WWII with Tentacles: Dark Tales From the Secret War

Back in December Modiphius Entertainment launched the rather brilliant Dark Tales From the Secret War, a short story collection edited by John Houlihan and set in their Achtung! Cthulhu game universe. Basically, it’s World War II meets Lovecraft …
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You can find more info on the book on the links below but there are two important points that aren’t listed in the description.

First, one of the stories in the collection is mine. Concerning Rudolf Hess, Mr Buckle and the Book is a rip-roaring World War II conspiracy with Lovecraftian undertones.

Second, Dark Tales also includes Shadow of the Black Sun, from dark-fantasy author David J Rodger. Sadly, David passed away toward the end of last year. He is much missed by his many friends, but it’s great that we have his work—novels such as Oakfield, The Black Lake, The Social Club, and many more—to remember him by. And now we have Dark Tales too.

I knew David pretty well and I think he’d have been stoked at how it turned out.

Dark Tales is a collection of 13 stories set in Modiphius’ Achtung! Cthulhu universe, a world which mixes the terrors of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos with mankind’s darkest yet finest hour, the second world war.

13 unhallowed stories await within it’s covers, which range from the wilds of the South Pacific, to the dark depths of the Black Forest, to the icy wastes of Norway, and they come from a stellar cast of writers including David J Rodger, Destiny and Fable writer Martin Korda, Splinter Cell’s Richard Dansky and the strange mind of horror master Patrick Garratt!

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To self-publish, or not to self publish?

It’s hardly a new question to consider: hold out for an agent and a publisher that will hopefully lead to a big things, or self publish and work to build an audience yourself.

If you’re keen to snag a traditional publishing deal you might well be spending your time submitting to agents, writing and rewriting synopsis’, dealing with rejections and re-submitting, in the hope of finding representation.

Who knows? Maybe you’re brilliant, or maybe you’re lucky. You might get the advance and the multi-book deal you’ve been dreaming of. And if you don’t, at least you’ve kept your integrity, right? At least you aimed high. At least you didn’t stick it on Amazon and set it adrift amidst the sea of self published flotsam, the fifty shades of shit we now have to wade through whenever we want to browse through our biggest digital bookstore.

I’ll admit it, the above was my own view for many years. Even when writers I knew and admired ‘went digital’, I felt vaguely superior in holding out for a major agent/publisher.

Well, last week I arranged for a fantastic illustrator to design a cover for my first completed novel, The art of Misdirection, which I’ll be self publishing in April, and next week I’ll be arranging for an editor to do a final pass.

So, what changed?

Time plays a part here. While I’ve focused on finding an agent, some of my writer friends are pushing ahead, getting their content out there and moving on to the next thing. Science fiction writer David J Rodger (a man with a work ethic comparative to Balzac), and Cthulu obsessive John Houlihan, who recently published four books in one day, are both currently self publishing in earnest (not that they haven’t both dabbled with traditional models in the past).

Talking to Rodger or Houlihan is inspiring stuff – not only are they good writers, but they’re getting on with the process of writing and publishing their work, ultimately they’re being read – which is what a writer wants. If you’re not being read, it’s arguable that you’re not really a writer at all. Besides, being read can lead to other things too.

Recently stricken by a music analogy, I wonder how many bands are sat at home rehearsing, only ever playing live in the hope of being signed by a major label? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it.

There’s a great piece by David Vinjamuri that expands on a lot of the thoughts I’ve been having around this, summarising some of the polarised attitudes that exist around self-publishing.

Compare Sue Grafton’s attitude:

To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. … Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall

… with Hugh Howey’s (author of the Silo Series), and in particular his summing up:

Instead of wasting one’s time writing query letters, why not work on that next manuscript instead?

All well and good to suggest if you can’t cut the traditional route you should put down your pen, but traditional publishing has plenty of misfires and mistakes under it’s belt and when the quick moving world of social media is becoming an integral part of marketing new books, it feels like the publish and be damned option is the smarter move.

Considering Howey’s success, (from self-publish, to publishing deal, to Hollywood) I’m going to self publish… and get to work on the next manuscript.

 


 

The Mailman, by Bentley LittleCurrently reading: The Mailman, by Bentley Little. Hugely enjoyable Stephen King-esque creepy horror set in small town America. How Bentley Little has passed me by so far is beyond me. If this is indicative of his other output I’ll be devouring everything I can find of his over the next few months. Perfectly paced character driven horror. Highly recommended.