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Guest Blog: Lee Thompson Discusses Ways to Measure Your Success (Plus a Giveaway)

A Texas Senator and his wife go missing… On the same day, their son is slaughtered by an enigmatic killer on the lawn of ex-Governor Edward Wood’s residence. Sammy, Wood’s drug dealing son, suspects his father of the crime. After all, his old man snapped once before and crippled his wife with a lead pipe. But there’s something more to these events…something deeper and festering just beneath the surface…

In direct opposition to Homicide Detective Jim Thompson, Sammy begins an investigation of his own, searching for the truth in a labyrinth of lies, deception, depravity and violence that drags him deeper into darkness and mayhem with each step. And in doing so, brings them all into the sights of an elusive and horrifying killer who may not be what he seems.

A brutal killer on a rampage of carnage…a hardened detective on the brink…an antihero from the shadows…a terrifying mystery that could destroy them all…

Welcome to Lee Thompson’s A Beautiful Madness blog tour!

This stop is a special one since I love Shock Totem magazine and the people who have made it such a monumental success, which strangely enough is what this post is about. They’re beautiful people over at ST, and so are the stories they publish, and the covers that grace their issues.

Since I’ve been in two issues, in addition to one person winning a paperback copy of my novel, I’ll also be giving away two copies of Shock Totem! Issue #4, which featured my story “Beneath the Weeping Willow,” and issue #6, where I have a story called “The River” and was interviewed by K. Allen Wood (the publisher and sexy beast). Very neat, yes? To win, make sure you leave a comment and share the link on Shock Totem’s website, lovelies.

(Note: We will also be adding a hardcover copy (19 of 150) of Lee’s limited edition Delirium Books novella Down Here in the Dark.)

Ways to Measure Your Success (Expect and Accept Change)

There’s not much worse than for five years to go by and for you to look back over those years and feel that nothing has changed. Especially since it’s our responsibility to learn, adapt, and change things. No one else makes our choices for us once we’re an adult. But did you know what you wanted back then? Did you have a clear, specific goal? Did you have steps to carry yourself to that goal, or did you keep doing the things you were doing and expect to conjure such success from thin air?

If so, you’re not alone. But where have you succeeded? There has to be some area, doesn’t there? Look deep, look back, be objective. If you haven’t made strides, it might be time to start from scratch and rethink the way you’re approaching your writing career. You’re going to have to change for the better.

Expecting to succeed—to sell your first novel or first pro short story, or to get interviewed in the paper, or whatever—without studying the craft and just winging it, is like a guy swinging a golf club and expecting to be a pro golfer in five years. He can be doing a dozen things wrong in his swing and practice those wrong techniques ten thousand times, but only hurting himself.

A great way to measure your success is to pay a pro for feedback. (Tom Piccirilli offers an editing service.) Look at their feedback and go through it one point at a time, through your whole book, looking for the places they’ve marked as red flags and learn to understand why those things hurt your story instead of help it.

You can measure your success by comparing yourself to your peers. But it’s a trap filled with frustration. They can only write what they write and you can only write what you write. You might be a better networker but they might write better stories, or vice versa. They might be getting what appears constant praise while you can barely get someone to review your first novel. They might be single like me and have very few distractions while you might have a job and a family to dole out time and energy. There are too many variables, and comparing yourself to your peers isn’t very healthy. If you find yourself in this trap, it wouldn’t hurt to slap some sense into yourself.

You can measure your success by reviews. Reviewers read a lot of books so they can usually spot big flaws and what doesn’t work for them pretty quickly. They’re also passionate about the genre they’re reviewing. I like measuring my success this way. If someone loves reading they’re going to offer something useful I can use to improve.

You can measure your success by word count. I’ve never worried about this, but it seems to be a popular thing among writers. It seems a double-edged sword, though, telling yourself you have to hit a certain number, shifting, at least in the back of your mind, from writing a quality story to worrying about how many individual words you finished today. And then there is a lot of guilt in this approach too. I’ve seen tons of writers cry and beat themselves up because they fell behind on their word count that day or week or month. It’s a distraction, if you ask me, that doesn’t have many benefits. If you ignore the word count altogether and just write the story with as much passion and skill as you can, it will end up whatever length it needs to be.

You can measure your success by the project. Each novel you write will be different in critical ways. I like to experiment and break rules. When I began brainstorming A Beautiful Madness I knew I was going to break one of the big rules, and I did it, and knew it would and did work. The challenge each novel creates is fun to face. If you’re testing yourself on each individual story, to try new characters, new storylines, new ways to manage the POV shifts, and searching your heart for the little details that make the story familiar but fresh, there is a lot of satisfaction in that.

You can measure success by hitting deadlines. I like to set myself a deadline and have been doing so for years. (You’ll have to start doing that to be a professional writer, so why not start now?) I usually take a week to brainstorm the characters and the major beats of the novel and then write down the date I want to finish the first draft. Normally I have two deadlines. I set a high goal of six weeks. And then I set a more relaxed deadline of three months. Usually I hit somewhere around two months for a first draft but have finished some novels in two weeks. They’re all different.

You can measure success by copies sold. I’m setting a goal of moving 10,000 copies of A Beautiful Madness in the first year of its release, mostly because I want to gain a hefty new fan base and secure myself a position as a Crime writer to go to for a certain type of story.

With three years of publishing history, I can tell you that book sales spike and plummet if you have a small audience (there will be more on this in another guest post). Since there are such peaks and valleys, I’m shooting for the yearly goal of copies moved instead of a monthly one. If I’m six months into it and have only sold a quarter of what I want to get out there in readers’ hands, then I will have to get creative and up my game to hit my goal. It’s nice motivation. I think it’s doable too, with the publisher I have, and the fans I’ve gained over the last three years. And since A Beautiful Madness is my first Crime novel, it will always have a special place in my heart no matter how it’s received.

You can measure success by reader feedback. I’ve got awesome fans. They’re so warm and intelligent and funny. I wouldn’t move any copies if it wasn’t for them and my publisher because I’d rather be writing and reading than spending time online trying to pimp myself. A lot of them have become friends over the last three years too, although at one time they were complete strangers, opening one of my novels or novellas for the first time. It’s pretty cool. I measure my success in this way a lot, because it’s tangible, and if you ever feel down there are always people there shooting you an email saying they just finished your book and loved it and recommended it to their friends. They thank you, which is weird, but I get it because every time I read a great book I want to thank the author for taking the time to write it too.

You can measure success by professional feedback. I was fortunate the last four years to receive feedback from professional editors and agents and writers. I think it was important for me to have those people tell me I had talent and imagination and energy, but needed to work on characterization. Listening to them is what helped me start selling fiction.

You can adapt an attitude of I-don’t-give-a-fuck. Readers, editors, reviewers, some will love your work, some will hate it, some will never be more than lukewarm about it. You can just write for yourself if you want, like you probably did when you first started and you were thrilled by simply writing and finishing something. There’s no pressure in that. And it’s your life. Do what you want, what you feel is right, for you and your work.

How do you measure your success?

Buy A Beautiful Madness (Kindle): http://amzn.com/B00K36ITGS

Buy A Beautiful Madness (Paperback): http://amzn.com/1940544297

Lee Thompson is the author of the Suspense novels A Beautiful Madness (August 2014), It’s Only Death (January 2015), and With Fury in Hand (May 2015). The dominating threads weaved throughout his work are love, loss, and learning how to live again. A firm believer in the enduring power of the human spirit, Lee believes that stories, no matter their format, set us on the path of transformation. He is represented by the extraordinary Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary.

Visit Lee’s website to discover more.

There will also be a grand prize at the end of the tour where one winner will receive A Beautiful Madness and four other DarkFuse novels in Kindle format! Simply leave a comment on this blog and share the link.

Thanks to those who participate.

Happy Reading,
Lee

Posted in Alumni News, Blog, Guest Blog, New Releases, On Writing, Recommended Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Iron Transients Into Hell

I first met Darrell Schweitzer a few years ago at Necon 29, where he was selling books in the dealer room. I bought a few things from him, including his book Living with the Dead, a collection of interconnected short stories set in the bizarre world of Old Corpsenberg. It’s a short little thing, presented as sort of a novella, but its impact on me was immense.

I have numerous old fantasy anthologies and magazines with Schweitzer tales in them, but I became a fan after reading Living with the Dead.

