Pages

Sunday, 16 November 2014

An Interview with Rebecca Besser

Today FW are pleased to have author Rebecca Besser with us to talk about her newly re-released book: Undead Drive-Thru. 



FW: Hey, Rebecca, thanks for being here. Tell us a little about yourself.

RB: I’m the mother of a (soon to be) ten-year-old boy, and a wife of a little over thirteen years of marriage. I’m also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and a published author in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for various age groups and genres. I’m best known for my work in adult horror. And I think I’m turning into a “zombie chick,” since my I’ve turned back to the zombie genre with my Undead Series.

FW: So, Undead Drive-Thru, tell us about it, what’s it all about?

RB: Undead Drive-Thru is about a woman whose husband comes home from work bearing signs of being tied up and drugged. He dies in her arms and wakes up a zombie. She vows to protect him no matter what, because she still loves him.

Flash forward a bit… The woman with the zombie moves to another state and decides to renovate and re-open a rundown diner she’s received as an inheritance. She hires employees, and with the help of her nephew, tries to keep the zombie a secret.

It doesn’t go well… And the nephew has to decide whether to stay loyal to his aunt (who has gone off the deep end) or be a decent human being and try to protect innocent people from harm.

FW: And the over-arching series?

RB: The sequel, Undead Regeneration, will follow the lives of the survivors of Undead Drive-Thru as they try to find out the origin of what turn the man into a zombie in the first place. They do this while trying to maintain their relationship and their safety – not an easy task.

They get to the bottom of things, but tragedy strikes. They don’t know if they’ll have a future left after everything they’ve been through.

The prequel, Undead Origins, will go back and tell the man’s story before he arrived home to his wife and became a zombie.

FW: Tell us about the Undead Drive-Thru journey. It has already been published, was to be re-published, and now it’s being self-published. What happened?

RB: Indie presses and their drama is what happened. The press I originally had the book published with had issues because of some of the shady dealings of the owner. A lot of people boycotted their books, and sadly, my book was stuck there until the contract was over. I managed to absolve my contract early.

I then had the entire series planned out when another indie press showed interest. This time, the owner of the press had a public fit about finances, insulting the authors they’d signed because they wouldn’t’ renegotiate their contracts to help pay for the cost of publishing their own books. I hear now that the press is going to revamp their business this coming year – hopefully they’ll figure out how to keep it afloat. And hopefully, there won’t be any more toxic outbursts from the owner. If those continue, even with the business end under control, no decent writer will want to be published there.

The decision to self-publish is established on the basis that I know how to edit, format, and produce books already from work I’ve done for indie presses in the past. I’m not going into this blind or stupid. I’m just hoping to do the best I can for my titles, knowing that there isn’t going to be this variable in another person who is going to do something stupid and cause people not to buy my books. I won’t have to worry about someone else’s actions affecting my sales.

The first release has a decent amount of great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so I’m hoping the book will sell itself once people read it and share their enjoyment of the title with their friends. And, obviously, I’ll do my best to reach as many new readers as possible.

FW: And what else is in the works?

RB: Nurse Blood, my first full-length novel, is being reviewed by agents currently. As I would like to have an agent so I can focus more on writing. I’m currently writing Undead Regeneration, so it can be released in 2015. After that will be Undead Origins or the sequel to Nurse Blood (Blood Trail).

FW: Do you have any particular writerly habits? Listen to music? Shut yourself away?

RB: No, I don’t have any particular habits, unless you want to count me telling my inner editor to “Shut the hell up and let me write!” as one. I do tend to like peace and quiet when I write and edit. I can do either with distractions if I really try or have to though.

FW: With your horror writing, do you write what scares you?

RB: I’m actually extremely hard to scare, so that would be difficult. If I ever write about sharks, you know I’m writing about something that actually scares me. ;)

I tend to try to feed off of the fears that come naturally to humanity in general, like helplessness and hopelessness. There isn’t always going to be a happy ending and not everyone is going to live through the bad things that happen.

FW: Anything else you would like to mention?

