A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash is a compelling story about extreme religious fundamentalism and family secrets set in Appalachia in the 1980’s. Twelve year old Christopher (“Stump”) is mysteriously killed during a healing service at a fundamentalist church where snake handling and drinking poison are the norm. The story is told from the point of view of three characters: a woman in her 80’s, the sheriff in his 50’s who is investigating the death, and Stump’s 9-year-old brother Jess. The voices of the narrators are gripping as their experiences with the shady con-artist of a preacher are explored from different perspectives. Adelaide, the elderly woman who served as the town’s midwife and Sunday school teacher, sees the preacher for the sociopath that he truly is. The sheriff uncovers the preacher’s real past but he suffers from the impact of his own personal tragedy which colors his judgment. The boy, Jess, is a fabulous narrator. His level of development limits his understanding of the subtle adult actions, but this viewpoint makes the revelations all the more heartbreaking. Wiley Cash is a fine writer; he captures the cadence and the feeling of a rural North Carolina mountain community without resorting to stereotype. The setting is beautifully portrayed and the language at times is breathtaking. There are moments when his idyllic descriptions get away from him and he goes on for paragraphs about some mundane activity, but his love for his characters and setting is obvious. Portions of this story are disturbing and unnerving, and these do jolt the reader. The authenticity of emotion is nicely portrayed, though, and the narrative arc is extremely satisfying. I strongly recommend the book.
I struggled with exactly what to do with The Disembodied. When I finished the novel last fall, I was torn among submitting it to the small press which published two of my earlier novels, self-publish it in order to learn the process, or submit it to a Kindle Scout campaign.
My previous publisher, Damnation Books, was just bought out by Caliburn Press around the time when I finished The Disembodied. I have full confidence in Caliburn since they have two of my novels already and acquired the rights to my third which had also been accepted by Damnation Books. I figured the new owners had a lot of details to iron out and so I decided I didn’t want to wait for them to get their processes up and running. That left self-publishing or Kindle Scout.
I quickly learned that I needed to hire an editor to work on The Disembodied whether I went the self-published route or with the Kindle Scout. So, while my editor was working on The Disembodied I explored the Kindle Scout more thoroughly and decided what the heck. Let’s do it. What really intrigued me more than anything was having the Amazon marketing machine behind me if I was successful in being selected at the end of the 30 day campaign window. Self-promotion is a huge drag and I don’t think I do it well, so the idea of being promoted by Amazon was a convincing factor. More money would be nice, but really, who goes into this to make money? More readers is what I was looking for.
The editorial process took months, since I went with the whole shebang of story editing, copy editing, and line editing – not to mention proofreading. But today, April 30th, 2016, the Kindle Scout Campaign went live. I have no clue if people are nominating it – after all, it is just the first day. I know I did. So, at least there is one vote for me.
Authors can look at a page called “My Campaigns” on Amazon and see their page views and whether they’re considered “hot and trending”. I have no idea what constitutes hot and trending, and I’m not even sure if Amazon tells you. My plan at this stage is to not log into my campaigns to see if I am “hot”. That will only drive me crazy. Instead, I will end up promoting the campaign through social media and try to avoid the temptation of looking. Of course, I say this now.
I’ll be posting more thoughts on the Kindle Scout process and The Disembodied in the weeks to come.
Do you feel like nominating me? Here is the link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/38077YOXC700J
I have thoroughly enjoined some of David Mitchell’s previous work (e.g., Bone Clocks, Black Swan Green), so I couldn’t wait to start his latest, Slade House. In many ways, this is a spin-off of his highly successful and very unique Bone Clocks. The latter kind of jolted the literary upper crust when Mitchell embarked on a journey with extensive fantasy, horror, and supernatural themes. This was fine with me—which is why I loved Bone Clocks—but for those expecting a literary effort akin to Cloud Atlas, well, let’s just say they didn’t know what to make of it.
Mitchell’s Slade is about a haunted house that mysteriously “appears” within a labyrinth of back alleys once every nine years. The inhabitants, fraternal twins Norah and Jonah Grayer, are soul “vampires” who must partake in the digestion of souls from unwitting victims in order to maintain their immortality – and the feasting must occur on a nine-year basis. Five different accounts spanning five decades comprise Slade House, with the last in 2015. The tales, while interrelated for the plot line, are strikingly different in terms of content. The targets of the haunted house include a young teenager, a detective, a college student and her older sister, and a psychiatrist. The forays of these characters into the house are riveting, and I found the narratives deliciously spooky. The stories are beautifully told in chilling detail. The impact is frequently creepy and often startling.
Anthony Hains is a horror & speculative fiction writer.