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10 Fiction Stories I Love, Which School Forced on Me

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Despite my largely public education, I still learned a few things by accident. My favorite subjects were Social Studies and English, which figures for a kid who grew up to be a political writer.

Over the years, I was exposed to a number of fiction stories which I resisted at first but grew to love. It’s something I recall whenever trying to convince my finicky five year old to try new things.

Here are ten books, films, and plays which grew on me after being forced down my throat. They’re presented in ascending order of my personal enjoyment, not necessarily their critical or literary gravitas.

10. My Fair Lady

Yeah, yeah, go ahead with the jokes. I like The Sound of Music too. It’s a brave new post-modern, genderless world, or something. Get over it.

Despite its feminine trappings, the story at the heart of My Fair Lady emerges from unbridled masculinity. What else would you call a gentlemen’s bet that an unrefined flower girl could be transformed into a convincing lady of high society through an act of male will? It’s a theme so reliable that it’s become a cliché used in romantic comedies to this day.

This was also my introduction to Audrey Hepburn, who ain’t too bad to look at.

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Mars the Hard Way

Friday, June 13th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

My friend Les Johnson, my colleague at Baen, is both a real writer and a real scientist, one of those renaissance men we all aspired to be at some time. Most of us never made it, but Les did.

Recently Les co-authored the book Rescue Mode with Science Fiction legend Ben Bova, and he was kindly enough to allow us to interview him about space, about working with Ben Bova, and about our chances to get off the rock and go out to space.

Sarah: What is holding us back on the rock, in your opinion, from the practical viewpoint?

Les: First of all, I need to say that the opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent NASA.

There is no technological reason keeping us from going back to the Moon to visit or to set up a base there. What we’re lacking are the systems to go. By systems, I mean the actual hardware to launch the people and the hardware needed to keep them alive while they are on their way to the Moon or living on the surface. NASA and several private companies have the technologies to develop the hardware we need — all they are lacking are the money and the will to make it happen. By the way, the same can be said of sending humans to Mars. We can go if we want to.

An aside about money. I contend that going to the Moon, Mars or an asteroid with people is not that expensive – in relative terms. For reference, look at the 2015 NASA budget of $17 billion. For you and me, that’s a lot of money. For most countries and certainly most private businesses it is a lot of money. But for the US Government it is a relatively small amount when you consider that our total budget is over $3.9 trillion (or $3,900 billion). $3900 – $17 = $3883, which is, in practical terms, not much different from the $3900. In other words, NASA’s budget is a rounding error on the total federal budget. Sending humans beyond Earth, which would cost less than $17 billion and be spread out over 5 years or so, is a very small cost in the grand scheme of things. It just isn’t a priority. People spend more money on Coca Cola than they do on space exploration! ($46 billion global revenue for Coca Cola versus $17 billion for NASA.)

To make the money available from a government or from the private sector, we need a vision and an explanation why space exploration and development is important – one that people can hear and understand. We haven’t adequately done either.

What are hopeful developments in space exploration?

I am optimistic about the future of space exploration. Our military and our economy now depend upon space satellites. (You don’t believe me? Ask any major retailer if they can manage inventory, shipping, and other logistics without GPS and satellite communications.) We will eventually run out of easily accessible resources and be forced to go to the asteroids to keep our civilization going. It is just a matter of when this will happen. It could be in 30 years or 300 years. The Earth has finite accessible resources and we will one day stress the system to the point where costs make space resources look attractive. Environmental concerns may make this happen sooner rather than later. My personal vision of how we can use space to solve our resource, environment and energy problems is described in my book, Harvesting Space for a Greener Earth (Springer 2014).

Space tourism will make space accessible to more people and that is great. The increased flight rate will also drive down launch costs, making science and exploration missions less expensive to fly – enabling more to be flown. NASA’s new heavy lift rocket will enable us more easily send people beyond the Earth-Moon system to asteroids or to Mars. Our robotic probes will continue informing us of our place in the universe and help us to understand the local neighborhood that is the solar system. I am hopeful.

If you had your dream funding and dream project, what would you be doing?

My dream project has to be Interstellar Probe. Imagine a square solar sail 1/3 of a kilometer on a side, carrying a small spacecraft out of the solar system at speeds greater than 50 kilometers per second, racing into nearby interstellar space. Solar sails use sunlight for propulsion, requiring no fuel. And when they are deployed close to the Sun, they get a much larger push than a comparable sail deployed at the Earth-to-Sun distance. Solar sails are real. The Japanese are flying one called IKAROS and NASA is building one called Sunjammer. The neat thing about sails is their scalability; today’s solar sails can be made ever larger to go ever faster to even greater distances. I believe a very large solar sail will one day take a spacecraft to another star and Interstellar Probe will have been the first step.

What was it like to work with Ben Bova?

Working with Ben on Rescue Mode was just… awesome. Ben is an icon and the inheritor of the Asimov/Heinlein/Clarke legacy. His writings have inspired me since I was in high school (many years ago) and working with him on a book was an opportunity of a lifetime. He provided guidance throughout the project and seemingly effortlessly guided me out of many literary corners and potholes as the book was evolving. The nuts and bolts of the collaboration occurred by email, though we did talk on the phone a few times to bounce ideas off each other. Mars exploration is his passion and I think our story complements his other ideas about how this might actually happen. Though hopefully without some of the near-death experiences we put our characters through!

Tell us a little about your book.

Rescue Mode, published last week by Baen Books, is about the first international human mission to Mars. The mission is launched after a robotic mission finds signs of life there. Worldwide interest in learning more finally causes a few nations to come together to make it happen. But, in the spirit of the classic “man versus nature” theme, something goes horribly wrong during the journey which places our characters in a struggle to survive. In the process of surviving, they come up with a novel approach to assure that Mars exploration continues beyond their one mission. I better not say much more — I want you to read the book!


Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com to be plugged here on PJ Media.

It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like

TITLE

My Book

AUTHOR

My name as it's on the book cover.

AMAZON LINK

http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/

BLURB

no more than about 100 words.


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A Touch of Power: A Cat Among Dragons short story pack
By Alma T.C. Boykin

“Just a little consulting work,” Joschka said. “Nothing dangerous,” Joschka said.

After all, just how much trouble can Rada get into serving as the “strange things” adviser to a minor military group on a small, backwater world? Wandering interstellar anthropologists, an increased Trader bounty on her head, and a musician who’s just a little too good all make Rada Ni Drako’s easy new part-time job a lot more interesting than planned. Interesting enough to make serving a Lord Defender of Drakon IV look like a quiet vacation.


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War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1)
By Peter Grant

Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide.

Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers news that may change everything. An opportunity is coming to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed.

That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.


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Spring That Never Came
By D. Jason Fleming

Tammy Kirsch has had her shot at fame. She came to Hollywood with stars in her eyes and lint in her pockets and looks that would open any door in town just to try to get her onto the casting couch. After several guest roles in TV shows, one starring role in a movie that nobody saw, inadvertently dodging the mid-70s porno chic moment and keeping her dignity and reputation intact, her career sputtered to a halt.

Then she lost her daughter in a custody case, and what was left of her world came crashing down around her ears. When the crazy homeless man tried to talk to her incoherently as she was leaving the court building, that only seemed to be the cherry on top of the layered dessert of her misery. In fact, it was just the first step on her path, a path that would end with her defending the entire world from an invasion of other-dimensional eldritch horrors.


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Somewhere In His Arms
By Katia Nikolayevna

She was drawn to the dark stranger; she could not help it. He was everything her broken heart needed, and everything her body desired. She was shy and sweet and he would never let her go.

She married him that night and he took her virginity. He seared her mind and body with the remembrance of erotic bliss and tormented every waking moment even as she tried to forget…

She fled her husband’s loving embrace but searched for him in her dreams. That is when he comes to her…and claims her as his.

But Lucy cannot forget, even as she tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and finds another..

He will always be her husband. For he is the one who seduced her in a night of drunken passion and the only man she craves…

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How to Compete With Amazon — if you really want to

Friday, June 6th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Whining is not fighting, and complaining is not competing.  You want to be a contender?  Put your gloves on and fight.

Whining is not fighting, and complaining is not competing. You want to be a contender? Put your gloves on and fight.

So, Amazon.  We’re now supposed to have a mini hate in or something, right.

What I – Sarah, by the way, nice to meet you – would like to know is why?  Why has hating Amazon become the cool or chic thing to do?  Why is Amazon the villain?

Oh, never mind me, I understand it from the other side – that is the side of the traditional publishers, the distributors, the people who were used to controlling who got to see what on the shelves, the people who before Amazon’s ascendance, could make or break a book, sight unseen, and make sure that either no one ever found it, or it was a mega success (at least on paper).

I understand why they’re upset at Amazon.  Why they’re screaming that everyone must now destroy the monster.  But why?

I am not implying Amazon is perfect.  As I cued my stuff for various promotions today I was reminded again of Amazon’s extremely stupid requirement that you give them exclusive rights in order to do a give away or sale.

Stupid, you say?  But it’s the stuff of evil geniuses!  They get exclusivity on the book!

Stupid I said, and stupid I meant.  See, yeah, they get exclusivity on the book – but none of the big names are availing themselves of this – so the exclusivity they get is at best with us, midlisters.  Look, guys, I have a head as big as the next writer, but I think the only people who REMEMBER my book for three months are people who sleep with me. And there’s only one of those.  I don’t mean I write unmemorable books, I mean that with the spoiling for choice we get, the only people who remember I had a book release, three months later, are people who really, really, really like me.

So, let’s see how Amazon’s exclusive-to-promote policy shoots itself in the foot.  Let’s say I’m a compulsive reader (I am) and download Pretty Darn Good Writer’s book when it’s free.  I download it, and get around to read it in a month or so, when it’s no longer free.  To my shock, it rocks my world.  So I go to my Reader Friend (I have a few!) and say “you must, must, must read this.”  Reader Friend says, “Oh, okay.  But I have a nook.”  She goes and searches it on B & N and the book isn’t there – of course, since it’s still in the three month exclusivity period.

By the time the book comes out of that and goes on B & N Reader friend has forgotten all about it.  Which means that Barnes and Noble lost a sale, you say, and no skin off Amazon’s nose?

This is as stupid a line of thought as the old traditional publishers’ idea that people choose books by publisher, instead of by author, plot or title.

