Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, And How It's NOT the Big Break I'm Waiting For...

Recently I received the news that my Amazon Breakthrough Novel entry - Down in the Dark - advanced to the quarterfinal round of judging. During this round, the novel will be reviewed and critiqued by Publisher's Weekly.


Publisher's Weekly.

Don't think I'm not shaking a little in my boots, here.

Also, an excerpt of my entry - basically chapter one - can be downloaded on Kindle free here.

This is all fabulous news. I couldn't be happier. If folks choose to review the excerpt and they review it positively, even more awesome. However, I'm going to try and avoid blasting everyone with review requests. The biggest reason why (besides not wishing to annoy my friends and colleagues) is that this isn't the BIG break I'm waiting for...

Because I'm not waiting for my break.  I'm in my office every single morning, trying to bring that big break about, typing, writing, editing. I'm cramming in forty minutes of writing and editing during my lunch break every day at work, trying to make my break happen. I'm not waiting for my break, I'm trying to make my break.

Also, this is coming about in the best of ways. I'd already made some tentative connections with publishers for Down in the Dark before entering this contest. I just happened to finish in time to enter, is all. I'm also plenty busy with other projects, so it's not like I'm  sitting around every single day, waiting by the email for news about my ABNA entry. 

And, I didn't write Down in the Dark with an eye toward it being my "big break," I wrote it because Billy the Kid got in my head and wouldn't get out. I wrote it because it was the first novel idea I'd ever had in which I could clearly "see" the end; the first novel that "lived" and "breathed" in my head. So I haven't pinned my literary success on this entry. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm excited as can be, if only because it's all been so unexpected.  But I'm also hard at work every single day. This is simply one more step along the journey. In fact, if I got a positive Publisher's Weekly review out of this and that's it, I'd be over the moon.

But I've got work to do.


That having been said.... 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What Keeps Me Going: On Reviews and the Lovely Readers Who Leave Them

So, it's been over a month since I blogged.  Part of it is I've been insanely busy - operating under two different deadlines, complicated by a case of "accidental novella" when I was trying to write a short story for another deadline and that short story bloomed into a novella. 

Instead of putting that aside for another time, I decided - with the publisher's consent - to combine that novella with the novella being released in June from Ragnarok Publications to form a mini-collection of two novellas, tied together with a framing device similar to Things Slip Through, but different. So, in June, if everything goes well, two novellas will be coming your way, under the title Devourer of Souls: Sophan and The Man in Yellow. 

And, of course, I'm just in the beginning  stages of that short story, giving it second try, because that would be my second pro-rate sale if I can land that, and I'm mildly desperate eager to prove I'm not a one-hit wonder on that front.

Also, however, I haven't blogged much because...well... I haven't had much to say. About a month or so ago, I basically gave myself permission not to blog, simply accepting the fact that on most days, weeks, months, I have time enough to do one of two things: write fiction, or blog on a regular basis. No surprise, I chose writing fiction. Of course, summer is coming, so in a few months, I'll have more time to make my presence here felt. For now, however, I'm concentrating on the important stuff.

But I did want to share a new review of the collection that popped up on Amazon yesterday. The best snippet, for me, was:
I wasn't sure how I wanted to rate the book after finishing it, but just this morning, found myself wanting to dive back into Clifton Heights and learn more. That’s the sign of a pretty amazing piece of fiction.
I can honestly say that Things Slip Through has been for more productive financially  (are we allowed to talk about that?) than anything I've ever written, selling more copies over Amazon and by hand than anything of mine, to date. But the thing that really gives me strength and the legs to keep writing are the reviews popping up on Amazon. For the first time, people are consistently posting positive reviews without my knowledge. 

In other words, folks are buying the collection, reading it and reviewing it....because they really and truly liked it, not because I ran a contest for them to do it, or asked them to do me a favor, or anything like that. AND, the consistent feeling seems to be (along with some very valid and solid points of critique) that readers want MORE. They want to RETURN to Clifton Heights (God help them), and that is pretty much the best thing any creator could possibly hear: that folks like what we're dishing, and want seconds. 

