Archive for Publishing

New Story Published: “Youth Will Be Served”

Who knows what lurks beneath those waves, what awaits the swimmers?

Who knows what lurks beneath those waves, what awaits the swimmers?

I had a story published in the February issue of Nightmare Magazine, “Youth Will Be Served.” It is a dark fantasy set in the Miami Beach of the 1990s, when South Beach’s Art Deco District was on the cusp between decay and revitalization. Both text and audio versions are available online. Please have a look or a listen!

Fat White Vampire Otaku Paperback Delayed

I need to apologize to those of you who have been waiting for Fat White Vampire Otaku to be released in trade paperback. That is still in the works, but Dara’s and my family situation has delayed it, likely until the fall. This summer, Dara, who handles all of MonstraCity Press’s editing and formatting tasks, has been completely occupied with taking care of our children and other important family matters. I anticipate that she will be able to return to her MonstraCity Press activities come the fall, when the children are back in school. Until then, I can only ask those of you who prefer traditional paperbacks over electronic books to continue to be patient. Thank you so much.

Fat White Vampire Otaku Now Out for Kindle!

Fat White - High Resolution - 100 Percent JPEG

It’s here — the long awaited third installment in the Fat White Vampire series of humorous horror novels! Jules Duchon and his vampiric family suffer through the ravages of Hurricane Antonia and struggle to survive in a New Orleans which is almost entirely depopulated. Where will they get their blood? Salvation comes from the most unlikely source possible — a trio of Japanese superheroes called Bonsai Master, Anime Girl, and Cutie-Scary Man. Yet that salvation comes with a terrifying but laugh-inducing price… the blood which the three superheroes donate has unpredictable effects on Jules and his family. Chaos ensues as Jules is transformed into a seven-foot-tall white rabbit, his wife Maureen puts on three hundred pounds, and his mother Edna becomes a vicious human/vampire vacuum cleaner!

Buy it for the Kindle on Amazon for $5.99!

Coming soon in trade paperback!

Cover for Hellfire and Damnation

Hellfire and Damnation - High Resolution

This is the cover for my upcoming book, Hellfire and Damnation: the August Micholson Chronicles, Book 2, coming out from MonstraCity Press in August, 2014. And here is the “teaser” for that book:

The second book in the thrilling Civil War steampunk supernatural suspense series begun with Fire on Iron. In this installment in the series, August Micholson must clear his name — he is accused of being a traitor to the Union and a sabateur and faces a court martial. He escapes his prison in an observation balloon, but then he is faced with monumental twin challenges — restoring the mental health of his “madness plague”-striken wife Elizabeth, and figuring out a way to halt General Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania!
_____________________________________________________________________________

Here’s a gallery of the work that James of the Humble Nations: the Book Covers, Musings, & Fiction of ‘Cheap Literature’ Smith’ has done for me thus far:

James has hundreds and hundreds of pre-made covers available for writers to purchase for $35 apiece, and he often offers specials on them. If none of his pre-made covers work for you, he also does what he calls “Commission Rapide,” which is where you pick out a few images from ShutterStock and give him your title and instructions, and “Full Commission,” where you let him do all the work and he presents you with three different alternatives. He is very easy to work with and very friendly, and his prices are some of the best out there. As you can see from the gallery above, the quality of his work is quite high (the book covers are all “Commissions Rapide,” and the logo was a complete original that he put together for Dara and me for MonstraCity Press). He does ebook covers and for a small additional charge turns an ebook cover into a full, wrap-around cover for a CreateSpace or Lightning Source/IngramSpark trade paperback. I highly recommend him!

The New Immortality of Authors and Books

Headstone with flowers

I’d like to pose (and attempt to answer) four related questions. When is a relationship dead? When is a writer dead? When is an author dead? When is a book dead?

When is a relationship dead? When one of the two parties who formerly made up the relationship refuses to continue to relate. One party may continue to try. But with only one party making an effort, the relationship is dead.

I’m thinking about this very frequently nowadays. My relationships with my mother and my step-father are dead. They refuse to talk with me. When I was in the hospital for six days, they made no attempt to contact me, nor did they send a get-well card. They were not ignorant; my brother and sister filled them in regarding my distress and situation.

I recently received the news, through my sister, that my step-father is ailing. I asked my oldest son, Levi, if he would like to send his grandfather a get-well card, even though his grandfather no longer sends him letters, cards, or gifts. He said he wanted to send a get-well card, anyway, so I went out and bought one for him, put stamps on it, addressed it for him, and let him fill in the inside with a personal message. I also added a brief message of my own, very simple — “Dad, I hope you feel better soon. Love, Andy.”

By servicing the dead, one services the living. I was servicing the dead, and I was teaching my son to do the same. When we visit a gravestone and place flowers by it (or small pebbles from home, as is a common Jewish custom), we are servicing the dead, but in truth, we are servicing the living — ourselves. We are preserving a sense of connection with the departed and remembering the loving times we spent together. My step-father is dead to me. But by sending him a card with a brief message, I am recalling the years of love we shared, before he decided to cut off our relationship. I am also teaching my son that sometimes it is good and proper to take the effort to send someone something of yourself, even if you cannot expect any response in return.

