January 30, 2014

Chris's Publishing Diary

Chris's Publishing Diary:

"How Book Four of Adrian's Undead Diary Got to Print"


January 30th, 2014

Well, by now you might imagine that I'm pulling my hair out.  I keep my hair very short to avoid just that.

My day job has been very stressful of late, and coupled with my own self imposed deadlines, and managing all my sites, I'm feeling old right now.

But, all is well.  Things are getting better.  I just wrapped the oh, I don’t know, fifth or sixth run of re-writes on A Dragon Among Us, my first urban fantasy novel, and it's off to the editor.  That's a huge weight off my chest.

I also received my proof copy of The Failed Coward, Book Four of AUD, and after going through it for about three hours with a fine tooth comb, there were no errors.  None.  First time I've gotten to this point without there being at least one or two small things.  It's important to have a second set of eyes for this stage, and my girlfriend, who kicks a lot of ass, serves as my backup for this.

Massive hats off to Alan MacRaffen, my editor/layout/cover artist guy for AUD.  Complete homerun on just about every aspect of The Failed Coward.  You rock brother.

So book in hand, approved by yours truly, I've established a firm release date on Amazon for January 31st.

Why the 31st?

Well honestly, it's a business decision.  Releasing a book is a huge financial shot in the arm.  On the first week of a release, you sell substantially more of a title than you will afterward. At least, that's how it has worked for me with AUD. Other indie authors might have different experiences.

By hitting the release date on the last day of the month, I am effectively splitting a huge royalty payday into two months, so instead of having a huge February royalty check, I'll have a good January, and a good February.

I hope.

I'm going to finish this beer I'm drinking, and thank my readers for their loyalty, and hope that they continue to support me and my writing career.  So far, so good. 

More words on release day weekend.  Hopefully I'll have good news to share.


January 29, 2014

Dear Minister- Advice From Sean T. Page, Minister of Zombies

Zombie Survival – A View from the UK

Here in the UK we may be behind in many things – for example, we have only recently discovered the new musical genre known as “rap”. To date, we have no idea what is being said & some of it sounds damn saucy. Anyway, behind on many things yes but in terms of zombie survival we are ahead of the curve. Here at the Ministry of Zombies in London, we have been running an advice/agony aunt/paranoid helpline for many years so for this guest blog, we’ve dipped into the postbag for 2013 & read through a few we thought you might find interesting.

 Dear Ministry of Zombies,
I’ve just been to the supermarket & asked for a good anti-zombie spray. At first they just laughed but as I became more agitated, I was rather roughly ejected from the store. Searching online I noticed loads of anti-zombie products – can you recommended any ones? Some of my friends have bought a handy little spray – it smells a bit like cat turd but promises to keep the zombies away on the can.
-Shopaholic of Edinburgh

Dear Shopaholic,
As American singer J-Lo once said, ‘don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got!” To our knowledge, there are no effective anti-zombie products out there apart from classic survival gear such as a cricket bat or water bottle. There are no pellets, sprays or pills to either get rid of zombies or cure a zombie bite. We’ve included a selection of products which should be avoided at all costs below.
 -The Ministry

Dear Ministry of Zombies,
You may think this strange but I actually want the zombie apocalypse to start. I’ve completed every zombie video game out there & have packed my school bag full of supplies. I’m just sitting here in my bedroom waiting for the off. Any idea when things will start getting ‘frosty’!
-Bored Schoolboy of Folkestone

Dear Bored,
I do think you’re strange. Ravenous corpses roaming the streets, the end of civilisation, no more reality TV – these are things to be wished for young man. You must seize the day & start doing something more positive with your life. Please see attached a complete blueprint for survival – get these things sorted & then start doing other things. Becoming a zombie survivalist should not take more than 1-2 hours per day.
By all means, be prepared-- but don’t then lock yourself in the bedroom waiting for the zombies to turn up. No one knows when there will be an outbreak, so why not visit the delightful Roman period villa near to Folkestone or perhaps take a delightful promenade along the sea front as we all wait for the ‘big one’.
-The Ministry

Dear Ministry of Zombies,
Wot r da rulz around looting. The ways I see it I kann take wot I needz now so I is prepared for the dead-heads. I also wanna steal myself a set of wheels – any idea which car is best?
-Fingers of South-East London

Dear Fingers,
Well, ‘Fingers’ --if that is indeed your real name – stealing before a major outbreak is always wrong. However, once the zombies takeover, you may use ‘reasonable force’ to gather supplies providing they are not directly claimed by another survivor. There is a clear legal definition between foraging in an emergency situation & stealing from others. Please ensure you understand the difference & you may also want to acquire a dictionary or learn to use spell check. Finally, why not turn your enthusiasm for preparation into a project – maybe by creating a post-apocalyptic vehicle of your own. I have included a blueprint which might get you thinking.
-The Ministry

Dear Ministry of Zombies,
Why oh why is government money being wasted on funding your institution when we are all under such pressure to cut costs? Surely having a made up Ministry, offering vague & fantastical advice is something we can no longer afford – after all, we already have the Bank of England for that!
-City Worker of London

Dear City Worker,
You are a bounder & will doubtless be eaten in the first few hours of a zombie outbreak. You should update yourself on the science of zombiology as soon as possible. Also, you may be interested to know that the Ministry of Zombies has had budget cuts of more than 20% over the last year – meaning we had to cancel the Xmas party, chocolate biscuits have now been replaced by plain ones & we are seriously considering cutting down on the end of day rum ration.
-The Ministry

That’s all for the postbag for now. We get some strange queries here at the Ministry of Zombies.

If you have any questions, you can always email them in to: seantpage@ministryofzombies.com

The Ministry of Zombies has published the fully illustrated Zombie Survival Manual: From the dawn of time onwards (all variations).

January 28, 2014

Chris's Publishing Diary

Chris's Publishing Diary:

"How Book Four of Adrian's Undead Diary Got to Print"


 January 28th, 2014

So Jule came at me screaming like a banshee one day.   

She said, "Chris, you should write about your publishing experience.  Tell the world what it's like to publish your books.  How do you do it?  Tell them about all the work that goes into it!"

And lo, I said, "Nay Jule.  Nay.  That sounds like work, and I've already got too much going on."

And then she was all like, "But it'll be fun, and folks might enjoy it."

"Nay Jule.  There are far too many cute animal videos on YouTube for me to watch."

Then she slipped me her home phone number, and I started writing this. 

In all seriousness, when Jule asked me to write this series of articles, I thought it was a badasssed idea, and I was on board immediately, with or without her number. 

This will be a fun exercise for my AUD readers to see how we go from the website version to the print (ebook) versions, and for all the new people who've never read AUD to get a taste of what it means to be a part of the AUD world.

First, we need history.  I'll keep it brief.

Adrian's Undead Diary started out on a dare as a web serial.  I posted Adrian Ring's diary entries online in a blog format, in real time, as he attempted to survive the end of the world via zombie apocalypse.  Intermingled with his diary, I wrote coinciding short stories that filled out his world, foreshadowed coming events, and overall made the picture bigger and more authentic.  So when the 840,000 word behemoth was finished, and all the publishers were done toying with my baby and my heart, I decided to self publish.

I've got three of the eight AUD books out, and book four, A Failed Coward drops in February of 2014.  I'm glad I self published.

The first 'meta' step of publishing AUD is to chunk it up into book form.  I need coherent beginnings and endings that are book length.  Books one and two are about 90k words, book three was a fatty at 149k, and book four is clocking in at 113k.  That's a good novel size, and I'm happy with where the start and finish is.  Once each book was chunked, and I had an estimated working time for getting each book to print, I set an estimated release date.  I wanted the first three out by Christmas (going insane in the process), and after that, another book would follow every 6-8 weeks, with no absolute date required for any.

Every AUD book has been edited by me three times.  I edited it all when it was written.  Then it was all edited before each entry was posted.  Now, as I chunk the files up, I edit it once more.  This edit is for book sense and grammar/word efficiency.  Adrian can be repetitive in the web version, but in the book, he needs to be more focused, so some of his language style is getting changed.  Further, I'm changing line spacing and his use of italics, bolding, and underlining.  What flew on the website, doesn’t fly on the Kindle, or in the paperback.

Each book takes a minimum of 24 to 40 hours for the third copy edit.  A Failed Coward took me right at 30 hours, and I was very happy with that.  Once I get the book edited to my satisfaction, I write a short synopsis of the plot as a guideline for myself and Alan MacRaffen, my cover artist, interior layout guy, and specialized editor.  The synopsis feeds into what I call the back cover blurb.  The blurb is the little tidbit that teases the content of the book, and is what chiefly Amazon and Barnes and Noble readers will read to entice them to buy.  It needs to be interesting enough to make you want the buy the book, yet not give it all away.  It also has to fit and be readable on the back of a paperback.  At that point, and while I'm editing, I work up a cover concept.

