-the-Box buried at the bottom of the toy box in their play room. That’s because the Jack in this story holds a horrifying secret.

2. Coraline, again, by Neil Gaiman: In this chilling children’s/YA novel, the title character encounters living toys and people with doll-buttons for eyes.

3. “A Toy for Juliette”, Robert Bloch, from the anthology, Dangerous Visions (edited by Harlan Ellison): This story, set in a dark future, is about a girl whose toys are torture devices from the different time periods her grandfather travels to. This time, Grandpapa brings her back one from the Victorian era: an infamous serial killer.

4. “The Monkey”, Stephen King, from his collection, Skeleton Crew: A boy’s toy cymbal-banging monkey has a deadly curse.

5. “Chattery Teeth”, Again, Stephen King, from his Nightmares & Dreamscapes: Wind-up clockwork teeth with feet “talk”, walk and bite. . . big time.

6. “The Doll”, Joyce Carol Oates, from her Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque: A woman visits a stranger’s house that contains a doll house and, in a sense, a man-size doll that no little girl (or big girl for that matter) should want to ever play with.

So here’s some winter reading for you to sit back and relax over on a dark, stormy night after the Holiday festivities have ended for the year! And if you can’t wait to gather all these, then check out my terror toy story, “The Puppet Show”, for free! If you like that, consider buying the collection it’s from, The Fool’sIllusion. It will make a great nightmare before (and after) Christmas gift!

Next week’s post will be looking back on my writing projects of 2017 and what I learned from them. Maybe it will also cover the 2017 works of other science fiction/fantasy writers.

Happy Hallowdays!

Twin snow-covered Christmas trees topped with Santa caps.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Absence of Net Neutrality May Mean Less Fiction Sub Genres

Last week, the FCC did something that any indie author or artist of any sort would never want to see it do: it repealed the net neutrality regulations. These regulations protected fair access to online content that wouldn’t be hindered by big companies paying for faster service. Indie authors and their readers can’t afford this repeal since it will limit access to certain websites on the internet. Doing so will limit access to niche genres of fiction.

In general, the absence of net neutrality will cause internet users to have to pay extra for faster access to websites. It will also cause many website owners to have to pay extra to make their content accessible. This puts many indie authors and their readers at a disadvantage because many indie authors don’t have the funds to pay for the faster internet service when promoting their work and many of their readers are in a similar financial situation. 

This class preference of internet access can limit the choices for consumers who have specific interests that are lesser known to the majority. These special interests include niche genres of fiction, also known as sub-genres. For example, in science fiction and fantasy there are very specific sub-genres. Some of these are steampunk, atompunk, zombie horror, vampire horror, urban fantasy, and many types of ethnic speculative fiction. While steampunk has become more or less mainstream in the last few years and so may not have an online promotion problem, atompunk and ecopunk are both very obscure and so may have a problem. And even though ethnic sci fi and fantasy, particularly by authors of color, has been more accepted it is still not supported enough by the big literary companies. Big publishers and book retailers who have the money to pay for faster internet service only promote what sells the most rather than what niche audiences are seeking. So if internet servers give these companies preference then indie and self-publishing authors will be hindered in promoting their work online. If that happens then it means less niche genres for even online stores such as Amazon.

I’ll admit, I’m not an expert on something as complex as the net neutrality issue so I cannot say a whole lot about how it works. However, Cory Doctorow has a great article out that simplifies the issue of net neutrality in general while giving more details on it. His article at is actually a summarised version of a larger one which he has the link to there. If you aren’t that familiar with net neutrality then I suggest you read the shorter version at Craphound then go to the larger one so you’ll get a better grip on the issue. Contrary to what he says in the shorter version, the issue can get very complex but he clarifies it really good.

So, what can we do now that FCC has made one of the biggest nightmares of 21st century writers and artists a reality? Many net neutrality advocate groups have been saying they will take legal action against the FCC’s decision since it is something that goes against a constitutional right, the right to distribute and access the information one wants regardless of class, a right that ties in with the First Amendment. So watch for these groups’ reactions to the issue in the upcoming weeks and support them in their mission to restore net neutrality.

All may seem lost for us writers and artists of the indie and freelance realms, but this is a time of year for celebrating hope rather than despair. The hope is that we have a gift of endless creativity, and that’s a creativity we can use to support the advocacy of net neutrality.

