Matthew Graybosch at #EpicBookFest

Why Starbreaker: The Hard Sell

Why Starbreaker

Several Curiosity Quills Press authors encouraged me to write about why I’m writing Starbreaker. The shortest, most honest answer I’ve got is, “It’s complicated.”

The Hard Sell

I’m going to give you the devil’s honest truth up front. My first Starbreaker novel, Without Bloodshed, is a hard sell. I was aware of this from the start, but got a taste of how hard a sell it would be back in July when I did a signing at the Barnes & Noble in Altoona, PA.

I got another taste at the 2014 Baltimore Book Festival this weekend (September 27 and 28). On Saturday, I squeezed in with Krystal Wade, Ryan Hill, Elsie Elmore, J. P. Sloan, and Michael Shean.

Krystal was there to sell her Darkness Falls trilogy, a dark YA fantasy similar to Alice in Wonderland about a young woman who enters a world without sunlight and turns out to be a prophesied savior. She also sold Shattered Secrets, another YA about a young woman who believes she’s ordinary, and learns the hard way that she’s anything but. She even had teaser copies of Charming to display, which is Grimm’s Cinderella meets Saw.

Ryan Hill was there to sell The Book of Bart, which is a comic YA novel best described as 21 Jump Street meets Dogma — mainly because we couldn’t count on prospective readers being familiar with Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman. You might find you like the story better than the cover.

Elsie Elmore was there to sell Broken Forest and The Undead: Playing For Keeps. The latter concerns a young woman who thought surviving high school was tough until she discovers that not only can she raise the dead, but she’s also gotten the Reaper’s attention.

J. P. Sloan had local appeal going for him. His latest urban fantasy, The Curse Merchant, is set in Baltimore and concerns a magician who must win back his ex’s soul from a soul-monger before it hits the open market.

Michael Shean was selling his Wonderland Cycle books, along with the gaiden Bone Wires. He traded heavily on associations with Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner, and (to a lesser extent) William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic Neuromancer.

Me? The closest I had to a short pitch was Androids ignorant of their nature fight demons from outer space. If you’re reading that and going, “WTF?” or “LOLWUT?”, then you have something in common with the vast majority of those at #EpicBookFest who heard that pitch and either walked away or let me and Catherine (my wife) explain in greater detail before deciding they didn’t want to buy a copy.

Krystal Wade sold most of her stock, leaving with only two copies of Wilde’s Fire. I think Ryan Hill and Elsie Elmore sold out, but I’m not quite sure about Ryan. I don’t know if J. P. Sloan sold out, but Michael Shean didn’t.

Neither did I. Out of a stock of twenty-four copies, I sold six for $13 (tax included) on Saturday, and three for $10 (tax included) on Sunday. I also gave away four copies: one to Krystal Wade for her help and advice (and because she was tickled by the phrase “angry wizard sex”) and one to a homeless Vietnam War veteran named C.B. who served in the USAF.

I also gave one to Kaliq Hunter Simms at the Park School of Baltimore after she was kind enough to get my contact details and Krystal Wade’s on Sunday. The Park School had a table next to ours in the same tent, and promoted books by former students such as I Love You, Beth Cooper and Your Face in Mine.

I even signed one and stuck it in one of the Village Learning Place’s little free libraries near Pratt St. while Catherine and I looked for somewhere to eat after closing our tent on Sunday.

Without Bloodshed at the Village Learning Place in Baltimore, MD
Without Bloodshed at the Village Learning Place in Baltimore, MD

So, why couldn’t I sell more copies? Did I pick the wrong primary genre? Was I wrong to target an adult audience rather than aiming younger? Am I still too obscure? Or is the story just too damn complicated to compare to a couple of popular movies so I can hook potential readers?

I suspect all of these factors contributed to my results this weekend, but let’s get something straight. I would have loved to have sold all twenty-four copies of Without Bloodshed, but nine isn’t terrible — especially when the Curiosity Quills tent had to compete with a secondhand bookstore in the tent next to ours.

Yes, science fiction is a hard sell these days. I might have sold more by aiming at the YA or NA (New Adult) demographic — but Silent Clarion is coming along nicely. I only published Without Bloodshed last year, and I’m not exactly well-known. I’m not even Internet famous, and I don’t have the figure for it.

Finally, Without Bloodshed is an outrageously complicated novel. It’s got a murder mystery. It’s got conspiracies. It’s got an effort to depose and arrest a dictator without killing him or his flunkies. It’s got a psychological journey as Morgan Stormrider realizes that who he thought he was doesn’t work any longer, and starts the process of figuring out who he really is all over again. It’s got a huge cast, with multiple viewpoints. It’s got a love story between Morgan Stormrider and Naomi Bradleigh, and another romantic subplot between Isaac Magnin and Tamara Gellion (which results in angry wizard sex).

It’s a gonzo sci-fi epic, and it’s only going to get worse in The Blackened Phoenix. I’m not joking. It’s as if 2001: A Space Odyssey joined The Hunger Games and Guardians of the Galaxy for a pub crawl and picked up The Avengers, The Devil’s Advocate, Unbreakable, and the Brosnan/Russo remake of The Thomas Crown Affair along the way. Imagine further that this motley crew of movies got mugged by Heavy Metal, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Now imagine all of this as a rock opera similar to Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime (1988).

How the bloody blithering fuck do you explain that to potential readers? I’m lucky to have sold as many copies as I did, and you’d better believe I’m grateful.

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Baltimore Book Festival

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I’ll be at Baltimore Book Festival tomorrow and Sunday if anybody wants to pick up a signed copy of Without Bloodshed.

I’m charging $13.80 per copy, which includes Maryland sales tax. Cash and major credit cards accepted.

appearance, Baltimore, book festival

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Silent Clarion: Chapter Ten

Originally posted at

The tenth chapter of Silent Clarion, my new Before Starbreaker serial from Curiosity Quills Press, is now available.

Chapter Ten

The bartender looked so heartbroken by my departure this morning that I took pity on him and promised to stop for a repeat engagement before returning to London. No doubt Jacqueline would insist he had fallen for me, but I suspect he was infatuated with the metric shitload of money I helped him make.

I hit the streets wondering what I should do with my share of the windfall. Investment was right out. I already do that with a chunk of my Adversary’s salary before I pay the bills, and I’ll be damned if I’ll do boring shit with money I earned on vacation.

What I wanted was something fun, something I could keep to conjure the memories I made with it. Maybe…oh, take a trip to Clarion and poke around, my curiosity well and truly piqued by last night’s conversation with Malkuth? Hopping a train to Pittsburgh would be simple enough, but a ticket stub isn’t my idea of a good souvenir. I’d paste it into my scrapbook and forget it until I was ready to bore my grandchildren.

A gang of bikers on restored gasoline-powered choppers rumbled to a stop at my street corner. Their rides’ idling growl muffled their laugher and conversation. On closer inspection, the group looked a little too clean cut. Instead of an outlaw biker gang, they were just a crew of weekenders trading business suits for leathers. A rider who just needed a woman half his age riding pillion to complete his midlife crisis looked at me and called out, “Hey, sexy! Wanna climb aboard and have the ride of your life?”

The rider’s catcall helped me reach a decision. It was time to fulfill a childhood dream and get a horse of my own. An iron horse. I waved at him. “Thanks, mate, but I think I’ll get my own ride. Know a good dealer?”

He didn’t stick around long enough for me to finish my question, but peeled out with his crew the second the light changed. Bollocks to him, then. If he was that impatient, I doubt he could have given me a halfway decent ride anyway.

Suggested Listening

This week’s theme is “Hell Bent for Leather” by Judas Priest. ‘Cos if you’re gonna buy a chopper, you need a good biker anthem.

Read the rest at Curiosity Quills.

Cover for Silent Clarion by Matthew Graybosch. Artwork by Polina Sapershteyn Cover for Silent Clarion by Matthew Graybosch. Artwork by Polina Sapershteyn

Read the rest at Curiosity Quills.

About Silent Clarion

My curiosity might get me killed. I thought I needed a vacation from my duties as an Adversary in service to the Phoenix Society. After learning about unexplained disappearances in a little town called Clarion, I couldn’t stop myself from checking it out.

Now I must protect a witness to two murders without any protection but my sword. I must identify a murderer who strikes from the shadows. I must expose secrets the Phoenix Society’s executive council is hellbent on keeping buried.

I have no support but an ally I dare not trust. If I cannot break the silence hiding what happened in Clarion’s past, I have no future. I must discover the truth about Project Harker. Failure is not an option.

Silent Clarion is a new-adult science-fiction thriller by Matthew Graybosch, set before the events of the Starbreaker novels. Meet Naomi Bradleigh as an Adversary, seventeen years before Without Bloodshed.

Silent Clarion is serialized and published at Curiosity Quills, every Wednesday.


This week’s chapter:

Theme song:

Silent Clarion index:

Before Starbreaker, Curiosity Quills, naomi bradleigh, new adult, science fiction, serial, silent clarion, thriller

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Happy Birthday to Me

Today’s my birthday. I’m thirty-six, which means I’ve been a writer for half my life. Thanks to everyone who sent their wishes over Google+. So many of you messaged me that it’s hard to keep up.

I treated myself to a set of cast iron skillets today. I saw a set at Costco that looked good, but I couldn’t justify buying them before. I don’t need to justify buying them today.

I just made bacon cheeseburgers with onions for dinner tonight. My wife Catherine loves hers.


Doesn’t that look tasty? (Vegetarians and vegans need not answer. Heh heh heh.) These burgers just need an egg on top, but that might be overkill. Nom.

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There Is No Society

Marketing “guru” Seth Godin waxes nostalgic for the “good old days” when everyone who mattered read the same newspapers, watched the same TV shows, listened to the same music, et cetera and ad fucking nauseum. He writes in What Everyone Reads:

Everyone used to read the morning paper because everyone did. Everyone like us, anyway. The people in our group, the informed ones. We all read the same paper.

Everyone used to read the selection of the book of the month club, because everyone did.

And everyone used to watch the same TV shows too. It was part of being not only informed, but in sync.

He worries that Society is falling apart. I’m sitting here with hot popcorn and a cold beer, enjoying the show. How often do you get to see an empire fall apart right in front of you? Not often, so you might as well enjoy it.

When the commoditized American mass culture finally dies, I will not praise it. I will bury it. And then I will piss on its grave. It’s the only libation our hegemonic, sterile culture will ever deserve.

Of course, Godin doesn’t share my perspective.

Society without a cultural, intellectual core feels awfully different than the society that we’re walking away from.

What is Society, Anyway?

I don’t think there’s any such thing as Society. Not in the sense that the almost 350 million people living in the United States constitute anything resembling a cohesive society. (Why do you think Washington is so thoroughly fucked?) If such a mass society ever existed, the Web killed it.

We didn’t just walk away from that old mass society Seth Godin laments. We fled that society, riding hellbent for leather, because it is inimical to any reasonable conception of a good life.

Why should anybody want to live in a society where a small, exclusive, and all-but-untouchable elite decide not only our laws and the way our economy functions, but what books we’ll read, what dramas we’ll watch, what music we’ll listen to, and what clothes we’ll wear?

I could write a dystopian novel about such a world, and what it’s like to grow up knowing that that world has no place for you, but nobody would recognize it as science fiction. They’d mistake it for literary fiction.

Brave New Worlds

The cultural, intellectual core of the old American society was a black hole. That black hole is eating itself, spewing out the rhetorical equivalent of Hawking radiation all the while. The sooner it finally disappears, the better off we’ll all be.

I’m not afraid of a world without gatekeepers, trendsetters, and tastemakers. Their continued existence won’t help me reach an audience, because I write for a niche audience.

Instead of a single American society where everybody is as close to being the same as corporate American can manage, let a million American societies bloom. Make your own society. Let other people make their own societies. The points at which our societies intersect are the points at which we will revitalize our cultures.

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