And then there’s The Tree Readers

The Anunnaki are coming, and they are going to solve the human problem once and for all.

The Anunnaki are coming, and they are going to solve the human problem once and for all.

I’m still working on The Tree Readers.  I have no idea how long before it’s published in book format, but I’m continuing to upload first draft chapters on Wattpad.  What you’re reading there will be tweaked, cut, or completely altered before I send it to my agent.   Call it the “rough author’s cut.”

BTW – The aliens that appear in The Tree Readers are ‘real’.  By that I mean, there are certain groups who believe that the Anunnaki are ‘real’ giant aliens that created the human race. I’ve taken actual folklore and shaped it to fit my storyline.  Many hardcore Ancient Astronaut devotees will most likely hate me for it, not to mention the Anunnaki themselves.  They do not come off looking that great.  If I go missing, look to the skies because I’m fairly certain I’ll be facing an Anunnaki tribunal for my blasphemy.

The Gore and The Takers

Yes, I am evil.  Why do you ask?

Yes, I am evil. Why do you ask?

I just wanted to take a moment to thank all the early readers of The Gore.  You’ve been way too kind, and I appreciate every word.  Perhaps the kindest comment yet is that I seem to be getting increasingly evil  with each book in the series (Thanks Thom Millman).  After listening to cuts of the audio book for The Takers, I totally agree.  I’ve done some horrible things to Oz, and things just keep getting worse for the kid.  But, that’s my job.

Speaking of The Takers audio book, it’s coming along nicely.  John Anthony Davis (or as I call him, JAD) has been great to work with.  I’ve lived with these characters for so long, I know their voices better than most the people in my life.  JAD has been patient with me when I’ve asked him to be ‘more redneck’ on a couple of the cuts. He’s doing such a great job I’ve gotten chills listening to the story.  As I’ve told him, it’s not my writing, it’s his voice.  This is an entirely different world for me, and it’s really a lot of fun.

I’ll have a bio of JAD later in the week.  We’re not ready to release the book yet, but we’re getting there.   I’ll also be doing a write up on my experience with ACX.  Once again, the Amazon family has found a way to give authors even more control over their own careers.

Introducing C. Hoyt Caldwell

bottle cover3

Sometimes the only way out is the bad way out.

A number of you have figured it out already.  I think I saw the first mention on Facebook about 10 minutes after I published the previous post.  I have a feeling this will either ruin me or be the smartest thing I’ve ever done.  What would life be without a little risk?

Here is more than you ever wanted to know about C. Hoyt Caldwell and his book Bad Way Out.

  •  Title: Bad Way Out
  • Author Bio: C. Hoyt Caldwell is a writer simultaneously proud of and puzzled by his Southern roots. He’s not smart enough to be subtle so his work tends to be tasteless and gritty. He’s not out to offend anyone, but he’s also not out to win anyone over either. His stories are full of sex, violence, heart, and attempts at humor. His book Bad Way Out was recently named the third best independent book about the south published in 2012, but if you ask him about it, he’ll probably lie and tell you it came in first. He can be reached at ch(at)
  • Genre: Southern Thriller (emphasis on Southern)
  • Pitch: Sometimes the only way out is the bad way out.
  • Amazon Description:  E.R. Percy’s whiskey making days are turned upside down by the sudden appearance of a giant naked man, an unsavory job offer from a drug dealer, and a sultry local girl hell-bent on making it as difficult as possible for him to keep his vows to his wife. He wants nothing more than to sell his illegal wares and be left alone. Unfortunately, the whiskey man is about to come to terms with the only way for that to happen: the bad way out.
  • Book Rating: R
  • Sexual Content:  Semi-graphic, although most of it is dealt with in a humorous way.  It’s nothing you haven’t heard or seen in HBO original programming.  As I understand it, it’s tame compared to Fifty Shades of Grey.  I’ve never read the book, so I can’t say for sure.
  • Violent Content: Graphic. It has the three Bs; blood, bullets, and blades.
  • Influences and Pen Name: Cormac McCarthy and Charles Portis.  McCarthy is the grittiest author on the streets today, and Portis is funny as hell.  I discovered Erskine Caldwell after writing Bad Way Out, and I was actually blown away by how similar his style in a book like God’s Little Acre is to the style I used for my book.  I’m so glad I didn’t find him until after I wrote the book because I would have heard his voice in my head every time I sat down at my computer.  He is now hands down my favorite author. When I was looking for a pen name for the book, Caldwell was the obvious choice.  I wanted something Southern for the first name.  It came down to Cash or Hoyt.  I couldn’t decide so I went with C. Hoyt Caldwell.
  • The Cover: It’s gone through three different iterations.  I originally went with a plain black background with white text.  I tried to make it look like a whiskey bottle label.  Those kinds of covers only work if you’ve got big marketing dollars, or you’re a known author with a following.  C. Hoyt Caldwell is a poor unknown.  I got rid of the black background and went with the image of a woman’s rear-end in a pair of daisy dukes holding a whiskey bottle. I did that in part because I felt really self-conscious about the sexual content, and I didn’t want people to be surprised by it.  But the cover got to be a bit of a problem because erotica readers picked up the book expecting… well, erotica.  They wanted much steamier passages than what I was offering.  Luckily, I ‘won’ the bronze in this year’s IPPY competition, and that gave me another opportunity to change the cover.  I wanted something a little classier than a girl’s rear-end, so I came up with the current design.  I’m hoping the award sticker will be enough to attract readers now.  I’m really glad I got rid of the daisy dukes image because I saw Miley Cyrus in her granny-panty shorts on Jimmy Kimmel, and I thought, “Oh, that is sad.  Now I see it.”  Someone really needs to let her know.
  • Tone: I’ve used the term ‘vulgar’ to describe this book, and people think I’m nuts.  All the word means is lacking in sophistication, and Bad Way Out is definitely not sophisticated.  Unfortunately, when you say ‘vulgar’ these days people associate it with pornography.  Bad Way Out is not porn.  If it was, you wouldn’t be reading about it on this blog. Trust me.  I used to jokingly call it hillbilly porn, but people started taking me seriously, so I stopped calling it that.  Actually, a reviewer in the UK gave it my favorite description when he (or she) called it an Appalachian crime noir.  I think that pretty much says it all.
  • The Setting: Maiden Falls is the made up Tennessee hill town where the story takes place.  I say such unkind things about the town and the people I couldn’t use the name of a real place.   Do I know people like the ones in Maiden Falls?  Yep.  Everyone who’s lived in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia etc., knows people like the ones that live in Maiden Falls.
  • C. Hoyt Caldwells Future:  There will be more books.  I’m endlessly fascinated by the Southern culture, so I want to examine it further.  I’m sure future titles will be more controversial.  The one I’m working on now is a dark, yet humorous exposé on homosexuality in a small Tennessee town.  It may ruffle some feathers.  CHC is blunt and honest.  He’s going to tell it like he sees it.
  • The Hair: Anything is possible with Photoshop.
  • In Closing:  You won’t see C. Hoyt Caldwell on this blog again unless something incredible happens regarding one of his books.  He has his own blog and Facebook page, but be forewarned, he is vulgar. R.W. Ridley will never appear on his blog.  “Worlds colliding, Jerry!  Worlds colliding!”

BTW – I felt it necessary to explain the three different covers for the book because a Google search brings them all up in the search results.  I wasn’t dying to tell you I resorted to using an overtly sexist image on the cover at some point in the life of the book.

The results of the ‘reveal’ poll

I’m as conflicted as this guy.

So, the poll results were unanimously in favor of ‘my friend’ revealing his identity.  The comments on Facebook, however, strongly advised against it.  They also didn’t bother pretending ‘my friend’ wasn’t actually me.  So, what does that tell me?  It tells me I have a lot of great friends, family, and supporters who are kind enough to indulge my occasional bouts of artistic uncertainty.

When I was eighteen, I didn’t secretly and slowly gravitate towards the mind of a writer because I thought it would one day provide me with financial stability (thank GOD!).  I wanted to be a writer in those days because it would allow me to express myself.  As you get older, your priorities shift, and you soon discover, as much as you hate to admit it, you make decisions for financial reasons.  I’m no different than every other adult on this planet trying to pay the bills and contribute to his or her family’s wellbeing.

With those financial obligations comes the erosion of artistic conviction.  Your fear of offending someone and losing their support trumps your desire to take risks.  In a lot of ways, I’m fortunate because I pushed the boundaries with my young adult material from day one.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by people in the know that I need to change the first line of my first book because it’s offensive.  Of course it’s offensive.  It’s supposed to be.

But speaking to young adults using frank and even shocking language to get their attention is completely different than allowing my sometimes cynical and inappropriate adult voice to infiltrate my writing.  I recognized with the writing of Two Notch that I liked playing with ‘adult’ themes and after publishing that book I knew I wanted to dive deeper into that style.  I also knew I didn’t want my young adult readers rushing out to read that kind of material just because my name was attached to it. Having a need to express myself in a sometimes ‘vulgar’ (Think George Carlin as a hillbilly) manner doesn’t mean I’m willing to be irresponsible and shirk my accountability as a member of the global community.

Where does that leave us with ‘the reveal’?  I am as conflicted as ever, but I am going to reveal the title of the book… eventually.  Before I do, I’m going to share two of the reviews that will give you, my R.W. Ridley readers, an idea of the content, theme, and tone of the book.  I’ll follow with a post with detailed information about the book.  It will not be my practice to post about this book or future books under this pen name on this blog.  I have a separate blog for ‘him.’  That blog will mostly address the things that tick me off and the tasteless things that make me laugh. I’ll even touch on political and social issues that put me at odds with a lot of my Southern brethren. I want to keep the two worlds separate, but I also don’t want to be accused of ‘hiding’ something from my readers.  Having a secret identity is cool in some ways, but it also makes you feel like a bit of a liar.

And now the reviews:

From the UK

Could this book start off a craze of what can only be called Appalachian crime noir? Meet E. R. Percy, mountain man and the brewer of the best moonshine you will ever sip. Life has always been hard for the mountain folk, but illegal stills and their product is nothing compared to the drugs trade. When E. R. first refuses to work in the drugs business he is at first threatened, but this escalates to a feud. Throw in a mysterious mountain of a man that suddenly appears in his brewing shed and you find there is a lot of comedy to what would otherwise be a bloody and dark tale.

Fun to read and hard to put down this is a great tale of hillbillies and their culture versus the modern drug lord. The characters come to life in all their glorious eccentricities, from a man mad seventeen year old girl to the corrupt reverend. Unfortunately this book will probably get overlooked, which is a shame, as it is such a great read and should appeal to a lot of people.

…Certainly original, this is full of violence and humour, and certainly a thing that Quentin Taratino would love to get his hands on.

From the US

(Author Name withheld) thriller took me back to my favorite Robert Mitcham movie of 1958. “There was moonshine, moonshine to quench the devil’s thirst”.

(Title of book withheld) is one fast ride for sure! E.R.Percy and his fat cousin Crick are a pair to draw to but then toss in a naked giant, a too sexy for her own good jail bait teen, a demonic drug Lord and you have a potent 190 proof white light in showdown breaking.

The lingo is country fried as you would expect in a story set in the backwoods where E.R. , a Junior College graduate, is considered a mountain Einstein of the art of Copper Pot Chemistry cooling up the best white whiskey some declare to be in the entire country.

E.R. is content with his wife Rose and his baby until the meth deal in Milo jumps ugly and covets E.R.’s whiskey business and wants to turn all his whiskey customers into meth addicts.

Milo thinks his big city gangster rules will work for him in the backwoods on these hillbillies. Well, you’ll just have to read and find out for yourself if E.R. , cousin Crick, and the Giant survive to supply Mountain Falls with the best whiskey that ever soothed a troubled soul. Buy this book, and pray that Brother Caldwell will keep us supplied with simple good stories from out the backwoods.. Wish I could have given this one 10 Stars!

I chose these two reviews for a reason.  They are incredibly flattering (Hey, I do have an ego, you know?), and they perfectly encapsulate the tone and content of the book.

More to come.

BTW: I’m aware that I’ve provided enough information for anyone to easily find the book via a simple Google inquiry.  I thought about ‘redacting’ the obvious indicators, but that would have made this post look like an NSA document.  That’s an association I’d like to avoid, thank you very much!

To reveal or not to reveal, that is question. (Poll)

I have this friend.  He’s written a number of books under his real name, which are geared toward the young adult market.  But he’s also written another book under a pen name.  That book has some pretty salty language and suggestive situations.  Nothing too outrageous, but definitely not for the younger members of his fan base.   As one reader said, it’s “nothing you would not see on TV, granted it would be after 9 PM or on cable.”

The problem is that the book has gotten some really great reviews from readers. And, recently, the book won an award (if you count a bronze medal as winning).

So my friend now faces a dilemma. He’s really proud of this book and wants to let everyone know about it.  But, he’s been advised to keep his “brand” uncomplicated.  What do you think he should do? Should he publicly reveal the title of this questionable material or should he play it safe and keep his pen name a secret?

The Conjuring

When I was in college many, many years ago, I went to a program in the student center auditorium.  I had no idea who the people were that were on the poster and back in those days, googling them wasn’t an option.   I went to this free program because it was about ghosts.  How else would a horror-obsessed college kid spend his Friday night?

The folks in the poster were Ed and Lorraine Warren, and to say they were out of place in an auditorium full of college kids, is an understatement.  Lorraine dressed like a slightly more modest June Carter performing at the Grand Ole Opry, and Ed wore a gray suit that he may have purchased during the bicentennial twelve years earlier.

I almost stood up and walked out as soon as I saw them.  They looked like unhip versions of my grandparents.  I was sure there was no way these people were going to scare me.  I went against my gut and decided to stay.

Lorraine spoke first. She gave an ominous warning.  We were about to see photos and hear audio of actual demons.  Anyone who didn’t feel safe was invited to leave.  She would pray for us and protect us with some sort of white light thingy.  I’m not sure what it was because I was rolling my eyes at this point.

She said her prayer and they immediately jumped into some bizarre photos and spooky audio recordings.  The stories they told were terrifying.  I quickly forgot how utterly uncool these people were and become enthralled by their presentation.  It was strange being frightened so completely by such kind and sweet people.

I bring all this up because I just heard about an upcoming film featuring Ed and Lorraine.  Apparently, it’s about a case they never spoke publicly about because it was so horrific.  Trust me, I will see this movie and you can bet there’s no chance I’ll be leaving early.

Is the underground warehouse in The Gore a real thing?

Throw in rows of shelves packed with supplies and you almost have the underground warehouse from The Gore!

Throw in rows of shelves packed with supplies and you almost have the underground warehouse from The Gore!

If you’ve read The Gore, you may have noticed I sent the crew underground again.  Let’s face it. We all know monsters hangout in caves and tunnels.  Anyway, I made up a secret government system of subterranean warehouses connected by an equally secret government subway system that covers the entire country.  Turns out, there actually are large underground caverns that were built by the government.   I knew that some existed, but to what extent I had no idea.  Now a guy in California is buying up some abandoned underground dwellings built by the military and turning them into resorts and shelters for the pending apocalypse.  The company is called Vivos. No word on whether or not the caverns will be connected by a subway system or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Check out this story about the resort/shelter on Yahoo! Developer: Kan. caverns could preserve human race

Correction Amazon does pay advances

Timebound by Rysa Walker

Timebound by Rysa Walker to be published by Skyscape

In my post earlier this week about the woeful woes of woe-weary authors, I made the statement that Amazon doesn’t normally pay large advances.  In fact, I said they likely don’t pay any advances at all in most cases.  Turns out I may have spoken out of turn.  Jane Friedman’s Writing on the Ether blog has a story about author Rysa Walker receiving a $50,000 advance for her self-published title Timebound.  That is not chump change, and congratulations to Walker on signing her first publishing contract.  With such a big investment on Amazon’s part, you can be assured she’s going to get some well-placed ad support on the mega online retailers site, as well as some push in the trades.

For those of you not familiar with advances, they are usually paid out a third at a time.  In the olden days of publishing (approximately 5 years ago), it took 12-18 months for authors to receive their advances in full and those advances were usually around $5,000. Authors would get a third upon signing, a third after the edits had been approved, and the last third when the manuscript was sent off to the printers.  I’m guessing Amazon is doing something similar although in a shorter period of time.  I think the book will be re-released under Amazon’s Skyscape imprint in October.

UPDATE – I neglected to credit Porter Anderson as the author of the piece on Writing on the Ether.