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Friday, June 14, 2019

Playing the Long Game

So, as I've mentioned a few times lately, I find myself in a transitional place. My most recent short story collection, Things You Need, released from Crystal Lake Publishing in September 2019. It's done okay, but not nearly as well as previous books. I've speculated a little bit as to why. Maybe because it's essentially my fourth "linked collection." Maybe I've played that out too much. Maybe I've played in my own little mythos of Clifton Heights too long. Whatever the reason, despite how I feel about it's quality, it seems to be gathering fewer reviews, and the sales seem to be slower than previous books. 

I'd be lying if I didn't say that bummed me out for awhile. Eventually, however, I realized that I'd arrived at a crossroads. It was time for me to write something different. Not in Clifton Heights. Not quiet horror. Something that's a genre-mash, fast-paced, and bloody. A novel. And, I needed to take the time and effort to find an agent.

The key word in that sentence being time.

It's been a little over ten years since my first book, Hiram Grange and the Chosen One, was released. Since then, I've seen four more books published which I'm very proud of. They've mostly been reviewed well, and though I don't know much about sales, they've hung around in the rankings pretty persistently, not blowing up the charts, but not sinking to the bottom of the ocean. I've climbed out of the semi-pay short story bracket to pro-pay (recently, I sold another pro pay story, "A Circle That Ever Returneth" to Cemetery Gates Media for their upcoming anthology, Other Voices, Other Tombs)

I've also sold two novellas to Cemetery Dance Publications, which are forthcoming. I've written as a paid freelance reviewer for The Press & Sun Bulletin, I was the Review Editor for Shroud Magazine, I worked as a submissions reader for Cemetery Dance, and am currently the Review Editor for Cemetery Dance Online, as well as a contributor, with my monthly column "Revelations." For two years I wrote a quarterly column for Lamplight Magazine, "Horror 101," which was born from my podcast segment on Tales to Terrify, of the same name.

I list all those things not to blow my own trumpet, but to remind myself of what I've been allowed to accomplish, or be a part of. 10 years ago, I had one or two token-pay short stories to my name. Many folks started out in the same situation. Many of those folks haven't continued on, for a variety of reasons. And I've been blessed with these achievements because I adopted one central ideal: I would go to work, every day. Put my head down. Push on. 

Over the past year, that's been hard to do. I've struggled with fatigue, depression, anxiety (which I'm being treated for), and other personal matters. I've had to prioritize family and my marriage over writing. Same thing with my job as a teacher.  In the midst of those things, I still made a few sales, and sold the second novella to CD. 

Even so, it felt like I was slowing down, and because of that, I felt like my career was in danger of grinding to a permanent halt. As the the sales for Things You Need trickled, I really wondered if this was it. I felt stuck, and didn't know what to do. Writing a novel and pitching it to an agent would take time, and that scared me. I also struggle with a nearly manic need for affirmation, so the thought of disappearing from the horror publishing landscape terrified me.

And then it hit me like a thunderbolt. 

I had a monthly online column for one of the best horror small press/specialty publishers in the genre. I could always write more reviews for them. I got here by blogging about and posting on social media about writers I loved; the masters, and my colleagues. Also, those two CD novellas haven't come out yet, and will mostly likely come out in the time it takes me to write novel and pitch it. I still have a short story solicitation I'm working on, I just sold another pro-pay story, and I'm sure I'll occasionally sell more. 

On the heels of this, fellow writer and colleague CW Briar pitched the idea of starting a Youtube Channel dedicated to reviewing horror movies. I realized that this was yet another way I could continue to interact with the horror community. If I chose not to, I didn't have to disappear, as I continued to do the work.

And then something happened which gave me a lot of hope, and convinced me this was not only the right attitude to have, it was the only attitude to have. Mind you, it comes from another writer's experience, and that's always dicey: in no way am I expecting that my experience will turn out to be like his. In any case....

Enter Maurice Broaddus.

In 2010 through 2011, Maurice was in high profile, and high gear. An urban fantasy series published by Angry Robot. Appearances in high profile magazines. He edited two volumes of the critically acclaimed Dark Faith. He seemed primed for the next step.

And then, it seemed like - to outward appearances - that he slowed down. He didn't go away. Selling a short story to Asimov's doesn't mean "going away." And things started percolating again with the release of his novella Buffalo Soldier from TOR in 2017. Along the way, he also released a collection. 

Just recently, however - it all blew up for Maurice, with the release of his middle grade novel The Usual Suspects from HarperCollins, the first in a series, I believe. It also garnered a Publisher's Weekly Review. At the same time, his new novel, Pimp My Airship, released from Apex Books.

Maurice, it seemed, was back. Except he never left. Through it all, he worked as editor for Apex, he traveled to Cons, he kept writing. He remained active and positive on social media. Every time I've talked to him on the phone over the past three years, he talked about the stories he was writing, and the projects he was pitching. He never stopped, so he never went away.

