Ros Barber may not be an elitist assclown, but she sure comes off as one.

Let’s be clear. I’ve never met Ros Barber, as far as I know and can recall. Since she’s an academic and poet living in England, I’m probably pretty safe saying we’ve never met, but there are these great things called airplanes that take people across the great big waters and there is a chance we’ve met and I just don’t remember it. But i really don’t think so. So I don’t know the lady. She’s probably a perfectly fine human being. I doubt she kicks puppies or takes away walkers from old people or tosses children’s ice cream cones on the ground or does anything generally despicable.

What she has done, as have many writers for The Guardian in the past, is written a clickbaity article decrying self-publishing as a viable career path for writers and generally insinuated that self-published writers are less talented, less skilled, and generally less writerly than other writers.

And people that are generally intelligent are taking her word as gospel, and that’s a shame. Because, like I said, these people are generally intelligent, but may have blinders on about some realities of the writing world today. So I decided to take a close look at Ms. Barber’s article and apply the filter of my own experiences to it. I don’t know if I’ll go point by point, because frankly, I may get bored and may have to go actually, you know, write at some point today, since that’s how I make my living and feed my family. I don’t have the backup of writing pissy articles for a website or teaching at a university to cover my living expenses, I have to do it through my fiction writing, unlike Ms. Barber.

Before I begin, I want to say this – self-publishing isn’t for everyone. For a lot of people it’s not the right choice for a variety of reasons. But to deride it as a viable career choice is frankly bullshit, and to make every self-published author out to be an unskilled writer with a lifestyle more akin to carnival barker than storyteller is unfair, uninformed, and makes you sound like an elitist assclown.

  1. “You Have to Forget Writing for a Living” – right out of the gate, Ms. Barber talks bout how much time is spent promoting a self-published book, or series of books. She jumps right into the deep end, talking about how self-pub writers spend 90% of their time on promotion, and only 10% of their time writing. Let’s look at my typical work day to provide an example of how much time in a day I spend on book promotion.

Wake Up – 7-8AM – I’m generally in front of my computer answering emails and eating breakfast by eight each morning. I spend the hours from 8-10 usually goofing off on Facebook, answering emails, putting out fires either with books in production, projects coming up from Falstaff Books, or just watching cat videos.

Write – 10-11AM – I usually shoot for about an hour of actual writing each morning. That gets me 1,000 words on the page in the morning, and that’s pretty decent.

More email/Facebook – 11AM-Noon – also frequently means editing something for Falstaff, doing a cover design, working on a book layout, working on a calendar of releases, confirming travel details, whatever.

Lunch – Noon-1PM – Suzy and I try to have lunch together, and I try to stop staring at the computer screen for an hour.

1PM – 2PM – Answer emails, finish up pre-lunch business

2PM – 3PM – Write – the goal is to get another 1,000 words in after lunch.

3PM – 5PM – Edit, work on covers, check in with my partners at Falstaff about their ongoing and upcoming projects, help Suzy lift a few heavy things out in the yard, maybe do a little prep work for a convention if there’s one coming up that weekend. Make sure I have inventory ready for upcoming conventions, and start looking at/booking conventions for 2017. We’ll call that 30 minutes of convention work “promotion.” 

5PM – 6PM – Read for revisions and sometimes in the evenings I try to get another 1,000 words in.

I honestly spend perhaps half an hour each day on real promotion of my work, plus an hour on weekends setting up social media posts for the week. That equates to roughly 3.5 hours out of the let’s call it 50 hours each week that I work. That’s about 7% of my time spent promoting. 

I try to write for two hours each day, and some days I get an extra hour, so we’ll guess that I write for about 12 out of the 50 hours I work. That’s 24% of my time spent writing.

What happens to the other 69% of my time? Well, 3-4 hours each day are spent working on one of three businesses I run – a publishing company, a lighting sales rep company, and a Magic card sales company. And I watch a lot of cat videos on the internet. So just like at your job, not everything I do in a day results in words on a page. Sometimes I write long blog posts.

2. “Self-Publishing can make you act like a fool” – So can being hired to write for The Guardian. Yes, lots of people behave like jackasses on social media. Let me introduce to a gentleman named Rob Gronkowski. Moving on.

3.  “Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego” – I had a lot of snarky responses about saving me from the ego of PhDs with accents, but deleted them because that’s not where I want to go. Let’s just say that agents and acquisitions editors are not the arbiters of taste or quality writing. They are looking to buy books that sell, not necessarily books that are brilliantly written. So the gatekeepers that will save you from your own ego? We call those readers. And if they don’t like a book, they won’t buy it. Or worse, they will, and they’ll leave savage reviews everywhere to save other readers from their pain. So yes, gatekeepers will save you from yourself, but not the gatekeepers you think.

