Tuesday, January 28, 2014

That’s it, no more giveaways


It’s hard on someone just starting in their writing career to get the kind of feedback they need, which is why the idea of giving books away in the hopes of garnering reviews seems to be an acceptable tradeoff. Except that I’ve given away thousands of books and got exactly one review as a result. At least it was a favorable review: I gave away a short story which I clearly labeled as “a very short story” and was given a 1 star review because it wasn’t a full-length novel. He also mentioned something about me writing at about the middle school level. I won’t argue that point, but you’re welcome to click on either of my books on the right hand side and decide for yourself the validity of the statement.

But the point is that I have decided it is not worth my time to give away books in the hopes that it might somehow benefit me. This is not me grumbling, nor am I saying that readers are not holding up their end of the bargain. What I gave away I gave away with perhaps hopes but without implied obligations. It is simply a business decision, as well as the feeling that my work is worthy of the modest price I have attached to it. Because honestly, if I did not feel that my writing was worth more than nothing, why would anyone be expected to read it?

People don’t appreciate what is given for free, which is why we tend to waste what nature has given us while lusting after those things that have been shrink-wrapped and put on display on store shelves. This is not an observation I like to make, but I will not deny the truth of it just because the thought doesn’t appeal to me. Again, this is not a value judgment but a statement of fact. As optimistic and altruistic as I tend to be, a writer cannot afford to stray too far from the facts.

So if you’re reading this as I write it, you may have one last chance to grab my book—Perchance to Dream—on Amazon for free. I think it has a couple of hours left on the giveaway. Do I want you to give it a fair and honest review for the work I’ve done? Of course I do. But I’ve already decided you’ll probably appreciate it less because you haven’t invested any money in it. Hell, chances are you’ll download it and never get around to reading it, in the same way I record things on my DVR I never get around to watching. Which is why I’ll never give my work away for free again. At least for now : )

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Cloak-A Very Short Story

The Cloak


It was another day in her inexplicable existence, and she rose from her bed because it had ceased to give her comfort. She knew that today she must go into town to buy groceries if she was to have anything to eat, but she considered going hungry for the day. In times past she had gone for days without food in order to delay the ordeal that the trip meant, but as she grew older she learned that this was foolish. It was not that she despised the trip any less, in fact her hatred had grown. But delaying the unavoidable only caused her more discomfort. And so she dressed as she prepared herself mentally for the cold wind that shook her windows. Lastly, she donned her black cloak without which she never left her house. It protected her from the harsh breeze and the cold eyes that she had noticed looking at her when she had still dared to look at the townspeople. It protected them from having to look at her and in so doing, it protected her from their looks of disgust. She had been told when she was young that she was not pretty, and so she hid her ugliness in what even then was an old and rancid piece of clothing. It was preferable, she thought, than to hide her ugliness behind beautiful clothing: better the ugly truth than a pretty lie. And as she grew older and came to know herself more, she did not care that the cloak became ever more black and hideous. However hideous the cloak was, it was but a hint of what lay beneath it. And so she left her home and began her walk toward her destination. The cold weather was a good reason for her to hide behind the cloak all the more, so that her face was all but hidden. She walked until she saw in the distance a group of people walking toward her. She pulled the cloak still closer as she felt the coldness rise within her. This coldness she had long come to recognize as hatred, and its chill grew ever the more keen as the days and years passed. This black ice within her soul grew with every cold stare, was fed even more by each averted glance. But as the people passed her, she would not allow herself to observe their reaction. Instead she concentrated on the horrible swell of emotion that grew within her, forcing her to exert all her will simply to continue her pace. No sooner had this group passed than she looked down the street to see a couple approaching from a distance.

Anything that grows within us, left unchecked, will eventually overflow us and spill out onto others. And so it was with her. Though she continually pushed the hatred down, tried to contain it, it ever and again sprang up stronger than before. Until, on this day, the hatred found her too small a thing to pour itself onto; she was not a big enough target for the hate she felt. A lifetime of self-hatred taught to her by the outside world sought a victim other than her, whom it had already drained. The equilibrium between self-loathing and hatred for the outside world that caused her suffering was lost, and that which was contained for so long spilled over. For so long was the eruption contained that the overflow was explosive. The rush of released energy made her giddy. Her deepest vileness she could no longer contain, nor did she want to. She was exalted in the cataclysm that finally found release; today she would no longer bear alone the burden of her repulsiveness. She thrilled at the thought of exposing her deepest, darkest self to those who would be horrified by it. Eyeing the approaching couple, she removed the cloak that would no longer shield an ugliness which was no more her fault than the world's. Freed from the cloak, her skin was awakened by the cold breeze. She wore a maniacal smile on her face, as though she could feel the blackness radiating from her. She walked on in a fury, and as the people approached she stared them straight in the eye in challenge. But the couple simply smiled genially, and walked on.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Looking Into The Dark Places

Like any other genre, writing books that deal in horror and the supernatural requires a fair amount of research. Sometimes the research is merely for inspiration, other times I need to know the specifics of how something is done or if it can be done at all. I think more than most, though, my research tends to take me to dark places.

Not all the research I do is on scary or shocking subjects. For Perchance to Dream, I had to learn a little bit about sailing and The Apostle Islands. I had to make a few phone calls to know if sailboats were available for rent in November. I visited The Wisconsin Dells in order to make sure my memory of the place was correct and also to see if anything inspired me. While there, I found a place that had some tremendous beer on tap at reasonable prices. All in all, that was some enjoyable research.

But then there are the other subjects I feel compelled to delve into. In The Amazing Morse, I had to know what a dead body would look like after sitting in a house for a few weeks. I had to find out what a human’s physiological reactions would be to being strangled. These are not pleasant subjects and to be honest, I wouldn’t have minded skipping such research. In older days, perhaps, I could have merely made mention of the act without any kind of detail. But the modern age seems to demand accuracy and detail. Since the information is so readily available, I feel compelled to make use of it.

The Amazing Morse storyline involved a psychic, so I wanted as much information as possible on the subject. With a background in magic and an interest in Houdini, I was already familiar with the spiritualist movement of the early 20th Century, so I decided to make my psychic someone who was well researched in the history of spiritualism On her bookshelf were books that I’d heard referenced in Houdini biographies. A few grace my own bookshelves, while some I hope never to see in person. It’s hard to look into such things sometimes, and I have definite limits as to what I will or will not research.

I don’t believe in spiritualism, psychics, or much of that sort of thing, so it isn’t all that frightening to me. What does start to disturb me is something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ixwC6tm_Cc I don’t expect anyone to sit through the whole show, I certainly haven’t. Although I have watched far more of it than is probably healthy for me. What disturbs me about it is that while it initially seems sort of batshit crazy, there is a certain amount of sense to it as well. Once you start buying into the premise, once you start to give it just a little bit of your trust, it kind of makes sense. Not only that, it brings in genuinely scary and real facts such as the existence of the MK Ultra program. There are some truths here that get past the typical citizen.

But that is not an isolated video. Take a look around YouTube sometime and see just how many similar conspiracy-related videos there are that involve reptilian aliens in disguise as politicians, the illuminati, etc. And each of these videos have hundreds of thousands of views. Again, most of them contain a good amount of fact-based reasoning, at least as much as your typical news program provides. YouTube can lead you down some interesting rabbit holes.

The worst part of researching for books that involve horror, though, are the real life horrors that exist, the evil that lurks in the heart of men. As Perchance To Dream involved a suicide cult, I felt the need to understand what people involved in such a cult must be going through. I have come across interviews of Heaven’s Gate members giving their last thoughts about how they are going to catch the comet out of this world and onto a higher plane of existence. I have watched film footage of casualties of WWI, men whose faces no longer resemble a human’s, men with thousand yard stares and shell shock so bad they could not stand up. The worst of it is that I don’t think I’ll end up using any of that research, as my book seems to have taken a different direction.

But assuredly, the most disturbing thing I have come across is this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkookcrAnSE This is the audio recording of Jim Jones' final message to his people in Jonestown and the resulting killing. I don’t recommend listening. But it is out there. Just like evil, it is out there.