Now. 

Maurice's life and his career is his, and mine is mine. It won't happen the same way for me. Even so, the lesson is still there. Keep going. Don't give up. Keep writing. Keep doing the work. Enjoy your place in the sun, and be involved with what you love. Selfishly, I'm not only thrilled for Maurice's successes, I'm thrilled about them. They've served as a timely life lesson, and inspiration. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Review: Severed

Severed Severed by Peter Laws
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really enjoying Peter Laws' Matt Hunter series. Matt Hunter is shaping up to be like a supernatural/occult/religious Joe Ledger/Jack Reacher/Repairman Jack kind of character, and these are novels which are honestly grappling with issues of faith and belief, but they aren't works of "Christian fiction."

I also - I THINK - am getting an idea where Matt Hunter's going, and there seems to be a larger arc behind these stories, which, of course, I love. Will expand my thoughts on Matt Hunter and Laws' nonfiction book THE FRIGHTENERS in an upcoming edition of my Cemetery Dance Online column, "Revelations."

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Through A Mirror, Darkly - Free Until Sunday!

For a limited time, the ebook of my novella quartet, Through A Mirror, Darkly, is free on Amazon. That's a price you can't beat! Grab it while you can. 

Arcane Delights. Clifton Heights' premier rare and used bookstore. In it, new owner Kevin Ellison has inherited far more than a family legacy, for inside are tales that will amaze, astound, thrill...and terrify. 

An ancient evil thirsty for lost souls. A very different kind of taxi service with destinations not on any known map. Three coins that grant the bearer's fondest wish, and a father whose crippling grief gives birth to something dark and hungry. 

Every town harbors secrets. Kevin Ellison is about to discover those that lurk in the shadows of Clifton Heights.


 



Endorsements:

“Literate and stylish, yet fast-paced and accessible, Through A Mirror, Darkly is a thoroughly engrossing read. Kevin Lucia is a major new voice in the horror genre.” - Jonathan Janz, author of The Nightmare Girl

“Kevin Lucia writes my favorite kind of horror, the kind not enough folks are writing anymore. The scares in Through A Mirror Darkly (and there is no shortage of them), are of the subtle breed, the sort you don’t see coming until they’re already upon you and you realize it’s too late to catch a breath. Charles L. Grant excelled with this type of creeping, insidious terror. So too, does Lucia, and if this collection is any indication, we’re going to be enjoying his wonderfully quiet horror for decades to come.” - Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Turtle Boy and Kin.

"Through  A Mirror, Darkly serves as Kevin Lucia's early-warning system to the horror field; I'm approaching fast, and I will fall on your heads like a curse from Heaven ... and oh, yes -- it's too late to take shelter. Brace yourselves, folks, with this collection, Lucia will subtract a pound of flesh and then some from your nervous system." - Gary A. Braunbeck, Bram Stoker Award-winner of To Each Their Darkness, Destinations Unknown, and the forthcoming A Cracked and Broken Path.

"Unseen cobwebs brush across exposed skin, tingling, felt hours, sometimes days later. That’s Kevin Lucia’s writing. He is a skillful guide through Clifton Heights, telling tales of mystery and horror in a town where dark secrets and ancient evils lurk to prey upon those who read Through A Mirror, Darkly. — Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award winning author of The Evolutionist.


"With word precision and masterful control of pace and situation, Through a Mirror, Darkly earns Kevin Lucia a literary place alongside enduring philosophical horror crafters." - Bram Stoker Award Winning Author of New Moon On The Water, Mort Castle.

“With Through A Mirror, Darkly, Kevin Lucia proves once again that it’s only a matter of time before he’s one of the genre’s biggest names. At first glance, his work suggests he is destined to inherit the throne of ‘quiet horror’ once ruled by folks like the late, great Charles Grant. But don’t take Lucia too lightly – there’s a devious streak that runs through his fiction. It’s why he’s one of my favorite writers . . . and will be one of yours too.” - James Newman, author of The Wicked and Animosity.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

StokerCon 2019: Thoughts

This past weekend, I experienced my first StokerCon ever. I had a marvelous time. Even now, words fail me. What can I possibly say about my StokerCon experience that others haven't already said? To sum it up, I've decided what made StokerCon so great was simply this: seeing a ton of my writing brethren in the same place, meeting new ones, and very simply, hanging out, talking shop and life, and just taking the weekend as it came.

See, I'm not sure if my experience is typical,  but I kind of think it is.  For the first two years I attended conventions as a "nobody." I didn't have any books to sell, and even when I did have Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, I didn't get a vendor table right away. Of course, from that perspective, I couldn't wait to get a vendor table so I could sell my stuff. It seemed like the greener grass on the other side of the fence.

Same thing with serving on panels. I couldn't wait to serve on a panel. Quite the status symbol, right? To be selected to share my experience and thoughts with others?

Since 2013, however, I've either had my own vendor table, or shared vendor tables with other authors, and I've served on dozens of panels. I've got to say, for the most part, it's all worked out pretty well. Regarding vendor tables, at the very least, I always broke even. More often than not, I made a profit. Also, I enjoyed serving on panels. Especially the ones which developed into free-flowing conversations about horror fiction.

At StokerCon, I didn't do  any of these things. No vendor table, no panels. I just floated where I wanted. Attended only the panels which interested me. Spent all the time in the world with people who were important to me. I didn't worry about selling books, or serving on a panel, or performing a reading. In fact, no one showed up for my scheduled reading. What did I do? Skipped out and attended one of the best panels I've seen in a very long time, about how personal tragedies are dealt with through writing fiction.

I enjoyed StokerCon more than I've enjoyed a convention in a very long time.

The reason why? 

I spent all the time in the world with people who were important to me.

That's what made the weekend special. And really...what more needs to be said?

Myself, Rio Youers, and D. Alexander Ward
Myself and Jeremy Wagner
Myself and Patrick Frievald



Norman Prentiss, Michael Bailey, and myself
(I wish I had more pictures, because they only represent a fraction of the people I felt so happy to see this past weekend.)

Review: The Relationship Principles of Jesus

The Relationship Principles of Jesus The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A lot of good stuff in here, especially when it comes to relating to other people. I do have to say, however - it's really apparent that most our very visible "Christian leaders" do not practice these principles in any real way.

Especially convicting was the concluding section on humility in our relationships with others. I can confess with all transparency that as a writer - especially after experiencing even a modicum of success - I've struggled to maintain an attitude of humility internally, and I struggle in simply being happy for the success of others, rather than wishing for that success myself. Really made me reconsider how I think of myself in relation to others, especially in the writing world.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Review: Lost Angels

Lost Angels Lost Angels by David J. Schow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, I must admit to being a bit wary - as Schow is considered the "father of splatterpunk" - simply because splatterpunk isn't my cup of tea. I've read some very well-written splatterpunk in my time, and it's a completely valid genre, but it's just not my preference, and I think I've also read stuff which claims the splatterpunk title, but turned out mostly to be an excuse for bad writing and graphic violence.

But this. THIS COLLECTION. I'm assuming the majority of Schow's work falls in the splatterpunk vein, given his title. But this collection is filled with marvelous stories of depth and emotion. My favorites were "Monster Movies," "Red Light," and "Pamela's Get." It should be noted: this is a review of the used paperback, which doesn't include "Calendar Girl."

Knowing that most of his work falls in the realm of splatterpunk, I'm not sure if I'll seek it out. This collection, however, was amazing, and certainly makes me more likely to, eventually.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Review: Hideaway

Hideaway Hideaway by Dean Koontz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was a time when I read nothing but Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Then, for a time, I explored other horror/supernatural thriller/spec fic writers, to broaden my palate. When I returned to King, re-reading some old favorites and reading his newer offerings, I was pleasantly surprised to find I loved his work as much as I remember loving it.

Though I enjoyed HIDEAWAY, it hasn't quite been the same experience re-reading Koontz (except for his novella STRANGE HIGHWAYS, I love that one). One thing I notice now that I didn't then is that Koontz can't seem to stop himself from editorializing along the way, intruding as a narrator a bit too much. The values of an author will always inevitably influence their work. But I don't necessarily want the author to beat me over the head with their values with an intruding narrator. He didn't do it as much in this one, but I noticed it a lot more, after not reading Koontz for a long time.

Plus, his child protagonists are always unfailingly witty, well-read and literate, sarcastic but with hearts of gold inside. It's a formula, and it didn't bother me too much here, but only because I haven't read much Koontz in awhile. King's child protagonists may still be "good" but they have a grittier reality to them.

On the plus side, I did appreciate that Koontz had Hatch be pretty straightforward with is wife about his visions, and that she was in the fight with him right from the start. I always hate it when authors - for the sake of false tension - have couples in an otherwise healthy relationship just start to randomly hide things from each other. That CAN be a useful element of characterization, but mostly, it comes off as fake. Koontz didn't misstep here, and I enjoyed it more because of it.

And of course, (for obvious reasons) I have no issues with the amount of faith which ends up in Koontz's characters. Actually, if he just contented himself with letting his characters be moral vehicles, I'd probably still be a more avid fan, and since this is a earlier novel, his Narrator doesn't intrude as much as it does in his later works.

I will say I don't think I needed the "and this is how everyone ended up" conclusion. We could've easily ended with the end of the plot's action itself. Other than that, this stands up as reflective of Koontz's stronger, earlier work.

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