RB: Yes, there is! I’m giving away two signed copies of Undead Drive-Thru (one first and one second edition) to one lucky winner of my re-release giveaway! Three runners up will win signed copies of just the second edition!

Look for official rules and how to enter on my blog:




FW: Thanks for coming in Rebecca. Good luck with the release!

You can find out more about Rebecca at her blog, here, or follow her on Twitter, here. We've had the pleasure of reading some of Rebecca's work previously, and you can read our reviews of Hall of Twelve and Cursed Bounty here and here.

But enough of that! You want to buy the book, right?

It's available in ebook from Amazon US and UK. Here are the links:

Undead Drive-Thru (US)

Undead Drive-Thru (UK)

Friday, 14 November 2014

My Journey of Many Halves 5: Bringing it home...

So Shutter Speed is out. Redemption is out. The Hand parts 1 and 2 are out.

I'm currently writing two novels. At the same time.

Lesson 8: Don't write two novels at the same time. It might sound obvious, but I thought it would work. I could move between them. Keep my mind focussed. Oh dear God. No. Oh, and I was trying to write The Hand part 3: Celestials at the same time. Doesn't work. Not for me. Plots get confused. I was confused. I had no sense of achievement. As we speak, two projects shelved temporarily, one novel first draft, and I'm on act III.

So, I thought, The Hand. Why doesn't it sell? Well, the reason is that the cover looked like this:



Bit shit, yeah?

So I changed it. Both that and part 2.



It's amazing what happens to sales when you put a decent cover on a book.

But I know. Covers can be expensive. But here I am, reading and learning and understanding the legal side of stock images. Again: keeping costs down by doing it myself.

So, sales are on the up, I'm writing, I've got work in the bag. It's on shelves. But I sit and look at my back catalogue. I have a lot of back work, short stories, that I am now out of contract on. I sort of ignored them after they were published. So I started up the spreadsheet, did some math. I have 90K words of shorts that I have the rights to. So what do I do?

The choices three:
  1. I can submit them to open calls, much as I did the first time they were published, if they fit and the publishing house accepts re-prints.
  2. I can sit on them and do nothing.
  3. I can self-publish them in a single tome, as my collected works.
Remembering that I have the rights to the Human Condition back, I already have an anthology in my possession of previously unreleased work.

I decided not to try and have them re-printed in anthologies. I don't know why. It just felt...wrong? So using all my new skills, I re-edit the whole lot. I format. Cover art. I self publish. (Just done, in fact).

So, the future?

I'm here. Now.

The Human Condition was re-edited by Eden Royce and Rebecca Besser. Two of the best editors I know. It is sitting with a press, and I have my fingers crossed. I'm writing solidly. The future?

I'm writing a dark Sci-fi called "Trinity". It's by far the best work I have put out. Once it's done I'll try to find a publishing house for it. I have another novel half written, "Vampire Blue". More of my Hell Noir material. That one I might try and agent.  And of course, The Hand goes on.

The past?

Should I have made different decisions? Of course. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But would I?

HELL NO.

I have three novel length books out and another with hope. I'll have another in the bag by the end of the year, and another, hopefully, by April next. My journey has taught me. I have made friends in the struggle, and found love.

It is me.



***






Murder and madness, monsters and monstrosities, here within lies a collection of tales each too terrifying to be told alone.

Meetings in heaven, deals in hell, SMALL CUTS itch, but dare they be scratched?

From the acclaimed author of SHUTTER SPEED, REDEMPTION, and THE HUMAN CONDITION comes 27 stories of desire, hate, love and death.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

My Journey of Many Halves 4: A Home for a Novel, or Maybe two...?

Right. Where was I?

Ah yes.

I feeling pretty good at this point. I am ready to start shopping around Shutter Speed, and Charles is shopping around Redemption. Things are on the up. Except sales for The Devil's Hand. But with that, it doesn't seem to matter what I do. I'll turn it around one day.

Finding a home for a novel.

So, do I find an agent, or do I find a Publishing House. I nominated a Publishing House. I've been writing for years, but I am still learning my trade. Particularly novel length work. (I'm not saying I know everything about short stories. If I did I'd be rich.) I don't consider my work to be ready. Why? Confidence. Straight up confidence. Should you agent your first novel? Don't ask me. Maybe. That's on you.