And so this past July, at Necon 31, I picked up two more collections, Transients and Other Disquieting Stories, Refugees from an Imaginary Country, and the novels The Shattered Goddess and The White Isle.

Transients and Other Disquieting Stories, to put it simply, is a fantastic little collection of darkly weird fiction. Not surprising coming from the longtime Weird Tales editor. My favorite story in the book is “Clocks,” a bittersweet ghost story about love and the difficulty of letting go. Other great tales include “Peeling It Off,” “Pennies from Hell,” “Transients,” and “The Spirit of the Black Stairs.” The rest are quite good as well.

Actually, I could have lived without “The Man Who Wasn’t Nice to Pumpkin Head Dolls.” It had a overly cheesy Twilight Zone feel to it—which, now that I think about it, was likely intentional as it first appeared in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. Not a bad tale, though, just dated and kind of goofy.

In fact most stories in this set were published in the 80s, so a few others read a bit dated, too; but despite this they’re all done really well. Schweitzer’s use of language is smooth, succinct, and at times downright poetic. I’m amazed this guy isn’t more popular.

He should be.

And in parting, I should mention that the stippled illustrations by Stephen E. Fabian are, as always, fabulous.

This was my first experience reading William Ollie (unless you count the novel excerpt from KillerCon we published in our debut issue), and it was pleasurable one.

Into Hell is part of the Delirium Books novella series. The story follows two post-9/11 scenarios: a group of war veterans struggling to survive during and after a bank heist gone awry (present day) and the same group struggling to survive on the front lines in the Middle East (past).

It’s a fast-paced and fun read, with a slight supernatural element. Very well-written, though done so in a rhythmic staccato fashion with lots of short, two- or three-part sentences that tend to detail the same thing. That might bother people who want a slower, less in-your-face approach to character development, but with it being a novella, and one on the shorter side of things, I felt the quicker pace worked to its advantage.

My one complaint would be that I found it a bit confusing at times. Both story arcs mirror each other, and when a new chapter started, I found myself wondering if this was war or post-war until something distinct appeared on the page. (Though with the luxury of having finished it, I can tell you that the chapters simply alternate back and forth between present and past right till the end.) Either way, both scenarios are depictions of war, one being from without and the other being from within.

Complaint aside, Into Hell is a solid read. It’s too bad that, for now, only 150 copies are available.

I’ve been lucky enough to witness Lee Thompson grow as a writer. I’ve read a lot of his short fiction, from the not so good to the excellent, so it’s a no-brainer that I’m sticking with this cat. He’s got the chops and delivers them yet again with Iron Butterflies Rust.

This is a tale written close to home, I think, one of love, hate, failure and redemption, and the richness—the realness—of it all shines through even the darkest moments of the story. And it’s plenty dark.

There were a couple parts in the beginning that lined up too conveniently for me, and Frank Gunn can be a bastard of a character to sympathize with at times, but overall Iron Butterflies Rust is a fantastic and heartbreaking little tale.

As with Ollie’s Into Hell, this is part of the Delirium Books novella series, thus equally as limited in quantity. A shame. Hopefully this and future Frank Gunn tales (there are more coming) will be released together in a more widely available format at some point.

For now, though, pay attention to Lee Thompson. He’s the real deal.

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Guest Post: Love of the End Product

Batten down the hatches, buckle your wigs, Lee Thompson is in the house!

If you’re unfamiliar with Lee or his work, I predict that will change in the near future. Steadily making his way up the small-press ladder, 2011 is shaping up to be Lee’s breakout year. Let’s do a quick rundown of the year thus far…

His debut novel, Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children, and the novella Iron Butterflies Rust were released through Delirium Books; a second novella, As I Embrace My Jagged Edges, will be available through Sideshow Press in the weeks ahead; his short fiction was published in The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1 (“This Final December Day”), Dark Discoveries #18 (“Crawl”), Shock Totem #4 (“Beneath the Weeping Willow”), and is forthcoming in the anthology Hacked-up Holiday Massacre (“We Run Races with Goblin Troopers”). Breakout year or not, Lee Thompson is making a hell of a noise.

Enigmatic, charismatic, and a genuinely good dude, Lee is hopefully destined for big things. Call me a fan.

