Friday, May 25, 2018

MARKETING - EVERY WRITER'S DREAM

I've never talked to a single writer who enjoys marketing as much as or more than writing itself. Some writers are quite good at it, perhaps because of previous experience or that je n'est sais quoi that gives them a knack for it, but the truth is that writers (and most other creative types) just want to create. We'd be over the moon to be free to let our imaginations spit out entertaining content and let someone else convince the world to buy it. This does happen for a select few, of course, but for the rest of us, it's not enough to just bake pies. We also have to tell everyone how delicious they are and hope that people believe us.


Marketing shares many similarities with the creative arts, and there are also many differences. In marketing, as in the arts, you have to be imaginative, empathetic, sensitive to your audience, courageous, have thick skin, be willing to fail a lot, and always try to come up with a cool new idea. On the other hand, there are metrics and analytics and rubrics and percentages and industry jargon and a world that is moving at a breakneck speed and doesn't care how much time you need to bake your creative pie because it's already found something else that's more exciting. Simply put, one side of marketing is really fun and the other side is really boring.

Actually, that's not so different than writing...


No matter how I or other writers feel about it, marketing is essential to any writer's success, and unless you're a big name with a big publishing budget, you have to do it yourself. After searching the interwebs, I decided to sign up for Udacity's Digital Marketing Nanodegree. It's a three-month online course and so far, I'm enjoying it. I've still got a long way to go but I've already learned a lot about marketing basics and social media marketing, and I haven't even gotten into search engine optimization, Google analytics, email marketing, and many other marketing channels. I'm not expecting miraculous results but with so many free and inexpensive tools available to writers like me, I'd be foolish not to take advantage. I also don't want to waste my time spinning my wheels or shooting arrows into the dark and praying that I'll hit something. That's where the numbers come into play, and that's where I need to focus.

So here's hoping for a fun and productive journey into a world that can be a bit intimidating but one that needs to be conquered.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

NEW SECRET PROJECT!

It may look like I've been laying low for a while, but that's because I've been hard at work on the next Michael Winstell book! And guess what - it releases next week! Mark Carver will be back next year but for now, Michael Winstell is renting my imagination for his contemporary Christian Western romance books. There is still one more to go, so be sure to check back soon!

Click here to find out more about Michael Winstell's latest release!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

GUEST POST BY A.K. PRESTON

Horror/thriller author A.K. Preston has just released a new book, The Gevaudan Project. Today, he's stopping by to tell us a bit about his writer's journey into the dark world of horror in search of the Light.




My Approach to the Horror Genre 

When I started writing, I actually didn’t think of The Gevaudan Project as a horror novel. At the time, I even avoided that particular term as an embarrassing buzzword. Let’s face it – the horror genre has gained an overwhelmingly negative connotation within Christian circles. At first glance, the critics seem to have Scripture on their side. After all, aren’t we instructed to think upon “whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report (Philippians 4:8)” and told “it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret (Ephesians 5:12”?

The best starting in any biblical debate is to answer Scripture with Scripture. Other places in the Bible make use of quite graphic and – dare I say it – horrific imagery: 

And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. (Zechariah 14:12)

 
Elsewhere, in books like Revelation, we read almost Lovecraftian descriptions of bizarre, mutant beasts, humanoid locusts rising out of the Underworld, rivers and seas of blood, and unvarnished portrayals of wickedness (the “Great Whore”, for example, is an explicitly sexual image). Novelist Brian Godawa explores this at length in his article The Book of Revelation is an Epic Horror Fantasy.

The fact that this vivid imagery appears in the very same Scripture containing the verses on purity should give pause to any rigid dogmatism regarding what is and is not “acceptable” for a Christian writer, especially when considering an entire literary genre. Does that mean that no guidelines apply whatsoever? Not at all. I believe the way to reconcile this seeming contradiction is to honestly portray evil in a way that neither fetishizes or glorifies it. What would this look like? I can only explain my own approach, which does not contain any hard and fast “rules” or even offer a basis for them.

I’ve read at least one article, available here in full, stating that the horror genre began in late 19th century Europe, produced from the existential dread of an Old World culture that had lost its belief in a higher power guaranteeing moral order. It then came comparatively late to American culture, where it remained an awkward “alien” element for quite some time – all of the original Universal Studios horror films were based on European source material and featured European settings. The stated reason for this is that, unlike Europe, American culture has a strong optimistic bias rooted in its continued religiosity. An inherent belief in moral order causes outrage rather than fear toward the events typically occurring in horror stories.

