On the Shelf: Professional Development

As of today, the Brune-Coombs Traveling Circus and Menagerie is still on the road, having traveled from one end of the country to within four to five hours of the other end. It’s been a heck of a trip, starting with the left axle wheel of our JayCo travel trailer catching fire in California, our air conditioner springing a leak in Missouri, and our interior water system leaking all over our under-bed storage in Asheville, NC. Apparently all these things are common problems with the Jay Flight trailer that we have, and they are not all that amenable or helpful, as my spouse found when he finally called them for a heated conversation.

Still, it’s better than the last time we camped across country with two kids, two dogs, a cat and–at that time–a tent. We’ve seen some beautiful sites, and had some fun at things like the Nashville Shores water park, or getting to see good friends for some masked, socially-distant conversations in St. Louis. Pro-Tip–make friends with journalists. They’ll tell you which lake recreational areas to avoid, as they have visited there when they pull out bodies. Always good info to have.

There it is–the 2020 journey. (Except Arizona; that was from an earlier trip!)

My reading this past week has been a mix of fiction and nonfiction, all in the category of professional development. One of the things that I’ve internalized from the military is the idea of reading for professional education. In this case, one of the ways I get better at editing and publishing horror is reading horror fiction, as well as books about publishing. So, this week’s On the Shelf reflects that category.

Also, one quick note–I used to put like a whole citation for each book. At this point, in the interest of making things easier for myself, I’m just going to add a buy link to Amazon in case you want to check out one of my recommendations. If I can find a universal link to the book, I’ll put it there, but for the most part this is the quickest way to get you someplace you can purchase it.

Getting in some lakeside reading in Tennessee!

Dark Blood Comes From the Feet by Emma J. Gibson (2020)

I forget where I saw this collection originally; I follow a bunch of horror fans and reviewers, and I think one of them probably posted about it. The cover looked intriguing, and the price was right, so I picked it up. And I’m glad I did. The stories in here are scary, witty, terrifying, and, in some cases, loving. The characters come from a variety of places, and although in the hands of a less-talented writer might have been in danger of caricature, here they are treated with the depth and sympathy. I’ve been going back and forth as to what my favorites were, but I think that “Black Shuck Tavern” and “Surviving My Parents” would fit in that category. For fans of horror and dark fantasy, as well as those who like a nice variety in their protagonists, I definitely recommend this collection!

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2017)

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was reading this book and really enjoying it, so I had to check it out. I started reading it yesterday, am about halfway through it, and plan to finish reading it after I publish this post. The premise is that the town of Black Spring is haunted by the mummified (?) form of Katherine, a witch executed in the 1600’s. And by haunted, I mean that she hangs out in the town, walking around, and causing the townfolk to find myriad ways to conceal her from any visitors. I particularly enjoy the way the author brings in the tension between the age-old curse, and the intrusion and integration of the modern world. The townspeople are cursed with the inability to leave; if they do, they find themselves in the grip of a compelling suicidal urge. So, on the one hand, they have developed an app where people can post sightings of the witch and where she is at any moment; on the other hand, the access to the Internet and social media tempts the younger kids with all that will never be theirs. The writing is well done, and the characters are drawn in depth. I’m looking forward to finishing the book, which is, as my friend described it, good, creepy fun.

Strangers to Superfans by David Gaughran (2018)

This book is subtitled “A Marketing Guide to the Reader’s Journey,” and it does give some good insight on how to determine one’s “Ideal Reader,” as well as how to write and market to that particular reader, and why one should do so. That was the central concept that I got from the book, and it’s a pretty important one. I’m not sure if this was the most useful book I’ve read on the topic, but it was interesting, and a good refresher, especially when read in conjunction with the next book…

Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque (2018)

I heard about this book from John Hartness of Falstaff Books, an author and publisher I greatly respect, and so I decided to pick up a copy. I can always tell how useful a professional development title has been by the amount of notes that it generates, and this volume has left me with several scrawled pages in my bullet journal. There are some incredibly useful tips and instructions in here–so many in fact that if I started to list them, this post would go on for way longer than I have patience to type. Suffice to say, if you are an author and want to know the best practices for setting up a mailing list, onboarding your fans, and then interacting with them in a way that is beneficial for you AND them, then pick this book up with no delay! The only thing that saddens me about this book is realizing that I’ve been approaching my OWN mailing list all wrong, and I have a lot of work to do on that front. Whoops. Anyway, if you’re an author, you need this book. Click the link and put it on your shelf.

Anyway, those are the titles I’ve been reading this week. I’ve got a bunch more on my shelf, enough hopefully to last until we find a place to live, and the movers deliver the rest of my TBR shelf. If you have a book to recommend, feel free to drop me a line at: unfamousscribbler ~at~ gmail.com.

Thunder and lightning storms–always more fun when you’re not staying in a tent!
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