Alan gets the final working file for book four along with the synopsis, and any special instructions for how I want parts of the book to be laid out.  We then brainstorm on the cover idea, make sure it's feasible, and I hand it all off to him.

Alan has the project for about a month.  While I wait, I move on to my other projects.  I've finished writing book one of Tesser: A Dragon Among Us, so I focus on book two of The Kinless Trilogy: The Motive for Massacre, and editing book five.  You've probably figured out by now that I'm one of those nutbags that likes to be real busy.

He updates me far too infrequently for my tastes, so I heckle him on a near constant basis for how things are progressing.  The formatting is easy peasy for him.  We've got a great template for the entire series now, and he knows what I will want before I ask for it.  It helps that I've known him for like, twenty years too.  The tough part is the cover.  For book three we struggled for a solid week on getting the night sky and contrast right to read on print.  As it turned out our final decision didn't work and we had to change it again after we ordered our physical proof, but hey, mistakes happen, and that's a small one.

For The Failed Coward we do the same.  The cover isn't quite right, and we go through a round or two of editing.  At that point, Alan gets me the final .pdf version of the print book, and the .mobi file for the Kindle.  At this point, the bulk of the workload transitions back to me.

Like the vast majority of folks who self publish, I use Amazon's Createspace platform.  I won't go into why, save that it's terrific.  Createspace has a digital process where you decide everything.  You load all your files, do an online verifier to make sure it all translated properly, and if it passes that initial sniff test, you submit it.  At this point, they generate a sexy ISBN for you, as well as a UPC-EAN code for the barcode scanners at the retail level.

Worst period of time ever.  You can do nothing while their team of experts goes over your book submission and ensures it's ready to print.  After 24 hours, they send you an email, and you're either good to go, or you went tits up and you need to make changes.  Either way, you fix it, and then order a physical proof.  Depending on how long it took for me to get everything in, and when I need to go live, I might get rushed shipping.  It's been different for each book.  While I wait the four or five days, I go back to working on my other projects, and future AUD books.

When the physical proof arrives, I'm in seventh heaven.  Holding a brand new book that I made is a transcendent experience.  I can only equate it to winning a tournament or a medal.  I've got no children of my own, but I suspect it's sort of along that line.  New book in hand, I sit down with no distractions, and go over it with a fine tooth comb.  I check all the headers and page numbers to ensure that they are correct to the table of contents.  I scour for typos.  I smell it.  Sometimes I rub it on my face to experience the glossy smooth awesomeness.  If it's good, we're good.  If it needs changes, I go back to Alan, and we work it out.

Thus far, any last second changes we've needed to make haven't required any secondary physical proofs, just alterations in a file that'll keep everything more or less the same.  Once the physical proof is good (and mind you, if we make any changes again, we need to wait the damned 24 hours while Createspace okays it again) we submit the book to Amazon.  Within 24 hours typically, the paperback will appear on Amazon, fresh and brand new.  At this point, I order my own physical copies to stock some small retailers locally with, and to give away to reviewers, friends and family, and for Goodreads giveaways.

Now within a minute or two of getting the paperback in the pipeline, I head directly over to the Kindle division of Amazon.  Conveniently, they link it all together.  The same process, albeit incredibly shorter ensues.  The files are submitted, decisions are made, a digital proofer is examined, and you send it off.  Within 24 hours, your Kindle version appears on Amazon, right near the print version.  Initially Amazon has these two pages separate, but they combine them after a day or two like a champion.

So the book is out.  The work is done.

Wrong.  Now the marketing work begins.

I've never considered myself a social butterfly, but now that I'm an author, I'm a clear social media WHORE.  I post everywhere.  I run a hundred contests.  I beg my existing AUD readers to start leaving feedback for the new book to show new readers my shit is, well, the shit.  I go to forums for preppers, survivalists, car repair, handgun ownership, ebook readers, horror movies, horror novels, and  far more.  No publicity is bad publicity, I assure you.  I get more hits when folks trash my writing, and that's okay.  I can't please everyone.

Did I mention I then need to post links to my various websites, update my Goodreads author profile, then my Amazon author profile?

Then, I post some more.  And I write articles like this, because once new folks see what goes into making a book, never mind WRITING the book, they might give my novels a chance.

I guess I can always dream, right?

I'm going to write a few more of these as time goes on.  I think you'll enjoy the process in real time as I work on subsequent books, and I think I'll enjoy writing them.  Or maybe not.  This is the risk we authors take I suppose.

