Author Feature: Moe Lane

Hi! I’m Moe Lane, and I write and self-publish in the fantasy and horror genres. I’d write more science fiction, except that it makes my wife wince when I try to do too much science at once. I also keep my hand in with various tabletop roleplaying game projects, but that’s not yet really at the self-publishing level. But it’s nice to have long-term goals!

My current genre self-publishing journey started abruptly in the middle of 2016, ending a hiatus from creative writing that itself started abruptly in the fall of 2001. I call myself an unrepentant geek, despite the fact that nobody these days really feels the need to be apologetic about liking things like alternate history, RPGs, computer games, science fiction, fantasy, and the Society for Creative Anachronism. As they say: the counterculture is now just the culture, and that goes for geekery, too. Welcome to the bourgeoisie! Here’s the key to your hatchback.

At the moment I write this (May 2021) I have out one post-apocalyptic high urban fantasy pulp detective novel (FROZEN DREAMS); one collection of short stories set in the same universe; two illustrated chapbooks of short stories; another novel and chapbook in the editing process; a sequel to FROZEN DREAMS in pre-editing; and plans to write another novel late this year. Oh, and a Kickstarter to pay for some art for a single short story that I plan to release this summer: there’s a story behind that, and I heartily encourage you to read it here. I also maintain a Patreon and a website, both of which have regular material added to them. Everything that I’ve actually published has only become commercially available in the last year, which is an unfortunate testament to what a person can accomplish when he can’t leave the house. I’m leaning pretty heavily into the self-publishing pathway, because the odds of my being able to get an agent, let alone a publishing contract, are probably… low.

Why do I write? Well, at this point I write because it feels increasingly odd and uncomfortable when I don’t. I publish because I want to get paid. And, yes, I want people to read my books, and like them, and buy more of them, and then make me self-conscious when they meet me and tell me how much they liked them. But that’s only my personal mindset. Some people have something specific that they want to say, and good gracious but they’re going to say it; others don’t care what they write, as long as it’s well-received. I’m kind of big on building an audience of those who tend to enjoy what I tend to write, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that one size does not fit all.

I feel my creativity is due to the mental equivalent of constant exercise. It’s not like there’s an actual shortage of ideas out there; all sorts of weird and interesting things are going on around us, all the time. But a lot of people don’t seem willing to give themselves permission to develop the inspirations they get, let alone spend a certain amount of time every day to actually write them out. There are also a lot of aspiring writers out there who avoid showing off anything that isn’t perfect – which is another way of saying that they avoid showing off anything at all.

A lot of people say ‘perseverance’ is a great quality for writers to have, just before they forget to mention how to quantify that advice. Fortunately, Bob Heinlein (arguably the greatest writer of classic science fiction, for people who don’t know who he is) wrote a set of rules for writers; they have been useful to me. He said (I’m paraphrasing here) that you need to write, you need to finish writing, you need to rewrite only after feedback, you need to offer what you write to sell, and you need to keep trying to sell it until it does.

The good news is, writing on a regular schedule is good for three things. First, as said before: it helps with taking advantage of moments of creativity. Second, regular writing gives general structure to a person’s day, which can help reduce stress (it’s not impossible to write while stressed, but it’s generally not fun). And third, it promotes a healthy recognition that while sometimes writing can be awesome and brain-buzzing and all of that, sometimes it’s just something that has to be done because there’s a long-term plan, and this is the thing that must be done in order to further the long-term plan.

As someone who self-publishes, the major advice I can offer is: get the best editor and cover artist you can realistically afford. There are a lot of self-edited books out there in the e-book market – but then, nobody needs me to tell them that, right? It’s usually obvious when somebody did their own proofreading. Book covers are likewise a quick and dirty way to see who skimped on that part of the budget; but I am absolutely not saying the most expensive cover artist, either. Just the most reliable one who produces art that you like, and can afford to buy.

I do have one other piece of advice: if you’re a reader, review what you read. Even if you didn’t think it was perfect: reviews equal interest, and authors who have lots of people interested in them tend to sell (and thus write) more books. Just…first read what you’re reviewing, please? If only because it’s very obvious when you have not.