Category: Marketing

Trip Report – Domestic Edition

We’d like to speak to you today about an exciting new product we’ve recently learned about. It’s called a “calendar” and you can use it to keep track of all your upcoming appointments. Truly groundbreaking stuff!

If only such a revolutionary product had been available to us in the early days of this year, we might now be slightly less exhausted. Alas, it was still in prototype format which means that when we registered for a writing conference in the far-off month of November, we had nowhere to record it. We merely saved the emails for future reference and went about our lives. And so, weeks and months later when we booked our European escape we had forgotten all about the conference. As luck would have it, they did not actually overlap. But they might as well have.

We returned from our Adriatic adventure on Monday evening and headed off to Philadelphia that Friday morning. To make it even more exciting, we were still adjusting to being back in the Eastern time zone, and daylight savings time ended while we were at the conference. In Europe we’d gone back and forth through a couple of time zones, plus several of our devices were in airplane mode the whole time which meant they were still on “home” time. We rarely knew for sure what time it was, and probably still don’t. What day is it? Anyway – the clock in our Philadelphia hotel room assured us that it was 11:00 pm on January 20, which we were pretty sure was wrong no matter which dimension you looked at it from. We were so fucking confused, but we made it to the conference on time so we must have done something right somewhere along the line.

Being antisocial miscreants, we skipped out on the Friday evening author-mingling festivities and instead went to Fogo de Chao and stuffed ourselves.

The Independent Authors Conference was a great big kick in the pants in regards to marketing. The constant refrain from the presenters was basically “yeah, you boneheads, you have to market your stuff.” Which sounds obvious when you say it. Luckily, there was also a ton of practical advice for how to market, and some of it doesn’t even cost an arm and a leg. We especially enjoyed the presentations by Lee Wind of the IBPA, and Dana Kaye of Kaye Publicity.

Our hope is that next year they’ll have more sessions focused on the needs particular to fiction authors. And that the conference dates don’t fall right after another big trip.

In closing, either invest in one of these newfangled calendars everyone’s talking about, or start tattooing important information all over yourself, Memento-style so you don’t run yourself as ragged as we did.

PS – of course we had cheesesteaks!

Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today we released our first novel, Miss Brandymoon’s Device. It’s been an exciting and momentous year for us. We’ve finally gotten our hard work out in front of an audience. The financial rewards are, so far, very modest. It’s the other, less tangible rewards that we’re basking in. We’ve racked up some reviews, we’ve added newsletter subscribers, we’ve enjoyed conversations with our readers. It’s been a really busy year, but an incredibly satisfying one.

Just a couple of weeks ago we released our third novel, Elsewhere’s Twin, in ebook format, and we’re thrilled to announce that it’s finally available in paperback, too. Since we’d been through the process twice before, we thought we were old pros. We thought that ordering a proof copy was a mere formality. So when the proof arrived and there was an issue with the cover it threw off our schedule. After a bunch of fiddling and phone calls and reformatting we finally have the cover looking how we want it. Which means it’s ready for you to enjoy!

Elsewhere’s Twin is the final book (so far) in our Divided Man series. Since we’re self-publishing, we do all the steps ourselves. Editing and polishing Divided Man has pulled us away from writing the new Science Novels more than we anticipated, and more than we like. We’re planning to slow our pace a little bit for the next set of releases so that we have ample time to make everything the best that we possibly can.

But right now we’re just basking a little bit in the glow of our accomplishment. Go Team Skelley!

We Got Ya Covered (Well…)

The Writing Cave has lately also been a Design Cavern, as we try to get a jump on cover ideas for our next series. It’s as important not to rush the creative process for a visual product as it is for prose, and you deserve beautiful covers to look at. We won’t let you down.

Our preliminary brainstorming has given us several intriguing concepts, plus several lightboxes and pinboards full of images. It’s really, unbelievably easy to burn whole afternoons on image research.

We’ve thrown together a few mockups, nothing too fancy at this stage. Jen has collaged some rough comps in Photoshop, while Kent fills pages with hand-lettered variations of the titles like he’s daydreaming about marrying them.

The biggest challenge is coming up with unifying imagery for all three books. That’s not quite the whole problem, though. The three books form one large story, and there are ideas at both a micro and macro level that tie everything together. We easily made a short list of relevant symbols. What we want is for each book to have a distinctive main image, and all three of those images to work as a set that exemplifies the theme. (And expresses the appropriate mood, and conveys an accurate impression of the genre, all while looking awesome.)

It’s a tall order. But we didn’t let you down last time.

Today’s the Day! Elsewhere’s Twin Arrives!

Perhaps this was mentioned once or twice, but it always feels nice to do things thrice!

Elsewhere’s Twin, book three of the Divided Man, is available now.

Prophecies Don’t End With Happily Ever After

Fin and Rook never wanted to be heroes in the first place, so it’s no wonder they did a sloppy job of it. All the same, they thought they’d earned a bit of downtime by averting the enslavement of the entire human race. And, Willow’s return should be the best news imaginable. But it’s hard to fit the pieces back together without cutting yourself on the edges.

