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FRESH DIRT: May- July, 2002
Scott Nicholson's Journal

July 22, 2002:
I'm over halfway done with a novella for a limited edition hardcover. I got a little behind, unusual for me, and it's been fun pushing toward that old deadline. Since this is a length I've never written toward (20-25k words), I have to limit character development and work in a compressed scope. It's an interesting process, but I can't say I'll do too many more of them.

I'll soon be adding a FAQ section to the Haunted Computer, to answer both generic questions and questions that I have received more than once. I've learned that my next novel won't be released until September 2003, so I will probably work on a few short stories in the meantime. I used to write at least one a month but I'm not sure I've even written any so far this year. Hard to believe that school's about to start again!

I finally figured out why someone criticized me with the phrase "He's no John Saul." The Mystery Guild called me the "heir apparent to John Saul." I wouldn't mind being heir to his money, but I'm not sure if I want to carry on that literary tradition. My agent has joined a new agency, but it probably doesn't signal much change for me. I believe the individual agent's personality is more important than the weight of an agency's name or reputation.

July 15, 2002:
With only a handful of book signings left, mostly in small stores, I'm looking forward to getting back to work on my novel. Promotion is a lot of fun, in a different way than writing, and I enjoy it, but it is energy-consuming. It's also important to the rest of the "job," because no one will ever care as much as the writer does. Even if nobody comes to a book signing, the effort is worth it because the effect is cumulative.

After a summer of pushing the book, now I have to hope that readers like it enough to pass along the word to their friends. A few reviews will probably dribble out in the coming weeks as well. So I can be content that I have done my best and now The Red Church must live or die on its own merits. All the signs are positive, so I hope that momentum carries over to the next novel. Still no word on what the new title will be, but I expect it to have a June 2003 release.

July 8, 2002:
Back from Chicago, a big toddlin' town. Lake Michigan is a spectacle and not at all polluted. I found out before the vacation break that The Red Church had been released in hardcover through the Doubleday Book Club. I knew it was sold through the club but thought it was the paperback edition. I had to join the club in order to get some copies for my own use. Luckily, they have a great deal for joining so I got six copies for around $13, shipping included.

So I know it sold at least nine copies, because there were two harsh reviews and one great review posted on the book's page. One poor soul said my book was a "waste of time and a big let down." Another said I was "no John Saul" and that my plot was "simplistic." I love this country.

June 26, 2002:
It's been an interesting week, and one of the most important ones in the life of The Red Church, at least in its marketing. Four radio interviews in less than 24 hours and with five or so articles or reviews of the book running this week, it's probably the moment at which the book will get the most attention. I don't know if any of the large publications will run reviews, since they rarely feature titles that are over a month old, so it's now or never with those guys.

The sales level at Amazon seems to be holding steady, but of course, the next month's torrent of paperbacks is about to be flushed, and the Church must make way for new books and new authors. My humble hope is that the book will stay around for the summer beach season and maybe pick up a second wave of interest around October. Then, on to the next.

I've been hearing from a lot of people who like the book, some who love it, and most of the people who hate it are at least keeping it to themselves. No decision yet on a title for next summer's offering, which used to be called Metabolism. More on this story as it develops, as the TV newscasters say.

June 16, 2002:
Had a funny moment yesterday at a book signing when a customer picked one off the table, gave it to me, and I opened. Inside lay the text of a different book called To Tempt An Angel. I thought, "Gosh, there's a cheesy historical romance inside the covers of my cheesy horror novel." Luckily, there were only two, but it makes me wonder how many of those slipped out into the world. Of course, the covers get stripped and sent back, and those count as "unsold books" that look bad on my sales record. Sometimes you just have to laugh about this crazy business.

All in all, the signings are going well. No lines out the door, but I meet a few cool people each time and it's my small way of seeing the world. Learning a lot, mostly through my mistakes. The sales rank seems to have leveled out around 6-8K at Amazon but the rank is climbing at Barnes & Noble online. A long way from the bestseller list but I know what the other extreme looks like, too, so this is better.