And why do I do it, you may ask? I think that if such ideas are dealt with in fiction, we are able to—if not understand—at least cope with some of the darkness that exists. Since I was a child, I always enjoyed watching scary movies, reading scary comics, telling scary stories late at night when friends would sleep over. It was never a question of rooting for the bad guys or celebrating sin. I think it deals with not wanting to be afraid, and being afraid does not mean what we feel when peering into the darkness, but being so afraid of the truth, good or bad, that we are afraid to look at all.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Free Books You Should Own

I recently wrote about the fact that, as an author, I have to compete with all of those who have come before me. Not only that, but many of the greatest books ever written are available absolutely free. With that thought in mind, I did a little searching and have assembled a short list of essential books that are available for free on Kindle. I'm sure they are available electronically in other ways than Kindle, but things being what they are, it's easiest just to share the Kindle links. I've only just scratched the surface, so look for more lists to come.

Ten Free Books
1.       The Call Of The Wild by Jack London

2.       The People Of The Abyss by Jack London

3.       Martin Eden by Jack London
4.       The Iron Heel by Jack London

5.       The Octopus by Frank Norris
6.       The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

7.       The House Of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
8.       The Republic by Plato

9.       Symposium by Plato
10.   Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I will be giving away free Kindle e-book copies of my newest novel, Perchance to Dream, for another 28 hours. 32 have been given away so far, go ahead and grab one for yourself: http://www.amazon.com/Perchance-Dream-Amazing-Morse-Rozoff-ebook/dp/B00F7O5C20/ref=la_B00847RE9G_1_3_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388889432&sr=1-3

Here is a brief description:

While Dave Morse is busy during the day pursuing his dream of becoming a famous magician, at night his dreams are pursuing him. In his dreams, he catches glimpses of abandoned children, suicide cults, and raging infernos. The worst part of it is that he knows what he sees in the night he will eventually encounter in his waking hours. With no other course of action available, Dave must pursue his nightmares in search of answers.

While this story follows the events from The Amazing Morse, it is intended as a standalone novel and is a good entry into the world of The Amazing Morse.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Free Kindle Copy Of Perchance To Dream

Beginning Saturday and going through Sunday, I will be giving away e-book versions of my newest book Perchance To Dream in the hopes of getting some positive reviews and perhaps creating a bit of buzz. To get your free copy (beginning at midnight on January 4), click here: http://www.amazon.com/Perchance-Dream-Amazing-Morse-Rozoff-ebook/dp/B00F7O5C20/ref=la_B00847RE9G_1_3_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388808884&sr=1-3

Feel free to share this information with anyone you feel might be interested in a tale of sophisticated horror.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Why Buy A Scrawny Chicken When They're Giving Away Steak For Free?

Rabelais never had to go toe to toe with Cervantes, nor did Hugo ever have to duke it out with Twain. And while the Greek playwrights of antiquity certainly had their competition, they never had to contend with Shakespeare. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s hard to be a writer nowadays. Oh, I’m not whining, just trying to make a point before stating my case. You see, I’m trying to justify my existence, need to prove that there’s a reason for me to write, if only to myself.

Nowadays, not only does a writer have to compete in the same arena (that arena, let’s face it, is more or less Amazon) as the greatest writers of all ages, he has to compete on an uneven playing field. Click on Amazon, and you will find many of the world’s great books available as e-books. Furthermore, they are available at the click of a button. Even worse (for a modern day author, that is, certainly not for the human race), most of these books are available for free! Look, here’s Othello. Go ahead and take it: http://www.amazon.com/Othello-William-Shakespeare-ebook/dp/B00847TGNI/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1388626655&sr=8-5&keywords=william+Shakespeare So why would anyone want to pay to read my works when there is a lifetime supply of great literature available for free?

You may think me arrogant for even mentioning my work next to those of such giants. I should be more humble. The contemporary take would be for me to say that I am doing something different. Or else, I am giving people what they want, even if what they want is crap. See, that way it’s not my fault for writing crap. Somehow it seems to be en vogue to pay lip service to the great writers while at the same time not following their spirit. And if one dares to say that one is attempting to write serious literature, one is immediately labeled a pompous ass.

