Okay, you were deluged with Black Friday emails. And then it’s Small Business Saturday, and Giving Sunday… or is it Giving Tuesday? We lose track, too.
And then there’s Cyber Monday, so named because it’s the point where we all go back to work and don’t feel like it, so we sneak some holiday shopping online when the boss isn’t looking. Which turns into Cyber Week, because really, no one is in the mood for work.
Here at LitUnd Towers, we decided to give you a break from the deluge on Black Friday. Besides, we had pie.
Keep in mind: Quite often Literary Underworld is cheaper than Amazon. Some of our books are out of print, and deeply discounted as low as $5. Some of our small-press books are half price, and others have been discounted by the author below Amazon list price. Add in the discount code, and you’re getting the best deal on the internet.
Remember: when you shop Literary Underworld, you’re buying directly from the authors and publishers who created these works. You’re supporting creators with the largest possible percentage of the sale. That’s the reason LitUnd exists, folks.
So here are a few ideas for the book fans on your list, with many more in our store!
We hope you’ll choose to do some holiday shopping with us at Literary Underworld. Remember that you can have your purchase shipped directly to the recipient and get it gift-wrapped, if you so choose! In some cases, signed copies are available at no extra cost – just ask.
Remember that all shipping is $8 flat rate no matter how many books you buy! And if you live in the St. Louis area, you can pick up your purchase directly from us without having to pay extra for shipping. Once or twice a month, we set up for an afternoon at a local coffeehouse and patrons can come by to pick up their books. If you’d like to do that, please select “local pickup” for your shipping option and we will be in touch with details.
Thank you for shopping at Literary Underworld, and happy holidays!
Underlord Dennis R. Upkins recently had the opportunity to interview comics superhero Gail Simone. As Denny says in his prologue to the interview, if well-behaved women seldom make history, Gail has made history in defiance of the male-dominated comics industry.
Gail created the Women in Refrigerators concept, which called out misogyny and the sidelining of female characters in comics as perpetual victims to motivate male heroes. She went on to write several comics lines, including the longest run on Wonder Woman for any woman writer, as well as Birds of Prey and Deadpool.
A few excerpts from Gail’s discussion with Denny:
On Women in Refrigerators:
GAIL: Like most jobs, you get tested, you make errors, choices are given to you where the road isn’t clear, but I think your gut is a fair indicator of what the right thing to do is, most of the time. And I do feel lucky that the Women In Refrigerators AT LEAST named a trope that seemed to permeate adventure fiction on all levels. It was never my intent to tell people what stories are ‘off limits,’ it was just to say, ‘doesn’t this seem a little tired to you?’
It was never even intentional activism, it was a frustration I had to voice, and the wonderful thing is, people of all genders got it, they had the same uncomfortable feeling. So that was worth the constant hate mail and rage that was sent my way. None of that meant very much to me, still doesn’t.
On pushback against diversity in comics:
GAIL: I had great editors on Deadpool when I got started, and we raised sales and fan/critical reaction hugely. But they got promoted and the new editor was just awful. He said my Deadpool, which was literally FULL of shooting and action and boners, “had too much estrogen.” That’s a direct quote, someone actually gave this genius a job.
So that kind of thing happened, I remember a bit of pushback on making a character gay very early on. However, I have to say, DC was really advanced about that at the time, in particular. I don’t remember them ever pushing back about diverse characters, even things like the first Transgender character in a Batman-universe book. They were behind us, and I am very appreciative of that.
On the future of the comic book landscape:
GAIL: I want comics shops to be healthy. Comics will mutate and absolutely SHOULD be in as many venues as possible. But the front line is comics shops, and they’re being obliterated by piracy, rent hikes, and other factors, it all has to be addressed. Other than that, I want more The Walking Dead style hits, books that bring in readers who weren’t reading, say, Spider-Man.
On advice for aspiring creators:
GAIL: I say bring your principles with you. No one wants to be preached at while reading Batman. But acknowledging a wider world is saying, “I do not accept that this world that I love, this universe that I am so deeply entrenched in, has to stay mired in amber since 1940.”
