I am very excited to announce my second book, a young adult sci-fi romance called Eyes Ever to the Sky, is now available on Amazon.
Writing and launching a second book is an amazing experience and I do hope you like the final product. I'm also celebrating by giving away a $25 gift card on my website.
Check out the book and let me know what you think. And thanks to all my Underground friends who helped make this possible. When Hugh wakes up in a smoldering crater—no memory, no clothes—a single thought echoes in his head…trust no one. Frightened and alone, with no memory of who he is, he stumbles upon a grisly murder scene and is fatally shot. He wakes, only to find he can heal himself. He has superpowers and he’s going to need them.
Desperate and bleeding, Hugh stumbles upon fifteen-year-old Cece, who’s got enough troubles of her own. Between caring for her bipolar mother and trying not to get evicted from her run-down trailer, Cece may be the only person struggling as much as Hugh. Drawn to Hugh, Cece finds a love she’s never known. But when the real killer—a man-hunting beast—chooses another victim, Hugh and Cece realize they must unlock the clues to their past if they have any chance at a future.
Amy R. Biddle
There are plenty of reasons why authors choose pen names. Theodor Geisel first started using his middle name (Seuss) so that he could continue to publish in a magazine that he was fired from. Benjamin Franklin used a litany of fictional characters, complete with alternate personalities, which he used to spark controversy. Stephen King created the pseudonym Richard Bachman so that he could publish more than one book a year, which was unthinkable at the time.
But the literary landscape is changing, and while the pen name still runs amok, it is a serious choice for the budding author. As a victim of the nom-de-plume, I understand both its advantages and disadvantages on a very personal level. While anonymity has a certain romantic ring to it, the truth is that pen names are more of a burden than a blessing. Let this be a warning to all up-and-coming authors: don’t fall prey to the frivolity of a pen name without a sound reason to do so.
Sorry authors, but in the modern world, social networking and online marketing are crucial. Fans want to be able to connect with authors, it’s as simple as that. The more road blocks you put between yourself and your fans, the harder marketing becomes. If you use a pen name, you’re shutting out your current fans (your friends and family, if you aren’t published yet) as well as cutting off your new, potential fans from your personal life.That brings us to the logistics of a pen name: Maintaining separate email accounts, remembering how to sign your emails, even writing book reviews on Amazon or Goodreads and making comments on Facebook… it all becomes a convoluted mess. It sounds like small stuff now, but when you use a pen name you’re sealing up a can of worms and saving it for later.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good reasons to use a pen name: You might share a name with a well-known author, for example. But I'll be the first to admit that new authors usually find bad reasons to use a pen name. I had lots of bad reasons, but it all boiled down to one thing: I wanted to hide behind a wall so that I could be myself without fear. Instead, I found it harder to be myself while staying hidden behind said wall.
In the end, I realized that it simply wasn’t worth the email-swapping and gender-bending to maintain anonymity. So there you have it. From this day forth, A. B. Riddle is dead, and Amy R. Biddle is taking her rightful place as author of The Atheist’s Prayer and editor of Underground Book Reviews.
A pen name didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. What you have to decide is whether or not it’s worth it to keep up the façade. And I’m warning you now, it’s a lot more work than you might have imagined.Amy Biddle is the Editor-and-Chief and President of Underground Book Reviews, LLC. Her debut novel,
The Atheist's Prayer, will be published by Perfect Edge Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing. You can read a short teaser or visit her website for more info.
Feeling edgy? Today, Perfect Edge Books is doing a double release of
The Sound of Loneliness by Craig Wallwork and
Stranger Will by Caleb J. Ross. Take a peek. You're not afraid of good fiction, are you?
The Sound of Loneliness
by Craig Wallwork
Manchester in 1991 is a town suffering under the weight of high unemployment and massive government budgetary deficits that is plunging the UK into a recession. To Daniel Crabtree, a struggling writer, it is the backcloth to his first novel, one that will see him become a famous published author. Living off mostly water and flour, Daniel has embraced penury into his life under the mistaken belief that many young artists have: one needs to suffer for success in art. But Daniel is a terrible writer. In the three years since signing on the dole, of every morning chastising his Irish singing neighbour for waking him from his sleep, and scrounging food from his close friend Henry Soperton, Daniel Crabtree has produced one short story. His heart is bereft of words as much as his pockets are of money.
