Free Ebooks: “The Paraplegic” by Lawrence Dagstine – May/June 2013

Memorial Day weekend through June 30th 2013 is FREE vampire month.  As promised earlier this year on Facebook and Twitter, I am celebrating summer and vampires by making my novelette, THE PARAPLEGIC free to download.  Just go to Smashwords and enter coupon code: GW38Q

At checkout you will obtain it at NO CHARGE.  But ONLY for late May up until June 30th at midnight, 2013.  July 1st it goes back to 99 cents.  Simply click the picture or button at the bottom and be redirected.  Also, check out my other titles in the ebooks & Kindle section of my website or while you’re perusing Smashwords.







“Doc, I’m telling you.  I just woke up in a hole in broad daylight.  No memory!”

When Herbert was told he had amnesia, he knew things were bad.  When he couldn’t feel anything below the waist, he got scared.  When the doctor told him he’d be paralyzed for life, he got depressed and wanted to die.  After all, no one wants to be a paraplegic.  But what made him crippled so suddenly? Did somebody do this to him? And if so, why? Now in the hospital, undergoing intensive surgery, little does Herbert know that the force responsible isn’t done with him, not by a long shot! Something’s coming back.  There’s a little unfinished business to take care of, and it comes in the form of vampires.


FREE FICTION: “The Overrated Pro” by Lawrence Dagstine

Welcome to my first installment of what will be a continuous monthly to bimonthly project.  Free Fiction Stories.  Approaching all genres, and sometimes even serialized (the serials will most likely be novelette or novella lengthed works).  For February and March we have a brand new Extreme Horror piece — put the kiddies to bed — about a writer.  A good chilling tale about a writer quickly brings to mind the work of Mr. King and Mr. Ketchum.  One such tale that comes to mind right away is Secret Window (the movie version starred Johnny Depp).  Sometimes a good story is too good to pass up, such as is the case with Secret Window.  The picture below, which I got off the Web and am a die-hard fan of (I’m a die-hard fan of all pictures on my site, from Doctor Who to Action Figures to Whatever), I think compliments this piece well.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  But it does beg to ask the question: How far would you go to become a writer?

How far would you go to become a writer?

Free Fiction Series Take 1




Lawrence Dagstine

The package fluttered as if it might fall, but it didn’t.  Carnesto preferred to take a cigarette out of the pack himself.  Despite the tremors, his fingers had facility, and he reached into the pack for a smoke.  The paper fluttered and sounded, but out came the cigarette, and it orbited to his lips.  He lit up by himself, too.  He even had this way of making cool artsy smoke rings.  The single and simple act assumed the proportion of a wannabe performance, which all watched as he sat in the back of the truck stop diner working heavily on his laptop. “Thanks, Colbert,” he said. “I promise I’ll leave you a tip next time.” He got a refill on his coffee.

“When are you writing this next bestseller?”

“As soon as one of these organizations actually recognize me,” he said.

Colbert nodded. “I guess that means never.”

“How’s your cat?”


Another one.”

“It’s okay.  I’ll just go down to the Humane Society and pick me up a healthier critter.  Anyway, good luck with your manuscript.”

There was something about people on computers in diners or Starbucks or sidewalk cafes.  All were the next big thing, the next blockbuster screenwriter, the next professional anthologist, and, for the deluded, sometimes even Pulitzer Prize winner.  They always looked cool sitting there with their Compaqs and Toshibas and Hewlett-Packards.  At the end of their days they went home and popped an extra Zoloft or two, stared at themselves in their medicine cabinets, and often died of something like pancreatic cancer and very much penniless.  As a balding, middle-aged man living between Middletown USA and the UK, however, he still didn’t get it yet.  It was sort of like the meaning of life, only staring you cold right in the face.  Being a writing celebrity was the most transient fame in the world, but it was magnificent while it lasted.  Who could resist wanting to know what it was like to become as inflated as a zeppelin, even if rather hollow? Still, ego or no ego, magnificent while it lasted.

A man on the keyboard, if he had inspiration, could have more immediate impact in a couple of hours than a genre historian with a lifetime of books and no national or international exposure.  For, at the end of the day, genre is what he wrote and absolutely creamed on himself just at the thought of it.

Clicking sounds from the keys, then long emailed queries.