Also, if your plot is dragging, have Spider-Man web some dude.
Dennis R. Upkins is an Atlanta native and member of the Literary Underworld. He is the author of Hollowstone and West of Sunset, and regularly critiques and analyzes the representation and portrayal of minorities in comics and media. When he’s not out saving the world and/or taking it over in his spare time, Upkins’s hobbies include drawing, modeling, acting, photography, cosplay, rollerblading, martial arts and of course writing. His website can be found here.
Today’s guest author is Michael Houtchen, whose debut novel Tybee Island H-Bomb premieres this week from our friends at Seventh Star Press. Here’s Michael’s story in his own words:
Kentucky has always been my home. I was born in Owensboro and raised in Daviess County. Life was simple back then. I grew up with outhouses, hand-pumps, and coal stoves. If you wanted hot water, you heated it on the stove.
Both of my parents have passed on. I have a half-brother, Danny, but most of our younger lives he lived with his father, so we didn’t get to see each other often. Looking back, sadly, it was like being an only child. My closest friends were the cows, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, turkeys, geese, ducks, and horses my dad kept on our small farm. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out. Farm animals can be so jealous. Our grocery store – mason jars of mom’s canned vegetables and the occasional trip into town to the IGA.
My dad was a woodsman. You could give him a shotgun, a box of shells and
a book of matches, and he could disappear into the forest for weeks. I used to
hunt with him, but I was never the woodsman. I can’t tell you how many deer,
squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and ground hogs I’ve eaten.
My wife, Stephanie, and I have five kids (three boys and two girls) and
eight grandchildren (five boys and three girls). All but one son live here in
town. You should see Christmas day at our house.
I’ve had several jobs during my lifetime. When I was thirteen, I had a summer job. I was a soda-jerk at the Utica Junior High School playground. The school is now defunct. It is not my fault the school went defunct.
As an adult, I started out as a janitor. Loved the work, but not the pay. Mapping came next. In other words, I was a draftsman who created maps from surveys. I did that for over twenty years. Mapping full time and going to Brescia College (it’s now a university) at night, I got a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Career change: I was a computer analyst for over twenty years.
There came a day when I realized I was the dinosaur of computer science. Technology had passed me by. So I up and retired. That was in 2014, and I haven’t missed working a day. Truth be known, I do miss the people I worked with.
Notice: I’ve said nothing about writing. I could tell you a pretty good story, but putting it on paper was another thing. Stephanie, my wife, asked, “And why not?” I had no answer.
I should keep this short, so, I will tease you with two important events
that happened in my life; two events that I haven’t already discussed. When we
meet each other, don’t hesitate to ask me about them.
Monday, September 6, 1965, was a Labor Day, and I was out of school. On
that day, I came in contact with a high voltage powerline. Seven thousand two
hundred volts entered my hand and exited my head and my feet.
That’s not a typo. It was 7200 volts. I was given up for dead for three days. There is a “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. Ask me about it when we meet.
The second event: September 17, 2017, I was ordained a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church. It keeps me busy these days. If you’re not sure what a permanent deacon does, Google it.
There you have it: My life story summed up in 1,000 words or less. It sounds like a writing contest, doesn’t it? There’s so much I left out. I could tell you about riding the rails, or the time I hung myself. But those will have to wait until we meet.
Michael on the elements of a good thriller:
A solid series plot.
I like for each book in a series to be standalone, but the
overall series could have a well thought out plot, a “traveling” storyline, if
you will, traveling from book to book. I
wrote a four book series, and I knew were each book was going and how each book
Without interesting characters, the series could/would get
boring or grow stale. Adding/removing
characters helps keep the storyline fresh.
Yes, after a while, there’s nothing wrong with killing off main characters
or having them move away. People will
hate you, but that’s real life. Never,
never kill a pet! Just look at John
A thriller takes place in the world with real world
situations — no hocus pocus. Even if the
series takes place on, say, one of Saturn’s moons, it should still have real
world situations, like the 1981 movie Outland
staring Sean Connery.