See, Reader friend has twenty other friends to whom she would have recommended the book.  But she can’t do it because she never read it.  And I guarantee 18 of those friends would be on kindle.

So, in the long run the exclusivity policy – I don’t think even with my moderate name anyone is going to change reading platforms for me – hurts Amazon, as well as being an unholy annoyance.

The same with pricing.  I don’t actually object to having a $2.99 floor for novels.  All my indie friends whom I yelled at and said “you can sell it for $2 more and you’ll be fine, know I think the natural price is more like $4.99.  But to put that floor (via pricing incentives) under short stories is not the best thing in the world in the current economy.

And this is why Amazon needs competition, you say.

Yes, yes, they do.  And I have been working (in my copious spare time) on a four part series on how to compete with Amazon – at least on ebooks, which isn’t even the core of Amazon’s business.

You see, I work across five ebook platforms and what I’m here to tell you is that none of them are serious competition.  I only get about 10% of the income I get from Amazon from any of these places.  And that’s on a good month.

But the thing is I know why.  I also know why, with the best will in the world, I end up putting only 1/10th of my books in other platforms.  And it’s not Amazon’s fault.  It’s the other houses’.

A forceful breakup of Amazon will do nothing to help these houses, because they are too stupid to help themselves.  I will expand on this in the articles, I promise, and if I weren’t up to my neck in work (as are my friends – and my husband) who can program I’d give it a crack myself.  BUT for now, I’ll give some areas in which the other ebook sellers drive me nuts:

1-      Stop treating me like an amateur.  I have almost 20 years experience as a published author.  If you send me congratulations whenever I sell a copy of a book on your site and talk about the wonderful occasion and how it will change my life, I’ll get testy.  It’s not that we can’t be friends anymore, but I get a feeling you think I’m less than five.  Treat me like a professional, please.

2-      While you’re treating me like a professional, realize my time (particularly for us hybrid authors) is limited.  STOP telling me that I got error 342 and I should check your manual to see what I’m doing wrong.  Either have a clickable explanation or – here’s an idea – have your site so that when I upload an ebook format that works everywhere else, it doesn’t gag on imaginary code.  I really don’t have the whole day to spend uploading a short story into your site.  And uploading novels is a tortuous process that I gave up on after the first.

3-      Make sure your platform is intuitive and self explanatory.  This breaks my heart with the site that comes second to Amazon in making me money.  Their platform for uploading books is SO visually oriented, it takes me an hour and help from younger son to find out where to upload.  Make it obvious and easy to return to.

4-      One more thing – make sure your reports of sales and payment makes sense.  Do not change the report six months later, and pay me for some sale I didn’t know about.  I need to know things like how my promotions did.

 

So, that’s for attracting writers.  What about readers?

5-      Give up on exclusivity.  Yes, I know.  You want me to read from you only.  Tough.  I’m not giving up my kindle library.  Make it possible for me to beam a kindle-format book to my kindle, and you got me.

6-      If you want to have your proprietary reader, same thing applies.  Make sure I can read my Amazon books on your system.  I refuse to keep two separate libraries, and I’m not alone.

There is more, and a lot more detail.  As I said, I’m working on it in my copious spare time.  But this should be enough to get started.

Amazon is not evil.  (My friend Cedar Sanderson explains the thing with Hatchette here. And my friend Dave Freer explains it here.) BUT it needs competition.  The thing is to compete with Amazon the competitor must give up on being the “anti-amazon.”  That gets you anti-sales.  You should instead steal what works and improve on what doesn’t.  And then maybe you’ll have a fighting chance.

(Special Note: Sarah’s books, and Cedar’s book, this time are on special. Which is why it’s a special note. Isn’t that special?)


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TITLE
By Sarah A. Hoyt 

From Elizabethan England to the Far Future, discover who really was Shakespeare and why Marlowe was called The Muses Darling. Discover the horrifying secret that Leonardo DaVinci found beneath a cave in his home village. In the far future, find a new way to keep Traveling, Traveling. Use cold sleep to find your love again, and join the (high tech) Magical Legion.

Seventeen short stories from Prometheus Award Winning Author, Sarah A. Hoyt. This edition features an Introduction by Dave Freer and a Bonus Short Story “With Unconfined Wings.”


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Heart’s Fire
By Sarah A. Hoyt 

When a priceless magical jewel is stolen, Ausenda, who has no magical power, has to track it down before the thief uses the jewel for some unspeakable crime.


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The Eternity Symbiote
By Cedar Sanderson 

On Sale for the month of June!

Earth sits at the center of a galactic power struggle humanity knows nothing about. Then an alien delegation suffers a fatal accident and hidden plans unravel around the wreckage in the Alaskan wilderness. Infectious disease expert Gabrielle McGregor discovers the hidden machinations and what they’ll mean for her and her family.


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Finishing Kick
By Paul Duffau 

A humorous peek inside one girl’s dream to guide her team to the winner’s podium, Finishing Kick takes an inspirational look into girls cross country. Callie finds herself holding the keys to the nuthouse when she agrees to be team captain of the cross country squad. She cares so much and tries so hard, you can’t help but cheer her on as Callie and her team challenges powerhouse Fairchild Academy.


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Right to Know
By Edward Willett 

A fast-paced space opera about first contact – with a difference. When Art Stoddard, civilian information officer of the generation ship Mayflower II, is kidnapped by a secret military organization determined to overthrow the power of Captain and crew, he becomes embroiled in a conflict that tests everything he thought he knew. Now, he is forced to choose between preserving social order and restoring the people’s right to know. But what if knowledge is the most dangerous thing of all?


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Fenrir Reborn
By Anita C. Young 

Sindri Modulf has been tested many times throughout his long life, but for every feat he has faced, he has artfully dodged countless more with easy humour and a deadly axe. Those well-honed abilities will prove useless when he is faced with one of the greatest challenges of his life; he must bring back a grief-stricken Seer from the edge of catatonia. Unwilling to let the mind of the most powerful woman in 1000 years be ravaged by Empaths and Telepaths, Sindri does something he hasn’t done for centuries: bare his soul.

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5 Literary Villains You Love to Hate

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

It’s easy to write a passable hero. No, not an interesting hero or a complex one, but if all you need is someone to stand shining in the radiance of his righteousness with a sword in his hand, a journeyman writer can whip one of those out with her eyes closed. A great story doesn’t always need a great hero, or even an especially memorable one. It needs a fantastic villain.

A fantastic villain — a villain you love to hate, a villain that you almost, just a little bit, want to root for, a villain whose very name makes your skin crawl — is incredibly difficult to write, which is why fantastic villains are very rare. It’s often the villain who makes an adventure especially delicious and suspenseful; it’s the villain who elevates an interpersonal drama into an epic. A great villain makes a great story — and a great story makes great summer reading. Follow the villains to your summer reading list — and start with these if you want to know what a good villain looks like.

5) Hatsumomo, Memoirs of a Geisha

I’m only about halfway through this one, but already Hatsumomo has made the book for me. A vicious beauty, Hatsumomo is the working geisha at the okiya where Chiyo, the narrator, works as a maid and trains to become a geisha herself. From the instant Hatsumomo sets eyes on a nine-year-old Chiyo, she smells a potential rival and sets out to destroy Chiyo’s life. Hatsumomo’s main competitor, Mameha, takes Chiyo under her tutelage when she learns how much Hatsumomo hates her, and the young girl becomes a pawn in the established geishas’ social war.

There are no depths Hatsumomo won’t sink to to try to prevent Chiyo’s rise to prominence, or damage Mameha’s reputation. Planting stolen goods, spreading disgusting rumors, and driving up the debt Chiyo must repay before she can become a free and independent woman — Hatsumomo practically crackles with insane energy every time she enters a scene, and I find myself turning the pages not just to cheer Chiyo on, but in a sick fascination to find out what Hatsumomo will do to her next.

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Mexico’s Best and Brightest Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in America

Monday, May 5th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

cincodemayo

Imagine a new country suddenly emerging somewhere in the world, a country based on America’s old Constitution and nothing more. This new country has no taxes, a strong military, a free and open press, and a limited government.

Would you pack your bags? Let’s head out for the Atlantis of Atlas Shrugged, or Sarah Hoyt’s Eden colony in Darkship Thieves, or Heinlein’s lunar base in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. We’d miss our old home and feel sorrow over leaving our old country, but to be free of the increasing weight of totalitarian government? Color me gone, and my family too. We did it once, generations ago, when we got on a boat and headed to America. We could do it again.

This is why Mexico is a failed state. Rebels who object to a government unwilling to preserve individual liberty and protect private property have an Atlantis shimmering and beckoning on the horizon. They’ve packed their bags and moved here, some legally and some illegally. Some have died in the deserts of the American Southwest, murdered by coyotes or succumbing to thirst, willing to die to gain freedom.

Left behind are the people who either engage in corruption themselves or have no energy to fight it. Consider Michoacan, Mexico. Almost half the state’s population lives in the United States. Those left behind endure passively as corrupt government officials make deals with drug cartels and refuse to protect people’s safety or private property. Their rebel for liberty, their Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, isn’t around. He’s moved to America.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory in 1862 of a small, ill-equipped Mexican force over the powerful French army at the Battle of Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. It took another five years before Mexico gained independence, but the 5th of May is celebrated as the symbol of Mexican freedom. Today’s rebels should fight to free Mexico and turn her back into a vibrant and wonderful country, but I can understand how the lure of freedom in their neighbor to the North is too much.

Because if you had a free country to emigrate to, would you stick around here and fight it out, or would you pack your bags?

shutterstock_135547145

Images courtesy of Shutterstock:  Bilha Golan, Iurii

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Give Me Back My Spaceships and Dinosaurs

Monday, March 31st, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt

kansas

Lately I’ve been going through books I’ve been lugging around for 30 years and putting some of them up for sale. Part of this is because we plan to move as soon as possible to a place that’s easier for me to manage and clean while running a fully-time job in writing (and indie publishing.)

Part of it is that I’m allergic to household dust, and paper books are paper magnets.

Notwithstanding which, you couldn’t have pried my books out of my hands save for the Kindle paperwhite, which makes it easy and fun to read books in a format other than paper.

Anyway, I’m digging through a 30 year accumulation of books, some of which I’ve read multiple times, and some I might have read once, twenty three years ago, while on bed-rest with my first pregnancy – a time when I got so desperate for entertainment I sent my husband to the local library/remaindered sales with the largest suitcases we owned and told him ”Just fill it to the top.”

Then there are books I don’t remember having bought at any time and no one in the house admits to having bought. No, not that kind of book. Though one of the sets is a complete series of engineering manuals, and it had a similar effect on my younger son as those other books you were thinking of. He has absconded with them into his bedroom and I expect we’ll see him again when he’s digested the contents and not a minute before.

And then there are other books which, presumably, I bought, but have completely forgotten.

One of these: The Shores of Kansas by Robert Chilson made me stop. The cover shows a man battling two dinosaurs and it says “the mind-boggling epic adventure of a time-traveler torn between two nightmare worlds.”

I have no memory of having read – or bought – this book. And perhaps it is really bad. Don’t care. It’s going to be my bedtime read tonight.

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4 Classic Novels Perfect For Your Spring Reading List

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg
YouTube Preview Image

Spring is coming, and after a long, hard winter, I think that qualifies for a celebratory Spring Reading List. You know what summer reads are — beach books, thrillers, all the genre books you love to relax into. And winter reads are the kinds of books you curl up with, under a blanket next to a fire — deeper, darker books that take you away on the cold howling wind. So what’s a spring read? A book about awakening, a delicate but powerful book, a book full of the magic of transformation, tinged with slight sadness. Here are my four spring reads for this year:

4) A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

A moving romance and wry social commentary, A Room with a View takes place in the spring and summer, in Edwardian-era Italy and England. This book begs to be read by an open window.

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Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
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Click to check out “Murder at CPAC” by Jamie Wilson.

A year or more ago I heard about this project called Liberty Island, supposed to give those of us whose politics make us pariahs with most of traditional publishing — though not Baen Books — a haven where we could meet our fans. I keep meaning to contribute to them, but of course, the last year I spent more time sick than well, and consequently I’m so far behind on books and contracts, I can practically see myself around the corner.

Well, they are up now (and have a story by Frank J. Fleming). And I’ve secured an interview with Adam Bellow, Liberty Island’s publisher and CEO. Bellow is a longtime nonfiction editor, currently running Broadside, the conservative nonfiction imprint of HarperCollins. He is also the author of In Praise of Nepotism, a lively contrarian take on an eternally divisive topic.

And, yep, sure, as soon as I get a weekend to pound it out, I’ll do a novella for Liberty Island.

Sarah Hoyt: I heard of Liberty Island back when it was in the planning stages.  I understand it is an online magazine-cum-community center for writers and readers on the right side of the spectrum.  Is this true?  What do you want to tell us about Liberty Island?

Adam Bellow: We started Liberty Island to help the new wave of conservative storytellers connect with their natural audience. Even before launching the site we’ve discovered dozens of new voices on the right that you won’t find anywhere else. These are talented and creative people who have previously been excluded from mainstream culture because they hold the wrong views and didn’t go to the right schools or attend the approved writing programs. This just confirms our hunch that something like Liberty Island is desperately needed.

SH: Who is the audience for Liberty Island? What is “conservative fiction”? Shouldn’t good stories just stand on their own?

AB: Great literature stands on its own, but the productions of popular culture often carry a hidden freight of ideology that reflects its authors’ biases. Sometimes not so hidden — the evil conservative businessman is essentially the default villain in Hollywood these days. But think about what happens when great stories are told from a conservative perspective: you get Tom Clancy, or Brad Thor, or James Patterson, or Vince Flynn. Mega-bestselling authors with a huge following. Our audience is anyone who loves great pulp writers like those guys. At Liberty Island you will find dozens of stories like these, in genres ranging from humor to thriller to SciFi. These writers aren’t heavy handed in the least – their conservative outlook is sometimes explicit but just as often merely implied or completely submerged. Besides, a case can be made that traditional pulp genres are inherently conservative.

SH: In what way do you intend to distinguish yourself from other online magazines?

AB: Liberty Island combines a magazine, a free range self-publishing platform, and a community of readers and writers who share a commitment to the values of freedom, individualism, and American exceptionalism. It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.

SH: What made you think of the project – and commit to it and work so hard for it?

AB: Two things: first, an impulse to carry the culture war into the field of popular culture. And second, the writers themselves. In 25 years as an editor of nonfiction books I’ve watched the conservative intellectual project thrive and flourish. But like others on the right I’ve been dismayed by the slowness of conservatives to challenge the liberal dominance of popular culture. It’s not enough to carp and criticize the frequently substandard and offensive crap that liberals produce. As Andrew Breitbart used to say, we have to make our own—and it has to be good. But recently we began to notice an exciting development: hundreds, indeed thousands of conservative and libertarian writers were seizing the opportunity afforded by new digital technologies to produce and publish original works of fiction. Others were making music, video, graphics, and other forms of entertainment right on their laptops at home. These were ordinary men and women all over the country, working in isolation, doing their best to hone their art and find an audience. Yet no one seemed to know that they existed. So we started talking about what we could do to help them. Liberty Island grew out of those discussions.

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5 Reasons I Don’t Want to Travel Back in Time

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

colin-firth-as-mr-darcy-in-pride-and-prejudice-bbc-adaptation-1995-lizzy

Pretty much every nerd and misfit, sometime during adolescence, wishes he could travel to a time and place where he’d fit in. Maybe it was an entirely separate fantasy world, like Narnia; maybe it was a secret world-within-our-world, like Hogwarts; or maybe it was a fantastic, steampunk version of the past.

I lived in those fantasies as a teen so much so that I remember stretches of my high school years more for the stories my friends and I concocted than for anything else that happened in the real world. That yearning came to life in Bulfinch, my second novel (due to be released this summer), in which a medieval knight and his monk chronicler travel through time into the attic study of a modern-day scholar.

But as my roommate and I spent this week’s snow day watching Pride and Prejudice (1995), I realized I might finally have grown out of my wish to live in the past — at least, the realistic past. All I seemed to notice were the things I wouldn’t have been able to stand about Lizzie’s world. Here are the top five reasons I’m thoroughly, solidly glad to be living right now:

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Andrew Bird’s Flights of Fancy

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

The first poet I fell in love with was E. E. Cummings. In elementary school we read his poems about springtime and childhood. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered his poems about love and sex, mortality, war, and much more. There aren’t many recent poets who have captured my imagination like E. E. Cummings does. Part of the problem is the difficulty of finding good contemporary poetry — fewer and fewer magazines carry it, and only a few specialty publishers collect it into books. I haven’t tried very hard to look for it, though, because my new favorite poets are working somewhere else entirely — the stage of a local music venue.

My new favorite poet is Andrew Bird. I’ve been following him for five years now. If you’ve heard of him, it’s probably been as a violinist and alternative musician.

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Bird’s lyrics roam from ancient civilizations to a whimsical post-apocalyptic paradise. Some of his songs hint at a story that ended just before he started singing; others sound just like Bird is enjoying playing with words, the way an abstract artist explores form and color. Like the poems of E. E. Cummings, Bird’s lyrics spring to life when the listener learns to focus less on meaning and more on atmosphere.

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Andrew Bird is one of those rare artists who doesn’t just write music — he creates worlds. But despite his lyric-writing ability, I have wonder if calling him a poet fully sums him up. If I only read his lyrics, I might have been reminded of E. E. Cummings but I wouldn’t have been swept away in quite the same way. The music is part of the poetry. He builds delicate castles with piccolo and rhyme — the sum is greater than the parts. I can’t call him a poet because he’s more than that.

So, my hunt for great contemporary poetry is still frustrated. But I can’t say Andrew Bird has let me down.

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Play It Yourself: Tabs and Lyrics

Tenuousness

Scythian Empire

A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left 

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If Fatherhood Falls in a Forest…

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

TheParisReviewFatherhood has been undergoing a dramatic redefinition in recent years, amply covered by journalists, scientists, and sitcoms. That’s why the Tweet I saw today (“Do fathers make good writers? Do writers make good fathers?“) was clickbait I eagerly lapped up.

The article I wound up reading, “The Pram in the Hall,” revealed more about its author, Shane Jones, than it did about writing or parenthood. Jones is admittedly image-obsessed, and that’s evident when he spends most of this article talking not about the unique challenges parenthood poses to writing, but about the challenges it poses to his carefully cultivated personal and professional image.

He writes, “In our culture, fatherhood means baggy khakis and cars with side-impact airbags—it’s something of a joke.”

I don’t see how that’s something of a joke — I just see a comfortable man in a safe car. And people in the book world aren’t known for their glamorous good looks and fashion sense, either, so I’m not sure how any of that is a threat to his career. Have you been to a publishing trade show lately? Clint and Stacey would have a heart attack.

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A Cover Story

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
Sometimes covers are supposed to create an impression

Sometimes covers are supposed to create an impression

A supplemental series to Selling Your Writing in 13 weeks.  Post 1.

I’ve been meaning to do a post on covers, as a supplemental to my 13 weeks posts on selling your writing, but I couldn’t seem to do it, until I realized that I was in fact trying to cram several posts worth into a single post.  Whenever I do that, I get highly bizarre comments, from people who read their own stuff into what I elided.

Part of this is a problem that I don’t remember what lay people know and don’t know anymore.

By lay people in this case, I mean people outside of publishing.  Even avid readers might never have noticed consciously that covers are meant to signal genre, nor all the other subtle signals they give.

Before I start, I took the cover workshop with WMG publishing, and that made me aware of things even I hadn’t noticed, and I’ve been a professional in the field for several years. For anyone doing indie publishing, if you can afford the workshop take it.  We’re right now scraping up the money to put older son through it.  A I don’t use the same tools they do (I judged it was easier for me to use less professional tools than to spend a lot of time – more important than money – learning InDesign.  So I use tools that I’m used to, the highly outdated but very familiar to me JASC paintshop. The newer versions, by Corel, which I own, aren’t nearly as good, but the last JASC version I can make sit up and sing, because I’ve been using it for ten years.  And what it can’t do GIMP can.  Both programs I’m familiar with and therefore find preferable to a program that I found oddly counterintuitive and would have to learn to use.) But even so, what I learned transferred. I won’t say it made me an awesome cover designer.  That is an actual profession and you need years of practice and usually specialize in one genre.  But it has made me a decent cover designer.

The other thing I should say is that every time I make one of these posts, I get people offering to design my covers.  Most of these people have a background in art and design and usually some experience in tiny presses (or advertising layout.)  All of the offers I’ve had, when I look at their samples, they’re very pretty… and all of them signal “literary and little” which is inappropriate for my books which are, unabashedly genre.  Looking over the covers, I see myself at a con, passing the tables with books for tiny presses with names like Necrophiliac Duck Press.  This is not the image I want to project, since my books were once published by big publishers, and I want the same feel for the re-issue.  Also, I’m still publishing with one major publisher, and don’t want people to think everything I bring indie is “too precious for words.”

Some of it will be, but when it is, I shall so signal.

Fortunately for me, the big houses don’t usually give midlisters like me experienced cover designers.  (I’m not talking of Baen here. They’re always an exception.) They usually hand the job to the first under-designer just hired from community college.  And that level I can imitate.

However, to know where we are and what we’re doing, let’s start with a look at some bestseller covers in some distinct genres.  And pointing out how they signal genre/subgenre.

This is something you should always do before you start designing covers.  Go look at what other people are doing.  Look at the bestsellers under paper (because that’s usually the professional books, that got lavish attention) and their covers, and figure out what to do for yours.

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4 Reasons Why Our Entertainment Is Getting More and More Sex Soaked

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
I have nothing against sex in a plotline.  I have problems with all sex and no plot, though.

I have nothing against sex in a plot. I have problems with all sex and no plot, though.

A PJM colleague, who can out herself is she so chooses, posted on Facebook about how Call the Midwife is doing well while Downton Abbey‘s ratings are going down and how this was possibly due to the fact that Call the Midwife doesn’t have plots centered on sex.

I’m the last person to write about TV shows.  I rarely watch TV (or movies); when I do, it’s usually because I’m exercising and it’s something that’s available for free on Amazon Prime.  I know my husband watched the first two seasons of Downton Abbey and enjoyed it, but I figured the historical aspect of it would drive me batty, particularly as I’m right now researching that era with a view to writing a mystery series set then.

My colleague made some comment about how we seemed to be increasing the sex in our entertainment exponentially (or perhaps I just read that into her posting), and we had an exchange over what was causing the more and more sex-driven plotting in all our entertainment from TV to books.

Again, I don’t know anything about the internal process of TV and movie plotting. What I see as similarities to the fiction writing field might be completely spurious, and the result of my projection. I do see the same creep in movies and TV, though, as well as a certain amount of repetitiveness and lack of originality.

To make it clear, I don’t have anything against a sex-driven plot in its place — which is mostly, I would assume, in erotica. (Yes, there can be sex-driven literary works — Romeo and Juliet comes to mind — but usually the whole point is not getting it on.  There is a deeper exploration of the human condition.)  And I don’t have anything against sex in books.  Some books need a sex scene or two to advance the plot.

I do have an objection to sex-drive plots, when that seems to be the only thing the writer finds interesting about his characters.  And I’ve been seeing more and more of that in my fiction and — by report — in TV and movies.  I noticed this creep myself in sitcoms, back when I watched a lot of them right after 9/11. (I went through about a year; that’s all I was good for.)  Compared to the last time I’d watched a lot of sitcoms (mid ’80s), all of a sudden every joke/situation/motive was about sex or implied sex.

So what do I think is driving this creep?

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How To Write A Proposal

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
You want to write a novel?  For me?

You want to write a novel? For me?

If you’re going to go through traditional publishing (which might still be feasible at times) or even if you’re submitting to one of the new micro presses, there will come a time, after you’ve done a pitch for the book or after you met an editor at a convention, or even after you sent in a query asking if they wanted to see your idea, where someone will say, “Sure, send me a proposal and three chapters.”

There was a time when these words struck terror in me.  This is because I had clue zero how one wrote “a proposal” or a synopsis, or any of that stuff.  (Technically the “proposal” is three chapters and a synopsis, but half the time the editor asks for a “proposal and three chapters.”  Don’t stress, she really means a synopsis.  Well, sort of. Calm down, all will be revealed.)

Then while I was sitting at a writer’s group meeting, I told the lady next to me I had no idea how to do this, and she sketched it for me in the back of an envelope.  This was not QUITE all that was needed.  The subtleties of the different types of proposal and developing the art of a “selling” proposal took a little longer.

I can’t in a single article propose to teach you all the details of writing a selling proposal, but I can perhaps help you along.

First, remember that a proposal/synopsis is a selling tool.  Unless you’re asked to do a chapter by chapter synopsis, don’t do that.  I thought that was the only form of proposal for the longest time, but if you read a proposal that is written that way, your eyes quickly glaze over.  Yes, it might be a complete picture of your plot, but a book is more than a plot.  First, the person must know why they would care about what your characters are doing.  This is often a mistake of newbie writers, too, when you ask “tell me about your novel.”  They don’t give us what is neat about their novel, or the overarching reason I should care, but (using Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice because even if you haven’t read it – philistine! – you can look up the plot or watch a mini-series – but not the movie, because it sucks) they’ll tell you something like this,

“There’s this family, and they have all these girls see, and then there’s this assembly in town, and then the older one meets this guy and he’s rich and they like each other, but then the younger one meets his friend who is even richer, but he’s all like stuck up and proud.”

A chapter by chapter synopsis is often like that, but at greater length and even more boring.

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Book Plug Friday: Creativity and Creation

Friday, January 10th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
By itself, this is not an instrument of artistic creation.

By itself, this is not an instrument of artistic creation.

For years, when I [Sarah] sold a book to a traditional publishing house, I had to sign a contract that said that in case of being sued for plagiarism I’d pay for any expenses the publisher incurred.  Or something like that.  It always made me a little uncomfortable because I knew that if a book got big enough someone would sue me for plagiarism.  Witness the lawsuit over Harry Potter by some woman who had written a children’s book with a character named Harry Potter who had a scar.  There was nothing else in common, and yes, it’s entirely possible that J. K. Rowling got the name from that book (because we read so much, as writers, that minor stuff like that sticks. You can usually track what I’ve been reading by the general trend of character names.)

But character names aren’t copyrightable. They’re trademark-able, (and I haven’t checked, but I bet Harry Potter IS trademarked now.) Ideas aren’t copyrightable either, but their execution is.  This can be a hazy region for many people.  Many people hear that ideas aren’t copyrightable and set about stealing everything in a book, because everything is an idea, right?

Well, yes, and no.  You could say the idea is embodied in words, and so long as you don’t copy the words, you’re doing fine.  So, say you want to write the story of a man who has a cat named Pete and who travels backward in time to fix something that he did wrong.  If you keep it at that level, but the story, the future and the setting is all yours, you can call it a Heinlein homage.  But make the man an inventor of household gadgets, make him be cheated out of his work by his crooked partner and the character’s ex-fiance, make him be put in cold sleep against his will, and then have to travel back to rescue his cat and the little girl who grows up to be his wife and…  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d be looking over my shoulder for the long arm of the Heinlein estate, if I plagiarized The Door Into Summer to that extent.

What I mean is, the general — very general — idea is not copyrightable, and you might even be able to “steal” the high level plot, but once you get to the details you’re in dangerous territory.  At the worst you’ll get sued.  At best, you’ll become known as not very creative.

Say you write about a family with too many daughters to marry and one of them makes an unsuitable marriage, while another aims too high…  Even if Austen were still in copyright, no one would complain.  But if you set it in the regency and follow the plot step by step… Well, I’d never have been able to write A Touch of Night if Pride and Prejudice were still in copyright.

If you write fanfic about something that is still in copyright, be sure you then rewrite enough to clean any traces of where it started. My friend Kate Paulk talks about this at our group blog.  In the trade this is called “filing the serial numbers” off a story and there’s a way to do it. (And before you ask why there is a word for it: sometimes there are shared universe stories and novels that get rejected; work for hire that gets rejected, etc. People file the serial numbers to be able to publish it.)  My friend, Amanda Green also talks about it on her blog.

This is important right now, because someone has sold a painting that is a copy of an Asimov cover for over five million dollars.  IO9 covers it here.  To quote:

What’s the difference between these two images? On the left is a book cover by legendary artist Chris Foss for Asimov’s Stars Like Dust. On the right is a painting by artist Glenn Brown, which just sold at auction for roughly $5.7 million, way more than it sold for in 2002.

How did this happen? Brown basically reimagined Foss’ work — although it looks as though all he did was repaint it, and fool around with the colors slightly.

Brown was actually sued several years ago by artist Anthony Roberts, after Brown copied Roberts’ cover for Robert A. Heinlein’s Double Star for his painting The Loves of Shepherds 2000. At the time, Foss reportedly expressed interest in joining the suit. To be fair, Brown’s pastiche of the Double Star cover was somewhat less blatant than the above copy of Stars Like Dust seems to be.

The “artist”‘s defense is that as there are no new ideas, he’s just doing the best he can… or something.  I don’t know if he’ll get away with it — artists are even more impecunious than indie writers, and they might not be able to sue.  But I know he SHOULDN’T get away with it and that I find him repellent as a human being.

So, don’t do that to other people.  It’s okay to take inspiration, but theft is wrong. And on the flip side, as an impecunious indie agent, do yourself a favor and copyright all your work.  Yes, it’s technically copyrighted from the moment you put it in “permanent” form, be it paper, electrons or carved on a wall.  But my lawyer tells me it’s much easier to sue — and cheaper — for copyright infringement if you have filed copyright.  I know the fee can be serious money for indie, but do it anyway.  The world is full of bad people, and you need to protect yourself.


Charlie’s administrivia: We actually didn’t have many submissions for this week. Now, there are several reasons for this, large among them that I was overambitious last week in order to get a book with a special offer in the list in time for the special offer.

Now, that was okay, because Gods know we’ve got friends with books that deserve plugging, but this shouldn’t be just for our friends. So, it’s the New Year, and I want to encourage you all to send books to be plugged to book.plug.friday@gmail.com. Remember to include the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME as given on the cover, a BLURB, and — this is very important — an AMAZON LINK.

If you do have a special offer coming up, make sure to get us the information two weeks ahead of time so we can be sure to get it plugged on time.


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Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives)
By Amanda S. Green 

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.


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ConVent (The Vampire Con Series)
By Kate Paulk 

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.


cover

The Empathy Effect
By Bob Lock 

Cooper Jones is an alcoholic with a super-power, he is an empath, almost able to read minds … almost! He’s also a Swansea traffic warden and doesn’t have to read minds to know what people think of him. However, he had no idea how hated he was until he was bound to Mumbles Pier and left to drown.


cover

Hunter’s Duty (Hunter’s Moon)
By Ellie Ferguson 

Maggie Thrasher is looking for a man, not to love but to kill. Duty to her pride and loyalty to her family demands it.

Joshua Volk has betrayed pride, pack and clan. All he cares about is destroying the old ways and killing anyone, normal or shape-changer, who gets in his way.

Jim Kincade is dedicated to two things: upholding the law and protecting the pride from discovery.

When Jim is called to the scene of a possible murder, the last thing he expects is to discover the alleged killer is a tracker from another pride. Now he’s faced with a woman who is most definitely more than she appears. Complicating matters even more, there’s something about her that calls to him and his leopard is determined to claim her for his own.

Joshua Volk is looking for revenge. Maggie killed one of his own. His vengeance will bring Maggie’s worst nightmares to life. Is the passion between Maggie and Jim enough to defeat Volk’s plans or will Maggie’s determination to fulfill her duty to her pride be the death of them both?


cover

Stakeout at the Vampire Circus (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI)
By Kevin J. Anderson 

Zombie P.I. Dan Shamble and his ghost girlfriend are called to the Vampire Circus when a fortune teller’s cards go missing. Not exactly the glamorous life, but the stakes escalate when a vampire trapeze act goes dead wrong, and Shamble discovers even more skeletons in the closet than the ones that live there. As he shuffles for clues through an unnatural cast of carnies, he faces a slate of suspects that could freak out even the most daring detective–a werewolf lion tamer, a fat lady with an enormous secret, an undead ringmaster. . .and what could be scarier than a circus clown? The only thing certain is that the show must go on–dead or alive.


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The Musketeer’s Seamstress (The Musketeers Mysteries)
By Sarah D’Almeida 

Someone murders Aramis’ mistress, while the musketeer is alone with her. His friends help him escape, but even they can’t be sure he didn’t do it. Beset by peril and doubts, Aramis, Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan MUST find the true murderer before he or she finds them. All while the Cardinal stands ready to take advantage of their predicament.


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Lights in the Deep
By Brad R. Torgersen 

Ten astounding tales by triple award nominee Brad R. Torgersen. Go on fantastic new adventures at the bottom of Earth’s oceans and at the edge of the solar system. Meet humans who are utterly alien and aliens who are all too human. Originally featured in the pages of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine as well as Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, these stories are gathered here for the first time, along with anecdotes and other commentary from the author.

Features the stories Ray of Light (2012 Hugo & Nebula nominee), Outbound (2011 Analog Readers Choice Award winner), and Exanastasis (2010 Writers of the Future Award winner).

Introductions by Stanley Schmidt, Mike Resnick and Allan Cole.


cover

Bolg, PI: The Vampire Bride
By Dave Freer 

A humorous, satirical noir detective urban fantasy, set in a small city in flyover country, which has an unusually high population of Trolls, werewolves, fairies and a dwarf.

Private Investigator Bolg, a Pictish gentleman who happens to be vertically challenging, a self-proclaimed dwarf and tattooed so heavily he appears blue, finds himself called on undertake paranormal cases: in this case tracing the Vampire bride’s absconded or kidnapped groom.

The groom should have been a troll by the name of Billy Gruff, the manager and owner of the Ricketty-Racketty Club – a topless bar and nightclub. Bolg finds himself, and his client embroiled in murder, extortion and a Celtic wizard. The latter is supposedly helping him, but wizard’s help is not always what it you think it will be.

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Selling Your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 13: Bringing It All Together

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
Take notes.  There will be a quiz... only not by me.

Take notes. There will be a quiz… only not by me.

No, this is not actually the last posting, since I still owe you a post on covers and a – long delayed – post on proposals (to traditional publishing houses.)

I do apologize for the delays on those, but I was doing my very best not to die through what might have been the worst health-season I’ve had in a long time.

But, for now, this is my post trying to bring together everything I tried to cover on selling your book in thirteen weeks.  Sort of a summarized version of the entire thing with easy bullet points.  A “selling your writing in thirteen weeks for people who only discovered the series halfway through and are having trouble finding the previous posts (as I did when I tried to direct someone to them.)

So, as briefly as I can make it, here is your “lessons learned” recap.  Get our your number two pencil and a notebook.  There will be a test.  (Actually there will, but not administered by me, but by the world/publishing.  Though my way isn’t the only way and though things change constantly, this will get you some ways towards actually successfully publishing, in whichever mode you choose.)

First –  Traditional or Indie? How should you publish? (For the purpose of this article, indie refers to self publishing or publishing through a micro company in which you have a controlling interest.)

I know the decision I made for me, but I can’t make it for you. Depending on the field you’re working in, the book you’re working on, and your own personal preference, the answer could vary.

If you are writing the sort of book that will need a big-publisher sendoff to do well, and you’re fairly sure that you can get it, then by all means go with a traditional publisher.

If on the other hand you are writing what the publishers would consider a midlist book – your typical genre book: a romance in the style of those already out, or a cozy mystery, a quest fantasy, or a space opera – and you have the resources to self-promote, and you know or can learn your way around a cover you’re probably better off self-publishing/indie publishing.

The truth is that the traditional publishers have been taking resources away from the midlist for some years now, and now are less inclined than ever to spend promotion dollars on “this is also an enjoyable book.”  Also, some of the contracts being written don’t “guarantee” paper publication.

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What IS a Writer?

Friday, December 20th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Are you a writer?  Well? You tell me!  Do you write?  (Pipe glasses and obsolete writing instrument are optional.  And I refuse to wear a fake beard.)

Are you a writer? Well? You tell me! Do you write? (Pipe glasses and obsolete writing instrument are optional. And I refuse to wear a fake beard. I compensate by frowning much worse than that, while working.)

This is Sarah. Charlie is doing the links again.  (Thank you Charlie.)

Recently someone at my blog accidentally put words into my mouth. He must have remembered an old comment of mine about people being “professional” writers.

I must explain here, that “professional” in the old sense meant qualifying for membership in SFWA – science fiction writers of America – which almost the entire time I was involved in it required either 3 short stories at professional rates (I don’t know if those have changed from six cents a word) or a novel at a professional advance (last heard of that was three thousand, but it might be lower now.)

That used to be the threshold to be technically considered a professional in science fiction and fantasy.  Mystery had similar rules, and I think so did Romance, though I only had an RWA membership for about a year.

Anyway, my reader conflated this with my having said that a writer was someone who had sold at least three stories.

I don’t know. I can see where defining the term was necessary back when people had to sort of move up through the classifications and the established field.  It was necessary not for you, but for publishers and others to know where to place you.  When a magazine said, for instance, that it was only open to “published” authors, it was assumed  that anyone who’d sold to a magazine that paid in copies could apply (and would.)  If they said “professionally published” then they would get everyone who had sold a story at six cents or more. And if they said to professional authors, then you assumed you had to be SFWA qualifying.

This had absolutely nothing to do with whether you were a writer or not. That was solved for me when Dan and I were applying to rent our first house almost 28 years ago. We’d talked to our potential landlord for a while – he was about our age.  We were 22.  Yes, they let children marry in those days (shud up) – and had found a mutual interest in science fiction, and I’d mentioned I was trying to sell the stuff.

When we were filling the application, I put down I didn’t have a job (which at the time was true.)  He said “But you’re writing a novel.”  So he crossed that out and put down “Writer.”

I tried to explain I hadn’t sold anything, I might never sell anything, and he said “If you’re writing and you’re serious about it, you’re a writer.  Never mind the rest.”

In these days of indie publishing when the notion of “sales” is slippery – are you a sold writer if your first story out-sells five copies? Or when, like my friend, Cedar Sanderson, they’re well on their way to selling enough of a book to gather a medium sized advance over the next few months?  What do you call someone who has a book out with a small press for a year and suddenly, out of the blue, sells 8000 copies or so, like my friend Ellie Ferguson?  Was she a professional before, or only after she got all that money? She had done the work before selling!  Years before!

For organizations like SFWA this is simple enough. You are not published unless license your copyright to a third party who pays you the prescribed amount and then publishes the book. Old-style writers adhere to this too, and it drives me nuts to be on panels with them.  I’ll want to shake them and shout “you do realize these people you’re sneering at are making three times what you make per book?”  I’ll never forget being at a panel at Fencon in which someone who sold his books for $1500 a piece to a small press was sneering at “self published people” while the late Ric Locke, in the back of the room, meekly took it – even though at the time he had already made ten times that from his self-published book. It was one of those moments when I felt embarrassed for my colleagues.

Okay – some people will keep holding on to the old definitions of what makes you a writer, but are you obligated to care?  Not so far as I can see!

You are a writer if you are working at being one.  Whether it’s your main job or not.  If this is what you want to do, do it. (Of course, just talking about it and not doing it won’t work.  Also, it will get me upset at you and no one wants that.)

But other than trying not to delude yourself – go for it.  You want to be a writer?  Be a writer.  Don’t wait for anyone’s permission.  (This actually applies to everything else that requires application, effort and learning.  You want to do it, do it.  You’re not getting any younger, you know?)

Send an email to book.plug.friday@gmail.com for guidelines, which include the suggestion that you send AUTHOR, TITLE, BLURB, and AMAZON LINK. These are mandatory suggestions.
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Jury Doody
By JP Mac

A sardonic, hilarious short-story length account of jury duty in downtown Los Angeles. The author has the sad task of hanging a jury on a Friday afternoon, thereby ensuring that all jurors will have to show up on the following Monday. From the Amazon page: “JP Mac and eleven of his peers must sift conflicting tales to uncover justice in this short essay by an Emmy Award-winning animation scribe. Mac and the others struggle as they balance their interrupted lives with the task of deciding a man’s fate.”


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The Alecto Initiative
By Jordan Leah Hunter and Owen R. O’Neill

Life was never easy out in the Methuselah Cluster, the most remote region humanity ever settled, but when her alcoholic father found her a ‘job’ while he went off-planet to look for work for a ‘few months’, 11-year-old Loralynn Kennakris began to learn just how ugly it could get. Within the year, her employers sold her to a brutal slaver captain, who took from her the last thing she owned: her name.

Most girls in Kris’s position last a year or two. The strong ones might last four. Kris survived for eight before she was set free, thanks to the Nereidian League Navy.

Unfortunately, eight years growing up in Hell prepared Kris for nearly everything but freedom, and her new life isn’t at all what she imagined. Not only must she find her way in a bewildering society full of bizarre rules, but the very people who rescued her think she’s a terrorist plant, a beautiful interstellar celebrity is complicating matters in more ways than one . . . and now someone is trying to kill her.

But Kris hasn’t stayed alive by respecting boundaries or obeying rules, and her adopted society is about to find out what it’s like to collide with someone who has no concept of a no-win scenario.

The Alecto Initiative is the gripping story of an extraordinary young woman forced to come of age while looking Death in the eye. It is the powerful and thought-provoking beginning to a new science-fiction series unlike any you have ever read


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Pride of the Samurai
By Kenneth Jorgensen

Akashi and Kanto are twin brothers, born to a role as samurai in the proud and ancient Kusunoki family. Strange events, however, reveal that Akashi can manipulate the forbidden magic of the tama. This ability brands Akashi as shinobi, one of the hidden ones the samurai are sworn to destroy. He is forced to flee to keep his own family from executing him.

The brothers pursue very different paths, one as samurai and the other as shinobi. Civil war among the samurai, however, brings the brothers to the same battlefield. There, Akashi learns that sinister barbarians, intent on conquest, have been manipulating the samurai toward destroying themselves. Both young men will have to make choices between their competing loyalties, with the fate of a nation and its people at stake.

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How to Make Your Book Look Important

Saturday, December 14th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Just like when setting out to claim your kingdom it's important to look like a princess, when setting out to look for bestsellerdom, it's important to look like a bestseller.

Just like when setting out to claim your kingdom it’s important to look like a princess, when setting out to look for bestsellerdom, it’s important to look like a bestseller.

Selling your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 10

Yes, I know, it sounds like I’m always saying more or less the same thing: “you have to give the impression that you are traditionally published if you want to really sell.”

Unfortunately, this is true.  The public still views traditionally published books as better.  Though there is an interesting effect happening, maybe because I’ve talked so much about indie publishing, in that some of my fans are contacting me about typos and issues with my traditionally published books, forcing me to say “well, there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

But in general, you want to look like the traditionally published books in your sub-genre.  (Minus the typos – which frankly happen in any publishing, and, yes, will happen to you too.)

Only you don’t want to look like just any books in that subgenre.

Look, in the bad old days the publishing houses had to limit their resources. This meant that most of the books got thrown out into that big, cold world with barely enough work put into it to look decent and professional.

For instance, at a panel at a con, a friend and I were discussing her just-accepted book with the two editors who, supposedly at least, worked on it, and it became obvious to us they’d only read the proposal and never the completed manuscript.

This is because my friend’s book was a second novel, and had been slated to be released with as little support and fanfare as possible.

Now, you’ve gone out and got yourself a publishing house name, and you have a publishing house webpage (don’t do what I do, and forget to update it/not settle on a theme for months on end) and you – frankly – look professional.

So… are you going to just release your book out there, with minimal work/support, like any other mid-list book?

I can hear you protesting now.  “But Sarah, you say, I am a shoe-string operation with exactly one editor and one writer.”

Yes, of course, and we will talk about compromises you can and have to make, but there are also things you can do to make it look like the book is “high list” and important to the house.

“But I can’t make all my books look high list!” you say.

Um… why not?

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Comfort Books

Friday, December 13th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
These are a few of my favorite (winter) things.

These are a few of my favorite (winter) things.

As most of you know, here in Colorado we’ve been virtually fast-frozen this last week. This doesn’t make us all that much different from the rest of the country. My friends in Texas are also under ice.

This is Sarah, though if Charlie wants to add his own favorites, it might make this even more interesting.  And now — with more interest!

I’m not someone who deals well with cold.  In fact, you could say I deal very badly with cold.  It makes me cranky and short tempered and it makes me feel hard-done-by.  When snow and ice make it hard for me to take my daily walk, it gets worse.  So…

This is when I turn to comfort stuff.  Comfort foods, surely, sitting under the blanket with my husband and drinking (no sugar) hot chocolate, say.  Most of my other comfort foods are now barred to me, by my attempts at low carb.

Fortunately in addition to comfort foods, I have comfort books, and even comfort movies, which come calorie free.

You know comfort books as well as I do — they’re the reads you turn to when you’re too tired, too nervous, too out of it to read something new.  Going back to them is like greeting old friends, like pulling that blanket over you.

These are not the sum total of my comfort reads, and some of them, to be honest, are also guilty pleasures.  Most of them I encountered at the latest in my teens, though Heyer I discovered in my thirties.  And this is a different list from my summer “comfort reads” and “comfort movies” though I couldn’t define the difference for you.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite (Winter) things:

Pride and Prejudice, both the book and the A & E mini-series.  Yes, I know, women in Jane Austen’s time had it tough, and even the gentry lived worse than the poor today, in many significant ways.  But this novel/series, while not being total fantasy is not unduly realistic, and it allows me to escape to a time far away where true love (and correct behavior) bring their own reward.

And speaking of true love, yep, I’m a geek girl.  I like The Princess Bride so much that my kids can shout the lines along with me.  The same goes for Galaxy Quest.  Both are goofy and fun, and leave you smiling.  (Well, they leave me smiling at any rate.)

When I have time — not this year — I find great comfort in sitting by the fireplace (or the heater) with The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After and the much inferior (but more historically accurate) Vicomte de Bragelonne.

Other winter favorites — sort of like candy canes and chocolate chip cookies I can’t have — are The Harlequin Tea Set and other Stories by Agatha Christie, Sylvester or the Wicked Uncle by Georgette Heyer, Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein, and Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett.

Of course, I’m always adding to my list of favorites and comfort reads. You probably are too.  Maybe one of the books below will become one of your perennial favorites.

[Charlie here:] Honestly, between the cataracts and professional reading I don’t have a lot of time or eyesight to fall back on the old favorites recently. When I do though, there are a bunch of things you’d think I’d have memorized (and practically do — cue me with a random page of Stranger in a Strange Land), but when I want something familiar and comforting to read, I probably go first to the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester; Robert A Heinlein, especially the so-called Heinlein juveniles, which did so much to shape my childhood; the James Bond books by Ian Fleming (and not the modernized successors, which vary from readable to execrable); and Nero Wolfe.


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On a Bleak Midwinter
By Alma T.C. Boykin

When a dragon loses part of his horde, mending his heart may cost more than the Cat can bear.

Christmas at the Drachenburg will be bleak indeed unless Rada Ni Drako can break through her old friend Joschka’s terrible grief. But the Drachenburg family’s pain may shatter Rada’s still-healing heart. Or it may teach her a lesson about love.

A Cat Among Dragons short story.


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A Blue Frog Occasion
By Robert D. Rose

Great Ward is now Crumbling, after 3,000 years of peace. Two unstoppable enemies prepare to invade … and blue frog magic is almost gone.

Now comes the death of a very uncommon acolyte, revealing centuries of secrets when the wizard Vorin investigates why she died… reopening an ageless war between himself and the ever-grasping Order she joined.

If he fails, his magic will be gone forever and East Thumb Peninsula will be lost. If he wins, and entire society must change.


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Taking it Back: A Path to Freedom
By Patricia Gillis

Taking it Back: A Path to Freedom is an allegorical novel that echoes some of the ongoing events currently unfolding in the United States. It is meant to be a gesture of support for all the liberty lovers who, in the trenches today, are bravely working to ensure that there will be a land of the free tomorrow. I hope you enjoy it.

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Book Plug Friday: Diversity in Fiction

Friday, December 6th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
I don't care if you're purple with polka dots and write one eyed, one legged Samoan transsexual lesbians. If it's interesting I'll buy it.  If it's not, I'll buy some beer. It's my money. It's not a social diversity tax.

I don’t care if you’re purple with polka dots and write one eyed, one legged Samoan transsexual lesbians. If it’s interesting I’ll buy it. If it’s not, I’ll buy some beer. It’s my money. It’s not a social diversity tax.

Diversity of voice has nothing to do with how well you tan.

Today I [this is Sarah. It wouldn’t be fair to let Charlie take responsibility for my sins] am not in the best of moods. I’m certainly not in the best of moods for suffering idiots gladly. Or, indeed, at all.

While I, like every other writer ever born, call a nice snowy, gloomy day the perfect writing weather, there is something about single digit temperatures that just gets on my nerves. For one, they prevent me from going for walks. Which means they leave me stuck at home, reading the blathering of fools.

In this case the new hotness of concerned fiction – at least science fiction – writers to debate is just how representative and gosh durned inclusive fiction in general and science fiction in particular should be.

It will surprise none of you who remember that SFWA went into convulsions over two elderly men referring to female writers as ladies and having the nerve to say one of them was beautiful, to find that the new hoo-ha originated in SFWA too.

See, SFWA wants to raise the rate that’s considered professional, but some people say this will limit diversity, because the publications that would be excluded are more likely to be minority. (This is by the way of being pernicious twaddle, btw. The publications that would be excluded are likely to be convoluted literary nonsense. Maybe that’s the new minority.)This has degenerated into a war where people agonize over how to get diversity into the field, and other people call them concern trolls. And those are just the ones I have on hand right now. All this makes me laugh like a hyena and then cry like a mourner.

Why cry? Because lost in all this is the fact that fiction is not a form of glorified social work. Fiction is not designed to make people understand or be more sensitive. We are not Maoists raising others’ consciousness. (Well, maybe some of those people are.)

Fiction is one thing only: entertainment. First of all you have to tell a story people want to read. An amusing enough, interesting enough story that people will pick that book up, pay good beer money for it, and not set it down till they’ve finished reading it.

The best compliment a writer can get is “You b*tch”(or b*stard, speaking of inclusiveness) “You kept me up all night reading this book.” It is not “I noticed you had statistically correct proportions of all minorities in this book.”
And if your main concern is making sure you collect one of each minority, including the rare one eyed, one legged Samoan transsexual lesbian, I find it highly unlikely you have any brain left over to actually entertain me. (Unless it’s with your contortions to find a yet more obscure minority.)

You know what the real “diversity fail” is? It’s being so afraid of stepping out of the PC iron maiden that you write exactly like everyone else. Which makes me think of Reiner Kunze’s lines “The trees grow top on top…. To the wind, they all whisper the same.”

A field that is tearing itself apart over whether its works are diverse and representative enough is a field that has lost touch with the fact that it’s a business.

Very few readers read for “someone my color” in the story, and those that do might be a very, very boutique market not worth pursuing.

Hook them with a fun story first, and think about that above all. Then bring up the plight of One Legged Samoan Transsexual Lesbians. Because at that point it’s your hobby, and who cares? Also you stand a better chance of being heard. Books left unread can push all the agendas they want. No one reads them.

And then they wonder why indies are eating their lunch (and dinner, and midday snack, too.)

Send an email to book.plug.friday@gmail.com for guidelines, which include the suggestion that you send AUTHOR, TITLE, BLURB, and AMAZON LINK. These are mandatory suggestions.


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Pixie Noir
By Cedar Sanderson

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.”

“To those of you who thought there was nothing new worth reading in Fantasy: Pixie Noir proves that you are wrong. The pace picks up throughout, so save this book for a weekend, or you’ll be complaining about a lack of sleep at work. A very good read!”
– Dave Freer, author of Dog and Dragon

“The unlikely love child of Monster Hunter International and the Princess Bride, this book … is unalloyed fun all the way.”
– Sarah A. Hoyt, author of Darkship Thieves

“If Dashiel Hammett, Larry Corriea and Jim Butcher had a love child, it would be Pixie Noir. A wonderful mix of mystery and fantasy with just the right touch of noir.”
– Amanda S. Green, author of Nocturnal Origins


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Outcasts and Gods
By Pam Uphoff

Genetic engineering.The medical miracle of the twenty-first century.

First they cured the genetic diseases.

Then they selected for the best natural traits.

Then they made completely artificial genes.

As the test children reached puberty, abilities that had always been lost in the random background noise were suddenly obvious.

Telepathy.

Telekinesis.

At first their creators sought to strengthen these traits.

Then they began to fear them.

They called them gods, and made them slaves.


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An Involuntary Spy
By Kenneth Eade

Seth Rogan was a sh*tty spy. Actually, he wasn’t a spy at all. Just a guy trying to do the right thing. As a biologist for the largest biotech company in the world, he had a great job, and thoroughly enjoyed all the perks. But when asked to do some tests on the company’s genetically engineered foods, he became entangled in a trail of corruption and fraud that he wanted no part of, but could not escape from. In a story so true to life it could almost be from today’s newspapers, Seth, having bit the hand who fed him, is on the run from them, and the full overreaching strength of the United States government as a fugitive, who finds temporary refuge with an old enemy of the U.S. But his peace is about to be broken as he finds himself in the role of an involuntary spy.


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Undone By Fate’s Hand
By Veronika Pelka

Undone By Fate’s Hand tells the story of a Polish soldier who having survived Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, returns to Paris to find his brother’s murderer. After reluctantly agreeing to undertake a secret mission for the exiled Emperor, he finds life and missions complicated by an extraordinary Englishwoman.


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In the autumn of 1966 NYC guitarist Jimmy James arrived in London with his guitar and $30 he had borrowed from a friend. Four fast years later he died there as Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix London is the story of how Jimi Hendrix and pyschedelic London shaped each other told by poet and journalist William Saunders.


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Dream Horse
By Barbara Morgenroth

This was the best of summer vacations and it was stacking up to be the worst of summer vacations. When Jackie’s dream of having a horse of her own came true, she wasn’t prepared for the reality. Charlie was far from the perfect horse she had envisioned. He had a mind of his own and a will that was stronger than hers. Vet exam? Disaster! Trail rides? Disaster! Sleepy summer days? Disaster! She was dragged and dumped and desperate. As Charlie left Jackie in the dust, she chased after him, watching his tail disappear down the road but couldn’t keep him trotting during a riding lesson. He was cute, and charming, and knew more about riding than she did. It was less a matter of her putting up with him and more about how Charlie put up with her as Jackie struggled to become a horsewoman worthy of Charlie. In this battle of wills, who will win?

(middle reader/tween book 9-12 years of age)


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Summer Horse
By Barbara Morgenroth

Two girls plus two horses plus an entire summer equal…you do the math. Hint: enough calamity and escapades to exhaust a normal person. But Nicki and Wynne are far from average girls. Nicki and Wynne share a love of horses but not of adventure. Nicki finds herself being dragged by the strong-willed Wynne on trail-rides through thunderstorms, pig chases, hunts and a horse show with an escaped pony determined to find her stablemate even if he’s busy jumping on the outside course.
Afraid of nothing and glued to her saddle, Wynne wants to turn Nicki into a real rider and find a boyfriend for her single mother. Can anyone resist a force of nature? By the end of the summer, Nicki has the answer but will she have a horse of her own.

(middle reader/tween book 9-12 years of age)


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Rue Rachat
By Martin Crane

BLURBThe story of a young soldier in the U.S. Army’s 36th Infantry Division who is sent in to join his unit as it fights its way up the Italian Peninsula, then up through France to the very doorstep of Germany. Transforming along the way from naïve small-town boy to a seasoned combat veteran, he finds himself not only battling enemy troops, but also, after the tragic death of his best friend, his own demons of guilt and self-doubt.


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Cross and Poppy: a village tale
By GMW Wemyss

Trollopean clerics, comic peers with hidden depths, the villagers of a thousand cosy English novels … but in a very modern world: our own. The Woolfonts are the prettiest and most placid villages in England. All they’re wanting is a new rector. They get him; and, with him, sudden crises, deaths, arson, attempted murder, in which the new rector becomes a leader and an example, as sacrifice and grace play out between the village fête and the poppies of Remembrance Sunday.


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’37: the year of portent
By Markham Shaw Pyle and GMW Wemyss

1937 was the year of Guernica and the New London School explosion, of landmarks for Wittgenstein, Bohr, and Eliot; the year the Golden Gate Bridge was completed, Disney’s Snow White premiered, and Tolkien published The Hobbit. The Ohio River flooded, Buchenwald opened, George VI was crowned, World War Two began in China, Nanking was raped, and FDR got his head handed him by Congress, bipartisanly. It was a year of portent, of sign and omen; and it is recounted and its subtleties traced by the celebrated historians of the Titanic enquiries, Churchill’s 1940 triumph, and Congress’ 1941 war preparations. Here is history in the grand manner.

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Measuring Up Outlets For Indie Publishing

Saturday, November 30th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling Your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 8

Like a beautiful mirage in the desert of publishing, for decades ebooks were cool, interesting, but never quite there.

Like a beautiful mirage in the desert of publishing, for decades ebooks were cool, interesting, but never quite there.

For a long time ebooks were sort of a mirage.

When I attended my first writers’ conference twenty years ago, the publishing world was abuzz with rumors of ebooks and how great they would be.

There were all sorts of panels which in retrospect seem rather silly about how ebooks would change the reading experience. You’d have these integrated “smart books” with lines you could click on to get more background.

Being a notoriously doubtful kind of person, I remember thinking “Uh… not unless people operate very differently from my household.”

There was no way I could lug my monitor to the bathroom or the kitchen.

Besides the whole idea of books with click through points seemed… odd.  It might be okay, I thought, for non fiction – while reading a book on, say, glass blowing, I could see the clicking on some link for “older techniques” (still, unless those excursions were brief, it would become disruptive.)  However, people were talking about “click through to find the character’s personal history” or “click through for a summary of how they got to this situation” or – more ridiculous – “click through for a map of the land” or schemata of the spaceship or…

I was greener than grass, but I was not so green that I did not know the experience of reading is following the writers’ voice and storytelling ability.  As tempting as it is, in the second and subsequent books in a series to cue in the readers who haven’t read previous books without distracting the others, my guess is that the experience would be lacking.

I must have been right.  For the next fifteen years, at conference, workshop, gathering of writers and editors, this wonderful idea of an ebook future was brought up. But, like rejuvenation or teleporting, it was a scientific development that was always in the future.

Does this mean nothing happened?  Oh, no.  Baen Books had a vibrant ebook store, and, as pagers gave way to personal organizers, people started reading on those and on other portable devices.  (At the time my own dream device was the Irex Iliad.  I was never able to afford it)

However most ebook reading devices were massively expensive, uncomfortable on the eyes, and not used unless you had some special incentive – like traveling a lot.  Baen sold comfortably to a segment of the population who liked ebooks, but most other houses – after a few abortive attempts at an ebook department – more or less ignored the whole thing.

The outlet for indie books I became aware of was Smashwords, and the quality of most books posted there, from the bizarrely off-size covers to the writing, reinforced every stereotype of the self-published author.

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A Writer’s List of Thankfulness

Friday, November 29th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Our indie cup runeth over

Our indie cup runeth over

This being thanksgiving, we decided it was appropriate for me (Sarah) to make a list of things indie writers have to be thankful for.

Having thought long and deeply, only one thing came up: I’m thankful that the chance to indie-publish has allowed me to take charge of my own career.

It used to be that writers only had control of how well they wrote their book and when they delivered it. After that, all of it was out of their control: cover, publicity, whether the book came out in a format or the other.  Of course all those things affected how the book sold, but the writers’ role was only in the writing.

If everything went well – and sometimes it did, such as when Baen published Darkship Thieves – the writer was left grateful and humbled by how much work was put in on behalf of her book.

But if things didn’t go well – and they often didn’t – the writer was left with the feeling he’d handed in his baby to be killed by a cruel stranger.

Worse, the writer, having spent a year or ten writing his book, was left to hope that a publisher would buy it, so that it could – eventually – see the light of day in more tangible form and so that other people could – eventually – read it.

This meant that if the writer wrote a book, no matter how close to the writer’s heart, no matter how beautifully executed, no matter how important, if it didn’t catch the eye – or fit the publishing schedule – of one of six publishing houses, there was a good chance no one would ever know it existed.  Self publication was not really an option for wide distribution. Sure, it happened now and then, but most of the time self-publication only allowed maybe a hundred people to read it.

All of this might seem not that different from today – and yet, what a difference there is.

By putting an ebook out with Amazon – and Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords, and Kobo and ibooks, and all the others – you’re putting your book in the same marketplace accessed by the big six. You stand as good a chance of being discovered.

Better still, you are in control of how your book appears as it goes before readers.

Oh, sure, if you can have a good relationship with a traditional publisher – such as mine with Baen – it is still preferable to doing all the work yourself. But that book that doesn’t quite fit your traditional publisher’s taste?  The sudden, wild fling with police procedural or YA?  You can do it.  And people will read it.  The old back-list that was doing nothing?  You can put it out and this time give it the look you want.

Even if it didn’t bring much money, the limitless possibilities of indie publishing would be worth it.  But there is money too – at least for me – in the form of a steadily growing trickle.

And for this I’m very thankful.

I’m also thankful for the many books out there which I’d otherwise never get to read.  And below are some indie books that you might like to read.


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Sugar Coated Pill Theory
By C. M. Moore

This book of poetry has silly rhymes, some questing questions and even a reference to Monty Python, but only one because more would be silly. Come enjoy a hunter dance towards his prey, insanity brought on by certainty, and the love of nature, a wife, and a little dragon statue.


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A Blue Frog Occasion (The East Thumb Chronicles)
By Robert D Rose

Great Ward is now crumbling, after 3,000 years of peace,. Two unstoppable enemies prepare to invade…and blue frog magic is almost gone.

Now comes the death of a very uncommon acolyte, revealing centuries of secrets when the wizard Vorin investigates why she died…reopening an ageless war between himself and the ever-grasping Order she joined.

If he fails, his magic will be gone forever and East Thumb Peninsula will be lost. If he wins, an entire society must change.


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From Piers to Eternity
By Hazel Preller

Old ladies standing with their feet in the sea are the unlikely stars of Hazel Preller’s unique debut book – these old ladies are in fact those quintessentially British seaside piers, and all becomes clear when you start reading this delightful tale of how Hazel and Jay Preller met and fell in love on Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier and then endeavoured to have a kiss on the end of every pier in the UK. The pier kissing odyssey saw the couple travel over 7000 miles, visiting long, short, old and new piers, debunking a few myths and falling in love with piers too. They ended their journey, as only pier kissers can, with a wedding on Brighton Pier in 2010.

This fascinating and beautifully descriptive story with 30 black and white photographs taken by the author tells of the history and vital statistics of each of the sixty piers that they visited and is told with a delicious sense of humour. A wonderful history, mini tourist guide and love story all in one book will compel you to visit your nearest seaside status symbol and see it in an entirely new light!


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The Naked President
By Jabulani Nzilane

The book is about a South African President and leader of the Azanian National Convention who has fallen out of favour with his political party and is about to be recalled from parliament.

In order to consolidate his grip on power, he employs the help of an African vampire called an Asasabonsam and strikes fear at the heart of his enemies and detractors.

The ebook is not for sale to persons under the age of 18 as it contains explicit scenes.

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CS Lewis Added To Poet’s Corner

Sunday, November 24th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Time_cslewis_cover

As the Telegraph explains it, Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey is a curious place:

Horace Walpole spoke of its tombs in “crouds and clusters” and, indeed, dates and names have been cut on to most inches of Westminster Abbey. But the epitaphs are nowhere more crowded than in the Abbey’s South Transept – a place long since renamed Poets’ Corner. Here are buried, or commemorated, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden and Dickens – and quite a few others who have stood time’s test less well. CS Lewis, on the 50th anniversary of his death, will become the latest to join this literary “croud” this month. His little plaque, wedged between Betjeman and Blake, is to be unveiled on November 22.

Although it is a high honour for a writer to be commemorated at Poets’ Corner, there is an endearingly undignified genius to the place. The pavement is such a dense patchwork of tombstones that you can imagine, a little below, the great writers’ skeletons tucked up together in a small dormitory.

The truth is sometimes less stately even than that: the spendthrift playwright Ben Jonson couldn’t afford a full grave, and so was buried standing up (to save space) in a less desirable bit of the nave. His thigh bones twice came to light by accident in the 19th century: so much for eternal repose.

Apparently some people dispute CS Lewis’ right to be added to it, but let’s for the moment forget whether or not his two books of poetry merit it. I’d say that his Chronicles of Narnia are poetry. Even The Telegraph describes them as:

Now children’s classics, these limpidly written adventure novels wrangle with the most complex theological ideas. Christianity is reimagined in a parallel world: God in manifest form is a lion called Aslan, neither safe nor tame. By rinsing out the familiarities of liturgy and organised religion, CS Lewis throws into relief what he considers essential – sacrifice and belief, among other things. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the lion allows himself to be killed for the good of all, and is then reborn. In The Silver Chair, when Aslan’s existence falls most under doubt, a stubbornly loyal Narnian makes this case for belief without proof: “Suppose there isn’t an Aslan. All I can say is, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.”

And if poetry is not the ability to capture in images and narrative feelings that are otherwise rationally indescribable, I don’t know what poetry is.

In fact, as a fellow writer of the fantastic (if hardly in the same league) I can tell you that fantasy itself is an attempt to capture the otherwise indescribable, an attempt to look out of Plato’s cave, for the true reality it’s not given to mere humans to know. And that, in the end, is also poetry.

Welcome to Poet’s Corner, CS Lewis.  It’s a well deserved honor.

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Book Plug Friday: Discoverabiliy is Key

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
The key to the future of publishing rests with you.

The key to the future of publishing rests with you.

This week Kris Rusch is blogging about “discoverability” which she says is the new publishing industry buzzword. (And do read the whole thing, and bookmark her blog if you’re at all interested in publishing.)

The traditional publishers use this discoverability thing to lure new writers to their stables. “Come with us,” they say. “We’ll make you a star.”

We all know how that worked in the old movies, and let me tell you, it works pretty much for traditional publishing these days. As Kris puts it, doing a step by step analysis of the cost of advertising in various venues, and your chances of getting it if you’re a midlist writer and even if the traditional publishers are bringing you out in print, which isn’t always the case these days:

Sure, a publisher might spend that $1050 to advertise the latest book in a growing series, but that ad will be viewed by a few thousand readers instead of a couple million. (And that’s still one-fifth of that mid list advance.) Suddenly, the print/online ads seem less likely for a traditional published book, don’t they? Here’s something else to remember: It’s not that hard for an indie author to reach 6,000 readers, through Amazon or Good Reads or a dozen other venues, which traditional publishers badmouth or ignore. Then there’s the expectation side of advertising. Book publishers know that book ads are informational only. The ads do not increase sales at all. The publishers buy the ads to inform the consumer that a new book is out. The consumer must see references to that new book several times before the book ever makes an impact on a consumer’s consciousness.

Also, let me tell you unless you get an advance over 10k, you’re not likely to see even that much advertisement. Or even placement on shelves. In the good old days, when Amazon didn’t force the publishers’ hands, Sarah once had six books out in a year, with two major publishers without seeing a single copy on the shelves – ever.
Later on in the same article, Kris says that book reviews do matter, since they’re seen by booksellers. Which is why the smart indie publishers are now doing print titles and sending out review copies months in advance. They might not get on the shelves, but they have as good a chance as any.

What about the quality of self-published work? Oh, sure. We’ve seen some terrible stuff out there. But then we see some terrible stuff from the traditionals. [And don’t talk to me about the superior editing and copyediting of traditional publishing. As I bring out my books that reverted, I find I had to go over them line by line – and that the published version often introduced errors – I don’t want to go over them line by line, but I want to make sure my indie version is better than the “traditional” one-- S.A.H.]

Also, later on in the article, Kris says that as far as electronic publishing only, you get no advantage from traditional publishing. This is probably right. So, if you choose to go indie, make sure you put a good product out and feel no regrets. Also, of course, send your book plugs here. We’re all about the discoverability. If you don’t go over and read Kris’ article, I leave you with this sentence, which blew me away:

That assumption was true, back in the olden days, y’know, about five years ago.

She’s right. It’s changing that fast. That means, whether you’re going indie or not, you need to stay alert, move fast, and the odds of success are all in your hands. I don’t know, guys. It sounds like we’re braving into a new frontier and the future is ours to forge. You got to like that about a future.


[Charlie here.] It’s a light week this week, largely because of a number of submissions that lack the necessities of making a book plug. That is, the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME, the BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK.

Of the four, the AMAZON LINK is most important. We don’t have any arrangements with iTunes or Barnes and Noble yet. “It’s available on Amazon” is not an AMAZON LINK. A link to CreateSpace is not an AMAZON LINK, even though CreateSpace is owned by Amazon.

For more detailed guidelines, explaining the we need the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME, the BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK, send an email to book.plug.friday@gmail.com.

To submit a book to be plugged, send the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME, the BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com.


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Leap Of Faith: Quit Your Job And Live On A Boat
By Ed Robinson 

They gave up everything and now they have it all.

Follow them as they leave the working world behind and become carefree boat bums and beachcombers. Read how one couple got rid of all their belongings, quit their jobs, and moved onto a boat. This is a story of finding happiness in paradise through simplicity of life. It’s tales from tropical adventures. It’s a simple plan for financial freedom. It’s social commentary on the state of today’s society, sprinkled throughout with lyrics from the songs that inspired them.


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The Secret Life of Movies: Schizophrenic and Shamanic Journeys in American Cinema
By Jason Horsley 

Film blurs the line between myth and reality better than any other artistic medium, one could argue. Using movies to explore the unconscious realms of society in order to reach a better understanding of what drives it, this book examines filmmakers and films that center on schizophrenic themes of alienation, paranoia, breakdown, fantasy, dreams, dementia and violence, and that address–as entertainment–the schizophrenic experience. The loss of individual identity as reflected in the films is investigated, as well as the shamanic potential inherent in the broader theme.


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The Port of Houston
By Mark Lardas 

The Port of Houston is the second-largest port in the United States as measured by cargo tonnage. It is also 50 miles from the sea. How did such an improbable location become such an important port? The answer lies at the intersection of geography and technology mixed with a bit of Texas brag.

Seasoned with 191 illustrations, The Port of Houston tells the story. Starting with a not-so-wide spot on Buffalo Bayou in 1836, it follows the growth of a minor river port into a shipping colossus. It is a tale worth exploring.

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