I Just Made All My Books Free Indefinitely — Here’s Why.

I announced in a recent post that I would soon be giving all of my books away for free. I wanted to get them available before I got into the details of why I’ve decided to do this. As of now, you can get all of them for free on Kobo at this link, and I’m working on getting them on Smashwords shortly. The Amazon prices have been reduced to the minimum price ($0.99 USD), and I hope Amazon will make them free soon, but that’s in their hands (typically when they see a book free elsewhere, they make it free themselves pretty quick). In the meantime, if you want a free book in Kindle format, just email me (GregSisco@GregSisco.com) and I’ll happily send one to you.

Okay, so here’s why I’m doing this. To understand, you have to know a little bit about me as a writer, as a filmmaker, and as a person. We’ll begin with how I came to self-publishing.

WHY I WRITE NOVELS

I always fancied myself a filmmaker. I love storytelling in all its forms but the high I get on a movie set beats the hell out of everything else in life. That’s me. As far as I can see, no matter how much time I spend on movie sets, when I die, my regret is going to be that it wasn’t more.

The issue is it’s a difficult industry to crack. You’re always seeking approval. You have to spill your guts to make an independent film. In my case I broke my bank account on both films I made, I poured my lifeblood into them, I bled and sweated and cried and I made movies I was enormously proud of; and then fifty film festivals said, “Meh. We’ll pass.” That’s heartbreaking, because I loved those movies more than anything and I couldn’t get them in front of audiences.

I came to novels because there was no gatekeeper in this industry anymore. Tides have shifted and a self-published author pays little to no overhead and gets a shot at having his/her work take off in a big way. That’s extraordinary. And I love it.

I had two goals in writing novels. The first was to build up a source of passive income that would eliminate my need for a day job so that I could indulge my creative side full time. To do that, I moved to countries with low overheads. I stopped spending money on things I didn’t need. I reduced my cost of living as far as I could, to a few hundred bucks a month.

The second goal, the bigger goal—to which I’ve alluded on this blog but which I’m not sure I’ve ever stated outright—was to build up esteem for myself and for these stories so that I could raise interest and funds in order to adapt them to film, and to make other films. I like writing novels. I will continue to do so. But I have a need to make films.

Ever since I published Thicker Than Water two years ago I have been working toward these goals. I am clawing my way toward them, but I am doing so very slowly.

For months now I’ve wrestled with a really difficult decision, and I’ve recently made up my mind. So now I’m taking the gamble. I’m trying something drastic, perhaps foolish, and I’m crossing my fingers as I do it. I’m making all my hard work of the past few years free. I’m no longer taking a profit for writing.

Here’s why:

1. I WANT MY BOOKS READ

Until today, my books have always been Kindle exclusives. Each time I agree to 90 days of exclusivity on Amazon, they allow me 5 of those 90 days to give my book away free. In all honesty, the days when I’ve done this have often been the most exciting days of my life for the past two years. Especially when the promotions go well, I don’t even want to leave my apartment to go get lunch because all I can think about is all the people downloading my writing.

I made over $200 in one day in 2012, selling 100 books the day immediately following a free giveaway. It was exhilarating. But the fact is I was even more exhilarated the day before when I gave 6,000 copies away for free in a single day. SIX THOUSAND COPIES! If I’d been diagnosed with testicular cancer the next day, it still would have balanced out to be a pretty happy week.

One-Night Stan’smy favorite novel I have written, has sold (as in people paid money for) about 250 copies to date. Around 10,000 have been downloaded for free. In fact, on my least successful free promotion of that book, I gave away 58 copies. That’s 20% of the number that have been sold in total, to date. If I could average that for a year, I’d give out 25,000 books, make contact with 25,000 potential fans.

And that’s what I love. The small amount of money I make as a writer is nice, but the fact that people all over the world have copies of my books that they are reading or thinking about reading… that’s heaven to me. That’s bliss.

But I worry. I worry about the fact that for every one person who buys the book, 100 others might have been willing to give it a look if I’d let them read it for free. I don’t want that barrier. If somebody wants to read my book, I want that person to read my book. I don’t care about the goddamn $2. Just read my book. Laugh. Have fun with it. Show it to your friend. Tell your brother about that sentence that made you laugh.

Because, well… in my case… here’s the thing:

2. I AM A FILMMAKER

I didn’t do this to be a celebrated novelist. That’s lovely, and I’ll take it if I can get it, but I did it because I want you to fall in love with the stories so that you can help me make them into movies. I wrote them because I wanted you to love reading them. I want a small sliver of the world to love them enough that somebody will pay attention next time I have a movie finished, so I don’t have to have my heart broken again.

I don’t have a hometown. I don’t even have a home country. I’ve never stepped off an airplane and felt ‘home.’ My home is on a movie set. And I’ve been away too long. I need to get back. (And I will, next summer, but I’ll tell you about that a little later).

To reiterate, none of this means I’m giving up writing novels. That won’t happen. But I think I’ve put too much focus into the “business” of writing books when books for me were meant to be more of a stepping stone. Or a weapon, even. A big, pointy, steel-toe boot to get my foot in the door.

If filmmaking is my destination, I do not want to waste years away trying to prove myself as a novelist to get there. Not if I can do it faster by sacrificing a couple hundred dollars a month in royalty checks.

The big problem with me and self-publishing is this:

3. I AM A SHITTY BUSINESSMAN

I got involved on Twitter solely to sell my books. I barely tweet at all. I hate myself there. I tried to sell my books in forums and Facebook groups with other readers and writers and I hated myself there too. I hate myself because I feel like a prostitute trying to sell myself to readers on a street corner. “Hey, sexy, you like vampires? Got three bucks?”

I don’t like asking people for money in general. But I especially don’t like standing in the public square shouting “Give me money!” at any stranger who will listen, and even less so when most of the strangers I’m shouting at are shouting the same thing back at me. I know it’s how the whole business of self-publishing works today, but I dislike it. That said, I’m a lot more comfortable handing somebody something free and saying, “Pass it around if you like it.”

I hate hustling. It’s why I transitioned to novels to begin with. I hated begging film festivals and distributors to help me, only to be shot down repeatedly. But I also hate it when it comes to chasing bloggers and websites and begging them for help. I just want to create. I just want to tell stories. I don’t want to be a businessman. And I’ve decided, at least where my books are concerned, maybe I just won’t be.

WRITING FOR TIPS

Right now I’m rushing to get my books available on every site I can. No more Amazon exclusives. I’m putting them up everywhere and at the minimum price, particularly where it’s zero. Even the cost of physical books will soon be lowered to the cost of on-demand publishing. You’ll pay the publisher and the delivery company, but you won’t pay me.

I have, however, added a note to the back of each book. In so many words, it says this:

“I don’t take a profit on my books. If you liked this one, please read another. Recommend it to somebody. Post a review. Friend me on Facebook. If you feel the experience of reading it was worth money, I would be humbled by any donation of whatever you can spare, or whatever you think the experience was worth.”

In the future, I may or may not utilize crowdfunding for the writing of new books. I may raise money so I can afford to pay for cover art, proofreading, and so I can afford time off work to write harder and faster. That way I can continue to offer everything for free. I can entertain you, and I can entertain myself, and I can work for tips.

I’m a realist. I know most people who download a free book won’t leave a tip—it’s unusual and not how the system works right now. I know I’ll probably make a lot less money this way. But if the money I’m making now is money I’m making by preventing thousands of people from reading my book who might otherwise love it, you know what, fuck that money. I’m not so terrified of a day job or some freelance online work that I want to hide my lifeblood from fans who don’t know they’re fans yet.

Every writer says this, but I mean it, and I think it’s easy to forget it: the money was never the reason I wanted to do this. I just wanted to tell stories I liked, and I hoped other people would like them too, and I hoped maybe they’d help me make more.

This plan may not last. It may prove not to be sustainable. Maybe nobody reads books they download for free. Maybe people will stop downloading them after two weeks and I’ll be completely forgotten. Maybe people will think no writer worth his salt would give his work away for free. Maybe I’ll chalk it up to a failed experiment and go back to the grind of traditional sales. Maybe this. Maybe that.

But I really hope it works. I really, really hope.

The bottom line is this: I wrote my books to be read, not sold. They’re art, not products. And I am confident I have created some work that a lot of people out there would love, if I could just get it to them. And there’s this feeling I have—one of those gut feelings—that if I just make this stuff as readily available as possible, as easy as I can make it for anyone on Earth to consume, then, somehow, everything’s just going to work out.

So this is my new adventure. For me, I think it might be the key to the life I want.

Thanks for being a fan. I’ll be back with a new book soon. And I’ll give it to you for free because I want you to read it. And you can add it straight to a torrent site for all I care because I just want it damn well read.

If you can’t tell, while all this makes me a little nervous, I feel really, really good about it.

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Good News and Bad News – What I’m Up To

Hi guys. Just wanted to drop a quick update in here to tell you what I’ve got coming over the next year or so (hit the jump for a timeline). Good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad and keep it short.

BAD NEWS

I really wanted to release my next novel In Nightmares We’re Alone by the end of the year, but I’ve been so busy with multiple projects and boring non-creative things that it’s going to be put off for a bit. More on that in a minute.

GOOD NEWS

I spent November doing the NaNoWriMo thing and now have a first draft for a new novel, tentatively titled This Lonely World, so I’m now sitting on a second first draft in addition to In Nightmares We’re Alone. One or the other will be released early next year, depending on which one I feel more like going back to work on when I’ve got some time in January.

I say that because December is for another project. I’m currently at work on the second draft of a screenplay that will become my next film as director. At the end of March, my lease in China is up and I’ll more than likely be heading straight back to the States to crowdfund this project. There’s a lot more information on that coming, but I’m going to try to keep my cards pretty close to my chest until the campaign starts, at which point I’ll reveal everything all at once. For now, all I’ll say is it’s either horror or extremely dark comedy (or sick and disgusting filth) depending on your tastes, it’s set in L.A., and I’ve got a lead actor attached who’s going to nail it.

In between the two novels, and hopefully before production kicks off on the film, I’m going to try to get to Blood Brothers 3, since I know a lot of you are waiting for that. I hope that’s manageable, and that I can release it in the spring just before jumping into movie production, but we’ll see how things play out.

And, of course, as I mentioned in a recent post, all of these books are going to be released for free. I’m not chasing money for my books anymore, at least for a while, because I’d rather have them widely read and make no money than have a couple of them read and make enough to buy lunch once in a while. All my current books will be free soon—certainly by Christmas, but hopefully before. (As to whether the movie will be free, I don’t know yet. That’s a decision for much later.)

