Indie Publishing

Amanda Hocking’s amazing success story continues to inspire all of us who write as independents.  As everyone who keeps up with these things knows, she has just signed a multimillion dollar deal with my old publisher, St. Martin’s Press.  Lucky young woman, some might think.  But it wasn’t luck, at least not entirely.  She got there through a combination of raw talent, persistence, and hard work.  As she admits on her blog, pursuing her dream wasn’t easy and in fact promoting her work became a full-time job in itself.

I’m finding that out from my own very recent experience.  How do you promote a book when you work a regular, 40-hours-a-week job?  Well, you blog, and tweet, and interact on Facebook, at least insofar as you have time.  But when do you actually, you know . . . write?  That’s the frustration I’m experiencing right now.  I have five short stories that I need to complete and a sequel to V-Squad to outline and at some point in time put on the page.  There are only so many hours in the day in which to do it all.  Something has to fall by the wayside; something won’t get done.

Now Available: V-SQUAD!

I’m very happy to announce the arrival of my new e-novel, V-Squad, to digital bookstores where it is now on sale for the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple’s iBook for the iPod/iPhone and iPad, and at

A vampire novel set in World War II, V-Squad is more character-driven than a roller-coaster action adventure.  And although a real departure from traditional horror fiction, it has little in common with the Sookie Stackhouse books and even less with Twilight‘s fey vampires.  At the same time, it is evocative of both literary and film genres that readers will find familiar.  I like to think of it as Dracula-meets-The Dirty Dozen-meets-Ivanhoe — co-starring ninjas.

For a more detailed description, go here, and here for an excerpt.  You can also download the first thirty pages for free on the Smashwords site.

At the Gate

Canon Powershot S013 ISO 100 1/160-f/8.0

Springtime in Virginia is absolutely gorgeous, with a profusion of nature’s vibrant colors and fresh scents.  There’s still very little evidence of it right now, but we’re getting close.  I give it another couple of weeks.

A Good Day to Write

I have the rest of the week off from my regular job so I’m working on my short stories today, four in all, thematically linked to one another and to my new e-novel, V-Squad, each set in a different time period and location.  This collection gives me a chance to explore a common theme and write about history (my favorite subject) at the same time.  So I’m really excited about having the chance to work on them today.

It’s a little slow-going, though.  I’ve been sweating over the first paragraph of one story for the past month, and still can’t seem to get it right.  Knowing what I want to say is one thing, but finding the perfect words to bring that about is a different matter.  It’s not enough to simply describe the scene visually; the real challenge is to evoke the emotional landscape of the characters in such a way that it immediately resonates within the reader.  And that’s where I’m feeling stuck.  Maybe writing about it here will help.

Writers certainly know what I’m talking about.  Sometimes the words just flow effortlessly from one’s brain to the keyboard; and in fact there are occasions when the writer can barely keep up with that inner voice as it sprints headlong in its haste to communicate.  Those times are rare, however, at least they are for me.

Most of the time I — and I suspect that this is true for the majority of writers everywhere — have to labor over every word in my quest to find the ideal term that will describe what’s in my head and my imagination.  So I write, then rewrite, and rewrite some more, and change things around, then disliking what that has wrought, start all over again.  That’s where I am today.

Meanwhile, there’s a gentle rain falling just outside my window, and I can hear the swollen creek rushing through my backyard a little faster than it normally does.  The cool air smells fresh and sweet, and there’s that subtle sense that spring is definitely on its way.  It’s a good day to write.

The Dreaded Blank Page

So, you’re a writer.  See if this sounds familiar.

You stare at it and stare at it, and it seems that it stares back, that blasted cursor winking at you, daring you to write something — a word, a phrase.  Anything.

It’s at that point that you remember that you haven’t fed the cat in an hour or so, so you trudge into the kitchen and sprinkle a few bits of dry food into his bowl.  Maybe he could use some water, too, even though he hasn’t touched what you put down for him just a little while ago.  Then it’s back to the computer.

But before you get back to what you’re supposed to be doing — you know, working on your novel — maybe you should check your email.  You tell yourself that you’ll return to your “real” writing directly after that.

— Nothing, at least nothing important.  Just some spam and an item from the news feed you subscribe to.

Okay, let’s see what the specials are today on

— You read reviews of the new movies followed by your favorites, the ones you’ve seen a hundred times, then check out the new BluRay releases  and read about those, too.  Next, the books, old and new.  You wonder if they still sell Tuscan Milk™ on the “Food” page, or that weird tank thing they sold a few years ago in the now-defunct “Everything Else” category, and before you know it you’re reading reviews of O-rings under “Industrial and Scientific.”  At that point you come to your senses and realize that you’ve gone down a virtual rabbit hole into distraction and avoidance.

So it’s back to the blinking cursor and the empty white page.  Nothing has changed, but of course you knew that would be the case.

Maybe there’s something on TV. . .

It’s the writer’s version of stage fright, that performance anxiety that sets in whenever you are confronted with the empty page, figuratively speaking.  And even though you know that for what it is, and you realize that the only way to overcome it is to simply sit down and force yourself to put something, anything, on the page (again, FS), you can think of a dozen other things you’d rather do instead.  A run to the supermarket; mow the lawn; wash the car; housework (okay, maybe not housework).  Still, you know darn well that the only thing that’s worse than confronting that miserable, taunting cursor is the feeling of guilt and wasted time that you’ll have if you don’t write something today.

So you do what you should have done hours ago.  You pour yourself another cup of coffee, sit down again in your high-backed chair, and start to write.  In no time at all you forget about everything else, and before you know it, it’s dark outside and you realize that you’re hungry.


Coming soon to, Amazon Kindle, and Apple iPad and iPod:  V-Squad.  A new novel by Pamela Marcantel, author of An Army of Angels: A Novel of Joan of Arc.

August 1943, ten months before D-Day. Vampires in league with the Nazis plan to murder Prime Minister Churchill and the Allied High Command, and the only other person who knows about the plot is 753 years old.

A fresh, character-driven take on the vampire genre that deals with the enduring literary themes of friendship, love, loss, revenge and redemption.

Online Books: 21st Century Publishing

Anyone born before or around 1975 can remember a time when people bought popular music recordings on vinyl records; when moviegoers enjoyed films either exclusively in theaters or in second runs on television; and when book stores were small, ma-and-pa affairs in quaint buildings on or near every town’s Main Street.  All of that changed sometime during the late-1970s and 1980s with the coming of CDs, videotape (followed by DVDs), and corporate mega-booksellers. 

What few noticed at the time was that there was an even larger cultural revolution going on behind the scenes, one that began quietly with then teenager Bill Gates’ study of the BASIC computer language and Steve Jobs’ first employment at Hewlitt-Packard.

Fast forward to 2011.  The ongoing transformation in world culture is leading inexorably to the demise of the way that we traditionally have listened to music, watched movies, bought and read books–and yes, done business.  Almost everyone has a computer, whether a desktop or a laptop, and most of us have a cell phone of some kind or another.  Go into any surviving record or electronics store, and you’ll see that the CD section has shrunk considerably.  DVDs and BluRay discs are still prevalent but they, too, are less so than they were five years ago.  As for books. . .well, Barnes and Noble is still apparently going strong; however, the bookseller powerhouse Borders recently declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  We still have music, movies and books, but at an ever-increasing rate they’re relocating online to digital sellers.

At the top of the heap after seventeen years is, which sells all of the above and more, everything from automotive parts and aquariums to golf equipment and computers.  Together with Apple’s iTunes and other mp3/streaming/app-featuring services, Amazon has transformed public consumption of popular culture. 

Amazon’s most revolutionary innovation yet may prove to have been the Kindle reader and the downloadable books it supports; not only because of the device’s compact size and portability, and its books’ relative low prices, but for the imitators it has spawned

Which brings us to the point of this article.  With books going digital, the presence of online publishers has exploded over the past few years.  From the consumers’ point-of-view, books now are cheaper, more portable, and don’t require a trip to the neighborhood book store; all you have to do is point and click your mouse button.  For writers it’s even better.

All of us who write, even those of us who have seen our work published by major houses, have gone through the rejection letter cycle with agents and publishers.  Sometimes it’s because your book doesn’t fit with the commercial demographics the agency or book company caters to; in other instances the work is considered too esoteric, or too traditional, too hard to categorize or not commercial enough–and on and on.  Admittedly, some who submit query letters or manuscripts lack the skill or the experience to create a satisfactory piece of writing.  Whatever the reason, writers traditionally have had to learn a great deal of patience while we wait for the rejections which, on the plus side, compel us to grow thicker skins.

That, too, is changing thanks to the current digital revolution.  More and more writers are choosing to bypass traditional publishing to get their work into virtual book stores where they set their own prices and have more control over their work. 

At the moment it’s kind of like the Wild West in virtual bookland, where anything goes and almost anything at all can be published and sold.  But that’s to be expected in any new industry where standards have yet to be set and the market still hasn’t discovered what there is of value out there and separated it from the incompetently produced.  Time will take care of both, as it always does. 

Whatever happens, whether or not publishing houses bow to the new reality and go exclusively, or primarily, online, or whether they go under altogether, writers will remain.  And as they have ever since the first scribe picked up a crude tool to invent written language, they will continue to find their venues.  Writers are nothing if not adaptable.

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