There was a time when I might have agreed with that viewpoint in full, but I’ve since found it vastly over-simplified and in many cases completely inaccurate. The fact is, hopelessness and/or godlessness is not an essential element of the horror genre. One classic horror author I’ve recently discovered is William Hope Hodgson. His book The Night Land, published in 1912, anticipates the “cosmic horror” made famous by authors such as H.P. Lovecraft – but it contains nothing of Lovecraft’s nihilistic philosophy. It is, in fact, one of the most epic and profoundly moving stories I have ever read – It vividly portrays Divine Providence and the endurance of the human spirit in a far-future world where the sun has literally died and otherworldly monsters walk the earth. Bram Stoker’s Dracula usually receives much the same criticism that many Christians (fairly and unfairly) level against the modern vampire genre it spawned – but Stoker’s original story is a powerful tale of good vs. evil, almost all of it based on explicitly Christian elements. The vampire archetype itself vividly illustrates the nature of the Devil – a powerful, seductive figure that steadily drains the life from victims that become his slaves for eternity. 
 



The aforementioned view nevertheless illustrates a salient point that has shaped my own writing: evil should not just be feared – it has to be called out and opposed. There are many ways of doing this, some more Scripturally-based than others. Fear is passive – outrage is active.

My novel, The Gevaudan Project, is a monster story – yet I consider the truly chilling element to be not the monster itself but the motivations of its human creators. The real (or potentially real), in my view, is far more frightening than the imaginary. We have far more to fear from serial killers, terrorists, and mass murderers than vampires, werewolves, or zombies. In truth, literary monsters are just externalized representations of human evil:

There is a generation whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.” (Proverbs 30:14)

The reason the modern horror genre has such a bad name in Christian circles is that many of its current authors have jettisoned any truly thematic storytelling and blown its graphic elements out of all proportion. Dean Koontz, I believe, says it best: “I don’t find slashing and blood flying everywhere to be scary. I just find it repulsive.” The old masters of the genre would have agreed with this statement – Stoker, Hodgson, Blackwood, and Lovecraft all evoke far more imagery than they actually describe, and their stories are arguably the more powerful for it.

Ultimately, the way we imagine evil shapes how we imagine good. The function of darkness is to make the light shine even brighter, both in fiction and in the larger cosmic drama of Creation. This, I believe is why God allows Satan to exist, if but for a limited time. One of the most powerful illustrations I have ever seen of this occurs in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion, where Eru (God) addresses the fallen angel Melkor (Lucifer):

And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” 

In the end, this is the task I see for any Christian writer portraying darkness: to show it truthfully for what it is – and remember that the light will come again. 

 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

SECRET PROJECT HAS BEEN RELEASED!

My secret project is finished! I won't name any names or titles but you can find it here. And guess what - the next book is already under construction!

Monday, November 20, 2017

NEW PROJECT!

It's been a while since my last update. After releasing BALOR, I took a few months off to decompress, because that was a very challenging project. I did release Volume Five of THE JERUSALEM CHRONICLES, which is available on Amazon. Aside from that, I just enjoyed not writing for a spell, though of course my imagination was always hard at work, percolating ideas for my next project.

And now, I've begun my next project, though it isn't the scifi/fantasy epic EMPYREUS that I had been planning. No, it's a **SECRET** project that has been bouncing around in my head for several months, and I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did - after only a couple of weeks, I'm already 15% finished with the first draft. I'm hoping to have the draft finished by the end of January and the edits done soon after that for an April release.

What is this secret project, you ask? Well, I can't tell you, because you would laugh. Seriously. I'm not even going to use my real name for this project because it is such a drastic departure from my usual work, and I don't want people to get confused when they go to my Amazon page. I won't tell you what the book is about, but I will give you this: my pen name is Michael Winstell. So be on the lookout for Michael Winstell's fiction debut next spring.

As I'm working on this project, I'm still going to be outlining and plotting EMPYREUS, so when I've gotten this latest book out of my system, I'll be ready to jump back into the heavy stuff that Mark Carver is (not yet) famous for.

Sorry to leave you hanging, but that's all for now!