So, to all those who have purchased a copy and read and reviewed Things Slip Through: a deep, heartfelt thanks. That being said, it's down to the office to get something more cooking....

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Some Reviews, A Novella Coming Soon, and Turning 40

Some pretty nice reviews turned up this week on I'd love to be one of those wonderfully secure, detached, utterly rational authors who claim they never look at reviews and don't care what folks think of their work, but, hey....most of us love it when folks dig our work, and wince a little inside when they don't, and I'm no different. 

In any case, I've managed to cut my "checking Amazon for reviews" down to once or twice a week at this point (baby steps, folks), but I can't lie - getting a nice review puts a little spring in my step, gives me that little boost I need to keep going. Here's what came in over the past week or so:
From the first moment you arrive in Clifton Heights for poker night, Kevin Lucia gently takes you by the hand and leads you into the misty macabre. Somewhere along the way the hair on the back of your neck starts to rise and your heart beats faster. Kevin Lucia does an excellent job of weaving together these tales within the tale. To the very end of this book, you are a resident of Clifton Heights. I can't wait to go back there. - Marley Andretii
Like many horror movie sagas, this book left me with many questions while the answers are only vaguely hinted at, leaving this world wide open for a second (and third and fourth) installment. - Angie Lisle
The stories are woven together in such a way it feels like a really great novel, filled with people you come to care about that pop up when your not expecting it. The end of the book had my heart breaking, no small feat for a horror novel. I can't wait to see what Kevin Lucia comes up with next!! - Angela
Again, I feel very blessed to see so many folks digging what I'm serving, and I'm thankful for everyone picking up a copy. 

On another front, a new Clifton Heights novella - a coming-of-age-Lovecraftian tale of loss and revenge - will be coming your way in the foreseeable future. It'll feature new characters and locations, but you'll see some familiar faces from Things Slip Through, to be sure.

Tentatively titled Devourer of Souls, it'll be coming out in ebook first, then eventually paperback. Contract's singed; I'm just waiting for the go-ahead to say who with. It's a great outfit I've heard nothing but good things from, so I'm looking forward to working with them.

With one of my best friends and best man at my wedding, Chris,
at my 40th birthday party last weekend.
Finally, I turned 40 yesterday, and I couldn't be happier. I work at a rewarding (if sometimes exhausting) job I enjoy with great students and co-workers, I'm healthy and active, I have a writing career of sorts, and most importantly of all, I've been blessed with a wonderful family - beautiful kids and a beautiful, supportive wife who's had a big hand in making every single year better than the last. I can honestly look back and say I'm more content and happier than I was when I turned 30 (though I was pretty okay back then, too), so I look forward to what the next ten years will bring.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Sale; And How I'm Tired of Talking About The Market, And How I'm Glad For It

Since my publisher, Crystal Lake, was chosen as Publisher of the Year by This Is Horror, a sale is on until the 17th, which means the ebook for my first collection of short fiction, Things Slip Through, is only $2.99.  The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, people seem to like the book, and four months after its release, it's still trotting right along. The reviews have been great, also. My favorites, I think, come from Shock Totem Publications and FearNET:
"Lucia knows what he’s doing. He has studied the masters and taken adequate notes and has written a classically structured, darkly fantastical book. A love letter to both 50s dark fantasy and 80s pulp horror, written in red and bound in heart. Things Slip Through is a solid and entertaining journey through a very strange town." - Shock TotemPublications
"There's a bit of the tone of The Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories in this enjoyable (and too short!) read...the descriptions are extremely vivid. With simple phrases, Lucia paints pictures of familiar and yet terrifying creatures. Having read other works by Mr. Lucia, I'd say this is one signature of his, and he uses his skills as a writer to draw in the reader without exposing the seams of the work." - FearNET
The sale is running until February 17th, and is on both Kindle, Nook and Smashword formats. 