Whew. Okay. So here’s a handy but extremely tentative timeline:

December 2013: All current books go free.
February 2014: Release of In Nightmares We’re Alone.
April 2014: Release of Blood Brothers 3.
May 2014: Production begins on (Movie Title Withheld).
August 2014: Production finishes on (Movie Title Withheld).
October 2014: Release of This Lonely World.

That’s all for today. Now come be my friend on Facebook.

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Space Monster interviews Greg Sisco about Miley Cyrus

Space Monster - Sisco's shitty rendition

Space Monster – Sisco’s shitty rendition

The human they call Greg is enormously tall for its species, measuring just under nine galactic clicks (7.64 universal clicks), but it is puny and frail in spite of this, even in comparison to its peers. After a perfectly executed abduction, the human scurries freakishly about the chamber for some time. Its panic level jumps when I offer to shoot it with a fear-control gun, and the panic spikes when I fire the first dart into its throat. It takes seven darts, two of them to the face, before the beast’s panic-level finally subsides and it agrees to be interviewed.

Space Monster (SM): Hello, Greg. Thank you for sitting down with me.

Greg Sisco (GS): No problem, Space Monster. This is cool. This place is classy.

SM: You come from a violent and fearful species. Why do you hate yourselves?

GS: Well, I can only speak personally. It mostly has to do with my cowardice when it comes to standing up for things I believe in. And talking to women. That too. Just general cowardice. About most things, really.

SM: You are speaking strictly about individual self-judgment. The question was in regards to a species turning hatred on itself. Are you unaware you are all one being?

GS: Oh. Oh… Well… Largely, yes. Except when we’re on LSD, I think, but I’ve never tried that. I think maybe we hate other humans when we feel like they’re infringing on our ability to do the things we want as individuals.

SM: Perhaps you can explain to me why anger is turned on the most hated of individual humans.

GS: Uh… Okay. Is that… Do you mean Hitler, or…?

SM: The human they call Miley.

GS: …Oh. Oh… So the… Oh. Okay. Um…

SM: Are you familiar with the human they call Miley?

GS: Yeah. Well, I mean… Well… Yeah. Like, vaguely. I mean, I… Hm. This is going to be difficult.

SM: Our studies have indicated that humans within your age bracket harbor hatred for Miley to the largest degree.

GS: That right? Hm. That’s… interesting.

SM: What did Miley do to become hated?

GS: Well… Okay. So there’s this thing called the entertainment business. And one thing people in this business do is they sing songs. Singing is, like… they make sounds with their voice like-

(The human gives a shrill cry, as though in defense.)

GS: -well, I can’t really do it. But, like, when it’s done well, it’s pleasant to hear. People really enjoy it.

The one they call Miley, making Earth humans think about the reproductive act.

SM: We are familiar with this habit based on your television programming. It seems these so-called pop singers are the most celebrated and condemned of the human species, correct?

GS: Uh… If you say so. Anyway, Miley does that. And she also did it when she was younger. And when she was younger she did it in a way that was sort of cute and innocent, but then now that she’s an adult, it’s like… she doesn’t wear so many clothes and, like, makes people think about sex or whatever.

SM: I see. The members of my species are also appalled by the horrors of the reproductive act. When my species mates, the male turns inside out at the peak of intercourse and dies in agony. The younglings hatch from within the womb of the female and feed on her from the inside. What horrors does your species endure?

GS: Wow, that’s… that’s awful. No, we actually, um… We just… It basically just feels really… really good. Um… yeah. Like really good. And then… I don’t know. (laughs awkwardly) Yeah, it feels really good and then you… like… go on with your day. Or go to bed… smoke a cigarette or whatever.

SM: Your species is peculiar in its desire not to be reminded of something pleasant.

GS: Yeah. Um… Well, to be fair, I think we mostly do like to be reminded of it. In fact we actually won’t usually let people be pop stars, or any sort of respected entertainer, unless, um… unless we want to have sex with them.

The one they call Greg, making Earth humans think about the reproductive act.

SM: You contradict yourself. Explain!

GS: Um… Well… The thing is, Miley was famous when she was a kid. Er, uh… a youngling. So… I think a lot of it, maybe, is that people still think of her as a youngling, so… so there’s like a… I don’t know…

SM: But she is no longer a youngling?

GS: No. Right. Well, um… it’s perception and all that, which is… I guess there’s just… animosity as the result of people still seeing her as a youngling.

SM: You mean that you harbor hatred and wish violence upon this human because you perceive her as a youngling? Our disgust deepens! Explain yourself or suffer the consequences!

GS: It’s not me! It’s other people! I don’t care!

SM: You are all one! We have been over this! Explain yourself!

(The human begins blubbering.)

GS: I don’t know! My species sucks! We’re stupid, is that what you want me to say? We never have any idea why we feel the way we do! I don’t know why we hate people for singing, why we can’t just ignore art we think is bad or try to do it better ourselves. I don’t know why we’re so out of touch with each other–er, uh… with ourself! We’re just dumb! We’re a bunch of barely-developed barbarians throwing rocks at each other for the hell of it. We unite better by hatred than by love. We’re fucked up! You can’t ask me to be the mouthpiece for the whole species and expect me to help you make sense of us. I am us and we don’t even make sense to me. We’re young and stupid and I don’t know if we’re going to get better. We’re toddlers with slingshots and M-90s, all of us!

(The human becomes so hysterical I am forced to shoot it with several anti-depressant darts and several anti-fear darts to return it to clarity. As it has alluded to in this interview, they are indeed an out-of-control species where emotions are concerned.)

