First Post in Forever!

Yes, I know… I’ve been a bad, bad writer. I’ve written exactly zero-point-zero posts in over a hundred days. But let’s be real here, I don’t think there have been any hurt feelings over it. I’m sure that the readers I do have are okay with a little quiet from me and I don’t need to pretend otherwise. Despite what I’m constantly being told by other writers, and social media “experts.”

See, there’s a sentiment in the author community – specifically in the indie circles – that you have to “fake it ’til you make it.” Meaning that even though you’re new and unknown as an author, you should act that part of a best-selling writer so that readers will take you seriously. Kind of like how some salespeople will wear expensive watches or drive cars they can’t really afford. It’s all done in an effort to convince people that they are successful in their profession and therefore should be trusted.

"You see this watch?"

“You see this watch?”

I get it. But I don’t like it and I’m not going to do it.

For me to pretend that I have a larger reach than I do, or that there are throngs of salivating readers trying to get a piece of my time seems to insult the intelligence of my actual readers; people who have been good to me. That’s not what I’m about. It’s more than enough to know that there are people who have read my stories and enjoyed them. Getting a message or a review from a reader who liked the novel I wrote is all I could ask for. Pretending that I’m the next Stephen King or J to the K. R. feels to me like I’m diminishing those folks. It’s like saying, “Hey, having you as a reader is cool and everything…  But, I’m destined for much greater things, kid.”

Tacking “Kid” at the end of the sentence makes it so much more condescending.

To be fair, I can understand the intense drive to sell books and make money if writing is the heart and soul of your financial planning. Many moons ago I accepted that writing will probably never pay my bills, and that’s not a bad thing. I have a career that I’ve worked hard for and love. That’s what pays my bills. So, when I write I get to create the stories that I want to tell without worrying about publishing potential at a big six house, which makes the content in my stories and communication with readers much more honest.

Anyway, I’m working hard on my next novel, the sequel to The Changed, which I have, like, six working titles for right now. Production went a little behind schedule on this one. Life was a bit nuts these past few months, and while I’m not a big fan of excuses I did want to let those who are interested know that the novel is definitely still happening, it’s just a bit delayed. Let’s go ahead and blame life, work, and DAI. As of now it’s looking like it’ll be spring before the novel is publishable.  I’m really excited to get out to you all though.  The story is much larger than what happened in Center City and I can’t wait for readers to see the bigger picture unfold.

Writer Artisan — Getting off your ass and writing. Well, on your ass… Whatever.

For as long as I can remember I’ve written stories.  A little over a year ago I was with family at my mom’s house for Christmas.  She was showing old photos to significant others — the more embarrassing the better, as per article six, subsection three of the Mother Code.  But inside one of these boxes was a single-sheet newsletter from my second grade class, where an A. Michael Marsh original was featured front and center.  Okay, it was in the back, but that doesn’t help the story so let me embellish a bit.  What are you, the story police?  Anyway, this little nugget of prose was my retelling of a family camping trip that featured such zingers as, “I’m not saying mom’s cooking was bad, but I barfed.”  Or, in regard to a campfire ghost story, “Real scary.  Last time I heard that one I fell off my dinosaur.”  Yep.  Gold, people.  Pure gold.

Point is, story has always been something that I naturally gravitated to.  I’ve always written.  The first time I set out to write a novel I was ten.  It was going to be about a cop that gets injured in the line of duty and returns to service as a half-man, half-machine servant of justice.  Yeah, I know that’s the plot of Robocop, but lay off.  I was ten, okay?  What were you doing at that age, Captain Judgmentalpants?

That’s what I thought.

Regardless, I must have gotten about twenty five pages into the rough draft before I lost interest.  That was probably the first time I realized the biggest fact about writing that people who don’t write will never truly understand:  Writing is hard.

Shout out to Brittany Dashiell

Shout out to Brittany Dashiell

Which was a shame because I had big plans for “Night of the Cyborg” (oh, shut up already).  The book was going to be a bestseller, on the shelves of every library and bookstore around.  Once the ducats came rolling in we’d be able to afford name brand cereal and cable tv.  Shit was going to be legit, folks.

Fast-forward a decade or so and I’d still been writing.  Short stories, journals, that sort of thing.  There was even the occasional foray into poetry but I’ll just file that alongside cyborg cop stories as “failed experiments.”  Around that time I decided to make a serious go of it.  Actually write a novel, start to finish.  Ever since then, I’ve been a daily writer.

Except for about nine or ten months out of the past year.  I could speculate as to why I didn’t feel the drive to produce as much as I normally do, but that’s beside the point.  For a long while I didn’t get my fingers on the keyboard, and a hole formed inside of me because of it.  Even though I had thought that I was long past the stage of abandoning drafts twenty-five pages in, I realized that there’s a part of me that will always need a kick in the ass every now and again in order to get going.

Chuck Wendig wrote in his book, The Kick-Ass Writer, that “…just finish the shit that you started.  Stop abandoning your children.  You wouldn’t call yourself a runner if you quit every race halfway through.”  It’s absolutely and unequivocally true.  For those writers out there, just write.  It’s okay if it doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would the first time around.  Just start and don’t stop until it’s done.  There’s a corollary truth to Chuck’s lesson as well:

Aaaaadventure Time!

Aaaaadventure Time!

Sucking really is the first step to being sort of good at something.  Writing is no exception to that rule.  You get better by practicing, learning, and honing your skills.  Period.  People don’t become virtuoso violinists by simply intending to play.  A painter doesn’t master their technique by reading books about Van Gough and picking up their brush once every couple months.  You have to actually do it.  Writers are absolutely not an exception to this rule.  For a while there, I forgot those fundamentals and it affected me in more ways than I realized.  Never again.

For any readers who are interested, the sequel to The Changed is coming along and should be released this winter.  I can’t wait to bring it to you.

Are You A Blogger?

I’m not sure if I like the term “blogger.”  It has a social media Johnny-come-lately feel that I can’t stand.  I’m being a jerk, I know, I just can’t help it.  Whenever people find something fun within the overly commercial depths of teh interwebz, a timer of sorts is set in motion.  Soon enough the profit glands get to salivating and every opportunist this side of the Pecos is leading the charge over to your favorite sites.

noahsarcade

“It’s hip, it’s fresh, it’s Noah’s Arcade. Word.”

Faster than you can say “Facebook used to be fun” your beloved blogs, message boards, and stupid image sharers are now littered with advertisements, your relatives, and that thick sewage of the internet, spam.

Which is a rough segue into the point of this post: If you are a blogger, and you hate getting spam traffic on your page, there is hope.  You may not know that you can do this, but you can actually block specific IPs and domains from accessing your site.  If you’re tired of trackback comments in broken English and false page hit stats, then you may have just stood up with a fist in the air and proclaimed, “The hell you say!”

The hell I do say.  And it’s pretty easy to do.  All it requires is finding the .htaccess file in the root directory of your website and appending this code to the end:

SetEnvIfNoCase Via evil-spam-proxy spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer evil-spam-domain.com spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer evil-spam-keyword spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Via pinappleproxy spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer semalt.com spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer poker spammer=yes

Order allow,deny
Allow from all
Deny from env=spammer

This isn’t meant to be a tutorial on how .htaccess files and the apache web server works. There is more than enough documentation out there for those who are interested. But for the casual blogger, just know that this code essentially specifies a domain you know to be sending you spammers, and then blocks them from accessing your pages while allowing everyone else entry.  For example, look at the line containing the word “semalt.com”.  Semalt does nothing but send bullshit spammers to your site.  That’s their business and business is good.  This line basically tells the web server that there is a domain called semalt.com which is referring users to this site, and that semalt.com should be labeled as a spammer.  At the last line of the file, we see that the web server is being instructed to deny access to any domain we’ve identified as a spammer.  Easy peasy.

Now that you’ve reclaimed your land from the dreaded spammers, you have cause to celebrate.  Treat yo’self.

You can't look at this frown.  I dare you to try.

You can’t look at this and frown. I dare you to try.

 

Happy blogging.

 

Pricing update on the paperback edition of The Changed

We’ve got a bad news/good news situation here. I was recently fortunate enough to review an outstanding rating from Foreword Clarion, who provides catalog services to retailers, academic institutions, and libraries. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I’ve got a real love for the public library system, as that’s where I was introduced to so many of my favorite books as a kid. To be completely realistic, the chances of receiving orders from these great institutions for my book are probably somewhat low. I’m not a well known author, and funding for public institutions that do anything other than defense is abysmal these days.

chance

But, there’s still a chance. I have to take it. Even the remote possibility of getting The Changed into a library would mean the world to me. The bad news is that enabling distribution to the wholesalers that supply these institutions has raised the cover price of my novel on Amazon to $9.50. That’s about as low as I could realistically get it.

Now for the good news. A. Michael Marsh, in addition to being someone who refers to himself in the third person, is also a computer engineer. Within a few days I’ll have a simple and secure store set up on my website where readers can purchase copies of paperback at the old rate of $6.50 (plus any taxes and shipping, naturally).

While I know that many people are comfortable only purchasing from established retailers, I will offer a secure purchasing environment and my solemn pledge not to spam you or sell your data to anyone. I think it’s crappy when businesses do that to me, and I’m not going to do that to you, either.

Almost all my sales are from the Kindle store, anyway, and the price there will remain the same. So this is probably a non-issue for most readers. Still, I felt really bad about the price increase so I’m going to do my best to provide a more affordable alternative to anyone who’d like to buy a copy of my book. You are worth the effort. Always.

Pretty Awesome News

Yesterday I received a review on The Changed from Foreward Clarion.  For those who haven’t heard of them Foreword Clarion is a book review publication, like Kirkus or Publisher’s Weekly.  The purpose of their publication is to provide critical feedback on available titles for the good people who purchase books for libraries and the few surviving bookstores.  These publications aren’t known for pulling punches or treating authors with kid gloves.  Their reviewers provide an unbiased opinion, which is exactly why purchasers care what they have to say.

I’m not one of those writers that labors under the impression that every sentence I type is pure gold.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I work very hard to improve with every story I write.  To me, one of the greatest gifts a storyteller can give someone is a sense of wonder, and the feeling that they’ve been taken to a new world — even if it’s just for a couple hundred pages.  My writing process is a series of emotional highs and lows, writing, re-writing, re-writing, more writing, then followed by re-writing.  It’s hard to leave the baggage of all that work behind when you submit something that has been such a large part of your life for review to a complete stranger.  When I put my work out there like that, I can only hope that the reader will care about my story as much as I did.

So, needless to say, I was ecstatic, surprised, and maybe a little shocked when they rated The Changed five out of five stars, and wrote a glowing review about my novel.

Just wanted to share, because this really made my week.

Just a Quick Thank You

As the first round of reviews are coming in for The Changed, I just wanted to take a moment to give a heartfelt thank you to those who are taking the time out of their lives to tell others about their experience with my novel. I do genuinely appreciate it. Reviews are the easiest way for other readers to gauge whether or not they may be interested in a book.

It can be a wonderful system. See a book that looks interesting? Hey, what do you know, this guy hated it. But, wait! This guy also hated books that you love. Hmmm. This lady seemed to really enjoy it, and what do you know, you and she have the same taste in books! Simple. Sites like Goodreads are amazing for many reasons, but this has got to be in the top of that list.

I understand that reviews aren’t perfect. Some authors have been accused of encouraging biased parties (like friends and family) to artificially inflate their review numbers. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. With The Changed, I’ve tried to make it a point to get my book out to as many readers that are completely unknown to me as possible. To date, I can tell you truly that not one of my reviews on Goodreads comes from someone who I know, or owes me money, or is otherwise obligated to lie to the rest of you. This is a good thing.

Of course, my advice on book purchasing in general is always the same, regardless of star-ratings and text reviews. Read the first few pages, just like back in the days when we had book stores. See if it catches your interest. If it does, you’re probably in for a treat.

In closing, thanks again. Thanks a million. For your time, insights, and advice to other readers — thank you. What’s more, I can’t tell you how much it means to me that people seem to like the book.

Oh, and I’ll be doing more giveaways in the future! So if you have a friend you think may like a copy of the novel, make sure to let them know to enter. I’ll do one on Goodreads, and a concurrent giveaway on my Facebook page.  Just like last time.

Here’s a picture of cats looking proud and happy.

Proud Kitties, pic jacked from Imgur.

Proud Kitties, pic jacked from Imgur.

Book Giveaway!

Here’s the thing:

On December 15th, my new book goes on sale.  I’d love for you to have a copy, so I’m doing two giveaways to mark the occasion.  The first giveaway is going to be held on Goodreads, where I’ll be giving away twenty free copies of the book.  Click the link below to see all the details and enter.  In conjunction with that, I’m also giving another ten copies on my Facebook page.   Just give the page a like and comment on the giveaway pic on the page timeline.  When the contest ends on January 15th, ten commenters will be selected at random to receive a copy.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Changed by A. Michael Marsh

The Changed

by A. Michael Marsh

Giveaway ends January 15, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

That’s all!  Best of luck to all who enter.

Robots for Kids

Our society is incredibly dependent on computer technology, and it’s amazing how few people actually understand how it works. These little toys look like a great way to introduce kids to the logic that provides the foundation for programming.

So…

This happened.

New Cover Artwork for The Changed

Howdy.

Just wanted to share a quick peek at the original illustration which will be used for the cover of The Changed.  This piece was done by Kyna Tek, and I think he did an outstanding job.  If you’re a writer who’s looking for a talented and dependable artist to work on your cover, I highly recommend getting in touch with him.  I’m really excited to get it typeset and ready to go to production.  Right now it’s looking like the book will be available in early December.

TheChanged_Final_Merged_Web

I’m going to write a post about creating a cover as part of my Writer-Artisan series, but that won’t be completed for another couple of weeks.  In that post I’ll share more about the progression of cover art and some of my thoughts on collaborating well with a visual artist.