A good series will take you down an expected path, just to
come to a dead end. But don’t drop the
solution in the last chapter, or by the introduction of a new character with
the solution near the end of the story.
Work your way, chapter by chapter, to the solution. Keep the reader, guessing. I love hearing people say ̶ I
thought it was this person until you killed him.
Take the time to do the research. I once had a “scene” where a person was starting a helicopter. I went through all the buttons and gauges just fine, only to find out, I had the pilot in the wrong seat. The helicopter inventor was left-handed, so pilots sit in the right seat. A pilot friend, who flew helicopters in Vietnam, pointed out my error.
Tybee Island H-Bomb
The government lost a hydrogen bomb around Tybee Island, Georgia, in
1958, or is that an old wives’ tale?
If it is only a tale, then why are three young men trying to find it, in
hopes of selling it to make a dirty bomb?
Before the week is out, six friends from Kentucky will get caught up in kidnapping, murder, and treason, while trying to save one of their own and perhaps the citizens of Tybee Island and Savannah, Georgia.
Today’s guest blogger is Joann H. Buchanan, whose latest book is being released this week from Seventh Star Press. Joann was raised in a military family and at the age of 19, followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the Navy. She went to college at OPSU in Oklahoma, majoring in CIS, but the love of writing made her ultimately come back to it. After Dark is Joann’s fifth book. Joann and her husband John have five children and live happily in the heartland of middle America.
The hurdles of being indie
Everyday there are over 500,000 books published on Amazon.
That is the biggest hurdle. How to stand out in a sea filled with water?
The most obvious answer is marketing. There are a lot of indie authors who can’t afford to market a book the way it should be.
There are a few ways to get around this.
One, hire someone who is versed in marketing and can make it easier on you or two, gather a few people who are in the same boat and work together. The second is probably going to end up being the most rewarding because you make friends in the journey and you don’t feel so alone. Also, set your expectations one day at a time. If you receive a review about your book and it’s fabulous, use that to keep moving forward. If you are able to help a friend spread the word, use that to keep moving forward.
That’s the most important thing… keep moving forward. Ultimately you are your own worst enemy. If a new author focuses on the fact that you aren’t a number one best selling author right off the bat, then you are focusing on the wrong thing.
As a friend of mine has told me, this is a marathon, not a
sprint. In other words, be prepared for a long journey and celebrate every step
that moves you forward.
I have been fortunate in this business in that I have not
only made money, but I have connected with some amazingly talented people. They
have given me a map when I was lost, an ear when I wanted to vent and a laugh
when I have felt down. Allow yourself to exist in the moment. Eventually the
bottom line will take care of itself as long as you are existing in the moment.
The other thing, appreciate your fans. They don’t have to
buy your book. So even if they don’t particularly enjoy one book but they loved
another, tell them thank you for reading it. I think some writers forget the
fans. One of my favorite things to do is answer emails from fans. They are
everything when it comes to the literary world.
The question is what is the biggest hurdle for an indie
writer—I think the biggest hurdle is ourselves. We should band together to make
things easier. I’ve seen authors put others down instead of celebrating
accomplishments. Don’t do that. Remember that today it is their turn but
tomorrow it may be your turn. Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate one another
and help one another than to walk all over one another or allow jealousy to
If you are an indie writer and you want to work together to move forward, let me know. I will gladly be part of your group to help one another move forward. To me, that’s what it’s all about.
After Dark: Children of Nox series No. 3
The time of three arrives….
The stained one is revealed.
The dream protector’s power grows.
A demon possesses the body of Jonah.
All the pieces are in place, guided by Trinity.
Gods, goddesses, and supernatural forces converge,
and a clash of powers looms that will determine the fate of the world.
What will come after the dark?
The thrilling conclusion of the Children of Nox Series awaits you!