4. “Good writers become good because they undertake an apprenticeship. Serving your apprenticeship is important. – In some ways I actually agree with this, although not at all with the feudalist in which it is phrased. You do need to learn to write before you self-publish a novel. And you can best learn to write by writing a lot of terrible shit that is unworthy of publication. And some of us do that by blogging for half a decade and writing 400+ semi-journalistic poker articles before we branch out into fiction. Some people just write a good book the first time. You don’t get to decide who’s good enough, or educated enough, or talented enough – the readers do. This is the core educational elitism that i take issue with. Just because you’re an award-winning poet with a PhD doesn’t mean you’re qualified to judge anything about my self-published work. I’m an award-winning poet with the word “Publisher” behind my name on my business cards, and I still don’t get to tell you anything more about the works of Christoper Marlowe than you get to tell me about computerized theatrical lighting control systems (unless you’re also an expert on those, which it doesn’t mention in your bio).

5. You can forget Hay Festival and the Booker – so can every genre fiction writer in the world. Stephen King and George R.R. Martin give not a single fuck about those prizes. And frankly, Pat Conroy did pretty well writing literary fiction without ever winning any of those awards. So write what you want, and fuck awards.

6. You risk looking like an amateur – only to elitist assclowns. Readers who see me at a table with Faith Hunter, Gail Martin, David Coe, A.J. Hartley or any of my other traditionally published friends can’t tell the difference between my self-published paperbacks and their traditionally published paperbacks. The only people who give a shit are writers, and mostly wannabe writers.

7. “70% of Nothing is Nothing” – True. You might not make any money as a self-published author. You might lay out a grand to get your book edited, get a decent cover, get it proofed and converted, and then maybe make less than a thousand dollars off the book. You might also get a $5,000 per book advance from a traditional publisher, give 15% of that to your agent, get your book published and on the shelves in local bookstores, then not sell worth a fuck and get dropped from your contract before book 3 in the series comes out. Then you’ve got $4,250 per book, a series you can’t finish, and years of your life you can’t get back when you could have been writing something else.

Or you could bust your ass and make a living. I do. I don’t make a glamorous living. I’m not living in a mansion, but I make my mortgage payments. I don’t drive a Mercedes, but my truck will be paid off this year. I don’t eat caviar, but I don’t miss any meals, either. So if you want it, it’s out there. But you have to want it. And you have to be willing to work harder than anyone else, because that’s what small business owners do. And if you don’t look at your writing career as being a small business owner, then you’re not ready to have a writing career, no matter how you plan to publish.

Writing is hard. Writing novels is hard. Selling books is hard, and anybody that tells you they’ve got a silver bullet for you is a fucking liar, and keep your hand on your wallet while you talk to them. But don’t shit on anybody else’s dream just because you can’t make a living at this. Don’t spout your barely-researched half-“truths” because you wanted to write poetry and literary fiction, but you were too scared to take the leap, so you got a job teaching “to fall back on.”

If you want to be a writer, be a fucking writer. if you want to encourage people to choose a career path you love, go for it. But don’t look in from the outside with no experience and tell the world that one path is the wrong path just because you’re afraid of looking stupid and trying it. If you don’t have to guts to jump, don’t stand at the bottom of the high dive platform and tell everyone on the ladder they’re stupid. Buy a ticket, sit in the stands, and applaud the bravery of others. Or suck it up and jump in the pool.

Rant over.

John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the author of the EPIC-Award-winning series The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, the Bubba the Monster Hunter series of short stories and novellas, the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter novella series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad anthology series, among other projects.

In 2016, John teamed up with a pair of other publishing industry ne’er-do-wells and founded Falstaff Books, a small press dedicated to publishing the best of genre fictions “misfit toys.”

In his copious free time John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and playing Magic: the Gathering.

For samples of John’s ridiculous sense of humor, check out these free ebooks – http://bit.ly/1U8eASF

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Magic:The Gathering Sealed Deck Tech – PPTQ 4/24/16

So this post is for Magic nerds. Book nerds and writing nerds probably won’t understand half of what I’m saying. Oh well, it happens.

Yesterday I played a PPTQ (Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier) at a local comic & game shop. The format was sealed Shadows over Innistrad, which I have been enjoying greatly, and played with some success, and the field was very small, only 13 players. The format was to be four rounds of Swiss, with a cut to Top 8 and then Top 8 would draft and play single-elimination until a winner was determined. Winner got an entry into the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier, which comes with a limited-edition card (Snapcaster Mage) and a shot at getting onto the Pro Tour.

I felt pretty good about my chances to make Top 8. Really, I only needed to win two matches to do so, and as I opened my pool of cards to build from I saw that I had the most expensive card in the set, and one of the best cards in the set, in my pool – Archangel Avacyn.

My pool was fairly straightforward – I only had enough creature density in Green and White to build decks out of those two colors. I probably could have gone with a Blue/White deck if I was willing to stretch to get enough playable creatures, but I felt like my green cards were so good once I got delirium online, that green was the stronger play.

That was my first mistake. I was missing a couple of key delirium enablers, particularly Vessel of Nascency, and that made it just a little bit too hard to get delirium going. I really think that if you’re going to be as all-in on delirium as I was, that you need at minimum one, and probably two, green Vessels to make it happen.