Until next time . . .  

A cartoon depicting a robot Santa Claus observing a Christmas tree while a robot child jumps with joy.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Science In Sci Fi and . . . Fantasy?

Two alien bat men with three spaceships silhouetted in the background sky.

I apologise for posting so late again. The Thanksgiving holiday was extra busy for me and last weekend had too many things that needed catching up on. I also was a little ill some of the week but am much better now. I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving, though. It seems like the holiday was just yesterday and we’re already hurtling toward Christmas!

About a week ago, I came across a really neat article on the website Earther entitled “Rare Manuscript Exhibit Explores How Climate Disasters CreateMonsters”. Well, if climate disaster isn’t doing that, some other natural or technological disaster is. The article shows how climate change has influenced not only science fiction but even certain types of fantasy fiction too, especially horror. The author of this article, Maddie Stone, uses examples from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and, believe it or not, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

A lot of science fiction, needless to say, has been influenced by natural and technological disasters. But fewer people are aware that fantasy and supernatural horror have also been influenced by these things. But what’s interesting about Stone’s article is that it reports on an exhibit that is going on at the Rosenbach Library in Pennsylvania called Gothic Monster, Modern Science. The exhibit features manuscripts of classic horror authors such as Shelly and Stoker and the scientific events of their times that helped shaped their stories. One of these, Stone explains, was an 1815 volcanic eruption that had climate changing effects: a year-round “winter” for much of the Western world and disease outbreaks.

Needless to say, climate change is a big issue today and has been influencing much contemporary science fiction. It’s also needless to say that climate change isn’t the only scientific disaster that has influenced sci fi. However, fewer people would think science has influenced supernatural fiction. Even the fantasy epic Game of Thrones book and television series reflect today’s issue of global warming by setting the story in a world where a winter or summer can last several years. But other scientific phenomena and the anxiety it raises in people have also influenced these stories. Some of these phenomena have been artificial intelligence, robotics and genetic engineering, in which these three have provoked the same basic concern that Frankenstein has: artificially creating or recreating life. This concern has been suggested in novels such as Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, its movie adaptation Blade Runner and the movie’s recent sequel, Blade Runner 2049.

As far as epidemics go, the vampire curse in Dracula is approached in part as a virus rather than so much as a curse and so the characters attempt to cure it as such. This element has continued to be used in horror fiction since then, including other vampire tales such as Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and its movie adaptations, werewolf films and today’s zombie fiction. 

But Stone’s article focuses on the subject of climate change and the Gothic horror fiction of the past. It discusses how the subject is reflected in the authors’ notes and manuscripts on display at the Rosenbach and how natural disasters lead to the creation of monsters in these stories. For what is a monster in fiction but a metaphor for an overwhelming force that seems to be unstoppable in real life, such as climate change and unbeatable computer viruses that infect what are supposed to be the most secure of databases such as Equifax’s? The monster in much horror, whether it be supernatural or science fiction horror, represents these catastrophic forces and society’s fear of them. I strongly suggest you take a look at Stone’s article for the details.

Speculative fiction is a way to help us deal with the present time’s catastrophic problems and how to put something into perspective that’s otherwise so overwhelming or chaotic. It’s an escape from the problems of our own reality as reflected in the news while also a way to deal with those problems through imaginary means. We hope it will help us come up with real solutions to the problems, like science fiction has done in many instances such as in medical science and education both of which advancements in computer technology has contributed to.

I’ll try to discuss where I’m at with my writing projects, have some writing tips and maybe even another link to a fantastic find here next time.

Until then . . .

Saturday, November 18, 2017

On Writing: Revisions and Motivations

I apologise for not having posted since the special Halloween post. I wasn’t feeling my best one week and then the following week I was really busy with both my day job and writing. In relation to writing, I didn’t make that Halloween deadline for the short horror story I’ve been working on. I’m almost done revising it, so I will have it ready for my critique group soon. Which is the upside of missing that submission deadline: I have a chance to have it critiqued. I wouldn’t have had time for that otherwise.