On another note, something interesting happened recently. I came across yet another lengthy and insightful Facebook post by a well-respected writer colleague about the market and predictions for the "Big Five" and Amazon and self-publishing, started reading it dutifully (so I can be "market savvy and current and whatever else") when I realized something very, very important. It's going to sound cynical and depressing but it's not, really. In all reality, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders.

I realized that, honestly: I just didn't give a damn anymore.

Me Not Giving A Damn Anymore
Don't get me wrong. Said writer is an awesome person, very well-informed, and a talented writer. I've valued greatly their input and words of advice and encouragement to me, specifically

But I realized in an epiphany that, in all honesty, I've currently hit a threshold when it comes to musing about the market and what may or may not happen and how the Big Five are doomed and Barnes and Noble is doomed and books are doomed and the indie bookstore is doomed and how we'll all be buying books from vending machines soon and how Amazon is either the savior or damnation of publishing and indie publishing and the indie author.  

I'm tired of receiving conflicting advice from authors who fancy themselves veterans (when they really aren't); advice that most of the time amounts to the classic: do what I say; not what I do. (above author who encouraged me recently is the exception). I'm tired also of newbie writers blogging about writing tips and marketing tips and self-publishing tips like they're all Amanda Hocking - or J. A. Konrath - telling us all how we're supposed to be doing this, when they've barely done it themselves. 

I'm tired of the debate between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Dead end arguments, both of them. I'll be honest and say I'm tired of seeing people share J. A. Konrath's borderline smug posts about how apparently he's the only one who saw all this coming and the rest of us - Stephen King and publishing houses in general - are all a bunch of backward stupid-heads who are ignorant and doomed to failure if we don't do EXACTLY WHAT HE SAYS RIGHT NOW. I'm tired of speculations about when the ebook "bubble" will burst (if it ever will). 

I'm tired of speculating how to write in a fashion that will capture the attention of Millennials who are attention-deprived and can't hold their focus for longer than a paragraph, so now we must write in tweets, AOL speak, wing-dings or something else to catch their fractured attention. Apparently the old: "Write the book you want to read" now no longer matters, and I'm tired of being scared that might be true, indeed.

I'm tired of hearing myself talk about these same damn things and I'm just. Plain. Tired. OF EVERYTHING.

Except for one thing.


I don't care about anything in the writing career anymore, past writing. Screw it. Toss all the rest out the window. I work full-time in what is a rewarding but often mentally and emotionally draining job, so therefore I get up at 2:30 in the morning every day to write.  By 9th period (which is a free period, thankfully) I'm daily nodding off over a stack of papers at my desk, or falling asleep while prepping for the five different novels my classes are reading that week.

I have two children, both wonderful darlings, but one of them is 9 and starting to get active playing basketball (my pre-writing love, and still an important part of my life), and the other is 7 and though he's made great strides against his autism he's still a handful on his best days. We're always walking a budget tight-rope, trying to figure out how to stay afloat and not lose our house, wondering when the next car is going to break down, and also dealing with the annual: "I hope I get good teaching evaluations and am offered a job again next year" fun and games, all the time me wishing I could afford to go back to NECON and attend World Horror for the first time, and knowing it doesn't matter because I simply can't afford either of them.

Now. Understand - all that stuff in those last two paragraphs is just LIFE stuff. It doesn't depress me, by any means. It's part of the gig, and I'm cool with that. I'm just tired of worrying about all these ephemeral, transitory, "publishing buzz-topics of the moment" when I've got all this other stuff to attend to.

And please. Also understand this: I'm not slamming writers who are keeping their fingers on the publishing industry's pulse. By no means. I just had this breakthrough moment the other day when I realized that, really, all I care about is writing, and that's it.

So, I'm going to do what I always do: write. I'll worry about market stuff when I've gotten a lot of stuff written. Until then, I'm going to write/revise/polish/submit; repeat. Because really, none of this stuff matters to me, anymore. Maybe someday it will. Maybe this week I'm just burned out, and a month from now I'll have a fresher perspective. Who knows? The only thing I can control, however?