A curious kind of aberrant, macroscopic reputation attainable because of the nature of the exposure, and the redundancy of the work routine combined.  Much of his life revolved around two credits, and much to his pub mate editors’ likings.  An amateur might write down a few interesting metaphors or pen just as decent a story—a beginning, a middle, and an end—publish a few in some low circulation or obscure quarterlies; it might a few years later change a portion of the face of the globe, and such a figure might or might not get to be known even inside the publishing community.  Impact and creativity was fantastic.  But the genre writer was straight on your eyes, because it was a form of fantasy, page by page, as while he repeated the lines written by another; if you watched television or went to the movies, plots came free and life was a contrived and clichéd vessel.  He and the non-reading public became well acquainted, because, quite frankly, Carnesto never really wrote anything of worth.  He was beat as a child if he got less than a B, sometimes his father would hit the bottle and then creep into his room in the middle of the night and display his inebriation.  Carnesto even had a lax imagination at times to show for it.  A character like himself writing fiction was like a dead fourth brain inside the human skull.  Internet crazies with drug addictions thought he was super-important, and he might think so too.  That spelled out Web Idol.  But there was a difference between the web idol and the literary idol.  For real writers the grandeur of self-satisfaction spelled New Heroes, New Days, New Minds, New Attitudes, New Influences.  For Carnesto it often meant just another day glaring at that screen in the back of that smoky truck stop diner, full of resentment and false pride.

He’d even met an amateur one day, typing crazily and happily a few booths away.  He went over to him and said, “Are you a writer by any chance?” and he saw next to the computer a stack of black and white magazines. “You know if you are, you really shouldn’t prostitute yourself to such small publications like this.”

They talked a bit and it just so happened that this other typist was also into genre.  When he’d heard that, Carnesto felt embarrassed asking the amateur for advice; he even glanced over his shoulder to make sure Colbert and the diner regulars weren’t watching. “But these periodicals you’re in are mere fanzines,” he said. “Why do it for so little money?”

“Oh, you must be from the Old School,” the amateur writer said. “Because you only live once, and there are many other rewards and remunerations from this kind of writing.”

“No! I—I don’t understand it!” He actually clenched his hands into fists and grinded his teeth. “I—I don’t compute!”

“Well, of course you don’t.  I noticed you over there, just spacing out at your screen.  I didn’t want to say anything but it was just an observation.”

“What observation? What are you talking about?” Carnesto looked slightly heated.

“You know, progress.”

“Dear sir, I’ll have you know that I AM A PRO.” It almost sounded like he was doing a Colin Baker schtick. “I’ve appeared in these two publications and I was paid such and such a sum!”

“But look at the dungeon you’ve put yourself in.  There’s no key to the door, no crawlspace, no way to get out.  You get no satisfaction from it.  It’s sad.”

“How can I get no satisfaction when the credits exist?”

“But you obsess over something you’ll still never be.”

“Are you trying to say I’m pathetic?”

“When I look from afar, yeah, I guess.” Then the amateur went on to say how many professional writers hate their lifestyles, their jobs, their families and their miserable existences.  How it’s not as easy as it looks. “You see, I exist outside the bubble.  You are trapped inside the bubble, where there are all sorts of stigmas and silly rules.  Outside the bubble, there’s relaxation, lack of worry, so much space and area to explore.  I live life to the fullest, you obviously don’t.  Inside the bubble, you’re confined and injected with this malcontent.  Even now, instead of focusing, you probably watch other writers making it one step ahead of you and feel like a prisoner in your own skin.”

“But I have two pro credits! I have two pro credits! Two pro credits!”

“That still does not make you a professional.”

“Yes it does! Two pro credits make me a somebody!”

The amateur looked back at Carnesto’s laptop and said, “Then if you’re a somebody, why are you dilly-dallying with me at my table when you should be over there writing your third professional credit?”

Then he explained to Carnesto that: Nothing x Nothing = Nothing.

But Carnesto wouldn’t have it, no matter how much the amateur tried to break things down to him.  He stormed off insisting that he was right and the amateur was wrong.  He stormed off insisting that he was this famous thing, trained by long forgotten grandmasters and alcoholic slush pile editors.  The more Carnesto saw the cobwebs under his arms and suspected his own imposture, the exaggeration of his value, that his sublime vogue was just a façade for the crazies, the more he began to drink, cheat on the missus, and dissipated.  He almost felt like lashing out his own failures in life on somebody who wouldn’t suspect, somebody he wished to be. 

A few weeks later, in decline, reading from time to time of his own professional wane or passing, experiencing the oh-he’s-washed-up coldness of the public and the literary critics, and now, having lost his mind, having lost prestige or real value, he decided to choose his victim carefully and make that individual feel the same way.  He wanted to make somebody feel just as inwardly collapsed.  Emotionally, physically, professionally, deflated beyond recovery.

This would be his release.  He would call himself “The Winner” at times.

But there was nothing to be won.

During these days, when he went on the Internet actively seeking people he hated or wished to be, or just couldn’t stand being happy because his own life lacked joy, his wife walked about with a deep inner upset.  Carnesto, still not recuperated from his own lack of success, didn’t have the energy or desire to make love to her.  They were often quiet at the dinner table, too.