Writing for a Publication’s Deadline as Motivation

I may either use this story for another magazine accepting submissions or my next short fiction collection that I have taken a hiatus on since last year but plan to resume it in the upcoming one. But I think I got much more done on the story than I would have if I hadn’t been writing for a submission deadline and was doing it for self-publication instead. So if you are a self-publishing author like myself, maybe that can be a great motivator for any writing project: aim to write it for a publication that has a deadline and then as that deadline nears decide whether you want to continue submitting it to the publication or if you want to self-publish it.

Limited Time and Space as Writing Motivators

I will be forced to get motivated with my writing even more this upcoming week. As with last Thanksgiving, I will have family coming to visit for a week and so will be limited not only on my time to write but on space to write in. I live in a small apartment, yet believe family should stay with family when they come to visit for several days, especially when they’re closer relatives. But that is no excuse for a writer to stop working on projects. Steven King worked in a near closet-size wash room typing his stories on a kid’s desk when he and his family lived in a small mobile home. So, if need be, I can work sitting on my bed in my room with my laptop in front of me. Laptops were made for that reason, weren’t they? Or I can go to a local cafe or fast food joint.

Revising My Novella: A Follow-Up to Last Year’s NaNoWriMo

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, but have been taking advantage of the time with an alternative to it: revising my novella from last year. I finally pulled it out of the filing cabinet at the beginning of the month, after it had been stashed away there for nearly six months, and started doing surface level revisions and making marginal notes where changes in content are needed. The story is coming across as really cheesy but then it is a first draft, my first full draft of a novel of any sort to be exact. I printed out four of the 100 pages to first see how it reads and determine if it’s intriguing enough to even bother continuing with it. That’s what writing the first draft is all about: getting a story written out completely to see if you want to bother going on revising it or to trash it. It’s an experimental stage that helps you decide if your idea is worth writing about and seeking a publishing route for it (traditional or self-publishing).

So, how do you motivate yourself to write to completion? Do you accommodate for your writing time and space when family and friends come to visit during the holidays? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or are you doing an alternative to it? Feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and until next time!

Silhouette of a woman raising a meat-carving knife
Mother's ready to carve the turkey!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Special Halloween Post: Vampire Hunters, Decorating and Free Books

A jack-o-lantern with a skull's face carved on it.

I'm still trying to finish revising the story I was telling you about last time, the one that I said was due on Halloween. I had said I'm trying to avoid having to submit it on that day but it looks like that won't happen. But as long as I have it revised by Monday then I should be okay. It shouldn't take that long to submit it for the anthology that it's for. I probably would have had a great deal more of it done but I "had" to go to that Halloween Comics Fest sale at Comics & Collectibles in Sacramento. Maybe it's a good thing I did because, besides getting free comics like Hellboy and other horror-types, I came across a new one: Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter.

Vampire Hunters

Captain Kronos is based on a 1974 Hammer horror flick of the same name. I missed issue number one, so I had to settle for purchasing and joining in on number two. However, aesthetically-speaking, I prefer issue number two over number one simply because of its cover. Issue number one's cover consists of a shot from the film itself whereas number two's is made by artist Tom Mandrake who did a super job on it as well as the inside art. Although the comic is based on a movie, I prefer the hand-produced cover illustrations of comic book adaptations of movies over ones that use photos from the the films; hand-produced art is the nature of comic books. To tell you the truth, I haven't seen the Captain Kronos movie but they show it for free on Hammer Studios' YouTube channel.

Regarding vampire hunters, I was never a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan but lately I've been willing to give the TV series a try whenever I can get a hold of a DVD of it or get it streamed. I have a couple Blade comics, although I like him in Marvel's Tomb of Dracula of the '70s better. But I thought I'd give the '90s' Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie a try on Halloween night which is what the TV series is based on. I try to watch the original movie before watching the TV series or reading the comic book that are based on it. But I don't think I'll be able to get a hold of a copy of Buffy the movie this close to Halloween. So it looks like I will just have to settle for the vampire slayer who started them all-- after Van Helsing of Bram Stoker's Dracula--Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter. If you're not familiar with Captain Kronos, movie or comic, then here's a neat trailer for the flick.

Captain Kronos and Buffy Crossover?