As part of his 2011 Blog Crawl, he’s stopped by Shock Totem HQ to discuss his journey from dreamer to professional writer. Dig!

LOVE OF THE END PRODUCT

by Lee Thompson

I’ve hungered to make a career of writing. To get past my inadequacies and lay it all out there, the good and bad.

I was a horrible student. I think I’d have been deep into a writing career if I had cared about all of this when I was younger. But I didn’t even care about myself then. And I’m glad I didn’t find this passion until so late, because I got to live, I absorbed so much, and there are multitudes of emotions, hard-won lessons, regrets and shame, pride and rebellion that I went through and now get to draw from.

I remember being so poor (my own fault) those first five years before I’d published a single thing that I always had to use other people’s computers to write on. I was an inconvenience and they didn’t have to let me do that, but they did. I submitted a lot of stories on library computers and got a lot of rejections because I really wasn’t very good. But I was hungry to improve.

Then something happened last year where I turned a corner. It was like everything finally fell into place. I think it was that I learned so much from my buddies Shaun Ryan and Kevin Wallis, and I started studying novels I loved, hand copying them—in notebooks, on old printer paper, in legal pads—to learn more even though it was time-consuming, and I realize now that I stopped writing the first ideas that popped in my head. I started writing for me.

When I began this blog tour my first Division novel wasn’t even released yet and here we are with Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children out, as well as my second book Iron Butterflies Rust.

I think I’m very fortunate. I sold my first two books to Delirium Books, a publisher I love, one who has discovered rising stars and cares about the stories and a writer’s career. A publisher who has put out a lot of great material that first took shape in the minds of my heroes (Tom Piccirilli, Greg Gifune, Douglas Clegg, etc.) Not a bad way to lose my virginity. My publisher believes in me. He’s honest about what works for him and what doesn’t, but still asks questions that matter, and wants my input.

How awesome is that?

Very fucking awesome.

So, how does it feel to see your dreams coming true?

It’s wonderful. And it’s a little scary. And it’s very surreal. It’s still sinking in that I’m a professional now. I pour my heart and soul into my work. I use a lot of stuff from real life, from when I was stupid, when I was a kid, moments when I possessed that elusive quality called commonsense, when I was a drunk, dreams I’ve had, and memories and questions that torment me.

And I have friends like Shaun, Kevin, Jassen, Susan, Cate, Mark, Sam, Bec, Peter, Mike, Mercedes, Wanda, John, Nick, Doug, Ken, Neal, Glen, Jennifer, Kate, and so many others who support me, not because I have to beg them or bullshit like that, but because they care.

Any success I have is the result of all those people, and editors like Shane Staley, James Beach, Steve Clark, Adam Bradley, Tom Moran, Ken Wood and lots of others who encouraged me, and earned my respect because of their kindness, honesty, heart and passion.

I could fill pages with people who have helped me along the way these past few years. But that’s kinda frightening too. More and more people I feel I owe something: for putting down their hard-earned money, for spreading the word, for giving feedback, and most of all for their faith and their time. I’m more grateful than you might ever realize. So a huge thanks to all of you.

I never realized how much it would thrill me to get comments from people I don’t know telling me they loved this book or that short story. What an eye opener. It means a lot. It means, in some small way, I’ve connected with another soul (sometimes without ever sharing a conversation). I adore that beyond words.

Thanks to all those who have read and commented and spent time with me.

And a huge thanks to those kind souls who let me blog on their pages.

So much has happened in a short time, but hell, I’m just getting started.

For anyone who missed earlier guest blogs on this tour see them here.

Rock on, you bad mofos.

Lee Thompson

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Sunday Reads: On Writing, Rejection, and Spiders

Here are a handful of links from around the Internet that we found interesting this past week.

First up, some stuff on writing. Shane Staley of Delirium Books posted an interesting essay on the current state of small-press horror. A more upbeat piece comes from Adrienne Crezo, where she tells us that the “Big Debate” doesn’t matter.

Here are a couple tips on handling rejection: Jacqueline Howett responds to a review of her book, The Greek Seaman. Read the comments, then always do the opposite. Though a bit one-sided, presented as it is, over at Crossed Genres we were shown yet another example of a not-so-recommended rejection response.

Now, how about some fun and cuddly arachnids? A man in Dortmund, Germany is killed and then eaten by his creepy-crawly pets. And in flood-ravaged Pakistan, spiders have taken to the trees in what can only be described as something out of a nightmarish fantasy.


[ Photo by Russell Watkins ]

Scares the hell outta me, anyway!

Posted in Blog, On Writing, Recommended Reading, Writing Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Hun on the Left Screamed with Us

Lee Thompson is a cool-cool dude. He’s also a fantastic writer who is making some serious waves in the small press. Forthcoming this year, he has a novel (Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children) and novella (Iron Butterflies Rust) coming out through Delirium Books; and another novella, As I Embrace My Jagged Edges, is currently available in digital format through Sideshow Press, with a hardcover version coming soon.

And in July, his story “Beneath the Weeping Willow” will be published in Shock Totem #4.

If I remember correctly, it all started with “Daddy Screamed With Us”, a short story released through Darkside Digital last year. Naturally I wanted to support his writing, which is why Lee took my digital virginity. No pain, a little blood, and it was a good time.

“Daddy Screamed With Us” is a story about choices, or maybe one of necessary evil. Or both. When Jeremy’s release from prison is up for review, it’s up to Doctor Kerr to determine if the killer is fit for release into society or a continued life behind bars. But there’s more to it than that; it’s not up to Doctor Kerr to make that decision. Jeremy has to make his own choice.

Jeremy is in prison for killing Edward Singer, but he says he’s killed more than once, and Doctor Kerr wants to know about that. It’s in Jeremy’s telling that his past is revealed and his fate is sealed.

As an introduction to Lee’s work, “Daddy Screamed With Us” doesn’t disappoint. And at a cost of $1.49, really you can’t go wrong. Sure, it’s digital fiction, but if you purchase this story now maybe we’ll see it in print someday, in a nice glossy collection. Buy it!


I picked up this limited chapbook last year at Necon. It’s sat on my bookshelf since then, just a sliver of white, a mere fifty pages, practically invisible to me. I’d thought it was part of the spine of another book! Anyway, though limited, it’s still available at Horror Mall for five beans.

Right House on the Left is a triple shot of haunted-house—or in the case of the story I read, haunted disco (a weird disco)—parodies by L.L. Soares, Steve Vernon, and Mark McLaughlin.

The story I read this week was “The Blood-spattered Mirror Ball,” by L.L. Soares. The story is about those social misfit-types who were never invited to gatherings of the so-called social elite. While alive, anyway. See, because they’re dead, and now their ghosts are determined to have a damn good time, invited or not. Even if, for one of them, it means entering not through the velvet ropes but out of a horse’s ass. Yes, folks, a ghost emerges from a horse’s ass. I’ve read a lot of absurd stories in my day—I remember Fagula, the gay vampire who turned those he bit into homosexuals; and then there was the witch who selflessly fed her vampire lover during her menstrual cycles—but usually they make me cringe. This time I laughed.

Surprisingly, “The Blood-spattered Mirror Ball” is a lot more serious than I expected. Yes, there is a high level of absurdity here, but it was an enjoyable—dare I say, moral—tale that transcended its humor. Looking forward to reading the other two tales.


Been on a Dean Koontz kick lately, and it’s been a blast. Old Deany-poo is my favorite, you know. Soon I’ll be reviewing more of Koontz’s early, obscure work, but this week it’s back to Strange Highways. “Miss Attila the Hun,” to be precise.

This story seems to be something of a transition point for Dean. It’s a dark tale but still incorporates a bit of his early sci-fi mojo. In fact, it’s sort of cut from the same mold that Winter Moon (originally Invasion, released under the pseudonym Aaron Wolfe) was cut from. It involves an alien being, little more than a sentient mass, which takes over its hosts for the sole purpose of world domination and spreading chaos. But while this being has encountered love on other planets, it has never encountered the overpowering strength of human love.

“Miss Attila the Hun” is enjoyable if a bit hokey. And Dean seems to have forgotten the black alien stalks and tendrils that burst through people’s chests, because when it’s all over…there are no gaping, bleeding holes. Say what? Maybe I missed something. Either way, a fun read.

And that’s it for now. As I’ve said before, if you enjoy something, support the hell out of it! So click those links.

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