Lesson 5: Finding a Publishing House for a novel is a slow process. Even with small presses, and new presses, the turn around time on a novel is - can be - vast. Having just finished writing something as monumental as your first novel, you want people to read it, of course. Well, you might have to wait 3 months for someone to read the first chapter. Or six. Or twelve. Or more.

So I put it out there.

With confidence as it is I start with what I thought of as mid-level submissions. Publishers who had a track record, but weren't big six, as such. Some that I had see people work with and some that I had researched.

Lesson 6: Follow Submission Guidelines and write a good letter. Having dragged myself through the short story submissions of my early days I am lucky enough to be able to follow guideline submissions with ease. It is something you learn hard and fast when submitting to anthologies, and you get used to the idea they are all slightly different. BUT THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT. Then you have to write a submissions letter. Some guidelines will tell you what they want from the letter some won't. There are plenty of websites that will advise you on content. My winning letter? I got lucky. I sidestepped it. I queried a Publishing House from an online form about submission periods and was fortunate enough to strike up a dialogue with the owner. He asked for the first five chapters, and the rest was history. In fact, the novel was snapped up. Wheels turned quicker by this lucky meeting than I could have wished.

The letter I was using was polite. Personalized first paragraph addressing the press, a couple of blurbs about my other work, synopsis, polite finish.

Which leads me to:

Lesson 7: Keep notes, keep on top, keep informed. I was submitting to Publishing Houses that accepted simultaneous submissions. This means I am submitting my work to many places at the same time. Shutter Speed was picked up and I was over joyed. Within hours of the contract being signed (I read this one much more carefully, and I queried sections I was unsure of), it was plastered over social media. My "baby" had a home. Everyone rejoiced. Except I got an email from a Publishing House. One I had simultaneously submitted to. I was, probably is still, one of the most important emails I ever received.

It was like an email from a friend. I was congratulated on publishing my novel. Then in the most polite way possible I was advised that before I start shouting on social media about my publication, I should inform other presses that it had been accepted. It was the polite and professional thing to do. It used the term BURNING BRIDGES. And it was right. Not only did it teach me a valuable lesson, but the close of the email asked if I would give the press "a first exclusive peek", "love to see another novel from you in the future", and " feel free to pitch something to me any time".

They had given me invaluable advice, and a confidence boost. I was on top of my game suddenly.

Then Charles informed me he had a bite on Redemption. I had another contract to read. He'd found us a home.

It was all happening.

And then out of the blue I got contacted about my short story collection captured in contractual hell. It freed me. A single, short, sharp, email releasing me from my contract.

Shutter Speed was coming out. Redemption had contractual negotiations. The Human Condition was mine again.

OMG.

Tomorrow: One comes out, two comes out, I find out why The Hand doesn't sell. Another Book? Oh, my!


***




Jimmy Tasker is an ordinary child. He loves to take pictures: has an eye for it. When some common bullies take things too far, Jimmy ends up burned… and different. It starts when his father is killed in a mysterious house fire.

Him and his mother move away… change names… disappear.

Some years later a group of friends are finding it tough. They are unemployed, short of cash, and one of them comes up with a great idea. A robbery. But they are a rag-tag bunch, and Steve declines, leaving the other three, a misogynist, an addict, and poor, easily led Peter, to pull off the ‘robbery of the century’.

But Jimmy is still in there, somewhere…

… and he’s killing for fun.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

My Journey of Many Halves 3: Enough Parts Out to Call it a Series, and Turning One Thing into Another

The Devil's Hand Part 2: Conviction, written and ready.

This time I decided to pick up the ball and run with it on my own. I edited my own work. I formatted my own work. I created my own cover (bit shit).

I released it: same price as the first one. Then I needed to drop the price of Crossing Guard to free.

Lesson 4: Amazon will not charge what you want it to. Unsurprisingly, Amazon, being a company, want to make money. So I've decided as a marketing ploy to make my book free. Hold on. That doesn't work for them. I mean, if I have a shop, do I want to give products away for free? No. Obviously.