But anyway, here’s the deck list I played –

Loam Dryad

Threaten Gargoyle

Stern Constable

Topplegeist

Moldgraf Scavenger

Obsessive Skinner

Autumnal Gloom

Paranoid Parish-Blade

Militant Inquisitor

Byway Courier

Runaway Carriage

Solitary Hunter

Intrepid Provisioner

Inspiring Captain

Pack Guardian

Archangel Avacyn

Reaper of Flight Moonsilver

Wicker Witch

Haunted Cloak

Eerie Interlude

Quilled Wolf

2x Aim High

Vessels of Ephemera

Warped Landscape

So there are a few things to notice here – 1) there’s not a removal spell in the deck. That’s a problem. It meant that if I fell behind and I couldn’t get Avacyn on the board, and get here to flip, I was fucked. And with a curve this low, if I stumbled out of the gate on mana or on threats, I got behind quick. Since I mulliganed to five two games and to six in three other games, you could say that I stumbled out of the gate a little. I ran 17 lands for a total of 41 cards, so I don’t think my man abase was the problem, but you have to account for variance in deck construction, and I didn’t.

Another thing you might notice are the cards that are just really mediocre if you can’t get delirium online. Reaper of Flight Moonsilver is a house of delirium is happening, but not really worth a shit otherwise. a 3/3 flyer for five mana just isn’t where I want to be in this set. Paranoid Parish-Blade is fine, he’s a 3/2 for 3 that gets +1/+0 and first strike with delirium, but I’d play him anyway. Runaway Carriage is just bad, and I was playing him just to have an artifact that was easy to get into the graveyard. But I had Wicker Witch for that, and it not only counts for two card types (artifact + creature) but it probably takes something with it when it dies. Ditto Thraben Gargoyle. I should have only played those two artifact creatures.

I also shouldn’t have played Haunted Cloak just to get the +1/+0 on Militant Inquisitor. Again, a 2/3 for 3 mana isn’t great, but he’s still a playable 19th-23rd card even if I can’t pump him, and the ability isn’t worth playing terrible equipment. Autumnal Gloom can be a trap card, and I fell right into it. if you have delirium, it flips into a 4/4 trample hex proof dude, and that’s significant. But again, without delirium, it’s pretty unplayable.

Stern Constable just doesn’t have enough impact, and I didn’t have any madness to turn on, so he was a bad call. And Eerie Interlude – yeah, that’s a constructed card. It’s very fringe useful in limited, but I misread the card and thought it could blink a bunch of my opponent’s creatures, which would have been way more effective.

So here are the cards I should have not played, in retrospect –

Autumnal Gloom

Runaway Carriage

Reaper of Flight Moonsilver

Haunted Cloak

Eerie Interlude

Stern Constable

Without any equipment, Militant Inquisitor gets put on the chopping block, too.

Upon looking back at my pool, G/W is still the only deck to build, unless I wanted to try to go three-color. I had fixing in U/R and U/W, so maybe there was a Jeskai build. Let’s see what that would look like.

Topplegeist

Threaten Gargoyle

Village Messenger

Insolent Neonate

Daring Sleuth

Ember-Eye Wold

Wicker Witch

Paranoid Parish-Blade

Apothecary Geist

Drown yard Explorers

Pyre Hound

Archangel Avacyn

2x Stormrider Spirit

Press for Answers

2x Inner Struggle

Gone Missing

2x Catalog

Uncaged Fury

Ongoing Investigation

Vessel of Ephemera

This makes a 40-card deck with a very different game plan, and I don’t know if I can stall long enough to get a couple of big flyers out there, but that’s kinda the plan. Basically this deck wants to get Insolent Neonate or Village Messenger out on Turn 1, following that up with Ongoing Investigation. I’d likely include 2 green mana sources to activate the investigation, but that might be too greedy. This deck plans on everything but Topplegeist dying early, using its removal and tempo cards carefully to make my weaker creatures trade up in combat, and then use Stormrider Spirits and Avacyn as finishers. This deck won’t ever go as wide as the first deck, but it might be a little better. I do think it’s more resilient, because the creature base in general is better initially than the first deck. The GW deck’s creatures are much better if I can make delirium happen, but that doesn’t always happen.

Or since I have UW fixing, maybe the answer should have been Bant. What does that look like?

Topplegeist

Threaten Gargoyle

Loam Dryad

Daring Sleuth

Hinterland Logger

Moldgraf Scavenger

Obsessive Skinner

Wicker Witch

Paranoid Parish-Blade

Apothecary Geist

Drown yard Explorers

Solitary Hunter

2x Stormrider Spirit

Archangel Avacyn

Ongoing Investigation

Gone Missing

Press for Answers

2x Catalog

Vessel of Ephemera

Aim High

 

I think that’s probably the deck I should have built. Flyers are strong, and the Stormrider Spirit is a house, especially if I can flash it in on Turn 4 with Loam Dryad. The power of Catalog is something I overlooked, because I was so focused on the delirium beatdown, and that was to my detriment. There were several games I would have won if I’d had enough horsepower to tussle with my opponent’s slightly larger creatures, and while the Bant deck doesn’t do that all that well, it has enough more reach and card draw than the GW deck I built to make me think it would have at least won me the one more match I needed to make Top 8.

