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Fresh Dirt Archives: Jan-March 2009

March 29
Digital versions of the Dirt series are now for sale (and sample preview) at
Drivethru and Eagle One Media. And you can get it with none of the muss and fuss of paper, if you want pure story. Of course, you can still get print versions, too, through Post Mortem Comics. Check out the other Post Mortem titles while you're there: Fever, Dorothy Rising, and Magic Eight Ball. The first batch is "at the printers" and the special upside-down cover will only be released in this first run.

I'm also planning a new release of my first novel The Red Church and I'm looking at Ingram's Lightning Source. The upside is it's linked right into Amazon, B & N, and all other book outlets that carry Ingram titles. The downside is the cost is higher, because it will probably be released through their print-on-demand service, which runs trade paperbacks up to about $18 or so. The alternative is to publish them myself and pay for an offset print run, but then I have the problem of getting them into those many outlets. And of course, simply having a book available doesn't mean bookstores are going to order it--like every author, I will have to create demand. Since the book has already been through the pipeline once, it probably reached the core audience, but all you wonderful people who have discovered me in the last few years haven't had a chance to try it, unless you picked up a used copy somewhere. At any rate, I'd like to have the book back out there, especially since I'm developing it as a comics series.

In other news, it's that time of year to get the garden ready, and while I now save most of my own seeds, I did pick up a few things from Baker Creek Heirlooms. The asparagus really did well last year and I spread the crowns around, and barring a late frost I should finally get some fruit from my trees. It's been satisfying to eat home-canned food this year, and I noticed a difference on my grocery bill. Now I just need to get my chimney installed and I'll edge a little further from the grid. But I'll still need a computer, huh?

March 3
After a little reflection and some feedback, I realized my "compassionate self-reliance" might not be fully matured or well articulated. For one thing, my last post wasn't serving up unconditional support for self-publishing. I've received too many review copies of awful self-published books that not only do the authors no favors (actually, LESS than favor, because they're out some money), it is also a case of "peeing in the pool"--the good books get crowded to some degree by the garbage, turning off readers.

Of course, garbage appears on the bestseller lists all the time, but at least they are often edited. Self-published books get thrown out there with major flaws that even a third grader would catch. I got one that had a female U.S. president--a historic and dynamic character, one would think--but the author had spelled her name two different ways in the first paragraph. I've gotten books whose pages were double-spaced, as if in manuscript format. One unfortunate back-cover typo spoke ominously of the "bowls of hell" as if the Devil had been eating stale corn flakes.

Am I any more immune to the vanity of easy print? Maybe. At least I have been a professional editor and journalist, and I've proven myself more qualified than some of the people who have handled my material (including a few magazine editors who actively inserted errors under the guise of "improving" the work). I also have the hundreds of rejection letters to suggest a commitment to craft and art, though those could just as easily be markers of failure and incompetence as any red badge of courage. But my comments weren't even intended for my writing career--instead, it's a formative philosophy I've been developing now that I am trying to embrace adulthood and the responsibilities of being human.

"Compassionate self-reliance" isn't intended as indifferent self-sufficiency, and not a case of "I'll get mine and you worry about yours." Instead, it's having faith that I will get what I need and I will also have the resources and strength to help others get what they need. It's giving a little extra. It's knowing I can grow enough crops in my garden to not only get me through the winter, but to share with my neighbors. Knowing I have room in my heart to minimize my own worries while helping those who suffer far more than I do. It springs from a Taoist view of creating abundance, where there is an unlimited amount of goods and resources. New bounty is being created all the time, and if you believe less or more, then you should always have more than enough.

Pictured is me with Barry Fitzgerald of Ghost Hunters International, at the Lake Lure Inn PSICon. Good dude, cool Irish accent. Today is the release date of my friend Jonathan Maberry's "Patient Zero," a fast-moving thriller that creates its own genre. Grab it and prepare to scorch your fingers turning the pages.

