Friday, September 20, 2013

Surprise Interview with Up-and-Coming Author JC Michael

I am happy to announce another surprise author interview, this time with British author JC Michael, whose debut horror novel Discoredia was just released through Books of the Dead Press. It is a very well developed and horrifying tale. Reading through the events in the story almost felt like the strobe lights of the raves and pill-popping dancers’ mindsets were shared with the reader throughout. It was certainly an entertaining and exciting tale.

Here’s the short summary:
As the year draws to a close a mysterious stranger makes a proposition to club owner, Warren Charlton. It's a deal involving a brand new drug called Pandemonium.

The good news: the drug is free.
The bad news: it comes at a heavy price, promising much but delivering far more.

Euphoria and ecstasy. Death and depravity. All come together, at Discoredia.

What other authors are saying:

“J.C. Michael’s brilliant novel, Discoredia, is a literal trip into the abyss echoing with the screams of those classic movies from the 80s where the big bad was bigger than life, unrepentantly evil, and no one was safe. By the time Michael’s 200 beat-per-minute pandemonium kicks in it’s too late to do anything but keep rolling and pray you make it to the last track.”
~ Bracken MacLeod, author of Mountain Home

“J. C. Michael’s Discoredia is the ballroom blitz from Hell. Michael’s novel of sex, drugs, music and evil pulls you in seductively, then turns the amp up to 11. With a silky, snaky style reminiscent of Clive Barker, Michael weaves a tale that takes recreational drug use to a whole new, terrifying level. The book moves at a terrific pace, to the THUMP THUMP THUMP of dance music. And all the time, in the background, there is an elegant, sophisticated evil DJing the entire rave.”

~ John F.D. Taff, author of Little Deaths

“Fantastic. Epic. I’ve done a lot of drugs, and wrote my share of stories, but never have they both danced together in the darkness such as in Discoredia.”

~Mark Matthews, author of On the Lips of Children

My review:
I was blown away. Discoredia is a story of humanity, depravity, and living sin, shoving all else by the wayside. I read it in just a couple days and felt somewhat torn. Part of me wished to help the main characters, but almost all are littered with the flaws of humanity, some worse than others. A nagging part of me even rejoiced at each character's horrifying experiences. This tale isn't for the weak hearted or those whose sanity might be teetering. With a writing style and flare all his own, J.C. Michael has rewritten history and the possibilities of the universe. Don't miss the excitement of this heart-thumping tale, but look out for those purple-flecked panda pills.

Author, JC Michael
As you can see, I enjoyed the read. It’s great to have Mr. Michael with us today.

WK: Welcome, JC. It’s good to have you. Now, I’m sure you are excited to have your debut novel out and in readers’ hands. What’s your inspiration for writing?

JC: My inspiration comes from a lot of places, but mainly it’s the fact that I’m often making up stories and coming up with plots in my head, with writing providing a release for those thoughts and ideas.

WK: I can certainly understand that. Those ideas and characters rattle around in my head sometimes like inmates trying to get out. It’ll drive a man insane. So what made you write Discoredia?

JC: It was a challenge from my wife (girlfriend at that point). She was studying for a Performing Arts degree, which brought quite a creative atmosphere to our home life, and I also had a habit of saying “It would have been better if…” after reading a book or watching a movie. The result was a challenge that if I thought I could do any better, then I should give it a go, and I readily accepted. I wound up with a 90,000+ word novel.

WK: LOL. That’s an interesting start. Competitions and challenges have motivated some of the greatest authors throughout history: Mary Shelly, Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and so many others. Hopefully you’ve just started down a similar path. Do you have any favorite authors?

JC: Stephen King has to be my favorite, but I also enjoy James Herbert and Clive Barker.

WK: Those are certainly some whose works I’ve enjoyed reading. On a slightly different topic, does your inspiration ever come from people you know?

JC: Character-wise yes. I don’t exactly create characters based on specific people, but I bring in bits and pieces of various people I know.

WK: That’s hard to resist sometimes. Real people are often intriguing and more astounding than any fictional character we could come up with—that’s for sure. So, while not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

JC: Spending time with my family and fairly run-of-the-mill stuff like movies, video games, and watching the football (soccer for American readers) on T.V. I’m a big Manchester United fan.

