Sunday, April 29, 2018

Tim Miller on Writing Fifty Shades of Hell and Fifty Plus Other Extreme Horror Books

In this interview, Tim Miller talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, Fifty Shades of Hell, a novel where Hellraiser meets Fifty Shades of Grey, as well as his body of work.

“Sometimes, you have to write the crap to get to the good stuff.” ~Tim Miller

Tim had been writing ever since he was a child, and he was influenced by authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Michael Connelly, Thomas Harris and Jack Ketchum. It wasn’t until he was undergoing a divorce that he decided to venture into writing books as a way to relieve the stress he was then experiencing. After finishing his first book, The Hand of God, he signed up with a small publisher which, after a year, was bought out by another publisher, with whom Tim didn’t get along. The publisher then gave the rights to the book back to Tim, who then self-published it on Amazon, and ever since then, he has self-published some 53 books, in total, to date.

Tim, at the start, wrote extreme horror, which is essentially horror which goes into the taboos which aren’t done in mainstream media, such as details on what happens to the body when things such as a knife is plunged into it, which is presented in the messiest and most horrific way possible. He remarks that a lot of his readers are stay-at-home moms, although he admits, he has gotten e-mails from readers who have actually been aroused by the horrific scenes he writes. Recently, however, Tim has moved away from extreme horror and has gone into writing in other genres.

Tim’s books are relatively short, at around 30,000 words, which is how he is able to write so many in so short a time; he even remarked that, in the past two years or so, he has written around ten books a year. The ideas for stories come to him so fast that he has often decided to not create a sequel based on a book and characters he has already written and instead write a totally new book.

From his own experience, Tim noted that, for an author to get his book accepted by a publisher is a difficult process, necessitating the hiring of a reputable agent, who will then shop the book - as well as the books of the possibly hundreds of other authors that he represents - to various publishers. Once a publisher is interested in the book, the publisher then gets the rights to the book, which includes control over the cover and editing; and once the book is published, it usually isn’t marketed much by the publisher, which means that the author has to be the one to do the marketing himself. The publisher does give an author an advance payment, but Tim noted that the costs of marketing the book, by an author, come from this advance payment, and that the publisher doesn’t give additional money until the advance has been earned.

Self-publishing his own books works out well for Tim, as he has total creative control over his works, rather than having a publisher dictate changes to him based on market research. He has some model friends who help him come up with the cover images for his books, and he also works with an editor and designers who help him out with the graphic aspects. Tim also has beta readers who check on how the stories go and who give him the necessary input he might need to change a book’s title to make it stand out more. That said, Tim remarks that he has to contend with Amazon’s own internal censorship, which doesn’t tell authors why certain books get banned.

Tim notes that being business-minded is necessary to succeed in self-publishing, and that his willingness to learn is what enabled his present degree of success. He does all his marketing himself and has built up a good Twitter following. Tim remarks that marketing through Facebook is somewhat limiting, as Facebook presently doesn’t allow for too much advertising and promotion, but that he can post every hour, if he wanted to, on Twitter, which works out, as it relies on a chronological news feed. He also buys Amazon ads, and while he does buy Facebook ads he has noticed that these have become less helpful of late.

Tim remarks that Amazon pays 70% royalty on retail price, which means that, if a book sells for $2.99, the author gets $2 per book. This is in contrast with going through a small-time publisher, where an author will get around $1 per book for the same price sold on Amazon, and far less when going with a traditional publisher. Tim notes that small-time publishers are run by only one or two people and don’t do marketing or promotion for a book. He also shared his experience with a small publisher when he needed to order a batch of books to be printed for a book signing, and the publisher charged him more per book than these were being sold on Amazon. Tim also remarked that, as the press is small, any printing requests are dependent upon their printing schedule, and that the disreputable small presses don’t pay royalties to their authors. Moreover, when a small printing press stops operating, the book effectively dies, as all of the rights belong to the press, which means that the authors can’t get their books back for future reprints.

Where traditional publishers are concerned, Tim advises authors to go over the details of the contract given and then negotiate with the traditional publisher on the details of the contract. He also advises getting legal aid for contract negotiations, as he believes that it is ultimately the author’s responsibility to get the best deal he can for himself, and that, if there is something in the contract that an author isn’t comfortable with, the contract should not be signed.

To would-be authors, Tim recommends that they write the book out, first and foremost, before figuring out what to do with it afterwards. He also recommends that authors get clear on their goals, as how they proceed will depend on these. A horror writer who wants to win a Stoker award and get recognition, for example, should go with a small, reputable publisher, rather than self-publish, while those who would want to make money from their work would be better off self-publishing and then promote their book on various social media. Tim also notes that there are a lot more books being published nowadays compared to even a decade previously, which means that his earnings from his books has gone down somewhat, due to market saturation.

Tim has a “sidekick,” Sancho the chihuahua, who literally walked up to him one day. The chihuahua was friendly, and after Tim checked if there were any missing dogs around and couldn’t find any, decided to adopt him for good. According to Tim, Sancho oversees his writing and is in accord with his present shift in genres.

Purchase from Amazon: Fifty Shades of Hell by Tim Miller

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Robert Thorson and The Guide to Walden Pond (All You Need to Know)

In this interview, Professor Robert Thorson talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, The Guide to Walden Pond: An Exploration of the History, Nature, Landscape, and Literature of One of America’s Most Iconic Places.