Speaking of vampire hunters in media entertainment, don't be surprised if a Captain Kronos/Buffy crossover shows up on a shelf in your local comic book store soon. With crossovers being one of the biggest trends in comics, especially ones based on TV and movies, it's likely to happen since they've had a Buffy comic book series out for several years and if Captain Kronos does good enough, you'll probably see a storyline involving both characters. I'm not one for comic franchise crossovers due to their apparent commercial competitive ambition. However, it would be interesting in the cases of the two above characters since they are so similar. In order for there to be a plausible storyline, time travel or an alternative timeline would have to be involved--the two characters' time settings are more than two centuries apart.

Halloween Decorating

Well, I'm almost done with my Halloween decorating. I only have the cob webs with their plastic arachnid occupants to hang up. But go to my Facebook page between tomorrow and Halloween and you may see some pics of my decorating, that is if you've outworn your admiration of your neighbours' orange "Christmas" lights and inflated cartoon ghosts and pumpkins!

Trick-Or-Treat Book Blog Hop

A "Trick-or-Treat Book Blog Hop" banner

Definitely go to my Facebook page  on Halloween night, about 5:30 or 6 o'clock Pacific Time if you want a free book! There I will have the link to free copies of one of my books as part of the Trick-or-Treat Book Blog Hop, hosted by author Patricia Lynne. This Halloween blog hop offers free books in leiu of candy for cyber trick-or-treaters. Bare in mind, this event is may not be a kids' blog hop, since the maturity of the content of books will vary between authors. Be forewarned, my books contain adult content, so I suggest you keep the kids "outside" when you claim your free book from my page. Still, keep an eye on your kids, you don't know how near the boo-gy man or evil old witch may be!

So I hope to see you at my Facebook page on Halloween night, for the Trick-or-Treat Book Blog Hop. Please do leave comments there if you'd like. Also, let me know in the box here below what you think of  Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter if you see the movie, read the comic, or better yet, both!

Until next time . . . 

Two cosplayer women dressed as Beetle Juice and Lydia.
I took this photo of these two cosplay women at Sinister Creature Con in Sacramento earlier this month. Their costume were groovy!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Trick-or-Treat Book Blog Hop Coming!

I'm sorry I'm running late again with the post for the week. I was busy with the Halloween decorating and still haven't finished. I've also been trying to revise a short story for an anthology submission that's due on Halloween night and have another that I have yet to start that needs to be done for a party I'm attending this week! So I'm going to keep this post short.

Although most of my Halloween outings won't fall on October 31st, I'm trying to avoid having to submit the story for the anthology on that night. Part of the reason is that I will be staying in to participate in the Trick-or-Treat Book Blog Hop!

For the Trick-or-Treat Book Blog Hop I will be giving away one of my books instead of candy! Talk about eye-candy! Consider it candy you can read which, as much as I love confections--especially chocolate--I'll take books over candy anytime if given a choice.

A black bird perches on a branch while holding an eyeball in its beak.

I will post a link to my book on my Facebook page the day of the event. In the meantime, visit author Patricia Lynne's website for more details in participating in the Trick-or-Treat  Book Blog Hop!

That's it for now. Until next time . . .

Banner for Trick-or-Treat Book Blog Hop.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

My Table at Sac Con: The Power of Selling Your Book In Person

A vendor table at a comic book convention with two stacks of books, a fake skull and a Jack 'O Lantern candy bucket.
Credit: The Blogger

I would have been happy if people stopped to simply flip through my books at my vendor table at Sac Comic-Con last Sunday. Since that was my first vendor table at a convention, I really didn’t expect to sell anything. I sold five copies of my books!

The first sale was actually early on in the convention—within the first 10 minutes of opening! A father with his three kids stopped to look. I started giving my pitch for each book and, before I could finish, he said he would take one copy of each: The Fool’s Illusion and “CircaSixty Years Dead”. Later in the day, two more people made purchases at different times each. I also traded copies with the fellow author whose table was right next to mine, Jay Norry, for two books from his Zombie Zero series . We suggested doing reviews for each other’s books once we read them. I’ll leave reviews at Amazon for sure but may have fuller ones here. However, I may not be to do anything until the beginning of the new year because, as I told Jay, I’ve been quite behind on my reading. I’ll try to hustle it up a bit, though; I’m always too ready for the next read!