That I write, every day.

Because that's all I care about. 

End rant.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Two New Reviews, What It's All About, And Giving Myself Permission Not to Blog

First up, two new reviews this week sent me over the moon. For the most part, as Things Slip Through has been released and the initial rush of reviews has passed, I've put my head down and gone to work on other things. However, these two reviews came as welcome surprises because they were written by satisfied customers, not review outlets who received free ARCs.

First up is John Boden's review at Shock Totem Publications. He says some really nice things about me and the collection, my favorite gem being:
Lucia knows what he’s doing. He has studied the masters and taken adequate notes and has written a classically structured, darkly fantastical book. A love letter to both 50s dark fantasy and 80s pulp horror, written in red and bound in heart. Things Slip Through is a solid and entertaining journey through a very strange town.
Those who know me best may disagree with the "knows what he's doing" part, but what warms my heart is this review reflects my aims in Things Slip Through: "solid," "entertaining," "classically structured." I made a commitment three years ago to strengthen my reading habits, and it seems to have paid off with this collection.

Also important is "entertaining journey," because I've come to believe in two guiding lights in regards to writing fiction (quotes grabbed from personal conversations with mentor-type folks):

"The best stuff, the stuff that lasts, comes from the late-night conversations you have with your very own self. - Mort Castle

"If you're not entertaining people and they're not having a good time reading your story, then what's the point? You're not writing fiction people like to read, you're preaching." - Tom Monteleone (heavily paraphrased from what I remember at Borderlands Press Bootcamp)

What really motives me lately is the first quote, by Mort Castle. More often these days, that "spark" that gets me out of bed in the morning seems to come from my thoughts about the things that really stick in my heart and soul. Questions about life and death and faith and why things happen the way they do, why people fail/succeed, areas I struggle in and fail, my own fears and doubts and weaknesses. 

For example, where I used to think: "Let's write a cool story about a vampire or demon" I now think, "Let's write a story about someone who's always using others for his own ends and hates himself for it, but still can't stop." (because honestly, I've always been afraid of turning into someone like that, an sometimes I'm afraid I AM that person). Now, the irony is...that character may still turn out to be a vampire or demon. But my thought process has flipped, so to speak.

On the other hand, when writing, I always try to keep Tom's advice in mind. In the end, why do most folks keep reading? Because the prose is smooth and doesn't get in the way. Because there's an engaging voice. Because there's enough suspense to create a sense of narrative tension and excitement. Maybe there's some humor thrown in also. In the end, I want stories to come from my gut and my heart and my soul (even though that sounds corny), but I want to them to be enjoyable reads, also. 

The second review, posted on Amazon,  by Doug Murano, shared this snippet:
Through these interconnected short stories, Lucia draws you into a world full of sad-sacks, loners, weirdos and (sometimes) heroes pitted against evil that looms just beyond their perception and leagues beyond their comprehension. The world he's created lives and breathes--recognizable, yet dark and bizarre at the edges. His characters pulse with life, with flaws, with frailty. In short, they're human.
The last part, of course, is the point. I'm writing about what it means to be human. I'm in love with the fantastic and I love speculative fiction and asking "what if" so those genre elements will always be there. But more and more I'm hoping my stories will put that human element first...while, of course, still being fun to read.

Finally, it's very likely I'll be blogging less in the future. I still intend to keep the blog updated - it's necessary in the digital age to have something on the cyber-sea that's current, and enough copies of the collection have been purchased by strangers not on my Facebook that it's conceivable folks might come to the website before friending me on social media - but I feel like the blog well has run dry, and I'm not sure I have much to say, these days.

Because in the end, I'm not sure - even in sharing my publication journey - what I really have to offer that's different from dozens, maybe even hundreds of other writers' blogs. Also, I have very little interest in politics, I keep my personal beliefs to myself, and the evolving publishing landscape is so convoluted right now that me blogging about what I think about it is like spitting in the wind.