So there’s an exceedingly long-winded explanation of my scrubbing out of a Magic tournament that I should have realistically made Top 4, if not won outright. Thoughts? Feel free to post them in the comments or hit me up on Facebook.

 

 

John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the author of the EPIC-Award-winning series The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, the Bubba the Monster Hunter series of short stories and novellas, the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter novella series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad anthology series, among other projects.

In 2016, John teamed up with a pair of other publishing industry ne’er-do-wells and founded Falstaff Books, a small press dedicated to publishing the best of genre fictions “misfit toys.”

In his copious free time John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and playing Magic: the Gathering.

For samples of John’s ridiculous sense of humor, check out these free ebooks – http://bit.ly/1U8eASF

 

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Autographed Books Make Great Gifts!

They really do. And I happen to have a few books lying around at the end of the convention season. So here’s what I’ll do – I’ll SELL THEM!

These are all paperback, unless otherwise noted, and all from my convention stock. There will probably be a bookmarks or two stuffed inside each book, and maybe a free download card or two tucked along. Prices do not include shipping, pay attention below for shipping options. I will ship books no later than 12/15 to insure delivery before Christmas (or at least the best I can), so orders have to be in by THIS SUNDAY, 12/13 at some arbitrary time like 6PM Eastern.

I will inscribe the books to whomever you’d like, and I’ll write pretty much anything in there you want, as long as it’s not offensive or truly dickish.

Here are the books I have on hand and the Holiday special pricing I’ll offer –

Black Knight Omnibus – collects Hard Day’s Knight, Back in Black, and Knight Moves – Cover Price $22.95 – Holiday Price – $20

Paint It Black – Black Knight #4 – $12.95 cover – Sale Price $10

In the Still of the Knight – Black Knight #5 – $12.95 cover – Sale Price $10

Black Knight Bundle – All 5 volumes – $40

The Big Bad II – Hardcover – Cover Price $30 – Sale Price $20

The Big Bad II – Paperback – Cover Price $15 – Sale Price $10

Scattered, Smothered & Chunked – Bubba Season #1 – Cover Price $15 – Sale Price $12.50

Grits, Guns & Glory – Bubba Season #2 – Cover Price $15 – Sale Price $12.50

Bubba Seasons #1 & #2 – $25

The Chosen – $10

Genesis – $10

Raising Hell – Quincy Harker #1 – $5

Straight to Hell – Quincy Harker #2 – $5

 

Some of these I have very limited quantities of, so they might sell out quickly. Like Genesis, I think I have one print copy. Bubba Season #2 I have three. So if you want something, don’t screw around. It’s an end-of-year inventory liquidation because I don’t want to have a lot of inventory for the next two months when I don’t have any shows.

Shipping – I will ship USPS Media Mail anywhere in the US for $5. If you need it faster, or a different way, or international, we’ll discuss shipping when I confirm the order.

Gift Shipping – Yeah, I’m happy to send these as gifts. Just allow enough time, and let me know it’s a gift.

All orders must be prepaid via paypal to johnhartness AT gmail DOT com.

Merry Christmas and Hannukah and stuff!

 

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Patreon, Conventions, and Why I Do Them Both

I’ve had a few people ask me how my Patreon campaign is working out for me, and my response is always pretty much the same. “It’s great. It brings in a little extra money each month, it lets me have more direct contact with some of my biggest fans, and it funds some of my convention travel. I can’t ask for much more than that.”

And that’s the deal. That’s the broad brushstrokes, thousand-foot view description of it. This post is about the details, because some folks have asked. BEWARE – there’s a lot of information here about how the sausage gets made as far as the life of a struggling midlist writer. If you just want to read cool books and don’t want much behind the scenes crap about finances and all that other stuff, click on one of the buttons at the top of the page, buy one of my books, and enjoy!

Still here? That probably means you’re either a real fan of mine and are counting on me to say something hilarious (probably unintentionally) or you’re a writer and are interested in the business side of things. So here we go, down the rabbit hole.

Patreon is a fundraising platform that allows creators (me) to connect with fans (you) to create ongoing funding streams for long-term projects like webcomics or podcasts, or series of other projects like music videos, or just support the creator with a monthly pledge to keep doing what you’re doing. Since I release new work almost monthly, I set my Patreon account to be a monthly funding source. This allows my fans and patrons to support me, and in exchange they get perks, kinda like Kickstarter rewards. My fans get early access to the stories, and they get the stories for free. So if you know you want to read everything I write, and you want to be the first one in your book club to read it, you can pledge to my Patreon and get it via email before anyone else.

So on the one hand, why would anyone pay for that from me? I don’t really know. I have a dozen or so patrons right now, some of them I know personally, some I’ve met once or twice, some I’ve never met. Could be they feel like they get more joy out of reading my work than the cost of the book. Could be they see me at conventions and really want me to continue to be able to travel and amuse them at cons, so they help fund that travel. Could be they just have more money than sense and want to support the arts in a more direct fashion than their local arts council allows them to do.