A handmade author sign on a vendor table.
I wasn't able to have a banner made so I made this. Good enough for a first vendor table.
Photo Credit: The Blogger

So I was really delighted when my books sold. However, I keep in mind that displaying your books for sale at live events isn’t so much about selling them than about promoting them and engaging with the community. The goal should be to start conversations with people who show the least bit of interest in your work. Talking to people about not only your own but other authors’ work in a genre you share interest in makes you known both as an author and a fellow reader. As long as you have plenty of swag with you, including business cards, that identify your social media presence then your book promotion can go a long ways. I also think what helped was providing free Halloween candy for the kids (and adults if they wanted). Many of the people who showed interest in what I was selling had their kids with them, who I can’t sell to or allow to look at the books since they contain mature content, but having candy present for them shows a sense of community on the vendor’s part.

A section of a vendor table displaying books, book marks, business cards and skull prop.
Credit: The Blogger

So presenting your work at special events, especially those like Sac Comic-Con where your target audience is at, in my case the sci fi/fantasy crowd, is primarily about two things: 1) Making your author presence known in the community; and 2) Bonding through conversation over similar interests that relate to the subject matter of your books. If the sales don’t come at the event, they will eventually come sometime down the line. The more people who know about your work, the more chance that they’ll tell others about it.

I want to thank all those who purchased books at my table and I hope they enjoy the reads. I also encourage them to leave honest reviews at the books’ Amazon pages since that will help me improve stories for the future. I also want to thank Jay Norry for the great conversations we had about our work and con experiences and for coming up with the idea to trade each others’ books. I hope to see you again at a future con, Jay!

Next time I’ll try to have some Halloween content here.

Until then . . .   

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Author's Appearance At Sac Comic-Con

I'm not leaving much of a post here this weekend because I've been busy all day preparing for my vendor table for Sac Comic-Con. The convention is tomorrow from 10 AM to 6 PM. You can read more about it at my Facebook page. This will be my first convention that I've had a table at, so don't be surprised if I seem a little rusty. I hope to see you there. My booth number is B25; I'll have a name sign up. If you can't make it, then . . .

Until next time . . .

Cartoon: A one-eyed alien points to an alien wearing a "fish bowl" helmet.

Monday, October 2, 2017

One Last Revision On My Business Card Before Sac Con

Last week was really busy, so I apologise for posting late again. But I wanted to show you a major alteration I made to my business card (besides the contact info I added). Last post I showed the card bearing the name of my imprint which is “Far Out Phantastic Press”. Or at least that was the name. After doing some research, I discovered that to put that name on a business card may require me to register it with my home city or county and that would cost more than what I am willing to spend right now on promoting my work. Here in California, at least, you can use your personal name as for a sole entrepreneurship and not have to register it. So, for the time being at least, I had to replace my imprint name with my personal name on the card. So here is the revised version:

A business card with the image of a skull.
Credit: Steven Rose Jr.

As you can see everything else on my business card has pretty much stayed the same. Now I just have to have prints of it made by the end of the week because I will need them for Sunday which is when I will have my table of books for sale, The Fool’s Illusion and “CircaSixty Years Dead”. So if you happen to be in the Sacramento area and have not bought your copy of one or the other then you can come to Sac Con where I will be on Sunday and purchase your copy (or copies there) and save on the shipping you would have to pay if you ordered it through Amazon. I may even have one of the two books discounted there and maybe even free Halloween candy! If nothing else, then just come and say “hi” and talk about anything—the con, your favourite books (whether mine or other authors), favourite movies or TV shows, favourite comics, etc. So maybe I’ll see you there. If not, then . . .

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trying to Get Ahead of the Goal: Imprint Logo

Last time I said I would try to have the designs of the imprint logo and name for my business card here. Although I completed my minimum goal for the week, I was hoping to have the whole card done by today. I guess I'm just trying to get ahead of myself so as not to get behind. But if we as self-publishing artists and writers can make it to our minimum goal within a self-determined time frame then that's what really matters. However, I'm trying to complete the card and so put the contact information on it by next week. I may be attending a convention that weekend and I want to have copies available for distribution. But here is what I've completed so far. (I apologise for the card image blending in with the blog's background due to matching colours, but I didn't have time to seek out a way of creating a lighter background for the display. I'll try to have that the next time when I have the full card done. . .  If I have it done.)

A business card logo consisting of a skull image.
Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

So, as you can see, I haven't gotten ahead with the card but I got a head on the card. The head being the image of the skull, of course, which I showed separately last post.

