2020 Announcements, Free Books, and Panic Attacks

I had a panic attack yesterday.

I’ll tell you all about it in a minute, but first I want to make a couple announcements. 

First: The next book in the KC Warlock Weekly series has been postponed, with a new release date TBD. 

Second: I’m making all of my books free. If there’s anything in my library that you want to read, you can download it here. All four main titles in The Sacrosanct Records, the short story compilation, and the first book of The KC Warlock Weekly; You can read it all, share it, send it to your friends with no strings attached. 

Third: I’m launching a Patreon, and I’ve created a Ko-Fi if you want to leave me a tip. 

All these things, (panic attack included,) are connected to each other, but that’s the Cliff Notes version. If you’re just here for the free books, you can just stop reading here! Happy reading, and I hope you enjoy! 

You can download my books here! For free! I’m not kidding, and there are no strings attached.

At the time of writing this, it’s Thursday. Today I was supposed to send off my next book, “The KC Warlock Weekly: Justice” to my editor, so she’d be able to iron out the kinks in time for a February 2nd publication. That’s not going to happen. 

I’ve been struggling with the world of indie publishing for a while. I love the writing, the storytelling, the craft of it, it’s the ‘Publishing’ part that gets me – Success seems to hinge more on my ability to navigate the world of marketing than my ability to write. I don’t know how to maximize SEO on my social media posts. I’m not a marketing guru who can maximize Amazon ads or perfect my keywords for sales.

When I’ve tried at these things, I’ve failed, miserably. And it affects how I feel about myself as a writer. It’s irrational, but when my ad campaigns fizzle, it makes me feel like I’m incompetent as an author. I tied the value of my art to the amount of money I could make off of it, and when I couldn’t sell myself well enough, it hurt. 

In short, it wasn’t healthy. 

I’d known that it wasn’t for a long time, but knowing something isn’t the same as believing it. So, even as I made plans on how to change, how to get away from the elements of self publishing that were eating away at my self esteem and confidence as a writer, I still let it influence me. 

Amazon’s sales algorithm rewards authors who can write fast. Beyond just having more books for sale, Amazon boosts books in its algorithm for a limited time after release – So, if you want the best shot at being seen on Amazon, you have to release books regularly and often, not because it means the books will be of higher quality, but because it’s what the algorithm favors. 

So, that’s why I picked February 2nd as my release date – to try and get that algorithm boost as quickly as possible. 

And, that’s why a couple nights ago, I was feverishly rushing to complete a draft that I’d be able to finish and upload in time. Not because it would be my best work, but because it was what the algorithm demanded, and I’d convinced myself that if I couldn’t keep up with the algorithm’s demands, then I didn’t deserve to call myself an author.

I knew that the words I was writing weren’t my best. I’d been so focused on the crunch, the deadline, that I’d sacrificed creating a story I was happy with. 

And I hated it. I still hate it. 

I hate that, even while I could say out loud that the algorithm didn’t dictate my worth as an artist, I let it influence how I thought about myself. I put pressure on myself that I’d never even think of putting on anyone else – I’d call it cruel and callous. The ironic thing is, I can write very quickly and with quality when I have the creative freedom to do so, but the crushing pressure I’d imposed on myself killed that passion. 

I talked about the issue with some friends, and a family member, but it was my fiancée who brought me back down to earth. Forcing myself to recognize emotionally what I knew logically wasn’t easy. Part of me still feels like I’m giving up. 

And all this is to say, I could use your help. 

I love to write. I’ll likely keep writing for as long as I can type. Publishing, though? That’s more difficult. 

While I want my stories to be read, publishing isn’t free. Covers and editing cost money, and more pressingly, I still have bills to pay and groceries to buy. 

I want to reject the algorithm model. I want to write for you, my fans, people who love to read, without worrying about what Amazon is going to promote, about whether or not my ads are going to have a low enough cost-per-click, any of that junk. Heck, I want everyone to be able to read my stories, regardless of where they’re at financially – I don’t want to block anyone from being able to read. 

But to do that, I’m going to need your help. 

Like I said at the start of this, I’ve launched a Patreon. My hope is that, if you can, you’ll help me reject the crunch, and the grind, and the algorithm chasing. I would love to be able to get support from you directly. In turn, I want to write stories that you want to read. If anything I’ve written has inspired you, or made you laugh, or smile, or feel, then I’ve done my job right. 

With your support, Patreon will let me write without fear of the marketing, without stress about pandering to an algorithm. I can write longer books and short stories without worrying that I’d be more commercially viable if I cut the story off sooner or bloated the length. I plan on doing both of those things, in fact.

If you’ve made it this far but haven’t read any of my works, you’re welcome to check out anything I’ve done – my writing is available to be read. Check it out, see if it’s to your taste. If you like it, and you want to see more, I would love to have your support.

I don’t want to sell books. I want to tell stories. 

Will you please help me do that?

Guest Post – The KC Warlock Weekly Book 1 Review, by Kevin Dilmore

When journalist Levi Lawson works his news beats, he’s not seeking quotes at City Hall or rifling through filings at the district courthouse. His reporting typically takes him to darker corners of the city: the secret sites of arcane rituals or a wizard’s workshop—or face to face with powers and creatures most people consider the stuff of legend and imagination. See, his job is to report on his city’s covert community of magic users, a job that’s made even tougher by the fact that he’s not one of them.

In M.N. Jolley’s clever and brisk novel The KC Warlock Weekly, Levi (pronounced “levy”) is the owner and publisher of the newspaper from which the book draws its title. Even on a “normal” day, Levi’s job is sure to put him at odds with all sorts of spellcasters and supernatural beings, all of whom operate within a shroud of illusion that hides them from their non-magical fellow residents of Kansas City, Mo. From the opening of Jolley’s novel, subtitled Book One: Accused, it becomes clear that the day is anything but typical for Levi. He’s being interrogated by a pair of counsellors (“wizard cops,” as Levi explains) as the prime suspect in a murder case. As the book unfolds, Levi finds himself working to exonerate himself, identify the actual murderer—and all while trying to get the latest issue of his paper to the printer on deadline.

Through Levi’s first-person narration of the story, Jolley effectively introduces readers not only to a resourceful, clever and even charming lead for the series but he also immerses readers into a world of magic hidden in plain sight from the rest of us. He builds this world, explains its rules, and adheres to them in ways that make for an enjoyable read. As Levi hardly is alone in his adventures, Jolley offers a diverse cast of supporting characters, most of whom are crafted in ways that make a reader hope they will turn up in subsequent stories. Dialogue is smart and punchy, evoking the feel of an old-school, hard-boiled whodunnit with contemporary spins. The story’s plot moves quickly, with every fresh turn carrying some surprise. Another fun surprise: Jolley’s choices and descriptions of story locations will ring very true to readers familiar with Kansas City.

Jolley’s book is a terrific and rewarding escape—think Fletch meets Harry Potter. The KC Warlock Weekly is a fun, funny and fast-paced introduction to an intriguing world that’s just a sidestep apart from our own.—Kevin Dilmore

KEVIN DILMORE has teamed with author and best pal Dayton Ward for nearly 20 years on novels, shorter fiction and other writings chiefly in the Star Trek universe. A contributor to publications including the Village Voice, Amazing Stories, and Famous Monsters of Filmland, he works as a senior writer for Hallmark Cards.

Guest Post – The KC Warlock Book 1 Review, by Jamie Davis

Review for Accused: Book One of the KC Warlock Weekly

It’s not often an urban fantasy story catches me by surprise. It seems like many great authors have explored all the corners of the potential for a hidden magical world alongside our own modern existence. Then Max Jolley’s new book came along and melded a great UF story with another genre favorite of mine, a fantastic noir mystery.

Levi Lawson (Lee-vee), an investigative journalist from a startup newspaper covering the supernatural side of Kansas City, stumbles on a murder. But that’s the least of his problems as he soon finds out he’s been tagged as the killer. Add in a great good cop/bad cop duo, gritty interrogations, vampires, wizards, and even a bridge troll, and you’ve got a rollicking urban fantasy adventure. 

As the mystery around the murder expands into an even bigger story, our intrepid investigator pulls out every trick in his limited mundane collection. Somehow, he manages to stay one step ahead of the multitude of people and creatures out to get him. He can’t afford to get caught. He has to get to the bottom of the mystery, solve the crime, and print the next newspaper. 

The story grabbed me from the beginning and pulled me in right away. Before I knew it, I wanted to know how Levi was going to solve the crime while somehow saving his failing newspaper. I couldn’t stop and had to read to the end. And, I never saw the twist coming.

I stumbled a little keeping all the characters straight that Levi meets along the way. But that’s because the world Jolley crafts is deep and rich with many textures and diversity. Fairies and vampires, mages and potion masters, and many others all come together atop an underlying magical bureaucracy. There’s a lot more of this world to explore. I’m looking forward to more editions and stories from the KC Warlock Weekly and reporter Levi Lawson.

Jamie Davis, author of Fun Fantasy Reads, writes urban and epic fantasy stories for teens and adults. You can find out more about him at https://jamiedavisbooks.com

Let’s Talk About Liking Things

Everyone’s a critic. Myself included.

I have a reflexive habit of responding with a lot of negativity towards the media I consume. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily – Being negative is no more inherently a bad quality than being positive is inherently good – but it tends to dominate the conversation. Even coming out of movies or books that I really enjoy, there’s a reflex I feel to hedge that enjoyment by pointing out all the flaws. Whether I do this out of some unconcious, misplaced instinct to be “Fair”, or just because it’s easier for me to see and explain the isolated flaws in a work than to comprehend what made that work good to begin with. I just recently finished playing Hollow Knight, (an excellent Metroidvania that you should absolutely play,) and despite the fact that I enjoyed my time with the game so much that I played it to 107% completion, seeking out every bit of bonus content and every hidden area the game had to offer, when I talked about it with friends I was quick to bring up the isolated moments and small quirks that frustrated me.

This isn’t unique to myself, of course. Go on Youtube and look up video essays or think pieces about movies, you’ll find that most of them aren’t deconstructions of “Good” films, but are instead critical analyses of bad works, and this isn’t even taking into account the deluge of nitpick channels and riff-style comedy shows. (This isn’t a universal rule, of course – Bob Chipman (“Moviebob”) notably has an excellent series called ‘Really That Good’ where he exclusively talks about renowned or otherwise great works.)

Again, I want to stress that this isn’t a bad thing. Deconstructing a bad work of fiction can be incredibly illuminating and educational, not to mention cathartic and satisfying, and if you’ve never seen Lindsay Ellis or Dan Olson do a visceral autopsy or thorough takedown of a bad film, you’re really missing out. A lot of “Riff” humor is genuinely funny. (There’s a reason why Mystery Science Theater ran for twelve seasons and 211 episodes, and it occurs to me that if I keep up with this blog I’ll end up divulging my entire Youtube and Netflix playlists.)

However, even as I add another video to my ‘watch later’ with a title like “A Thorough Deconstruction of ‘Show Dogs’ (2018)”, I feel like there’s a point where too much of a good thing can start to cause problems. I don’t watch movies or read books because I want to see them lambasted, no matter how thoroughly or precisely an author can list all its flaws.

I watch movies because I like them. I read books because I enjoy them. When the chips are down, I like liking things a lot more than I like disliking them.

Criticism and deconstruction are valuable tools, but I don’t want that to be something I make a part of my identity, because as easy as it is for me to complain about a film, that’s not what I want to spend all my time thinking about. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world right now, and I think everyone could use a few more positive thoughts.

So… I’m going to make a stand, sort of. This blog won’t be a negativity-free zone, because like I said at the top, negativity can be important, but I’m going to try to make it a positivity-forward zone. If I’m going to take the time to talk about a subject, I’m going to pick something I like, and I’m not going to pick a subject that’s going to end on a downer note, because plenty of that already exists.

I wish I had a better mission statement or thesis here, but I really don’t. I’m still feeling this out, trying to find my style and my voice on this site, figuring out what I really want to write and who I want to be out here.

But while I’m figuring all that out, I might as well make it something fun.


Moviebob (Bob Chipman)

Lindsay Ellis

Folding Ideas (Dan Olson) )

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