There’s No Escaping Hell For “Hell’s Butcher”

Hells Butcher Series

I had the pleasure of reading the Hell’s Butcher series by Chris Barili, Hell’s Marshal and Hell’s Butcher. This series is refreshingly different, a combination of western, speculative fiction and super hero, and somehow, it all works.

Frank Butcher has been appointed Hell’s Marshal, sent back to the land of the living on the trail of killers escaped from hell, bent on wrecking havoc and changing history to aide in the rise of the south. In Hell’s Marshal, Frank and his posse of walking dad and their coyote guide are after the renegade soul of Jesse James before he can revive the confederacy and rise up once more against the union.

They travel on a stage pulled by hell’s steeds, which never tire and move at incredible speeds, and they carry weapons with the power to send souls back to hell, where they belong. But, it isn’t easy to pursue their prey in bodies that have been dead a long time, causing extra difficulties to the chase. The coach is driven by a mortal man with special gifts and they’re joined by an orphan boy with the power to see souls raised from the fiery pit.

In Hell’s Butcher, John Wilkes Booth is the renegade soul, back to build an army to finish the government takeover, the conspiracy around the assassination failed to complete, and Frank and his posse must send them back. In a chase filled with misdirection, and battles with demonic souls inhabiting living bodies, there is no way to triumph without further damning the posse members’ souls.

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I absolutely love these story lines and must say these books are well crafted. Barili does a smash up job of drawing the reader into his world, where condemned souls can walk among the living. My only problem with these books is the fact that Frank doesn’t seem to change much. Guilt and self-loathing are Frank’s fatal flaws as the protagonist, and although it doesn’t necessarily be resolved, there should at least be some evident change by the end of each story arc.  Even by the end of the second book, although he reasons that people should not have to suffer for things they’ve done due to circumstances beyond their control, yet he still resigns himself to whatever punishment the judges dole out, feeling he deserves it, unable to apply the lesson to his own situation, and he is unable to forgive himself.

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Both books in this series, Hell’s Marshal and Hell’s Butcher are entertaining tales with refreshingly original story lines. Each book could be stand alone stories. Regardless of the one glitch found in the protagonist’s character arc, they are fun reads that keep the pages turning. I give them both four quills.

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GuiltyIf you like the Hell’s Butcher series as much as I did, you’ll want to be sure and grab the prequel, Guilty, which is now also available. Guilty tells the story the events in Frank’s life that brought him before the judges and put him in the position to serve as Hell’s Marshal. This book offers insight into Frank’s character, so we can see where all that self-loathing comes from, drawing the series together and giving it cohesion. It is a different, but wonderfully entertaining story line. I give Guilty five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


A Published Author At Last – Now It’s In My Readers’ Hands

Delilah Cover

The exciting news this week is, Delilah is now available in digital format! It’s something I’ve been waiting for for quite a while, so of course, I am ecstatic. But, something many aspiring authors may not realize is that publication isn’t the end of the road. No, it’s actually just the beginning of a new chapter in the book of writing, this one titled Sell that Book.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my road to publication, I started Delilah back in 2012, when I entered the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western State Colorado University. The assignment given by my instructor, Russell Davis, was to write an excerpt in a genre outside our comfort zone. I was assigned to write in western genre, and low and behold, I found not only am I good at it, but I like writing western. Four years later, that small excerpt, grew into a 60,000 word western novel which I’ve been trying to find a publisher for over the past year.

You see, writing the book, while a great accomplishment unto itself, is only half the battle. It doesn’t do any good to write a story, if no one ever reads it. In order for that to happen, the book must be published, and while I could self-publish, (I had considered it), I held out hope of finding a publisher, and in the end my persistence paid off.

So, now that I got Delilah published, with the help of Dusty Saddles Publishing, I must get the word out through marketing and promotion. I must get people to read, and maybe more important, write reviews.

Reviews are where it’s at these days. According to Amazon, reviews are how you get your book promoted, and I just read somewhere that Amazon has recently increased the number of reviews needed for them to promote your book, from thirty-five to fifty or one hundred.

The question is, where do I get reviews from? Although I do honest reviews here, on Writing to be Read, I don’t know many other bloggers who do. So, it comes down to appealing to you, my readers, to buy Delilah, read it and then go onto Amazon and Goodreads, (Delilah will be listed there soon -another thing I still need to do), and leave a review.

If you are willing to go to the trouble of doing all that, I thank you, but I also ask that you leave a review that is honest. While I would love you to leave a review which sings Delilah’s praises, I want it only if it is heartfelt. If you see problems with my story, I need to know what they are, in order to improve my writing of future books, so I am asking for honest criticism, if you are kind enough to leave a review at all.

In the end, it’s up to you, the reader, how successful Delilah, or any book, will be. So, buy the books you want to read, (which I hope includes my debut novel), and be kind. Leave an honest review.

 

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

 

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How Do You Measure Success?

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There are many measures of success, especially in writing. Readers may look at whether or not an author has made any of the best seller lists. Authors may look at the number of books published, or number of sales, or even positive reviews. For rising authors, who are trying to get a foot in the door, like me, finding a publisher willing to publish even one of your books may be all that is required to consider yourself a successful. That’s where I’m at right now, as I just signed a contract for my western novel Delilah. But the point is, that success is subjective and there are many different levels involved.

You can see what I mean. My little contract for Delilah wouldn’t be a big deal for someone like Stephen King or Anne Rice, who sell books faster than they can write them, but for little old me, it’s a very big deal, even though it isn’t with one of the big five major publishers and there is no advance that comes with it. Although those things would be nice, signing with my small independent publisher, Dusty Saddles, makes me feel plenty successful.

What’s great too, is that it doesn’t end there, because of those different levels I was talking about. Sure, I feel successful now, with book contract in hand. But, I also have a feeling of success when I check my blog stats and discover that my readers are increasing. I feel it every time one of my poems, or short stories is published. I felt it when I earned my M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I’ve no doubt I’ll feel it again if Delilah starts selling copies and I find people are reading it, or when the next book contract comes along, or if I sell a screenplay.

Success is what we, as writers, all strive for, although your definition of success may be just finishing the book. That was my definition while I was earning my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, but after completing two novels, working on both simultaneously, I know I can finish a book, so I’ve moved on to the next challenge. Selling the book, and now it looks like I have achieved that success, as well.

But we have to be careful not to want that success so bad that we allow ourselves to be taken. There are a lot of scammers out there, who will try to steal your book right out from under you. Although I was excited about being offered a contract, I didn’t just jump into heart first, but used my head and went over it with a magnifying glass, being on the look out for all the fine print. I questioned different clauses and negotiated on any that didn’t serve my best interests, until the publisher and I came to an agreement that was fair and served both our interests. Although having a knowledgeable attorney or agent look over all contracts is always recommended, as a striving artist, I had no access to that type of professionals, but I did have someone knowledgeable in the business look it over. He confirmed that I was reading it correctly and helped my identify a couple of problems with it. Fortunately, none of them were deal breakers and the publisher was willing to be flexible.

Now, I’m ready to embark on a new publishing adventure and looking forward to in anticipation. Signing the contract holds a certain level of success for me, but the next level of success may be just over the hill, so I must press forward. My readers can help by buying the book, because the ultimate goal for me is for people to read what I write, (and the money from the book sales will be nice, too). Of course, I’ll keep you updated as to when it will be out. After all, I strive to create Writing to be Read.

How do you measure your success?

 

Want to know more about Delilah? Visit my Delilah Facebook Page

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Ah! Sweet Rejection

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Last week, I received a rejection letter for Delilah from a publishing house I submitted to back in October. Although I know it sounds odd, I was elated. “Why?” you may be asking, and with good reason. Rejections are not something writers are usually pleased about. In fact, just the opposite. But I was pleased with this rejection letter for one reason. It was not a form letter. In fact, the editor took the time not only to read the sample I submitted, but to give me constructive criticism and suggestions as to how the manuscript might be improved.

As a graduate student, my professors drilled the idea into our heads that a personal rejection letter, means your manuscript made it past the slush pile and actually received some attention from the editor. It was good enough that they actually read what you sent. And a rejection letter with personal feedback is even better, because then you don’t have to wonder why they rejected your work, and you can strive to fix anything that needs fixing before sending it out again.

Writing Process 2

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My rejection letter was personal, rather than form, and it offered feedback. How sweet is that? I mean, I’m not happy the book was rejected, but I am happy that somebody read at least part of it, in this case, the first fifty pages. My reaction to this rejection is to study the personal feedback and then really look at the manuscript to determine the validity of the comments. Then revise and resubmit to the next publisher on my list for Delilah.