So Crossing Guard was free on Smashwords, and Amazon was still charging. I tried the known tricks to get Amazon to drop the price. I had people report it as free and link to Smashwords. But no cigar.

Sales? Still damningly low.

Maybe The Hand wasn't as good as I thought? Hm.

Still I will strive.

Anyway:

Redemption, a novella collection I had written with author Charles Day came back from another Publisher. Same story each time. "We like it... but it would be better as a novel."

Okay. Two authors, 3000 miles apart. How hard can it be to meld a collection into a novel?

THIS HARD.

Turning a collection of your own work into a single work is hard. But trying to get multiple peoples work together, with multiple people involved is near impossible. Perhaps if it was to be novel from the start? Who knows.

It was hard on us. Not just as authors, but as friends.

But it got done. Finally, novel length work is complete. Charles starts the work on getting it out to Publishers. That was work off me, thankfully.

So I plow forward.

Finish the first draft of Shutter Speed.

And then the second.

Third.

Muck with it.

It is ready.

Tomorrow: Trying to find a publishing house for a debut novel and taking Traditional Publishing to a new level.


***




Jessica won’t stay dead. And when she comes for you, it’s already too late….

When old friends Al and Benny hit the town for their usual alcohol-fuelled binge, things go wrong when Al insists on driving home. All the while, young Jessica is cycling along their dangerous route home. When the three collide, Jessica is left for dead and the men hide the evidence.

But what happens when the dead don’t stay dead?

 Risen from beyond, driven by a vengeful rage and wielding an unnatural command over nature, Jessica leaves behind a relentless trail of suffering and destruction as she seeks out the two men responsible for the evil she became…. Redemption is supernatural horror at its finest and, just like Al and Benny, you won’t see the terror coming for you until it’s too late.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

My Journey of Many Halves 2: Self Pub Sales and the Traditional Contract

So, The Hand is out.

First Quarter Sales are in.

Hm.

First Quarter sales are not what I expected. I've never done this before. I didn't really know what to expect. But I expected... more? I set my expectations low. I did it on purpose, so as not to be too disappointed. And I priced it cheap. 99c. It was good. I know this. But even my lowest expectations had been limbo'd under.

So what went wrong?

Lesson 2: Books don't "just sell", and people owe you nothing. "Why should you buy my book?" That was what hit me in the face.

So I'd done something wrong. Clearly.

But I put it behind me. No problem. I did some research. "Write part two," it said, "then make part one free. The sales will roll in..."

So I start on part two. But, meanwhile...

The Human Condition: A collection of short stories.

It had been sitting at a publishing house for a while and I got an email. It said something along the lines of "congratulations" and had a contract attached.

A CONTRACT.

The turn over time wasn't bad. I had only waited a couple of months. Things were looking up. I mean, very up. I knew how to self publish successfully (in theory, anyway), and traditional publishing had knocked on the door.

I was going to be a famous author.

I opened the contract. I started reading. Like I said before, I'm smart. How could this go wrong? Skip to the finances - the meat - percentages, copies, ebook release, etc. It all looked good. Signed and returned.

And Wait.

The contract was with a press that I had worked with previously with anthologies. I sort-of knew the owner.

It went into editing, and I was asked about a cover. What did I want? What should it look like? Here: I was given an artists mock up. It was good. I mean WILDEST DREAMS GOOD.

You couldn't stop me from bouncing off the ceiling.

Cover came in. OMG. It was awesome. Book comes out of editing. Waiting a place on the release schedule. Eep!

And then contact stops.

Um. Excuse me? I mean, I'm the next Shakespeare, right?

But it didn't just stop for me. Everyone seemed to be having problems contacting the press.

What was going on?

And that was that. Publicity started, ball rolling, I had started shouting "look at me", and then it disappeared. But I didn't know where.

Lesson 3: Understand your contract and what it means. The publishing house never went out of business, per se, The contract was still legally binding. I think. And that was the problem.

I'm no contract lawyer. I didn't know where I stood.

