Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Gun Show Mk. 2.0 Results

In May 2018, I sold books--The Thing in the Woods and The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Vol. 2--at a large Eastman Gun Shows event held at the Infinite Energy Center, formerly known as the Gwinnett Arena. Although given the themes of my work and the general demographics of the gun-enthusiasts crowd a visit to the gun show made sense, in terms of profitability the event itself was a bust ($10 profit on 16 hours or so of work, less than a dollar an hour). This was due to my failure to anticipate the participants' preference to use cash rather than credit cards and not yet knowing that events made the perfect place to collect e-mail addresses for my newsletter for making one-off readers into fans.

(That said, the event eventually proved profitable in the long run because it allowed me to re-establish contact with Nightmarescape author T. S. Dann, with whom I split tables at Days of the Dead this past January and the event I'm discussing in the post, increasing my profit margins at both quite a bit.)

So I digested what I learned--lots of cash, actually try to talk to passers-by, and don't bother with a candy tray--and applied the lessons to the Gem Capitol gun show held this past weekend at the Atlanta Farmers' market. Although I sold 15 books to last year's 20, the splitting the table cut my fixed costs to $30 and not needing to drive so far meant gas was negligible. I made around $80-85 profit on around 14.5 hours of work (this is only slightly less profitable than my March visit to the Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo in which I profited $98), translating to around $6.50 per hour. I also got 20 e-mail addresses for my newsletter, although four bounced the welcome message. Some people in the crowd seemed interested in my upcoming novella Little People, Big Guns from Deadite Press slated for this November and my probable-indie sci-fi novel Blood on the Border slated for the summer or fall. I also re-established contact with Bob Burden, creator of Flaming Carrot and Mystery Men, who intends some prose fiction in the near future and whom I'd met at a couple previous events in Atlanta but kept losing his contact information.

(Maybe he'd be willing to split a table with me at future comic events? That crowd loves print books and he's a comic celebrity.)

In my last post on selling books at gun shows, I figured this event would be the deciding factor in whether to sell at gun shows in the summer and fall (i.e. before Little People Big Guns). As referenced by my profit margins it's a significant improvement over the first visit to the gun show and more profitable than some of my lower-performing bookstore events and appearances at community festivals. Although Atlanta hosts lots of gun shows (including a bunch this coming summer that promise to be a lot better-attended than this one), I'll need to make sure I don't overdo it. At the SFF Expo I ran into people who'd bought The Thing in the Woods when I visited the year before and I didn't have anything new to sell them and some people at this gun show recognized me from the Eastman show. If one visits the same event more than once without new items to sell, diminishing returns starts to kick in.

Fortunately both Gem Capitol and Eastman have gun shows in December, when I'll have LPBG ready to go. :)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Visits Piedmont Park

Andrew Yang, businessman, philanthropist, and Democratic presidential candidate, stood on a podium at the Promenade at Piedmont Park in Atlanta and said something that one doesn't expect in these days of political polarization.

"Donald Trump got a lot of the essential problems right," he said. He said that Trump pointed out many problems facing modern America, to which the Democrats simply claimed everything was fine. This, much more than Russia, Facebook, or the FBI, was the reason that Trump won the election and Hillary Clinton didn't. However, although Trump diagnosed the problems, his solutions were all wrong. "It's not immigrants," he said about the losses of jobs. "It is technology."

Millions of manufacturing jobs in the Midwest had been automated in recent decades. Once prosperous blue-collar communities had been hollowed out as workers were replaced by machines and it's not going to stop with industrial work. He cited the case of malls and other retail outlets closing due to competition with Amazon, something that's a real problem given how retail workers represent the majority of American jobs. He also pointed out that advances in artificial intelligence would put call-center workers and truckers out of work as well. Although convoys of self-driving automated trucks would be more efficient and save lives (no drivers to fall asleep at the wheel after long drives, for example), millions of truckers would be out of work and towns that provided lodgings, food, maintenance, etc. for truckers would wither. This is what he called "The Fourth Industrial Revolution."

The solution, Yang advocated, is a universal basic income (UBI) like Alaska's. However, instead of oil funding what Thomas Paine called a citizen's dividend and what Martin Luther King Jr. advocated in Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, it would be funded by technology. This "trickle up economy" as he called it would set the economic wheels spinning as people spent their money and would encourage entrepreneurship. This dividend, which Yang said would be $1,000 per month, would solve many of the problems Democrats talk about. Many women, for example, remain in abusive or exploitative jobs or relationships because they lack the financial means to get out. Democrats talk about empowering poor people of color and this dividend would accomplish that.

In addition to UBI, Yang advocated "Medicare for All" and thanked Bernie Sanders for making the idea mainstream. He rhetorically asked how "Medicare for All" would be paid for and said that the existing private insurance system is a network of middlemen who don't add value. He also advocated legalizing marijuana and what (to me) sounded a lot like forgiving $1.5 trillion in student-loan debt. This way young people can get out of their parents' basements and buy houses, start families, etc. He also criticized the idea of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the best measure of American progress. Although robotic trucks would increase the GDP they'd be bad for humans. He also cited how his wife's care for their two sons, one of whom is autistic, isn't measured in GDP either. He advocated for what he called "human-centered capitalism" and suggested an "American Scorecard" would be better to measure the well-being of the country.

