Blog hop starting July 23rd!

What up folks, Darren here.

I’m part of the Summer Splash Blog Hop coming up July 23 thru the 31st.

Basically, it’s a cool way to get a bunch of free books (so I understand) from 80 authors.

PLUS you can win a Kindle Fire as a grand prize!

I’ll be giving away two prizes (that’s one prize to two different people): any three ebooks of mine you want, free.

If you’re a first-time reader, that will probably be PETER AND THE WEREWOLVES (Volume Two) and PETER AND THE FRANKENSTEIN (Volume Three) plus the sequel after that, PETER AND THE HELPERS – Story #14.

(The first book, PETER AND THE VAMPIRES (Volume One), is free at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, or Smashwords.com.)

Or IMAGINARY FRIENDS, my one-shot novel about a dad who starts to see his two little boys’ imaginary friends.

If you’re a long-time reader and have all of my other stuff, I’ll give you the next three books in the PETER IN THE MONSTERS series free when they come out. If you haven’t bought anything after FRANKENSTEIN (Volume Three) and you want a big multi-story volume instead, I’ll give you one of those. (It will have three stories in it.)

So come back on July 23 and check out the Summer Splash Blog Hop!

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New Multi-Story Volumes Coming! Buuuut…

I have been asked many times in the past two months if I’ll be putting out new multi-story volumes in the PETER AND THE MONSTERS series.

(Funny story I’ll tell you about all this at the end of the post.)

The answer is ‘yes’ – buuuuut…

The new volumes will only be 3 stories long and will cost $9.99.  If you have a Kindle or a Nook, it will actually be cheaper to buy the stories individually ($2.99 x 3 = $8.97 instead of $9.99), and you can get them as soon as they come out. (Right now I’m putting out a new story every month, although that might change in the near future.) Here are the titles after Volumes 1, 2, and 3:

Peter And The Helpers – Story #14
Peter And The Mummy – Story #15
Peter And The Grownups – Story #16
Peter And The Boogeymen – Story #17
Peter And The Crazies – Story #18
Peter And The Witches – Story #19
Peter And The Demon – Story #20 (coming out August 1st)

PETER AND THE MUMMY (Volume Four) will have Helpers thru Grownups (14-16), and PETER AND THE WITCHES (Volume Five) will have Boogeymen thru Witches (17-19).

If you’re reading through another source – iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords.com, etc. – I’m sorry it’s taken so long. Bad, bad stupidity on my part. I should not only have Volume Four and Five out in the next two months, but I’ll also start posting the individual stories on those other services, as well, so you can buy them as they are published.

Hey man, why are you charging so much for three stories when the old ones had four or five stories and were way cheaper?

Short answer: economics. I can’t make a living (not even a poverty-level living) at selling four or five stories for $2.99. Not at the number I sell every month (currently around 100 each of Volume Two and Three per month).

At $2.99 per new story (Helpers, Mummy, Grownups, Witches, etc.), I’m making a poverty-level living, which has allowed me to write more and put out new stories faster.

To put it in perspective: I wrote the first 13 stories in the series from 2007 through 2010. So, about four years to do all 13. That was with a full-time job.

In the last four months writing full-time, I’ve written three stories – and one of them (WITCHES) was longer than anything else in the entire series. For me, that’s fast.

I realize that nobody likes paying higher prices, but just know that every slightly-more-expensive purchase you make helps me keep writing full-time…and that as a result, you’re getting new PETER stories twice or three times faster than you would have ordinarily! Maybe even four or five times faster!

The History Of The Three Multi-Story Volumes

Okay…so here’s the funny story. Actually, it’s more ‘funny interesting’ rather than ‘funny ha-ha.’

In The Beginning, there were only the three multi-story volumes. I was contacting agents, so I was stuck in the print mindset that a book had to be at least 300 pages because of printing and paper costs. No Big 6 New York Publisher wanted anything less than 300 pages, fo’ sho’ (unless it was written by Snooki or somebody equally famous). I was figuring I would get published on paper, and that’s why the books had 4-5 stories apiece.

