The Electrical Amnesia Machine

Tenebrous Antiquities: An Anthology of Historical Horror

Editor and publisher CM Muller has announced the table of contents for his latest collection, Tenebrous Antiquities: An Anthology of Historical Horror. This handsome volume includes my story, “The Electrical Amnesia Machine of Doctor Fallow.”

Cold steel encircled Everly’s head and for some moments Fallow fiddled with various adjustments and straps. Finally he said: “Now, Mr. Everly, we are alone. No one can eavesdrop. Please tell me about the thoughts you wish swept away. Different ideas and introspections exist in different parts of the brain and I must know where to focus our efforts.”

“Do I have to say? Can’t your machine determine it on its own?”

“I promise you that as a doctor whatever secret you feel is too onerous is no secret to me. Do not be ashamed.”

Everly shifted in his seat. The helmet or whatever he now wore was heavy and uncomfortable. “The sign outside said something about ‘terrible dreams eradicated.’”

“Ah — you have nightmares.” Fallow flipped and toggled switches on the machine’s trunk.

“I have a nightmare. Just one.”

“The Electrical Amnesia Machine” is set in 1909 during New York’s Hudson-Fulton celebration, which marked the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the Hudson River and the centennial of Robert Fulton’s demonstration of a commercial steamboat along the same body of water. Fortunately my local historical society possesses a copy of the committee report about the celebration (800+ pages!), which bursts with all sorts of details and data. Because a theme of the story is isolation within the enormity of a big city like New York, those same details were perfect to convey the overwhelming grandiosity of the event.

Tenebrous Antiquities will be published in June 2024. You can preorder the paperback or hardcover at the publisher’s website or preorder the e-book on Amazon.

The Book of Pangloss

A Darkness Visible

The premiere anthology from Onotology Books, A Darkness Visible, has hit virtual shelves just in time for Halloween.

The anthology is a collection of postmodern horror. Sounds heavy, you say. What is “postmodern horror?”

Put simply, the fiction of A Darkness Visible plays with or overturns the conventions of both fiction itself — how it’s presented or by using nontraditional methods to communicate the narrative — as well as those of the horror genre.

A Darkness Visible includes my contribution, “The Book of Pangloss,” which is a piece of interactive fiction — what’s otherwise known as a choose-your-own-adventure story, complete with numbered passages that end in a decision to be made by the reader.

In the story, YOU are the defense attorney for an accused murderer. But is your client actually guilty? And what do the murders of three women have to do with a mysterious occult volume known as the Book of Pangloss?

Writing “Pangloss” checked off a box that’s long sat on my to-do list. Like other Gen Xers, I grew up on a heavy diet of CYOA paperbacks sourced from B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, with Fighting Fantasy being an absolute obsession that lasts to this day. I’d always wanted to write interactive fiction but could never find an appropriate market for it until the call for A Darkness Visible came around.

To write “Pangloss,” I used a freeware app called Twine and designed the story so that it stretched about 3,000 words long no matter which path the reader took. It was challenging but a blast to create, and the experience whet my appetite to write more CYOA.

A Darkness Visible is available now in paperback or as an e-book.

The Island of Small Misfortunes

My latest gothic novel, The Island of Small Misfortunes, has been accepted for publication by Regal House Publishing.

In the summer of 1898, Sequoia Owen accepts an invitation from his estranged uncle to visit the family summer house on Todeket, a private island off the Connecticut coast. Yet his unwell aunt Geneve believes he is accompanied by the shadowy ghost of her dead son Jacob, and over the course of a weekend Sequoia must contend with menacing relatives, threats against his life, and conflicting stories about the house’s history to unravel Todeket’s strange secret.

The Island of Small Misfortunes will be published in 2025.

Audible and Its Detractors

Prolific fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, who wrote five novels during the pandemic while some of us were watching Schitt’s Creek and loading frozen turkeys into car trunks, has announced the audiobook editions of those novels “will not be on Audible for the foreseeable future.”

The reason? “Audible has grown to a place where it’s very bad for authors.”

If you want details, the current industry standard for a digital product is to pay the creator 70% on a sale. It’s what Steam pays your average creator for a game sale, it’s what Amazon pays on ebooks, it’s what Apple pays for apps downloaded. (And they’re getting heat for taking as much as they are. Rightly so.)

Audible pays 40%. Almost half. For a frame of reference, most brick-and-mortar stores take around 50% on a retail product. Audible pays indie authors less than a bookstore does, when a bookstore has storefronts, sales staff, and warehousing to deal with. 