So I'm giving myself permission not to blog unless I really feel like it, or have something to announce. And of course, that could be random. Maybe Monday I'll feel like it. Maybe I won't feel like it until next Saturday. Who knows? But in the end, right now my time is best spent doing two things: writing fiction whenever I can, and reading voraciously, constantly re-filling the creative tanks. And I'm not going to disappear. I'm just going to reserve my blogs even more for when I have something definitive to share, or when I have something I really want to say.

And now, I'm off to read In the Fog: The Last Chronicle of Greystone Bay, edited by the late Charles L. Grant....

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Weathering Rejection, A Humbling Admission and Going It On My Own

I haven't blogged in awhile. Didn't do a "2013" reflection blog like I'd planned. Mostly because of the holidays, and the fact that I've been working pretty heavily on THE JABBERWOK. But also, the truth of the matter is...

I just didn't feel like it.

I thought I'd learned to weather rejection. Thought I'd built up a thick skin. And really, when it comes to being rejected by faceless editors whom I don't know, I think I have built up a decently thick skin. I'm actually pretty eager to get THE JABBERWOK done so I can really focus on short fiction. My simple goal for 2014 is to collect a virtual folder of rejection slips from pro pay venues. See, I can't control what gets accepted and what doesn't. What I CAN control is what I write, how well I write, and where I'm brave enough to send those words.

Hence the above message I ironically found on a Taco Bell hot sauce package just before Christmas. "If you never do, you'll never know." Pretty good life advice in general, but especially in regards to writing fiction. Do I have what it takes to ascend a rung on the publishing ladder? Can I write short fiction with the big boys? I'll never know unless I try doing it.

However, this rejection stung a little bit more than others, for this simple reason: it came from an editor I'd met, face to face. Someone I knew. And I'd been introduced to this editor by a fellow writer as someone who wrote "good stuff."

Now, to be clear: this wasn't a solicited gig that was then rejected. This publishing house has open admissions, and I submitted, just like any other "joe." I wasn't promised anything more than any other writer who would submit work to this publisher. But I made a key, crucial mistake: I think that, subconsciously, I convinced myself I had a greater chance because I'd met this editor several times, developing a friendly acquaintance with them. So when the rejection came (not from this editor but from the chief editor), I took it more personally than I normally would've.

Which, of course, once more highlights why the publishing industry - in the horror genre, anyway - can be kind of...weird, sometimes. Because at the bottom of it is an industry. A business. And in the process of conducting business, you meet people and become friendly with them, maybe even becoming actual friends in the process...

But in the end decisions to publish are, in effect, business decisions, regardless of friendships or friendly acquaintances. And I know that on a rational level. But on a subconscious level...

Of course, worth considering is that the rejection email came from the head of the publishing house. For all I know, said editor may've even recommended the novella to the head honcho (just like I did with several novellas during my run at Cemetery Dance), and then the head honcho passed on it (which I'm sure probably happened to several of the novellas I passed up the chain at Cemetery Dance).

And yes, the irony of the same thing happening to me that probably happened to others - through me - is not missed.

Regardless, I took it harder because subconsciously I forgot that business decisions are made in all walks of life regardless of friendships. And these decisions in the publishing industry are very often simply determined by the particular taste of particular editors. There are several novellas I passed on at CD that will probably find homes elsewhere and do very well. In fact, I know for sure several have. And, to be honest, I did pass on novellas written by people I'd met before. So, once again: gotta admire and appreciate irony in all its glory.

And in retrospect: my novella was essentially a speculative "coming of age." This publisher has already released several "coming of age" novellas this year. So maybe one more was too much. Who knows?

In any case, it took several days for me to fight back because of this. I simply took it too personally because I allowed myself, subconsciously, to think that I'd been given an "in" when really I'd been offered the same chance as anyone else. I struggled with it for several days, until I finally accepted it for what it was: another learning experience. Because guess what?