SM: It is okay. All species must develop. A few short millennia ago the members of my own species organized ourselves into tribes and murdered those in other groups for personal gain.

GS: Right. Yeah, we do that all the time. That’s, like, practically the only thing we do, actually.

SM: You are doomed.

GS: I figured.

SM: Thank you for your interview.

GS: Thanks for having me. Can I move to your planet?

SM: Absolutely not. You will poison us with your ignorant hatred.

GS: Well fuck you then.

I dump the human on his face outside a bar in the region called China where I found it. There is nothing to be gained from this species. My search for intelligent life continues.

-Space Monster

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Good News: I’m (Semi)-Retiring from Writing for Profit

Before you panic, let me just say that when I write “Good News” in that headline, I’m not being sarcastic.

Here’s the thing. I’m starting to feel like you have to be full of shit to promote your work as an artist, and you have to be stupid not to. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about that.

I started writing professionally two years ago. Before Thicker Than Water, it was something I did for fun, something I dreamed of making a living at. After I turned to self-publishing, it became more of an attempted career.

I pretty much approached it the way everybody else who was doing it told me to. They said to have a blog, so I did. They said to get a Facebook fan page, so I did. They said to join indie writer forums, so I did. They said to tweet. They said to join GoodReads. They said to cross-promote with other indie writers. I did, I did, I did.

It took about a year for me to come to a realization: “I hate all this shit.”

In creating this sort of “public persona” it’s hard not to be completely phony. If you’re presenting yourself on a forum and you’re only there to whore your work, for me at least, it’s almost impossible to do it with any level of dignity and honesty. When I say “follow me and I’ll follow you back,” neither of us is actually getting anything worthwhile out of the transaction. I’m just saying “I’m gonna spam you and you spam me and it’ll be okay because we’re both assholes. ‘Kay? ‘Kay!”

I didn’t like being that asshole from day one. But it took a little while before I couldn’t be that asshole anymore.

A year ago, when I moved to China and took a day job, I all but stopped promoting. I quit tweeting, only hung around one Facebook group I actually like, stopped seeking out promotional tie-ins with other authors. And something really obvious happened: My sales tanked. My last two books have done next to nothing in comparison to my first two.

I love writing. I love working out a story and playing with words. I love seeing the number of downloads on a published novel count up. I love hearing from people who connected with what I wrote. What I don’t love–what I’ve come to actively dislike–is writing for profit.

Don’t get me wrong, I like profit. Money’s one of my favorite things. But there’s too much bullshit that comes with selling artwork, especially your own. I don’t want to be that fake, phony guy singing the praises of his own books and screaming, “Give me some money and I’ll let you bask in my genius.” I want that to be what fans do. All I want to do is try to dream stuff up worth screaming about. I think I’m capable of stuff good enough, but I don’t have the platform to get it to people without running around cyberspace yelling like an idiot.

So I have a new idea of how to publish my work. In short, it involves two steps.

STEP ONE: ELIMINATE ALL THE BULLSHIT ARMS-LENGTH PROFILES.

You don’t need to follow me on Twitter where my sole objective is to sell books. You don’t need to ‘like’ my Facebook fan page that exists for reasons I’m not even entirely sure of myself. Instead of creating a public persona, I’d rather just invite you into my actual life. If you like my work, come send a friend request to my actual Facebook page. Let’s have a friendly connection, not just a “salesman-customer” one.

STEP TWO: ELIMINATE THE STICKER PRICE.

In the near future, I’ll be putting my books up on a few new sites and changing the sale price to zero (or as close as each site allows). I’ll politely ask for donations if you think it’s worthy and you can spare some change, but the profit can’t be the point or it kills the fun for me. No more admission fees. I’m going to get into this in more detail in a future post (or several, probably) but that’s the gist of it.

It’s going to take a bit of time for me to roll this out, especially being that I’m pretty swamped with non-writing work as well as being in the middle of a bunch of major projects and I’ve got very little spare time.

This is a bit of an experiment. I don’t know how long it will go on for. I hope it will be for quite a while. There may come a time when I feel it’s not right for me anymore, but right now it’s what I want to try.

My next book will more than likely be a horror novel called In Nightmares We’re Alone. It’ll be free.

And again, if you’re not already, come be my friend on Facebook. Not my customer. My friend.

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The Kind of Subtle Nightmares I Have

Last night, I was a young boy. I was at some house in the countryside. Some quiet little place in the middle of nowhere. In the dream, I knew the place. In reality, I don’t.

I was there visiting relatives, I guess, which is odd because in real life I don’t really know my relatives outside of my so-called nuclear family. But the people in the dream, I guess they were were uncles and aunts and cousins and everything and we all got on fine. Except for one little boy.

He was about three or four years old by the look of him, but he was as well spoken as any adult. He was small and frail and his face was always blank, emotionless. He gave the quiet impression that he didn’t want us here. Not for long, anyway. He was my cousin, I guess, but he didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the family. He was the only redhead, for one thing. He didn’t seem cut from the same genetic material. Maybe he was adopted. Either way, he always referred to the house as being his.

He seemed kind enough, for the most part. He told me I was welcome in his home. He told me he was happy to have me there. He told me I could stay for two days. Two. He was very clear about that, should I get any ideas about staying longer.

I ventured out with siblings and cousins to get lunch, everybody breaking off into groups. The boy in question followed me and stayed quiet all the while. I wished he’d find somebody else to follow around, but I didn’t want to upset him by telling him so. He seemed fond of me, in a distant sort of way.