June 9, 2002:
The Red Church giveth and The Red Church taketh away. The first signing wasn't great, but it got some books out there and led to a write-up in the "new books" section of a regional literary paper. Kensington Books sent these wonderful foamboard blow-ups of the cover to place on my signing tables. I also got a bunch of extra review copies so I am sending out four per day.

I have become addicted to watching the book's fate at Amazon as it made a jump to below 3,000th in sales rank and has now begun the inevitable downward spiral. I did appear briefly as #20 on their horror bestseller list, bumping off an Anne Rice book, which you can imagine gave me a great deal of pleasure. I try not to put much stock in the numbers, but it's one of the few ways a writer can tell if a book is actually selling. I had hoped to sustain some momentum for a few weeks and see if some bit of luck would happen- a review in a major publication, a good TV or radio interview, or simply some crazed bookstore staff falling in love with the book.

Actually, that has happened a bit, as Fireside Books in Forest City NC likes me "better than Stephen King." And a couple of the Barnes & Noble stores are really giving me some good hype. On a downer, one independent bookstore canceled a July signing because the staff wasn't enthusiastic about the book. My guess is it showed up and they saw "horror" printed on the spine, and decided it wasn't hip and literary enough. Or maybe they just didn't want to bother with the extra work of an author signing.

June 3, 2002:
The Red Church is starting to appear in the bookstores and review copies are shipping, so everything is going about as well as possible. I've received some positive feedback about the book. It's really strange, it's so far from me (several years in my past) yet it will be a lot of people's first impression. I hope it reflects part of who I am.

In some ways, I'm a better person now than when I wrote the book. I've made some mistakes between then and now. Haven't we all? Probably, I'm a better writer now. And it's just a book, but as I said in the final installment of the Virgin in the Church series, the story is always more important than its author. Here's to a long life for it.

May 22, 2002:
My new author copies showed up on the doorstep today. I arrived home from oral surgery to find a box full of "The Red Church." Well, not the actual church, but rather the book. I was pleased to see that the cover had been slightly redesigned to fit all the cover blurbs in. Bentley Little now holds the front blurb: "A terrific writer. Like Stephen King, he knows how to summon serious scares."

Sharyn McCrumb, Stewart O'Nan, and Kevin Anderson quotes were placed on the back cover. The book also climbed from 1.2 million to about 88,000 at Amazon.com, about the same level it's been at at B&N online. If you want to preorder, there's still a week left in the preorder contest to win free books.

In other news, my article "Why You Need An Agent (Except When You Don't)" will appear in the June issue of Speculations.

May 17, 2002:
Good news which will shortly be announced officially as soon as final details are sewn up.

I got a report that someone had bought a copy of The Red Church, so maybe it's starting to pop up in some markets. I haven't received my author copies or promotional copies yet. With the exception of a couple of times to be determined, the book tour is about as full as it's going to be this summer.

Proof that our culture has severely misplaced priorities: the other day I saw a homeless man with a cell phone. Currently reading The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale and Run by Douglas Winter, and listening to Stereo by Paul Westerberg, Wish by the Cure, and Is This It? by The Strokes.

May 10, 2002:
I now have an official message board at Horror World, so please feel free to come over and drop a line. My story "Honesty" will appear in Future Orbits in June. It's a time travel story. probably only the second or third science fiction story I've ever sold. It's piled up a few rejections over the years, so I'm glad it finally found a home.

I just watched "The Haunting," and while it's a travesty compared to Shirley Jackson's classic novel The Haunting of Hill House, I was shocked to see that some of the same ideas appear in one of my unsold screenplays: generational connection to the haunting, mysterious paintings, and even the name of Krane for the antagonistic spirit. Whew, good thing I have a chance to touch mine up before it makes the rounds. And I hope mine is not as cheesy.

May 1, 2002:
The Red Church book tour has twelve North Carolina stops for June, with the possible addition of one or two more. I'll be at The Stars Our Destination, one of the larger genre bookstores, in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, IL, on either July 5 or 6. I'll probably add about five more stops in July, then ease off until October. Hopefully, that will coincide with some radio and television appearances.

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