Minionmas, zombies and 15 fans

For the holidays, I ran a contest for the Dark Fairy Queen writing group minions. I called it Minionmas and the way to enter was by sharing the work of others. People gathered chances to win by sharing (and purchasing!) books and content of their fellow minions and by tagging it with #Minionmas. We had over a hundred entries, which made the #DFQ very happy.

I did this because I believe that for indie authors to ever succeed, they must band together to support each other, generously. Helping others makes them want to help you.

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The winner (chosen randomly from the entries) won a guest post on Yearning for Wonderland.

The winner was J. Whitworth Hazzard and his very insightful post on the perils and pleasures of being an indie author is below. Please read it and leave some #minionluv in the comments.

And, for what it’s worth, he actually has 16 fans.

15 Fans

By J. Whitworth Hazzard

As of today, I have exactly fifteen fans. Trust me, I counted them carefully.

For someone who’s put out three serials on Amazon, been in four anthologies, and won a score of flash fiction contests, that doesn’t seem like a lot, does it? It’s not a mistake.

Mistakes were big for me in 2013. I learned some big lessons this past year, in what I consider my journey from novice to almost-but-not-quite-published writer.

My biggest lesson was that now is my time to fail. In all sorts of wonderful, spectacular ways. It’s not a bad thing to fail, either. It’s a very, very good thing. Off the top of my head, I can rattle off failures in grammar, plotting, editing, formatting, cover art, hiring contractors, critiquing, marketing, and networking. Hell, I even pissed off one of my beta readers so bad, they don’t talk to me anymore. I screwed up. And I’m glad I’m doing it now.

The small scale failures have helped me to balance my enthusiasms. There’s less pressure to be perfect and more incentive to take risks. When you allow yourself to take risks, you’ll wind up with stories that don’t fit into a marketing category, but damn if those aren’t the stories that are fun to tell. Dead Sea Games, a plucky little tale about a teenage survivor of the zombie apocalypse in New York City isn’t the kind of work that attracts the six-figure, debut novel deal. Those aren’t going to land on my desk. Realistically, (and this is a hard truth to swallow) my craft just isn’t there yet.

If some dark fairy queen did drop off a contract with lots of zeroes attached, I’d likely start having anxiety attacks. My work is fair on most days, good on some, and great rarely, and though I wish that readers would give authors second and third chances, I don’t think that’s realistic. With the world filling up with authors of the published and self-published kind, and entertainment of all other stripes filling the small voids, a reader’s time to invest is shrinking rapidly.

Fifteen fans are enough for me. I love them. I know them. And they’ll get me through this awkward phase. This horrible, ego-crushing stage where you have good ideas and good intentions, but can’t seem to translate them to success, either on the page or on the bottom line of sales. I hope I eventually grow out of this stage, but it takes a kind of fearlessness/obstinacy to keep making these mistakes.

Fifteen million fans would crush me under the weight of each tiny error and my journey would be over. But my fifteen fans forgive me my blatant overuse of commas, my melodramatic cheese, and the giant plot holes regarding zombies on the streets of New York. These fans are the basis of my motivation. They sustain me.

I think of myself as a storyteller. Happiness, to me, is sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories. I’ve watched eyes light up as you unfold mysteries and hit those punch lines with perfect timing. That is what I’m hooked on, and if I only ever get to tell stories to a room of fifteen people…well, that’s good enough for me.

Get J. Whitworth Hazzard’s first book, Dead Sea Games: Adrift, for only 99 cents on Amazon – you’re sure to be hooked!

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Synopsis

One and half million people used to live on the island of Manhattan. Used to. Now—after the Emergency—all but a tiny fraction of those wander the streets as the living dead, searching for human flesh to devour. Jeremy Walters is one of the few survivors, living on the rooftops, making every day count adrift in a sea of zombies.

The adults may be content just to be alive, but Jeremy knows that the Colony is a cruel joke. To a teenager, just existing isn’t enough. Without hope, without a future, without any chance of escape, they might as well all be dead.

When two of their own go missing, this fifteen-year-old boy with a bad attitude and reckless streak a mile wide is determined to go after the lost survivors and bring them home. He’ll teach them all what it means to be a true hero. Zombies, gangs, and treacherous NYC landscape are the least of Jeremy’s worries. He’s got to come back alive—or his mother will kill him.

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About the Author

J. Whitworth Hazzard lives in the vast cornfields of Illinois with his wife, and four nearly perfect children.  A Geek-for-Hire by day, J. Whitworth has worked for over a decade fixing minor computer problems, some of which he did not even cause.   He prepares technical documents for a living and tries not to include any zombies in reports on server upgrades and network outages (although not always successfully).

Dr. Hazzard has a PhD in molecular biophysics that he now uses to figure out how to scientifically justify the existence of mythical creatures.  Trained in science and critical thinking, J. Whitworth spends his leisure time writing fiction that would make his former professors cringe.  He has been a life-long writer and has spent more than his fair share of time writing about all kinds of ridiculous things.  His dream of writing for a living started in the 5th grade when his five page story “The Blood and Guts 500” entranced and thrilled his classmates.  His passionate prosody received a standing ovation and from that day forward he was hooked on the art of story telling.

Follow Dr. Hazzard’s adventures in fiction on:

Twitter: @Zombiemechanics (https://twitter.com/zombiemechanics)

Facebook: J. Whitworth Hazzard (http://www.facebook.com/jwhitworthhazzard)

Web: Zombiemechanics Blog (http://zombiemechanics.com)

7 Comments

  1. Christina Esdon
    Feb 20, 2014

    So much of what you said strikes a chord with me. Thank you for being honest. What you wrote reminds me of a Broadway song from [title of show]. They sing, “I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing, than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.” Being humble and always seeking to improve will get you to where you want to go (says the optimist).

  2. Sophie Moss
    Feb 20, 2014

    I assume you are counting me as one of those fans, Mr. Hazzard. :) And you are absolutely wrong that your craft is not up to a six-figure traditional publisher’s standards. Your craft is extremely well-honed and you should take great pride in it. Keep writing and putting your stories out there and have faith. I’ll be reading them. :)

  3. Lisa Shambrook
    Feb 20, 2014

    Totally agree with Sophie…you’re up to par! I’m not sure where you’re counting your fans either, because I could count more than 16 of yours, you have three in my household alone!
    But, yes, you do hit a chord and hopefully our writing will get better and stronger with every story we write.
    Don’t you stop writing those zombie tales now, well, at least until we’ve had our fill! :D

  4. Becky Fyfe
    Feb 20, 2014

    I am pretty certain you have miscounted your fans; you have more than you think you do. And you’ve also misjudged your talent. I love your stories!

  5. Miranda Kate
    Feb 20, 2014

    ‘a plucky little tale’?! It’s a WHOLE lot more than that, it is brilliant and relevant to today’s ‘apocalypse’ obsessed generation. I shout about The Dead Sea Games to just about anyone that will listen! So I am pretty sure you can add a zero to the end of that 15 at least!

  6. J. Whitworth Hazzard
    Feb 21, 2014

    See … this is why you guys are so awesome. You’re all so sweet and supportive. I’m incredibly lucky to have stumbled onto this group. Minion Luv FOREVAR!

  7. Miranda Gammella
    Feb 21, 2014

    What you wrote struck me too. It’s refreshing to read someone that I admire greatly say ‘I’ve made mistakes, but I learned and carried on.’

    GO MINIONS!!

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