Yang joked that as an Asian who liked math he was the opposite of Trump and ended his speech by citing his support from different factions in American politics. He said he had Trump supporters (a few made their voices heard) as well as Libertarians (these were louder). Louder still were those who identified themselves as "progressives."

"It's not left, it's not right, it's forward," Yang said, capping off his speech.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Digital Fiction Publishing's Great December 2018 Publishing Binge

As most of you all know, I have a Lovecraftian horror novel out called The Thing in the Woods through a small press called Digital Fiction Publishing, which has also published (or re-published) many of my short stories. Late last year I sent them the sequel, The Atlanta Incursion. Although I haven't gotten an official yes or no on it, the boss did like the stock art I sent him to use for the cover, so I'm optimistic. There's not really a regular release schedule, but last December the company went on a binge. Six books, more if you count the fact that a whole series got released (or re-released).

(In the interest of full disclosure, the company operates on a revenue-sharing pool, so I benefit whenever somebody purchases one of these. That said, I haven't read any of them yet, so I'm not slanting things one way or the other.)

The Invisible City by Brian K. Lowe: This is the first in a series of three books--the whole series was ultimately released by DFP and you can get the whole box set here. Basically in a future where humanity has been conquered by aliens, a man ends up getting transported one million years into the future. As one might expect, trouble ensues. Several of the reviews compare it to the John Carter books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, although I haven't had the chance to read it.

Home by Carson Buckingham: A woman inherits a farmhouse and upon taking possession of it, begins to mutate. And things seem to get weirder from there. I haven't read it, but based on the reviews there's a good bit of Irish mythology in there (perhaps in the vein of Raymond Feist's Faerie Tale, which is a pretty good book) and one of the reviewers even puts it on the same level as Stephen King.

Disappearance by Trevor Zaple: The Rapture (or something very similar) happens, but instead of a Christian end-times scenario coming to pass, instead we end up with the remaining powerful people o the pre-apocalypse world fighting over the remains. Shades of Avengers Endgame perhaps? It looks a bit more like Dean Koontz's The Taking, if the aftermath was the main focus rather than the apocalypse itself.

Invasion at Bald Eagle by Kris Ashton: Hippies! A sex cult! An alien invasion! This book has it all, and it sounds like a comedy. Once I clear out my KU library (more on that below), I think I'll definitely check this one out.

The Evil in the Tower by Debra Robinson: Ghost stories, possessions, and a lengthy feud between two families. Haunted-house stories aren't my cup of tea usually, but it does have a good-looking cover. I'm getting a bit of a Crimson Peak vibe off the whole thing.

Samurai by Timothy Manley: I've read the beginning of this one. It looks begins like an alien-invasion novel from the perspective of a Native American-level civilization encountering a spacefaring society, but based on the cover art and broader description it seems like a space opera. I'm reminded of the novel Scythian Dawn, which features extraterrestrials deliberately preventing the development of urban civilization on Earth...until some steppe hordes manage to steal one of their ships. :)

I've got a Kindle Unlimited account so I can read these novels without buying them outright, but KU only lets you borrow ten books at a time and I've got 10 already. One of the ten is Powerlines, another monster-in-the-woods story that's also from DFP. I'll definitely check some of these out when I have more time, especially Invasion at Bald Eagle.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Book Review: Blood Street (2018)

My Lovecraftian horror novel The Thing in the Woods was published by Digital Fiction Publishing, a small press headquartered in Canada. Although DFP ultimately closed its doors, it released a number of other books, one of which was Carl Alves' Blood Street.

I checked the novel out via Kindle Unlimited and burned through it pretty quickly. How did I like it? Well, here's the review. 

The Plot

A member of a Philadelphia crime family is killed (not just killed, but straight-up butchered) and his mob boss starts hunting for the killer in order to make them pay. There's one small problem--the killer isn't human. The killer is in fact the reckless and arrogant vampire Alexei, part of a clique of bloodsuckers who've taken up residence in Philadelphia. Soon the FBI gets involved, as do other vampires who don't want Alexei's idiocy to jeopardize their secret existence.

Shenanigans ensue (as author Mary SanGiovanni's cosmic horror podcast would put it) as blood runs in the streets and alliances are formed and broken. Who will live and who will die?

The Good

*I like the overall concept. I'm only aware of one vampire story involving the Mob--the film Innocent Blood, which I've never seen. This story, however, is much more complex, with Mafia, federal, and vampire factions all pursuing their own agendas and working with and against in each other in different combinations of alliance and betrayal.

*The book is a quick and entertaining read. I definitely enjoyed it. And there's room for more stories set in this universe if Mr. Alves chooses to go that route.

The Bad

*Since Alves holds to a tight third-person POV, other characters are well-described in terms of their appearance but the POV characters themselves are much less so. I'm not sure what a lot of them look like.

*The ruler of the vampire brood and the Mafia boss both don't seem particularly decisive in dealing with dangerous or idiotic subordinates. A lot of trouble could be avoided if they were a bit more ruthless with their underlings.

*A character makes a fairly drastic decision toward the end of the book, but it's not well-foreshadowed. And there's another character involved in said decision--their role in this decision doesn't really gel well with his characterization earlier.

*Per the above, the ending felt a little bit rushed.

The Verdict

A fun Kindle Unlimited read. Very absorbing. 9.0 out of 10. I would definitely recommend it.