Until next post . . .

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What a Brand Icon Should Do for an Imprint

It’s been a long but far out fantastic day today. I attended two sci fi-related events: a Doctor Who celebration at the Sacramento Central Library and then, after that, a steampunk tiki party at The Jungle Bird in midtown. I’m much more atom punk than I am steampunk but both are retro punk and tikis became a very heavy pop cultural icon during the atomic era (mostly the early half of the 1960s). And I just dig tikis! I got a collection of them—figurines, cups, etc.—in my house. So, as I said, it was a long day and so I really didn’t get much of a chance to work on my writing with the exception of this blog post and some marketing of my books, The Fool’s Illusion (which turns 4 years old this month!) and “Circa Sixty Years Dead”

Part of marketing one’s work involves branding that work. I’m not a business man and so, frankly, I hate the word “branding” which is a big buzz term in today’s age of the startup and freelance revolutions. However, branding is probably more important now than ever. A self-published author’s brand should be about as identifying to the author as his/her writing style. It should identify that author as well as the author’s work. Doing this can go a long way in communicating to the world the existence of that work. So, as I’ve mentioned in several posts during the summer, I’ve been putting together a logo for my imprint. Although I’m still working on the lettering for the imprint name, which is “Far Out Phantastic Press”—a slight variation of this blog’s name, as you can see—I’ve completed the icon:

A skull with an eye-ball staring out of the left socket.
Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

It will also serve as the “O” in the word “Out” of the imprint name. But the skull, in the way I’ve drawn and painted it here, along with the imprint name will identify my work not just for the dark fiction it tends to be but also for the many elements of ‘60s and ‘70s pop culture that tend to make up my writing even though not all my stories necessarily take place in those time periods. The style of this skull icon depicts those eras with its simplicity, its pale green colour and the eye-ball staring out from the one socket. The manner this skull is depicted in not only identifies my love for ‘60s and ‘70s pop culture but also for skulls in general. I love skulls and skeletons like I do tikis, only a tiki icon wouldn’t depict my horror fiction as efficiently as a skull would. I don’t write Hawaiian horror enough to use a tiki as my imprint icon. However, that’s not to say that I never will write that kind of horror.

Next time, I’ll try to have the full logo, both image and imprint name, completed and posted here.

Until then . . . !

Monday, September 11, 2017

Wandering Through the Dark Carnival Sci fi/Fantasy Bookstore

Front entryway of a bookstore with a dragon figure on top of the business sign.
Photo Credit: The Blogger

I’m sorry I missed posting Labor Day weekend and for running late with this past weekend’s post. Saturday I was out in town for most of the day and last weekend I was in Berkeley visiting a friend who I hadn’t seen in over five years. I had been planning a San Francisco day trip all summer but it didn’t quite work out so I had to settle for Berkeley which is a bit closer to Sacramento. One reason I had originally wanted to go to San Francisco was to check out a science fiction/fantasy bookstore there called Borderlands. I’ve bought books from them in the past but only at conventions. I heard they carry all the sci fi and fantasy books you can ever find there. However, Berkeley has an alternative to that book store: Dark Carnival.

Dark Carnival is a used-book store that specialises in science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery. It fronts Claremont Avenue accompanied by a cat-size, brown dragon figure laying on top of the wood-looking business sign that hangs over the entryway. As I was walking up to the store, the owner was outside inflating his two approximately, 30-foot “Cheshire” grinning black cats for the store’s Halloween promotion.

Entryway to a bookstore with an inflatable black cat standing in front.
One of the two inflatable "Cheshire" black cats in front of the Dark Carnival bookstore.
Photo Credit: The Blogger

Inside, Halloween supplies, such as styrofoam mini pumpkins with ghoulish faces and witch figures, were on display seemingly at random points of the store rather than in a designated seasonal section. Although Dark Carnival’s main inventory, books, is well organised much of it is piled onto the floor due to lack of shelf space but this aspect of “messiness” is often a good one for any book lover. An overload of books tells any avid reader that the store will likely have what he/she is looking for. That’s not to say that Dark Carnival is a magical book shop that will have any specific title or edition of book you want regardless of the two floors the store consists of. Regardless of the fact that the amount of merchandise can overwhelm a customer’s search. But the shelves are labeled with letter tags signifying the initial letter of authors’ last names which help a lot.

I was looking for vintage paperbacks, ideally John Campbell’s work which seems to be very hard to find even in new editions. When I wasn’t finding anything by him I asked the owner if Campbell’s stuff would be anywhere else in the store other than under the C’s in the main shelves and he said it wasn’t likely. So I thanked him and walked over to the Stephen King section hoping to find an original paperback edition of Carry (one of his horror novels I haven’t read yet) but as large as the collection of King was I didn’t see any there. Interestingly though, I saw a literary critical anthology of his work. Like this book, non-fiction material related to the genres can be found throughout the store, many of which are shelved in the sections of their respective fiction authors. For example, if they pertain to a particular author such as King or Lovecraft, they will be shelved along with the author’s fiction. This makes sense, since most people who are going to care about literary criticism of an author are going to love that author’s works.

While I was looking through the King section, the owner came up to me with an anthology of sci fi authors which one of the stories was Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”, the novella that The Thing movies were based on. That is a story I’ve been intending to read as soon as I could get my hands on a Campbell book of short fiction. So I took the anthology to hold onto in case I decided to buy it, but it had many other authors’ stories who I wasn’t as familiar with and the book was quite high in price (I don’t remember how much, but it was pretty close to 20 bucks) so I was probably going to turn it down. Then he came back to me a little later and put two other books containing Campbell’s stories into my hand. One of these two was a hardback complete works collection of Campbell’s stories. It was called A New Dawn: The Complete Don A. Stuart Stories. Don A. Stuart was the pen name Campbell used while he was writing science fiction and before he went on to edit Astounding Science Fiction magazine. And being a complete works collection, it included “Who Goes There?”. So it shows you how dedicated the staff at this store is to finding the books you’re looking for. I’m sure the owner found these three books in places I would never have thought to look. So I bought the copy of New Dawn.

I went on to look through the Lovecraft section. Not finding anything I was that interested in at the time, as far as his fiction goes, I did find a few works by the author Simon about the Necronomiconthe legendary book of the dead referred to many times in Lovecraft’s fiction and that formed the basis for his Cthullu mythos. I was hoping to find a copy of the Necronomicon itself, but didn’t see it there so bought Simon’s Dead Names: A Dark History of the Necronomicon instead.

Besides books, Dark Carnival also carries vintage magazines related to the speculative genres both pro and amatuer. You can also find novelties such as alien dashboard wobblers. And if this place isn’t enough for the sci fi/fantasy nerd, only two stores down is the Escapist comic book store also owned by Dark Carnival’s owner. Unfortunately, I only had time to look briefly through it and so didn’t purchase anything there. Maybe the next time.

Next post I’ll have more about my imprint logo thats icon I am just finishing up on. I may even have a photo of it by then.

Do you know of any other good bookstores that specialize in science fiction and fantasy, used or new? Feel free to list your responses in the box below.

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Celebrating the Summer of the Loving Dead

Abstract skulls, flowers and candy.

This summer has been a 50th anniversary for the Summer of Love but it’s also been a summer of the loving dead. The latter began with my work on the “Circa Sixty Years Dead” paperback edition and it has continued with this weekend’s Zombie Walk here in Sacramento.

Sacramento Zombie Walk and Carnival of the Dead

Today was the 17th annual Zombie Walk for Sacramento. But I only attended the pre-Zombie Walk Carnival of the Dead, yet hardly even that. There were a lot of neat games and booths there, not to mention costumes of the living dead. However, it was so damn hot on this 104-degree fahrenheit Saturday afternoon/early evening that I didn’t stay for much more than an hour. I’m surprised the heat didn’t do a further job on the zombies’ already rotted skin and flesh! But the event was a knock-out and, though I wasn’t there for it, the actual walk really turned out to be a knock-out! The undead really gave it to the alt-right and they didn’t even have to be in San Francisco to do it. Check out the video coverage on it at Sacramento Zombie Walk’sFacebook page. It's the post that reads "Oh no protesters at the Zombie Walk!"

Summer of ‘Circa Sixty Years Dead’

All summer I’ve been working on the paperback edition of my short horror story, “Circa Sixty Years Dead” and finally, just last week, I got the final version of it out. As I said last time, I improved the book cover but now I’ve seen the proof of that improvement with my “proof” copy that came in the mail earlier this week. So, it’s now confirmed that the excessive pixelation of the title’s lettering and of the goddess statue are gone, and that nasty line that ran along the left edge is also out.