I didn't understand my contract.

I wanted to scream bloody murder, but it was my own fault. I've said it before. It was all on me. And then the months started to pass. I looked at my contract. I think I understood it. From my gathering I was tied for 5 years. I'd lost my book for five years. And to compound it? The publisher was in a different country to me. I didn't even understand the laws.

I was starting to feel sunk.

It was at this point I was at a low. Nothing selling. Work lost. But with a little help from my friends I continued.

My story wasn't finished. I have more to add.

And all the while the writing of my first novel Shutter Speed was coming to an end, and the novella collection was still out with publishers. I finished writing part two of The Hand.

Tomorrow: Two books in the series released, sales figures in, and market forces... what to do?


***





The Devil's Hand returns with old problems and new. Someone more powerful has escaped to Melbourne, and Darin still can't find those journals.

Follow The Hand as he struggles to find what is lost, whilst he uncovers something far greater than he could have imagined, something maybe even he cannot overcome...

Maybe the end of everything...

Conviction is part two of The Devil’s Hand series, a dark fantasy with spatters of humor and a dash of inter-dimensional romance.

Monday, 10 November 2014

My Journey of Many Halves 1: Self Publishing

This is my journey through self publishing and traditional publishing spanning the last three years. It is edited for content to cut out the boring parts, but each key decision is there: Good or bad. Hopefully it will help you understand me, and perhaps guide you in considering your own choices moving forward. I have largely kept names out because it is all about the choice of the author. Me.

It is all on me.

There are many advocates for both sides of the publishing coin. I know personally many people who have self published, swear by it, and have no consideration for traditional publishing. On the flip side I know just as many people who wouldn't shake a stick at self publishing. Well, I've tried them both.

I'm not going to say which I think is better. Not here. I'm just going to share my experiences. You can decide.

I take my first steps after I had some success in short stories, anthologies in print work mostly, all through traditional small presses. I had submitted my work and been judged on it.

I thought I knew what I was doing.

Boy, was I wrong...

The Devil's Hand, Novella Series, Part 1, written and ready.

Planned and plotted, The Hand was always going to be my "baby". I had always intended to self publish it periodically, and take full responsibility for everything (and I mean everything) in the process.

This was my first stumbling block.

When self publishing I had to arrange editing, covers, formatting, etc. All myself. Okay. Fine. I'm more than IT literate. I'm smart. I'm artistic. No problem.

I have worked with an editor, Eden Royce, many times, and scored a "free" edit.

Lesson One: Expect nothing for free. No matter how well you know someone, you cannot (read: shouldn't) ask people with talents (especially when in the same boat as you) to work for free.

However, exchange is no robbery.

I can proof read, format, etc. I exchange work where I have to.

Having friends when self publishing is a really good idea. I cannot emphasis this enough.

So, editing done, formatting done, I need to put down a cover. So I did.

I arted.

Problem. With my lack of experience, not necessarily a lack of artistic skills, I had no idea what I was doing. Nor how important a book cover was.

"NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER" IS A LIE.

So, The Hand, e-booked out. Opinion dictates that it is an awesome little story, written and edited well. Cover? Bit shit.

Then the hard work starts, for me at least.

Marketing.

I know people who market themselves really well. I mean, really well. And I've found that marketing yourself is half of the marketing with a self published book. I'm not that person. I struggle to market myself. To "get out there". But I try.

So the book's out. The marketing has begun.

This endeavour:

Pro's:
I maintain artist control; I know where sales are at; I keep "ownership" of my work; The money is all mine.

Con's:
I maintain artist control with no one to tell me I'm doing it wrong; I have no support from a brand or company; I have to pay for everything myself;

So basically: It's all on me.

At this point, I have learned nothing from my attempt. The road less travelled just has my foot firmly upon it.

At this point I have other things in the works. The Human Condition, a collection of short stories is sitting with a Publishing House, my first novel Shutter Speed is half way through first draft, and a novella collection I have written with another author is complete.

Tomorrow: First quarter sales are in and a publishing house slides a contract across the table...



***




One is a killer. One is the right hand of the Devil. Which is worse?