How much do I make? It varies as pledges get added and dropped, but it ranges from $75-100 each month. This year, that has so far totaled $947.44. Not an insignificant sum of money, but not rock star numbers, by any means. What does an extra thousand bucks a year mean to a midlist author?

For me, it means I go to Connooga and Con-Gregate. Straight up, those two conventions would not have made it onto my list in 2015 were it not for the extra money from Patreon. And I love both of those cons, and I sold like gangbusters and Con-Gregate this year. But they’re smaller shows, and I am guaranteed to lose money by attending those cons, almost no matter how well I sell. So without Patreon, those are two conventions in 2015 that would have been on the chopping block. For 2016, it would be Arisia and MystiCon, two shows I’m very excited about attending, but without Patreon money, wouldn’t be able to afford.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the convention circuit, just let it be known that I could be out of town every single weekend working a convention somewhere, and I am out of town about once a month doing a con. And I lose money on almost every single out of town convention I’ve ever done.

Want to take a second for that last sentence to sink in?

Want me to say it again?

I lose money on almost every single out of town convention I have ever done.

Wanna know what’s worse?

I’m better at selling books at conventions than 75% of authors out there. So most of the writers you see at conventions, unless they are listed as “Guest of Honor” or “Special Guest” are paying for the privilege of being there, knowing that it’s money we’ll never see back. So when people ask why I don’t run Facebook Ads, or do a lot of paid advertising, it’s because my marketing budget consists of convention attendance.

I’m a numbers guy, so here are some rough numbers –

Connooga – one of my worst cons of the year, sales-wise. I love the show, I love seeing all my friends, I love seeing my Tennessee fans, but I think after 2016 I’m taking a year off from the show because I’ve been there too many years in a row. The attendees have all my books, which means they aren’t buying anything at the show. If I give it a “breather year,” then the attendees have more time to be excited about seeing me again, and they’ll buy more stuff.

2015 Sales – 19 books totaling $230

Book Costs – $142

Net sales – $88

Hotel – $200

Gas – $60

Food/Booze – $150

Net for Convention – (-$322)

What could I have done to reduce costs? I split the room with my assistant and another friend. I don’t currently pay my assistant, so I should at worst cover his room. And my other friend picked up the tab for Congregate 2014 when I was out of work and really needed that help, so this was my payback to him. Going forward I could split the room, but after two people, three max, you see a point of diminishing returns on rest v. savings, so the most I would save there is $100. I could split the drive and gas costs, but food costs money, and I network over meals and in the bar, so those expenses aren’t going to budge much. I already travel with a cooler and sodas and Pop-Tarts for breakfast, so $150 for food and booze for three days is pretty damn good. Being super-frugal, I could reduce expenses on this show to where I’m only $200 in the hole, but that’s probably the best I can do.

And Connooga is just used here as an example of a small to mid-sized show that costs me gas, food, and a couple nights in a hotel room to do. You could change the year and substitute JordanCon, MystiCon or any of several other conventions into this slot. The point is, if I have to have a hotel, I have to either sell like a boss, or I lose about $200 just attending.

So let’s look at a con where I sold like a boss – Con-Gregate. I moved a ton of books at that show this year, a marked improvement over the (1) I sold in 2014. Here are the numbers –

2015 Sales – 37 books totaling $479.00

Book Costs – $287

Net Sales – $192

Hotel – $200

Gas – $30

Food/Booze – $150

Net for Convention – ($-188)

Same cost-saving measures here could have gotten me very close to breaking even. Or I could have sold more books, but most authors will tell you that selling close to $500 in a weekend is pretty damn good. In fact, Con-Gregate was my 4th-highest grossing show of the year! After a few years of doing this, the only way I can be in the black on a show at the end of the weekend is if I don’t have any hotel costs associated with the show. And even that doesn’t always cut it. By my reckoning, I lost $50 on MonsterCon this year, and I drove to and from Gaffney each day to do the show. I also spent more on food than I should have there, but there were extenuating circumstances. In other words, I wanted to.

Overall, I spent about $400 more than I made in 2015 on conventions, and that doesn’t include leftover stock, which I have tried very hard to keep to a minimum. So if I lose $500 every year (extrapolating and guesstimating moving forward), why do I keep going to conventions?

Well first, I love conventions. I love meeting fans, I love converting people to become fans, and I love meeting other writers and hanging out. I also really enjoy being on panels and pontificating about things I may not really know anything about.

Secondly, this is what I consider my marketing. I don’t do much direct email marketing right now, I don’t do much paid advertising, and I do limited swag, so this is where most of my marketing money goes.

And Patreon allows me to do it. If not for Patreon providing funding, I couldn’t have afforded to do the West Virginia Book Festival, which was a lot of fun, and my biggest sales show of the year.

So if you like seeing me at conventions, and want me to come to one in your area, hit me up. I’m always interested.  Here’s the 2016 Schedule – Tentative. I haven’t gotten confirmations on guest status as all of these yet, so everything is always subject to change until I arrive.