See you soon.  Here or there.


January 22, 2014

Questions for the Collapse By David Dunwoody

Questions for the Collapse

The fall of society – both its physical infrastructure and social mores – is viewed by some as a potential fresh start for humanity. It’s the silver lining to your apocalypse, a chance to do away with any “necessary evils” by which we’d come to live our lives. Some go so far as to argue that in a world of anarchy and total self-rule, common sense would prevail. I humbly submit that these people are insane.

Moral Ambiguity

Moral ambiguity is part of the human condition. Altruism and selfishness are constantly at odds. Definitions of morality are conceived, at least at first, for the benefit of the group as much as the individual. Laws, at least at first, are there for the same reason. If they become corrupted it’s only because of their human curators. Armageddon may burn away all the law books but if we, the curators, remain, it was far from a true “reset.”

So, with that rosy assessment of homo sapiens in mind, which would be the greatest moral quandaries in a PAW scenario? What will the new social mores be?

In other words, at what point does it become okay to: loot stores, steal cars, threaten other survivors, and even execute the living? Should one endeavor to rebuild or just survive? Just when is it that you no longer have a choice?

The Top Three Moral Quandaries

I’ve been asked to name the top three quandaries and will do so in no particular order. I think one of the essential debates to be had in the PAW is between “we must rebuild society” and “I just want to live to see tomorrow.” I don’t find greater fault with either position, but each leads to its own dilemmas. For the rebuilders, there has to be a certain level of stability before one focuses on that. What are the criteria that need to be met? We haven’t even touched upon the idea of trying to study or treat infection – these are efforts that may take generations. Which brings up a critical question, and perhaps this is the first in my top three.   (By the way, I haven’t promised to answer these.)

Question One: Is it morally justifiable to reproduce?

Some of you may not see that question as terribly important in the days after a global zompoc, but consider the fact that nothing, including the death of the world, is going to stop people from f***ing. Especially without protection. And humans are inclined to have kids before they’ve shored up plans for a future – in fact, many couples get pregnant in order to make their future.

Love isn’t always logical. Lust never is.

Of course, the flip side of that coin is whether or not we should abandon indefinitely the idea of the family and of future generations. This may lead to a nearly-insurmountable generation gap.

Question Two: What are the new rules of ownership?

Property and its definition will be the basis for some of the most immediate and inflammatory conflicts. With the world gone to hell, no doubt many folks will feel entitled to survival by any means necessary. That includes taking food, shelter, arms and medicine from wherever one finds them.

If you come across an empty house, is it and everything in it fair game? How about that car in the driveway? If the owner comes back, will they understand – would you?

Then there’s the question of the next squatter who happens along seeking a place to lay their head. You may be thinking “finders, keepers” and they may be thinking “winner take all.” Or vice versa.

Say a soldier or cop stops you while you’re trying to break into a pharmacy. Now you face the question of whether pre-apocalyptic law still stands. Clearly they think so. That man or woman is trying to keep the last vestiges of order from slipping away, but you believe it’s too late. What’s your move? Once this line has been crossed, have we only made it that much harder to rebuild society in the future?

We’ve talked about birth and about living day-to-day. I guess that leaves death. 

Question Three: What is a necessary or acceptable death?

So, say you fall in with a group of survivors and someone gets injured. Might not be a bite, but a broken leg. Serious nonetheless. When is it your right to write them off? The issue of an infected companion may seem more black-and-white, but really try to place yourself in that position. If they want to try and “fight it” do you wait for them to turn, or do you appoint yourself executioner while they’re still breathing?

Everyone who survives long enough to be eking out some new existence – whether flying solo or running with a crew – is likely to develop a moral code based on what they believed in the world before. That includes people who didn’t give a fig about the old laws in the first place. Most of us can probably agree that you don’t blow someone’s head off just because you don’t like them. It may seem more of a gray area if someone in your group is a raving bigot. Is this person going to end up getting you all in trouble? Are they a lost cause worth ditching?

What about someone who’s disabled or appears mentally ill? How do you determine a “liability” and what actions follow? I, for example, am legally blind. Some might consider me dead weight and that leaving me to fend for myself is better for the group. 

The Morality of Choice

What say you? Are you really thinking about other people’s well-being, or just your own hide? Are you thinking about the future or just tomorrow? Is either viewpoint really more justifiable than the other?

At what point do you no longer have a choice?