Turns out I didn’t get published on paper (well, not entirely true…you can buy the first four stories in paper here, here, here, and here if you want them that way, though you can get them for free as one big ebook on Amazon or Nook or Smashwords.com).

But lo and behold, I didn’t sell any copies in ebook format, either. Not many, anyway. After all my friends and family bought copies in May 2011, sales pretty much sucked. $50 a month at most.

I had almost enough stories for a Volume 4 by November 2011, but not quite. I realized that it was waaaaay tougher to write four stories to be published together, sometime in ‘the far-off future,’ than it was to publish the same stories one at a time. Psychologically, it’s like climbing a series of hills versus a giant mountain.

I wanted to put out a new story every month or so, not a new book every six months. (In reality, if I had to climb Mt. Everest instead of a series of hills, it was going to be more like a new book every eight or ten months. Or twelve.)

So I decided to start publishing individual stories with PETER AND THE HELPERS – Story #14.

However, I needed to charge $2.99 for it to be worth it.

But the old multi-volume stories were $2.99 for four stories.

THAT didn’t make any sense.

So I decided to relaunch the entire series and get rid of the multi-volume books. I started designing covers, and right around the time I finished with #14 and was ready to delete the multi-story books forever…

…Amazon suddenly made PETER AND THE VAMPIRES (Volume One) free forever. (I hope forever, anyway.)

Now, this is a big deal. I had to jump through a lot of hoops for them to do it, and it had been in the works for months. In fact, I didn’t think Amazon was ever going to make the first book free. I had given up all hope.

But as soon as they did, BAM, sales of the other two volumes started going up by huge amounts.

I probably sold more in January than I had in all the other months combined…although that’s not saying much.

Anyway, now I couldn’t just get rid of Volume One – the free book was introducing new readers to the series!

Crap.

So I was stuck with the multi-story volumes.

I tried monkeying with the price, but to go from free to $9.99 (Volume One to Volume Two) seemed extreme. So I decided to give people a taste for free…then give them more for cheap…and then, if they really loved the stories, I would ask them to contribute more so that I could produce more for them, and on a more consistent basis by doing it full-time.

BUT I wasn’t going to do any more multi-story volumes. Unh-unh. Nope. Not gonna happen.

And then ALL THESE PEOPLE kept emailing me, asking, “When’s the next volume coming out?”

And I’d say, “You can get the individual stories for $2.99 every month!”

And quite a few said, “I want one big book, not four little ones.”

And I was like, CRAP.

Because I didn’t want to screw over readers who buy the $2.99 single stories. I would prefer people buy the new stories every month, because it really helps me financially to be able to count on a certain number of new sales per month. (Don’t get mad at me for price-gouging – I still can’t afford new shoes, yo. Or Starbucks coffee, or anything like that. Well, not if I don’t want to go into debt.)

For the longest time I was like, “The multi-story books HAVE to have four or five stories, but the people who buy the single stories are gonna be MAAAAAAD! And they’ll stop buying the single stories, and then I’ll be back in the same position of publishing a new book every eight (or ten, or twelve) months and not making any money WAAAAAAAH!”

And then I realized I was stuck in the same sort of mindset that had limited me in the beginning – the print versus ebook mindset.

There’s no reason the new books can’t be three stories instead of four. No reason at all.

So that’s why the new multi-story volumes will be 3 stories for $9.99.

The single stories are actually a bit cheaper to reward folks who buy them individually…

…but now the folks who want one BIG book can have what they want, too. They just have to pay a little extra for it.

So, there you have it. That’s why there are multi-story volumes at all, and why they’re still around and priced so differently from the single stories.

Yeah, believe me, if I could go back and do it all over again, I would. I’m a much better writer than I am a publisher.

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PETER AND THE WITCHES now available!

PETER AND THE WITCHES now available for

Kindle

Nook

The most beautiful woman in the world has just become Peter’s new teacher.

But as he falls deeper in love, horrific incidents begin to plague Peter and his friends.

All the evidence points to one conclusion:

Witches have invaded Duskerville.

And only one woman can help Peter, Dill, and Gwen evade the wrath of the Eastern Coven…

Book #19 in the PETER AND THE MONSTERS series! 57,000 words.

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PETER AND THE CRAZIES now available on Kindle!

What up, folks!

PETER AND THE CRAZIES is now available on Kindle!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0086JQ8W6

Edit: Nook now available!

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/peter-and-the-crazies-darren-pillsbury/1111207376

Instead of juvenile detention, Peter and his friends were assigned to the brilliant psychiatrist Dr. Sheldon Prescott.

However, Dr. Prescott has secrets.

Deadly secrets.

And one of them is waiting at the heart of the Shadow Hills Institute For The Criminally Insane.

Today’s therapy session is about to go into some very dark territory…

…and not everyone is going to make it out alive.

Book #18 in the PETER AND THE MONSTERS series! 37,000 words.

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Where Did The Yeti Come From?

For those of you who have NOT read PETER AND THE YETI…you might not want to read this post yet, as it sort of spoils a bit what the yeti looks like.

Although, to be completely honest, I kind of spoiled it even more when I retitled it YETI from the original PETER AND THE SNOW DEMON. For awhile when I was blogging the stories in 2007-2010, I started to go to great lengths to disguise what the monster would be. PETER AND THE MUMMY was originally PETER AND THE MUSEUM.

However, vague titles are probably not as good for marketing as using WEREWOLVES or YETI or what have you in the title.

Anyway.

I think that SCOOBY DOO is probably the spiritual godfather of the PETER stories. (Stop laughing.) I never realized that until I pitched the concept as a TV show to a Paramount development exec years ago, and he said, “Oh – it’s like SCOOBY DOO without the dog.”

That’s pretty dead-on, actually. Make the Scooby Doo gang a bunch of ten year-olds, ditch Scooby, and you’re fairly close to the tone of the PETER stories.

(I think Peter is cooler than Fred, and Dill is funnier than Shaggy, and Gwen is way more badass than Velma and Daphne combined, but you know what I mean.)

By the way, just to be clear, I’m talking about the first season of the show in the 1970’s, before Scrappy Doo and before any of those crappy Batman or Harlem Globetrotter appearances.

Some of those episodes were SCARY, yo.

Even at 6, though, I was always annoyed when the monster turned out to be a human in costume. So I think that made me turn towards the truly supernatural when writing my own stories.

One of my favorite episodes was one I never technically saw. I had a Viewmaster – you know, the things where you insert a little white circle with tiny film images in it?

One of the discs I had was some episode of SCOOBY DOO with a yeti in it. Here’s what he looked like:

I don’t know if THAT episode was particularly scary in reality, but since I had to make up the story in my own head to match the images on my View Master, it was TERRIFYING.

So, when I decided I wanted to do a yeti story, I think the old Scooby story kind of informed the feeling of it. At least, the Scooby story I came up with in my mind after ‘watching’ it on my View Master.

However, I didn’t want the yeti to be a run-of-the-mill Bigfoot or Abominable Snowman. I didn’t want him to be an overgrown hominid; I wanted something a little original.

Years before, I had run across this photo of a lynx chasing a rabbit:

Look at the lynx’s face.

Other than the Great White Shark, that is the purest image of sociopathic evil in Nature that I have ever seen.

Just that rounded eye…that emotionless, detached gaze…

That poor, poor rabbit.

**shudder**

And suddenly I had my yeti.

Not a Bigfoot, but a giant, overgrown lynx that walks on two legs.

Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaky.

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Does Peter’s Sister Beth Really Exist?

Yes. Yes, she does.

