Why I'm Pulling WRESTLETOWN From Inkshares

I'm pulling WRESTLETOWN from Inkshares this week. Last night I sent the following to supporters on Inkshares:

Dear supporters,

I’m reaching out with some unfortunate news. I will be pulling WRESTLETOWN from Inkshares this week and discontinuing the campaign. All of you will receive refunds at that time.

Why?

This past Thursday I was made aware through a friend that Inkshares went through a major restructuring in July. As part of the restructuring, the new CEO revised the publishing agreement, changing the royalties from 50% gross to 35% net. He wrote a column on Medium.com explaining this, and emailed authors who had successfully funded a book, or had a book in production. However, he/Inkshares neglected to directly notify any of the authors with projects in progress on Inkshares. In a phone call with the CEO on Friday, I was told this was done because it would have been too much work/overwhelmed the company to handle the potential traffic from notifying that many people.

This is both unprofessional and unacceptable.

According to the CEO’s column, this change was done to save the company, as it was bleeding money. Great. I spent an extra month spending time and money promoting WRESTLETOWN because my publisher did not value updating me on a change in our agreement. Beyond that, I spent months pouring hours into a book only to find the terms changed to ones I never would have agreed to in the first place.

I was told by the CEO that the vast majority of authors found this change in terms to be acceptable. Many Inkshares authors are receiving this email tonight as supporters of WRESTLETOWN. I appreciate your support, but you should not find this change acceptable. Not only is it a decrease in percentage, but a change from GROSS to NET – a NET that is only approximately defined. There is no guarantee that Inkshares won’t change the terms again, as they operate with a take-it or leave-it policy.

On a positive note, I so appreciate all of your support over the past few months. From pre-orders, kind words and spreading the word, I can’t tell you enough how much it means to me. I’ve spoken with Andrew and we’ll work to bring WRESTLETOWN to life through another means, but for now I’m going to put the project on hold for a month and regroup.

Until next time…

Let’s kick this pig!

Chris

 

 

Guest Editor at Smokelong Quarterly

smokelong I'm honored to be this week's guest editor for Smokelong Quarterly. Check out the guidelines (1000 words max), and submit! All submissions are blind to avoid any bias/conflict of interest. I'll be reading all of the stories submitted during this week and selecting one for publication - AND giving away a signed copy of Safe Inside the Violence.

There's also a new interview with me up at the site that will give you an idea of the kind of stories I'm most interested in. Check it!

Necon Bound, Wrestletown

All packed and ready to head down to Necon this afternoon. To celebrate the 'original' launch date for the WRESTLETOWN crowdfunding campaign (you know, before I threw caution to the wind and jumped in with both feet a month ago) I have a little deal for anyone who pre-orders the book at the con. So hit me up! I'll have copies of Safe Inside the Violence, What Happened Here, Burn Cards, and Charred Kraken as well. In other thrilling news - I've joined LitReactor as a contributor! In addition to the local Grubstreet, LitReactor has been a major boon to my writing over the past several years. It's a favorite of mine for columns and reviews, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to get a monthly column off and running (more on that next month.)

But until then, please check out Wrestletown, Publishing, and Doing It By Myself - my column on Inkshares, Papercuts J.P., and the decision to crowdfund my debut novel.

Thanks again for all of the support - closing in on halfway to publication at our initial goal of 250 pre-orders!

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Inkshares Interview - Joseph Asphahani & THE ANIMAL IN MAN

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An artifact of immense power puts Maxan in the middle of a secret war between mighty guilds. To overcome the resourceful and sinister masters who would use him, use everyone, as puppets, he must decide which nature defines him. Animal, or man?

Who is Joseph Asphahani and what's THE ANIMAL IN MAN all about?

Legends say that Asphahani was a high school English teacher [turned corporate stiff], and that he cut his literary teeth by helping his students analyze the techniques of effective rhetoric and then refine their own writing. Nowadays (referring to that jab about being a corporate stiff), he helps a multi-million dollar logistics software corporation with their online marketing. By day, not so creative, perhaps, but it pays the bills. By night, he's a proud father of two rambunctious daughters, showing them the wisdom of Samurai Jack and Powerpuff Girls, and he's a sci-fi-fantasy writer into the wee hours of the morn. "The Animal in Man" is a fictional exploration of some questions that have come to bother him for decades. Are we addicted to violence? Is being violent part of our nature? Do we have to be violent to release something worse from our souls, and if so, what? The story of The Animal in Man takes a shot at answering these by following a fox-man named Maxan as he's pulled into an ancient conflict between two powerful, secretive groups. He gets his paws on a weapon that could turn the tide of that shadow war - a mind-altering device capable of turning everyone around him into ravaging beasts - and must ultimately decide what to do with it. A decision that defines who he truly is. ......The story is so complex and epic, to this day its author struggles with summarizing it. Forgive him.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

(Switching to first person now...) Almost all the stories I've ever conceived or written have focused on just one theme in some form or another. Deception. Lies. Manipulation. Whether we lie to others to gain control over them, or we lie to ourselves to pretend we're happy... I often wonder what is the deeper reason for telling lies. Why do we want that control? Why do we seek false happiness? For my own part, I was once lied to by someone very dear to me, and it destroyed me utterly. And yet, finding the truth ultimately set me free. It's very much like the age-old allegory of Plato's Cave. The idea of "The Animal in Man" was born from this need to explore how lies can control individuals, groups, entire nations. What if their innate desire to harm one another turned out to be part of some malicious plan? Would they keep fighting, since it's all they've ever known? Or would they at least try to lay down their arms and find peace? ............Oh, and the book is also very much about anthropomorphic animals. There's an important reason for that. Like how - in this world - we may call someone crazy, and we say "he's an animal!" Is he though? Isn't he still human? What is a human? And is a human really any better than an animal? These kinds of questions fascinate me, and I believe writing this book is my attempt at answering them.

Why Inkshares?

Just look at this place! The website is clean and user-friendly. My book stands shoulder to shoulder with some other really fascinating books on this platform. Self-publishing on Amazon, to me, is like trying to launch a ship into the ocean, only the ship is made from duct tape and cardboard. Inkshares provides the author/boat-builder with better materials to make it, a better pier to launch it from, and a network of support from other builders to keep you going. Your ship is much more likely to sail (and sail in style!) when it sets out from Inkshares.