I knew things were bad, which is why I wanted to explore other options with the Kickstarter.  But I didn’t know HOW bad. Indeed, if indie authors don’t agree to be exclusive to Audible, they get dropped from 40% to a measly 25%. Buying an audiobook through Audible instead of from another site literally costs the author money.

It’s particularly galling when you realize the royalty on an audiobook is based upon the price at point of purchase, and because Audible (and other audiobook retailers) constantly offers a smorgasbord of discounts, sales, and free trials, the percentage paid to the creators can be based on prices as low as $0. The publisher or indie author can discount the title themselves but they have no choice if Audible decides to discount it for them.

And yet audiobooks have never been more popular. For the year of June 2021 to June 2022, audiobooks accounted for more than 11 percent of all trade book sales, up from 10 percent in 2021 and 8 percent in 2020. These sales seem to be at the expense of hardbacks and — surprisingly to me — e-books, sales of which have been steadily falling: for that same period, e-books sales accounted for 12.7 percent of book sales. Audiobooks will probably displace e-books as the digital version of choice in the next year or two.

This very much jibes with my royalty statements for A Season of Whispers. I’ve literally sold hundreds of audiobooks for it and yet my royalties are pennies. As my publisher at Aurelia Leo said to me, the catch-22 of audiobooks’ popularity versus the poor royalty scheme and the high cost of producing them is, in her words, “a head-scratching conundrum.”

I can’t fault people for preferring audiobooks. I don’t listen to them myself but I do enjoy listening to podcasts while multi-tasking, like when I’m making dinner or on a long drive. I prefer the quiet solace of reading a book the old-fashioned way but I understand not everyone has the free time to do so.

So if I may make one request, it’s this: buy your audiobooks anywhere except Audible.

For years, Audible has offered an overly generous policy of allowing buyers to return an audiobook within one year of purchase, which means listeners could essentially check out a title, listen to it, and return it at no cost as if Audible was a library. Audible bore this cost as a loss leader to accrue market share, squeezing as many competitors as possible out of the marketplace. Amazon’s capital allowed them to sustain the losses.

Which is how we arrived at this point.

So if you like audiobooks and you want to support indie and small-press authors, Chirp and Spotify are the best options to listen to A Season of Whispers and other titles. Somebody will make money from my audiobooks and it would be a lot cooler if that somebody was me and my publisher rather than Jeff Bezos.

Bardot’s Wins Shirley Jackson Award

This past weekend, Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World won the 2021 Shirley Jackson Award for edited anthology.

The award was presented to editor Eric Guignard at the Boston Book Festival. Eric shared the award with Dave Ring, whose anthology Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness also won.

Bardot’s Travel Anthology is presented as a guidebook edited by world traveler and occult expert Charlatan Bardot. My story, “A Tour of the Ramses,” portrays a guide leading a walk through a former luxury hotel, now fallen into disrepair after a tragic history.

The book is an amazing production. It has incredible cover art. The interior presentation features maps which pinpoint the settings of the stories while pieces of flash fiction serve as palate cleansers between longer works. Even the font choices and all-around deco vibe make Bardot’s Travel Anthology wonderful to behold.

You can order a copy at Amazon or explore other buying options at Goodreads.

Congratulations Eric!

Love Letters to Poe, Volume Won

Love Letters to Poe, Volume I: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe won the 2022 Saturday Visiter Award in the category of “Original Works Inspired by E.A. Poe’s Life and Writing.”

The award was presented to editor and publisher Sara Crocoll Smith at the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival & Awards in Baltimore this past weekend.

The nonprofit Poe Baltimore presents the Saturday Visiter Awards to recognize a new generation of artists continuing Edgar Allan Poe’s legacy in the arts and literature around the world. The awards are named after the prize won by a young Poe.

My story “An Incident on Mulberry Street” appeared in the anthology, which collected a year’s worth of contributions to Smith’s web publication Love Letters to Poe.

This is the first time an anthology I’ve appeared in has won an award. Eric Guignard’s Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology were both nominated for Stokers but didn’t win (although Bardot’s is currently up for a Shirley Jackson Award, which will be handed out later this month in Boston).

The second book in the series, Love Letters to Poe, Volume II: Houses of Usher, was published in August and includes my story, “The Last Stand of Sassacus House.”

You can grab a copy of Volume I here and Volume II here.

Congratulations Sara!