It would be easier with fewer distractions. The alien spiders have discovered the prophecy, and disapprove of the reluctance of those called upon to fulfill it. Rook’s demonic inner children remain at large in her mind, with ambitions. Meanwhile, a new adept takes instruction in the attic of Threshold House, offering Severin another chance to assault the Collective Id, while the nanotech body jewelry falls into yet more wrong hands. Every player is trying to upend the board.

To learn the true nature of this shifting game of shadow-selves, Rook and Fin traverse hellish mindscapes and duel bizarre new adversaries alongside familiar ones. Every answer leads to new questions, with the fate of the world hanging as the ultimate riddle.

But Rook and Fin are driven by something far more important.

Elsewhere’s Twin Sample

We’re excited to announce that Divided Man book 3: Elsewhere’s Twin will be released Friday, September 22. That’s just a week away!

UPDATE: get the ebook now at Amazon.

Completists rejoice! Elsewhere’s Twin brings together the characters from the first two books, and closes out this plot arc. There might be more Divided Man books someday, but for now we’re giving the survivors a breather and turning our attention to the Science novels.

But how will you wait an entire week without a heaping helping of the promised sex, doppelgängers, and the Collective Id?

We’re reluctant to share the entire first chapter because it’s chockablock with spoilers for both prior books, so instead of a whole appetizer we’re proud to offer an amuse bouche.

SPOILER ALERT: This novel picks up immediately after the events of Miss Brandymoon’s Device and Tenpenny Zen.

ELSEWHERE’S TWIN: a novel of sex, doppelgängers, and the Collective Id

Of course it had to be both.

Snow or sleet on its own would be bad enough, but the universe had a sense of humor, alternating between the two with startling frequency. Rook Tanner shivered. Neither she nor her husband Fin were wearing coats.

A patrol of mercenaries ran past them toward the devastated cathedral, weapons drawn. Rook knew that should be alarming, but she’d already used up her adrenaline. The mercs worked for Fin’s half-brother Kyle and would presumably be interested in whoever left him in his broken state.

“We can’t be here when they come out.” Rook tried to ignore her throbbing headache and the tang of acrid smoke in the air.

“I’ll talk to the aliens,” Fin said. A quick and traceless exit was called for. The space-spiders routinely transported people to and from the asteroid belt, so sending Fin and Rook home to Webster should be a snap.

Fin closed his tired green eyes, his forehead scrunched in concentration. Rook could see the puncture marks where she pierced his left brow on the day they met, and it made her a little sad he wouldn’t be wearing a hoop there anymore. That hoop’s hidden technology had corrupted his dreams, but it was also the thing that brought them together.

Small ice pellets settled in Fin’s dark hair as he communed with his friends on the asteroid. Rook stamped her feet and regretted her bare legs.

Fin snorted and opened his eyes. “They can’t help. They say they’re too drained from the fight.” He sounded unconvinced.

Rook threw a look at the smoldering shell of the once-grand glass cathedral. She wanted to be far away before the mercs came back out. “Let’s get to the highway. We’ll hitch a ride.”

Fin nodded.

They jogged across the grounds of the Shaw Ministries compound and made their way to the main road.

A stoner couple in a blue Geo Metro were the first samaritans not to take offense at their burnt carpet stench, or the bloodstains on Fin’s shirt. Rook and Fin shared the tiny back seat with a heap of food wrappers and a friendly brown dog.

The drive from Donner to Webster usually took an hour, but the hellacious winter mix pelting down on the mountain road made the going slow.

Three hours trapped in the weed-and-wet-dog-scented car with an endless supply of Phish left Rook carsick. Fin fell into an exhausted slumber, but Rook’s throbbing head and queasy stomach kept her awake. She replayed the terrifying mental battle Fin and Kyle waged in the cathedral — and in her mind — obsessing over the traitors inside her head who almost tipped the outcome into disaster.

When their clown car finally made it to Webster, they stopped for gas about a mile from Fin and Rook’s bomb shelter hideaway.

The precipitation was a mere flurry and Rook was desperate for fresh air, so they thanked their chauffeurs and set out on foot. Immediately, the snow turned into a drenching five-minute downpour, changed briefly to sleet, then settled into pinprick needles of ice. The wind knifed through Rook’s sodden black sweater and rattled her frozen hair.

“We’re almost there,” Fin said through chattering teeth.

Rook looked up at him in the illumination from a nearby porch light and smiled weakly. His lips looked as blue as hers felt. His dark hair clung to his forehead like unruly seaweed. At the base of her skull, the signal that connected her mind to his thrummed steady and comforting, and blissfully unchallenged.

Trudging along the suburban street through the slush and darkness, Rook hugged her soggy sweater tighter against herself, like pulling on wet socks for warmth.

“Chez Tanner.” Fin gestured to his father’s large, bland house, the only one on the street not lit up. He led Rook off the sidewalk into a clump of pine trees. Her go-go boots sank into a slushy, muddy quagmire, but she couldn’t care. They would soon be inside. Beyond the pines they squelched across piles of wet, compacted leaves under naked trees that afforded little protection from the wind and ice and returning rain.

“I’m so cold,” Rook finally allowed herself to complain as Fin hauled open the hatch under the bushes. He hugged her with his free arm, and she tilted her face for a kiss. His lips were frozen, but his tongue was hot and probing.

“Don’t slip,” he warned as Rook started down the long ladder.

The only light in the bomb shelter was the warm gold and red glow of Vesuvius, their lava lamp. The feeling of entering a furnace was a welcome one. Rook pulled off her dripping sweater, leaving herself topless, her nipples hard as ice. It felt good to be back in their little pocket of tastefully decorated 1950s nuclear paranoia. The hatch clanked shut and Fin climbed down to join her.

“Why, Mrs Tanner,” he said, “you seem to have lost your shirt.”

“Lose yours too, and your pants. We need to generate some body heat.”

“I like the sound of that.”

Shadows shifted. They weren’t alone.

This Just Became A Job

Having a day job is the proverbial double-edged sword for a writer. It consumes a big chunk of waking hours, limiting your available writing time. But it also gives you security and stability, so your creative efforts are unencumbered. This is the traditional, compartmentalized view of how things shake out.

Publishing puts a writer’s “work” and “creative” worlds on a collision course. Suddenly, in addition to creating high-quality product, you also need to plan and execute promotion, track your results, manage a budget, and show up at events, among other things. The business side doesn’t run itself. Depending on your publishing model, your DIY spirit, and your finances, most or all of those chores fall to you.

It turns into a job.

We’re going through something of an adjustment period here in the writing cave. It’s been a challenge to maintain our desired productivity on the WIP now that the first couple of novels have fled the nest. Which is ironic. We thought they’d take up less of our time once they were checked off the list, not more.

Jen’s mad skillz at project management (and her obsession with little squares of colored paper) have served us very well. Kent’s technological savvy has proved quite useful. We’re able to talk things out and divvy up workloads, because there are two of us. But it’s not easy. We’re still learning.

We don’t have any magical time-management secrets to impart, sorry. But to make up for that, we’re happy to report that we are making good headway on that WIP. Its first draft is somewhere around 75-80% complete. So, it might be a job, but it’s a job that gives satisfaction.

Tenpenny Zen – First Chapter Sneak Peek

Tenpenny Zen won’t make its illustrious debut until Monday, March 20. That’s an agonizing 3 days away! We know that you will spend your weekend at home, staring at the clock, desperate for something — anything! — to make the time pass faster.

Don’t fret, faithful reader. Rune Skelley has your back. Here, for the eyes of none but the elite minority of humans known as “Internet Users,” is a sneak preview of Chapter One of Tenpenny Zen. Treat it as the holy relic it is, read it over and over until you have memorized every word, and then, come Monday, you will be primed for the full experience.

Dig in!

Tenpenny Zen

a novel of sex, cults, and an interdimensional henge contraption

Chapter One: Nice Town

Control subject EE may be exhibiting the traits we hoped to see in Group Sigma. Work continues toward establishing a reliable set of tests and measures for subject EE, but several measures are already in place, including surveillance gear in the school and the house.

Project Lullaby archives, 1962

JUNE 1973

Strapped down on her back on a black slab, Ester Elizabeth Finch felt like the dead frog from last year’s biology class. At least this year she’d be taking chemistry. Plus she’d turn 18 in November and her dad could no longer drag her to this asinine research program.

At first today seemed like the same familiar nonsense. Friendly but vaguely creepy men in white coats wanting her to guess what playing cards they held, make the marble roll, tell them what color light was shining on her hand within a box. Hypnotizing her and interviewing her about weird stuff she didn’t know while a lie-detector ran off its record of the answers she made up.

But then they wanted to give her a physical. A complete physical.

They apologized that no female nurses had clearance to examine her. When the doctor left, she couldn’t find her clothes. She was still wearing the stupid hospital gown.

Next they told her they needed a scan. It was a very sensitive machine. Any little movement would mess it up, so they needed to strap her down. They attached electrodes to her temples and forehead. It had now been over 15 minutes since any of them said a word to her. About half a dozen very creepy men in white coats drifted around the chamber, looking at the consoles and conferring excitedly, green-faced in the glow of their data screens. Ester caught isolated fragments of their speech.

“…resolution is awful compared to x-rays, but it images soft tissue…”

“Did you calibrate this scope?”

“…dripping serotonin today?”

“No. The synthetic.”

“…got it on-scale now. Jesus.”

“Hold off on that drip. We’re not…”

“…that can’t be right…”

“But the instruments agree. It must be.”

“Dial back another couple pegs. The synth has quite a kick.”

One of the men pushed an IV stand over to Ester’s left, and dabbed her arm with a cold swab before inserting the needle. He twisted the valve to start the drip, tossed a heartless little grin down at her, and strode off.

All the chatter ceased abruptly as a line of tiny green spiders began streaming down the IV tube and into Ester’s veins. Her chest constricted. She couldn’t scream.

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