This is one of the questions I’m asked most consistently – and the answer is, I TOTALLY based Beth Normal off my own sister. In fact, my real-life sister really IS named Beth. And she really was a terror as a toddler. (She’s very nice now, but at three years old? Brrrrrrrrrrrr… cold shiver just went down my back…)

The Strawberry Shortcake bathing suit? 100% true. Well, actually, the “wearing it over the clothes” part is true. The part where she sits by the washing machine and tells it stories? She actually did that with a doll named Charlie. Charlie was a cloth doll made by a family friend, and since she took him everywhere, Charlie would get quite dirty. On one or two occasions when we washed Charlie, Beth sat outside the washer and dryer and read him stories until he was done.

I WISH I had a picture of her in the bathing suit, but I can’t find one. I think my mom was so exasperated by it that she never took a picture of her wearing it over her clothes…which would have been one of the best photos we ever had of her.

The funny thing is, she doesn’t remember any of the crazy stories we have about her as a toddler (I’ll tell some in the future), so when our family gets together and swaps stories about her at two and three years old, she persists in believing that we’re exaggerating.

Um…no.

The book’s Beth is a minor exaggeration, but not by much. In some cases, it’s a well-nigh a  documentary.

Here’s another picture at a slightly older age, and looking decidedly UNLIKE the Beth from the book (i.e., happy):

Notice that kid with her? Yup. Me. I should look slightly familiar to readers of the books, too, but I’ll save that for another post.

I’d like to thank her – she’s one of my biggest supporters, and she’s the reason that I was able to get some speaking gigs at local area schools reading my books.

And, hey, she provided the inspiration for one of my absolute favorite PETER AND THE MONSTER characters!

Thanks, Sis! I love you!

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A Sneak Peak At The Next Cover

For those of you who have read PETER AND THE BOOGEYMEN, you know that Dr. Sheldon Prescott has a… um… ‘condition.’ That ‘condition’ will figure prominently in the 18th story in the series.

Here’s the initial drawing for the cover to PETER AND THE CRAZIES, which comes out on June 1st:

Creepy, eh? Let’s hope the end result is similarly unnerving.

By the way, Dr. Prescott (in his everyday, ‘normal’ condition) was inspired in part by Sheldon Cooper of the TV show The Big Bang Theory. That’s why I named him ‘Sheldon,’ for one thing. (It was originally something else, and I changed it to match my favorite fictional theoretical physicist.)

There are major differences between the characters – number one being that my Sheldon is not funny in the slightest, except when he’s freaking out (there was a massively fun scene to write in CRAZIES where he bugs out in a group therapy session). He’s also a full-fledged adult, versus the overgrown man-child that is Sheldon Cooper. But they’re both arrogant, super-smart, and socially aloof.

So, there you go – once we get the show off the ground with Lance Henrikson as Grandfather, we’ll ask Emmy-winning Jim Parsons to guest star in a several-episode arc.

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Soundtrack for Carnival of Evil

Not every story has a song associated with it, but a number of them do (like “Little Toy Gun” for Peter And The Gingerbread Men).

In Peter And The Carnival Of Evil, there’s a description of hypnotic carnival music that plays – in his dream, then later played by the evil Siamese twin Leng, and later over the loudspeakers at the end of the story:

Somewhere far away, carnival music drifted through the air. It was soft and sinister, and sounded like it was played on an organ made of hollowed-out bones.

In my mind, that song is the organ solo in “House Of The Rising Sun” by the Animals. Check out the whole song, but specifically the solo starting around 1:37:

There was a story idea I had that led to the creation of Cyrus Gimler and his band of evil misfits. It was basically a gang in New Orleans sometime from 1860 to 1900, four or five guys who did all sorts of bad things. I never really developed it beyond one image of the gang beating up one of their members in a muddy alleyway, but the image of the bowler hat and the old-style clothes made it into the first scene of Carnival, as well as the fact that Cyrus stole the mirror from a guy in New Orleans.