 

For those not familiar with me or my writing, Delilah is my 60,000 word western novel about a strong willed young woman, who served two years in the Colorado Territorial Prison, in the late 1880s. Delilah thought that time had hardened her against the cruelties of the world, but she wasn’t prepared for the trip back home and the hardships of the Colorado frontier. She heads to her home in San Luis, with sixteen year old, Sarah. An encounter with two outlaws, who take the girl captive, sets Delilah on a journey into the high country of Colorado mining towns. Along the way she faces wild animals, outlaws and Indians, makes colorful friends, and learns to love again. Delilah is a novel with the true flavor of the Colorado frontier.

A while back, I also had a hybrid publisher, who expressed interest, but wanted me to provide other western authors that would be interested in publishing with them. (To get a better idea of what I’m talking about when I say hybrid publishing, see my article, Hybrid Publishers – What are they all about?). I posted in a few places on Facebook, but did not come up with any other interested authors.

So, this is actually the second personal, (non-form) letter that I’ve received on Delilah. Of course, it would have been better if I had received an acceptance letter, but I believe in myself, I believe in my writing, and I know that one day, that acceptance letter will come. And, if not, I am not beyond the idea of publishing her myself, because I know she is that good.

To learn more about and read updates on Delilah, go to my Delilah Facebook page.

 

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What’s a Nice Girl Like Me Doing Writing in a Genre Like This?

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I recently sold I Had to Do It, a flash fiction story of the western flavor, to Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. And of course, my regular readers know I’ve written a western novel, Delilah, as well, for which I’m diligently seeking a publisher at present. It might seem that I am leaning toward becoming a western writer, and I’ll admit, I do enjoy writing western.

But I’m an eclectic kind of gal by nature. My palate savors many cuisines, although I’m partial to Oriental and Latino foods. I listen to various genres of music, being heavy on the rock, but also enjoying metal, hip hop, country, pop, and even classical. I watch a wide range of movie genres, as well. On that same note, I read most of the genres, and seek opportunities to try genres that are new to me, but horror has always been my favorite. In fact, in 2012, when I began my M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western State Colorado University, western was one of the few genres which I hadn’t read.

In that first class, the first thing my instructor asked was, “In what genre do you usually write?” I considered the short stories I had written to date, many of which, I wasn’t sure what genre they fell into. The only experience I’d had with western was 850 words worth, I Had to Do It, and it hadn’t sold. But the idea was for us to write outside of our comfort zones, and western was the genre I was assigned for my first excerpt.

I’m not sure why I didn’t think I would like writing westerns. I’m a native of Colorado and proud of that, but I’ve never been a cowgirl per se. I enjoy western films. Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns are the best, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Quick and the Dead are right up there, too. But as I said, I hadn’t really read much in the western genre. But then, I wrote the excerpt for Delilah. After that first semester, revising my excerpt according to the feedback from my instructor and my cohorts, I started thinking that I might not be too bad at writing in the western genre. Three years and several rewrites later, Delilah is a story I’m rather proud of. The rejections do sting a bit, but I’m confident that if I endeavor to persevere and keep submitting it, eventually it will land with the right publisher, and it will be accepted. And if not, well, there’s always independent publishing. Delilah is a good story, and it’s well written, and I want very much to be able to share it with the world. One way or another, I will get the book published.

And yes, there will probably be other westerns in my future. I seem to have a knack for it, at least, so I’ve been told. I already have an idea for a western romance, although romance is another genre I never thought I’d find myself writing. I guess we’ll see.

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Acceptance or Rejection – Which do You Prefer?

 

10985374_10153598714548613_4510459121603044573_nBack in May, I wrote a post about dealing with the rejection by a publisher of Delilah. My response to the rejection was to submit my novel elsewhere and keep hoping it will get picked up. More recently, I did a post on hybrid publishers, as I explored the concept after I had a hybrid publisher request my full manuscript. Unfortunately, they passed on Delilah, too. It is out to yet another publisher now.

I could go into another post about rejections. Lord knows, I’ve gotten plenty. But I’ve always been one to see the glass half-full side, rather than half-empty, focusing on the positive side to everything, so I think I’d rather talk today about acceptances. I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say acceptances are much better than rejections. You don’t have to be a writer to figure that one out.

You don’t get them as often as rejections, but they’re a lot more satisfying. But there’s a reason I want to write a post on acceptances. If you follow me on Facebook, or Twitter, or Google+, you may have seen my very recent post announcing that my flash fiction western story, I Had to Do It, has been picked up by Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry.

It’s true this isn’t a big paying publication. I’m certainly not going to get rich from this one little 850 word story. Flash fiction never pays a lot. There’s simply not enough words to make the pennies add up to much, even with higher paying publications. But, I was still elated when I received the acceptance, because my story found a home and people will now read it, and because it is still one more publishing credit for me. I can’t explain the rushing feeling of excitement and pride that small note from the editors brought me. I think most of all, it was thrilling to know that someone else really liked my writing. It was a affirmation of my own belief that my writing really is pretty good.

That probably sounds silly to those who have not yet received an acceptance. (Never fear. It will come.) But we writers are an odd lot, and we are filled with fears and self-doubt. Filled with it. Most of the time we can keep these elements of our inner beings at bay by simply pecking away at the keyboard or filling up sheets of notebook paper, but every once in a while we let our guards down and that’s when they strike. The fear and self-doubt simmer in us, just down below the surface, until they see an opportunity, a weakness, and then they reach up and grab a handful of us and don’t let go.

I think just about every writer worries that the only person in the whole world that really thinks their writing is good is themselves. Friends and family don’t count because they may be saying they like it so as not to hurt your feelings. When you receive an acceptance, any acceptance, it tells you other people do like your writing, and motivates you to get busy writing more.

It’s a good feeling. One I think every writer needs to experience. It can’t happen unless you submit relentlessly and write, write, write. That’s my advice. Write your heart out and then submit like crazy, and never, ever give up. The notes that say, “yes”, make it worth surviving all the ones that said, “no”. So what are you waiting for? Get writing!

 

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Discouragement or Motivation?

Smiling Horse

I finished the final draft of Delilah last month. Normally, in anticipation of its completion, I would scour my Writer’s Market in search of publishers and/or agents that might be in the market for a western novel with a tough, spunky female protagonist and make a list of places to send it out to. But, I pitched Delilah to a publisher I felt would be a perfect fit for this manuscript last summer at the Write the Rockies Conference in Gunnison, and got an invitation to send the manuscript when it was completed. That in itself was amazing, because you usually don’t pitch a manuscript that isn’t complete, but I was doing the pitch for practice, and I actually felt like I’d bungled it pretty badly. My perception of my performance must have been wrong, because the invitation to query was forthcoming.

At any rate, I didn’t make the usual list of submissions for Delilah, because I knew where she was going, and I just knew this publisher was going to make an offer. Instead, I spent my time preparing for submission. I wrote a synopsis and query letter, and prepared a brief excerpt to include. So, as soon as the final revisions were completed, I sent off my query.

I also sent a query to an agent I thought might be good to represent me, using Delilah to entice them. I sent it off on April 21, and on April 29 I received the rejection. Man that was fast. I found it disheartening. I know I have to expect rejections, probably a lot of them, and I’ve had many on other works which I’ve been shopping. In my graduate classes at Western State, they warned us to expect them, and taught us to use them as motivation to get it back out to the next perspective publisher or agent. And, you know, that’s exactly what I’ve done regarding all the other works I’ve sent out. So, why is this rejection any different?

I think it was the speed with which I received this rejection, barely a week, which took me aback. You wait for responses from publishers and agents for weeks, sometimes even months. That’s why you send out simultaneous submissions whenever possible. Get your work read by as many possible avenues of publication as possible. It’s common practice, although some calls for submissions specify that they do not accept simultaneous submissions. (If you think about it, it’s pretty selfish of a publisher to do this, expecting to allow them to consider your work exclusively, when it takes so long for them to respond.) This rejection came from an agent, not a publisher, but I wasn’t expecting a reply so quickly. I didn’t feel like they’d even had time to read what I’d submitted.

I’ve worked on Delilah on and off for four years. I could have finished her sooner, but with school and my freelancing, and holding down a full time job, I wasn’t able to work on her, like I did on my thesis, which I wrote in full within six months, (but that’s another story, for another day). Actually, I had a completed draft of Delilah in that amount of time, but the revisions turned it into a whole other story. It’s true. The final manuscript of Delilah tells a different story than the one I set out to tell originally. I have enough cut scenes from the first draft to almost make up another whole book, which I might do, if Delilah finds a home and does well.

So the question remains, why have I not sent Delilah out to more than one publisher? Why do I have this certainty within me that she will find a home with this one publishing house that I submitted to first? I know this isn’t a realistic expectation and I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment. I do. So, why don’t I treat this novel like my other works? And why did the first rejection from an agent hit me so hard? Maybe because I have put so much of my heart into Delilah, but I think you have to put your heart into any work of creativity in order for it to be truly good. I don’t know what’s so special about this novel, but I know Delilah is special. I feel it. If I find a publisher for her, you can read it and then, you’ll know it, too.