WK: Speaking of Manchester United, I have often seen drunken brawls portrayed on television by Manchester United fans, probably from movies like Eurotrip, Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. (Correct me if I’m thinking of the wrong movies.) Do you have a celebration activity or something you like to do when you finish a novel? I hope it doesn’t involve too much destruction.

JC: I'm not sure about Snatch and Lock Stock, but I do know The Football Factory and Green Street are movies about hooliganism. However, I never truly feel that the novel is “finished” as I’m always likely to tinker with it and be looking to improve it. I suppose publication is the point where I view the novel as “finished” and I’ll be celebrating that with a glass of whisky, and a toast to my publisher.

WK: I’m sure he’d appreciate it. Maybe you can even name a character in your next book after him. Speaking of—how do you choose character names, and are they important?

JC: They’re not random, but they’re not overly important. Having said that, once a character has a name it would be weird to change it.

WK: I can understand that. Attempting to change a character’s identity mid-book would almost seem traumatizing. Additionally, in my opinion there’s a feel to a name sometimes. Think about your character Warren Charlton. The name itself seems to exude an aura of authority to my ear, even before we meet him. Sometimes when testing names for characters, I go through them like a shopping trip through Dillard’s, trying each one on like it were a new sports jacket. I’m sure you went through plenty when coming up with characters early in your writing. Do you remember the plot of the first thing you ever wrote?

JC: I wrote a story at primary school where two alien races were in a battle and every few lines another bunch of aliens would turn up in their spaceships, and turn the tide of the battle. The teacher read it out to the class and pretended it was from a real book.

WK: Wow! Well that was nice of her. I’m sure it helped motivate you to write more, or did you just try to impress her for the rest of the year by wearing some fancy cologne? In that line of thought, do you have a favorite game, cologne, or anything that you just can’t live without?

JC: Hardcore music and Manchester United.

WK: Since we’ve now travelled back into the early days of your childhood, let me pry a bit more. What was the first thing you remember reading?

JC: I’ve no idea, but “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” was a childhood favorite according to my dad.

WK: Ha-ha! I’m sure my parents might say something similar. I don’t know which book it might be, maybe “Where’s Waldo” or something. Now, which do you prefer as a reader, e-book or paper?

JC: Traditional dead tree for me. I read a lot on the I-Phone at the moment, but given the choice I’d opt for a real book as I stare at a computer screen all day at work.

WK: My sentiments exactly. It’s hard to beat a good traditional book, but when it comes to pocketbook comfort and accessing a huge library of books easily, I find the convenience factor very difficult to overlook. Seeing how Discoredia has just been released, this might be a bit of a ways off, but if your book were made into a movie, who would you like to direct and star in it?

JC: Discoredia is very much a “British” book, and I’d like it to keep that feel. Christopher Lee would make a great Woodrose, in the early part of the novel, and director-wise maybe Neil Marshall (The Descent / Dog Soldiers).

WK: I’m sure that would be a very exciting movie, and you certainly can’t go wrong with Christopher Lee. He’d do a heck of a good job as Woodrose. Let me know when it’s in the works. I’d love to see it come to fruition. Thanks for coming, JC. And good luck with Manchester United!

JC Michael’s debut novel Discoredia is available for the astounding price of $3.99, a great deal for hours of thrilling reading. Pick it up on Amazon or one of many other e-book retailers.
To find out more about JC Michael’s upcoming releases, visit his webpage.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the Altered Realities series, the A Life of Death collection, and Strange Circumstances

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

To Query Literary Agents or Not?

I recently ran across a thread on where new authors were discussing whether to begin self-publishing or not. I’ve weighed in on this topic from time to time since I started self-publishing initially and still self-publish one of my series, Altered Realities. (Read about What You’re Getting Yourself Into to understand why I was open to traditional publishing.) 

Today, I couldn’t resist commenting when the topic of discussion turned to agents and whether they are necessary in the modern publishing industry. On Goodreads Robert said:

I had done a ton of homework and one agent in particular seemed perfect. Everything the agent had publicly stated they liked was contained within my novel and I went out of my way to explain it in my submission letter to the agent.

Of course, I got the frustrating rejections. The rejections themselves didn't bother me necessarily. I had steadied myself for those. What bothered me was the form letter nature of them. I really felt that the agents never even read my submission as I got "not a good fit" and "This is a subjective business" (That last part caused the smart mouth in me to say to myself, "So you admit you have terrible tastes?")

That agent I mentioned earlier, well the agent specifically stated a strong dislike to romance novels. On the agent's twitter feed their latest book deal after rejecting me was-you guessed it-a romance novel. A romance novel from an author that the agent had a long-standing relationship with.

This wasn’t a surprise to me, but I realized that to many people it was. Why?

Literary AgentsThe Gatekeepers

For years I was under the impression that literary agents were the so-called "Gatekeepers" of the publishing industry, kind of like Gozer from Ghostbusters. You couldn't enter the publishing world, whether through the refrigerator or the roof, without the support and representation of a literary agent.

After spending years in slush piles, attending writing conferences, querying agents and large publishers, and researching online, I discovered two things: 

One—Agents often have a pretty good idea of what they want. They want something that will sell. They want a good book that appeals to readers. They sometimes will even say on their site, “I’m looking for a zombie romance with an epileptic fish from a fresh perspective,” or some other generic story arc based on what they think readers are looking for. 

Two—Most of the time agents don’t know what they’re looking for, even if they think they do. I’ve seen agents do just what Robert was talking about as a result of previous agreements with clients and fresh, unexpected ideas that catch the agent’s interest. Heck, even Twilight and Harry Potter were turned down many times.

The Role of Literary Agents:

Agents can be very good at what they do, but they primarily would like to represent the next Harry Potter. But I get the impression that predicting publishing trends and which books readers will devour is more problematic than trying to predict the weather 24 hours out. This isn’t to say meteorologists and literary agents aren’t any good at their jobs, just that in my experience… well, most of the time they’re wrong, and the process for both fields is way too subjective.

The same ambiguity can also be used to describe the expectation of query letters. Often agents state that queries must be done a certain way or they will be thrown out. However, those that are written creatively, not necessarily adhering to the “required standards,” have also reportedly intrigued agents and gotten a request for more, like this example from Steven Malk on Chuck Sambuchino’s blog.

So what does this ambiguity amount to?

So far as agents go, I tried for years to get one. Ironically, after over one hundred rejections of two books, a few personalized rejections, and even a couple statements of interest that later turned into personalized rejections, I finally sort of "got lucky" with a new agent who had just made "full agent" status. (And yes, these are the best agents to query as an unpublished author because they are more ambitious and inclined to find the diamond in the rough. However, more often than not they still will reject you.)

“Getting Lucky,” Sort of:

I'd already turned down one very small publisher that just didn't jive with where I wanted to go, like creating e-books, marketing, and such. (For specific reasons why, see My Publishing Experience.)

In addition, I'd spoken with a well-known author whose books regularly top Amazon's sales list; he informed me that agents simply aren't necessary in this day and age, especially considering their cost—15 percent of everything. By this point, I’d spent months on a renewed search for an agent after years of self-publishing. Again, I was receiving rejection after rejection. I was a self-published author, meaning according to agents I could be excellent—the next Amanda Hocking, Konrath, or Scott Nicholson—or I could have written the book in a week and never spent any time fine tuning or editing it. The catch-22 was the silent understanding that only “legitimately published” authors would be considered for representation by most agents. The authors had to have a good track record. I can’t fault agents for this requirement because they personally invest their time in the author’s books; although, it does create an odd circular arrangement. 

After over 40 more rejections, this new agent who had worked under other prolific agents for years was teetering about whether to take on my novel. He was on the fence, and the book was left in limbo while he decided. Days turned into weeks, weeks to months. I sent a follow-up email, only to be told he still hadn’t decided.

Making New Publishing Opportunities:

Suffice to say that it was time to open myself to new avenues. I began researching small and midsize publishers, looking for one with marketing ambition, concepts, and a successful publishing track record. I found one I liked, Books of the Dead Press, and decided to submit my novel, A Life of Death. Within a week or two, I heard back from James Roy Daley and was in discussions about a book deal for A Life of Death. (Surprisingly, small and midsize publishers are much more open to new authors. You still have to have a good product, though. So, one submission led to one book deal offer—quite a difference from my past experiences with the big 5 publishers and so many literary agents.)

Winding Up Without Representation: 

I immediately sent an email to the teetering agent asking if he was interested in negotiating the contract. Unfortunately, it took him a few days to respond. 

Over the next few days I’d discussed things with Books of the Dead Press and happily agreed to not just one, but a two-book deal for the A Life of Death series. Both the publisher and myself were excited, and I felt the future of the series had great potential. So believe it or not, I accepted the contract, not having heard from the agent. 

Later, the agent responded that he’d be interested in representing me and negotiating the contract. At this point I felt good about the book contract I’d accepted; so I informed the agent that the deal had been negotiated without him. In essence, his services were no longer needed. For some reason, I never heard back from him after that. (I wonder why.)

While I appreciated his initial interest, my response was completely truthful. I hadn’t meant it to be condescending. However, I can't say I didn't feel a little frustrated. Every author that has gone through this knows these things can be infuriating even: getting shoved to the side, rejected hundreds of times, told to wait for months at a time after the initial review period. I waited for a couple days to figure out whether I would have to negotiate the contract myself. Having heard nothing but with a book contract on the table, I took the negotiating reigns.

While this may or may not have been a good decision, only the future will tell. It isn’t to say that I won’t take on an agent in the future, but for now I see no reason. Since my series was picked up, I've been happy with my publisher. Books of the Dead Press have expressed an interest in book 3 of the A Life of Death collection, and I’m in the process of writing it.

What does this mean for new authors attempting to find publishers and agent representation?

I can only speak from my experiences, but the catch-22 many agents buy into of just representing authors who have a proven track record is difficult to overcome. A rare few authors with debut novels may find representation the traditional way, but from what I have seen and experienced, this is becomeing harder and harder. 

The realistic way around that circular pattern of representation vs. publication is to find a publisher. Small and mid-size publishers are probably the best to consider initially and build up your “street cred” in the publishing world. Whether you choose to go self-publishing, traditional publishing, or both like I eventually did, finding the right publisher and agent for you and your book/s is essential.You can always find an agent to represent you and other books to the big 5 publishers later. 

Just have patience and stay motivated.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the Altered Realities series, A Life of Death collection, and Strange Circumstances

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Altered Realities Giveaway and Top 100 Rankings

A little bluebird just reminded me that the giveaway of Invisible Dawn: Book One of Altered Realities ends today. With the release of the sequel, Salvation, I wanted everyone who loves dark fantasy, vampires, corrupt black-ops government agencies, and shifting dimensions to get their e-book of the first in the series free. It's available on Amazon and will be free even longer on Smashwords in every format for your e-readers. Get your copy today.

The book is currently in the top 100 of three different categories:
#11 in Dark Fantasy
#19 in Sci-fi Adventure
#78 in Paranormal Urban Fantasy. 

Enjoy the read with a good cup of coffee and a la-z-chair to relax in - just my recommendation.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the Altered Realities series, A Life of Death collection of novels, and Strange Circumstances

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Life of Death and Salvation Update

With Episode 5 of A Life of Death being released this Monday through my publisher, Books of the Dead Press, I think it would be a good idea to make a push to get the first four episodes listed as free on Unfortunately Amazon doesn't allow this initially, which is why this is necessary and why I need your help. Any and all help to accomplish this would be great and should only take a moment of your time. Just click the "tell us about a lower price" link on the Amazon page, post either the Sony, Smashwords, or B&N link below in the window that pops up along with 0s for cost and shipping, and then hit submit. Once enough people have done it, Amazon should price match. It could take 4 people or 40. Amazon keeps things pretty confidential, so I don't know. If you have a minute to do so, it would be greatly appreciated.

A Life of Death: Episode 1 -
Barnes & Noble -

A Life of Death: Episode 2 -
Sony Ereader -

A Life of Death: Episode 3
Amazon -
Smashwords -

A Life of Death: Episode 4
Amazon -
Smashwords -

Thanks much ahead of time!

So far as Salvation goes, book 2 of Altered Realities, I am happy to announce that Salvation will be released. I am sorry for the wait, but it will soon be over. I hope to release Salvation in the next week or two. Thanks for bearing with me.
after many helpful beta readers have given their thoughts, I am only waiting on two more. Their comments should be coming in the next couple days. Once I've integrated them,

So far, the response I've gotten is that the sequel is better than Invisible Dawn and a great continuation to the Altered Realities Story. I hope it continues to exceed expectations.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the Altered Realities series, A Life of Death collection of novels, and Strange Circumstances