Saturday, February 2, 2013

J Eric Laing - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Award-Winning Author J. Eric Laing. His book, Cicada, was listed by Kirkus Reviews as a “new and notable” book, one of the best in 2012.

Author Genre: Thriller,Young Adult,Horror

Website: J. Eric Laing
Twitter: @JEricLaing
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
J. Eric Laing was born and raised in the South but now lives in New York City with his wife and their two wonderful boys.

He is the author of five novels: Cicada (general fiction), Seep (horror), The Night Watch (thriller), Scissors & Tweed (young adult), and The Crooked Man's Mile (general fiction), as well as a collection of short stories simply titled Shorts.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

You have just released ‘Once Upon a Tin’. Can you tell us about the book? A blurb and excerpt would be great.

Tin is a short little work—a novella—that offers a fictional exploration behind the very true and heartbreaking tale of the lost Franklin expedition, an endeavor by the British to find the fabled Northwest Passage. The doomed expedition set out in 1845 and was soon mysteriously lost. In 1981, experts posited that the shoddily manufactured supply of tinned meats may have led to the crews’ fatal poisoning….


Later that afternoon, Stephan Goldner finally worked up the stomach to enter into the main butchering floor of his manufactory to oversee the first day’s progress. It was all he could do to hold down the bile rising in his throat as he observed the laborers returning from their latrine break in the back alley to resume dissecting the flesh that fell before them. Using a silk handkerchief to cover his mouth and nose, Goldner passed quickly from one hair, excrement, and blood-encrusted butchering table to the next, doing his best to cough out instructions to the foreman over the workers’ grunts, moans, curses and coarse banter.

The steady rhythm of chopping cleavers kept the time amidst the incessant drone of ubiquitous, metallic green and blue flies, plump from gorging on the slaughter’s offerings. Off to the far end of the room, where the mound of newly delivered carcasses waited to be sorted and passed down the line, the rip, rip, rip of the numerous hacksaws working through horse, pig, and cow bone, made Goldner cringe. Rising above that—because it was so near at hand—the plop, plop, plop of chunks of meat or cartilage or bone being tossed into the oak barrels of brine water behind the cutting tables, concluded the macabre symphony.

Okay Eric, what is next? Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease about that one?

I’m as busy as a three-legged bee in a hive of one. There are currently two books on my little assembly line as well as a few short stories. The latter are older works I’ve pulled up to revise for possible publication. I say ‘possible’ because that’s only if I find I can actually make honey from them (to continue the bee theme). The two novels, meanwhile, are at the opposite ends of production. One is near completion while the other is still very early in.

Sadly, I’ve reached a place where I’m still on the fence with both in regards to what I’m currently writing and what might end up getting published. But that’s nothing new. I’ve always found that writing…at least my writing…is a love/ hate relationship. What I’m wild about this week may well be the red-headed stepchild residing in the waste basket come next week.

Apologies to the red-headed stepchildren of the world…you are lovely in every way.

You have a great following on Twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?

How important? Fair to partly cloudy.

But to be honest, the failings in that regard fall squarely on my shoulders. I misused and abused my Twitter following for too long and only have of late begun to better understand how to make the relationship positive and productive both for myself and those who have put up with me there.

For too long, far too many of my tweets were more like twits. I was a relentless poster of my promos—free and otherwise—and upon occasion those of a few select fellow authors. I was basically a broken record of shameless schilling. I think the only reason I didn’t lose more followers than I gained was because people learned to ignore me just as we all do when the annoying commercial comes on. I became Twitter background noise, if you will.

I see now that better use of social media is to always offer something. Offer something that showcases your talent…not screams about it. Share links to your interesting research finds, for example. Offer something useful in regards to cool sites or news stories you come across.

Contribute something of content and value. Make people want to look for your tweets, not look past them. And then…just every now and then, when they least expect it…hit ‘em with your commercial.

How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

I’m hurt. With so many of these other authors you’ve prefaced this question with a bit of praise for their wonderful covers. I’ll assume you feel the same about mine and that the compliments simply got lost in the cut and paste of the question. Please don’t tell me differently; it’s the lies I tell myself that help me sleep at night.

For the most part, I have done my own covers, with Cicada and The Crooked Man’s Mile as the exceptions. I was only involved with the layout and concept of those two.

I haven’t had any help from readers. Not that I wouldn’t love some. Look at what Hugh Howey’s adoring fans have done for him. I’m nine shades of green jealous. But I have been fortunate to have a few fellow authors—who are also artists—lend me their skills or advice to keep me from thoroughly embarrassing myself. My friend, S. C. Thompson, author of Comes the Storm: Viene la Tormenta, for example, helped me with the blood splatter on Seep. Prior to his deft hand, it looked more like I’d spilt my fruity drink.

(We have a case of 'operator failure' by this blog host and Eric caught me. He does have great covers. Eric, I didn't think anyone every read the old posts. Just kidding. Authors are using the post long after they are posted live.)

I see you belong to the Independent Authors Network (IAN). We have had several authors from that outstanding group. What kinds of other support groups do you belong too? Do they help with writing, editing, marketing and the publishing process?

I belong to pretty much all the usual suspects: Goodreads, Wattpad, Authonomy, and one or two others. I used to belong to more, and they were all helpful in their own way, but c’mon, there’s only so much a lonely three-legged bee can do in a day. At some point, keeping up with these groups can start to harm more than help. Or so it goes in my case…other’s mileage may vary.

I’ve found Authonomy has been the most helpful, this mainly in terms of polishing and editing. There are some talented and insightful folks there if you’ve the time to swim through the sea of chaff and spam.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I’ve never given anything away for free. Or so I tell myself. Let me explain.

I have spent hours, days, weeks, months—ah, you get the point—spinning my stories. So much precious time. A few vocal authors have argued with me about the detriment I bring about by giving my work away for free. You’re undermining us all, they argue with shakes of tiny fists.

I want readers to find me. Their time is as precious as mine. If giving away some of my time entices a reader to give my efforts a look, and perhaps a sale or two follows, then, as I said, I’ve never given away anything. The first taste is on the house, as the man in the black coat said.

I could spout a great deal more here, but I better let this go. I feel like a sweat-drenched Wednesday night preacher selling salvation….

You have switched to self-publishing. Do you outsource much of the process? What was the biggest change when you started doing everything yourself?

Going it on my own, while I feel certain was among the best decisions I ever made, well, it’s not like we get to walk both forks of the road. I’ll never know where that other path might have led.

Change? There was a change when I started doing everything myself? I sure didn’t notice much of one. Which, I guess is partly why I decided to go it alone.

Author's Book List
Once Upon a Tin

A NEW Release

Madness at the edge of the world. Greed at the heart of England.

Order the Book From: Amazon
The Crooked Man's Mile
When Conner Connley was six years old he killed a man…or so he believed.

From that lie is born a lonely life of homeless drifting and hardship on the road. A story at turns heartbreaking and humorous, bleak and then blooming with life, love, and hope.

The Crooked Man's Mile. One man’s epic journey to learn the truth…and discover himself.
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The Night Watch
Murder, sex, magic, and ancient Rome

A serial killer preys upon those who are truly the most dangerous game…the gladiators. As the killer collects macabre trophies, it falls to the Prefect of the Night Watch to end the madness.

But this is Rome, where blood spills like wine, and dreams...they are all too often nightmares.
Order the Book From: Amazon
Scissors & Tweed
Tweed is the ultimate slacker. He has zilch in the way of plans. He’s about to learn, though, how fast zero can go negative. ...

High school's out, summer's afoot, and Tweed’s content to do the usual…hang-out with friends, drink beer, get stoned, and steady bomb the neighborhood with graffiti.

Yeah, he’s got nothing much else in the works and that’s just the way he likes it.

That lasts about half a day. Soon enough Tweed is upside down and in over his head. He’s falling for Chloe, his best friend’s girl. And, hot though she may be, that one has a few issues of her own. And then there’s some gang-bangers out to thump his head. Not enough? Tweed's grandfather, the man who raised him, is getting harder and harder to keep nailed down. Until ol’ Pops goes all broken arrow and off the reservation entirely, that is. Whether Tweed is ready for it or not, the time has come for a boy coming of age.
Order the Book From: Amazon
Inexplicable psychosis consumes a small town of isolationists, carving out a body-littered, blood-splattered journey into madness. Seep, a gruesome reminder of the fatal nature of life. …

Spring, 1927. Without warning, without reason, insanity descends like a cloud of locusts on a small town in the American Southwest. Neighbor turns upon neighbor and family members on one another. The few who are not afflicted battle for their lives as the stain of madness spreads unchecked. Soon, bodies litter the dusty streets and the small town burns. Salvation, it would seem, is only for the dead.

Inspired by the true events that struck the village of Pont-Saint-Esprit, France, over the summer of 1951, when a bizarre and fast-spreading madness suddenly affected hundreds, concluding in seven deaths and leaving fifty more interned to asylums.
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
A family and community become swept-up in a tempest of violence and tragedy.

After John Sayre starts slipping off at odd hours from the family farm, his wife Frances begins to suspect that he’s joined a newly-revived chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. By the time their young son discovers the corpse of a lynched black man along the side of a nearby dirt road, Frances Sayre has had enough. But John hasn’t joined the ranks of the murderous KKK as his wife fears. Just the same, John’s secret has the potential to destroy their marriage, if not so much more.

What comes to pass over those heated days of summer, none on any side could have imagined, or wanted.

Kirkus Reviews named CICADA among 2012's new and notable, calling it a beautifully crafted tale with well-drawn characters, adding, “Be sure to read this steamy Southern noir in the AC.”
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the HBS Author's Spotlight plus the blog: eBook Author’s Corner.
Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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