Maybe that isn’t the essential question. Maybe that’s a cop-out. The question could be, will you own your choices in a world with far less accountability?

David Dunwoody invites comments and discussion on these and other subjects. 

Visit David Dunwoody's webpage

View Dunwoody's latest zombie short film.

January 15, 2014

Vincenzo Bilof Discusses Queen of the Dead

Queen of the Dead was released in August of this year. Vincenzo Bilof  describes a few key features of the novel in this article

The Zombie Ascension Series

Blood runs through the streets of Detroit and into the gutters of nearby cities. Monsters, both human and zombie alike, have brought civil order to its knees.
This is the second book in the Zombie Ascension series.  I listened to readers of the first book and tried to incorporate more elements that would give fans of zombie fiction what they would want, because these books are for them. If you love character-driven action with lots of gore and a diverse cast (every character is expendable), this is the zombie series for you.

Amparo Vega 

The haunted mercenary, Amparo Vega, must confront this apocalypse head-on with survivors who have their own versions of morality.
Amparo Vega is a woman who used violence as a means to escape from her guilt; she’s compounded her guilt with more violence, which conflicts with the religious values that were instilled upon her by her parents.

Vega believes that battle is her only means of redemption, but as the series progresses, her goals/purpose change. She’s joined by Father Joe, a pious man who will do everything in his power to save a single life, no matter how many others have to die.

Vega's appearance in Detroit during the outbreak involves her mission to apprehend Jim Traverse, a former Delta Force operative who became a crazed serial killer and has been locked up in an asylum.

Jim Traverse

Jim Traverse, the sociopath who has decided the apocalypse will be “beautiful,” has nearly completed his genocidal masterpiece. 
Jim Traverse is a former super-soldier who became a legend for his exploits, though he discovered something that forever changed his life when he sent to Egypt on a mission that was supposed to kill him. The secret he uncovered activated the lingering psychopathic tendencies and he roamed the country for a number of years, killing whoever he wanted by creating “artistic” death scenes.

Jim eventually allowed himself to be apprehended, because he foresees a role for himself in the impending apocalypse; the end of the world is an opportunity to create his greatest masterwork.

The Queen of the Dead

One woman can save the world, or destroy it: The Queen of the Dead.
Jim races against Vega’s company to reach Selfridge Air Base, where they’ll fight for control of the woman who has ascended over life and death, a woman whose relationship with an infernal intelligence gives her power over the walking dead.

A member of the Horror Writers Association, Vincenzo Bilof is the author of the Zombie Ascension series and "Nightmare of the Dead."

January 8, 2014

Rise and Shine: A Poem by Tony Baez Milan

A Poem for the Zombie Apocalypse

Rise and Shine
Tony Báez Milán

Rise and shine
from the mass graves, claw your fingers in the dirt
and cough the bile onto the mud,
and stand as best you can if you can
and let the wind tease you; get a whiff
of the living of the Earth.
Rise and shine
from the sepulcher, crawl on your hands
and rotted knees, make bare-boned progress
to the towns and to the cities
as they waste and turn to sand.
Rise and shine
from tombs and catacombs,
from burial grounds and half-assed holes,
from the shallowness of ditches;
make haste as you go slow, move on to the dim glare,
it’s not the sun, it’s not the sun,
it’s civilization, it was your doom,
it’s the living that was your foe.
Bring along your anger,
smuggle back their filth in you,
double back and get there,
get your cover from the darkened cloud.
Come on from the muck
to show your decayed face,
to show they’re out of luck,
the heaving, the hideously thriving;
plow on until you reach them,
mindless men,
merciless men,
prayerless men,
to feast on their gluttony
the mice are returned,
to make them taste famine,
to gorge on their compassionless mirth.
Rise and shine
from the unease of your resting places,
empty the coffins assigned from your birth
and get to the breathing,
their hate and death-dealing.
Arrive at their doorstep,
utter your moan, your croaking complaint,
your rage, your contempt.
As they try to get away, choking on your smell,
claiming not to understand their comeuppance,
decrying their punishment undeserved,
rip the cloth from Justice’s eyes,
that bitch, let her watch, let her see,
tip the scales with your rotting fist,
catch up to them, all these men, and
slowly, slowly, bite and tear the flesh from them,
and gnaw on their bones till you’re full
with revenge.
At long last, sick of waiting,
this is how the meek shall inherit the earth.
Rise and shine,
rise and shine,
in the night, in the moonglow,
to the Time of the Living Dead.