March 2
Post Mortem Comics is rolling out with a vengeance, and publisher John Parker is also organizing "
Fallen Heroes Con," a project to benefit disabled veterans. The two-day music and comics convention in Haywood County, NC, will also feature online auctions, and we've already received commitments from some of the biggest names in the industry, like Laurell K. Hamilton. Proceeds will also go toward printing "Untold Stories," a graphic novel featuring real-life soldiers' tales from Iraq and Afghanistan, headed up by artist Clayton Murwin.

Post Mortem has also secured a distribution deal with Haven, so pester your local comic stores to carry Post Mortem. We're working on digital distribution, as well as bookstore and magazine rack distribution, so beware the avalanche. Oh, and we'll also be expanding into animated digital comics as soon as we get the technical stuff lined up. I will not only be writing my DIRT series (and narrating it as the Digger), but I'm also developing The Gorge with artist Kewber and his wife Schimery, a zombie mini-series, and the ongoing series The Circuit Rider with Nima Sorat (Graveslinger). Look for sketches soon in the "Comics" section of the Web site.

After years of preaching "Go the traditional publishing route," I've decided to take a more entrepreneurial approach. A lot of "traditional" publishing involves waiting around for someone (or multiple someones) to make a decision. In light of the economy and the rampant fear, I have decided to reject fear. After watching my "traditional" investments trickle into the pockets of invisible people, I reject putting my faith in people who could care less about my future. I choose to invest in myself. Sure, this attitude will horrify plenty of people who say "Never self-publish." But some of those people had their book releases pulled out from under them, had contracts canceled, had books dumped out there with no promotion, had books go out of print while the publisher still holds rights for years afterward, or waited years and years and never got responses. I will continue to partner with large publishers, but I will also partner with small publishers, amateurs, lunatics, saints, and gardeners. I call this new model "compassionate self-reliance"--working on creativity, productivity, spirituality, and shared abundance. I hope you'll join me.

Feb. 17
I was riding along today, beneath one of those beautiful iron-gray, tufty skies that mark the last half of winter here in the Southern Appalachians, and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" came on the radio. During the song, a complete rainbow appeared, with a second echo rainbow behind it. Farther on, another rainbow arced, and Girl and I could see where it fuzzed into the ground on a nearby wooded knoll. I thought, "This is better than any drug I've ever taken." I've been very busy with a number of projects and changes in my life, and I takes signs like these as proof that I am on the right track. It's simple: follow your heart, trust your mind, and be considerate of the world and its creatures.

I know so many people stressed out by the economy, and I do sympathize with anyone who has lost a job, because I've been there before. But it's also a time of great opportunity. Do more with less, enjoy simple things, open up to the wonder around you. If you can't afford to eat, be glad you can breathe. No matter what some subjective bean-counting gizmo says you are "worth," the truth is there is exactly as much beauty, abundance, and joy as there was before the Recession.

Taoist missive complete, I now become self-centered and blab about myself again. I'll be at PSI Con on Feb 28-March 1 in Lake Lure, NC. Post Mortem is taking preorders for The Magic Eight Ball and Dirt #1, limited to 250 copies. I'm also looking for script submissions for Grave Conditions.

Feb. 4
I was cooking up the last of the stored apples this morning (I love them with oatmeal) when I got down to the last few little ones. I was going to toss them to the goats, because they seemed more trouble to peel than they were worth. Then I started on one and it was saying, "Look, I hung on until February for you, I gave you everything I had, I'm small and sweet and this is the way I was made and I went to a lot of trouble to get into your pot." That apple was healthy, and probably the firmest of the batch. Accept things the way they are, and appreciate the little things.

I've been updating the Post Mortem Comics site and learning more about the comics industry. It's a very exciting time to be a creator, despite all the gloom and doom over money. Corporate ways of doing things are crumbling, and new markets and distribution channels are emerging. I'm not making a rant about shortsighted or any of that, as I've heard some people blog about. It's just a natural cycle, and work is going to get released in lots of different avenues, some of it lousy and barely on the edge of art, some of it slick and soon to be made commercial, some of it honest and lasting, some of it destined to go unnoticed. In a way, that's what I love about the creative challenge--any mook can throw mud patties at a canvas, but actually reaching out and finding an audience is where the real satisfaction lies.

And live from the United Kingdom, it's first chapbook.

Jan. 29
Here's an interesting tutorial on the
making of a comic book, from Dark Horse comics. Dark Horse is a solid company that emerged as sort of a second-tier house in the 1980s and 1990s, when Valiant and Image were also breaking into the independent comics market. Dark Horse has kept a core of success through titles like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Wars while also busting out some innovative titles and doing smart work in collecting some lost classics.

I've learned a lot with these scripts, since I tend to not flesh out so much background detail, instead leaving the artist room to maneuver. However, the writer works in some ways like the director of a movie--he or she is not usually looking through the camera lens but instead is shaping the larger vision. I see where I could put more emotion in my scripts, though they are basically memos to the artist. I will add a few script pages and sketch pages, along with finished pages, to the comics section of the Haunted Computer as we move along. I'm always looking to build comic resources and networking, especially among the independent creators and publishers.

Incidentally, I recommend William Harms's "Impaler" series if you like horror/thriller comics. The series has an interesting history, starting with Image and then moving to Top Cow, and William helped me a lot in getting started. Also, John Parker's first comic "Fever" from Post Mortem is about ready to roll from the presses, so we'll be able to promote them at the same time while we get future issues ready. John's very knowledgeable about art, paper, and the industry and it's been great to work with him to get the comics going. Jeff Mariotte, novelist and creator of a numbe rof comics titles, has also been helpful. The biggest joy I've gotten out of writing is in the friends I've made and the readers that contact me--it really humanizes what is a lonely and often frustrating endeavor.

Speaking of which, hillbilly wunderkind Mark Justice has me back on Pod of Horror #51, a podcast that will be posted by Jan. 30 or so, in which Mark asks, "Where did you disappear to?" Good question, and I will have to listen so I will know what my answer is!

Jan. 22
Okay, so I had no idea scorpion exposure was a
competitive endeavor, but apparently there's this crazy Thai chick (maybe smoking Thai stick?) whose lot in life is to hang out with scorpions, see how long she can hold them in her mouth, and how many times she can get bitten and survive. She lived with 5,000 scorpions for 33 days, except for potty breaks. What was the previous record? Living with 4,999 scorpions for 33 days? "I can top THAT!"

Post Mortem is about to take the first issue of "Dirt" to the printers. We're still setting up subscription links and we'll have direct distribution to a number of regional comics stores. I'll also be selling copies here on Haunted Computer (signed if you want). I'm really pleased with the tone of the series and how it's evolving, and Kewber Alves Arruda is really growing in his talents. These stories are in the tone of "Tales From The Crypt," "Twilight Zone," "Creepie," "House of Secrets" and those other venerable horror, fantasy, and "weird" comics. We'll also have T-shirts available featuring The Digger, with links to those coming soon. Kew just finished the second cover, and I'll post it soon. We plan to publish one issue every three months, with a complete run of six that will be collected in a trade paperback. I'm developing three other graphic series at the moment, so hopefully they will roll out in the next year or two. I really love this style of storytelling and I'm finding new possibilities that don't work as well in either fiction or screenplays.

After getting a little feedback on new types of books, what interests me as a writer, and what the future of publishing holds, I've come to realize I want to be a little more daring and challenging instead of simply hunting for that middle-ground commercial success. Neil Gaiman has a quote along the lines of "Anyone can do that meat-and-potatoes sort of stuff. Aim for spectacular failure." Seems a much more noble goal to me, since so many books seem interchangeable and offer little in the way of ideas. And, no, I would never say bestsellers are crap, because there is some true and meticulous craft in many of them. They just aim low, and they restore order, and they assuage people's sense of justice. I listen to a lot of books on tape, and I saw one in the library and thought I ought to "read" it. Then I realized I already had, and I couldn't remember much of anything about it besides the main concept and that the protagonist was an artist. This was by an author I admire who has been hugely successful and known for stellar characterization. I couldn't remember any of the characters.

Similarly, I watched "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" last week and it sparked a lot of thought about the nature of time and perception, and the beautiful and temporal futility of love, and how we change as we age. I don't know if the movie will be a classic, but for me it got me talking to people close to me about our ephemeral relationships, whether we are together a day or 80 years. That's poignant stuff, not violent stoner dreck like "Pineapple Express" or popular movies that I felt a social obligation to watch because they were popular. Give me thought-provoking art any day, even if it's jagged and terrible, over highly polished and soulless entertainment. Not that challenging stuff can't be popular, either--I'm sure Brad Pitt could have taken a simpler eye-candy role.

Jan. 14
I know times are tough but we're tougher, right? And I truly believe that YOU share my success. You ARE my success, otherwise I would not be writing you. I want to write more and keep my publisher in business, so I'm asking you to look at my new story collection
Scattered Ashes.

This collection wasn't cheap--I had to abuse myself with alcohol, go through a painful divorce, nearly lose my kids, become a recluse who hated the world, blame God for all my problems, write in the dark of the night when I was scared to fucking death that I was worthless and that nobody cared what I had to say, especially me. Maybe the stories in this collection contain none of that, but I believe they contain ALL of that, plus the triumph of actually getting the words into English, believing that the stories mattered enough to keep typing, and accepting that Scott Nicholson stories needed to be told and that I had been hand-picked by that crazy and benign Court Jester in the Sky to deliver them to you.

Okay, okay. That's the sales pitch. My near-breakdown-transformation experience is available for a limited time only, in a collectible signed hardcover at $45 (only 100 copies made) and in a special leather-bound edition at $89 with only 26 lettered copies available, from
Dark Regions Press. Introduction by Jonathan Maberry, art by M. Wayne Miller. And since I'm creating a big-time writing career, you can bet these things are going to gain a lot in value in the years ahead. I put my soul on the line for these stories. That's worth a little bit, huh?

Jan. 9
New updates from the Green Park Paranormal Conference: an EVP, two shadow photos, and an incidence of "automatic writing" can be accessed at the ghost register. In a similar vein, Paranormal Scene Investigators is hosting a paracon at the Lake Lure Inn in February 2009.

As you can see from the front page, I've also scheduled the Boone Comicon in Boone NC for Apr. 18, 2009--part of Haunted Computer Production's plans to take over the world one ostrich at a time. (I don't know what ostriches have to do with it, except you rarely see ostrich in plural form and it sounded cool.)

I'm also converting this blog to a Wordpress blog, hopefully offering more categories to discuss screenwriting, comics writing, books, and the paranormal, in addition to general interests. I'd like to make this site more of a destination point and open forum, possibly even an open writing workshop, but it will take some tech tinkering on this end. Drop a line if you have any suggestions.

Still working on two novel projects and developing a couple of movie project ideas ("ideas" is about as specific and solid as these are right now), and we're about to finish up the second issue of "Dirt" as we get the final editorial pieces together. Oh, yeah, I'm working with Australian artist Clayton Barton on a children's book and I just did a sketch for inclusion in Ghostwriter Publication's chapbook of my short story "Haunted," which will be released in the UK in a week or so in conjunction with an audio version of the story. What makes the chapbook extra special (besides being my first, and my first standalone UK publication) is that it also features art from both my daughter and stepson, who are both much more skilled than I am. The chapbook is a prelude to the upcoming release of both my story collection The First (an expanded version of my first story collection Thank You For The Flowers) and my novel The Red Church.

Okay, I'm blabbing solely about me and my projects--and that's why I'd like to move to a more interactive format. I've spent a lot of time the past few years reading "commercial" novels and trying to figure out their appeal. I have heard that some writers pick a formula and type and carve out their niche and build on it, but that seems far too calculated to be interesting. I've been more inspired lately by diverse, even subversive, material like Roman Dirge's "Lenore," Brian Vaughan's "The Pride of Baghdad," Lemony Snicket, and Larry McMurtry (and his unabashed inclusion of carnality). I don't know if I can capture that kind of energy, but it's refreshing to approach my own work as something that can be bold and inventive rather than marketable--though of course the two are not mutually exclusive.

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