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Who Would Play Grandfather?

It’s not a particularly pressing question, since the odds of a TV show ever happening are about ten million to one. (I would want a TV show adaptation, not a movie. That would allow all or most of the stories to get told, rather than choosing one or – God forbid – trying to smush several villains from different stories into one movie.)

However, you might be interested in who I think of in the role when I see it play out on the movie screen of my mind’s eye.

I told readers years and years ago (when I first blogged the books, before publishing them on Amazon) that I originally saw Richard Harris as being pretty close to Grandfather. You might know him from a range of film roles, but one of his most famous (and his last) was as the first actor to play Dumbledore in the first two HARRY POTTER movies. (By the way, this photo is from GLADIATOR.)

Take away the cape and neck scarf thingie, put on a tie and starched white collar, give him a haircut in the back, grow out that beard a little, have him scowl like he wants to kick your ass, and I see Seamus Flannagan.

Unfortunately, Mr. Harris died in 2002. So…barring the kind of Tupac hologram technology they debuted at Coachella this year, he’s out.

There are probably a lot of actors who could play Grandfather wonderfully. Clint Eastwood has the gravelly voice now I associate with the character, though doesn’t remind me of him at all physically.

But as far as living actors playing Ol’ Grouchy, I think Lance Henriksen would be awesome.

You probably know him as Bishop from ALIENS, or Frank Black from the TV show MILLENIUM.

Of course, he’s a bit older now…

Actually, a LOT older. He turned 72 on May 5th. (Happy Birthday, Mr. H!) Which means he’s EXACTLY the right age to play Grandfather now. Unfortunately that means he’ll probably be too old to ever play the character if the show got made.

Haha! I’m forgetting, ten million to one…as long as I’m going to dream, might as well dream it’s happening in six months, right?

The qualities in that first photo are what would make him a great Seamus Flannagan. The eyes, the scowl, the lined face. And the voice – he has that rumbling, bass voice that Grandfather has. Slap a beard on him, get him scowling…and voila, Seamus Flannagan.

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Songs I Would Put On The Soundtrack

I promised more updates! Here you go!

One thing I’ve always said about writing the PETER AND THE MONSTER series is that, in my mind, it’s a television series. That’s how I treat it. Every story is an episode. Season One is probably all the stories through “Peter And The Werewolves,” and we leave it at the end of that story on a cliffhanger until Season Two.

I also visualize the stories as I write them – to the point that sometimes I’m just transcribing stuff that I can see in my mind’s eye.

Also, there are things I would do that don’t translate quite as well into text. Action sequences, for instance. And one of the action sequences I would love to see is the battle about 2/3rds of the way through PETER AND THE GINGERBREAD MEN. You know, right after they break out of the basement of the house – after the lawnmower bit.

In my head, I see Gwen whipping around, her rifle blasting, and Gingerbread Men getting blown apart by the baker’s dozen. Peter and Dill are shooting, too – but, let’s face it, they’re way worse shots. Gwen would be deadly as the Terminator in this sequence. At least to Gingerbread Men.

And this is the song that would be playing on the soundtrack: “Little Toy Gun” by Honey Honey. When the song slows down around 1:28, everything in the show would cut into slow motion – Gwen whipping around, paintballs splatting, evil cookies exploding into tiny little crumbs.

Just listen to the song and don’t watch, at least not at first – the video is kind of cheesy. Well, it’s okay, but it’s going to interfere with the real visual: Gwen in her Doc Martens and black goth dress, dealing death to gingerbread men with her Baikl Drozd.

Oh, and just as a bonus: the tiny covers on Amazon don’t really do the Gingerbread Men justice, and you can barely see the pins baked in, so here’s a closeup. It’s still not exactly what I wanted – I couldn’t figure out how to make razor blades work visually, so I used fishing hooks instead – but it’s close enough:

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