Saturday morning, a meeting room filled with people from all stages of
publishing. Multi-pubbed award winners to aspiring writers who hadn’t finished
their first draft yet, working in all genres, found their spots and settled in.
Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors. She also maintains an award-winning blog for writers at JaneFriedman.com; her expertise has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, PBS, CBS, the National Press Club and many other outlets.
With those kinds of credentials, it’s
no wonder people were engaged and interested for the day-long workshop called “Are
You Ready for Success?”
The main points included learning how
to build an author platform, optimize branding and messaging to appeal to readers,
and employ strategize in your website, blog, newsletters and social media to
reach and engage your audience.
The first point she made was to
define “platform,” which she equated to visibility. Right off the bat, the
audience was asked to think, not in terms of individual sales, but in terms of
how we reach our audience at large.
And the only way to reach that
audience was to do the work.
In other words, write the book.
Building an author brand. The idea of a brand is to build an expectation in readers for what you deliver in text, design, and action. Presenting a unified, even repetitive image across all your media helps solidify that brand in the readers mind through consistency.
Optimizing your books starts with metadata, which consists of the book description, cover, editorial reviews, categories and keywords. She mentioned that one of the ways readers know what they like is through comparison, which is why you often see phrases like, “If you like X, you’ll love Y!” in book marketing.
Whether or not those comparisons are entirely accurate, knowing who and what is selling in your genre or niche can help you identify your target audience. Yasiv.com is a helpful tool for finding similar books, as well as looking through your also-boughts, checking reviews for mentions of similar authors, as well as Goodreads lists and those media roundups of “Top 10 Whatever Books To Read Next.”
Writing compelling book descriptions
is more than telling the plot. Using headlines, bold type, and white space
effectively, including editorial reviews from bloggers and media, as well as
working in appropriate categories and keywords can help readers find you in
She also suggested updating your book
descriptions periodically to take advantage of new trends. A little work every
few months might bring in fresh readers.
Consider your strengths in generating leads. Are you a good blogger? Can you do a podcast or run a Twitter chat? Maybe you’re great at networking – not all authors are introverts. All of those and more are ways to generate leads, which in publishing translates to finding readers.
One way to discover some of your
possible lead generation avenues is to do a SWOT analysis. Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Focus on maximizing what you can (write
more books!), and taking the chances that come your way.
Platform Assets: Website first, because it’s your official face as an author. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be functional. It should look like you – an opportunity to reiterate your branding – and it should have all the information about your books a reader or a potential contact might need.
Social media is another platform asset, because it’s a way to connect you to the community of readers, as well as a way to network with other authors and publishing professionals. It is not your best selling tool, but it is a way to brand yourself and build relationships.
The final leg of your platform asset
is your email newsletter. When you build your list organically, it consists of
your most engaged readers. They’re the ones who will evangelize for you.
She addressed a few different
strategies for producing original content. For instance, readers enjoy media
content lists — what you’re reading/watching/listening to/streaming right now.
Q&As and interviews with other authors are of interest, as well as behind
the scenes peeks into the writing and publishing process. Finally, funny is
always a good bet for entertaining, value added content.
You can also send out RSS feeds, blog
roundups and automatic digests for newsletters.
One of the biggest keys to
maintaining a vibrant, engaged newsletter list is consistency in frequency,
format, look, and voice.
If you need a priority list for your
platform assets, attend to your website first, then your newsletter, then pick
one social media platform where you can show up regularly.
If you’d like to learn more about the
Missouri chapter of Romance Writers of America, the organization that hosted
the special event, please visit https://www.morwa.org/wp/
Sela Carsen is an award-winning author of paranormal and sci-fi romance — with or without sex and dead bodies. Your pick. She maintains a permanent nerd-on for fairytales and mythology, and openly hoards reference books about obscure folklore. Born a wanderer, she and her family have finally settled in the Midwest. Until they move again, at least. http://selacarsen.com/
J. L. Mulvihill, author of the Steel Roots series and The Elsie Lind Chronicles, has now added screenplay writing to her many other accomplishments.
At the recent Imaginarium Convention and Film Festival in Louisville, Ky., Mulvihill claimed the Imadjinn 2019 Best Screenplay Short Format award. Mulvihill’s screenplay, Sand Mermaids, came in the running with a long list of highly seasoned screenplay writers and independent film producers.
Mulvihill was certainly surprised by the award, but extremely grateful for the opportunity and the acknowledgment.
Sand Mermaids is a screenplay based off of Mulvihill’s own short story and is now a potential short film. It is about a young boy dealing with the death of his mother and holding a grudge against the world. When the boy focuses his pent-up grief and anger into creating mermaids at a beach on a small island in Maine, an enigma occurs, bringing the mermaids to life.
This fantastic tale, pun intended, is a cross between The Shape of Water and Tom’s Midnight Garden, giving it a paranormal fantasy feel.
J. L. Mulvihill is now looking forward to writing more screenplays and possibly even creating her own independent short film, similar to Sand Mermaids but just a bit darker. This achievement has given her a super boost in the creative soul, which every writer needs from time to time.
Mulvihill has a lot on her plate already, writing two YA series and working on a science fiction novel as well. However, there is a plethora of story ideas kept in a multitude of files under the desk that can easily be made into film. The possibilities are endless.
Longtime Underlord Steven L. Shrewsbury has two titles new to the Literary Underworld! Shrews, as we call him on the circuit, is famous for raw, powerful fiction in fascinating and detailed alternate worlds. He’s also famous for his readings, which can blow down walls.
His latest in the Weird West series is Mojo Hand, which crosses from Peoria, Illinois to the voodoo dens of New Orleans.
After a gun battle in an 1884 Peoria cathouse, one-armed ex-Confederate guerrilla Joel Stuart has new problems. A small group arrives from New Orleans to inform him that his old friend and fellow Missouri Raider needs his help… and that someone is systemically killing all Confederate veterans in the area. Since all in the party perished in the gun battle but the young lady, DeVore, and the law will be on his tail, Joel offers to just return her to New Orleans.
After the train ride, Joel quickly discovers the city in the grip of a voodoo game with Pap Bon Deux and his estranged mate, Maman Elizi. While there, Maman attempts to contract Stuart to attain an article for her from Bon Deux: the soul of Marie LeVeaux, famed eternal voodoo mistress.
Joel finds himself at odds with dire magical forces. He runs headfirst into an army of the undead, a demon guard, the persona of African god Damballah, and even finds himself beneath the lid of a coffin.
The other is new to us, but has been in circulation for a few years. Shrews returns to his roots in dark fantasy, but this time with a biblical twist in Philistine.
The Philistines, a mysterious warrior people known now for mainly one man: Goliath. The giant.
Goliath. A name grander than even the man himself. You’ve heard of his infamous end at the hands of a shepherd as written in a famous book, but what of the life of the man himself? What book tells his tale?
A warrior among warriors, the son of a god, a living legend. Goliath, the warrior champion of the Philistines. On the battlefield, he runs like a horse, wields killing instruments no normal man may heft, and revels in the fear his presence evokes. Off the field, his will is immutable, his trust invaluable, and his appetites unbearable. Goliath. This man knows no challenge.
But such a reputation will not discourage all men. Scheming rulers and generals, prophetic priests and powerful cults, dauntless warriors looking to make their own legends. Monsters. Gods. For one seemingly unkillable, at the very least, these things can ruin an otherwise pleasant day.
Along with his shieldbearer Abimelech, and soldiers more in awe than they are useful, Goliath will set out on missions for kings, face foul magic users, and walk in the shadows of mysterious halls.
History tells us Goliath died at the hands of an Israelite. Goliath may have something to say about that.
Enjoy these and the rest of Steven Shrewsbury’s amazing and prolific body of work at Literary Underworld!