So let me be a pompous ass. But it is not my ego that makes me attempt to scale such mountains, it is the genius of those who have inspired me that cause me to do so. It is they who have shown me what humans are capable of, and it is in their eyes that I would feel shamed if I were to attempt anything less. To think that I stand shoulder to shoulder with the greats would be arrogant, but it is not arrogance to make the attempt of climbing the same mountains they have climbed. If I fall, it is only myself that I injure. I do not say I will succeed, I merely make the attempt. Even if I never ascend to anywhere near their heights, I at least have raised myself somewhat from the muck where I began.

Is it arrogance to try to attempt to make great art? I feel it is greater arrogance to give to readers anything less than the best of what I have in me. Again, I know I’m not Shakespeare, but I’m not going to try to limit myself because of it. It’s not my job to evaluate my work, I merely need to bring out the best that is in me to the best of my ability.

But the original question remains: why buy my books when the works of the greatest writers of history are not only eminently available but for the most part free? Because none of them can address life as it exists in the 21st Century. I would like to believe that I can take much of the knowledge and vision of the writers I have read and apply them to the rather unique time in history in which we are living. Even though I believe myself to be rooted in the past, it is in the present that I live my life, and the present shapes my writing as much as the authors who have influenced me.

A lot has been learned in the sciences in the last hundred years, much of which alters the way man sees himself and his relationship to the larger universe. The great writers were able to intuit much of what science has borne out. If Nathaniel Hawthorne had access to all of the knowledge of modern day psychology, he couldn’t have written Young Goodman Brown any better. But the modern world has given us many different perspectives, many new pieces to the puzzle we call life. I hope to make use of those pieces, to fit them in with the puzzle so many before me have been working on assembling. And while I would never assume to be so arrogant as to believe I could stand shoulder to shoulder with literature’s luminaries, I am perhaps egotistical enough to think I might yet stand upon their shoulders to some small degree. It is at least my obligation to try.

A New Year's Realization, Not A Resolution

Who you are and what you do today is most likely who you will be and what you will do tomorrow. That thought occurred to me the other day, and it kind of stuck in my head. This can be a positive or a negative thought, it’s up to each of us to decide. I choose to think that it is in my power—now, at this moment—to work on becoming the person I wish to be.

Too often we make our path in life more difficult than it needs to be. We set ourselves up for failure by demanding of our future selves what we are incapable of achieving today. We set unrealistic goals for ourselves because we do not wish to see ourselves as we truly are. Our true selves, we tell ourselves, the ones that we are destined to become, are out there somewhere in the future, and we wait for them as we would a knight in shining armor.

But that knight in armor never comes. He does not exist because we have not been working on developing him. We have alienated our true powers, the ones that we possess in the here and now, the power to work with the time and talent that is immediately before us.

We often do not wish to see ourselves for who we truly are, and instead create an ego ideal of ourselves, some flawless creature that will someday emerge from the cocoon that we currently are. When we do not live up to that impossible idea of ourselves, we then create another image of ourselves: that of a worthless sinner who is unworthy of any success or happiness. Both images are false, both equally damaging. They tend to work together, alternating in a cycle.

It is a cycle we must break if we are to achieve any real self-satisfaction in life. We are neither the helpless child nor the fully arrived adult. We are somewhere in the middle, in a constant state of becoming more, but never quite arriving. We will never be perfect since as we approach our goals we will see more goals beyond them. There is no promised land, no end point, but there is the constant opportunity to go further than we have before, perhaps further than we even believed possible.

It takes a degree of faith, I suppose. We need to believe in the process before we can fully commit to it. We need to taste a degree of success before we understand how it can come about. Or else we can learn about success by watching the behavior of another and learning from it. Lastly, there may be someone in our lives who believes in us even when we ourselves cannot. I don’t imagine that anyone can go through life being successful without a mix of all three of those factors. And once we have earned a degree of success ourselves, we are in a position to inspire and believe in others. If there is a promised land, we will have to work together to get there.

So I have not made any New Year’s resolutions. I am merely trying to live this day the way I would like to see myself living my future. The opportunity is there, why not take it? Oh, and let me just end this post by saying: “I believe in you.”