January 14-18 – Arisia – Boston, MA

February 19-21 – Connooga – Chattanooga, TN

February 26-28 – MystiCon – Roanoke, VA

March 2-5 – SouthEastern Theatre Conference – Greensboro, NC (completely different life, but if you’re there, we can hang out!)

June 3-5 – ConCarolinas – Charlotte, NC

June 17-19 – HeroesCon – Charlotte, NC

July 15-17 – Con-Gregate – High Point, NC

September 1-September 5-DragonCon – Atlanta

October 27-30 – World Fantasy Con – Columbus, OH

November 18-20 – Big Fandom Greenville – Greenville, SC

That’s nine conventions, not counting one-day signings and appearances. And we’re not into 2016 yet! So thanks to everyone who has given to the Patreon, I would never be able to plan this much travel without you!

 

 

 

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More Newsletter Cultivation

Facebook continues to dwindle as a way to connect with readers and bring new fans into the fold, so I’m going to continue pushing to grow my mailing list so that i can keep folks apprised of all my goings on. So here’s my new offer –

Sign up for my Mailing List and get Three FREE ebooks! 

That’s right, all you have to do it follow this signup link, do what it tells you, and then in a few days I’ll send you a link where you can download a free ebook!

Then the next month you’ll get my newsletter, and it’ll have a code in it for another free ebook.

Then for Christmas, I’ll send out another code, and you’ll get another free ebook!

So you get THREE FREE EBOOKS if you sign up now!

The first book you get will be Knight (Un)Life, a collection of Black Knight short stories.

Then you’ll get a Bubba book.

Then you’ll get a Harker book for Christmas!

So if you haven’t joined my email list, sign up now and get THREE FREE EBOOKS! If you’ve already signed up, refer a friend and get my undying gratitude (plus the TWO FREE EBOOKS all my subscribers will get).

Remember, this deal ends after Christmas, and you’ve got a lot of shit to do between now and then, so sign up now!

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Updates/Upcoming

Here’s a quickie for you about what’s going on and what’s coming up soon.

First, a new Bubba the Monster Hunter Novella just dropped yesterday. Moon over Bourbon Street is the beginning of Season 3, and the beginning of an arc of novellas featuring everyone’s favorite monster hunter. Check it out at Amazon or wherever you buy ebooks! Bourbon Street Cover

Then we’ve got the print edition of Grits, Guns & Glory, Bubba Season 2. It is FINALLY on the way, thanks to the layout talents of one Matthew J. Saunders, who helped me with the interiors and did a far nicer job than I ever could. So I’ll be using him or someone like him for future self-dubbed print projects. You’ll notice that GG&G has a different cover in print than it does in ebook, and that’s all about my Photoshop limitations. The cover I made for GG&G looked decent in thumbnail size on Amazon, and it looked okay in low-res, but it looked like flaming shit when I went hi-res for printing. So I took the image from Bad Moon Rising and built a new cover around that. Sometimes the best-laid plans, and all that. But here’s the print cover, and I think it turned out okay.

Bubba Season 2 Print Cover

 

There’s a LOT brewing on the audiobook front. First, all five Black Knight Chronicles books are now available on Audible, so if you’d rather listen than read, you can keep up with the adventures of Jimmy and Greg. Also, Bubba Season 1 should be available on Audible in mere days, followed shortly by Raising Hell, Harker #1. Harker #2, Harker #3, Bubba Season 2, AND Knight (un)Life, a Black Knight short story collection, are all in production. So there should be a lot of audio available between now and the first of the year.

I’m hard at work on Black Knight #6, about 2/3 of the way through the book, and I’m working on a new Harker novella for next month, so stay tuned for more releases.

 

 

 

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Newsletter Sign-ups – the push and the why

I’m making a big push right now to be more consistent with my newsletter, add value for subscribers, and increase the readership. To that end, on Halloween (October 31 – next Saturday) I’ll be giving away a free ebook of Grits, Guns & Glory, Bubba the Monster Hunter Season 2, to one lucky mailing list subscriber. All you have to do to enter is go here, fill out the form, and then you’re on the list!

Now I’m not the first author to make a mailing list push in recent months, and I won’t be the last. The reason is, Facebook has changed their algorithms again to make it more difficult for us to stay in touch with fans. I certainly don’t begrudge FB the monetizing of their site – that’s their job. I’m simply reacting to the market and finding better ways for fans to stay in touch with me, and me to stay in touch will y’all. So please take a minute to sign up for the mailing list, I promise  your name won’t be sold, and if it’s used for any big marketing thing, it’ll be something that I’m directly participating in, like a multi-author swag giveaway.

For more info on the multi-author swag giveaway, go here. 

There’s also NEW Bubba coming this week, I promise!

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How to trade/sell/buy Magic the Gathering Cards without getting ripped off or being a buttface

So a lot of folks who stop by here know that I play Magic: the Gathering. A lot. Like several times a week I’m at a local game shop playing cards, and pretty much every day I’m reading articles about the game, tweaking my deck lists, checking the value of cards, swapping out good stuff for bad stuff in my trade binder, etc.