Like I said, for much of the summer I’ve been working on the paperback edition and it’s seemed to be a process of trial and error but one that has paid off. The process included writing the back cover summary, trying different file formats for the manuscript, releasing the book only to find out the cover was greatly flawed, and re-releasing it with the corrected cover. It’s been a long, trying process but also a worthwhile learning experience. That’s what self-publishing is all about, trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t. Kind of like writing itself, isn’t it?

Well, because I had goofed on the book cover the first time and only found out this past week with hardcopy proof that the second shot at it worked, I am still offering the paperback version for the low price of $3.89. In this way I will celebrate both the paperback release of “Circa” and this Summer of the Loving Dead all the way through the end of the month. So if you haven’t bought your copy yet then do it now because the end is almost here!

Next week: more about my imprint logo and maybe more writing tips and a mini book review.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, August 20, 2017

‘Circa’ Now With an Improved Book Cover; Imprint Logo; Joe Hill

While we still have some daylight this weekend before the solar eclipse, let me show you my past week in writing, viewing and even drawing. These include advice from son of Stephen King, author Joe Hill and the improved book cover for the paperback version of “Circa Sixty Years Dead”.

Joe Hill Interview on You Tube

This afternoon, after watching my Saturday morning (vintage) cartoons on YouTube (actually one was a live-action kids sci fi series from the seventies, Space Academy ), I watched an interview with NOS4A2 author Joe Hill. He had a lot of interesting things to say about his writing and useful techniques he uses for it. One of those techniques I’d like to try with my own stories, which helps both story and character development. That technique, he says, is taking a character from a larger work in progress and writing a separate, shorter story around it just for the sake of developing the character. That’s a technique that I can definitely use since I often struggle trying to write the first draft of a story due to not knowing my characters well enough yet. For these and many other great topics Joe discusses, check out the interview below.

Sketching An Imprint Logo

Whether a self-published author realises it or not, he or she is a publishing business. But to make this more official and known to others, that author needs publicised business promotional materials such as a business card. A self-publisher may be a small business but a business nevertheless. There is a term for small publishing companies and that is “imprint”. “Imprint” actually refers to the subsidiary of a large publishing house, but it has been used interchangeably for self-published authors. Lately, I’ve been drawing concept sketches for the logo for my imprint, which I’m strongly planning on calling “Far Out Phantastic Press”. That is, if I can fit all that on the business card.

One of the implications of graphic design is having to consider the space of the surface or medium you want to put the content on and whether it will fit without sacrificing important details. For example, originally I wanted to angle the lettering of the imprint name in order to give the effect that it was stretching back into space so it would reflect the literal meaning of “Far Out” (See first concept sketch below). However, I discovered it would not be practical in a small amount of space such as on a business card since the first two words of the imprint name would be too hard to read. So I decided to run the logo across the surface in a frontal position. Now I need to see if that can be done without having to make the lettering too tiny and therefore illegible. Here are a couple of concept sketches.

A concept sketch of part of an imprint logo with a skull for the brand icon at an angled position.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

A concept sketch of an imprint logo with a skull as the brand image (frontal position).
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

Revised Book Cover for ‘Circa Sixty Years’ Paperback

“CircaSixty Years Dead” paperback edition is now available with its improved cover. However, I only ordered my “proof” copy of it a couple days ago so I cannot say how improved the graphics are. But because I used the tools suggested by Kindle Direct Publishing to make the recommendedchanges, I’m expecting some significant improvement. You can purchase a copy now, [link] still only $3.89, or you can wait until yours truly makes the full test of the product and therefore receives his copy to tell you how it really turned out. That is, if Monday’s solar eclipse doesn’t turn out to be a bad omen causing the postal carriers to lose course in the dark. Because the poor cover of the first release of the paperback was at least partly my fault, I will leave the price at $3.89 through next weekend, maybe even through that following Monday. By then the solar eclipse will have been long done and so I should have received the print copy in the mail to tell you how it turned out.

I’ll have more about “Circa Sixty Years Dead” paperback edition and the name and image in my imprint logo next post.

Until then . . .