“There’s nothing selfish about starting from within and defining your relationships in an outward direction.” ~Robert Thorson

Robert Thorson had become enamored of writer Henry David Thoreau, author of the book, Walden, while he was in college. Within a year of moving from Alaska to New England, he finally visited Walden Pond, the centerpoint of Thoreau’s book, and dropped a stone from his former home, marking the start of his relationship with the famous lake. Thor, as he prefers to be called, has been running field trips at Walden Pond since 2004, and it was in the summer of 2017, during the bicentennial celebrations of Thoreau’s birthday, that he turned a student handout into a pamphlet. When his wife found out, she told him to go ahead and write a guide, which was something that surprised Thor since there was no guide at all despite the fact that the pond received around half a million visitors annually. Although Thor has written scholarly books, writing a guide wasn’t on his “to do” list, and while he does admit that The Guide to Walden Pond is a guidebook, complete with images and descriptions, it also has various essays within.

Henry David Thoreau was one of the first main exponents of the American environmental movement. His book, Walden, which took nine years, seven drafts and two bursts of writing to complete, was the starting point for a lot of American nature writing. Thoreau contemplated about a sense of place and belonging, rather than of travel and adventure, and is known for such books as Civil Disobedience. He was an influence on such people as Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy and Martin Luther King.

Walden Pond, which is really a lake, is around a mile or so south of the village center of Concord, Massachusetts, which is now a suburb of Boston. Concord itself is known to historically be the place where American transcendentalism began in the mid-19th century. Walden Pond itself is just one small lake in a chain of lakes in the area. As a lake, The Pond is deep and 62 acres in a woodland area at the center of a state reservation (actually a state park). In Thoreau’s time, access to the lake was done via railroad and was somewhat difficult; today, access is east through roads. There were was such a glut of visitors to Walden Pond in Thoreau’s time, both from the United States and internationally, that consequently, the number of visitors was limited by authorities in the 1970s to maintain it in the spirit of Thoreau.

For visitors, Walden Pond is the subject of Thoreau’s famous book about a place, Walden, but for Thoreau, it was a small and otherwise ordinary lake where he could get distance himself from normal, hurried life; a place where he could write, relax and contemplate. The lake’s shape, from his viewpoint, reflected such attributes of Thoreau such as simplicity, resilience, purity and symmetry, and became, to him, a source of inspiration. Thoreau could also see the sun rise from his house by the Pond, which served as a metaphor for rebirth. As for his house, it was a small one-room cabin and was reached by a carriage road, within easy walking access to other human settlements nearby. Thoreau had a lot of visitors to his house during his stay there, with as many as thirty guests at any one time, and held organized meetings there.

Thor noted that four things made The Guide to Walden Pond special. Writing was one of these aspects, given the process by which the book was written, involving a gestation on the various aspects of human social relationships - the relationship between human and nature and what he read of the works of such people as Charles Darwin and Alexander Humboldt. Landscape - that of Walden Pond itself - was another aspect, given its depth and appearance. Solitude was also offered by his location, as he could remove himself from society to a place where he was at a “tension point” between Nature and human society.

Thor remarked that a lot of those who read the book would be “armchair ##s,” who would visit the Pond through the book, while there would be those who would both visit the Pond and read the book. Thor started out with the northeast sector, where the parking area and visitor’s center are, and which is all modern, as is the entire eastern side of Walden Pond. It is the western part of the pond which approximates the environment that Thoreau resided in, particularly the northwestern part of the pond, whose landscape remains authentic to Thoreau’s day. The tradition of leaving a token at the site of Thoreau’s house began in 1872 by a Mrs. Adams and has been continued ever since. The southwestern part of the lake is where the Pond has three coves of interest, and offers an opportunity to reflect on different aspects of Walden Pond’s history. The western end of Walden Pond is also where the original access, by railway, was, as well as a Victorian-era amusement park, which was started in 1886 and burned down in 1902. The southeastern sector of the lake affords a quiet, reflective walk as well as a view of both the natural and the modern landscape, before returning to the real world, which could provide some reflection to visitors on the changes that have happened.

Thor notes that, although Walden Pond is within twenty miles of a major city, it is still completely surrounded by large trees, which isn’t common for lakes closely sited near urban areas. Although one would think that the environs around the pond are untouched, Thor notes that these have all been affected by the hand of man at some previous time. Thor noted a study done on the Pond based on sediment core work since 1979, which showed that the microorganisms within are being affected by human pollution and are changing due to climate warming. He also noted that people go to Walden Pond not just for a pilgrimage but also for such activities as swimming in the lake and training for triathlons.

To those who are seeking some relief from the hectic, daily life, Thor recommends disconnecting and then looking inside oneself and “explore the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of your own consciousness,” as Thoreau once stated, after which one can spread oneself out to the world around, regardless of what others think. Thor then noted that Thoreau reflected on the telegraph, which was a new technology of his day, and expressed concerned about the costs of technology itself, which is reflected in a line in Walden: “Men have become tools of their tools.”

Purchase from Amazon: The Guide to Walden Pond: An Exploration of the History, Nature, Landscape, and Literature of One of America’s Most Iconic Places by Robert Thorson