At dark we had a bonfire, and after having disappeared for a while, the boy returned with burns up and down his arms. I asked him what happened and whether he was okay. He said it happens sometimes, just the way his skin is. I tried to approach him to look at the wounds and he backed me off. He said, “If you touch it, you’ll burn.”

His mother gave me a silent glance, seemed to tell me, Yes, it’s true.

Later when I was going to bed, I asked the boy, “Why will I burn if I touch you?”

He said, “It’s just the way it is. Same thing if you stay more than two days.”

That’s when I woke up from the dream within the dream (now awake in Dream Layer 1 instead of Dream Layer 2). In Dream Layer 1, I was in a hotel, halfway through one of the many road trips my family used to take when I was a child. I was maybe twelve years old in this world. I told my family about the weird, creepy dream I’d had.

In Dream Layer 1 I knew all the people I’d seen in Dream Layer 2, these aunts and uncles and cousins, even though outside of the dream they don’t exist. I knew the house too, though it’s not real either. It was my aunt’s house, and in Dream Layer 1, about two years earlier, we’d visited the place and hung out with a lot of extended family there, all those same people from the dream. It had been a good time.

How long had we stayed? Well, if memory served, it was two days.

One little difference though: Now awake in Dream Layer 1, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember ever having seen that little redheaded boy before. He, it seemed, was an invention of my subconscious. Why he’d needed to be invented, who knew.

Nobody was worried about the dream because, hey, it was just a stupid dream. But my dad brought to light a weird coincidence. He told me that while he hadn’t mentioned it to us yet, on this road trip we were progressing through, we were going to go to that same house and meet those cousins again for a while.

This time, he told me, we’d be staying a whole week.

I like when I get dreams like that — with a beginning, a middle, and an end. With false awakenings and cliffhangers. Most dreams are boring to retell, but once in a while your mind puts one together nicely.

My next novel, In Nightmares We’re Alone, tells three interconnected stories, each based on a nightmare I’ve had. This isn’t one of them, but the ones I’m using are pretty good too.

In Nightmares We’re Alone may not be out by Halloween, but it’ll be out by the end of the year. I promise.

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“Gunslinger, P.I.” Debuts at #1 in Private Investigator Mysteries

 

Gunslinger PI novel cover

If you haven’t picked up a copy of my new novel Gunslinger, P.I. yet, you still have until 11:59 PM on July 13 to do so.

The novel made its debut yesterday and has already reached a rank of #1 in the Private Investigators subgenre, as well as #3 in the genre of Humor.

I would like to thank everyone who has shared and tweeted about the book, and I would like to extend a special thanks to Freebooksy for featuring Gunslinger, P.I. on their page.

To all of you who have picked up copies, I appreciate your interest enormously. I hope you enjoy the book. I hope you’ll also consider posting a review on Amazon, as it is a huge help in the early days of a novel’s release.

After the free promotion ends on July 13, I’ll be selling copies of the book at the discounted price of $.99 for several more days, so if you’re reading this late, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy.

Thanks again to all my friends and fans out there.

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Free Novel Release on July 11

Gunslinger PI novel cover

Hey, you. Want a free novel? Are you reading this before July 11? You are? Good news! (If you’re not, tough shit I guess.)

My latest novel, Gunslinger, P.I. (awesome cover by Cody Sims pictured to the left) will release July 11 exclusively for Kindle, and I’ve decided to try an experiment and release it for free for the first three days. So from July 11-13Gunslinger, P.I. will be available to download for free on Amazon.

I’ve discussed this novel at length on this blog before, and I’ve mentioned that it’s an updated version of an independent film I made when I was 18, and I’ve even read a chapter of it on video in my best cowboy voice. Today I thought I’d debut the official product description. Here it is:

A PRESENT-DAY WESTERN DETECTIVE STORY WITH VIOLENCE, SEX, AND A TALKING CAR

His name is Garret Gallagher, but don’t call him that or he’ll shoot you in a particularly uncomfortable appendage. Every thug and criminal in Scud City knows him as Gunslinger. They say he traveled through time from the Old West. They say he drives a talking car. They say for five grand he can solve any murder in forty-eight hours.

As it happens, everything they say is true.

Gunslinger, P.I. lays out five days in Gunslinger’s life. Hired by an allegedly Irish gangster to investigate a particularly suspicious murder, Gunslinger navigates a rocky relationship with his talking car girlfriend, lusts over a foul-mouthed femme fatale, butts heads with a twenty-first century cowboy wannabe, plays Russian Roulette with an idiot, and seeks out revenge on anyone who lies to him – which happens to be pretty much everybody.

A darkly comic murder mystery at its heart, Gunslinger, P.I. blends Western and noir with touches of fantasy, science fiction, and romance for a one-of-a-kind, mile-a-minute ride at the hands of a crass, madman antihero with no regard for the reader’s comfort level.

Gunslinger, P.I. will be released July 11, and will be free from then until July 13. To make sure you don’t miss it, ‘like’ my Facebook page.

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“Gunslinger, P.I.” – Coming in July

lForgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been three months since my last blog post.

I’ve not gone anywhere. I’ve been teaching English to the Chinese and pounding away at a laptop keyboard in whatever spare time I can find. A few big new projects are in the works, but the biggest (or next, at least) is my new novel, Gunslinger, P.I.

I talked about this project in quite a bit of detail in my last post in February (in short, a cowboy from the past solves crimes with his talking car girlfriend), but I’m happy to say that as of a few days ago, it’s finished and ready for publication. I’m hoping to give it as big a launch as I can, so I’m holding off for a few weeks until I’m less tied up with other work, but I’m aiming to release in the second week of July.

I could paste the first chapter here and give you a little taste, but perhaps more fun than that would be this goofy little webcam reading I did in a cowboy voice just for the hell of it. Enjoy:

Gunslinger, P.I. will be available exclusively for Kindle in the second week of July. Watch for a cover image sometime in June. And, as always, for all the most immediate updates, like my Facebook fan page.

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Gunslinger, P.I. – My “Next Big Thing”

lI guess a lot of indie writers who also blog play this game where they tag each other in this little questionare about your “Next Big Thing.” I was tagged by Autumn Christian, whose “Next Big Thing” is the novel We Are Wormwood, and whose books are here (and whose novel The Crooked God Machine is excellent, by the way). I don’t think I have anybody to tag, but I would at least like to answer the questions.

So here’s a bit of info (including a rather long story about my personal life) on my fourth novel, which I’m currently working on the second draft of, and which I would guess will be released around three months from now.

1: What is the working title of your book?

The title is Gunslinger, P.I.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

Okay. I’m going to tell a long story, but there’s a car crash in it so hopefully it’s not too boring.

Let’s jump way back. When I was 17 years old I wanted to be a filmmaker (still do; and am) but I didn’t really know what I was doing and I wanted to teach myself. I wrote a goofy movie about a time-traveling cowboy detective with a talking car. It was about 60 pages long and pretty silly, lighthearted, and family friendly. Something I could watch with my mom and have her say, “That was so good. I’m so proud of you.” In those days, that was one of the big things I thought about with my creative work: What will my family think of the fact that I made this?

Then I was in a car that my friend crashed off a cliff over a bunch of jagged boulders and landed upside down in a frozen over river fifty miles from the nearest hospital. Paramedics had to cut my clothes off because they were freezing to me. They had me on oxygen in the ambulance and they were afraid of my low body temperature. Somehow neither I nor the two other passengers suffered serious injuries.

In the rather religious area where I grew up, everyone told me I had a greater purpose. That God spared me. That there was an angel in the car. Yeah, I don’t buy it either. God didn’t spare the little girl who got hit by a drunk driver that day, and I’m sure she would’ve had a purpose if He had.

But it got me thinking about the idea of fate as well as my own mortality, and the idea that everything in life can happen for a reason as long as you make one up. So I made my brush with mortality have meaning. And a funny thing happened. I stopped giving an effing fuck whether anybody but me liked my writing. I suddenly realized I wasn’t making the kind of movie I would rush out to go see if it came out at the multiplex down the street. I was just making the stupid thing I could watch with my family and get easy praise heaped on me by loved ones. So the second draft, more than double the length, was packed with profanity, full of anger and emotion that would have embarrassed me a few months prior, it attempted to say something, and—most importantly—it was fucking mine.

As far as I’m concerned, the second draft of the screenplay for Gunslinger, P.I. was the first real piece of writing I ever did.

I produced and directed that movie on a few grand I saved up at age 18 and you can see it for free HERE. It’s okay. It’s flawed, because I had no idea what I was doing, but it has its moments. Every year or so, I start wishing I had it to do over again knowing what I know now. I probably never will. But as a book, I can update it a little bit. It’s an important piece to me since in some way I feel it marks my birth as a writer. I’d like to take a crack at cleaning up the ‘young writer’ problems in it, and I’d like to get it out to a few more people, and a novel makes a nice way to do both of those things.

3: What genre does your book come under?

No idea. Humorous thriller/mystery/present-day-western/fantasy with a twist of romantic sci-fi/neo-noir. And also there’s a talking car.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I did make it once. I played Gunslinger. If I had it to do over on a large scale budget… pff… I don’t know. I like that Michael Shannon guy. Fucker’s got serious intensity and makes it look easy. He might be good.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After getting warped into the twenty-first century by a meteor and falling in love with a talking car, a notorious cowboy-turned-private-eye struggles with a nihilistic worldview as he tries to solve a murder for an Irish mob boss.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

It will be self-published. A big part of why I turned so much focus to novels at this point in my life was the constant approval filmmakers have to seek from distributors and venues in order to make back the money they spend. With a novel, the fact that nobody has to tell me it’s okay is enormously freeing for me.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The original screenplay I sweated over for the better part of a year when I was 17. The first draft of the novel, using the screenplay as a roadmap, took one week. But the first draft needed a lot of work. It’ll be a couple months all-in, I think. It’s been a cake-walk considering I had my own work to use as source material. It was the same thing with One-Night Stan’s. I’ve decided writing a screenplay first and using it for reference to write the novel will probably be what I do from now on. It works wonders for me.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I honestly have no idea. The influences for it were in film, and I remember at the time that Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson were the two guys I wanted to emulate, though I don’t feel it’s too much like anything they’ve done. When the movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang came out (an underrated masterpiece, by the way, and I recommend you watch it immediately) I felt like Shane Black did a lot of what I wanted to do except without the more fantastical elements.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See the answer to question #2.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s a pitch black comedy about a cowboy from the past with a talking car for a girlfriend rambling about philosophy as he solves a brutal murder for an Irish gangster who is pretending to be Irish. If that doesn’t sound appealing, there’s probably nothing I can say that’s going to change your mind.

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The Wages of Sin: A New Blood Brothers Novel

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Hello again. Been a while.

I’m in the midst of a new and strange adventure, teaching English in China. I’ve actually got a bunch of funny stuff I could share about that, and I plan to, but not today. Today I’m only bringing you the first chapter of my new book. Hit the jump to give it a read. (Confession: I don’t know what the hell ‘hit the jump’ means. I just wanted to sound hip. The chapter’s coming in a second though.)

If you follow my Facebook page, you probably already know that The Wages of Sin, the sequel to Thicker Than Water and book two of the Blood Brothers vampire series, released a few days ago. Hopefully some of you out there are already reading it. If you’re not, I bring you a taste.

The Wages of Sin picks up a few days after Thicker Than Water leaves off. At just over 50,000 words, it’s a quick read, but still slightly longer than Thicker Than Water. I don’t think it’s essential that Thicker Than Water be read first, but I’d certainly recommend starting with book one. Both are available exclusively in the Kindle Store, Thicker Than Water here, and The Wages of Sin here.

The Wages of Sin marks the second book in the series, and while I haven’t started to put pen to paper (er, black pixels to white pixels) on the third book yet, I am still expecting the series to come in at four books by the time all the bodies are accounted for.

Okay, enough yammering. Here’s chapter one:

There is a subtle humor in the way a human begs. Once you’ve heard it enough times and from enough people, you have to laugh at the inherent similarities.

Begging, at least by human standards, is an act characterized by an emphatic overuse of the word please, the repetition of words and phrases as though they carry more weight on second or third use, and an abundance of promises no person could be expected to keep.

Demonstrated by a nineteen-year-old girl named Samantha, begging sounds like this:

“Please. Oh God, please, I don’t wanna die. I don’t wanna die, oh God. I know this isn’t you who wants this. I know it’s your boss. You can tell him you killed me and he’ll never know, and I’ll just go away. I’ll move away and he’ll never know you let me go, okay? He’ll never know. Please. I swear I’ll never tell anyone. I’ll never mention any of this to anybody. I’ll pretend it never happened. I’ll do anything you want. I’ll give you anything. I’ll do anything. Just please don’t kill me. Please. Please don’t kill me…”

This particular knee-slapper of a speech was delivered to Thor on a mid-December night in 1999. Samantha had recently become an involuntary resident in the building, one of the drains the Blood Brothers kept on stowaway. There were three rooms in the little palace where Loki and Thor lived that locked from the outside and didn’t have windows, and Thor did his best to keep the inhabitants of these rooms at home.

The prisoners were kept in preparation for lazy nights when Loki and Thor felt like staying in. One could not be expected to go hungry out of a disinterest in leaving the house, so the girls were there if they were needed. But more than anything, they were there to make use of the rooms. The house was so big, after all.

It was also a hobby of Thor’s, and good practice for manipulating the emotions of humans, to attempt to keep a person happy in circumstances where it was exceedingly difficult to do so. For this reason, whenever they had a home like this one with space to keep stowaways, Thor tended to them often. He composed them beautiful meals of filet mignon, kindai maguro, Hot Pockets, or anything else they requested. He brought them expensive wines and extravagant cigarettes. Somedays he played them songs on his guitar or kicked their asses at Risk. He considered them pets, and pets were not worth having were they not given the proper attention.

Each of their rooms contained a shower complete with various soaps and gels, a toilet, a refrigerator stocked with cola and snacks, a minibar, a queen-sized bed, a leather couch, a big screen television, a stereo with CDs handpicked by Thor, a treadmill jokingly referred to as an exercise wheel, an electric toothbrush, and various sets of comfortable clothing including silk pajamas and a bathrobe if they just felt like lounging around.

Thor told them they were part of an experiment and they wouldn’t be kept too long. He would bring them any movie, album, book, video game, or toy that they requested. It was a sort of bourgeois prison cell for sorry chaps and chapettes—mostly chapettes—to live out their days in a quiet, blissful solitude made bearable by mind-numbing entertainment and alcohol before the shadow of death closed in. Most of them gave up begging after a week or two and chose to endure, trying their best to enjoy captivity. Even those convinced they were condemned to die here would eventually accept and find themselves playing The Legend of Zelda until their time ran out.

Really, the bourgeois prison was how humans lived anyway.

Samantha had only been here four days and was still in the agitated phase. She would never make it past this phase because her room was to be cleared for the arrival of a special guest tonight.

“Listen,” Thor said forcefully, clamping a hand over her mouth. “I’m going to help you, but you have to shut up. My boss is going to hurt you if you stay, but if you keep quiet and do what I tell you, I can get you out of here.”

Thor believed obedience from humans was gained with a precise balance of comfort and fear. Too much comfort made them afraid to take a chance, and too much fear made them stupid and unpredictable. That said, in an ideal environment the scale always tipped in the direction of fear.

Samantha counted her options. She knew she didn’t want to stay here. The question was whether to trust Thor as her guide or to make a break for safety on her own. She had seen Thor’s boss a few times and the man was a beast. Thor was sincere, even compassionate.

“I’m going to take my hand off your mouth, and when I do you’re going to stop screaming. If you keep panicking you’ll get yourself killed and me scolded. When I take my hand away, you don’t say another word until we’re out of the house, understood?”

Samantha nodded. She decided to take her chances with Thor. The house was a maze and she didn’t know how many others might have been lurking all over. She had to cross her fingers Thor and his boss weren’t pulling some sort of Good Captor Bad Captor thing. In the true spirit of Las Vegas, she was gambling with her life now, putting her neck on a roulette wheel.

Thor took his hand off her mouth and held it out for her to take, showing her his best calming expression. She stared into his face, his blonde hair hanging in a comma over his forehead and pointing down into his glamorous blue eyes. She took a breath, reached out, and put her hand in his.

No more bets.

Thor put his finger to his lips to indicate silence once more before he led her out of the room. He hammed up his performance, pressing his back to walls and peeking around corners every time he pulled her into another room. At one point he walked from a hallway into a living room, pretended to see something startling, and tugged her back into the hall at full force before pulling her into a room and hiding in a corner with one arm steadying her and the other fastened on her mouth.

“Don’t make a sound,” he told her, laughing on the inside. He held her there for the better part of five minutes before he got bored with it and thought he might be chewing the scenery.

I’d like to thank the Academy. And Satan.

It took him ten minutes to get her to the garage. They reached his Suzuki crotch-rocket and he whispered, “Help me wheel this away from the house before we start it.”

She gladly took one handlebar and the two of them crept cautiously along the dirt path outside the house. Stupid shit like this sold a performance.

He had to more or less put the act to bed when they got to the street and he fired up the bike. He could feel her on the seat behind him, hugging him and pressing her head to his back like a child.

Protect me, Thor. Save me.

He was a romantic movie hero. What a gas.

He fantasized about crashing the bike into a guardrail and sending the two of them flying from the top of a bridge into a rocky river. It would have been funny, but there was no intimacy in it. They rode until they reached a shack on the edge of the desert.

The place was a plywood tent of hammered-together boards that gave way to fifty square feet of living space filled mostly by a bed of unwashed blankets that looked like a horse had given birth on them. Thor had occasional campfires here with outdoorsy drains, and he might have liked to grab some marshmallows and a two-liter of Coke on the way, but even he didn’t have the charm to pull that off without breaking character.

Sliding the kickstand into the sand, he climbed off the bike and put his hands on her shoulders. “You’re safe now. You can let it out. Scream if you have to.”

She buried her eyes in his leather jacket. Indistinct sounds somewhere between sobs, screams, and laughter were coming from her mouth, muffled by his chest. He put his hand on the back of her head and pressed her there, stroking her hair like he was Clark Gable or some fucking thing.

“It’s okay,” he said. “You’re okay now.”

She thanked him a thousand times without moving her head from his chest. This was comfort like she had never felt.

“I can’t stay,” he said, “They’ll look for me.” He climbed back onto the bike and waited for her to stop him. She took the bait.

“Wait. Don’t leave me here.” She was a helpless damsel in distress. There were tears streaming down her face and Thor took a moment to congratulate himself on the wonderful villain-in-the-making he’d created. The traitorous bastard of a courageous hero. The horseman of the apocalypse in shining armor.

He sighed and stepped off the bike. He put his arm around her and showed her the inside of his shack. There was less than nothing to see.

“Try to get some sleep. I’ll come back in the morning, after sunrise.” He felt weird saying this. “I’ll get you on a plane somewhere. Just wait for me.”

“Why did you help me?” She held onto his jacket and looked up to his eyes.

Thor gave a sigh and a dramatic pause before he answered. He wished he had tear ducts to sell the sickening melodrama he was about to let loose.

“You remind me of my wife. I couldn’t help her, but… I couldn’t watch her die again.”

Now it was her turn to hold him. This poor brute. This confused and wonderful hero. This beautiful, beautiful man. She wanted him to hold her safely here forever. She knew—or thought she did—that despite his unsavory present, the result of the hell through which life had dragged him, at some point Thor’s wife had been a lucky woman. There was someone so caring and true just beneath his surface. This blond-haired, blue-eyed angel had bruises on his wings.

Thor went for broke. “I’m so sorry. You don’t know how hard it is. This life. I… I want out. You don’t know what it’s like to wake up every day and know you’re hurting people, Tara. It’s horrible.”

“My name is Samantha,” she told him, but she was pretty sure she knew who Tara was. He confirmed it for her.

“Sorry. My wife.” He breathed unsteadily, like a human trying to bury the memories of a painful past in a shitty movie from a Nicholas Sparks novel. “I should go. I don’t… I…”

The character he was playing lost control and kissed Samantha. He grabbed her thick, brown hair and tilted her head back so her mouth could meet his and he could gently taste her lips with his tongue the way he wanted her to think he had his wife so many times in the past. She didn’t make a move to resist. She could see the good in him. She wanted to help him forget his pain. As they kissed, he slid his hand from her back and up the curve of her hip, along her belly and up to her chest. His fingers tightened around her breast for an ephemeral moment before he ripped his hand away. He cursed and called himself an idiot. This is what humans did after a kiss on stage and on screen. It spelled romance for some reason.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m really sorry. I’m so… I’m just so…” What fun it was to play seducer with such a meek character.

“It’s okay,” she assured him, putting her arms around him and resting her head on his shoulder. She kissed his cheek.

Thor let her have it, that moment of human ecstasy. He kissed her again and let his character throw all his inhibitions to the wind. Finally a little of the real Thor took the stage and they fell back onto the bedraggled sheets.

She kissed him. He was courageous and handsome and wonderful and it was raining in his heart.

She kissed him. He was a beautiful blue-eyed angel delivered by God.

She kissed him. He was the closest real life got to the storybook hero.

He kissed her. She was sold.

No one would find the body out here for at least a few days.

Once again, The Wages of Sin is available here.

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