Author Archives: Aaron Ritchey

About Aaron Ritchey

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of Long Live the Suicide King, a finalist in the Reader’s Favorite contest. Kirkus Reviews calls the story “a compelling tale of teenage depression handled with humor and sensitivity.” His debut novel, The Never Prayer, was also a finalist in the Colorado Gold contest. His forthcoming works include a new young adult novel from Staccato Publishing and a six book sci-fi/western series from WordFire Press. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was nominated for a Hugo. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two goddesses posing as his daughters.

Five Reasons Why J.A. Kazimer is Better Than Me

By Aaron Ritchey

Many of you know J.A. Kazimer’s normal persona, but this blog post isn’t about J.A. Kazimer the person, it’s about J.A. Kazimer the RMFW scion, the writerly icon, the literary messiah! This is about the Platonic ideal of J.A. Kazimer.

I first met her in Colorado Springs many years ago and right away I was immensely impressed by her quiet awesomeness.  So yes, I didn’t come to bury J.A. Kazimer, only to praise her.  Here are five ways J.A. Kazimer is intrinsically better than me:

  1. NETWORKING EMPRESS – When I hit the doors of a conference, I am loud, outlandish, an explosion of personality. Yeah, I somehow make that work, but Kazimer’s way is far less showy, but also effective. She talks to people and listens to them, which is the key to networking. Asking questions, listening to the answers, and making connections with people. Kazimer does this so effectively you suddenly just love her. She is proof you don’t have to be an extrovert in a loud suit to network well.
  2. MARKETING MAGICIAN – When her first book, CURSES! came out, she started up a series on her blog called “The New Never News – Your #1 Source of Fairytale News,” and you could tell she had a great time writing about current events in Fairytale land. At the same time, I went to her release party where she had killer swag and a grand guest list, but she wasn’t exactly thrilled to be in the spotlight. This proves she can do the stuff she likes and she can do the stuff she might not be comfortable with, but that’s the marketing game. A little sweet. A little sour.
  3. QUERYING GODDESS – The real reason why I adore J.A. Kazimer is that she encouraged me to query agents and editors. I would write all the time, but I was too afraid to send stuff out. Not her. She actually posted on Facebook she missed the querying process. She is a warrior! And why not? Querying is all about the possibility of wonder and success. It should be an exciting process, and Kazimer embraced it so much she actually misses the process. Yes, ladies and gentleman, she is agented, which is quite the feat nowadays.
  4. INSPIRATION GURU – So Kazimer writes books for Kensington, she writes Indie stuff, but she is out there, working, struggling, playing the game. I find that amazingly inspiring, so when I get frustrated, I just ask myself, what would J.A. Kazimer do? The answer is write books and get them published by any means necessary.
  5. ACCOMPLISHED AUTHOR – So not only can she do the marketing and work it takes to be an author in the 21st century, she can also deliver goods. Her book, The Assassin’s Heart, is a Gold Top Pick by RT Book Reviews! Just to brag about her a little, the reviewer says, “Not only is this novel sassy and fun, but the author’s research into the CIA and the life of an assassin is reflected in her work, making it not just a fabulous romantic suspense tale, but a fantastic work of fiction, period.”

At the end of the day, I hope this blog post embarrasses the hell out of J.A. Kazimer, but too many times in this long road to writerly success, we have to toot our own horns, talk about our stuff like it’s God’s gift to the English language, and shake our moneymakers. I wanted to shine a light on a soldier in the field because she truly is a wonderful human being and one of the best folks I’ve met on this utterly strange, literary journey I’m on.

 

 

Five Reasons Why Stephen King Must DIE!

By Aaron Ritchey

Whenever I meet anyone who doesn’t like Stephen King, I immediately mistrust and I hate them.  I’m a HUGE Stephen King fan, and I just finished reading 11/22/63, which is just one of his many masterpieces.

Yes, I am a Stephen King fan, but I also am full of envy and hate.  He’s too good.  I revel in his genius and then despise him for his craft.  At times, he’s so good I want to kill him dead and then eat his heart and absorb his storytelling spirit.  Wasn’t that like a story in Night Shift?

