Tag Archives: The Mulch Pile

My Experiment with Fiverr.com and the Five Dollar Cover

A while back, I found out about a website called Fiverr.com. The concept of Fiverr.com is simple: people offer to render some service or create some product in exchange for five dollars.

There’s quite a bit of neat stuff on there. There are people who will do promotional video for you, compose snippets of music, whatever.

Well, I’ve been wishing for a new cover for my novella The Mulch Pile for a while now, but since most professional cover designers charge at least a hundred dollars I’ve been putting it off until…I dunno, I get miraculously more wealthy somehow? Point is, I just didn’t have a hundred dollars to spare. But I did have five dollars.

So I did a search on Fiverr, and I was excited to learn that there were indeed several people offering to design a book cover for five dollars. I turned it over in my head for several days thinking, Five dollars? Really? What kind of cover am I going to get for five dollars? Will it be of greater value to me than a Subway foot-long meatball sub which I can also procure for five dollars? Because those suckers are good

But eventually I decided to pull the trigger. I paid my five bucks, and when the description box popped up I requested for the cover to reflect that this was a horror story, and for it to have an element of vertical tearing (for symbolic reasons I won’t disclose if you haven’t read the book).

Then I sat back and I waited. It only took two days for the guy to get back to me, but it seemed like forever. And when the email finally did come I was scared to click on the link. What if it sucks? I thought. What if I just wasted a foot-long meatball sub’s worth of money? But of course, eventually I did click the link, and when the image loaded, this is what I saw:

And…well I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty dang happy with it. I mean, it looks way creepier than the one I designed myself. The blood-spattered title alone kicks it up to a whole new level of awesome.

The only complaint that I have is that it doesn’t look great as a thumbnail.

That said, I didn’t specify that requirement to the guy doing the cover, so I’d say it’s a failure of communication of my part more than a failure of design on his part.

So yeah, if you’re like me and you need a cover on the cheap check out this Fiverr thing. There’s lot of other great services on there too. In fact I’m very seriously considering hiring a guy to do voice over for a book trailer I’ve been working on for a while.

Check it out. Browse around. Be amazed at the power of a fiver.

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The Birth Day Giveaway

In the past it was customary to give out cigars to celebrate the birth of a child. However since times have moved on, and since I don’t smoke cigars and don’t know many people who do, I decided to do something else instead.

So for the next few days, my stories A Prairie Home Apocalypse: or What the Dog Saw and The Mulch Pile are available for free from Amazon.

What’s that? Why yes, this does somewhat lessen the incentive to enter and win the flash fiction contest I’ve got going on. I’m just peachy with that. And let me anticipate your next question and firmly deny that this is anything like a veiled attempt to use my newborn son’s cuteness to get you to check out my books.

Just look at the little fella. Look at those cute little duckies on that….cute little sleeping bag with arms? I’m not sure what’s going on with that.

Anyway, what manner of person would dare use the power of such cuteness to suggest you might read his stories and write a nice review (assuming you like them) or maybe click that little “Like” button on the top of the books’ Amazon page? Not this guy. And furthermore I would never stoop to adding that the more books I can sell the less likely it that this innocent little baby will die of malnutrition.  No my friends, I have higher principles than that.

So snap up this offer while you still can. If you need a format other than Kindle, feel free to shoot me an email.

Here’s to you Baby AJ. May you live long and live well. And just between you and me kiddo, I’ve got about as much idea of what I’m doing as you do right about now. We’ll figure it out together, okay?

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Arachnopocalypse

Aren’t spiders wonderful? I mean, when you think about it, they’re fantastically beneficial to the insect ecosystem, keeping other the populations of bugs like mosquitoes and hornets in check. Wouldn’t you like to show a spider your gratitude? Can’t you imagine how nice it would feel to have his eight little legs skitter across your face and up into your hair?

Aaaad the odds are good that some of you are squirming at the thought. Because spiders are creepy. They look creepy, they walk creepy, they build creepy webs…just…eww.

Which is why I think they’d make great fodder for flash fiction.

But we’re not stopping with just spiders. Oh no my friends, we’re taking it to the next level. Take a look at this will you?

That’s. Not. Snow.

No my friends, that is a picture of the morning light glinting off of millions of spiders webs. Millions.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The zombie apocalypse is getting to be old hat. Not that there still aren’t great stories that can be centered around it, but maybe it’s time to begin looking for a new end of the world. An end with eight legs and fangs.

Spider Armageddon. The Arachnopocalypse.

I’m stealing this idea from my friend Tony Southcotte who wrote a story on this theme that I had the great pleasure of editing recently. What does the arachnopocolypse look like? Well that’s up to you. Maybe the threat comes from millions of regular-sized spiders that are impervious to all conventional insecticides, and can kill a man with a single bite. Maybe we’re talking giant mutant spiders that catch men in their webs. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

You’ve got a thousand words to tell your tale. Post your story at your blog or other online space and link to it from the comments.

But wait, there’s more! To the first ten people to finish the challenge I’m giving away a free digital copy of my novella The Mulch Pile. (This is assuming you don’t already have a copy. If you do we’ll work something else out.)

So get cracking ya’ll! Submit your spider story and win what I feel confident saying is at least the second-best story to feature a killer compost heap ever.

“The Mulch Pile” is FREE for All Hallows Read

I just wanted to drop a quick line here that I’m temporarily making The Mulch Pile available for FREE on Smashwords in honor of Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read celebration.

If you’ve been on the fence about this thing, then now is your chance you download it risk free. All I ask is that you spread the word if you like it. Write a review, tweet the link, tell a friend.

And, if you can, do help me spread the word about this giveaway too. I’d like to see as many people as possible get their hands on The Mulch Pile in the next three days, and you can help make that happen.

Happy Halloween. And happy reading.

Abandonment Issues

Someone smarter than me (And probably richer too, so why should I bother to look up his name?) once said, “Novels are never finished. They are only abandoned.”

Unfortunately for us tortured penmonkeys, that does not mean that we can just give up in the middle of writing our book and expect someone to pay actual money for it. What it does mean is, “Your book is never going to be perfect, and you can only do so much revising, so eventually you’re going to have to learn to be happy with what you have and just put it out there, bucko.”

It’s a reality that every writer who ever plans to publish anything must face. And earlier this month it stared me straight in the eyes.

I was putting the finished touches on The Mulch Pile. I had done multiple edits on my own, in addition to farming out proofreading work to people nice enough to do it for free. (Speaking of which, huge thanks to Creste Meyer and Ellie Soderstrom for volunteering to help me make my work as pristine as possible.)

I was coming into the home stretch, reading through the story one last time, applying some final edits, when I was struck with a stunning realization:

The Mulch Pile I had written nearly two years ago was not the story I would have written today.

Okay, so maybe it should have been all that stunning. But it was somewhat disconcerting. After all that hard work, writing, rewriting, tweaking, rewriting some more…all of that and yet somehow looking back over it my current writer self was saying, “I could have done this better.”

It’s possible that’s just wishful thinking. It’s possible that everything I’ve learned in the past two years wouldn’t have improved the story of The Mulch Pile at all. But somehow I doubt it. I feel in my heart that if I had it to do over again, I could have created a better, more focused story and crafted a plot with better structure.

And yet The Mulch Pile went live a week later, largely unchanged.

Why? Is it because I’m a lazy bum, and I’m sick and tired of looking at this thing, obsessing over every little word, every turn of phrase and every hidden symbolic clue that no one’s likely to pick up on anyway?

Well, yes. But also, it’s because I’m not the writer I used to be.

The writer I used to be wrote The Mulch Pile. And it’s a good story. Not perfect mind you, but good. And if I let the writer that I am get pulled into constantly trying to improve and rewrite, I could get bogged down with this one story for the rest of my life.

Because the truth is, I’m getting better. I’ve been getting better over those two intervening years, and I plan to continue getting better over the years to come. The writer I am has his own stories to write. And the writer I’m going to be may very well look back on the stuff I’m doing today, and think, “I could have done it better.”

But he won’t. He won’t, because he won’t have time. He’ll be working on his own projects. Because life is about motion. It’s about moving forward.

The Mulch Pile was the best story the writer I was could have written. And with that I am satisfied.

How about the rest of you? Ever have to let go of one story so that you could move on to another? Share your tale of abandonment in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.

The Mulch Pile


You’re not going to believe this story. Maybe that’s for the best. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I really believe it myself anymore. Maybe it’s just a story I tell myself so that I won’t have to remember the Truth. But Terrence is dead; that much you can believe.

He should have been the one to write this, Terence I mean. He was always real good with this kind of thing. But now he’s gone, and it’s just me left to tell the tale. You probably won’t believe it, but for my sake, for Terrence’s sake, remember.

The Mulch Pile lives! If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you know that this is a project I’ve been working on for a while.

You could say it has its roots all the way back in my childhood when my dad dug into our garden mulch pile and told me to put my hand inside.  I lowered my palm into that cavity and felt waves of heat coming off the rotting vegetables and grass clippings inside. It totally creeped me out.

Years later, in 2009 to be exact, while I was casting about for a concept for my National Novel Writing Month novel, the idea of a monster mulch pile sprang into my head, and I knew that was the story I was going to write.

I had to write it. Because no one else was going to.

But along the way it became so much more. I’m not much a fan of pantsing these days, but in the November of 2009 sitting in Walmart’s parking lot with my laptop, pounding away on this story when I should have been eating lunch, pantsing took me to a place I never dreamed of finding.

And instead of writing a simple story about a monster mulch pile, I uncovered layers of meaning about brotherhood, identity, and the dark side of love.

Consequently, this story is really two stories. One is the story you will read. The other is the story between the lines.

Confused? Think of it like this painting:

On the one hand you can see a normal bowl of vegetables. But hidden within those vegetables is a pattern of something far stranger.

Similarly The Mulch Pile has two sides. One side is about a monster mulch pile. The other side…well let’s not spoil that shall we?

The Mulch Pile is available for all your favourite electronic reading devices. Kindle, Nook, whatever. I’ve got you covered.

The going rate from all those websites is $2.99.  But if you’ve got an ereader that can process .epub files, then I’ve got an extra special offer. The ebook is available directly from me for $1.99. Just click   and save!

I’m really excited about this story, guys. It’s been a long time in the birthing, but I’m thrilled to be finally releasing it into the wild.

And, as always, if you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, my work will have been worth it all.

Aspiring to Failure or: How I Learned to Stop Apologizing and Start Writing

Recently, my wife and I visited the local Waffle House for breakfast.  When we sat down the guy behind the counter told us, “Hey, I’m not usually the guy doing the serving, so I want to apologize in advance if I screw anything up.”

Suddenly, I was on edge.  I watched carefully as he took our drink orders, trying to read his upside down handwriting with no success. I thought, Did he get them right?  Will bring me Diet Coke instead of Coke Zero? A minute later the drinks came and they were fine.  Phew, I thought wiping my hand across my sweat drenched brow. Crisis averted. But I feared the worst was still to come.  When we gave our food order I worried he might bring me the loaded hash browns with gravy instead of chili, a fate I have feared since the day the menu changed to include that damnable option.  Only that moment too passed without incident. Finally, when we were ready to leave I scrutinized the check to make sure he hadn’t charged us for anything we didn’t order.  But, to my surprise, everything was fine.  The guy did a great job, as good a job as any full time waiter ever did.  But he started out by apologizing for himself, and from there on my opinion of him was tarnished.

I’m not telling you this to pick on the guy at Waffle House.  He was obviously tired, working a double shift, and he still did a phenomenal job.  But I fear that all too often we make the same mistake he did.  We apologize for ourselves before we’ve even started.  We think that maybe if we lower people’s expectations they’ll have mercy on us if we screw something up, but in reality we’re just making ourselves look unprofessional.

“But, Albert,” I hear you say, “We aren’t professional.  We’re just podunk unpublished writers trying to make it in a world that hates us.”

Shhh.  Not so loud.  Sure, most of us don’t have a book deal yet.  Some of us are still struggling through our first novel.  But they don’t know that.

Have you ever told someone you were an aspiring writer?  It’s an easy trap to fall into.  Only if you look closely, you’ll see that “aspiring” is really an apology.  It’s you saying, “Yes, I know it’s basically silly to think I’ll ever make something of myself with my writing.  Probably it’s just a phase I’m going through.  Please forgive me for thinking I could ever write anything but a grocery list.”

Why do we hide behind the “aspiring” label?  Because we’re afraid of responsibility.  No one expects anything of an aspiring writer. Aspiring writers are amateurs, hobbyists, unimportant wannabes who probably still live with their parents.  If they never produce any work of value in their lives, no one is going to be disappointed.

That’s why the moniker of “aspiring” writer is so dangerous.  It instantly puts people on the alert that we’re not worth paying attention to.  It doesn’t matter how much work we’ve put into our novel, or how many years we’ve been practicing the craft, as long as we keep saying we’re aspiring writers we’re basically saying we’re not really writers at all.

And believe me I’m preaching as much to myself here as anybody.  I’ve managed to cast off that deceptively comfortable label of “aspiring,” but I still hear myself hedging my bets when I talk about my writing to others.

The other day, I was telling a man about my book The Mulch Pile, and I said something along the lines of, “Well it’s sort of a book about brotherhood, and basically one of the brothers may not be everything he seems to be and there this whole thing with the father who…”

Do you hear the apology in there?  Because I do.  I sound ashamed to be talking about my work.  Here’s what I should have said: “It’s a story about a mulch pile that comes to life and starts killing people.”  Is there more to the story than that? Well sure, there are whole layers of nuance and narrative uncertainty woven into the tale, but the kernel of the story, the idea that made me sit down two years ago during NaNoWriMo and write the thing was basic and primal: “Mulch piles are kind of creepy. What if a mulch pile became a monster?”  Is it far fetched and ludicrous?  Well sure it is.  But that’s the point.  If I wrote believable and normal I’d be bored out of my skull.  And I have to believe that if the core idea was powerful enough to get me to sit down and write the book, it will be powerful enough to get you to go out and read the book.  I have to stop apologizing for myself.

I’m here to tell you that if you write and write seriously, you’re a writer.  Period.  And that means you have an obligation to act and write professionally.

Stop apologizing for yourself.

Are you imperfect?  Sure.  But don’t tell the whole world about it.  Maybe they won’t notice.

So stand up for yourself, and stand up for your story.  This is what you do.  Stop aspiring and start writing.

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If you read Kristen Lamb’s blog regularly, some of this may sound familiar.  There is a good reason for that.