Many thanks to all those we saw at Imaginarium! If you’re a writer, filmmaker or other creative, Imaginarium is definitely the place to be – we all tend to think of it like a writing workshop and networking event rather than a traditional con.
That didn’t stop us from bringing out the bar, of course!
It was great to meet up with several of the Underlords, as well – J.L. Mulvihill and Steven L. Shrewsbury were on hand, and off-color jokes were the rule of the day. (Any connection between those facts is, of course, entirely coincidental.)
Thanks to Underlord and Imaginarium co-founder Stephen Zimmer and his crew for a fantastic event yet again!
(And once again, multiple members of the Literary Underworld were in the same place and no one took a group picture. Who’s running this outfit anyway?)
However, there was one thing we managed to photograph. J.L. Mulvihill won the Imadjinn Award for best screenplay – “Sand Mermaids,” the first screenplay she’s ever written! Congratulations to Jen for her terrific achievement!
Click here for a complete list of winners from the Imadjinn Awards. Congratulations to all the winners!
Six members of the Literary Underworld were guests at Archon this past weekend! Present were authors Elizabeth Donald, Sela Carsen, Jim Gillentine, Michales Joy, Cole Gibsen and T.W. Fendley. Naturally we all forgot to get a group picture. Or, you know, be in the picture.
But the booth was hopping, the panels were a blast, the hallway costumes were terrific and the party was… well. Even by the standards of the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar, the party was more popular than any we’ve had. If you’re wondering why the LitUnd Ground Crew is a little yawny this week, here’s why.
On Friday night, we opened the doors at 9 p.m. and immediately a line formed out the room door, down the hall and around the corner. Your Fearless Overlord was pouring drinks behind the bar for three and a half hours without enough of a pause to take a sip of water. Before the second night, we needed another emergency run to the liquor store for another $150 worth of booze – but surely we wouldn’t have as many crowds on day two?
Ha. Again the line formed, and the poor bartender developed tennis elbow from pouring so many drinks. First break came at 1:15 a.m. After we finally kicked everyone out and cleaned up the bar, we put four (4) liquor-store boxes in the hallway for trash pickup.
For perspective: each of those boxes held 9-12 bottles of booze. Y’all drink like fish.
But everything was a huge success, including our new booth design and promotions. We are very glad that the Archon family had such a wonderful time, and we have already re-upped for next year. By then maybe my arm will stop aching.
Next: Imaginarium in Louisville, Ky. this weekend! This writer’s workshop, convention and film festival is a mainstay of our year. Unlike most cons, the dealer’s room is open to the public – you do not need a badge to come shop with us! If you’re there, come by and say hello!
We are happy to announce a reprint of one of Underlord Elizabeth Donald’s favorite short stories will appear in an upcoming anthology from Crone Girls Press.
Now, we know we’re not supposed to have “favorite” short stories, because they’re all our babies. But let’s face it – some stories are just more fun than others. “In Memoriam” features the return of Cat Suarez, the photographer who sees dead people. Apart from her debut novel, Cat shows up in a couple of short stories in Donald’s Moonlight Sonata, which is still in print and available in ebook too (hint hint).
Stories We Tell After Midnight is edited by the indomitable Rachel Brune, and includes stories from Jane Hawley, Adam N. Leonard, Christy Mann and several others.
A changeling binds a young girl to a mirror and takes her place…
A salesman pursues closing a deal until it costs him everything…
An ancient Duchess graciously invites you on a tour of her orangerie…
This is the world of Crone Girls Press. Here, the shadows keep their secrets and the moon hides from deeds cast in her glow. In these pages, the Fae walk as human, the dead burn with their anger at the living, the creatures that live in the dark places of the wrong zip code creep out of the shadows and into the kitchen. Stories We Tell After Midnight is a collection of short horror fiction from established names in the genre as well as a number of debut authors.
So, how can you get your hands on this awesome collection? You can preorder the ebook from Amazon for 99c right now! After release on Oct. 21, the ebook will cost you $4.99, so preorders are definitely in your best interest.