Anyway, here’s why Stephen King must die because he is just too good:

  • THE DEVIL: Many of my friends think Stephen King doesn’t need an editor, more like a chainsaw, to cut his books in half or more. I whole-heartedly disagree. The brilliance of Stephen King is that he sets up his world with such details that you are immersed in the experience.  He uses the senses, he uses ad slogans, he uses the minutia of the day-to-day to create a world so tangible, so real, that when in introduces the big, bad wolf, we readers are unnerved.  Stephen King has mastered the idea that the devil is in the details, and yeah, he writes horror, so at times, it’s actually a physical devil.  If there is one area I need to improve, it’s on adding details to setting, to characters, to really create the world of my story in the reader’s mind.  In On Writing, King argues that reading a novel is actually telepathy—his thoughts are transferred into our minds and we see what he sees and feel what he feels.  How does he do that?  Through details.
  • HIGH NOON: Stephen King writes page-turners. Why?  Because he knows all about    Sometimes he does it subtly, sometimes blatantly.  It’s why reading his books is so addictive.  He will write something like, “And that was the last time Ed saw his wife alive.”  Right away, we want to know what is going to happen to Ed’s wife!  Yeah, blatant foreshadowing, but it works.  Also, what I love about King is that he will set up the big High Noon gunfight, to give us something to worry about, to look forward to, and every page brings us closer and closer to that inevitable crescendo of violence.  In The Wolves of the Calla, most of the book is in anticipation of the big gun fight, and it kept me turning pages.
  • QUICK KISSES: So we have the big high noon gunfight in the distance. In 11/22/63, it was trying to stop the Kennedy assassination.  However, he gives us pay-offs along the way.  While the High Noon climax is the macro-foreshadowing (as is the mystery of Ed’s wife), he also uses micro-foreshadowing, but he doesn’t keep us dangling in an anticipation for long.  These are like quick kisses of satisfaction.  He introduces story questions, sets it up so we are curious, and then answers them in the same chapter.  Again, this keeps us reading because we want to know!  He doesn’t just give us the answers right away, but keeps us on edge.  Which is another reason why his books are so long.  They have to be, to enjoy the experience.
  • MOTHER’S MILK: So we are plunged into a very real world with lots of details.  We have the High Noon gunfight in the distance.  We have quick kisses of satisfying story answers along the way, but in the mix are layers of conflict that keep us breathless.  Or at least with a niggling bit of anxiety about what might happen.  King milks conflict.  I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read where the conflict is a single layer that is wrapped up quickly.    Please, keep me on edge.  For example, 11/22/63, we have the homeless guy outside of the time portal.  He’s not right. He’s crazy, and we know, he holds the answers, but King keeps him silent because he adds another dimension to the conflict. As does the romance with the high school librarian.  As does the evil bookies who realize our hero knows way too much about the past to be lucky.  Throw in a psychotic gunman trying to kill the president, and the conflicts add up.
  • THE DAREDEVIL: King writes fast, writes his heart, shoots from the hip. His novels aren’t perfect, but perfection is overrated.  The Walking Dead is a popular show not because it’s perfect, but because it gets certain things right, the important things. So too, Stephen King gets the basics just right.  Not perfect, but right.

So yes, King is a master, and, really, I don’t want him dead. He’s good, but he’s spent a lifetime working on his craft and taking chances. I will read his books until the Grim Reaper drags either him or me into that cold grave.

 

 

 

You and Your Books Will Burn In Hell For All Eternity

By Aaron Ritchey

I have monstrously grandiose way of thinking, which does not help me very much outside of writing fiction. For example, whenever anyone wants to introduce me to someone, I always assume they will be Hollywood gorgeous, man or woman. However, most people look so…normal.

Real life disappoints me most of the time.

There is one grandiose idea I find very disturbing.

I believe that some writers and some books were meant for greatness and part of me clings to the old idea of that grand destiny, the fantasy of writing a book, publishing it, and making millions of dollars overnight.  Overnight, I have fame, fortune, and…

THE MANDATE OF HEAVEN.

Really, that’s what I want.  I want THE MANDATE OF HEAVEN, God’s blessing on my writing career and on my book without going through the fear and work it takes to not only write a good book but to get it out into the world.  It’s hard.  Worse than that, it’s messy.  And there are people in my life that look upon what I’m doing with a bemused grin.  “Oh look, Aaron has another book out.  He’s posting about it on Facebook.  Isn’t that cute?  Too bad he’s not a real author.”

Or maybe no one is doing that, but hey, I have that grandiose imagination.  I can picture someone doing that, in Technicolor, so it’s real enough for me.

The reality of THE MANDATE OF HEAVEN is twofold.  On the one hand, some writers and some books did seem destined for greatness.  Their ride was smooth and their way into heaven greased.  I wish it weren’t so, but it is.  I get jealous. I beseech the gods.  Why not me???

Because I just used three question marks.  Probably.

The other side of the coin is that for most writers, it’s a game of perseverance and endurance.  And large parts of the writing game is not sexy.  Writing when you hate every word you type is not sexy.  Getting your ass handed to you at your critique group week after week is not going in the victorious montage scene.

Worse yet, other people start making headway and envy roars!  Like a Katy Perry song, my brothers and sisters.

Then I have the smirking clown on Facebook laughing at my every effort.  Yeah, him, I hate that guy.

But it goes back to endurance, perseverance, and for me, I had to let go of the fantasy of some blessed writing career.  I’ve been fortunate, I’ve had some good breaks, but it’s not my fantasy, believe you me.  I still don’t have a literary agent.  No lovin’ from Aaron from the world of traditional publishing.

What if I don’t have THE MANDATE OF HEAVEN?

It doesn’t matter.  It’s not my job to second-guess God.  It’s my job to write books and to get them published by any means necessary.   It’s my job to do the grunt work and sweat of marketing and posting and all that.  It’s my job to do all the unsexy parts and when people laugh at me?  Well, if I have people who laugh and scoff at me, I know I’m doing something right.

Fashionable apathy is cool, trendy, hip—always has been and always will be.  Being cynical is so much easier than hoping against hoping and writing books the world may or may not bless with money and a vast readership.

And if my books are damned to hell?  Good.  The best parts of Paradise Lost were about Satan anyway.

But I don’t believe any books or authors are cursed.  I believe that since I have the desire to write books, I have a sacred duty to write those books.

That is all the mandate I need.

Get BIG By Going Small – The Top Five Reasons To Publish With A Small Press

By Aaron Ritchey

So once again, I was talking to someone about writing and publishing. Why do I always get myself into these conversations?

Anyhow, we were talking big press, small press, and indie publishing.

Sidenote. I got chastised the other day by someone who said that indie publishing and self-publishing were two different things and that people would be upset if I mixed the two. Indie publishing, this person insisted, was for small independent presses versus the do-it-yourself (DIY) of self-publishing. Um, yeah, anyway, I like indie publishing and self-publishing being synonymous. And besides, most authors I know who have done it themselves start their own independent publishing company that publishes only them. But I digress…

A small press, as I see it, is someone who agrees to publish my book in return for a percentage of the sales.  Like a huge press, they handle editing and cover art and some marketing.  That last piece is critical, as we’ll see.

So my friend is almost done with her book and she has her sights set on the big press, the traditional contract, the literary agent. Which I completely understand. I’ve always fantasized that I’d be at a cocktail party, and I could use the words, “My agent says…”

More and more, I’m thinking the fantasies I have really don’t matter. Reality can’t compete with my imagination, so even when I get what I think I want, it never measures up.

Anyway, I suggested to my friend that if she can’t get into one of the big houses she should try a small press. To which she said, “Why should I? I can do all that myself.”

And that is very true. Indie pub, DIY, you go, girl.

However, I have gone with small presses for all my books so far and here are the top five benefits of going with a small press:

  1. I have at least one other person in the world besides myself that likes the project, that has volunteered to spend their precious life’s minutes on my work. That not only is a confidence booster, but it also gives me some street cred. I can’t talk about my agent at the cocktail party, but I can talk about my editor, my publisher, my cover artist, blah, blah, blah.
  2. I have at least one other person in the world (generally more) who are talking about my book, promoting my book, giving my book out to others, and generally donning the fur coat and platform shoes to pimp my book. This is also huge. Word-of-mouth sells books. The more mouths wording, the more books sold.
  3. I don’t have to do all the editing myself. Yes, I have editors at my small presses, but I also have a freelance copy editor I pay for that all important final polish. You can’t have too many eyes looking at a book and yes, small presses will do editing, but I would also have a friend or three pore over the manuscript looking for typos. In this day and age, editing is everything.
  4. I don’t have to do all the cover art stuff myself. Now I like DEVIANTART.COM as much as the next guy, but I didn’t get into the book writing business to do cover art. I’m not good at it. I don’t have an eye for it. And getting help is wonderful. Be warned, however, some small presses are better at cover art than others. Before you sign up, look at the covers and take stock. In this day and age, cover art is everything.
  5. Lastly, I like working with a team of people that have skin in the game. Yes, I can hire editors and cover artists for my book, but once I write them their check, they are done. With small presses, the people I work with make money when the book sells so they have a vested interest in putting out quality books and making them shine. On my own, it’s all up to me. And it’s a lonely old world.

So that is my pitch for small presses. I have a few I adore–some I’ve worked with, others not yet.  Here’s a quick list: WordFire Press (and I don’t imagine they’ll be small for long), Entangled (also on the rise), Courtney Literary (Hi, Deb!), Desert Breeze Publishing (Hi, Gail!), and last but not least, Staccato Publishing, home of my third novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight.

Of course there are others.

Do your research! Don’t go into the game unaware. Just like everything else, shop around, talk to authors at that press, and know what the press does and doesn’t do. There are websites and author pages that will give small presses a yeah or a nay. Again, be careful.

Above all, write your book, polish it, and then get your book in front of readers BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY! Big, small, or indie, just get ‘r done.

New Book? Don’t Poop on The Party!

By Aaron Ritchey

So I have a friend who didn’t do an initial book signing for his first book.  He didn’t do any sort of book launch party, nothing like that.  He just threw his book up on Amazon, did some online stuff, but didn’t really celebrate the fact that he had done something that very few people will ever do.

Very few people will ever write a book.

Very few people will ever spend the time to edit that book.

Very few people will ever publish that spit-polished book.

Just the facts of life.  So if you get nothing else from this little blog post, take away the idea that we have to celebrate every little victory, every little hurray, and what better way to celebrate the hurray than to have a party?

Yes, this is a party in your honor, about your book, and yes, it’s all going to be about you.  For many people, this can be hard.  Even though I’m an attention whore, I found it difficult.  Before my first book launch, I drove around and around the restaurant, afraid to park, afraid of the potential criticism, frustration, and disappointment.

What if no one comes?  What if they do come, but are resentful at me for putting on the party in the first place?  What if no one actually buys the book?  What if no one likes me or the book?

All of those thoughts are in the end selfish and self-centered.  I’m afraid that people aren’t going to like me or people will think I’m trying to guilt them into buying a book.  And the mother of all fears, what if I alienate all my friends?

On the one hand, book launch parties are all about the author and their book, but how about we look at this another way?  Book launch parties are a way to celebrate an accomplishment and bring together the people who love you and want to support you.  Yes, some people do NOT want you to succeed and will feel threatened by your success.  Sad but true.  I’ve lost friends since I’ve become published.  However, most of the people in my life are thrilled that I’m pursuing this dream,  that I’m writing books, and they WANT to be a part of it.  They WANT to support me.  If I don’t include them, I’m being selfish.

A book launch party is a way to include everyone in the victory.  It’s like the final scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, without the medals and droids.  I’ve done them across the country and yes, at first, it was hard for all the reasons I’ve listed.  But at some stage of the game, I realized I liked doing them, not so I could sell books, but so I could see people and talk to people and include them in the grand drama of the publishing game.

Where did I have my parties?  Book stores can be hard to get into, especially if you aren’t running with the big dogs, but I’ve used restaurants, coffee shops, and even an art gallery in Santa Clara, California.  Best venue ever.

I bring a box of books, I bring cash for change, and I have a Square account so I can accept credit cards using my smart phone.

The Facebook Event function and eVite.com are great tools to invite everyone you know .  And I encourage my friends and family to invite everyone they know.  I do so fearlessly because again, if I focus on the self-centered fear, I’ll worry that people will think I’m trying to dupe them into buying a book.  But if I focus on the love and support I feel from those people who want to celebrate with me, I get excited and this all becomes easier.

How long should the book launch party be?  Two hours is the perfect amount of time.  People arrive and I greet them.  Forty-five minutes into it, I give a little talk, read a few pages, and chat and sign books.  Thank God for Costco ‘cause they have catered most of my book parties.  What’s a party without a little food?

Yes, people are expected to buy books—some will, some won’t.  That doesn’t matter.  What matters is that rather than hiding my books and myself away in a basement, I am opening myself up to the world and I am saying, “My books are good, I believe in them, and I want you to be a part of this adventure with me.”

So plan book parties, celebrate your books and your career, and be sure to invite me.  I love me a good party.

Everything I Learned About Writing I learned From Johnny Cash

By Aaron Ritchey

I just finished a biography on Johnny Cash, and love is a burning a thing.  Also, the book business has a lot of similarities to the music industry.

This is what I learned:

1)      Success can be a whole lotta luck — For example, Johnny Cash moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1955.  Summer of 1955.  Do you know what else happened the summer of 1955?  Sam Phillips, the guru behind Sun Records, discovered Elvis.  A few months later, Johnny Cash walked into Sam Phillips’ studio.  Stupid, stupid luck.  What if Johnny Cash hadn’t been in Memphis in 1955?

2)      You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing – So Johnny Cash would get together with this buddies Marshall Grant and Luther Perkins, and they would play music together.  They were a garage band in the south in the 50’s.  They weren’t all that good, but since they weren’t very good, they had to kind of fake it, which resulted in was called their “boom chicka boom” sound.  It wasn’t that they were cutting edge musicians, no, they were struggling to just get notes out there.  The result?  Folsom Prison Blues.

3)      You don’t have to be completely original to succeed –  So Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two (Grant and Perkins) had a distinctive sound.  However, Folsom Prison Blues was based on another song, Crescent City Blues.  Johnny Cash made it his own, granted, but in the end, he had to pay out a settlement because the two songs were so similar.  In a way, Johnny Cash’s entire career was based on Folsom Prison Blues and I Walk the Line.  One was an original work; the other wasn’t.  Shakespeare did this same thing.  I’m not saying steal and plagiarize, but for myself, I’ve thrown away perfectly good ideas because I thought they’d been done before.  It’s ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE!  Take your passion, make it happen, and write books in such a way that no one, and I mean no one, would ever think you plagiarized a thing.  I’d still clear of sparkly vampires, though.  Just sayin’.

4)      Writing for the market is iffy.  Writing from your heart makes all the difference – Johnny Cash would write what he thought of as “Johnny Cash” songs, like Ballad of Teenage Queen.  But then he would write his “JR Cash” songs like I Walk the Line and Folsom Prison Blues and Ring of Fire. Those are JR songs (growing up, his family called him JR).  How many people adore and go crazy over Ballad of Teenage Queen?  It was written for the market.   Yeah, I know.  Don’t even bother YouTubeing it.  It’s a silly song.  Those other songs?  Genius!

5)      Artists need outside help and editors are necessary —  By the early 1990’s, it was clear that Johnny Cash’s best years lay behind him.  I mean, he was playing to like a dozen people in Branson, Missouri matinees.  And the people were wanting their money back.  Cash hadn’t really had a stand-out solo song for decades. Then along comes Rick Rubin,  a hotshot hip-hop producer. Why would he want to work with Johnny Cash?  He was a has-been.  Why would Johnny Cash want to work with Rick Rubin?  He was a weird hippie commie liberal sinner.  Well, the hippie part is probably true, the rest I made up.  Anyway, Rick Rubin wanted to see what he could do with a legend like Johnny Cash, someone past their prime.  Or was he?  Johnny Cash suffered from producers who failed to push him to do great things.  Sam Phillips made Johnny Cash a star because Sam Phillips had vision.  So did Rick Rubin.  If you have not heard any of the Johnny Cash American Recordings songs, well, shame on you.  Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash, working together, made in my opinion the best music of Johnny Cash’s career.  Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails says that he now covers “Hurt” because it’s now a Johnny Cash song. The cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” is inspired. What if Johnny Cash had had someone like Rick Rubin in the 70’s and 80’s?  What kind of masterpieces would he have recorded?

6)      You can’t write books if you are dead –  Phillip Seymore Hoffman will never act again because he overdosed on drugs.  We’ve had Colorado authors who will never write again because they committed suicide.  Johnny Cash most likely should’ve died numerous times.  If he had ridden that addiction train to nowhere, we would’ve been ROBBED of his art.  So take care of yourself.  If you drink too much, stop drinking.  If you take drugs, think about it.  If you don’t exercise and eat junk food, think about it.  You can’t write if you’re dead.  So take care of yourself.

Johnny Cash made the world a better place because wrote songs and played music.  We who write books and publish them also add something vital to this mean old world.

So keep walking that line and write.