I have another novella being considered by a friend. A friend this time, and not just an acquaintance. Now, this friend has offered me a lot more feedback concerning said novella, and I think they definitely want to see it published, so if the decision comes back "no" I'll know it came from higher up, and not them.  But the thing is, if I'm going to survive in the business and try to ascend the ladder I need to take these setbacks in stride, keep my head, act professional and keep working. As a fellow writer PM'd me on Facebook a few days after the rejection, I need to always focus on the work itself, and let everything else go.

Of course, in several emails with another writer friend, self-publishing the novella came up. However, I'm not ready for that, yet. I want to consider self-publishing as just another viable avenue, not an "escape route" for me to avoid the sting of rejection. Plus, THE JABBERWOK is going to be my first experiment in self-publishing. This novella is being combed over by beta-readers, I'm going to make adjustments and send it back out into the world.

Also, I've got to remember to be thankful for all I've achieved. This year saw my first pro short story sale to a STELLAR collection, and also the release of my short fiction collection that has been reviewed well, has sold well, and people seem to really like. For the first time...I think I actually have readers.

And hence this other picture. About six years ago, I routinely wrote at Barnes and Noble on Saturdays, and would lunch at the Taco Bell next door. I would scarf down tacos and likewise devour horror fiction, both short and novel length, hoping that someday I'd make some sort of headway, have some sort of career. 

Well, I have made headway. A lot. I'm still a relative nobody, but compared to six years ago? I've come light years. Who knows what the next six years will hold? Can't argue with a Taco Bell hot sauce package: "if I never do, I'll never know."

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Sale Is Over? What Now? THE JABBERWOK

First, check out this interview in which I talk about writing (of course), character VS. plot, using personal experiences in fiction, my faith and how that's played into my fiction, and many other things.

Second, this past week Crystal Lake Publishing ran a Countdown sale on my first short story collection Things Slip Through, which ended yesterday. Essentially, the ebook started out at .99 and slowly, over the course of six days, worked its way back up to its regular price. 

I've got to be honest.

I really didn't expect anyone to bite. I certainly didn't expect folks to share and re-share the sale (even though I was running a contest for folks to do so, I didn't expect them to do it, either), and I certainly didn't expect to not only see the book shoot all the way to #4 on Kindle's top 100, but I also didn't expect folks to keep purchasing it after it raised to about $2.99, keeping it up around #13 and #16 right into Saturday.

I'm absolutely honored and humbled and totally blown away. That, and I'm again in debt to the great work editor Joe Mynhardt has done in promoting my collection. In fact, because the sale was such a success, today marked the first day of a similar Countdown sale on

But for the most part, the hoopla is over. The collection has slipped its way back off the Top 100 mark, and unless a similar showing takes place on it's time to stop basking in the temporary glory and get back to business. And I say that tongue in cheek, of course, because I never stopped writing during the whole thing. However, now that the sale's over, it's really time to put my head down, stop crowing about myself and push onward to the next thing.

What are those next things? 

Well, Billy the Kid: Down in the Dark is officially done and will be shipped off to beta readers. It stands at roughly 145,000 words, which, believe it or not, met my goal of 150K or under. Now, beta-readers will hopefully cut out all the fat so I can prep it for pitching to publishers.

And this is awesome, awesome news, because it frees me up to focus on a totally crazy experiment: a free, monthly novel called The Jabberwok. The plan - release a chapter a month for free, on as many platforms as I can manage.

And that's it.

No strings.

No catches.

Totally free.

Eventually, when it's finished, I want to experiment with The Jabberwok as my first self-published title on Amazon. "Hyrbid Writer" is something I want to eventually become, and The Jabberwok is my first stab at it.

But why free?

Simple. In another blog - maybe tomorrow - I want to talk about developing a relationship with readers. I learned a lot through the TST sale, and one of them was this: a strong relationship with readers cannot underestimated, at all. How will The Jabberwok help in the regard?

Tune in tomorrow...