What books have captured your attention lately?

I'm following so many books, it can be hard to explore all of them. (That would be like a full time job!) But there are definitely some that rise to the top. Honestly, taking a closer look at YOUR book "Wrestletown" is what got me in touch with you to begin with! I would probably not be here answering these questions if I hadn't been mesmerized by the amazing cover-art. The synopsis hooked me, and the first couple chapters reeled me in, man. Besides that, Peter Ryan's novel "Sync City" grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. (Like, seriously, I can feel it's meaty grip pulling my neck around by the ear right now; if you read the first chapter you'll understand what I mean.) Peter's a talented author and worth paying attention to. His second book "Destiny Imperfect" is one I'm closely following. Outside of Inkshares....... There's this one book called "The Buildiers" by Daniel Polansky that was absolutely thrilling. It's a quick read. You can finish it in 2-3 hours. It comes with my highest recommendation. It's also about animals killing eachother: A salamander with knives, a badger with a gatling gun, and a stoat (NOT a skunk!) with a French accent. And so much more.

Who are your greatest influences?

Hmmm... Influences on my writing style are constantly shifting. I'd say that right now, it's Joe Abercrombie. I read "The Blade Itself" a while back, and have just begun the second book in his First Law trilogy, "Before They are Hanged." If you're an author who's heavy on writing an action scene (like me), you can learn A LOT from a scene out of Abercrombie's work. I also like how he handles weaving a character's thoughts into a scene - something that's crucial to how I'm telling the story of "The Animal in Man." Besides Abercrombie, I've carried a copy of Gary Whitta's "Abomination" in my laptop bag since I first started writing (after publishing via inkshares became a reality). I knew who Whitta was, having been a super-fan of The Book of Eli, and I found his writing style in the novel to be really crisp. I am constantly re-reading scenes from Abomination to study how I can keep moving plot, speaking dialogue, relaying thoughts, and describing action, all on the same page, all as engaging as possible. (Also, I'm a huge fan of Dark Souls - the video game franchise - and I found "Abomination" was hitting all those dark-grotesque-monstrosity notes for me.)

What's next for you as a writer?

I have about eight projects that are always kicking around in my mind. I wrote a pretty heavy Game Design Document as my Master's Thesis for Full Sail University - called "The White Shadow." It's pretty frikkin' rad. I'd like very much to shop that around to game development studios and see if a team of creative designers, artists, and programmers would be willing to help me make the damn thing. Other than that, I have an idea for a Y.A. novel in which a young, orphan girl wonders why real life can't be like the life she sees in movies and games, and soon begins to see the lines between them blur thereafter. Finally, I'd really like to tell a branching narrative story I'm calling "Curses and Mists" in a choose-your-own-adventure format. I grew up on those books! I'd really like to see them make a comeback, and Curses' particular story of darkness and insanity would really lend itself well to the genre. Stay tuned, I'm always working on something.

You can read a sample & pre-order THE ANIMAL IN MAN on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Matthew Poat & SQUIDS IN

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When the world’s best online gamer turns out to be an octopus, it’s not long before he goes missing...

Who is Matthew Poat and what's SQUIDS IN all about?

Squids In is an adult oriented story about a guy called Toby and an octopus which gets stolen from a military animal testing lab by activists and dumped into Toby’s pool. It turns out that the octopus is a demon at playing video-games and so Toby creates an online account for the creature, who he calls Hendrix and they take part in an assortment of player versus player death matches for cash prizes, with Toby amassing quite a wealth and becoming an online gaming celebrity. This all comes back to bite him however when Hendrix gets stolen from him AND the military animal testing lab pull him in for intense interrogation over the animal lab break in. The last portion of the book revolves around Toby’s search to get Hendrix back. It’s very much written in a “Pineapple Express” style so if you like that kind of thing, this is definitely the book for you.

From my side, I’m a qualified Motorsport Engineer who currently works as Technical Sales and Marketing Manager at a company called Race-Keeper and is based at Silverstone race circuit in the UK. I write as a means to switch off my race car brain and can generally find solace in the weird and wonderful stories I frequently come up with. Everyone needs a form of stress relief and this is mine.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

My seven month old son was given a “Hank” cuddly orange octopus that stars in the upcoming Finding Nemo sequel “Finding Dory”. When the topic for the Nerdist June writing competition was announced on Inkshares as being video-game related, I just sat on my sofa looking around for inspiration and Hank caught my eye. It was as simple as that. I drafted my idea really early after the contest was announced and it started gaining traction with people. At this time I began thinking that I had a pretty unique story concept compared to the other entrants and this I believe is the books greatest strength. That and of course the wonderful illustrations and front cover created by Eugene Karasz over on DeviantArt.

Why Inkshares?

I was first introduced to Inkshares via the Geek and Sundry website, when they announced they were running a writing competition for hard sci-fi novels. I don’t write hard sci-fi and rarely read anything that fits into that genre but I followed the link anyway and discovered this wonderful community of writers who were helping each other to achieve their goals, offered support and motivation. I think that was something I needed in order to get on and write and probably the reason I stuck around. There are some truly great people on Inkshares. I may have underestimated the shear amount of time and effort it requires to have a truly successful crowdfunding campaign, but if I finish in the contests top 3, it will all have been worth it. If I don’t, its great experience for next time.

What books have captured your attention lately?

Wow, there are so many but I will list a few from Inkshares that have really captured my attention. First it is my fellow Nerdist contest entrant Regina McMenomy and her book “Mothering: The Game”. Just like Squids In, it is such a different take on the whole “write a book around the theme of video games” and it is all the more awesome for it. Second it would have to be “Monkey Business” by Landon Crutcher, a book that is now in full publication. It’s an absolute riot to read and if you like a book with a good injection of comedy, you should pick up a copy of this one. Finally “Tantalus Depths” by Evan Graham caught my attention enough to place an order, even though it is in the hard sci-fi genre and I mentioned before that this isn’t something I’m all that in to. The thing “Tantalus Depths” has going for it is an extremely engaging tale told by a highly skilled writer.

Who are your greatest influences?

I guess the biggest influences on both my writing style and choice of topics have got to be Hunter S. Thompson, Walter Moers and Ben Aaronovitch, however I must say that I am an extremely avid audiobook fan. Since I do a lot of travelling, for long flights or car journeys, there is nothing better than putting on a good audiobook and listening to a great story. I actually created a list of my favourite Audiobooks and posted it on my LinkedIn profile. Feel free to go check it out - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/audiobookbook-recommendations-those-long-journeys-we-all-matthew-poat?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

What's next for you as a writer?

My ultimate short-term goal is to finish in the top 3 in the Nerdist video-game contest with Squids In, which would guarantee publication. If the book does not finish that high, I’m not sure if I really want to limp on to quill. That’s something I need to figure out in a few weeks depending on how things go. I would love to publish the book properly however, just so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy this silly story and the wonderful illustrations by Eugene. I have also been toying around with writing something about a guy who comes to consciousness on the floor of a music festival tent. A series of flashbacks would propel the tale forward and explain who he was and why he passed out. Some of the story will be autobiographical, like the bit where he takes magic mushrooms, gets tangled up in the ropes of someone’s tent and then when that person pops out to see what’s going on, he hallucinates a spider coming to eat him after trapping him in its web. That’s something that actually happened to me a number of years ago at the Reading music festival. We will see if that tale ever makes it onto the page. Maybe some things are better left to memory.

You can read a sample & pre-order SQUIDS IN on Inkshares.

Happy Pub Day to Papercuts J.P. + Giveaway!

Happy Pub Day to Papercuts J.P. and The Papercuts Anthology: What Happened Here, Volume 1! I'm honored to have a piece featured in such a wonderful collection alongside the likes of Randy Susan Meyers, Paul Tremblay, Jennifer Tseng, and more.

AND to celebrate, I'm giving away copies to two lucky WRESTLETOWN supporters. Thought about tagging in but have yet to make the jump? Pre-order by midnight this Friday (7/15) for a chance to win!

Giveaway (2)

Inkshares Interview - G.A. Finocchiaro & THE KNIGHTMARES

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9 geek-culture loving, bantering punk kids are pitted against an evil, sexy succubus from another dimension and her demented plans for revenge. There are ghosts and pirate treasure and alien gods and alchemy and exorcisms and lots of weird stuff too.

Who is G.A. Finocchiaro and what's THE KNIGHTMARES all about?

G.A. Finocchiaro is a single 37 year old Creative Director and writer living in Philadelphia, PA. Born to be a storyteller and never one to pass up a fun analogy, G writes through the lens of the strange, like Joe Dante and John Landis had a brainchild nine months after they invited Don Coscarelli over for a threesome (yeah, he went there). An oddball lover of all things geek, G hopes to inspire as he was inspired for the next generation of genre fans to come.

THE KNIGHTMARES is about 9 geek-culture loving, bantering punk kids that are pitted against an evil, sexy succubus from another dimension and her demented plans for resurrecting her long lost warlord lover. At its heart, The Knightmares is a story about loyalty and friendship, and the kind of crazy inside jokes that develop within those kinds of close knit circles. There just happens to be this crazy villainess named Nexus who comes in and ruins the party, along with her cloaked acolyte minions, a horde of mercenary werewolves, and a lunatic with a possessed stuffed toy elephant.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

I was inspired by my friends back in college, and the crazy things that we experienced together. Each character was loosely based on someone I know. I’ve always felt that writers and artists should create things they themselves would enjoy, and so THE KNIGHTMARES grew from there. I am a huge fan of the supernatural and supernatural fiction, and what better way for me to create and write than to take the things I love and put my own spin on it.

I have always wanted to be published, but to be published and inspire others to do the same is really the full dream. To me, that is what makes it worth developing.

Why Inkshares?

I submitted many queries to traditional literary agents and many times received rejections less than 15 minutes after I submitted. I realized that many of these agents weren’t even reading my pitch, and those that did gave me feedback to keep trying as the industry is very subjective. Inkshares gave me a destination, a benchmark to hit rather than an unending amount of research and hoping that one of those agents will pay attention and appreciate the first paragraph enough to want to read more. Crowdfunding is difficult, but it’s more tangible and you are more in control of your fate by finding potential fans than by emailing agents that may never even respond.

What books have captured your attention lately?

I recently finished The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman, which was excellent. I also finished David Wong’s Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, which was another great novel by someone I hold up as one of my largest influences.

I also recently started Monkey Business, an Inkshares book by Landon Crutcher. I’m about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it. I’m looking forward to more from him, but also I was pleasantly reassured that Inkshares has some great writers on board. It’s a professional reassurance that we belong on bookshelves.

Who are your greatest influences?

My influences are very wide ranging and not limited to books and authors. I am a huge John Carpenter fan. His work, like Big Trouble in Little China and Prince of Darkness, have really been the backbone of my inspiration.

David Wong has had a huge influence on me. His ability to write comedy and scare at the same time is excellent, and I can’t wait for more work from him. Neil Gaiman and his wide ranging books of fantasy have inspired me more than any other author.

Everything from Doctor Who to Monster Squad, to John Cusack classics like Say Anything and One Crazy Summer, to Joe Hill’s book Horns and Dan Harmon’s TV show Community, all have inspired me greatly. I could go on and on...

What's next for you as a writer?

Well, first I want to make sure I concentrate on THE KNIGHTMARES and pushing it through crowdfunding to Quill. I am about three-quarters of the way done on my own third round of edits on the manuscript, and will be finishing that up as well.

After that, I want to do my due diligence and continue to promote THE KNIGHTMARES by going on the convention circuit and hitting up as much of the potential fan base as I can, and try to get the word out there.

And while I’m working on that, I have several more books I am either wanting to write or currently writing, including my next book, VEXED, which is currently up on Inkshares as a draft. It still has a ways to go, and lots of editing to be done, but the tone and the subject is vastly different than THE KNIGHTMARES. I think it’ll be a hit in its own right.

 

You can read a sample & pre-order THE KNIGHTMARES on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Evan Graham & TANTALUS DEPTHS

Tantalus Depths

The Diamelen’s survey mission to Tantalus 13 takes an unexpected turn when the entire planet turns out to be an ancient artificial structure. What lies in the heart of Tantalus? And why is the crew’s AI, SCARAB, willing to kill to keep its secret?

Who is Evan Graham and what’s TANTALUS DEPTHS all about?

It’d be great if there was an easy answer to “who is Evan Graham.” That’d be awesome. Alas, I’ve been asking that question for almost three decades now and I can’t say I’ve come anywhere near a satisfactory answer.

I have a Bachelors in Education Studies from Kent State University, along with the triple minor of reading, writing, and theatre. It took me ages to graduate, since I changed my majors and minors no less than four times, and ultimately I’m not even really using the degree I have. I never felt drawn down any specific career path. Mainly, this was because I couldn’t muster up much interest in the comings and goings of the world I live in. I always had my attention on better things.

By that token, call me a dreamer. I’ve always had my head in one fantasy world or another. I refused to grow out of my childhood obsession with fictional worlds and universes. I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid, creating and sharing my own fictional universes with family and friends. Though I’ve dreamed of publishing a story since my youth, I never dared to try until this year, with Tantalus Depths.

Tantalus Depths is the first story I’ve written that I felt was truly ready for prime time. It’s a solid sci-fi thriller with a complex world, multi-layered characters, a dark mystery, and gripping action. It arose out of my love for classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and carries the same kind of theme of humanity’s desire to explore the stars despite its childlike lack of perspective for its own cosmic importance.

As the Crew of The Diamelen arrives on Tantalus 13, they find themselves immersed in an ancient celestial mystery. Tantalus 13 isn’t a planet after all, but a planet-sized artificial construct of unknown purpose. What does it do? What was it for? What happened to its creators? Why did they go to such lengths to camouflage Tantalus 13 from the rest of the universe?

If it wasn’t enough that the crew of The Diamelen had these answers to seek, they must also contend with the will of SCARAB: their artificially intelligent base of operations. Despite being programmed to serve and defend its human masters at all costs, SCARAB seems to hold its own agenda: an agenda it will kill to pursue.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

Aspects of Tantalus Depths had been tumbling around in my imagination for quite some time, but they didn’t congeal into one single story until one of my advanced creative writing classes in college. I was given an assignment to write a story from the perspective of a person unlike myself. I’d been thinking of writing a story with a female protagonist for some time, as sort of an homage to Ripley from the Alien franchise, so I elected to put some of those ideas onto paper for the class assignment. Originally, it was only to have been a short story, between 15 and 25 pages long. Once I got into it, though, the pieces really began to fall together. I saw huge potential, and started drawing from even more influences, fleshing out the world-building, developing the characters. It wasn’t long before I realized I had way too much content for just a short story, and what had originally been a 15 page short-story assignment eventually evolved into a 50-60 page final project. I wrote the first three or four chapters in that class, then picked at the story for a while until I finally finished it in a different creative writing class with the same professor.

As much as I love writing, I don’t do it unless I have something really worth writing about. Tantalus Depths is important to me in many ways. I wanted to give the world another solid female protagonist (far, far too uncommon in this genre). I wanted to give the world a new take on the classic “evil AI” antagonist. I wanted to instill readers with an existential dread while also stimulating that wonder of discovery that Sci-Fi does so well. Above all else, though, I just wanted to tell a good story. So I did.

Why Inkshares?

I’ve dipped my toes into the world of publishing several times over the years, but always yanked them back out again immediately afterwards and ran off back into the house to cry in the corner. I looked into self-publishing once or twice, but realized pretty quickly that it was no place for someone as socially anxious as I am to find any kind of success. I looked into traditional publishing, then went onto a literary agent’s website and say the foreboding words “Just so you know, we get about 500 submissions a week, so we probably won’t pay much attention to your five-page excerpt at all. Nothing personal.” Well, it was something like that. Again, I was discouraged, and gave up before I even tried writing a good query letter. This year, I made exactly one New Years resolution for the entire year: I would get Tantalus Depths published somewhere, somehow. A couple months into the year, though, and I still hadn’t made any progress.

Then Inkshares all but literally fell into my lap. I follow several shows on Geek and Sundry, so I visit their site often. Then one day, I popped in and saw an announcement about a hard sci-fi competition, the winner to receive full publication and distribution. I stared blankly at the announcement before reality finally set in: here it is. This is how Tantalus Depths gets published.

I knew pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to win the contest. I didn’t find out about it until it was almost a month in, but as I familiarized myself with Inkshares, I came to realize that it is a place where you can really see results if you try hard enough. With self-publishing, you are on your own with the editing process, and you’ll only sell as many copies as you’re able to personally convince people to buy. With traditional publishing, the odds of any publication house even noticing you are slim, much less picking you up for a contract. Inkshares meets you halfway. It takes a huge amount of work to reach those publishing goals, but when you do, your efforts are rewarded with  a real, honest-to-goodness publication deal. I honestly think services like Inkshares are the future of publication, and I kind of feel like I’m getting in on the ground floor of something big. Assuming I do make it, that is.

What books have captured your attention lately?

One unfortunate side effect of running a campaign like this is the way it just about consumes 100% of your free time. I’m typically a compulsive consumer of all kinds of media: books, comics, video games, movies, new media, etc. But right now, when I get home from work, when I get up in the morning, and from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I’m working on getting new readers for my book. This hasn’t left me much time to check out other books. On the other hand, I’ve become aware of many new authors also funding on Inkshares. So far the only actual book I’ve been able to pick up from an Inkshares author has been Abomination by Gary Whitta (which, from the first two chapters, is quite good), but there are several other books I’m looking forward to getting a hold of that are either currently in the production process or still funding. And the Wolf Shall Dwell, by Joni Dee, Capes’ Side Bay by James Rasile, and Rune of the Apprentice by Jamison Stone are my top 3 right now. I eagerly look forward to getting my hands on copies of all three, but I’m also going to need to look into getting a new bookshelf for all the other books I’m going to be getting from Inkshares once they get through the production process. The place is an absolute literary goldmine.

Who are your greatest influences?

In the scientific community, scientists and theoreticians build upon the discoveries and research of each other. It’s a free exchange of knowledge, and no one could be where they are if not for those who came before. With science fiction writing, it’s much the same. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve taken notes from virtually every sci-fi writer that I’ve encountered, on some level.

Tantalus Depths takes most of its influence from three separate inspirations: 2001: a Space Odyssey, The Forbidden Planet, and Alien. I could write an essay on how those stories have influenced this one, but that would be shockingly dull to read. Suffice it to say, those are the big ones, and anyone who’s familiar with them will undoubtedly sense some familiar flavors when they pick up Tantalus Depths.

There are other influencers that are less obvious or direct. Most notably, I’ve made use of Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics, with some modifications of my own. Inspiration has come from everything from the Mass Effect video game series, to Stephen King, to ancient Greek mythology. Though it doubtless sounds like a jumbled grab-bag of influences, I assure you they fit together surprisingly well.

What’s next for you as a writer?

What’s next? Finishing my campaign. Getting Tantalus Depths through the production process. Putting it on shelves and in e-readers. Sharing it with the world. That’s the hook.

Once Tantalus Depths is out, I can properly begin to share my stories with the world. Tantalus Depths will have two sequels, for one. Beyond that, though, I have many other stories to tell. Tantalus Depths and its sequels will exist in a sort of anthology universe, where I will tell other stories set in different times and places with different casts of characters, united with the common theme of dark cosmic mystery. One story I know I will tell at some point is Proteus: a sci-fi adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III set on a multi-generational deep-space colony ship. Outside that anthology universe I have dozens of other stories to tell, ranging from gritty action-heavy space operas to tongue-in-cheek sci-fi comedies, to high fantasy epics. I’m placing no limits on myself. Once Tantalus Depths gets the ball rolling, it’s not going to stop. This is where my writing career launches.

You can read a sample & pre-order TANTALUS DEPTHS on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Tony Valdez & DAX HARRISON

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In a space-faring future, an alien war criminal seeks vengeance on humanity, and a celebrated-but-bumbling hero is forced back into action... whether he likes it or not.

Who is Tony Valdez and what's DAX HARRISON all about?

Tony Valdez is a fledgling author who has decided to write silly stories, and he also feels equally silly talking about himself in the 3rd person. :) I'm also a big nerd, a mediocre podcast host, an occasional musician, and full-time maker of funny faces in the bathroom mirror.

DAX HARRISON is a fast-paced, action/comedy novel set in a spacefaring Star Trek-like future. The story focuses on Commander Harrison, widely known as a legendary soldier and hero, a Captain America for the space age if you will. Dax made his claim to fame a decade ago, winning a key victory in an alien invasion war which threatened to wipe out humanity as we spread out into space. ...Or so we've been led to believe...

Since then, Dax's career has faded into obscurity. However, the legend of the commander has grown immensely in the public eye through pulp stories and media based on exceedingly embellished versions of his exploits. Dax has not-so-humbly allowed himself to enjoy a bit of that fame (and a few royalty checks) while coasting into retirement on cushy assignments. But as he counts the days until he can disappear on a beach somewhere, naturally, fate has other plans.

A dangerous shadow from the past puts a wrench in Dax's easygoing existence, and he is forced to finally live up to his grandiose legends, whether he likes it or not.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

Dax began as a humble idea for a low budget comedic sci-fi short film about a bumbling space captain, who drunkenly falls asleep at the wheel and nearly crashes his ship. A simple one-off scene (which remains one of the first scenes in the book) that I planned to film with friends and post online for fun. Unfortunately, I fell hopelessly in love with the characters, kept writing, and ended up with a feature film script. While proud, I quickly realized I had absolutely no budget, resources, or Hollywood contacts to possibly make the giant spectacle come to life.

Eventually, I decided this was a good thing. As much as I adore movies, I didn't want to spend years pushing, wheeling and dealing, and/or begging for my story to see the light of day. I just wanted to tell it. So I set my mind to adapt the script to a novel and self-publish via Amazon.

Why Inkshares?

Inkshares provided a number of opportunities that self-publishing didn't. Were I to secure enough pre-orders, Inkshares would fund the publishing run, including physical and ebook copies, provide full editing services, cover design, and marketing. Furthermore, I discovered the company via an announcement of a joint contest with Nerdist Industries, offering guaranteed publishing at a lower pre-order total, so long as I managed to be in the top 3 against the other competing authors.

I didn't win the competition, but I eventually secured the standard number of orders necessary for a "light publishing", which Inkshares now markets under their Quill imprint. I'll still be doing a bit of heavy lifting, but Inkshares will take care of copy edits, get physical copies into the hands of my backers, and continue offering physical and ebook copies through their site and the other major online retailers. The team is currently patiently waiting for me to finish editing the manuscript (which I aim to complete this weekend - 6/25 - 6/26) and hand it in to continue the production.

The process of campaigning on Inkshares also granted a major and unexpected benefit: Connecting with an amazing community of fellow authors. As the resident goofball who originally "just wanted to make movies", I was touched by the unbelievable support by other campaigning writers, working together to encourage, offer guidance, and help each other build reader bases. It's been incredibly humbling, and I couldn't have done it without them.

What books have captured your attention lately?

Too many. This might sound like a pandering answer (I swear it's not). I'm mostly looking forward to a few books from my fellow Inkshares authors. I just started diving into my copy of Monkey Business by Landon Crutcher (You can find my endorsement on the cover). I'm itching to start my ebook copies of The Life Engineered by JF Dubeau and Ageless by Paul Inman. She Is The End by A.C. Weston (once it publishes) is also at the top of my list. Basically, I have a massive backlog thanks to being fully engrossed in putting the final touches on Dax. ...I also have a very fancy edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes sitting on my bookshelf. Shhh, don't tell my mother-in-law I haven't read it yet. She bought it for me several Christmases ago.

Who are your greatest influences?

For Dax in particular, it's an unusual answer. As I said, it was intended as a big Hollywood movie, so my immediate influences are more cinema-minded rather than traditional authors and books. Dax comes from my love of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and other classic Spielberg and Lucas adventures. The hero is also a rogue and somewhat of a selfish cad. A blend of Ash Williams from Evil Dead/Army of Darkness and Zapp Brannigan from Futurama.

In general, I just love good stories in any form. Adventures in particular. Grand stories from books, movies, TV shows, comics, videogames and so on. Anything that makes me laugh, cry, cheer and/or leaves me in awestruck wonder. I eat that stuff up.

