Staff Spotlight: The Exquisite Death Audiobook

Several Totemites make an appearance in the Exquisite Death audiobook, which was released by In Ear Entertainment on August 13, 2013.

The book features “Ray the Vampire” and “The Exquisite Beauty of Death” by Mercedes M. Yardley, Shock Totem staff member and contributor to Shock Totem #1.

Cate Gardner, featured in Shock Totem #2, is represented by “Opheliac” and “Reflective Curve of a Potion Bottle.”

Also included is “The Plumber,” by Anthony J. Rapino (interviewed here on the Shock Totem blog) and Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s “Chester” and Todd Keisling’s “Radio Free Nowhere” complete the collection.

What’s even better? Using the code TearsOfBlood will get you 15% off the purchase price, making the audiobook less than $5.

Click here to purchase in GBP (£). 
Click here to purchase in USD ($).
Click here to purchase in Euro (€).

Enjoy.

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A Conversation with Writers House Agent Alec Shane

I had the pleasure of meeting Alec Shane at the annual World Horror Convention in New Orleans this year. Alec is a friendly, savvy guy who is aggressively building up his client list. He’s also one of the few agents who actively represents horror. Talking to him was a pleasure, and I get the impression he isn’t a guy who lets the grass grow under his feet.

Alec was gracious enough to stop by for an interview. Read up on what he has to say, and then send this man a query!

Mercedes M. Yardley: Very few agents seem to represent horror. Why is this? And why do you choose to do so?

Alec Shane: One of the best parts of being an agent is that you get to represent the kind of books that you love. I grew up loving horror of all types—Stephen King is more or less the reason I’m sitting here today answering these questions—and so it only makes sense that I would be drawn toward the genre now. I learned very quickly that, as an agent, you have to really believe in the book you are representing, and if you are as passionate about the project as the author is, then you will be much more willing to throw yourself into getting it out into the world.

The role of the agent is changing every day, a lot of what we do is editorial, and it’s a very tricky market at the moment, and so it’s especially important to remain very selective in what I do and don’t take on. Horror happens to be a genre that I love, so here I am. I also love a lot of other kinds of writing—mystery/thriller, historical fiction, middle-grade, certain types of nonfiction, and sports to name a few—but horror will always hold a special place in my heart.

MMY: So you personally enjoy horror and dark fiction. Any favorite books or movies?

(more…)

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Pay the Writer, But…

For a refresher, here’s Harlan Ellison giving his most famous unintentional PSA:


You go, girl!

Though the bristly curmudgeon is often the punchline to a joke among writers, he is right, and this little video is often cited by proud authors who demand payment for everything they write. Authors are never in low supply when it comes to a Pay-the-Writers protest. Nothing wrong with that, of course, though by the way many writers are reacting to Duotrope’s recent decision to go to a paid subscription service I wonder if they hear much of what else Harlan says in that clip aside from “pay the writer.”

Duotrope’s Digest, the market listing website thousands of writers use daily, has been offering their great service for nine years at no cost to writers and publishers. All they’ve asked for is donations through their Keep It Free campaign. I’ve donated many times, but surely not enough to be comparable to how much I’ve used the site. And so it’s no surprise that after nearly a decade donations are simply not enough. Never have been, in fact. So the folks at Duotrope have just announced they’re going to a paid subscription system in 2013.

And writers have lost their minds over it.

The way people are reacting you’d think Duotrope was asking for their weekly paychecks. In reality, users will be required to pony up either a one-time payment of $50 for the entire year or $5 a month. Either way, the most any writer will have to pay is $60 a year for a service they use all the time. Well worth it, in my opinion. For many, however, this is way too much to ask.

Just look at this Wikipedia entry for the site (which has since been changed):

“Duotrope has announced that it will switch to a subcription-based service beginning January 1, 2013 at a whiplash-inducing rate of $5.00 per month or $50.00 per year.”

A “whiplash-inducing” rate of $5 per month. No doubt written by an author who thinks it’s insane someone would pay $7 a day for a Starbucks coffee but not $5 every now and then for an e-book. But he or she is not the only one with this opinion that $5 a month is too much money. I had thought about quoting some additional comments from people I know, but instead I’ll just point you toward Duotrope’s own Facebook page and you’ll get the idea.

But here’s the gist:

Writers: “PAY THE WRITERS, GODDAMMIT!”

Writers Being Asked to Pay for Someone Else’s Time and Services They Admittedly Use All the Time: “LOL! Fuck you, you greedy, glorified Excel spreadsheet.”

The hypocrisy is delicious.

Now let me be clear: No one has to pay for something they don’t want to pay for. Nor can every author afford to. But I wonder if so many people would be protesting if they understood just how much time and money it takes to maintain a site like Duotrope’s.

I mentioned the comparison between the cost of an e-book and the cost of a cup of coffee. One of the biggest arguments against those unwilling to pay more than a few dollars for an e-book is pointing out how much time it takes an author to write a book. Most readers don’t really grasp that, and I have no doubt that most writers don’t understand what it takes to run a big website.

One of the biggest gripes seems to generate from how their old Keep It Free page was worded:

“If each of Duotrope’s current users and subscribers contributed just $5 this year, we would meet our goal for the year!”

Just $5 a year, while now they’re asking for $5 a month. OMG, ya’ll! But that’s too simple to be a good point of argument.

According to online web-traffic trackers, as a free service Duotrope generates over 6,000 pageviews per day, and between 15,000 to 20,000 unique visitors per month. That number will dramatically decrease in 2013, as evidenced by the countless users vowing to never use them again when it’s no longer free. No one will be getting rich here, that’s for sure.

But go back to the numbers of pageviews and visitors—6,000 per day, between 15,000 and 20,000 per month, respectively. That’s a lot of traffic, a lot of bandwidth, which means a lot of cost for those running Duotrope. More, it’s a hell of a lot of time on their part. Websites don’t maintain themselves; sites such as Duotrope require skilled designers and programmers, content providers, people who update the listings for the nearly 5,000 markets listed on the site, etc. And you know what? They should be paid for their work.

Writers aren’t the only people who deserve to be paid. Crazy concept, huh? And remember this: If Duotrope’s service wasn’t worth $5 a month, no sensible author would be complaining.

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Come Together

Image created by Guy FrancisWe are all aware of the publishing sea change that has been occurring over the past several years. Through e-books and POD publishing, authors have been bypassing the traditional publishing houses in droves, even when the traditional publishers were willing to put their books out.

The logic is irrefutable. A self published book allows an author to make more money on less books sold while retaining all of the creative control. Provided the numbers are good (that puts the burden on the author to promote and distribute their own books, no easy task), why wouldn’t you go this route? It only makes sense, especially when book readers are abandoning the brick and mortar stores for the Internet. It’s leveled the playing field considerably.

The days of big-name writers looking down their collective noses at so-called “vanity presses” is essentially over. Those authors are self-publishing as well, if only to keep formerly out of print works available to their fans.

While this revolution is undoubtedly a good thing in many ways, it has its downside, most notably the lack of quality. When anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can publish their own books, the inevitable result is a market glutted with thousands of titles that are not worth reading at all. Poor layout, poor artwork, and just plain poor writing is abundant.

Like them or not, the traditional print publishers all had standards, whether low or high, and all of them used editors. Very few authors, no matter how talented, can put out a really good book in the absence of a good editor, a fact which almost every published author will attest to.

It’s even difficult to put complete faith in online reviews anymore, as the recent Todd Rutherford scandal illustrated. How do you know that those glowing five-star reviews were not bought, either in cash or in the nefarious review-trading parasitism that is all too common in the small press? I’ve read bad books that have a string of great reviews, and I’ll bet you have too. So how do we sort through the massive amounts of bad books and find the good ones?


The book you’re looking for is right THERE!

One possible solution is author collectives. These are loose organizations of authors and publishers who are all about maintaining standards of quality, not helping out friends. Ideally, if a book isn’t good, it doesn’t get the recommendation of the collective. Of course “good” is still a subjective term. That aforementioned parasitism can infect a collective as surely as an individual review. I’m wary of any organization where all that is required to get in is to pay a fee.

Even if you find a reliable collective, there is no guarantee that you will like all of the books it recommends, but it still sounds like a far more reliable method for choosing your next beach read than random chance or counting five star reviews.

But big-name writers are getting in on these. I was first made aware of this phenomenon through Killer Thrillers, an author collective that includes David Morrell, one of my all time favorite authors (and a fellow New Mexican). If you haven’t read him, you should. And although I’m not well read in the thriller genre, if Morrell recommends them, I can too.

Awesome Indies is another site I ran across that looks interesting, although I’m not familiar with any of the authors listed. It’s arranged by category, which is convenient, but sadly there is only one horror book listed. I checked out the preview of it, and while we haven’t stumbled upon a new Joe R. Lansdale, it’s pretty good. I’ve certainly read far worse.

I searched around some, but could not find a collective that is specifically horror oriented. If anyone knows of one, please point it out. If one does not exist, perhaps it’s time to start one, but I’m only interested if it’s going to reward good writing. We don’t need another parasitic clique of the sort that the small press is infamous for.

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Courting the Queen of Gingerbread Ashes

The debut issue of Arcane is available to order. It is published/edited by Nathan Shumate, who I believe was behind Arkham Tales. I never read Arkham Tales, but it looked good. As does Arcane

And it features stories by fellow Totemites, issue #3 author Amanda C. Davis (“Courting the Queen of Sheba”) and issue #4 author Jaelithe Ingold (“Gingerbread and Ashes”).

Digital copies are $2.99 and the print version is $7.99. Consider checking it out. I imagine it has at least two good stories in it.

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Feed the Zombie Feed

The Zombie Feed, a new imprint from Jason Sizemore, is hosting a contest. The contest is simple: Ask a question. And if your question is chosen, you will win this:


[ click photo to enlarge ]

The Zombie Feed Vol. 1, edited by Mr. Sizemore.

It should be noted that this anthology features my story “Goddamn Electric,” the first—and currently only—zombie story I’ve ever written. I’m excited. And I want you to own it.

In addition to this, if chosen, your question will be answered by all sixteen authors featured in the anthology. Should be interesting…

So go here, read the rules, and ask away. Good luck!

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Necrotic Tissue Closing

The small press just got smaller.

R. Scott McCoy, editor and publisher of Necrotic Tissue, has made the tough decision to shut down the magazine after the upcoming fourteenth issue.

You can read more about his decision here.

I was a fan. Bummer.

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