A writer is no more than a person who writes. The only relationship necessary for writership is that between a writer and his or her work. When is a writer dead? A writer is dead when the person who writes dies.

An author is a writer who has an audience other than him or herself; the audience can be as small as one other person. Authorship is a type of relationship, a three-way relationship: the relationship between the author and his work; the relationship between the author and his reader(s); and the relationship between the author’s work and the reader(s). When is an author dead? An author is dead when all three of those relationships are severed, and they may be severed when only one party in the relationship is failing to maintain the relationship. In the relationship between the author and his work, the author can renounce his work and stop writing. In the relationship between the author and his reader(s), either party can stop sustaining a relationship which has been built. In the relationship between an author’s work and its audience, either the work can go out of print and be discarded from all lending libraries (the work severs the relationship), or the audience can stop reading the work.

When is a book dead? Either when the book is no longer available to persons who might otherwise be its audience, or its existing and potential audiences stop reading it.

The new hybrid forms of writer-publisher and author-publisher means that fewer writers, authors, and books will die. The assurance of publication means a writer will likely continue to write and continue to have a relationship with his work. The availability of social media, blogs, and websites means that an author’s direct relationship with readers need not cease until the author’s death. And the invention of ebooks, which need never go out of print, mean that very few books of lasting worth will ever die, for they will always be available to the readers who are willing to search them out.

I used to be an author; I was a writer with an audience. Now, having lost the majority of my audience, I am once again a writer. But by starting my own small press and publishing my books as both ebooks and physical books, I am taking steps to achieve life after death for me as an author and for my books.

New MonstraCity Press Website Debuts!

Monstracity Press Logo

I’m very proud to announce the debut of the new MonstraCity Press website! The website includes all of MonstraCity Press’ publishing plans through August of 2016, including the continuations of the Fat White Vampire series and the August Micholson Chronicles (the series that begins with Fire on Iron).

Here are the upcoming Fat White Vampire titles:
Fat White Vampire Otaku, (Jules Duchon #3), May, 2014
Hunt the Fat White Vampire, (Jules Duchon #4), February, 2015
Ghost of the Fat White Vampire, (Jules Duchon #5), November, 2015
Fat White Vampire Rehab, (Jules Duchon #6), May, 2016

Here’s a tie-in book that takes place in Jules Duchon’s New Orleans contemporaneously with the catastrophic events of Fat White Vampire Otaku and which explains the origin of Hurricane Antonia (the fictional counterpart of Hurricane Katrina):
The Bad Luck Spirits’ Social Aid and Pleasure Club, November, 2014

Here are the upcoming August Micholson Chronicles titles:
Hellfire and Damnation, (August Micholson #2), August, 2014
Fire on the Waters, (August Micholson #3), May, 2015
Home Fires, (August Micholson #4), February, 2016

Here are a pair of stand-alone novels:
No Direction Home, (near-future science fiction), August, 2015
The End of Daze, (satirical eschatological fantasy), August, 2016

Dara Fox, my lovely wife, is serving as Managing Editor and Co-Publisher, and I have granted myself the title of Co-Publisher, too.

Please visit the website of MonstraCity Press often!

Update to Upcoming Projects Page

My update to my Upcoming Projects page can be found here. You may be surprised to see how many books I have in the pipeline, including several that will be published later this year by MonstraCity Press. See my Upcoming Projects page for brief descriptions of books 4-6 of the Fat White Vampire series and books 2-4 of the August Micholson Chronicles series, along with descriptions of several stand-alone science fiction novels which I have written and the first three books of the Mount MonstraCity series for middle grade readers (each of which has been written). I hope you’re as excited as I am!

Fat White Vampire Otaku Next Up

Fat White - High Resolution - 100 Percent JPEG

Coming next from MonstraCity Press is the third in the Fat White Vampire/Jules Duchon series, Fat White Vampire Otaku. Just what is an otaku, you might ask? Otaku is Japanese for “fan boy” or “fan girl.” Jules and his vampire friends get to sample the blood of a trio of Japanese superheroes after the devastating Hurricane Antonia rolls through New Orleans. The effects of that blood (at least some of it) on Jules and his friends cause them to become big-time otaku of their visiting pals, the Japanese superheroes… before chaos erupts! And you know chaos HAS to erupt, because this is a Fat White Vampire book!

My wife Dara, my partner in MonstraCity Press, has been working hard on proofing and formatting this third book in the Fat White Vampire series. We are aiming for a late April to mid-May roll out of the book. The ebook versions will arrive first, to be followed by a trade paperback version. Watch this space, as I’ll keep you all informed as of our progress!

(Reality check: Dara and I have had our hands full with Levi’s health problems recently, so it is possible that the publication date of Fat White Vampire Otaku may be pushed back a month or two. I’ll continue to keep you all updated.)

Fire on Iron Now Available in Paperback!

Fire On Iron

For those of you who prefer to read your books in print, rather than in pixels, my newest book, Fire on Iron, is now available in trade paperback format for the price of $15.95.

And of course, Fire on Iron remains available in the following ebook formats for the bargain price of $2.99:

Smashwords

Nook

Apple iTunes

And if you are a diehard Kindle fan, the Kindle version is available for the price of $5.99.