Angela Mitchell hates her life. When debonair stranger, Marcel, turns up in her library one night things look to be on the up. But neither of them saw Darin in the shadows.

Angela certainly never saw Hell coming to earth. 

When Marcel and Darin clash, Angela is dragged through the sulfur stench of Hades, has to fight for her life, and drinks wine. Lots of wine.

Crossing Guard is part one of the Hell Noir series: The Devil’s Hand, a dark fantasy with spatters of humor and a dash of inter-dimensional romance.




Friday, 26 September 2014

Reasons to Write Horror: My first job.

I once worked for the government. It was my first job. I worked in a little town called Ramsgate. I was a temp. But no, of course, I wasn't called a "temp". That's was too common. I was an Administration Assistant. I didn't do administration. I didn't assist.

I filed. 

I was a filing clerk. 

(The irony is not lost on me that I called this blog, FilingWords. I must change that one day.)

That was my job. It was a thankless, minimum wage, task. I turned up on my first day in a suit. Everyone looked at me kind of funny. Like, who's the kid in the suit? Did head office send us another one...? I stood outside and waited. As it was governmental, you couldn't get in until the place was open unless you had one of those numbers you punched into the pad. They all looked suspiciously at me as I waited. 

Everyone was wearing jeans. 

Not customer facing, you see. Doesn't matter what you wear. That day, my first day, was the last time I wore a suit to that place.

I got in, eventually, and was "inducted" by a man who looked like Penn Jillette, apart from being bald on top (but still with a pony tail) and who looked like he had been in a motorcycle accident and slid down the road face first. He talked about things like "time keeping" and "cogs" and something about "ingredients". 

He didn't ask me if I knew my alphabet. I thought that might have been important. (After a month or so, I realized that my predecessor clearly didn't, so it was a superficial skill.)

I worked there for three months before management changed around and Penn was replaced by a short, fat, Burt Reynolds-a-like. A week later I had the keys to a four story office block, and was instructed to attend at six-thirty in the morning to unlock the building. 

I was to walk floor to floor and check there had been no break ins, and then begin my day. The windows were regularly left open, and there was no alarm system. I was young. Stupid. I took it in my stride and kept my head down. The timesheet I had to fill in didn't allow me put down that I started at that time. "Flexi-time" didn't start until eight. So my Department Manager made up my hours. 

It would have been a wonderful alibi should I want to murder someone.

I did that job every day. That, and filing.

The "temps" were whittled down over time. Originally there was one - or more - in every department, and with each new month, they were let go. Replaced by permanent staff, with recruitment policies that meant that we couldn't even be guaranteed an interview for our own job.

Eventually, there was just me. 

I was the sole temp in the office building. I liked my Department Manager, Clive. He had fought for me. He knew that losing me would not be in benefit to the department. I was worth the pittance they paid me.

And then the call came through. Clive got up and came over to me. He stood over my desk, and said, "Burt Reynolds would like to see you."

The office fell silent. Everyone knew what it meant. Burt had never so much as tipped his hat to me before, and now I was summoned to his office. 

It was over.

I sat, opposite Burt, as he told me that he was saddened to lose me, (not saddened enough to keep me, though) and went through the papers to dismiss me. I had one weeks notice, that they wanted me to work. And then I was free.

Then Burt decided that he was delivering bad news and should lighten the moment, I suppose. He told me a story that has stuck with me my whole life. A story I remember from over twenty years ago.

He related to the fact that I rode a kick start motorcycle. He used to have one. He told me of a time he stalled his bike at a set of traffic signals, and in kick starting it in a hurry, the kick bar slipped up his trousers and he fell over. 

I think he was trying to be funny.

Never before, nor since, have I wanted to kill a man telling a joke so much. Someone who in an attempt to console a young man receiving news that he had never heard before, decided to relay a story of how he fell from a stationary bike.

I have never forgotten Burt's face as he joked about that. While sitting in his office. With his well paid job. In his leather chair.

And in my mind, a swirl of questions about my future.

I have killed Burt a thousand times over...

... on paper, of course.