Danielle and I began planning Virtual Blue in spring 2020, aiming for a September release and some awesome Halloween promotions. Yay for planning ahead. Alas, (I love using “Alas” in a sentence) due to unanticipated circumstances, my agreement with my original publisher ended and I had to re-release my back titles under my own label, DarkWhimsy Books. To do this properly with the attention to quality that it deserved, the process took several months.
I’m super-thrilled to announce that my Amazon top-40 bestselling sexy ghost story Haunting Obsession will have an ACX (Amazon) audiobook version released later this summer. The new format release is in partnership with Seventh Star Press as one of their first titles being adapted to audiobook.
I’m super-excited about this development for a couple of reasons, the first is that I’ve been hoping to adapt Haunting Obsession to audiobook since the initial book release in 2012. I think the novella length and finding the right voice talent to take on the Maxine Marie / Marilyn Monroe voice will elevate the drama to new heights. It will also open the material to an audience that just plain prefers audiobooks over print (Something I am coming to understand in recent years).
The other story is a science fiction comedy presented in its play manuscript form; a Christian faith story with a cover that makes this aspect clear, so no potential buyer is blindsided. So without further ado, check out this awesome “Christmas Card with a Spaceship” front cover by Ash Arceneaux! Ash is the cover artist of the original edition of Haunting Blue (long out of print after I yanked the rights back from that disreputable-entity-whose-name-I-do-not- speak-and-not-JUST-because-its-name-is-literally-a-mild-curse-word-though-that-doesn’t-help.). Ash also created the slides for the very ambitious Haunting Blue Book Trailer. Ash is an amazing artist and talent (and truly a good friend). I’m thrilled to have her work represented in my titles once again. Link to the current edition of Haunting Blue.
“The Beacon” follows the three-person crew of the United Galaxy Corps Scoutship Starprobe: brave but hotheaded Captain Remmer, the logical but clueless cyborg engineer Gault, and the frequently panicky pilot Lanson. The ship arrives in orbit around planet Earth to investigate why a bright glowing star-like beacon has lit up the planet’s skyline.
Their ship barely has time to scan the horizon before they’re attacked by a renegade space pirate. Their incompetent captor, Ted the Merciless (because it sounds better than Theodore the Merciless), hoped to steal the treasure that the beacon represents, only to find he’s attacked the Starprobe way too soon. Can this group of misfits find a way to work together long enough to solve the mystery and message of…The Beacon? (Spoiler: It’s baby Jesus).
I’m super-excited to reveal Cover One to the first-ever DarkWhimsy Books release. The book will be presented in a retro-innovative binding I’m calling DoubleFront. The method of laying out the two stories offset 180% means that this collection of two Holiday stories “Blue/Christmas / The Beacon” will have two front covers (print version only). If you have ever seen the classic science fiction paperbacks Ace Doubles, you’ll get it. If not, you’ll just have to check it out in person. It’s cool. So enough about that, here’s the cover!!
Blue and Chip are enjoying a quiet Christmas Eve-ning together when the mysterious paranormal investigator Rebecca Burton knocks on their door… holding a peace offering. Blue and Rebecca had last parted ways furious with each other.
On the other hand, Rebecca had saved Blue’s life. Blue decides to hear her out–and hopes she won’t regret it.
Coming soon: the reveal of Cover Two for “The Beacon: An SF Comedy Play in Two Acts.” The cover is currently being created by RJ’s long-time awesome artist collaborator Ash Arceneaux.
Blue Christmas / The Beacon, a DoubleFront Holiday Book will be the first release of R.J. Sullivan’s indie press label DarkWhimsy Books. The mini-read will be available in plenty of time for Christmas. Watch this space for more announcements!
It’s my pleasure to host a special blog interview on the eve of a new release by one of my favorite storytellers, editors, and publisher entrepreneurs, Mr. D.L. Russell. Almost a decade ago, he started the e-zine Strange, Weird and Wonderful when the idea of delivering magazines via an electronic file download was still new and not in wide use. D.L. used SWW to explore that potential and built SWW’s reputation as a place to find new, talented voices in dark fiction and as an outlet that discarded word count in favor of giving storytellers the room they needed to tell their story. I am proud to be counted among the new voices that first appeared within its electronic pages.
D.L. has since shut down SWW and branched out into themed anthologies under the publishing label Black Books Publishing. It’s first release, 21st century Black Erotica, sets the tone for how D.L. intends to push boundaries and offer his press as an outlet to examine all realms of subject matter.
His latest anthology shows a return to dark fiction with Illuminati at My Door, an exploration of secret societies and those who dare to find them and draw their attention.
Hi, D.L. On the surface, secret societies have been a part of speculative fiction for a long time. Can you tell us why you felt that now is a good time to return to this particular idea? Perhaps it, maybe, seems particularly appropriate to the time we live in?
The main reason is because I don’t feel these stories have been told from an accurate perspective of the common man. This anthology has nothing remotely related to the “last honest man,” constantly looking over his shoulder as he attempts to tell the truth before it’s too late. There are no Fox Mulders in this anthology. In fact, it’s just the opposites, with the main requirement of each story being believe-ability and a straightforwardness usually bypassed in such stories.
In some ways, editing a short story magazine and editing an anthology would be very similar experiences. What makes anthologies a different experience for you? Do you have a different mindset when you consider the submissions? What priorities do you have to consider that differ from magazine fiction?
When we were doing Strange, Weird, and Wonderful, each issue needed to have enough variety to please readers of several of the Spec Fiction Sub-genres. We never had a problem getting the scary stuff, but there were times when it’s all we had to go with and I had to make calls to writers I’d worked with on earlier issues to see if they had any Fantasy or Science Fiction pieces.
With anthologies, it’s the basic or detailed theme of each story that ties the book together. With Illuminati at my Door, the basic theme was if an individual was approached by a member of a secret society, how would they handle it? Especially in today’s world, where secret societies and conspiracy theories are everywhere; almost every major and minor event is branded with its conspiracy element.
Talk about your stable of authors. I know you maintain contact with your SWW contributors. On a new anthology like Illuminati at My Door, how many new names appear in the collection and how many are talents you knew from before who stepped up for you? Did any of the “old guard” surprise you in new ways, or did you discover a new talent that appears in your pages for the first time?
One of my goals as an editor and writer is to maintain good relationships with people I’ve worked with, including other editors, writers, and even artists. We’re all at different stages of our careers, but I think by maintaining those positive relationships, we’re able to cross those career barriers.
There are a couple SWW alums that came on board the Illuminati at my Door project; one was Mary Patterson Thornburg, who is a retired Ball State University English Professor, not only supplied the Foreword, but also has been Copy Editor for every title Black Books Publishing Inc. has done to date. I’d have to say my relationship with Mary is the best example I could give a young editor to keep your professional relationships positive at all cost.
The other is Matt Adams, who’s an Indy native and appeared in SWW with a story I fell in love with called “Old-Fashioned Police Work.” When I contacted him about the theme of Illuminati at my Door, he liked the concept and wrote “What the Network Wants” relatively quickly.
As for new talent, Ronder Scott, Melanie Williams, Rosie Maureen, and Natasha Cage all had limited publishing experience but their stories show no signs of inexperience. The hardest part about working with a newer writer is getting beyond any hang-ups they may have as far as an editor requesting changes to their work, but every one of these women kept an open mind until we had stories they could live with as writers, and I could accept as a publisher putting together an anthology.
In all honesty, I feel this is the best group of writers I have every worked with on an anthology. I’m very proud of the job everyone did and the professionalism they all showed throughout every stage of the project.
What prompted the changeover from the magazine to standalone anthologies? Was it a personal decision or was it something brought on by a shift in the industry?
It was simply a financial decision. Strange, Weird, and Wonderful was a free ezine, our payments to writers and artists weren’t being covered by the minimal advertising we were generating so Sharon Black and I made the decision to start SWW Publishing. Two years later I wanted to do a few projects that didn’t quite fit under the SWW umbrella, and Sharon had a few things she wanted to work on, so we parted ways, and shortly after that, Black Books Publishing Inc. was born.
The more I think about it, it was publications like SWW that helped put our industry in the financial pit it can’t seem to get out of. Readers have come to expect their stories for free and their novels for 99 cents. We created that monster, and now small publishers and self-publishers don’t know how to fix it. I’ve seen publishers give away thousands of copies in a given advertising campaign and never recoup those sales through actual purchases.
We are the only form of entertainment battling this issue and I think publishers should band together and agree to certain standards when it comes to pricing, and giveaways. If we could guarantee a high quality standard for our work, I think readers would embrace it.
What is the long term vision for Black Books Publishing? The website indicates a couple of exciting imprints coming in the near future.
Long term, I would like to amass a library of books that are well written and entertaining. I’m being picky on purpose, with the titles I publish and there’s a reason you haven’t seen a novel from us yet. The saying, about 1st impressions is true. I don’t know if we’ll ever be a prolific publishing company, but I do know each book published will be the best we could accomplish at that time.
This is defiantly a marathon for us, not a sprint.
When you recall what you had in mind for Illuminati at My Door and considering the finished book, how close did you come to hitting your expectations for the collection?
I think its spot on! I wanted strong writing, good stories, and no “last honest man, looking over his shoulder while trying to get to the truth,” kind of stories. Again, I think this is the best anthology I have ever put together.
Yes, I hope the next one is even better, but this is my best work as an editor and selector of stories to date.
Give us some short one-sentence teasers to some of the stories contained within Illuminati at My Door.
I would rather just tell you each story is based on an actual secret society rumor. Most have been around for years, others have not, but each is based on something that’s already floating around out there. Readers who follow those rumors will easily recognize where the ideas came from and those who don’t follow them will simply be entertained.
With my science fiction novel Commanding the Red Lotus due out in a couple of months, I wanted to take an author photo that reflected my love of the genre as well as the content of the book. I tend to take themed author photos anyway, something Seventh Star Press peer Michael West and I have in common.
In any case, I had an opportunity to pose in front of a green screen while local A/V guru Frank Smith III was filming John F Allen and I for the opening credits of our upcoming Two Towers Talk Show. I asked him to take a few still shots and drop a background behind me, and wham, bam, a near-instant author photo was created.
It speaks to my love of SF, and also has a not-entirely-intended callback to The Adventures of Superman, and what the heck, that ain’t a bad thing.
The official black and white version to be used in the novel:
I must say, I do rock in this, and my super-power of gut-suck was used to great effect. So another component has fallen into place. The manuscript is with an editor, and soon Seventh Star Press will officially reveal the awesome artwork created by Enggar, and the book will be out in time for convention season. I can’t wait to share it with you all…well, actually, I guess I can. But I’m very excited for that day to come. Stay tuned, there’s lots of excitement ahead!
Hello, and welcome back! I hope everyone had a great holiday and is staying warm through the dreariest time of the year for us Hoosiers. Indiana winter weather always poses challenges; it affects schedules and vehicles in negative ways and always brings a bit of a letdown after the optimism of the holidays. This winter is no exception.
Typically, the holidays and the first couple weeks of January are the time I stop writing and try to recharge in anticipation of returning to my regular schedule when the view out my window is a tad less gloomy. That didn’t happen this year. I took on a new short story project over the holidays, which I completed last week. I also wrapped on the draft of the third Red Lotus story. Let’s look at those one at a time.
First, last fall, Pocket Books and Paramount announced a Star Trek Strange New Worlds Contest, requesting original Star Trek fiction to be considered for an upcoming anthology in 2016 to celebrate the program’s 50th anniversary. I swore off fan fiction some time back in high school, but, Star Trek (and by Star Trek I mean Captain Kirk and The Original Crew) is not only one of my favorite TV shows, but probably one of my favorite anythings, and it certainly served as the gateway to a larger appreciation of SF. My love for Star Trek continues undiminished to this day.
On the one hand, I fully understand that my chances of earning one of the twelve coveted slots are only slightly better than my chances of successfully riding a unicycle down the street without losing my balance. Over a sheet of ice. During a wind storm. But on the other hand, the chance to contribute an “authorized” tale of the Starship Enterprise proved too great an attraction to ignore. If I didn’t do it, I realized, I’d always wonder what might have happened.
And so, two days before the January 15 deadline, I turned in “The Fittest,” a first contact tale in which Lt. Uhura gets into a heap of trouble during a planetary scouting mission.
And if it doesn’t get picked for the contest…well…it just might show up as a free download somewhere, someday.
Prior to the Star Trek contest throwing off my plans to take it easy (or as easy as I ever can during the hectic holidays) I managed to bring my third Red Lotus SF tale to a conclusion and get the draft out to a few pre-readers for their evaluation. That process is going forward, and should wrap up in a couple of weeks.
The result of that will be my first novel-length entry into the spaceship SF genre, Commanding the Red Lotus, to be released by Seventh Star Press. The book will include all three Red Lotus tales gathered into one volume and released as a softcover paperback for the first time: Fate of the Red Lotus (a previously released novelette available in ebook only) Red Lotus: Innocence Lost (a previously released novelette available in ebook only) and Mutiny on the Red Lotus (a 30K word novella which will be new to this collection).
In the meantime, Seventh Star is pushing forward with the production. I have just signed off on the cover to the release, and it’s pretty amazing. Enggar, the same SSP artist who created the cover for Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy, has a knack for space opera, and he channeled that talent to create an incredible cover for Commanding the Red Lotus. Watch for a follow-up post in a few days where I’ll unveil the art in all its glory. We are still aiming for an April release.
Speaking of April, keep the Indiana Comic Con in mind, as that’s a new event for me, where I hope to have all of my titles on sale, including Commanding the Red Lotus. Indiana Comic Con is at the Indiana Convention Center the weekend of April 30-May 1. It’s going to be the biggest event I’ve participated in as a vendor, a pretty star-studded event–and I’ll be there, too. Details to come.
I think that’s it for now. Just wanted to let you all know I’m still here and things are pushing along behind the scenes, and 2016 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet!