“One Last Harvest” at The Confabulator Cafe and the Sale Continues

My latest Confabulator Cafe short story is now available. Most of my stories have at least a hint of darkness. This one does not. It’s something a bit different. An angel falls in an apple grove. You can read “One Last Harvest” at The Confabulator Cafe.

Only 48 hours remain in my Kindle Countdown sale. You can get the All Manner of Dark Things e-book for 99 cents through my birthday, May 26th.

I had a ton of fun at ConQuest 46 and am already looking forward to next year. I’ll post a summary in the next few days.

“Copy Rights” at The Confabulator Cafe

My latest Confabulator Cafe short story “Copy Rights” is available. We were given the prompt “three steps to world peace.” For some reason, I thought of Ron Artest jumping in to the stands and punching a guy. Artest really has nothing to do with the story, but that’s how my writing goes sometimes.

In “Copy Rights,” a genius slacker invents human cloning technology in order to get out of his shifts at an insurance company call center. Unfortunately, his copy isn’t happy with the arrangement.

You can read the story here.

Also, if you are heading to ConQuest next month in Kansas City, be sure to keep an eye out for me. I’ll be serving on a couple of panels and will be having a joint reading with fellow Bottle Cap Publishing author R. L. Naquin. Brandon Sanderson and some guy name George R. R. Martin will be there as guests of honor. It’s always a good time.

Thank you to everyone who has bought All Manner of Dark Things, so far. It has been a lot of fun. I will be having a book signing at Hastings in Lawrence, KS on May 30th. Stop by if you are in the area.

“A Burial” at Page and Spine and My Online Store

Several months ago, I sold “A Burial” to Page and Spine. When I decided to use the story in my collection, the editor, N.K. Wagner not only agreed to provide a blurb for the back of the book, but also said she would hold off on publishing the story so that its publication would coincide with the release of the book.

“A Burial” is the first story in the All Manner of Dark Things, and I think it provides a good example of the type of literary fiction that I write. If you are looking for a good sample before deciding whether or not to buy the book, it is free and available now.

http://www.pagespineficshowcase.com/238/post/2015/04/a-burial-jack-campbell-jr.html

They deserve your support, regardless. They’ve been extremely cooperative and supportive during the entire submission and publication process.

I’ve also set up an online store through Square. There is a link to it at the top of the page. Living in Kansas, but being from Iowa, I have had a few people who wanted to buy print copies of All Manner of Dark Things but that wanted them signed. That’s awfully hard to do if they are purchased from Amazon.

If you want a signed copy of All Manner of Dark Things, you can purchase one here: http://mkt.com/jack-campbell-jr

It’s the same system that I will be using to sell copies at conventions and appearances. The price is essentially the same as Amazon, but I will sign the book before I personally ship it out to you.The turn around is a bit faster than Amazon, because I have copies on hand and will generally get them sent out the next day.

I appreciate the positive response that I have received from everyone. I can’t tell you how much the support means to me. If you like the book, remember to review it on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you regularly do such things.

Additionally, print copies of Rejected from ACA Books, which contains my story “A Simple Device,” are now available. You can find them on Amazon.  Many of the early reviews specifically mention “A Simple Device” as one of the best stories in the book.

Thanks for reading. I should have more news shortly.

-Jack

Heaven’s Edge for Camp NaNoWriMo

It is the last day of March. That means that tomorrow in the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Camp NaNo is a lot like the annual NaNoWriMo, but in April. The other major differences are that you are encouraged to set your own goal, rather than the default 50,000 words, and you can work on revisions.

During the actual NaNoWriMo in November of 2013, I wrote the first half of a book titled Heaven’s Edge. The book is the first of a planned three-book series. The titles will be Heaven’s EdgeHalo’s Slip, and Hell’s Raising. In an alternate near-future, billionaire philanthropist Dayton Fairfield builds a city that sits upon a platform above the pollution and war plaguing the surface. He calls the city Heaven’s Edge. The residents were hand-selected after an intense application process and careful screening. Book 1 takes place on the one-year anniversary of the platform’s raising. The protagonist is Mack, a wise-cracking old school detective who took a security job on Heaven’s Edge as a retirement gig. Utopia hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be, and Mack still smokes (despite there being no nicotine in his cigarettes), drinks (despite there being no alcohol in his whiskey), and expects everything to go to hell at any given moment.

It sucks to be right. After a young man shows up murdered in Dayton Fairfield’s suite, Mack finds himself caught up in the Church’s plot to destroy the surface world and bring about the rapture.

I wrote the first half of the first book and was sad that I didn’t have time to finish it while I was in grad school. Now that I’m out, I can’t wait to get back to it. The story has an old school feel with snappy, quick dialogue. It is a lot of fun to write. Hopefully, by the end of April, Heaven’s Edge will be ready for full revisions, and we will be that much closer to seeing Mack raise some Hell in Dayton Fairfield’s paradise.

I will be sure to keep you all updated on how it is going. I am expecting some other news in the next couple of weeks, as well. The release date for All Manner of Dark Things is fast approaching. You can pre-order the e-book now. The print edition proofs are being reviewed and I am hoping it will be ready for the official April 7th release.

Thank you everyone for your support. It means the world to me.

All Manner of Dark Things Available for Pre-Order and Release Details

allmannercoverfinalAll Manner of Dark Things is available for pre-order on Kindle, right now. It contains almost thirty pieces written over the entirety of my writing career. I like to think of it as my senior thesis as a short story writer. Over the last ten years, I’ve experimented with several forms of dark fiction. Horror is a diverse genre, and I had a ton of fun experimenting with its capabilities. I know that I am nowhere near the completion of my literary experimentation, but the collection is a nice summary of what I’ve done, so far. From poetry, to flash fiction, to short stories. It is all there, in several styles ranging from dark literary to straight up creature horror, from quiet psychological to gritty and brutal. I’ve tried it all, and I want to share it with all of you before I move my focus on to longer work. I will still write shorts, but there will be fewer of them. Go check out the collection, and let me know how you like it.

The official release date will be April 7th. The e-book will be available exclusively on Kindle for at least the first three months. I am taking part in Kindle Select, which means if you are a Prime member, the book will be available to borrow, if if you have Kindle Unlimited, you are golden there, as well. Don’t have a Kindle? Fear not. The print edition will be available through print-on-demand. I will post links as I get them.  As a special deal, I have also signed up for the Kindle Matchbook program, which means that people who by the print edition will get a discount on the e-book.

I am expecting to have much more news in the next few months, so stay tuned.

As always, thanks for reading.

Jack

Midnight and the Boogieman at The Confabulator Cafe; A Simple Device in Rejected

rejectedIn my latest Confabulator Cafe story, “Midnight and the Boogieman,” paranormal blogger and Truman Capote disciple Boogieman Beau is confronted by a man who leaps from body to body every night at the stroke of midnight. You can read it for free at The Confabulator Cafe.

My short story “A Simple Device” is out in Rejected, an anthology from ACA Books. A man wakes up hungover in a strange hotel with a bomb hanging around his neck. It’s available on Kindle now. Physical copies will be available via print-on-demand. I will have links available as soon as possible.

That MFA Article and Your Writing Life

This is yet another blog about the MFA article that has caused great debate in the writing community. It popped up all over Facebook with people both for and against it. Chuck Wendig posted an entertaining and somewhat scathing critique on his own blog. People were all over the place, raging or praising.

I thought about leaving it alone. What else could I add? But divisive topics tend to produce ravenous support or condemnation. Instead, I offer indifference. I don’t mean that I don’t care. It’s just that neither side affects me. Let’s review:

1. Writer’s are born with talent.

As with anything, that is true. None of us start at the same baseline. Some people just run faster, but the idea that talent trumps all is an unfortunate and inaccurate statement. It steals credit from those who have succeeded by making it seem that they were gifted their skill by a simple combination of genetics and fate. It doesn’t work that way. Michael Phelps has a talent for swimming. He has the perfect physicality for it. He also spent eight hours a day in the pool training for the Olympics. Phelps wasn’t handed gold medals because of his talent. He earned them through hard work. All of your favorite writers have to work very hard to produce books. It requires hour upon hour of writing and revision, no matter how talented you are. I’ve known some very talented writers who could use less talent and more actual putting words on paper. But it doesn’t matter. My talent is my talent. I can’t control it. I just do the best I can with what I have.

2. If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.

What is writing? It’s storytelling on a basic level. I didn’t start writing prose until I was in college, unless you count a couple of things here and there, including some ill-advised Fern Gully fan-fiction. I drew comic books. I told stories in a visual form. As with every other kid, I fantasized a lot, creating scenarios in my head. Isn’t that essentially writing? Books are a medium of storytelling on its most basic level. But that doesn’t matter, either. I can’t go back in time and tell twelve year-old Jack,  hunched over a drafting table and drawing superheroes, that he should try some prose. The past is what it is. I can’t control it. I just do the best I can with the past I have.

3. If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.

People complain all the time. It doesn’t mean they don’t do it anyway. I complain about dishes, laundry, traffic, and having to put on pants.  I still do all of those things. As long as you are getting work done, who cares if you complain about it? Whether they complain or not doesn’t affect me, and quite honestly should not affect their teacher. If they are producing, great. If they aren’t, you are their teacher. Flunk them. Do you honestly think that there aren’t kids in the math department complaining that they don’t have time to do equations? Complain about writing time all you want. As long as you produce a good book, no one will care.

4. If you aren’t a serious reader, don’t expect anyone to read what you write.

I absolutely believe that reading helps your writing. You should read a lot. You should read across genres. I consider reading time to be writing time, because they are so closely-related. The post then goes on to further qualify that by saying you need read great works of literature. I love those books, but they aren’t for everyone. Further, no one cares what you read if you write a good book. They aren’t going to rush off to check out your Goodreads account before they read your novel. Besides, once again we are talking about something I can’t control. I write the story. I send out the story. I promote the story. I don’t control whether people actually read it or not. Will reading making you a better writer? I think so. But your reader doesn’t know whether you just read The Great Gatsby or 50 Shades of Grey. If your book sucks, no one is going care that you’ve read Moby Dick.

5. No one cares about your problems if you’re a shitty writer.

I’m not even going to touch this one. Who says this about their students?

6. You don’t need my help to get published.

Any writer who says they haven’t learned something from another writer is lying to you. You don’t need an MFA to get published. I don’t have one. What I do have is a very large collection of writing books. I’ve read literally hundreds of essays. I’ve been in workshops, critique groups, and every other type of writer’s group that exists. I’ve learned from them. They have made me a better writer. If you can’t teach your students to be better writers, then you are a shitty teacher. Beyond that, the comment places the focus on another thing that writers don’t directly control. You don’t decide if you get published. Neither does your teacher. Publishers decide if you get published. Write the best book you can, and then let it go.

7. It’s not important that people think you’re smart.

I agree, but what is this blogger’s obsession with other people’s perception? People only care if your book is good or if it sucks. I can’t control what people think, only what I put out there for them to read.

8. It’s important to woodshed.

But…but I thought you said I was talented! I’ve written a lot of things that never saw the light of day. I didn’t even finish some of them. I’ve got an entire folder full of beginnings that sucked. But the idea of not sharing your work with anyone doesn’t help, at all. I’m not saying you should upload your garbage first drafts to Amazon, but you will learn much more slowly in a vacuum than you will by sharing. Despite what this article said, you CAN learn writing from other people. You learned basic sentence structure. You learn punctuation. You learn to avoid passive voice. You learn to avoid overuse of adverbs. You learn to show not tell. Could you learn all of these things on your own? Sure. You could also learn that we drive on the right side of the road by using the left lane until you hit someone head on. The alternative is someone could just tell you “We drive on the right side here.” In an entire article of things a writer has no direct control over, the blogger pushes them away from the one thing they can control. Share your work. Get feedback, and make it better.

Writing is not a solitary endeavor, but it is an art form with a single product. A good book trumps everything. Write well, and none of the rest of it matters. Complain all you want. Read garbage paperbacks that you buy for five cents at garage sales. Don’t obsess over the time you should have spent on writing. For God’s sake, don’t worry about what other people will think about you. As long as you produce a good book, no one cares. Writing is a learned skill. If you want an MFA, go get one. It’s not the only path, but it is a viable one.

Every writer has their own skillset and their own experience level. Everyone takes their own path in this business. They all think their’s is the correct one. If Chuck’s way is compatible with yours great. If Boudinot’s way is compatible with yours, by all means, follow it. In writing, there is only what works and what doesn’t. That changes for everyone.

I’m Not Romeo at The Confabulator Cafe and News Updates

The Confabulator Cafe is back with a short story focus. This month, all the contributors wrote short stories inspired by Valentine’s Day. My story, “I’m Not Romeo” is now available. It’s the story of a guy who takes credit for secret admirer gifts that he didn’t leave. You can read it at The Confabulator Cafe.

In other news, Faed, the anthology “The Polka Man” appeared in, is now available in all e-book formats as well as in print from A Murder of Storytellers.

I will have news on another anthology in the next month or so.

In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, check out the cover for  All Manner of Dark Things, which will contain “I’m Not Romeo,” “The Polka Man,” and many other stories. It’s pretty cool, and I will be excited to see it out in a couple of months.

All Manner of Dark Things Front

Brainstorming Like a Psychopath

???????????????????????????????????????People often ask where writers get ideas. Beginning writers seem to have an overarching concern that their ideas will run dry. First off, I don’t think this can actually happen. I have never sat down to write without some sort of idea forming. Beyond that, I think that your truly original ideas begin to develop after you’ve worked through the obvious tropes and cliches that plague a writer’s earliest ideas.

That being said, you can train your brain to passively create ideas for you. This involves making creative connections. A good writer doesn’t come up with an idea because of something literal that happens to him. An original idea is developed because of the connections that individual writer makes. Those connections are what make your ideas different from mind, and mine different from Stephen King’s.There are techniques and tools to help you foster this ability. Ultimately, they boil down to brainstorming.

In my first fiction writing class, my professor had an interesting way of doing this. I call it Psychopathic Brainstorming.

1) Get a blank notebook. Any cheap back-to-school notebook will do.

2) Get a bunch of recycled magazines. Any magazine. It doesn’t matter. They are easy to come up with.

3) Cut random, interesting words out of the magazine. This is the psychopath part. You will end up with a pile of words that looks like you are preparing to send a ransom note to the New York Times.

4) Tape one word to the top of each page.

Congratulations. You have built an idea journal. When you need an idea, go to a blank page, and look at the word at the top of the page. Start writing about that word. Free associate. What does that word mean to you? What comes to mind when you see it, even if it isn’t related on the surface? You chose certain words for your journal for a reason. It may be totally subliminal, but those words mean something to you.

By making new connections with those words, you are making associations that are unique to you. That is where ideas come from. Somewhere along the line, you may get an idea. If nothing else, you will have developed a theme to build a story idea around.

Even better, you will be on your way to developing the instinct to constantly make creative connections in your daily life, even without the journal to prompt you. Then you will understand why writers talk about having too many ideas, rather than not enough. My friend R.L. Naquin compares it to having a head full of bees. For me, it’s a constant pressure against my skull. (It’s not a tumah!) The problem isn’t getting an idea, but getting the rest of them to stop distracting you long enough to develop it.

Good luck, and get to writing.

Jack

P.S.

One quick news update. My short story “The Polka Man” will be appearing in the anthology Faed from A Murder of Storytellers. I will be sure to post links when the anthology is available for purchase.

Literary Archaeology

I’ve been working on putting together a collection of short stories. The book, which is tentatively titled All Manner of Dark Things, will be a sort of retrospective of everything I have written over the last ten years. It won’t have everything in it, but will be representative of my development as a writer. Reading through the old stuff, I found two things to be amazing. First off, I don’t remember writing some of it. I know I wrote it because my name sits on the by-line and its stored in my dropbox in a file of stuff that was recovered from an old computer hard drive that wore out its welcome several years ago. Second, it’s pretty obvious what I was reading around the time and what I styles I was experimenting with.

While I classify myself as a horror writer, in general, I write a fair amount of dark literary fiction. In the beginning, nearly all of my stuff was more literary than horror, although all share elements that appear again and again in my horror writing. As I read through the stories, I could almost see myself struggling to figure out who I was and trying to find my voice. I have tried nearly every style of dark writing there is from neo-noir to supernatural horror to quiet atmospheric tension to splatterpunk. I still experiment a lot and have fun paying tribute to all of my literary loves.

From Updike to Hornby to King to Bradbury to Blackwood to Poe to Hammett, I paid constant tribute to the masters and attempted to emulate them. I’ve always thought that emulation is a big part of a writer’s education. You begin by emulation, and then one day you find that you have reached actual innovation.

Looking back at all of that work, I realized that I have reached a transition point as a writer, one in which I will change my focus from short work to long work (although I love the short story form and will continue to write it.) I have also reached a point where I am no longer a mimic, but am myself. I have developed an identity as a writer that will continue to grow and develop as I continue writing.

I can’t imagine my life without writing. Hopefully I have a long career ahead of me. I hope that in another ten years, I can look back on another decade of work and still see progress and productivity. Maybe I will have enough work for another collection, so that I can stake another signpost it the long road of being a writer. Till then, the first major intersection has been reached, and I am excited to see what new roads lie ahead.