I’m currently working on the last few chapters of the second book in my series which began with Fire on Iron, Midnight’s Inferno: the August Micholson Chronicles. The new book will be called Hellfire and Damnation. Now’s your chance to get in on the ground floor of a brand-new, exciting Civil War steampunk suspense series!

One more time, here’s the back cover blurb:

“What price redemption? Is martial honor worth the cost of one’s soul?

“Lieutenant Commander August Micholson lost his first ship, the wooden frigate USS Northport, in reckless battle against the rebel ironclad ram CSS Virginia. However, Flag Officer Andrew Foote offers the disgraced young Micholson a chance to redeem himself: he can take the ironclad gunboat USS James B. Eads on an undercover mission to destroy a hidden rebel boat yard, where a fleet of powerful ironclads is being constructed which will allow the Confederate Navy to dominate the Mississippi.

“But dangers far more sinister than rebel ironclads await Micholson and his crew. On the dark waters of the Yazoo River, deep within rebel territory, they become entangled in a plot devised by a slave and his master to summon African fire spirits to annihilate the Federal armies. Micholson must battle devils both internal and external to save the lives of his crew, sink the Confederate fleet, and foil the arcane conspiracy. Ultimately, Micholson is faced with a terrible choice — he can risk the lives of every inhabitant of America, both Union and Confederate, or destroy himself by merging with a demon and forever melding his own soul with that of his greatest enemy.”

Introducing Ayo, MonstraCity Press’s Mascot!

Monstracity Press Logo

For those of you who haven’t seen him yet, I’d like to introduce Ayo, the official mascot of MonstraCity Press (and the star of our official logo)!

Ayo was the work of a very talented graphic artist, James, who can be reached at this email address (remove the asterisks from between the letters; trying to foul up spammers):

*h*u*m*b*l*e*n*a*t*i*o*n*s@*g*m*a*i*l.com

Fire On Iron

James has also been serving as our cover design artist. Many of you have seen the cover he did for Fire on Iron. He’s also created covers for two of our next three projects, Fat White Vampire Otaku and The Bad Luck Spirits’ Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Very soon, I’ll be having him start work on the cover for the second book in my new series, Midnight’s Inferno: the August Micholson Chronicles, which started with Fire on Iron and which will continue with a second volume called Hellfire and Damnation (which I am typing busily away upon on a near-daily basis, to get it ready for August, 2014 distribution).

I hope everyone likes Ayo. Let Dara and me know what you think of him and of our MonstraCity Press logo.

Also, keep watching this space for more MonstraCity Press info, coming very soon!

Rethinking the Relationship Between Drinking, Writing, and Depression

glass-of-whiskey-bottle-and-opened-book-on-home-table

This month, a major book on the connection between writing and drinking is set to appear in the United States: The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink.

Here is an excerpt:

“(M)odern American literature is strewn with examples of alcoholic excess: Poe, Hemingway, Faulkner (‘I usually write at night. I always keep my whiskey within reach’), Hart Crane, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Dorothy Parker (‘I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy’), Ring Lardner, Raymond Chandler, O Henry, Jack London, Delmore Schwartz, F. Scott Fitzgerald, (‘Too much champagne is just right’), John Berryman, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Anne Sexton, Patricia Highsmith – the list is long even without including those, such as Hunter S Thompson, more renowned for their experiments with other substances…”

Back in June, 2013, The Guardian newspaper included this in their review of the British edition:

“Why is it that some of the greatest works of literature have been produced by writers in the grip of alcoholism, an addiction that cost them personal happiness and caused harm to those who loved them? In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever and Raymond Carver.”

American literary author William Styron has written perhaps the best known account of depression in a writer’s life:

(The following is excerpted from Darkness Visible (1990), which was expanded from a 1989 Vanity Fair article)

“… (A)rtistic types (especially poets) are particularly vulnerable to the disorder—which in its graver, clinical manifestation takes upward of 20 percent of its victims by way of suicide. Just a few of these fallen artists, all modern, make up a sad but scintillant roll call: Hart Crane, Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Arshile Gorky, Cesare Pavese, Romain Gary, Sylvia Plath, Mark Rothko, John Berryman, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Diane Arbus, Tadeusz Borowski, Paul Celan, Anne Sexton, Sergei Esenin, Vladimir Mayakovsky—the list goes on. …”

“The depression that engulfed me was not of the manic type—the one accompanied by euphoric highs—which would have most probably presented itself earlier in my life. I was sixty when the illness struck for the first time … The storm which swept me into a hospital in December of 1985 began as a cloud no bigger than a wine goblet the previous June. And the cloud—the manifest crisis—involved alcohol, a substance I had been abusing for forty years. Like a great many American writers, whose sometimes lethal addiction to alcohol has become so legendary as to provide in itself a stream of studies and books, I used alcohol as the magical conduit to fantasy and euphoria, and to the enhancement of the imagination. … Alcohol was an invaluable senior partner of my intellect, besides being a friend whose ministrations I sought daily—sought also, I now see, as a means to calm the anxiety and incipient dread that I had hidden away for so long somewhere in the dungeons of my spirit.

“The trouble was, at the beginning of this particular summer, that I was betrayed. It struck me quite suddenly, almost overnight: I could no longer drink. It was as if my body had risen up in protest, along with my mind, and had conspired to reject this daily mood bath which it had so long welcomed and, who knows, perhaps even come to need. …

“Neither by will nor by choice had I become an abstainer; the situation was puzzling to me, but it was also traumatic, and I date the onset of my depressive mood from the beginning of this deprivation.”

I believe the popular notion of the causal connection between alcohol or drug use, depression, and writing generally falls into one or another line of causality (often portrayed in dramatic films about the decline of famous writers into alcoholism):

Drinking/drugging => Creativity => Writing => Isolation/Failure => Depression => More drinking/drugging/mental breakdown/suicide

Or:

Creativity => Drinking/drugging => Writing => Isolation/Failure => Depression => More drinking/drugging/mental breakdown/suicide

I have long held a different theory. My personal theory was recently borne out in real-life, when I spent six days in a psychiatric hospital following an emotional breakdown caused by my oldest son’s violent autistic fits, learning of his mistreatment due to those fits at the hands of his teachers and administrators at his public elementary school, and a longstanding estrangement with two of my three parents.

In the psychiatric hospital, I was required to attend group therapy sessions between three and four times each day. I generally shared the room with about a dozen other patients. These patients were divided between convicts remanded from the penal system for treatment of drug or alcohol abuse; alcoholics or drug overdosers who had been sent there from another hospital; and people, such as myself, who were suffering from severe depression, anxiety attacks, or bipolar disorder. I was one of the few individuals who had decided to have myself committed, rather than being committed by an institution of the state or a panel of physicians.

One early group therapy session asked us to use a few words to identify ourselves. Among my words was the label, “writer.” I was surprised to find that, among this random assortment of a dozen alcoholics, drug abusers, convicts, ex-cons, and victims of mental disorders, two other people also freely identified themselves as “writers.” Both were alcoholics and drug abusers. I was unique in that I was not; I had committed myself solely due to depression and panic attacks, not substance abuse of any sort.

This encounter helped support my longtime theory of the actual casual relationships between depression, drinking or drug abuse, and writing. In my theory, the relationships are parallel, not sequential, and are not necessarily shared among all sufferers of depression.

Andy Fox’s Theory:

(1) Depression => Drinking/drugging as self-medication/self-soothing => relief of symptoms (most often temporary)

AND (possibly shared by the same individuals as above, but not necessarily so)

(2) Depression => Writing as self-medication/self-soothing => relief of symptoms (most often temporary)

Thus, in my theory, the experiencing of depression is the root cause of both drinking/drugging and/or writing. Writing and drinking/drugging are parallel attempts by an individual at self-medicating. So writing and drinking are not causal of one another but rather are associated through their common cause of the experience of depression and the need for an individual to self-soothe. I have been very fortunate, I believe, to have been a participant in (2) but not a participant in (1), whereas the two young women I shared my group therapy sessions with were participants in both (1) and (2).

My insight or theory is shared by other persons who have reflected on this subject:

Blogger Ian Ferguson:

“Writing is a physical act, an act that must be performed, for without that act of writing, a melancholy descends like a fine black shroud, a depression of sorts, one that can only be broken by breaking the inertia of non-writing. The ink of the pen is the serotonin for the writer and when the drug is administered, the writer is happy and healthy again …”

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, “Why Do Writers Write?”

“I wonder what a writer’s brain looks like on writing? … (S)cientists should lock 50 contestants in a room and hook them up to brain scanners and blood monitors to better understand what’s happening underneath their cranial hoods. Maybe they’d discover the very act of writing – of being creative – causes the brain to release a flood of euphoria-inducing chemicals.”

I also greatly wonder what a writer’s brain looks like “on writing.” I strongly suspect that the patterns of brain activity which focuses on the creation of fictional worlds, fictional people, and the relationships between those fictional people and their fictional worlds, if charted on a brain scanning machine, would mimic those produced by a runner’s high (or by serotonin uptake inhibitors). The writer’s mind produces temporary effects most similar to the effects produced by anti-depressant drugs.

I first went on an antidepressant back in late 1997, following my divorce from my first wife. I’d had some form of depression since childhood. A few years later I went off it, had some more bad times, then went back on. I’ve stayed on a fairly low dosage between 2004 and 2013, when I suffered my emotional breakdown and had my dosage of Prozac tripled. I recall fearing when I first went onto Prozac back in 1997 that my fiction writing would suffer. Actually, my fiction writing went into high overdrive, and I completed my most successful novel to date, comic horror novel Fat White Vampire Blues, entirely under the influence of my first prescription of Prozac. Even since my dosage has been tripled, my writing quantity and quality have not suffered in the least. Rather, my daily acts of writing, of ordering fictional worlds and people in my head, seem to strengthen the anti-depressive effects of the drug.

Neuroscientists have begun to perform actual research into my insight/theory and are proving it to be right on the mark:

“What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like ‘lavender,’ ‘cinnamon’ and ‘soap,’ for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.

“In a 2006 study published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers in Spain asked participants to read words with strong odor associations, along with neutral words, while their brains were being scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. When subjects looked at the Spanish words for ‘perfume’ and ‘coffee,’ their primary olfactory cortex lit up; when they saw the words that mean ‘chair’ and ‘key,’ this region remained dark. The way the brain handles metaphors has also received extensive study; some scientists have contended that figures of speech like ‘a rough day’ are so familiar that they are treated simply as words and no more. Last month, however, a team of researchers from Emory University reported in Brain & Language that when subjects in their laboratory read a metaphor involving texture, the sensory cortex, responsible for perceiving texture through touch, became active. Metaphors like ‘The singer had a velvet voice’ and ‘He had leathery hands’ roused the sensory cortex, while phrases matched for meaning, like ‘The singer had a pleasing voice’ and ‘He had strong hands,’ did not. …

“The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.”

About to Scratch the Itch to Begin Writing Fiction Again

juggling_books

I’ve come across two opposed quotes which most clearly explain the dilemma I have faced since early November of this year:

“Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.”
― Gustave Flaubert

“A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”
[Letter to Max Brod, July 5, 1922]
― Franz Kafka

I have not written a single word of fiction since November 12, 2013, or nearly seven weeks. This is among the longest continuous hiatuses I have taken from writing fiction in the past twenty years. The other two hiatuses of note were in 1997, when I broke my leg and my marriage in quick succession and wrote nothing but a pair of brief poems and one short story over an eight month period; the other was in 2005, following Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of much of New Orleans and the upending of my life, during which I was able to write only nonfiction for about five months.

I agree completely with the Flaubert quote. I need an ordered life, a schedule, most especially, to permit me to write. I need a modicum of serenity in order to enter the minds of the characters I have set into motion and to hear their thoughts and statements. I need to be rested and reasonably at ease.

I have been none of these things during the past seven weeks. On Sunday, November 10, I called a dear friend of mine who had suffered a stroke and who needed friendly listeners to allow him to practice his slowly returning power of speech. I was awe-struck by his courage and optimism, especially given that he is a man who has always made his living through words, and a large percentage of his words were now stubbornly out of reach. I told him that, should I ever suffer a similar fate, I would pray to see it through with even a portion of the courage he was displaying.

The very next day, I suffered the first full-scale panic attack I had ever experienced. Within days, I was suffering symptoms comparable to those of a mild stroke. At times, I sensed a “lead mucous” gathering at the top of my head and draining into my neck, shoulders, and back, reducing me to a somnolent zombie. Other times, I experienced muscle stiffening in my neck, shoulders, back, and arms so painful that it reduced me to partial paralysis and made it impossible for me to walk any faster than a slow shuffle. At times, I found myself unable to speak in any sentences containing pronouns or articles, like the character Rorschach in the graphic novel Watchmen. The terror, disorientation, and pain I suffered was akin to a car wreck continuously experienced over a period of several weeks, rather than thirty seconds.

The primary cause of my panic attacks was directly experiencing one of my son Levi’s most violent anxiety fits for over an hour, soon after learning that he had been subjected at his public elementary school to, at best, inappropriate restraint, and at worst, emotional abuse and the potential for physical abuse through negligence. A secondary cause was the emotional stress of an extended estrangement from my mother and stepfather and the strain of keeping the full truth of this estrangement from my children, out of fear of damaging any future relationship they might enjoy with their grandparents. Yet I had also been making my personal stress and anxiety levels worse by pushing myself beyond my physical limits to squeeze as much writing and editing time into each work day. I was seeking to ameliorate what I perceived as a failure in my chosen second career of traditionally publishing commercial fiction by going the route of self-publishing, with the editorial and formatting assistance of my wife, Dara. Together, we founded MonstraCity Press, and I set a very ambitious publishing schedule for our first year, to incorporate both some of the eight unpublished novels I have sitting on my computer’s hard drive and newly written novels. I was aiming at a first year’s output of four or five books, both in ebook format and in trade paperback. My extended writing and work schedule involved me getting out of bed at 5 AM and often not getting home until 8 PM.

All this stress resulted in my worst mental and physical setback since I broke my ankle and suffered a broken marriage in 1997. The only writing I’ve been able to accomplish since early December has been maintaining this blog, which has become a journal of my recovery and a highly valued lifeline and source of healing. But until now, fiction — the act of entering and inhabiting another person’s head for extended periods of time — has been beyond me.

Yet I have sensed myself getting stronger each day. An analogy for my overall recovery has been my increasing ability to drive my car. As of two weeks ago, my friends and relatives were driving me everywhere I needed to go. However, driving with my mother-in-law was such a nerve-wracking experience that I ended up hurrying my return to the wheel. At first, I found it impossible to split my attention between the road and any conversation in the car. I directed my kids to never ask me any questions while the car was in motion. The only music I could stand listening to was Lou Donaldson. Lately, however, I have regained the vital ability to split my attention between the road and conversations in the car. I’ve also been willing to listen to music which does more than simply sedate me; I’ve been listening to the Talking Heads and David Bowie and Bruce Springstein’s The Rising, music I listen to when I want to make myself feel things. Until very, very recently, my mind and nervous system have been enmeshed in a storm of uncontrollable emotions, and I would do anything to avoid additional emotional stimulations of any kind. If I’m now listening to The Rising again, it means I am beginning to thaw from my paralysis.

I need to reflect on the second quote above, Kafka’s quote: “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” I also agree 100% with this sentiment. For over twenty years, daily or near-daily sessions of fiction writing have been a vital part of my mental health regimen. For the past seven weeks, the blogging has taken up some of this role. But blogging or non-fiction cannot take the place of creating a world and the voices which inhabit that unique world. So I plan to return to writing fiction the day I return to my day job, Thursday, January 2, 2014.

It is instructive for me to reflect upon my experiences following my last two fiction-writing hiatuses. In 1997, various chance meetings and associations resulted in my coming up with the idea for Fat White Vampire Blues, my breakup recovery novel. Although the book had little to do with a divorce, it centered on a protagonist who had fallen into an extremely comfortable and comforting rut, and who’d then had that rut plowed under, in the process being forced to become a very different sort of man/vampire. It was a very emotional work, and possibly for this reason, it has been my most commercially successful work to date, by far.

Following the Katrina disaster, all I wanted to write about was the impact of the storm on New Orleans and upon my friends and family. I began a non-fiction book, The Janus-Faced City. I also began writing, in parallel, a fantasy novel about the storm and its supernatural accelerants — The Bad Luck Spirits’ Social Aid and Pleasure Club. All the right emotions were there for both projects: I was filled with a passion to write and to explain. But the subject matter proved too vast for me to handle at that point in my writing career. I simply found myself with too much material for any single book. I exacerbated my difficulties by insisting that my Miasma Club, the confederation of bad luck spirits responsible for the storm’s onslaught, be made up of thirteen ethnically distinct trickster or bad luck entities. This required me to come up with back stories and side plots for thirteen supernatural characters, in addition to a large mortal cast, and the original manuscript ballooned in size to over 225,000 words, too long to be commercially published (or so I was told back in 2006). I had to endure the writer’s agony of five complete rewrites to slim the book down to a manageable 130,000 words.

Today, I have seven and a half additional novels strung from my writer’s belt, and I feel much more confident in my ability to plan out a manageable plot of reasonable length. I feel I have much better control of the material I am currently working on. Just as in 2005, I find myself suffused with new and powerful emotions and desires to work on new projects, both fiction and non-fiction. In fact, the non-fiction book I have in mind, to be called The Super-Mensch Syndrome, has its roots in the longest segment I wrote for my never published book of essays The Janus-Faced City, a long section on my leadership of the New Year Coalition, the New Orleans-based educational and public safety campaign against holiday gunfire.

I have no wish to become one of Kafka’s non-writing writer-monsters. January 2 can hardly come quickly enough. But I know I will need to recognize my emotional and physical limitations and pace myself much more reasonably than I’d been doing during the half a year leading up to my breakdown. As much as I may want to be one, I am not a Super-Mensch. The books I have in mind will not fade from my brain, and with time and patience, and the modern miracles of self-publishing technology, all of them will eventually see print and find an audience. I just need to focus on time and patience.

Asking My Friends for Help with Fire on Iron

Fire On Iron

Okay, my dear friends… this is me, your somewhat distressed author, acting like a mangy dog with a lame leg who is lying on his back, begging for a belly rub. I must warn you, what I am about to request is viewed in some quarters as unethical, if not illegal. Should news of my request spread, I could be censured in the next issue of the SFWA Bulletin (whenever that comes out… and I LOVE you, Barry N. Malzberg, now and forever, no matter what the radical feminists say!).

I will admit that, as a Person Who Suffers From Depression, I am somewhat of a Dopamine addict. Now there are good ways and bad ways for me to get my fix. A bad way is to continuously bid on vintage laptops on eBay, constantly raising my minimum bid until I come out on top. This is bad because I spend all my money and add more stuff to a house which is already too small for all the stuff I already have. Good ways to get my fix include bicycling or fast walking (either of which could be hazardous, considering how off-balance and shaky the Klonopin is making me feel right now), writing posts on this website (Yay!), seeing “hits” on my latest posts, getting positive, supportive comments (Yay!)… and also selling more copies of my first and only Kindle self-published book from MonstraCity Press, Fire on Iron. One way for me to sell more copies is to get the word out that this brand-new Civil War steampunk supernatural adventure novel is available. One way to get the word out is to advertise on Internet sites which promote ebooks. However, these sites have minimum standards for submissions: most commonly a minimum of 20 reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4 stars. I recently checked my Amazon site. Fire on Iron, bless the hearts of those who have already read it, now has 9 reviews with an average rating of 4.25 stars. Pretty close to what I need. But I need more, unfortunately! Please see the offer below for a FREE, NO STRINGS ATTACHED .pdf copy of Fire on Iron. Well, the only “string attached” is that you agree to leave a review, negative or positive, on Amazon. Please feel free to hit me with your best shot and your honest appraisal… but (of course) try to be judicious, my friends.

Just knowing that some of you are asking Dara (see instructions below) for a FREE .pdf copy will send a surge of Dopamine straight into my cerebral cortex. What an easy way to help assist an ailing author’s recovery! I have admitted to my dear friend Maury Feinsilber that it is very difficult to continue to believe in the ongoing presence of God’s saving grace while I am depressed and pessimistic. Maury suggested that I pray for optimism. Good suggestion! Also, the old saying goes, “God helps those who help themselves.” So by being possibly unethical and begging like a mangy dog for positive reviews on Amazon, what I am doing is HELPING MYSELF to receive jolts of Dopamine and gain optimism, and thus an ability to believe fully in the presence of the saving grace of God. It is a virtuous circle! (If you leave out the slightly unethical parts.) So, again, here are the details:

Any one out there in InternetLand interested in a FREE .pdf copy of my newest book, Civil War steampunk supernatural suspense novel Fire on Iron?

If you are, just send me your email address, either by leaving a comment to this post or by using the Contact Me feature. I’ll have Dara send you a .pdf copy, along with instructions for how to access it on your smart phone, tablet, or laptop. You may also email Dara directly, to this (slightly altered to avoid robots) email address (just remove the asterisks): d*a*r*a*l*f*o*x@g*m*a*i*l.c*o*m .

As I say above, I ask but one favor in return — please post a review to Amazon after you’ve read the book. Hit me with your best shot; I’m confident in how much you’ll enjoy the book. Dara and I would like to do some advertising on sites which promote ebooks, but they generally have requirments that books which are advertised must have a minimum of twenty Amazon reviews. We’re trying to get there, and you can be a huge help (along with getting a free book to read, the first in a new series!).

Here’s the back cover copy, to whet your appetite:

In 1862, Lieutenant Commander August Micholson, captain of the Union ironclad U.S.S. James B. Eads, leads his crew on a hazardous undercover mission. Their task? To destroy a hidden Confederate boat yard, where a fleet of rebel ironclads is being constructed which will allow the Confederate Navy to dominate the Mississippi and bombard Northern river cities into submission.

This is Micholson’s last chance for redemption. Weeks earlier, he lost his frigate, his best friend, and over a hundred members of his crew during a disastrous battle against the Confederate ironclad ram C.S.S. Virginia. Flag Officer Foote, commander of the Western Flotilla, believes Micholson’s ordeal and his terrible memories of the power of a rebel ironclad will give him the psychological edge he needs to prevail. Micholson’s crew, however, only knowing their new captain from scuttlebutt and scathing newspaper reports, fear he will lead them all to their deaths.

Micholson leads his crew on a false flag operation, pretending to be a turncoat who has switched to the rebel cause following his censure in the North. On the dark, muddy backwaters of the Yazoo River, the Eads becomes entangled in a plot devised by a slave and his rebel master to summon African fire spirits to annihilate the Federal armies. Micholson must battle demons both internal and external to save the lives of his crew, sink the Confederate fleet, and foil the arcane conspiracy. The Union men manage to prevail again and again against overwhelming enemy forces. Yet the machinations of the African sorcerer M’Lundowi, who hates the people of the Union and the Confederacy equally, threaten to undo all of their victories.

Ultimately, Micholson is faced with a terrible choice — imperiling the lives of every inhabitant of North America, or taking a demon into his body and melding his soul with that of his greatest enemy.

FYI: I am nearly half-way through the first draft of the second book in the series, Hellfire and Damnation. Lieutenant Commander Micholson finds himself transformed into a steampunk superhero — a cross between Dr. Strange and the Human Torch! Can you get anything cooler than that? By increasing my Dopamine levels, you will enable me to return to writing it as soon as possible, perhaps as early as January (or whenever I feel myself capable of listening to my characters’ voices in my head, over the clamor of all the other anxious voices there). So again, writing an Amazon review is a win-win — you get a FREE .pdf copy of the first book, and the second book gets written!

*********************************************************************

If you’d prefer to read the novel on your Kindle, here’s a link to the Kindle version:

Buy Fire on Iron for the Kindle

More electronic formats and paperback version coming very soon! The CreateSpace paperback is being proofed by my very dear and wonderful sister-in-law, Tracy Hirshfeld.

Thanks so much for any consideration and reading time you can spare, my friends! Signing off, Your distressed author, the mangy dog who needs his belly rubbed

Have Been Sick in Hospital; Very Sorry To All Friends

I am very, very sorry to all my friends and readers who look at my website. I have not put up any posts in over three weeks. The reason is that I have experienced a nervous breakdown and spent a week in a hospital during Thanksgiving week. I have never been in an inpatient mental treatment facility before in my life. Had some of the hardest days I’ve ever experienced, but overall it was a positive experience. I committed myself, because I did not want to experience a breakdown at home in front of my children and wife.

The reasons for my nervous breakdown included longstanding extended family conflict and cutoff in communications, and my oldest son’s worsening autism and Asperger’s symptoms. He was having many, frequent loud crying fits in school and other places due to very low frustration threshold. At school, due to bureaucratic regulations, administrators refused to give my son an IEP (Individual Extra-Help Plan) or an adult shadow in class to help him with frustration by answering questions quickly so he would not panic. They refused because he is at grade-level for academic achievement. Their “solution” was to shut him up in a printer closet by himself whenever he suffered a fit, with a monitor standing outside. Other children, including Levi’s younger brother, Asher, could hear him crying and screaming in this room; Asher said Levi was in the dark. Teacher would let Levi out when fit subsided after 20 minutes or so. Never told Dara or me about this printer room isolation; we found out from third parties who are friends. Later I experienced one of Levi’s hour long fits in public when I had little son Judah with me. It was terrible; made me feel like I had been in a car accident but body had not yet experienced extent of physical injuries. Early next week I experienced my first panic attack at work — was afraid blood pressure had spiked and was having a stroke or a heart attack. Nurse took my blood pressure; was normal! But immediately started crying and screaming about Levi. A week later, after bad reaction to one medication, I admitted myself to hospital.

New medication I am on for anxiety makes me very slumberous/comatose and feels a little like I suffered a benign stroke. Talking and writing are difficult; must do both very slowly, with much concentration. Cannot operate car or “heavy machinery.” Even walking Romeo, my big dog, exhausts me with effort of concentration. So many projects are being delayed until medication can be altered; I cannot stay on what I am on now because it is addictive long term, and besides, it does not seem right for me, although it does help control my panic attacks. This is the first time I am typing since leaving the hospital, although I hand wrote a journal there.

Here’s what’s going on with MonstraCity Press. Fire on Iron is out in Kindle and I think is out in Smashwords formats now. We have received proof copy of paperback book from Createspace and are having my sister-in-law proofread it. It should be available for order soon. My next Jules Duchon Fat White Vampire novel, Fat White Vampire Otaku, is completely written but not yet edited and formatted by Dara. We had planned for the paperback to be available for order during December, but now this will be delayed by a few months, maybe two months. I am very sorry to my friend Marita Jaeger at Boutique du Vampyre down in New Orleans, because she had on her website that Jules Duchon fans among her customers could advance order Fat White Vampire Otaku for Christmas. Now it will be February, 2014 at the earliest. I will soon return to working on the second “Midnight’s Inferno: the August Micholson Chronicles” book, Hellfire and Damnation, as soon as I can write fiction again; maybe in a month. It is the direct sequel to Fire on Iron. I still hope to have that one come out in April, 2014, as originally planned. The book which was supposed to come out in February, 2014, The Bad Luck Spirits’ Social Aid and Pleasure Club, will be rescheduled for sometime in the summer; it connects up with Fat White Vampire Otaku.

I am very, very sorry to disappoint my readers and friends. I truly love you all. God Bless each one of you. And please pray for me and my family. Thank you all very, very much. I love you.

FREE .PDF Copy of Fire on Iron

Fire On Iron

Any one out there in InternetLand interested in a FREE .pdf copy of my newest book, Civil War steampunk supernatural suspense novel Fire on Iron?

If you are, just send me your email address, either by leaving a comment to this post or by using the Contact Me feature. I’ll have Dara send you a .pdf copy, along with instructions for how to access it on your smart phone, tablet, or laptop.

I ask but one favor in return — please post a review to Amazon after you’ve read the book. Hit me with your best shot; I want honest reviews. I’m confident in how much you’ll enjoy the book. Dara and I would like to do some advertising on sites which promote ebooks, but they generally have requirments that books which are advertised must have a minimum of twenty Amazon reviews. We’re trying to get there, and you can be a huge help (along with getting a free book to read, the first in a new series!).

Here’s the back cover copy, to whet your appetite:

In 1862, Lieutenant Commander August Micholson, captain of the Union ironclad U.S.S. James B. Eads, leads his crew on a hazardous undercover mission. Their task? To destroy a hidden Confederate boat yard, where a fleet of rebel ironclads is being constructed which will allow the Confederate Navy to dominate the Mississippi and bombard Northern river cities into submission.

This is Micholson’s last chance for redemption. Weeks earlier, he lost his frigate, his best friend, and over a hundred members of his crew during a disastrous battle against the Confederate ironclad ram C.S.S. Virginia. Flag Officer Foote, commander of the Western Flotilla, believes Micholson’s ordeal and his terrible memories of the power of a rebel ironclad will give him the psychological edge he needs to prevail. Micholson’s crew, however, only knowing their new captain from scuttlebutt and scathing newspaper reports, fear he will lead them all to their deaths.

Micholson leads his crew on a false flag operation, pretending to be a turncoat who has switched to the rebel cause following his censure in the North. On the dark, muddy backwaters of the Yazoo River, the Eads becomes entangled in a plot devised by a slave and his rebel master to summon African fire spirits to annihilate the Federal armies. Micholson must battle demons both internal and external to save the lives of his crew, sink the Confederate fleet, and foil the arcane conspiracy. The Union men manage to prevail again and again against overwhelming enemy forces. Yet the machinations of the African sorcerer M’Lundowi, who hates the people of the Union and the Confederacy equally, threaten to undo all of their victories.

Ultimately, Micholson is faced with a terrible choice — imperiling the lives of every inhabitant of North America, or taking a demon into his body and melding his soul with that of his greatest enemy.

*********************************************************************

If you’d prefer to read the novel on your Kindle, here’s a link to the Kindle version:

Buy Fire on Iron for the Kindle

More electronic formats and paperback version coming very soon!

%d bloggers like this: