Last week, I began the re-write of my novel EARTHCORE. The first step of this journey, of course, is to create a new document (I use Scrivener for my writing). I needed to import the most-recent version of the story into this document, as this is a re-write rather than starting from scratch. When I went into my EARTHCORE folder to find it, though, what I saw stopped me cold. So many version. So many years. It was like looking at a time capsule of my entire writing career.
The purpose of the re-write is to bring the novel up-to-date so that it fits in the Siglerverse timeline and becomes part of the canon that connects all of my novels together. And, yes, this is what must be done before the hardcore Junkies can get what they have been waiting for for almost a decade — MT. FITZROY, the sequel to EARTHCORE.
I will go into detail about why we have to re-write this farther down this rambling blog post, but I know what some of you are saying.
- “What about MT. FITZROY? Write that!” See above.
- “What about CRYPT Book II?” Got to do this first.
- “What about more Kissyman?” Got to do this first. Same for the ANCESTOR sequel, more HUNTER HUNTERSON & SONS, and more of whatever else you want besides EARTHCORE.
A FRICKIN’ DECADE? REALLY?
For you Junkies, yes. I launched EARTHCORE as the world’s first “podcast-only” novel in March of 2005. For me, though? Try two decades. Yeah, twenty years on this bad boy. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
I wrote the first draft of EARTHCORE in 1994. I was a customer support rep for Baseview Products in Ann Arbor, MI. I had the bomb-ass shift of noon to 7pm. I would get up at 7am-ish, write from 8am to 11am, then go to work. Because I was in my early 20s. I would then either play “Marathon” on the LAN with my co-workers until late at night, or join my co-workers at the bar until late at night. I could get by on 4-5 hours of sleep (did I mention I was in my 20s?).
The point being, I had a full-time job where I could also write uninterrupted for three hours a day. What luck that was for an aspiring writer. I wrote the first draft of what would become INFECTED, put that away, then started on my first big thriller (which was also horror, also scifi, a cross-genre cocktail that would cause many problems in launching my career).
THE iPUBLISH VERSION: 1997-2001
I started pitching EARTHCORE to publishers in 1997. I did what a brotha had to do in those days to get published: I sent out hundreds of queries to agents and publishers, I went to horror and scifi cons to try and meet editors, I banged my head against the wall for a long, long time. I finally got my first break when Paul Witcover now-defunct company iPublish picked up the book for a May, 2001 mass-market paperback release. Woo-hoo! Money and beer, amiright?
Well, those of you who’ve followed me for awhile know the rest of the story. In the 9/11 recession, AOL/Time-Warner (the parent company of iPublish) scrapped a bunch of companies that weren’t profitable. iPublish was not profitable. The whole imprint, shut down in December, 2002, maybe a month before EARTHCORE would come flying off the printing press. Paul gave me a phone call to let me know. I did not react well. Later in life, now I realize he had to call several authors with the same news, even as he was dealing with co-workers who had lost their jobs, as well as with losing his own gig. I wish I could take moment back, but mistakes are a part of life and that was one of mine.
It took a few years to get the rights back. In the meantime, I kept working on it, trying to make it better.
THE PODCAST VERSION: 2005
Yep, this is the thing that officially launched my career. I started in March, 2005, back when few people knew what a podcast was, long before iTunes carried them. If you’re keeping score at home, we’re coming up on a decade of podcast. Woah
When I was podcasting this, I think I did some editing on the fly. I learned quickly that in many places in my work, I was writing to hear myself talk. A few parts of the story were long and boring. They bored me, and I wrote it. The effect on my writing style was instant and powerful: don’t make the reader wait for something to happen, don’t show the reader how wicked smaht you are by over-describing.
The biggest thing this podcast did, however, was introduce me to all y’all. I have the best fan base in the world. Every single day of my life, I take immense pride in knowing you Junkies are out there. I am a lucky man.
DRAGON MOON PRESS PAPERBACK: 2005
Thanks to a hookup from podiobook pioneer Tee Morris, I landed EARTHCORE with Gwen Geddes at Dragon Moon Press. Gwen had published several of Tee’s books and understood the burgeoning power of podcasting authors. We did a major edit of the book that incorporated what I’d learned from the podcast, producing a story that was much tighter that the original iPublish print version. Gwen made sure we had the book out a few episodes before the podcast completed. Many of you bought it. If so, you should go get yourself some ice cream. Right now.
Gwen did what promotion she could, but for a small publisher that wasn’t much. I went whole-hog, experimenting with advertising, mailing lists, sending copies to print magazines (they still had those back then), horror sites, anything I could find. It was like a whole ‘nother job, this marketing stuff.
I’m quite proud of the book that Gwen put out. I’m also crazy fond of the bloody blade cover done by Kevin Capizzi.
AUDIBLE & AUDIO CD VERSION: 2006
While ARealGirl and I love Audible now (they are a major partner of ours), that wasn’t always so. I had this grand notion that I could put the podcast episodes together and sell them on Audible. Audible was down for that, as long as they could take 88% of the profits. No thanks. I don’t think the company had been approached by indie authors at that point, because few indie authors had recorded their own audiobooks. So, Audible tried to emulate Big Publishing by offering a 12% royalty. That’s fine for print publishers (who have to hire story editors, copy editors, book and cover designers, pay salespeople to pitch the book at bookstores, pay to actually print the book, then for shipping and returns, etc.), but for a company that simply had to upload a digital file to existing servers, it seemed steep.
We tried telling the book in the iTunes store as a musical album. We got a cease-and-desist from Audible, who had the license as Apple’s sole provider of audiobooks. Man, Audible was playing hardball! The company definitely won that battle and kept us out of the iTunes store. Things have changed, though, and Audible recognizes the value of indie producers. We’re thrilled with our current relationship.
Finally, we made an actual audiobook CD. Rock band style! Silk-screened rocktopi on the disc and everything. We published that through Conquer the World Records, a small label out of Detroit. We didn’t make that many of them, and only sold them for a short while. Now they are out of print and, like, this totally awesome collector’s thingee. If you don’t have one, good luck getting one.
EARTHCORE TV SERIES BIBLE: 2007
Did you know? I wrote an entire series bible for the book. My friend Jeff Sass had a go at pitching new media entertainment properties at old media establishments. We tried to make EARTHCORE and a movie called VS. Neither happened. So now I have a finished, 30-page series bible for 22 episodes of EARTHCORE, and a finished one-location horror screenplay for VS. (which I describe as SAW meets GLADIATOR).
Will we ever see EARTHCORE as a TV series? Who knows. If the INFECTED series or the NOCTURNAL series ever happen, all things are possible. Some of these things I’ve worked so hard on just fade away, but they’re not gone: they are like little Alien eggs, sitting there, dormant for years, waiting for some poor fucker to walk by so they can pop out and hug her face. Hilarity ensues.
CROWN PUBLISHING VERSION: 2009
Here I was being all fancy and what-not. Big Publishing! Five-book deal! I had made it.
Crown was all gung-ho for me in the early days of INFECTED. They decided they wanted to be the only Scott Sigler store in town, so we bought all the rights for EARTHCORE and ANCESTOR back from Dragon Moon Press and paid to have the un-sold copies shredded (sorry, suckers, that’s the breaks of the biz). Crown was going to publish EARTHCORE, but I eventually opted to put out NOCTURNAL with them instead. A little lego presto-chango, and EARTHCORE once again belonged to me and me alone.
EMPTY SET ENTERTAINMENT VERSION: 2015 (or so)
And that brings us to where we are today. Yes, I’m still doing the Big Publishing thing, but also the Empty Set Entertainment thing with the most whoop-ass biz partner in the history of humanity. We’re all entrepreneurial and everything. We run our own shop and put out our own stories. The next big story we’ll put out, of course, is the book that started everything for me ten years ago.
I’m working away on a new, kick-ass, final version of this book. We’re going to write the living shit out of it and put it out as eBook, audiobook and paperback. And when that’s done, that’s it.
Once EARTHCORE is done, the sequel, MT. FITZROY, becomes an active project. I can’t write Book II until I finish Book I and see who lives and who dies (yes, there could be changes in that department, I don’t know yet — depends on how the story flows).
As for a print version, we’re probably waiting until MT. FITZROY is done (whenever the hell that will be) so we can do a pimped-out two-book boxed set. Oh, we’ve got ideas, my Junkies, we’ve got ideas.
WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES?
Some of you suckers have been with me for a decade now. Some just recently discovered my tasty bits of literary explosiveness. What I’d love to hear from you is, what are your memories of EARTHCORE? Do you remember what you thought when you first heard the podcast? Did you snag it as a book? If “Earthcrack” was your gateway drug to the evil pusher known as El Siglerisimo, tell me about that experience, will ya?
As I often said back then, the first hit is always free …