You could say I’m into the game. Just like I was into poker before this. Yes, I understand that part of my nature and continue to posit that it’s better than drugs. But really, it’s just like drugs – I spend all my money on magic and therefore I don’t have any money to buy drugs.

Since I’m only a mediocre player of the game (leave me alone, the game is complex, and I’m not really all that bright), one of my favorite things to do is trade magic cards. I also will often buy collections from people and resell them for money, or sell cards when money is tight. This post is intended to help you maximize your fun and profit without being a dick to the people you’re trying to trade with. We’ll talk a little about buying and selling, too, but mostly about trading. If you follow these simple rules, you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off, and you’ll have a better time trading.

1) Tomorrow/yesterday/next year/last year values don’t matter – In most cases, it makes no damn difference if Bonfire of the Damned was a $50 when it was legal in standard, it’s a $5 card today. Nobody cares that Snapcaster was $20 when Innistrad was in print, it’s $60 today. Prices fluctuate, and you’re trading based on the current value of the card, not the recent value or the possible potential value. Live in the now, trade in the now. The possible exception is when you’re trading new cards for old cards. Depending on how bad your trade partner wants an Unlimited Chaos Orb ($100), you might be able to get 2 Snapcaster Mages ($120) for it, because there are fewer Chaos Orbs in print that there are Snapcaster Mages. So you may be able to get a premium for older, more rare cards, but that’s typically part of what determines the market price anyway, so it’s unlikely except in extreme cases. And don’t get butthurt when you trade away a card that goes through the roof the next weekend. Yeah. maybe somebody had extra information that gave them an edge, but you’ve probably been on the other side of that experience, too. Or you will one day. It’s all one big cycle, like my buddy Richard and my Circle of Cinder Glade, where we traded the same land back and forth four times in a weekend because we needed filler for different trades.

2) It doesn’t matter what site you use for pricing. Ever. I use Star City Games because I find it easier to navigate. If you want to use TCGPlayer, that’s fine, but I’m going to make you look everything up because I find their interface clunky. As long as you are on the same page, literally, then it doesn’t matter if you use SCG, TCG, eBay or the kiosk in the local game store. Just make sure you are both on the same site, because you don’t want to be valuing your cards from a notoriously lowball site and have your trading partner value their cards from a notoriously high-dollar site. That ends in drama. And nose punching.

3) It’s okay if you don’t want anything in my binder. My binder is small, and eclectic, and it won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want anything there. But I also do a lot of trades just for value, so if you find something, don’t be shy about asking to trade for it. We’ll find a way to get there. Last night I wanted a foil Windswept Heath ($40) off a guy at the shop. He wanted a bunch of Unglued basic lands off me ($60), so when we locked in the deal for the foil Heath, I just poked around his trade stock until I found an extra $20 to get the rest of the deal done.

4) Don’t be a dick. Don’t be that guy haggling over a quarter. Nobody cares that much over a quarter. Don’t be the guy making fun of what’s in somebody else’s binder. They might only have enough money to draft once a week, and this is their draft rares. Or maybe they just put a binder together and don’t really care about trading (I don’t understand this mindset). But basically, trading is an opportunity for social interaction, often with new people. Take the time to be nice, to be welcoming, to say something nice about their binder or cards, point out something unusual or cool that they have – a funky foil that looks really cool, or something. Make a friend. Trading is a chance to interact with other players when you’re not actively trying to beat them in a competition, so make it pleasant. And really, don’t be that guy who haggles over quarters. Usually, if I get within a dollar or two on a decent-sized trade, I’ll let the difference slide. It makes it easy, it keeps the trade from getting bogged down, and prevents a lot of hurt feelings.

5) Don’t expect retail for your shit. This is a strictly selling thing, not a trading thing, but you’re not a store, so don’t expect to get the same price as a retail store for our cards. Retail stores have overhead – rent, lights, employees, taxes, inventory and much more – that you as an individual don’t have. So most normal people, when they look to buy a card from an individual, are going to expect a discount. A steep one. Personally, if I’m paying cash for a card, I look to pay about half what I could get it from a store at. So if I’m buying Snapcasters for cash, I’m looking to pay about $30. Snapcaster is in high and consistent demand, so I’d pay $40, but that depends on the card. I’m looking for a 30-50% discount if I’m paying cash, and that will move your cards quickly and without complaint. At the very least, and this will still take you a while to move, you should be cheaper than the cheapest place to buy singles online – eBay. If you aren’t cheaper than eBay, be prepared to trade at retail, or sit on your card for a while.

There are a few tips to help you trade magic cards more effectively and enjoy the process more, and move your cards for sale more quickly. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments, I don’t really read them. 🙂

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Brief Preview – Moon over Bourbon Street

New Bubba is coming soon, here’s a little tiny taste that I thought was funny. 

“What happened?” Skeeter asked, his voice going all high and panicky. This time I didn’t blame him. I was starting to think pretty strongly about cutting and running myself.

“Eddie just showed up.”

“Eddie the voodoo priest from last night?”