It is a story of love, and how a poor starving man chasing a dream came to the understanding that amidst the clamour of life, the sound of loneliness is the most deafening of all.
by Caleb J. Ross
The child he loves. The idea of a child, he's beginning to understand, is where everything will go wrong.
William works as a human remains removal specialist, removing stains left by the dead. Whether by a bloody crime scene or a quiet domestic death, William is reminded each day of the frailty of human life. As his fiancée, Julie, nears term with their first child William becomes increasingly desperate for a way to overcome his belief that to birth is to kill. But Mrs. Rose, an elementary school principal and messenger pigeon hobbyist, nurtures William’s depressive outlook and claims to have a way to prove that William’s hesitancy to accept fatherhood is not only natural but necessary.
In this novel of impending parenthood, an idealistic teacher recruits a pliant protégé to join her group of Strangers – a devout collection of kindred minds who have dedicated their lives to cultivating a unique idea of perfection.
But joining is easier than leaving.
This year, Liz D. Publicity held its first Shirley You Jest
competition, highlighting self-published and indie books that "deliver the funny." Underground Book Reviews agreed to sponsor it by reviewing the first and second place winners over the month of December. We're counting on these books to keep us laughing, but will they live up to our expectations? Only time, and some honest reviews, will tell. So stay tuned! December's review schedule will look something like this:
Ketchup as a Vegetable by Robin O'Bryant
First Place in the non-fiction category
Reviewed by Katie French
Pickin' Tomatoes by J. W. Bull
First Place in the fiction category
Reviewed by Brian Braden
What Would Satan Do by Anthony Miller
Second Place in the fiction category
Reviewed by A. B. Riddle
Confessions of an Edgy Suburban Mom by Pam Grimes
Second place in the non-fiction category
Reviewed by Yvonne Lieblein
This month Underground Book Reviews is thankful for all your love and support. If you’ve felt any UBR love, there’s a chance to support our growth even further. Every year Writer’s Digest
collects nominations for their prestigious 101 Best Websites for Writers. We’ve never won such a prestigious award, but feel like this is our year.
Please send your nominations to Writers Digest (writersdigest<at>fwmedia<dot>com) with the subject line "101 Websites." Thanks for all your support!
Author Daniel Haight joins us today on the Underground to share some insights about social media. He's an emerging sci-fi writer from the San Francisco Bay Area and a taller version of Tom Cruise with huge pecs, a Sagittarius, and an offshore Cigarette Boat racer, scrimshaw collector and in his spare time enjoys telling ridiculous lies about himself. Welcome, Daniel Haight!
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t sit through Field of Dreams. I think when stories oversimplify life, they fail. Relationships are more complex than what you saw in that film and, more importantly, the movie lied to me when it told me, “If you build it … they will come.” If you’ve ever promoted a novel, you know that this is a filthy lie. In fact, successfully promoting your work is the process of sifting through sheer metric tons of crap spouted by “book promoters” to arrive at some core truths:
- Just because you wrote it, doesn’t mean they will read it.
- Just because you sell it, doesn’t mean they will buy it.
- Just because you are passionate, doesn’t mean they will care.
Discouraged? Don’t be. I’m not here to break you … I’m here to free you, like Neo, from ideas that will not help you in your journey. Think of this as getting down to your fighting weight as both a successful author and as a successful promoter of your own work. As of today, you are both.
UBR asked me to put together some do’s and don’ts of book promotion and I offer them below without too much commentary. I think they’re relatively obvious:
- Treat it like a conversation
- Think about who you are talking to
- Understand what you want them to take away from you
- Treat it like an adventure worth sharing - The adventure for you and your fans is two-fold: the story … and the story of you getting published. Share that.
- Use automated social media systems (like Hootsuite) to schedule and organize your broadcasts.
- Get discouraged - most social-media promotion feels like you are shouting into a hole.