What's next for you as a writer?

DAX 2 is the obvious answer. Haha! I have the beginnings of an outline, and I'm excited where it's headed. But first I may run to the hills, live in a cave for awhile, tackle my backlog of books and videogames, and come back with my creative batteries recharged. I'll invite my wife to the cave too. She's missed her husband dearly while he's been glued to the computer over the past year. :)

You can read a sample & pre-order DAX HARRISON on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Stephen Carignan & THE SLEEPING MAN

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The last of the dreamwalkers seeks for answers in the long lost Compendium, but the greatest mystery lies within his own past.

Who is Stephen Carignan  and what's THE SLEEPING MAN all about?

Well, at least we didn’t waste any time with simple questions, as not only what one uses to define themselves indicates quite a lot, but how they prioritize what they use to create said definition. In essence, I’m just a man. Most of my choices center around my daughter and my ability to provide for her and my ex-wife. I was doing stand-up and acting in Chicago when we split and had no way to move to LA, provide, and be there for those all important moments, so I joined the Navy. My test scores were very good, and I became an IT Technician. The Sleeping Man is the confluence of inspiration and discipline. I have always been writing something, it was something my mother taught me to combat severe dyslexia. I was in second grade and unable to read because of what they wanted to call ADHD and my mom called just being a kid. She sat with me and read and reread Stuart Little  until I could read. Then I was doing homework before class ended because everyone was moving just so damn slow. The idea for this work came to me when I was sixteen, among many others, but I couldn’t flush it out. Well, years later the Navy is paying for me to get my Masters degree in writing and the discipline provided allowed me to revisit some ideas, and in this case, finish this actual book.

The book itself is about the last of the Dreamwalkers known only as The Sleeping Man, a nomadic people characterized by their striking violet eyes, and his quest to find any means of stopping the Volto Empire. He is capable of seeing and entering the Dreamscape, a collection of projected dreams from the conscious world around him, and uses this ability to read a person’s intentions, emotions, and secret desires. Along the way he discovers secrets about his own past, abilities, and finds the long lost Compendium. The lattermost is said to be the seat of all knowledge and guarding by ferocious creatures, but The Sleeping Man has one thing the Volto Empire does not, a clue.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

This idea, like all great ideas, didn’t come from anywhere, but rather a piece of a lot of different things gets locked in my brain and I don’t know if it was in the shower or waking from a dream, but the first sentence popped into my head. A featureless desert, grey and devoid of landmarks. I knew this guy was crossing it, which is supposed to be impossible, and I knew he would do anything to accomplish this.

The reason I’m pursuing this, is simply because I believe in it. When I was acting and doing stand-up, there are times when you have to audition. In these times, you are physically putting yourself out there, and whether or not you are feeling confident, you have to project confidence. As I was writing The Sleeping Man, I kept plodding through because I had a word goal and now the Naval discipline and Masters training to keep going rather than let the idea die off and wait for inspiration. Now that it’s done, I don’t remember which parts frustrated me, I just see parts I need to fix.

Why Inkshares?

I chose Inkshares initially because of a contest hosted by The Nerdist. I felt that I would be able to finish the first draft and if it sold and published I would have to finish. If it didn’t, then I would move on to another idea because people weren’t having it. Well, I didn’t win the contest. Afterwards the CEO called me and talked about my project. He said there was definitely something there and he felt there were some things I could have done marketing-wise to help myself. That was what kept The Sleeping Man alive, because I wasn’t going to try again. Instead, I took what he said and felt if I focused more on a few keys elements: larger reader base, more social networking, etc, I would be able to publish. Then the Quill goal was introduced and I thought to myself, if I have enough readers to hit the Quill goal, I will be published. I can do that. Once I hit enough readers, I opened up the pre-orders again, and in just over a month, I’m sitting at 202 pre-orders and there’s still just under three months left. I’m confident The Sleeping Man will be published. In essence, writers oftentimes don’t know if they’re heading in the right direction, and you can ask people you know, but it’s better to have support in the form of constructive criticism, recommendations, and commenting on excerpts.

What books have captured your attention lately?

Most recently I’ve read Sapiens, Trekonomics (An Inkshares success!), On Basilisk Station, and An Unattractive Vampire (Inkshares again!). Things like The Martian, Ready Player One, The Time of Discontent, and others were all within the past three months or so. I alternate between audiobooks and physical/digital copies.

As far as Inkshares is concerned, one of the ways I’ve increased my reader base is by reviewing every single book that is recommended to me. Perhaps my ADHD and overcoming my dyslexia have somehow combined into my ability to read exceptionally fast. I also sometimes use speed reading apps to flash text in a more efficient way then reading left to right. It’s hard to pick out, but I’m fairly excited about Too Many Controllers which is an anthology of some of Inkshares best, Deus Hex Machina because of the amazingly imaginative world, and These Are My Friends on Politics makes me laugh.

Who are your greatest influences?

Aside from the obvious influence my mother had on my ability to read, once that gate was unlocked I devoured books. The Redwall  series as a kid, then later Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth, and Lord of the Rings. These are all amazing series, but once I deviated off the beaten path there H.P. Lovecraft blew my tiny mind out of my head. When Stephen King deviated off his won beaten path with the Dark Tower series, I was equally amazed. Paulo Cohelo also was an influence, and then I began to gravitate to these works that are set in no where worlds, complete with their own rules and laws. Most recently I’ve been finding self-published authors like Hugh Howey, and then now finding Inkshares writers.

What's next for you as a writer?

Since I have no doubt The Sleeping Man will be published because this go round I’ve had blog posts like this one and interviews which have brought in so many readers, my next step will be to finish the second draft of The Sleeping Man. The third pass should be faster, and then it’s off to editing (knock on wood). I don’t have the idea for a sequel at this exact moment, but one idea I made as a joke which might come to fruition is Zombie Pirates v. Vampire Ninjas. This is a tongue in cheek poke at cashing in on genres popularity that is partly inspired by Lesbian Zombies from Outer Space, an independent comic written by Jave Galt-Miller.

I don’t know what will be next for me as a writer. I just know I started writing at a very young age and just have never managed to stop.

You can read a sample & pre-order THE SLEEPING MAN on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Prescott Harvey & In Beta

When two friends realize they’re NPCs in a video game,  they hack reality to make their lives awesome and wind up targeted for deletion.

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Prescott Harvey's IN BETA is one of my favorite books currently funding on Inkshares. Harvey's the author of The World of Warcraft’s Guide to Winning at Life, and creator of the viral video/open letter telling JJ Abrams how to make Star Wars great again, which Abrams incorporated into The Force Awakens. All in all Harvey sounds like a pretty cool dude, and I'm digging what I've read of IN BETA.

Elon Musk thinks we’re living inside a video game, and this novel is primed to run with that notion and then some. This is an awesome high concept paired with a brilliant proven quantity in Prescott Harvey — dude, sign me up as an IN BETA-tester! - Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of ROBOPOCALYPSE

Who is Prescott Harvey and what's IN BETA all about?

I tend to think about my life like this: My 20's were about expanding my universe, and my 30's are about shrinking it back down.

My 20s were for adventure. Traveling abroad, trips to Burning Man, living a feral existence out in the woods, sailing the Pacific Coast. Etc.

Now, in my 30s, it's about living in a neighborhood, biking to work, getting to know a community, giving back, establishing roots. It's about depth over breadth.

So that's a narrow overview of me. IN BETA is a book about two lazy high schoolers who realize they live inside a simulated reality. Instead of trying to escape, they hack reality to make their lives awesome. And then they get targeted for deletion by a systems admin.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

It's been years in the making. I don't say that to imply that it's some sort of masterpiece; more that it's been a very difficult story to develop.

I'm a fan of bad movies, and a friend recommended I watch "The Miami Connection." I did, and was blown away. The movie is not nearly as good / bad as the trailer makes it seem, but it's still amazing how quintessentially 80's the movie manages to be. If you haven't seen it, it's about a group of friends who are in a rock and roll band, and they're also all blackbelts in karate, and of course an evil ninja clan threatens one of their girlfriends. It has kung fu, (surprisingly good) music, machine guns, motorcycles... basically, everything you'd want in an 80's movie. And I started thinking "God, wouldn't it be amazing to push this even further?"

So I started by researching all my favorite 80's cliches. From lightsabers, to time machines, to hoverboards, to Nazi's, to rock and roll, to video games. Even cliche 80's phrases like "lock and load", "let's roll", "let's ride" etc. I don't even remember what was on the list, but it was long. The working title was "Awesome Movie." (and yes, it was originally going to be a movie).

But I needed some sort of device to tie it all together and make it work. How can you effectively have every awesome thing in a story, without it all falling apart? The device I came up with was a magical VHS tape that got struck by lightning to release a Jumanji-style 80's experience. But even that was still a little too loosey goosey, and I was having a hard time staying invested in the story. Which, when you're whole premise is one schlocky joke, that's of course going to be an issue.

Around this point, the trailer for Kung Fury came out. Not only did it beat me to the punch, but it did an awesome job of it. And then Lego Movie came out, and I started realizing I wasn't the only one pondering a 'more-is-more' approach, where everything and the kitchen sink could be refreshing and fun.

Long story short, I got to rethinking my premise. I finally struck upon a device I enjoyed (The Matrix as a comedy) that allowed me to do the things I wanted, but could still ground the characters and give them depth. I personally am already starting to tire of the "more is more" approach. And if I am, I'm willing to bet others are, too.

So I started thinking that if I wrote it as a book, I'd get to spend more time with the characters, not focus as much on gags, and could explore interesting existential tangents without sticking so purely to genre conventions like a movie would require me to do. A book sounded more and more appealing, and here we are.

Why Inkshares?

I'd been aware of Inkshares for a bit. I even had a different novel that I was planning to crowd fund, maybe next year. Then they announced their videogame competition with Nerdist, and suddenly it was (to quote another 80's cliche) "go time."

What books have captured your attention lately?

I'm going to be honest, at the risk of alienating people. I don't read a lot of new books. I mean "new" in the sense of recently published, and also just books that I am unfamiliar with.

When I tell colleagues and coworkers this, they always look at me like I'm some elitist snob. Which, you know, I hope I'm not, but I've heard the accusation enough (mostly from my wife) that I'm willing to consider the possibility.

Here's my rationale:

Reading books takes time. Just like watching a movie or a TV show (which I'm also careful about). When I do venture out and read a new book, I am nine times out of ten disappointed. It's probably because I'm older now, and have less free time, but I have no stomach for mediocrity in storytelling. I have my selection of favorite books. When I re-read them, they move me. I laugh. I cry. I put them down and regard life. There is so much in each of them, so much to be gained on every re-read, it saddens me to think I will probably only read them a dozen times before I die.

Here are some of the books on this list: Lord of the Rings, Sometimes A Great Notion, Watership Down, Confederacy of Dunces, Wind in the Willows.

I just finished The Once and Future King for the second time, and it's going on the list. I'm about to start The Fountainhead for the 3rd time.

Now there is a tremendous and obvious downside to only rereading your favorite books, and that is you don't get exposed to new things. I'm very aware of this, and try to rectify it as best I can. I do take recommendations from trusted sources. Two years ago I read House of Leaves on a friend's recommendation, and absolutely loved it.

But yeah, I'm actively working to not be such a snob.

Who are your greatest influences?

The Simpsons, Michael Crichton, Ken Kesey, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast. A random list I know. For better or worse The Simpsons have shaped my sense of humor. I started watching in 2nd grade. Now I can trace the rhythm and meter of my every joke back to a classic Simpsons line.

Michael Crichton because, as a kid, I read him more than anyone else. I still study his books to find how he keeps his readers hooked. Other authors (Stephen King) are arguably better writers, and I enjoy King, but I love that Crichton re-inventing and re-popularized the victorian adventure novel. Genius.

Ken Kesey nailed (perhaps formed?) my worldview. Especially in Sometimes A Great Notion, his melancholy world tinged with awe and beauty, and the mixture of defiance and despair his character's grapple with... he more than anyone is responsible for showing me the themes I want to explore.

And lastly: Beauty and the Beast. A good friend once tried to tell me that Jame Cameron's AVATAR was the pinnacle of human artistic achievement. What, he argued, was more aesthetically amazing than that movie? The Mona Lisa? The Sistine Chapel? I thought for a moment and then responded BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. With the exception of one gratuitous and superfluous song ("Be Our Guest"), this movie is the pinnacle of storytelling. Every story beat has a purpose, serves multiple functions, and flows together beautifully. And while the orchestral score is not as iconic as other movies, I would challenge anyone to find a score that better serves its purpose.

What's next for you as a writer?

Get better!

I'm lucky enough to write for a living, working as an advertising copywriter. Writing in different brand voices, writing headlines with only have 3 - 5 words... this has helped me immensely. My goal, for the rest of my life, is to continually get better. I want to be a great writer. There. I said it. Gauntlet thrown.

But that's not a very tangible goal, so: There's a book after IN BETA. It's not as lighthearted or "fun" as IN BETA. It's a Crichton-esque book that (hopefully) has a little more depth. It's a Western that takes place in the last remaining slice of American wilderness, and it's inspired by "Heart of Darkness." And that's all I'll say.

You can read a sample & pre-order IN BETA on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Rick Heinz & The Seventh Age: Dawn

As part of the campaign for WRESTLETOWN I'm featuring weekly interviews with other Inkshares authors whose work I think you might enjoy. First up - Rick Heinz & THE SEVENTH AGE: DAWN.

Before the age of reason and science, magic ruled the world. Now, it’s coming back and if most of humanity gets wiped out in the process....well, sometimes you have to break a few eggs.

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THE SEVENTH AGE: DAWN has already been successfully funded through Inkshares (though you can still pre-order), hitting the stands this November. It also received a great mention from Publishers Weekly yesterday.

Who is Rick Heinz and what's THE SEVENTH AGE: DAWN all about?

Rick Heinz is just some bloke with an overactive imagination who sleeps a lot despite drinking copious amounts of coffee. By day, I’m a electrician who crawls around in the bowels of Chicago, but by night: I’m a hardcore storyteller and gamer. Constantly with my nose in some book or running an event.

The Seventh Age is my first novel. Set in the modern age, it follows a global conspiracy as heretics work in the shadows to tear down the barrier that keeps humanity ignorant of demons, forgotten myths, and magic.

Inspired by works such as Neverwhere and American Gods. This tale explores the ramifications of ancient creatures waging war in the shadows - and specifically, what happens when that war spreads into public view.

A world of moral grey areas, ancient myths, and Illuminati-style conspiracy with powerful beings who blithely step into the most mundane circumstances of everyday life. Where your favorite street-taco vendor could at any moment have his sales interrupted by a scuttling imp, and where being a multi-century-old warlock with a grand agenda doesn’t help you file building permits.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

Ever crawl through hidden railways under Chicago? Since I work in construction I’ve come to learn that all cities have - hidden just out of sight - an amazing labyrinth of architecture that has a story. For a decade I’ve been crafting the setting of The Seventh Age by studying secret societies and urban legends. The more time I spent wandering around near-empty buildings at 4 A.M. the more inspired I got.

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Why Inkshares?

So… it’s 9 A.M. and I’m trying to avoid the giant flaming ball of death that sits in our sky by hiding within my air-conditioned sanctuary. My wife sends me a text message telling me I should enter this contest with The Nerdist that’s hosted on Inkshares. She found out about it by listening to the podcast. So, I entered. Out of 300+ entries I ended up in the top 5 after a grueling contest. Since that time the platform has grown on me, but my entry into picking Inkshares was really random.

What books have captured your attention lately?

I’ve got two actually. One is Scorch: A graphic novel by Ashley Witter. It’s about a demon living an immortal life as a young teen in suburban America. To keep this, she’s gotta cough up 10,000 souls as payment. Plus interest. It comes to print in July and I backed the kickstarter for it.

The other is Scott Kenemore’s zombie collection. I mean collection as well. I just found out about all these things: The code of the Zombie Pirate, Zombies vs Nazis, the Zen of Zombie (Even) better living through the undead. So on and so forth.

Akira

Who are your greatest influences?

In the writing world, Chuck Wendig, Neil Gaiman, and Robert Jordan. Writers who have influenced many, for we all stand on the shoulders of giants. In life however, there are countless historical figures that I draw inspiration from. I’m extremely politically active and particular time periods in history like the Chicago riots or the Pullman Strike are things I draw a lot from. For the past decade, I’ve been engrossed into biographies of Nikola Tesla vs Thomas Edison.

What's next for you as a writer?

Seventh Age: Dystopia the sequel is what’s next. I’ll be sticking with Inkshares as a platform. They have a lot of fantastic ideas and a great direction planned ahead. All I need to do is tackle a few taco-vendors, stock up on some crappy coffee, and then chain myself to a desk next month to start writing.

Which probably won’t happen because The Seventh Age: Dawn comes out on November 1st and I’m going to end up pacing in circles as reviews come in. But after that for sure. Start the next book. Always. Keep. Writing.

You can read a sample & pre-order THE SEVENTH AGE: DAWN on Inkshares.

Wrestletown is Go!

Wrestletown is go! Temp Cover

Officially announcing the launch of my debut novel, WRESTLETOWN, on Inkshares! WRESTLETOWN is an illustrated novel featuring cover and 10-15 illustrations by the incredible Andrew MacLean (Head Lopper, Image Comics).

Inkshares is a publisher that functions similar to Kickstarter (crowdfunded) except it is by copy and not dollar amount (therefore pursuing a goal of reaching readers and avoiding vanity press issues, etc). My local bookshop, Papercuts J.P., published their debut anthology with them, and I've been very impressed with the quality of books I've seen them put out. Wrestletown is a success at 250 copies (POD) pre-ordered, upgrading to an offset printing at 750 copies. Inkshares provides editing, marketing and distribution (functioning like any other publisher). The campaign runs through October 30th, with publication in 2017.

You can read the first five chapters of WRESTLETOWN on Inkshares, and each week I'll be sending out updates to backers on inspiration and story. An official cover reveal is set for late July/early August with interior illustrations to follow.

I hope you'll give the book a shot and consider supporting the campaign. WRESTLETOWN is my favorite work to date and the most fun I've had writing.

Let's kick this pig!

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