“In his butt-nekkid glory with a dozen other necked folk walking behind him chanting and glowing.”

“Did you say they were glowing, Bubba?”

“Yes, and before you ask, I only had three Hurricanes, they were half-strength and it was a couple hours ago, so yes I am sober, and yes, there are necked voodoo people walking through the cemetery glowing like somebody shoved a million candlepower flashlights up their hoo-has. Now if you will excuse me I am going to go talk to a nekkid houngan about how to get two hundred zombies back in their graves where they belong without having to shoot each and every damn one of them in the face. Wish me luck.”

“Good luck,” Skeeter said, and I clicked off my comm to go deal with the weirdest damn thing I’d seen since coming to New Orleans, and that bar was getting higher by the minute.

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AudioBook Review – Yes! by Daniel Bryan

51+5CFPE7NL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_I don’t do many book reviews. The reason is simple – I read mostly in the genre in which I write, and if I don’t like a book, I still work with these people, so I’m keeping my fucking mouth shut. Also, if I don’t like a book, I seldom finish it. There’s a lot of shit on my TBR list, and it’s gotta be pretty good to make it to the top.

But I had a long road trip this week, from Charlotte to Nashville and back, so I decided that a new audiobook would be just the thing for my trip. I’ll go ahead and apologize  to all my Tennessee and Nashville friends for not visiting – but here’s the schedule for the trip. I left Charlotte at 11AM Wednesday. Got to Nashville around 4:30 PM, had dinner at 7PM with a couple of guys from work (BTW, I also started a new day job, which I’ll talk more about later, and I’m starting a small publishing company later this year, which I’ll talk more about later as well). Then I slept, got up and was at Skyway Studios in Nashville at 11AM for an Arri Lighting LED demo from 11-4, then drove home, arriving home a couple minute before midnight last night. So I didn’t really have any time to stop and say hello. I’ll catch you next time, I promise.

But anyway, the book I chose for the trip was Yes! My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania by Daniel Dryan with Craig Tello. And while I enjoyed the story, and much of the narration, there are some bits I wanted to talk about.

First off, the structure of the book was strange, and disjointed. The odd-numbered chapters were a third-person narrative, I assume written by Tello, detailing the events of the week leading up to Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans. It was a fairly close look at the activities of a WWE superstar leading up to the biggest event of the year, but it was dry as toast. It was written in very much AP reporting style, which is fine for newspapers and internet articles, but over 20,000 words is kinda like listening to paint dry. Then there’s the narrator for those sections of the book, who I hated. Peter Berkrot would be a fine narrator for fiction, but a guy with a moderately strong Southern accent narrating the actions of a Pacific Northwest wrestler working in New Orleans was jarring every time his voice came on. And his inability to pronounce some of the wrestler’s names was just sloppy and shoddy work on the part of the producers. I know how the deal works – you either give your narrator a pronunciation guide, preferably recorded, or they get in touch with you and ask how they pronounce names.

OR THEY GO ON YOUTUBE AND LOOK UP HOW TO PRONOUNCE “MARYSE,” BECAUSE SHE WAS ON TV FOR YEARS, YOU JACKASSES!

Sorry, but there’s zero excuse for getting the pronunciation wrong on a WWE diva’s name. She’s famous, for fuck’s sake.

Then there was Bryan’s part of the book. The even-numbered chapters were Daniel Bryan telling his life story leading up to Wrestlemania 30, and it was okay. Bryan admits early on that he’s not a writer, and isn’t comfortable talking about himself, and that shows. His prose is pretty dry and workmanlike, and could certainly have used the help of a good ghost writer to punch it up a little, but it was fine. He reads well enough, and if he never gets too excited about anything, it just goes to emphasize the things he says about his real-life character, that he’s pretty even-keeled. His narrative bits are totally bland, but harmless, like mashed potatoes.

The most jarring part of the book was at about the one-third mark, when suddenly Bryan was narrating one of the third-person sections, and talking about himself in the third person. I don’t know if the chapter was missed when the other guy was recording, or if it was recorded and sounded like crap, so they just had Daniel do that chapter, but after alternating for several hours, suddenly there were three DB-narrated chapters in a row, and they weren’t the first-person narrative that we were used to from him. So that was a production thing that I found really jarring.

So I give it only two stars for production, and really only three stars as a book. I’d give it more if Daniel’s sections had been longer, and the reporting sections had been much shorter, because listening to him talk about his career, his setbacks, his love for Brie, the loss of his father, his family life, his frustrations at WWE, his love for the indies – all that stuff was gold. I wanted twice as much of that stuff and less than half as much of the shit surrounding WM30. That story has been recounted over and over so many times that any wrestling fan is sick of hearing it, and let’s face it – a casual fan isn’t buying a Daniel Bryan autobiography. The stuff that was there, in Bryan’s words, is gold, there just needs to be more of it.

My final verdict – 2.5 stars out of a possible 5. It’s worth it if it’s on sale or you have some Audible credits, but don’t waste full retail on this one.

Narration – Berkrot – 2/Bryan 4

Production – 2

Story – Tello – 2/Bryan 4

 

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