- Spam - promoting is fine … but don’t let it be the only thing you do. #justsayin
- Be a Diva - You are not Suzanne Collins and even if you were, Suzanne Collins doesn’t do Twitter battles. The odds are not in your favor.
- Turn down help - do people like what you’re doing and want to help? Thank them! Let them!
I don’t want to fill a teacup with a firehose, so we’ll stop here for now. Being a creative professional is like being a professional in any other industry. You have to show up, do the work, have something to show for it and prove that you know what you’re talking about. The days of writers being insulated from the business of publishing are over.
Agree? Disagree? Comment below or you can tell me that I’m a jerk in person over at the Flotilla forums.
Flotilla, is a crossover apocalyptic science-fiction novel that throws a young man, literally and figuratively, into the ocean and makes him both a survivor and a hero who rescues his family from disaster.
Jim Westfield is a troubled teen who is forced into rehab by his mother and step-father and then sent to live with his father, Rick, on a floating community that raises fish commercially using a process called 'mariculture.' Although Jim learns to act like a responsible adult, he occasionally self-destructs and puts himself at the mercy of some chaotic, unbalanced people. When disaster strikes onshore, Jim is forced to make deadly choices and become the hero he needs to be in order to save himself and his sister. Readers are finding Flotilla to be a stirring coming-of-age tale that brings together fathers and sons, conquering loss through courage and inner strength. You can learn more about Flotilla, and read the first five chapters for free, by visiting www.flotillaonline.com. Flotilla is also available now on Amazon.
Fans of edgy fiction, put your reading glasses on. Perfect Edge Books is here to give you flawed characters, dark comedy and darker dystopias. A new imprint of John Hunt Publishing, Perfect Edge is pushing the boundaries in fiction and re-shaping the definition of traditional publishing. If Penguin is the Hershey’s of the publishing industry, Perfect Edge is Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
So what is Perfect Edge all about? Phil Jourdan, who runs the imprint, can sum it up: “Perfect Edge publishes fiction that blurs the distinctions between “literary writing" and its evil twin, "genre." We combine the indie press attitude with the resources of a larger publisher. We look for authors who are confident, talented, tireless and entrepreneurial. We don't publish hardbacks; we don't give advances; we produce our books with more efficiency than most presses because we try to be relevant and dependable. We even enjoy the horror stories about the publishing industry we read in the magazines because we're adapting quickly. We go for smallish print runs (a few hundred) to prime the pump, print more when stocks get low, over and over. And we make friends with each other along the way.”
Sorry, folks, but according to Phil, “Perfect Edge isn't looking for new submissions right now. We want to focus on achieving the best results we can with the authors we already have onboard. We do, however, intend to open the gates again to find a new group of authors, and when that happens we'll branch out into new genres and styles.”
And now for the good news: Perfect Edge has released its first title! 100 Years of Vicissitude by Andrez Bergen follows a geisha and a corrupt millionaire in their tour of the afterlife. It is the stand-alone, not-quite-sequel to Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, which Andrez published in 2011. While most sequels follow the heroes from the previous novel, 100 Years of Vicissitude follows the villain. I have no doubt that 100 Years of Vicissitude will be well worth your time and money, whether or not you’ve read Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat.
Sure, call me biased. When my novel comes out I will officially become a member of the Perfect Edge family, so it is not without self-interest that I promote the imprint. But I’m excited about Perfect Edge because I believe in their mission, and I still wonder how I’ve managed to become affiliated with such a forward-thinking and creative group. The authors at Perfect Edge aren’t afraid to break the rules, and they have the talent to get away with it.
In an effort to capture the spirit of Perfect Edge, I asked some of my fellow authors to let loose their feelings about the imprint. It was no surprise to me when they waxed poetic about community, change and our fearless leader, Phil Jourdan. Here’s what they said:
As a writer and a book reviewer, I’ve made some observations and learned a few lessons over the past few years about the state of mind of many emerging authors. If you care to listen, I’ll share a few. Take them for what they are, the opinions of an unpublished author.
First, I think many new authors fail to take an honest account of their motivations before jumping into writing. Motivations are legion, but every writer wants their work published. It may not be the only motivation, but it’s likely the most important. I call this powerful motivation the Writer’s Drive. However, when a writer doesn’t have other goals besides publication, such as improving the quality of their work, the Writer’s Drive can become overpowering. A relentless, obsessive, and often frustrating quest for publication can cloud judgment and seriously interfere with their craft. To put it another way, too much Writer’s Drive is a bad thing.
Writer’s Drive often leads to Writer’s Desperation, the overpowering desire for feedback and validation. Desperation leads to anxiety and impatience. It often comprises a writer’s work as they rush it to publication before its ready. Alas, desperation often leads to fear.
Writers often fear criticism because writing is an intensely personal experience.
To some degree or another, writers must lower their shields and open themselves up to the judgment of strangers, resulting in varying degrees of apprehension, or what I call Writer’s Fear. Like any other human endeavor, most people who try their hand at writing fail. After the sixth grade most ballerinas and baseball players give up and become other things. Sadly, it takes more time for writers to get a clue. Unlike sports, writers can insulate themselves from scrutiny and, to avoid hurt feelings, friends and relatives sometimes aren’t entirely honest. When writers finally hit a wall of honest, often brutal, feedback, they have three choices: quit, learn and adapt, or lie to themselves. Which brings me to my last observation: writers can be self-delusional.
There isn’t a writer out there who hasn’t suffered Writer’s Delusion. We’ve often ignored a golden nugget of advice that a manuscript might need major work. People naturally hear what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. It reminds me of the movie Dumb and Dumber
when the Lauren Holly tells Jim Carey he only has a
one-in-a-million chance of ever going out with her. He smiles and says, “So you’re telling me I have a chance!” Yep, that’s us writers.
There you have it - A strong, unchecked drive to publish often leads to desperation, fear, and self-delusion. In other words, it leads to a very frustrated writer. So I come back to the point about motivations. As a writer, if you’re honest about your motivations you can often find other reasons than publication. Getting published is a natural, long-term goal, but there is more to writing than seeing your book in print. Improving your craft, for example, is an important and attainable near-term goal.
Bottom line, you need something to keep you motivated on the long road to publication that doesn’t stress you out, keeps you writing and moving forward. Find reasons that are uplifting, relaxing, and positive. This will give you patience and peace of mind. It also beats the hell out of fear, desperation and delusion. In time, one way or another, the publication thing will take care of itself.If you enjoyed this article follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Brian Braden on his blog, Facebook and Twitter and buy his book, Carson's Love. If you are an agent or publisher you can make the smartest financial decision of your life (and alleviate Brian's fear and desperation) by offering him a contract on his brilliant novel Black Sea Gods.
Melanie Marttila is an epic fantasy novelist-in-progress. Previously published in several poetry anthologies, her short fiction has won several prizes and appeared in the flagship issue of Parsec Magazine
. Her work is influenced by Guy Gavriel Kay, Diana Gabaldon, Robin McKinley, Jungian psychology, Joseph Campbell, and the serendipitous collision of dream, continual learning and her work as a learning and development professional. She blogs as Writerly Goodness
Melanie, it’s a pleasure to have you here in the Underground. We met, virtual style, on Author Salon almost a year ago, where you are hard at work on your epic fantasy novel, Initiate of Stone
. You’ve won a few prizes for your short fiction. I know a lot of writers find the leap from short fiction to full-fledged novels daunting. Many never make the leap. What made you decide to undertake the challenge of writing
a novel? MELANIE:
First, I’d like to thank you, Brian and Underground Book Reviews, for giving me this opportunity. I’m quite honored to be considered for the emerging writers series and happy to be here.
Novels have always been in me. I had several ideas, even as a child, that I knew couldn’t fit into a shorter form. At the time though, I didn’t have the skill or the dedication to devote myself to a novel. Plus, the opportunities presented to me were all contests. Short stories and poetry work better for that venue.
When I was seventeen I started writing novels longhand, in spiral notebooks. Graduating through a typewriter to a 286 computer with a rudimentary word processor, I wrote, rewrote, transferred my files using a 5 1/4 inch floppy to a newer computer, then a 3 1/2 inch floppy to an even newer computer, and now I have a desktop, laptop, and a tablet with USB drives and backups on DVD.
Even when I was published as a poet, though it was wonderful, it seemed a distraction, a detour from the path I should have been on.
So it’s never been difficult for me to write a longer work. Short stories have always been more challenging for me. BRIAN:
Please tell our readers a little about your project, Initiate of Stone
Just as all her dreams are about to come true, Ferathainn learns that her family and friends have lied to her all her life. The truth, along with her marriage and initiation as a mage await her on her sixteenth birthday but, come the day, soldiers, led by a red-haired butcher, attack her village and put every hope and support beyond her reach.
Alone, bereft, and raped, Ferathainn falls victim to a spirit that promises to grant her the power to exact her revenge. That ill-fated attempt leads Ferathainn to the discovery that the attack on her village was only part of a larger plot to destroy the land of Tellurin and free a mad god from his prison.
Her quest to become powerful enough to prevent the end of her world puts Ferathainn on a collision course with her rapist and the secrets of her past. BRIAN:
In my humble opinion, epic fantasy needs three things to make it work: believable worlds, believable characters and grand, sweeping plots. Worlds, character and plots – as a writer which one do you think is your strength and why? MELANIE:
Definitely the characters. Everything begins with my protagonist and her or his story. Without that character, none of the others would exist, nor the plot, nor the world. It all grows out of one imaginary person.
I think my fascination with character comes from introspection, primarily, but also my interest in Jung and Campbell, and my book addiction. When I read a character that touches me, I remember them, what qualities affected me, what actions made him or her heroic. Everything I’ve lived and experienced, everything I’ve learned, everything I’ve read, it all helps me improve my craft.
My stint as a published author is about as long as I project Honey Boo Boo’s TV career will be. However, in my short two months of author-dom I’ve learned a lot. I want to take a moment and share with you my experiences as I see them in case some of you are thinking of diving into self publishing too.
First, it’s hard to know how much success is enough to make me satisfied. Sales have been okay. After the first surge, I’ve made enough money to buy myself lunch every day. I have hovered at 30,000 in the Amazon rankings. Now if you consider that is out of almost 4 million books, 30k doesn’t seem all that bad. But when you are an overachiever like I am, sometimes I feel disappointed that I haven’t rocketed to stardom yet. However, with my cognitive behavioral training I have reframed my disappointment into a real sense of accomplishment. Have any of you seen the movie Fight Club? Of course you have. Now remember the scene where Tyler Durden asks every man in the car what they want to do before they die and then lets go of the steering wheel? Well, my answer was always publish a novel. Now I can let go of the wheel and know that a major box has been checked. My children and their children on until the apocalypse comes (I write dystopian, remember?) can read a piece of me. I like that thought.
Second, there is never enough times one can check their Kindle Direct sales page that will satisfy. It has become a bad habit of mine. I check it before I go to bed, when I wake up and many, many times in between. I am thinking about going and checking it right now, so if you will excuse me... There. I’m back. You see, it’s a bad, useless habit. If only my keyboard could give me a mild electric shock every time I type in Amazon, I might get more done.
Lastly, I was blown away by the outpouring of support from my friends, family and surrounding community. I compare it to attending my own funeral without all the crying (only a few tears were shed and all by me). I knew my family would like it. I knew my friends would give me an atta-girl. What I didn't expect was everyone (and I mean everyone) I know coming out of the woodwork to fawn over me. People I hadn't spoken to since high school reposted my Facebook posts to get me sales. Colleagues told all their students to go out and buy my book. Friends of friends of friends wrote me and told me how much they enjoyed reading it. If nothing else comes from publishing, these last two months have been worth all the love I have received.
There is so much more I could reflect on, but as I said, I’m still an author-ette cutting my baby teeth on a sequel. I can smell good things ahead, and if you are willing, I’ll take you along for the ride. Thanks to everyone out there that has supported me. Lots of love coming your way.