“When are you going to get off that fucking Internet! I didn’t marry a robot.  You’ve become this—this computer junkie.  I needed you yesterday!”

There Carnesto sat at his computer, in a slumped position, head straight forward and practically paying her no mind.

“Did you hear what I said? I needed you!”

“Why? Because your friend Janet’s brother is in the hospital on a respirator?”

“That poor devil was in a terrible accident.  He might not make it through another night.”

“So let them pull the plug.  It’s not as if she cared about him anyway.  They had their differences.  If I’m a computer junkie, so’s she.  Tell me, how many hours does she spend on the Web? If you ask me, she’ll probably be relieved once her parents fly back and they take the fellow off life support.  Oh, and don’t ask me to come to the funeral.”

“Carnesto, what’s wrong with you?” his wife pleaded. “You were never like this!”

“I’m busy! Working!”

“On a fucking messageboard? Who are you talking to anyway?”

“This is strictly business.  Now please get the fuck out of here.”

His wife came over and threw down some drug paraphernalia.  His eyes glanced it briefly as he typed away. “And where did you get this?”

“I don’t know where you got that, but it’s definitely not mine.”

“Smoking drugs with that crack whore.  I spotted you with her the other day, chatting about.  She’s the big druggie and floozy of the neighborhood.”

“You know her?” Carnesto asked.

“Who doesn’t! What are you doing with that meth head?”

“We… We get along together.  We understand each other.” There was a brief silence. “Oh, you wouldn’t understand.  You’re not a writer, you’re not a professional.  How could you understand?”

“Carnesto, I know full well what you do.  You’re slacking off.  You’re not the man I once knew.  You talk of writing yet you haven’t written or edited a single draft in three months.”

He quickly changed the subject, talking about her inconsistencies: her manners, her mind, her language. 

“Shit,” she screamed at him, “you’re always trying to make an idiot out of me!”

“I fear it’s a lost cause,” he said to her, then swiveled around in his chair back to his computer. “Just like this poor chap…”

“I’m not a lost cause! I’m your wife!”

“Says you.  I’m giving you a difficult assignment.  Change yourself a little,”—but this had only been an excuse to get rid of her and focus on his new computer mate—“make yourself into something fine.  Learn how to cook or something.”

“I like the time I’m having with you now! If I didn’t care about you, if I didn’t care about our marriage, I wouldn’t be here begging with you, would I?”

The logic made him laugh.

Christ, she said to herself, he hasn’t fucked me in a month.  I ought to go down to the pub or get a piece somewhere else.

He sensed her thought, but he was still heavily focused on something else.

“Look, darling, I’ll be with you in a few days.  Now don’t get impatient.  This Web business will all be over soon.”

“If that crackhead came along here, you’d be able to put out,” she complained.  As she headed for the office door, she added, “And make sure you don’t do anything with her here!”

A little celibacy will be good for her, he thought to himself, grinning wickedly.  It’ll drive her wild, and besides, I’ll get what I started online finished.  They said I wasn’t a pro, I gave them helpful advice, but they just tossed me away.  Well no more!

As time went on, his dilapidation showed.  He didn’t shave, didn’t shower.  He didn’t even brush his teeth.  Lack of hygiene.  But he couldn’t and wouldn’t let it be a singular ruin, as he was bent on taking someone else down with him.  This was his therapy, because they all said and felt he wasn’t good enough.  He was bent on destroying this other person who was almost a perfect identical image to him…

…only happy with life.

He went to messageboards, review sites, emailed friends of his—if one didn’t know any better, they’d think he was a full-time stalker—wherever this individual had been last, he would be there to spy and bait.  Sometimes he even forced sleep deprivation upon himself and Googled the individual’s name as much as one hundred times in a single day.  All the while muttering to himself, “I’m a professional! I’m a professional! I’m a professional!” At other times, he would say, “Fucking amateur! Fucking amateur! Fucking amateur!” He had become so obsessed with this other person’s writing career, that not only had he almost permanently forgotten his own, but he started checking his victim’s work for logistical and grammatical errors that either did not exist or just wasn’t to his liking.

Sometimes he thought of his ex-wife—by now, she had dumped him and not only was his computer on constantly, but he always carried a whiskey bottle and a loaded revolver by his side—and his marriage to her had been his foundation to begin with, and she was the only woman he had ever loved. “I will not pose any longer as a married woman nor tell myself any longer that this is a marriage,” she had said.

The words stayed on with him, fatally, robbing him of much.  So along with the victim on his computer console, his life had spiraled downward and proceeded from one self-robbery to another, depriving him of the people and dreams he once had, though without doubt, by the nature of his current self, he had earned his defeats.  And his only friends? Well, they were crazies. 

The court awarded his ex custody of their little girl, and he must pay alimony until she remarried.  But she hadn’t done that, and the cost of maintaining her lifestyle, and the costs of his daughter, had been a drain. 

About three, four times a year he saw them.  He was entitled visitation rights with his child, but his computer life always cut in, and there were times where he didn’t pursue the privileges.  Besides, it was always unpleasant to see his wife for a few minutes or hours, only to realize he could never have her around permanently.

There came a point where his daughter had reached the age of twelve, and here he was, still latched on to his computer and his writer victim, who had started moving on to other things.  The girl had lost her childhood charm and matured into a shapely, thinned-down girl.  She had her father’s haunting features and the same bone structure as he.  Carnesto was pleased with her beauty, and he complimented his wife. “You’ve done a fine job with the girl.” He held his daughter’s hands and stared at her.

His daughter said, “I think you’re so wonderful, Daddy.  Everybody does.”

“It’s your mom who’s wonderful.  Surely you must know what everybody else knows, that I’m a big international bum.”

“It’s not true, Daddy; you’re simply fabulous.  I see all your literary works in a pile over there.”

He laughed. “I may let you head up the Carnesto Johanna Fan Society.”

“You’re so outrageous, Daddy, so simply outrageous.”

His now-ex came along. “Honey, be careful.  You might fall afoul of someone like your father and get your life garbled before it begins.”

“Is your life so garbled?” Carnesto asked.

“I’m trying to spare her some of the things we’ve been through ourselves.  Like computer privileges?”

“Don’t spare her any of that, and don’t do me any favors.”

When his ex left the room he looked over his daughter.  She had leaping, anxious eyes, and she was crowding her father, wanting his attentions, even his arms around her. “Glad to see your mother letting you sleep over finally.” He looked around at the small flat. “It’s not much.  At least, not like on my old teacher pay.  Not like we used to have.” He grabbed hold of her and gave her an earthy kiss.  He held her tightly and his hands, from a lifetime of typing and not touching, found its way over her developing breasts.  His face flushed.  What the hell was going on?

He felt rocked.  He pulled himself away from her.  He had a frenetic look on his face, which his daughter studied but couldn’t understand.  With my own daughter, he told himself, staring at her loving face, her body full of trust and affection. What am I thinking? He wondered whether other fathers had incestuous surges toward their beautiful daughters.  He paced up and down cursing his passions. 

After his ex left and said she’d return on Sunday, he couldn’t get his daughter out of his mind, or quite out of his blood.  He started looking for the revolver.  You bastard, he said to himself, wanting to jazz his own child.  He looked at the messageboard on the computer and thought he saw a familiar name sign in. “It’s your fault, you fucking amateur!”

“Daddy, are you okay?”

The gun was nowhere to be found.  It had to be there.  Maybe in a drawer, maybe underneath the bathroom sink.  The incident preyed on him; it was a new experience, unlike writing fiction, and the thought shocked him.  He had a second moment’s agony.  How many crazies had such thoughts about their daughters, he wondered.  He knew a lot of crazies, but why did the notion persist with him? There she was, in his imagining, all fresh and full of young blood, a handsome smile on her face all the while, a touch of cherry blossom softness in her cheeks, eyes wide and curious.  He looked down and saw a bulge in his pants; he was rock-hard.  Maybe, he said to himself, it’s a case of me wanting to screw myself.  She looks like me.  Goddamit, I better stay far away.

Then, as his daughter was changing in the bathroom, getting ready to go to sleep, he found the gun sticking out from one of the higher shelves of his bookcase.  That one particular shelf had been lined with all the anthologies ever created, all the books ever produced, all the periodicals of the writer he had been victimizing all these years, and he realized, “Holy shit! I’m your number one fan.”

Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he saw flashing.  When he turned around to face the computer he saw action on the screen.  The numbers on the board lit up, and the writer, who he had lashed out his own misgivings and failings on for all those years had scored a book deal. “Oh no.  Oh no, you don’t! You fucking amateur! I’ll prove you don’t deserve this!” He started tearing his hair out and walking in circles.  Then he grabbed the computer and tried to log in and type right away, but he’d forgotten the password amongst the confusion with his daughter. “No you don’t! Stay at the bottom of the ladder, you fucking slime ball!” The gun was looped around a finger as he wrote.


“Not now.”

“Daddy, what’s wrong?”

“I said not now!”

“Daddy, please!”

“What don’t you under—”

He swiveled around in his chair and let go of the trigger.  A bullet entered the center of his daughter’s chest, ricocheted off her shoulder and lung, and exited through her back.  Carnesto fell to his knees.  The twelve-year-old girl’s mouth dropped in awe.  She was wearing one of those long pink and white Hello Kitty sleep shirts.  It began to soak red.  The floor soon matched in color. 

A few seconds later she collapsed at the side of the bed.

Carnesto rushed to her side, but she wasn’t breathing.  Sitting at the edge of the bed, he cradled her in her arms, weeping like a baby. “I’m sorry, child… I didn’t mean to, I swear…” Teary-eyed, he faced the computer and it said that the new book being released by the same author he had victimized from all those years, was a story that, deep down, most hardworking authors working the trenches for many years would be able to associate with.  But that was if Carnesto had the desire to live and add it to his collection.   

The title, according to the online publicist, was “The Winner”.

Carnesto Johanna had three simple words for that publicist and the author as he put the revolver up to his own head. “I’m a pro…”

The End

Lawrence Dagstine: “How to Make Money at Signings…”




by Lawrence R. Dagstine

A lot of people have been “hinting” recently on places such as Facebook and via email looking for advice.  They want to know how I did it.  They want to know how to make money selling books and magazines at functions and signings, especially if you’re an independent/newbie author.  As many people already know, I came out of a series of signings at Coney Island, New York this past summer with a decent intake on such titles as FRESH BLOOD (see Books & Anthos), and more.  Writing is pretty much an extra income field for a majority of us.  Once you learn to accept that, and not depend on fiction or look forward to fancy six-figure careers, you find your comfort zone.  The checks that come in repetitively or non-repetitively may pay for such things as utility bills, groceries, little odds and ends in places like Rite-Aid, CVS, or Walmart, co-pays on prescriptions, dinner and a movie, or something as simple as a gallon of milk or filling up your gas tank.  Of course, all of this might not come from fiction, but that’s okay.  After all, it’s a starving profession to begin with.  In this recession, every dime that comes out of the written word counts, because you never know how much your next electric bill or gas bill will be.  For example, right now I’m doing people’s resumes.  If you’re already an established, professional author with a couple of novels out, this information probably won’t help you, as you already make a nice income from being an upper midlist author or being able to relax on what royalties and advances you make from mass market paperbacks.  That, and some of your publishers may already foot the bill for some of your traveling expenses from signings.  But nowadays it’s very rare unless you’re a lead-lister.

However, if you’re an independent/micro-press author who lives in a big city or a pretty happening little town, whose been published in lots of print magazines, maybe a few anthologies, has a new book or collection available through a POD press, has access to a small newspaper (bonus points here), this information might help you better understand the kind of buyers that you want to attract, the places you want to sell, the performance you want to give when selling, how much to pay for dealers’ tables, number-crunching, and, what seems to work and not work “perception-wise” when selling to an audience outside of genre, because let’s be honest—that’s the consumer you’re gunning for, and they’re hard to reach.  At the end of the day they’re still a reader of Charlaine Harris, Dan Brown, or James Patterson.  You want to sell to both genre readers and non-genre readers alike.  Most likely, you work a day job, or maybe you’re on a fixed income.  You need to rely on a budget throughout, cut corners when necessary, because this article is recession-friendly.  People may perceive you as a hack, an amateur, people you know for years may perceive you as a pro, a super-pro, or even Superman! But no matter what kind of author you are, the moment you sat down at that table and sold a variety of stuff with your name on it, you were no longer just an author.  You also became a merchant and a bookseller, and you need to keep that mindset.

If you do live in a big city or a small town and haven’t been able to get signings in places such as Borders, Waldenbooks, or Barnes & Nobles, that’s okay.  In this economy, if you don’t expect family or friends to show up (or friends of those friends), chances are you’ll only sell less than twenty copies anyway and look like a schmuck at a table in the corner with a bowl of lollipops or cookies.  Somewhere away from the door if you’re not cozy with the store manager.  I chose Coney Island because it was a seasonal attraction—over five million visitors per summer—rather than a one-day gig, and I’d known about it almost a year in advance because I did some writing and research for one of their papers.  I knew people, and I made connections.  And if you can make connections, and you know the turnout is going to be big and profitable in advance, and it’s inexpensive to show up and conduct your little set-up, then what are you waiting for?

Fact: five-million people do not visit a Borders bookstore over the course of a summer — matter of fact, they’re closing stores, and I would be surprised at how many more survive — neither does that amount visit an independent bookstore, which I find to be a good way to do nothing, sell nothing, and just kill the day in a chair.  A world famous amusement park and tourist attraction is a whole other story.  Even little carnivals passing through town may attract more visitors.

Of course, there are always exceptions.

If you’re not selling in places like the chains, then you still want to add some diversity to your table, make it look pretty: business cards, flyers, postcards, magnets, or buttons made up cheap.  I recommend Vistaprint (  You can get stuff made up by them quite often for free.  All you have to do is pay the shipping & handling.  Some of the greatest places to sell books, and which attract crowds are book fairs, street fairs, flea markets (outdoor, indoor, churches and synagogues), carnivals, community centers, town halls, schools, festivals, bars… But mostly outdoor events in spring and summer.  Warm weather.

One writer asked me how much should he pay for tables (or, in some cases, booths).  I would say if you’re an independent author DO NOT pay more than a hundred bucks for a table (but that’s just me).  If you don’t come out of your signings making a minimum of 70 to 80% profit, don’t even bother reserving a spot.  Why? Because you need to first make the cost of the table back.  Then there’s the cost of gasoline, food and beverages (maybe even hotel and airfare).  Trust me, it adds up.  Make your signings LOCAL, and, if possible, try to split the table costs with fellow authors, too.  Oh yeah, you also want to hit up the smaller cons rather than the big cons.  Not that you shouldn’t attend the bigger cons, only that some of the smaller conventions are much easier on your pocket when it comes to the dealer’s area.  Sam’s Dot Publishing, one of my publishers, always seems to make a killing at these events.  They often sell out! Flea markets, churches, and festivals can go as low as $25 to $50.  I know this one church which holds a pretty popular flea market on Tuesdays and Fridays for twenty bucks, but you have to bring your own table.  Always packed.  Just sell a few used books, sports cards and comics on the side, you’ll make that back in no time flat.  Other genre wares should be meant to cover the cost of your table and traveling expenses.  This is a must!

When you go into a signing as an independent/newbie author, you need to go into it with the mind of a businessman or businesswoman.  You need to ask yourself: where do I expect to pick up the most sales and the best exposure.  The ice cream parlor, the town library, or the state fair (obviously the state fair).  If you need a license, get one.  They’re really not that expensive.  If you’re a newbie on a fixed income, you need to calculate all this in advance.  Don’t just sit at a table with your hands clasped, smiling and nodding at passersby.  Get up and be a regular PT Barnum.  Be jovial.  Prepare what’s called a pitch. For example: “Hello, Ma’am, you’re looking lovely today.  You must love to read.  Oh, don’t be shy.  I bet you have a soft spot for books reminiscent of Stephen King and JK Rowling!”—you get the gist (woman sees table filled to the rim with merch; friendly conversation is under way).  You need to stand up and introduce yourself.  You need to have confidence, charisma, personality, and a little humor doesn’t hurt either.  Books don’t sell themselves.  Hence why you need to be business-minded when you approach this, especially in these hard economic times, where the independent writer gets the short end of the stick.

Snail Mail

Let’s talk about Coney Island now.  My very first signing on that very first day in June was a disaster.  Why? Because I had only brought Fresh Blood with me and a few used books by pulp authors.  Luckily, that first day I covered the cost of the booth (it was only $30 at the time), but I’ll never forget this one guy who came up to me and said, “Wow, so you like write stuff.  Man, I remember books.” I was astonished! Let’s just say the guy was a caveman who’d taken one too many bong hits.  How does someone forget about reading and books? Another girl just wanted her photograph taken with me because she never met an author before, yet she didn’t buy anything.  Not to mention I looked like a big tool just sitting there with one Dagstine-related item to my name when, back home, I had hundreds of print periodicals I could have toted with me.  Duplicate copies, too.  Yes, variety, along with ‘public perception’ makes for a very nice recipe, which I’ll explain in more detail in a moment.

After that first day I learned my lesson.  Between June and August there were supposed to be seven signings, but there ended up to be six due to a one-day rainout.  There would have been a few more had it not rained constantly between June and July.  And Flea by the Sea (the name of Coney Island’s summer marketplace), though covered by tents, was an outdoor event.  It was on top of the beach.  At times, the winds were horrible.  The circus was there, too, and one day there was a big hoopla going on because Ringling Brothers were abusing the elephants, but believe it or not a few of the animal rights activists picked up some of my goods.  So I can’t complain there.  But what I’m trying to say here is that, make sure it’s not going to rain on your parade on the day that you sell.  Mother Nature has a funny way of defying writers when it comes to selling outdoors.  By July and early August I was paying $40.00 for the booth and then $10.00 to rent the table, which came out to $50.00 for an entire weekend.  How could you beat that price? This is the price area you should be looking into.  Once again, a hundred bucks should always be your cap, and hopefully, you have more than one book to offer.  Speaking of which…

They say never judge a book by its cover.  Bullshit. When you’re selling in quantity to a non-genre and genre crowd, cover art I noticed makes all the difference.  In most cases it comes down to perception and appearances, or just the way people interpret merchandise.  I don’t care what anybody says.  They do judge a book by its cover.  And what people saw were stacks of magazines with extra copies, six different hardcovers and anthologies, and of course, a stack of Fresh Blood.  It was set up professionally and it looked pretty, like my own compact comic book shop.  All featuring something by ‘Dagstine.’

People were complimenting me because of the covers of the magazines.  Short lines and interested eyes gathered.  One person said, “So you must be Brooklyn’s SF Writer.”—I said, “Okay.” I just totally went with it.  Everything acted sort of like a cash cow.  One Dagstine publication led to the purchase or attraction of another.  Not only did one person spend $50.00 in one shot on me, but over the course of those signings I pushed $250.00 worth of old self-published hardcovers from The Year of the Flood, back when I didn’t know what the words ‘Vanity Press’ meant.  The point I’m trying to make here: I had a lot to choose from, my buyers had a lot to choose from, and so should you.  The cover art, the variety, the set-up, and “come one, come all” pitch made all the difference.  Even the shirt I wore! I got to autograph and sell my writing where, with only Fresh Blood, I probably wouldn’t have made what I did over the course of the summer: around $1200.00 – NET. And hey, I got my work and business cards out there.  Not bad for a hack, and my table investments had already been covered. 

If you’re a writer whose works have appeared in quite a few magazines, talk to the editor about getting extra issues at an author discount.  Always use media mail.  You might pay $4.00, $5.00, even $6.00 for those extra copies featuring your work in it.  You’re going to autograph them and sell them for $8.00 to $10.00… And don’t forget what I said, once you’ve included the cost of the table, food and beverages, gas or transportation to get to your selling destination, you need to make a minimum of 70 to 80% profit, otherwise it’s pointless.  Remember to invest in your work, invest in yourself, and before you attend that signing with more than one book or periodical, sit down with a calculator and crunch those numbers.  Make sure the location is going to be worth the time and effort.

In closing…

Whether you’re selling indoors in some chain, an artsy-fartsy independent that has velvet couches and serves Lattes and marble loaf in the back, or you’re giving the outdoor thing a whirl like I did, there is also another reason why you need to impress that passerby.  Besides cover art and quantity, nine out of ten times the general reading public will throw down cash on used books, non-fiction, children’s books, fast-paced thrillers, or romances before they will genres or subgenres known for killer slugs, planets with giant lizards, what the future would be like if everybody were pink, zombie stories, and heroic fantasy yarns.  If you’re a writer of genre fiction, you’re automatically at a disadvantage, so you need to think of ways to catch up.  That’s why the business model/bookseller mentality is so important.

Still, if I could do it with twelve hundred smackers, with a little initiative, so can you.

Until Next Time,

Lawrence R. Dagstine

Tales of the Talisman, Autumn 2009… (Now Available!)

Issue #5.2 – Fall 2009, of David Lee Summer’s TALES OF THE TALISMAN is now available for purchase.  Get your copy today.  Also, don’t forget, I’ll be back again next year around this time with a novelette-length work.  In the meantime, enjoy the 2009 print edition.  The interior artwork is fab!



Submission Guidelines – Order Here:

Table of Contents:

PREVIOUS ISSUES (maybe still available):

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

Lawrence Dagstine: “FRESH BLOOD Aftermath…”

Or… The BEST WEEKEND EVAH! Thank you sooo much to everyone who stopped by my booth and picked up copies of my books, pulp magazines, and other wares.  Many of you told me you’ve never read genre before, many of you took my card, and a couple of you even stood in line and actually waited.  You don’t know how good that made me feel.  Thank you again.  Here I thought folks don’t read anymore (well, that was before this weekend, assuming I now have new readers – I really hope you enjoy the tales and stay tuned to this spot). 

ISBN: 978-0-9819696-2-6

ISBN: 978-0-9819696-2-6

Good news: I’ll be back next weekend.  Some marketing, diversifying, and injecting the right pitches clearly doesn’t hurt, I see.

Bad news: If you’re new here, I’m temporarily sold out of Fresh Blood.  I only have five copies left, and at the moment I need to mail out to review venues.  I will, however, still have a few copies of other books and pulps on hand.  But these will be sparse.

Oh yeah, and I’m planning a contest too!

Order FRESH BLOOD direct from The Genre Mall:

Check out some of the other goods:

Order the Post-Apocalyptic SATIRICA ANTHOLOGY:

Some of the merch, some of the profits.

Some of the merch, some of the profits.

Fresh Blood scores BIG in Brooklyn, New York!

Fresh Blood scores BIG in Brooklyn, New York!

Even more merch; Dagstine bulk filled almost two big suitcases

Even more merch; Dagstine bulk filled almost two big suitcases

It was a great few days.  My count may be off, but I pushed somewhere well over 130 mixed Dagstine titles: hardcovers, softcovers, magazines, etc.

With that said, I’m off to eat in my favorite sushi restaurant.  I feel like a kid living his dream.  Once again, thank you!

Lawrence R. Dagstine 😉

Lawrence Dagstine: “Digital Stories Coming Soon…”

It is with great pleasure that I announce a couple of things.   One, now that the writing population is slowly starting to embrace the digital age, this site will not only act as a homepage and plug-page for magazines and upcoming science fiction, fantasy and horror venues, but also be a store.  You will be able to buy and then download short stories, novelettes, and novellas — most brand new, no reprints — from yours truly.  I am open to further freelancing, networking, and marketing with other authors if they too would like to be a part of this store (like trading purchase info links).  I advertise you, you advertise me.  I sell your work, you sell mine.  With that said, stay tuned to this site between now and mostly 2010.  The future may be digital, but it still looks good from where I’m at.

Alas, print is dying...

Alas, print is dying...

This site will also act as the occasional home of the “short story review”, the science fiction media news source and, later down the road, a new and unique kind of cross-marketing, branding-upon-branding, product placement and more.  To be honest, I’m surprised most bigger houses haven’t jumped on  a similar bandwagon yet.  Who knows, maybe it’s because the economy is still shoddy.  It’s what will also hopefully help fund the new venture come 2011.  I’d have to say that 2010 will also see an end to a majority of all print-related periodicals in “genre” featuring my stories in it.  I’ve been informed that 2011 would be a sort of conversion stage.  Or a few months after Kindle 3 comes out and prices on readers drop.  Whichever comes first.  Oh well.  However…

The best part of all this is you will be able to go to places like Mobipocket, Fictionwise, and Amazon.  You will be able to own my works on such reading devices as the Sony eReader, Kindle, Jetbook, iTouch, and so much more.  Matter of fact, my first e-title will be debuting shortly.   So stay tuned to the tab at the top of this page, entitled: “eBooks & Kindle”.

Thank You,

Lawrence R. Dagstine

Edited to Add: Fresh Blood Contest also coming soon…

Damnation Books, September 2009… (coming soon!)

Press release 1 of 3, copied and pasted below:

Coming Soon to Damnation Books

Damnation Books

Damnation Books

Trade Paperbacks, Novellas, Novelettes, e-Books and e-Stories


25 Author Roster:

On September 1, 2009, Damnation Books opens for business with the following authors and titles:
Amy Grech – Blanket of White – Horror Novel length Short Story Collection
Christian Saunders – Apartment 14F: an Oriental Ghost Story – Paranormal/Horror Novella
Collette Thomas – Deadly Games Book 1 in Todd Hollow Series – Thriller/Erotica novel
Cory Cramer – Symptoms of a Broken Heart – Horror/Erotica Novella
Ed Erdelac – Dubaku – Horror Novella
Edward P. McDermott – On the Lake where the Loons Cry – Thriller Short story
Mark Edward Hall – The Haunting of Sam Cabot – Horror/Psychological Novella
Geoff Chaucer – Concubine – Horror/Erotica Short story
James Dorr – The Garden – Science Fiction Novella
Jason Kahn – The Killer Within – Thriller Short story
Joel Arnold – The Siege – Science Fiction/Paranormal Short Story
John B. Rosenman – Green in our Souls – Science Fiction Short story
John W. Podgursky – The One-Percenters – Psychological/Thriller novella
*Lawrence Dagstine – Visitation Rights – Paranormal Short Story*
Lily – Eden Fell – Dark psychology/philosophy Novella
Michael McLarnon – Dark Isle – Horror Novel
Noel Hynd – The Prodigy “Author’s Revised Edition” – Thriller Novel
Robert Appleton – Val and Tyne – Horror Short Story
Alan Spencer – The Body Cartel – Thriller/Horror Novel
S. A. Bolich – Who Mourns for the Hangman? – Dark Fantasy Short Story
Ted Kehoe – Trip Trap – Horror Short Story
Tim Marquitz – Armageddon Bound – Urban Fantasy Novel
Yolanda Sfetsos – Faithless Book 1 – Erotica Novella
The Zombie Cookbook – Horror/Comedy Anthology
Contributing authors include: Lisa Haselton, Cinsearae Santiago, Becca Butcher, Carla Girtman,
Scott Virtes, Karina Fabian, Dawn Marshallsay, Lin Neiswender, & Kate Sender.
Damnation Books publishes dark fiction: horror, dark fantasy, thrillers, paranormals, science fiction and erotica in dark settings. The company focuses on ebooks and digital books but will offer novel and novella length titles in trade paperback:



If you happen to be at Killercon in September, drop by our launch party and visit us in the dealer’s room…

Killercon 2009 info: