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18 Influential Voices in Literature on the Internet

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
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Cedar Sanderson, author of today’s guest BPF.

The first thing you have to understand about this list, 18 Influential Voices in Literature on the Internet, it’s not mine. Yes, I published it on my blog, but that was after polling a bunch of people and then tallying up how many votes for whom. This isn’t a list of old school friends, or my twitter followers, it’s the names I was given when I asked simply “who do you listen to?”

The list of the top names voted for appeared on my blog, and I was surprised at the response to it. See, the original list was of 35 literary people who run the internet, and it was a list of (mostly) people none of us had heard of. My list, on the other hand, tilted heavily toward people who were mentors, who nurture good stories, and mostly, people who are vocal in caring about literature. Story is king, and these folks never lose sight of that.

Larry Correia tops out the list, which was ranked by number of votes received. Why? Well, Larry may not blog about the ins and outs of writing and publishing, but he does serve as an inspiration to indie authors, having gone from self-publishing to his new (hilariously funny) rating of being a “D-List” author. He also gives other new writers a hand up with his semi-regular Book Bombs. In short, he’s awesome.

Hugh Howey has become practically the voice of the Indie Author, with his best-selling series Wool, and his reports on the nitty-gritty of how independents are eating Big Publishing’s pie. In a recent blog post, he says “I advocate for: Reasonably priced e-books, for publishers to take risks and do exciting things, for us to embrace the future of storytelling and allow it to coexist with the past, to release all editions of a work at once, to get rid of DRM, to mix up genres and do something fresh and new . . . these are all things I’ve wanted as a reader for longer than I’ve been writing. These are things I complained about with fellow readers and bookstore workers long before I sat down and penned my first novel.”

Sarah A. Hoyt came in next, and her reaction to seeing this was ‘I don’t belong there… Why am I there?’ Sarah, you’re there for two reasons. One, alphabetically Hoyt comes before Konrath, and you were tied with him. Two, you are a strong, clear voice for writers to come to for help. You’re paving the way for some, and publishing how-to’s on the Mad Genius Club blog, providing support for those who are trying to find a place to start. Like Larry, you’re an inspiration and you put story above navel gazing. Of course we think of you. You’re like a mother to us… ducks and runs, fast

JA Konrath on his blog tackles thorny issues independent writers are concerned with, he’s responsible for the brilliant Writer’s Declaration of Independence, and spot-on for this particular topic, had this to say about legacy authors, publishers, and group narcissism: “I wish other people would recognize the authority of my group -Self-pubbed authors have no group. But many of us strive to be heard because we want to help, not because we want our authority recognized. Whereas the Authors Guild is recognized by the media, and many authors, as having authority.

My group has all predispositions to influence others – Self-pubbers don’t predispose to influence. We want to help. Legacy folks believe they are part of a special club. It is an ideology to them.”

Passive Guy, the formerly anonymous man who founded Passive Voice, is an attorney, although he warns nothing he says on the blog is to be taken as legal counsel. But a great deal of what he doe say is enormously helpful if you want to stay informed in this industry. Tapping into Passive Voice will keep any of us writers abreast of the news, as he posts lengthy quotes from blogs and other media several times a day, sometimes with pithy and relevant comments of his own attached.

John C. Wright, when I contacted him to ask him for a quote for this article, first sent me his bio, then rather than words from him, a nomination for someone he felt better suited to fill the place of an influential voice. “I nominate Tom Simon. He is the man who invented the term ‘Superversive’ which I took as inspiration to start a superversive literary movement in science fiction. The goal of the movement is to get SFF out of the doldrums. He has written several books, including nonfiction.” Which is interesting, and I look forward to reading them, but Mr Wright, I will insist you do belong on this list, as you have a way with words that may not cut to the heart of the matter immediately, but rather as an artist creates a sculpture with a thousand precise cuts.

Jerry Pournelle, one of the grand old men of Science Fiction, made it onto the list despite not having a traditional blog. What he does instead is to take fan mail and publish it, with his own trenchant comments. Less about the mechanics of writing will appear here, but for the earnest writer who wants to find bleeding-edge science, the site is a trove of information. Also, he is reviving his review column, which I will be interested to see what he has to say about new books.

Toni Weisskopf of Baen Publishing pointed out she hates talking about herself, Baen doesn’t really have a mission statement besides making SFF fun, and suggested that I refer my readers instead to something she wrote earlier this year when it seemed fandom was ripping itself apart from the inside out. “Yes, it took the brilliance and guidance of one person to set it in motion and shape it throughout, but it is the result of hundreds of people pulling together to explore and create on their own. Not as some side “fan fiction” endeavor, but as part of the—commercially viable—whole. And when I say “commercially viable” it is shorthand for: “lots of people like it and are willing to show this by paying money for it to continue.”

Brad Torgerson sent me to a blog post of his when I asked him for a few words, and suggested I glean from it. It’s all good stuff, and I recommend you take a look at his whole post. But the very first topic is perfect for this article, I think you will agree: “1. You must never self-publish.”

This was gospel when I was plowing through my proverbial first million words of “practice” fiction. And at the time, it was good advice. Self-publishing invariably meant vanity publishing, which is a form of publishing where the author spends hundreds or even thousands of dollars of his/her own money, to put his/her book into print. Vanity presses tend to be scams as often as not, and with the advent of widespread electronic book platforms (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.) as well as print-on-demand options like Amazon.com’s CreateSpace, vanity presses are also wholly unnecessary. Plus, self-publishing doesn’t carry the same stigma it used to. Once upon a time self-publishing was a warning flag to the rest of the genre—hey guys, I couldn’t cut it with editors! These days, not so much. There are good writers who are self-publishing, and making a decent amount of money. You have no doubt heard of a few.”

There are more names on my original list, but in an attempt at brevity, which I have deeply failed, I’m leaving them to you to research through the links provided at my blog. I hope I have introduced worthwhile people to you, and I’m curious: who do you consider an influential, positive, nurturing voice in literature active on the internet? Comment below, and perhaps we can make another list of great voices to listen in on!

Oh, and I have permission to add this… my fifth novel is being released in a week. The God’s Wolfling is a tale of adventure, myths, goblins, troll blood, and more. If you’re interested in entering to win a signed print copy, possibly sketched in if the mood strikes me, step over to my blog and leave a comment here. Winner will be announced on August 2, the day after the release.

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[Charlie here:] Sorry the links didn’t make it in on time. As I said in the comments, when I was prepping the links, Google Mail suddenly decided not to let me get at the BPF email (at book.plug.friday@gmail.com, where you can also send an email to get submission guidelines, which say “Send the TITLE, AUTHOR’S NAME, a SHORT blurb, and an AMAZON KINDLE LINK.)

Oh, and here’s some hints: don’t bother to send a cover photo — I link to the one on Amazon anyway. Don’t forget that the official deadline is the Tuesday of the preceding week. I’m keeping up right now, but this turned out to be pretty long; if you submit a book with the necessary information, it’ll get up eventually, but if you hae a promotion, then make sure you send the book in plenty of time.

Oh, and I do try to be flexible about the submission format, but I’ve been giving a BPF No-Prize for the first submission that actually completely follows the guidelines, and it’s often not awarded until the fourth or fifth book. However, if your submission is like one this week, with no title, no author’s name, an Amazon link and about a five page excerpt of the book, then you’ll just get a new copy of the guidelines.


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Witchfinder (Magical Empires)
By Sarah A Hoyt 

ON SALE FOR 2.99 7/25 THROUGH 7/29 ONLY

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


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Sundowning
By Walt Pimbley 

FREE on Kindle for a few days!

Korea vet steps irritably into the twilight, but unexpected guests make him feel young again. (Warning: a few salty epithets, and maybe some VIOLENCE.)

Amazon reviews:

“Short. Deadly. Hilarious.”

“[I]t’s like a punch in the solar plexus, only it tickles.”


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Forgiving Michael
By Walt Pimbley 

A teen trying to improve concrete for a science prize stumbles onto a formula that transforms the foundation of his parents’ house to mud. Hilarity does not ensue, even when it dries into something “rich and strange.”

Moscow wants that formula, and so do Tehran, Peking, and Tel Aviv. Can Michael and his family find a safe haven?

Amazon reviews:

“Unique and Thoughtful Thriller”

“A Gem in a Genre that Usually Lacks Gems”


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A Cat Among Dragons: Between Flood and Flame
By Alma Boykin 

Trouble’s never more than an ear-twitch away.

After fifty years away, Rada Ni Drako and her business partner Zabet return to Drakon IV and find themselves entangled in Lineage politics. Then a corrupt King-Emperor and a series of natural disasters force Rada to choose between obedience and duty, with near-fatal consequences for all involved. Add a dash of feudal justice and a child whose death uncovers a hidden crime, and Rada’s got her forefeet full in this Cat among Dragons story set.


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Dragonhunters
By Sabrina Chase 

Only one Mage Guardian now defends Aerope from the malevolent plans of Denais and his dreams of conquest and revenge. Ardhuin desperately tries to make the Allied governments see the danger and replace their murdered Guardians, but the long peace dulls any sense of urgency. Her new husband Dominic fears the Allies consider Ardhuin’s phenomenal power sufficient—and in no need of help from their mages. And yet…a weary traveler from the ends of the earth rushes to their home to deliver a message from a man thought dead. A desperate plea for help, invoking the Compact—as only another Mage Guardian would. Does another survive after all? And what new danger threatens the world?


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Spring That Never Came
By D. Jason Fleming 

(FREE this weekend!)

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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A Piece of Eternity
By Wesley Morrison 

“Better a world that might kill you, than a world you know wants you dead.”

A premium human in a genetically enhanced future, Rylen Weir was bred for a life of harmony and balance. Being kidnapped by unenhanced “throwbacks” and finding himself the key to which version of humanity survives was never in the plan.

Rylen has little choice, however. An unknowing test subject for the Traveller Enhancement, allowing him to send his consciousness back through time among his own ancestors, Rylen can possess the one man who set this future in motion. Which gives Rylen the power to save everyone, and everything, that he has ever known—or to prevent his world from ever happening.

Only neither side knows what Rylen will choose, because Rylen Weir is flawed.

A screenplay for a film that never was…


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Red on Blue: Establishing Republican Governance
By Art Chance 

Red on Blue is a former high-level bureaucrat and Republican appointee’s observations on re-organizing and managing a government designed by and for Democrats so that a Republican executive can actually run that government. The primary focus is on getting control of the money, people, and stuff in the government, getting the holdover Democrats out, and avoiding scandal in the process. Since there are few Republicans in government where there are heavily unionized public employees there is a dearth of working knowledge in conservative/Republican circles concerning dealings with unionized public employees. When I was Alaska’s director of labor relations Swartzenegger’s guy and I were the only Republican appointee-level heads of a state’s labor relations function; the rest of the union states were Democrat controlled. Consequently, I put a heavy emphasis on the dynamics of taking over a government from the Democrats and dealing with public employee unions in the aftermath.


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Take The Shilling
By Raymund Eich 

The Confederated Worlds, Book 1

The Confederated Worlds implanted in Tomas’ brain the skills to make him a soldier. He had to learn for himself how to survive interstellar war.

Tomas Neumann sought escape from his backwater planet and overbearing mother, and a mentor to replace his long-dead father. “Taking the shilling”—enlisting in the Confederated Worlds military—promised both. But despite the soldier’s skills implanted in his brain, combat still threatened to destroy him, in body and in spirit. Grieving for lost comrades, demoralized by a spiral of atrocities, could Tomas learn what he needed to survive, before facing his war’s ultimate challenge?


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Operation Iago
By Raymund Eich 

The Confederated Worlds, Book 2

The Confederated Worlds lost the war.
Can Lt. Tomas Neumann win the peace?

By the terms of the peace treaty, the citizens of the planet Arden will vote to stay in the Confederated Worlds or join the victorious Progressive Republic. Newly-minted Lieutenant Tomas Neumann leads his overstretched and demoralized Confederated Worlds Ground Force platoon in a mission that pushes men and machines to their limits, against elusive, deceptive foes out to tilt Arden to the Progressive Republic—and turn the Confederated Worlds against itself.


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Pixie Noir
By Cedar Sanderson 

Book one in the Pixie for Hire series.

You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

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.”

Dave Freer, author of Dog and Dragon, The Forlorn, and many others, says: “”To those of you who thought there was nothing new worth reading in Fantasy: Cedar Sanderson’s Pixie Noir proves that you are wrong. The author plainly knows and loves her setting and characters, and this carries through to the reader. 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!”


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Times of Turmoil
By Cliff Ball 

In this first novel in The End Times Saga, we follow how the Evans family gained their riches and eventually their power to influence events in the United States. We see important events that the Evans family gets themselves involved in: such as the return of the Israelites to Israel, the assassination of President Kennedy, the terrorism of 9/11, and eventually events that lead to government tyranny in the United States with the sole purpose of destroying Christianity and its influence in the United States.


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Sammy: Dallas Detective
By Robin Hardy 

Do you believe in miracles?

When Marni Taylor meets her new apartment neighbor—brash, good-looking Dallas Narcotics Detective Sammy Kidman—she pegs him right away as a heartbreaker, a user. Still, she agrees to help him with an undercover assignment. By the time he’s through with her, Marni is so traumatized that she is driven to find healing in a faith she never knew she had.

That same faith forces Marni to decide what to do about a man she both hates and loves, while Sammy, faced with the terrifying consequences of his actions, makes a blind grab at redemption. But Sammy is a cop, first and last, and his life comes down to the choice every cop must make of how much of himself to give. The question is, when the time comes to give your all . . . how much do you believe?

Sammy: Dallas Detective is the first book in The Sammy Series. The story continues in Sammy: Women Troubles.

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It’s Your Party Too — Book Plug Friday 53

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

We can't wait for our terrible twos!  You ain't seen nothing yet!

We can’t wait for our terrible twos! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

 

Book Plug Friday turns one today.  Like all toddlers, it’s mobile, running around and creating havoc.  It’s still somewhat ineffectual, but we pride ourselves in thinking that over this last year we brought to the attention of readers many fine books or entertaining reads that they would otherwise never have heard of.

And since that was all we wanted to do: to lend a little impetus on the outer fringes of the digital book revolution, little Book Plug Friday is mighty proud today.

Out there, the adults in this business are winning battles too.

We’re the barbarians at the gates of publishing, yeah, sure, and our little horses are mighty fast, but you know we’d not be half as effective, if publishing hadn’t stopped adapting and started imploding from within long before technology set us free.

The Fall of Rome is still debated. How could such an empire fall? Various theories are floated; taxes were too high, barbarians joined the army, borders became too porous, corruption and incompetence were rampant.

But I would argue that these were mitigating factors. Empires always fall for the same reason.

They stop adapting.

Adaptive Capacity is the technical term for an ecological or social system’s response to changing conditions in the environment.

A system that cannot adapt, self destructs.

Go read the whole thing.

And there are true signs of hope out there.

At a glance, we can see how each publishing path performs in the top genre categories, and we can also see how these genres compare to one another in both total revenue and market share by publishing path. This last distinction is crucial, because the old-time advice to “never self-publish” has now faded to the advice that “self-publishing only works in certain genres.”

The truth is that, regardless of which publishing path an author chooses, some genres of trade ebooks sell vastly better than others, period. Other genres languish. For Big 5 authors, Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense is by far the most lucrative genre. But you don’t hear many people assert that traditional publishing is only good for people writing sleuths. Another common refrain is that nonfiction and literary fiction are uncrackable genres for indies. But in non-fiction, self-published authors are earning 26% to the Big 5′s 35%.

It turns out that Big 5 publishers have nearly as small a portion of Romance earnings (18%) and Science Fiction & Fantasy earnings (29%) as indies have of Literary Fiction earnings (13%) and Nonfiction earnings (26%), respectively.

Here, too, we say onto thee, go read the whole thing.

There are riches in the comments there too.

 Data Guy: The short answer to your question is yes, time and schedules permitting.

I did take a brief look Historical Fiction earlier today.

Historical Fiction makes up 7% of the overall gross Kindle sales. Indie books are somewhat underrepresented in Historical Fiction today, having so far captured 10% of the unit sales and 14% of the author earnings. I’d tend to see that as an opportunity.

And you know, he’s right.  Sarah’s top performing book of the reissues (books previously traditionally published and a whole different ball game from new and original indie releases, which do better for various reasons,) is No Will But His, straight up historical fiction.  It does so well in fact, that as soon as she finds the time, she will write the rest of what she terms “dead queens.”  That is the queens of Henry VIII and possibly, time permitting the queens of the War of the Roses.  There is gold in them there hills.

And that’s the message we want you to take on this anniversary of Book Plug Friday.  Go forth and write what you will.  Try any path to sales.  You no longer need to sell to a traditional publisher, and if they don’t like your idea, you can still publish it and make money.

Set yourself free.

And send us your book plugs!

 


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Streiker’s Bride
By Robin Hardy

What would you do if you received the offer of a lifetime—marriage to a billionaire—with one catch: you had to make up your mind without ever seeing him? When lowly bank teller Adair Weiss receives such an offer from reclusive philanthropist Fletcher Streiker, she is dumbfounded and disbelieving: Why me? What does he know about me? What does he want?

Rejecting his offer would end her dream of dancing. But accepting it would change her life in ways she never guessed. . . .


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The Lost Book of Anggird
By Kyra Halland

Stodgy Professor Roric Rossony has been asked to find a way to stop the deterioration of the powerful magica. He hires Perarre Tabrano to translate books for his research, and finds his orderly existence turned upside down by his unexpected romance with her. Caught up in his new-found love and the most important work of his life, he goes too far in his search, delving into forbidden books hidden away for centuries. When the most dangerous book of all falls into the Professor’s hands, magical disaster strikes, and he and Perarre flee from the authorities in search of the secret of the magica’s origins, a journey that only their growing magical powers and their love for each other will help them survive.


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A Distant Eden (Book 1 of 5)
By Lloyd Tackitt

December 2012, a massive solar storm knocks out the power grid. Three hundred million Americans are suddenly faced with a survival situation. They have no water, electricity or fuel. Food rapidly disappears from the store shelves, not to be replaced. Only three percent will survive. Those three percent will have much in common. What does it take to be one of them?


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Adrian’s War
By Lloyd Tackitt

Three years after a solar storm wiped out the power grid Adrian Hunter embarks on a journey to the mountains, determined to live and survive by utilizing his knowledge of stone age techniques. He encounters a band of raiders who attempt to take him prisoner – and Adrian’s War begins.


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The Last Falangist
By Kevin Trainor

A military history buff shares his thoughts on religion, society, science fiction, anime, and affairs of the heart.

It is both a personal book and a glimpse, at moments, into the history of “The Blogosphere.” Readers are treated to a retrospective of moments in online life–the debates that raged at various points in the 2000s and 20-teens—along with moments in the life of the author, one of the co-bloggers at the online magazine The Other McCain. As a bonus, there’s an appendix, “21 Books,” that discusses the war stories, Russian novels, Westerns, and history books that have left the most lasting imprint on Trainor’s life.

Together, the entries and essays comprise a slice of gritty reality.


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Moonstone Obsession
By Elizabeth Ellen Carter

Secrets, scandal, and passion…

Selina Rosewall had given up on love, but while helping her brother further his merchant fleet business, she meets Sir James Mitchell, Lord of Penventen. Their attraction is mutual, but what James wants from the relationship goes further—much further—than Selina could have expected. And she learns that in the world of the Ton, scandal and deceit are commonplace.

For Sir James Mitchell, Lord of Penventen, it’s hard to say which is more dangerous: being a spy or being considered husband material by the Ladies of the Ton. With political machinations threatening to draw England into the violent wake of the French Revolution, the last thing James expected was to fall in love with Selina Rosewall, daughter of an untitled seafaring family. But when James’ investigation stirs up a hornet’s nest, can he protect Selena from danger that threatens her very life?


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Men Are Pigs: And That’s A Good Thing
By Ron Sturgeon with Mark Stuertz

Entertaining and enlightening, Men are Pigs is an unabashed peek into the differences between men and women. Women (and “enlightened” men) think men are pigs because all they think about is sex. Men think women are pigheaded because they think men are nothing more than women with whiskers. In Pigs serial entrepreneur Ron Sturgeon (and PJ Media contributor Mark Stuertz) takes aim at the current orthodoxy that idealizes the feminine and maligns the masculine, and how this destroys relationships and frays the social fabric. A little naughty and packed with humor and actionable tips, Pigs offers strategies on how men can attract more women, enjoy better sex and relationships, understand the differences between men and women, and keep the fires burning hotter and longer. Though written for men by a man, Pigs offers valuable insights for women too.


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Jennifer’s Neighbors: Part One: Try This
By Lilith Revnik

Jennifer’s parents are having troubles; Sammy has lived with her stepfather since her mother died. They’ve been next-door neighbors since they were little girls, and they’re the best of best friends.

So Jennifer and Sammy are just two teen-age girls — beautiful, sexy and sexual, shy, scared, learning about themselves, what they want, what they need, what they like. One of the things they want is sex, and they’re … uninhibited about getting what they want. Intrepid explorers. It’s not always easy, but they learn a lot about themselves, and even more about the ways of the world.

[Ed. Note: This book is erotica. If you don't like erotica, don't buy it.]

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Why the Freed Tiger Sings

Friday, July 11th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
FREEDOM!

FREEDOM!

This is Sarah and I have a message for my friends and colleagues still trapped in and only in Traditional Publishing:

First of all, that moist stuff on the back of your neck?  I don’t care how often they tell you that, but that ain’t no gentle rain.

Look, people, you might choose to close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears, and believe that your publishers are your friends.  They’re not.

Oh, okay, perhaps a small exception can be made for Baen books, a small family run company that treats its authors like family.  The others?

They’ve made it very clear what you are.  Widgets.  Another can of beans.  Burn your career (snap of fingers.) No skin off their noses.  There are another ten saps, patsies, writers just like you in line waiting to break in.

I learned this lesson in 2003.

I first started to write when I came to the US in ’85.  It’s not the publishing industry’s fault I didn’t make it in earlier.  Oh, okay, fine, maybe it is a little, as barriers to entry had accumulated and the preferred method of selling by the time I broke in was to meet the editor and pitch in person.  It took me to ’98 to be able to do so.  One of the books (oh, heck, Darkship Thieves) I’d later publish had gone in the drawer by then because my agent (which I’d acquired by then, the first of four) didn’t want to send it out.

So in ’98 I pitched my Shakespeare trilogy on proposal. The first came out October 2001.

You might have heard of the little contretemps a month before.  I don’t know if you remember what you were doing then.  I do.  I was trying to finish the third book in the series only I was so anxious I could only work in front of the TV, with the news on.

No one was buying books. Some people might have been reading old favorites for comfort.

Of course the publishing industry knew this, right?  I mean, had to.  They are in NYC.

Of course – considering all the paeans we hear to how caring, how wonderful traditional publishing houses are – publishers accounted for this, and gave all those writers who were new and hadn’t sold any so well another chance, right?

Are you kidding me? Baby, Cold Equations and its strict calculations of mass and fuel didn’t have anything on the publishing industry. It had taken me almost twenty years to break in, hand over hand from pays in copies to penny mags, to finally professional shorts, to going to a workshop and selling my novel, to—

But you see, my book didn’t even get unpacked in most stores. It spent the entire time in a closet.  I know.  I tried to do drive by signings. And then it went back.

And at the 2003 World Fantasy, my editor attempted to fire me.  She had fired most of the people who came in that year by then.  I’ve never seen so many crying people, not even at my grandfather’s funeral.

Tried to fire me? Well, I refused to say fired, but that’s a story for another day.  For months after World Fantasy I thought I was fired, and that all the years of working and improving my craft meant nothing.  That I’d done it all for nothing, because events outside my control could kill my career forever.

Hey, readers, did you like Darkship Thieves? Consider I already had it in the drawer at that time. Imagine Baen hadn’t picked me up, and Berkley hadn’t decided they didn’t want to be left behind.  You’d never have read it.

Now think of all those Darkship Thieves, or perhaps better books, languishing in drawers.

Hey, you know who allows writers to put their work up, to let readers decide what they want to read?

Oh, that’s right, Amazon does.

Which is why SFWA is so grateful to Amazon hates Amazon with the fire of a thousand suns.

Wait, what? Isn’t SFWA supposed to be a writers organization?

Ah!  Fooled you, did they?

They’re not really, you know?  They’re an organization of the establishment and their main function is to keep the establishment going without change. Otherwise, explain to me letter the first, and letter the second, both supporting a publisher known for its numerous dirty tricks, while berating the people who would set them free.  (Or to quote my colleague Cedar Sanderson, F%$K me, SFWA, One More Time.

Oh, wait, I can explain it.  In a novel (Revolt in 2100 unless it’s the Benadryl speaking) Heinlein talks about a tiger who is set free but who still paces in the confines of imaginary bars.

Oh, yes, here it is:

“Please understand me-it is easy to be free when you have been brought up in freedom, it is not easy otherwise. A zoo tiger, escaped, will often slink back into the peace and security of his bars. If he can’t get back, they tell me he will pace back and forth within the limits of bars that are no longer there. The human mind is a tremendously complex thing; it has compartments in it that its owner himself does not suspect. I had thought that I had given my mind a thorough housecleaning already and had rid it of all the dirty superstitions I had been brought up to believe. I was learning that the ‘housecleaning’ had been no more than a matter of sweeping the dirt under the rugs-it would be years before the cleansing would be complete, before the clean air of reason blew through every room. “

Right now SFWA and those of you who agree with SFWA are that tiger. You’ve grown so used to and so comfy in your prison – treated like widgets, forced to do more and more of your publicity and even your editing, all for the princely fraction of profit you get of your books, and even in that scammed – that you’re afraid of the bars going down.  You’re afraid of being free.  Freedom is scary and cold. Or as the ever loving Grauniad  El Guardian tells us self-publishing is a reactionary activity and antithetical to community.

Oh sure, I have more colleagues I cooperate with, help and encourage than I did when I was strictly traditional, because there are no publishers playing mind games, and this is no longer a zero sum business. But never mind that.  It’s “anti-community” and you’re afraid of dying alone in the dark with no one to close your eyes. (You are aware, right, that your publisher would steal the sesterce from your eyes before you cooled. Never mind.)

Which brings us to my second point: You’re free. You’re not dependent on anyone to get your stories in front of the reading public. Whatever you want to imagine the bars are gone.

Get used to the scary now. Once you get over your fear you’ll realize you have control – real control not just doing all the work and being blamed for others’ mistakes and even for national tragedies – over your career for the first time in your life.

You’re free.  Surely you can get out of that cage at the computer and walk into your own career.

Do try. You’re letting the writer side down.

Even if you never came up against the “Writers are widgets” mentality, you are bound to, sooner or later. Because you see, in traditional publishing, you have no power. The publishers have all the power  When things get pinched, you’re out of there. They think they can replace you just like that.

Indie publishing is scary, but it’s also yours.  You do it, you take responsibility.  You reap the rewards.

I understand that freed slaves walked as far away as they could from their place of captivity, just in case someone changed his/her mind and enslaved them again.  Surely you can at least stop beating the companies that allow indie publishing long enough to start your own career.  All it requires is that you walk the road to freedom in your own mind.

Forget the Stockholm syndrome.  You’re free.  Act like it.


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Hunter’s Home
By Ellie Ferguson

They say you can never go home. That’s something CJ Reamer has long believed. So, when her father suddenly appears on her doorstep, demanding she return home to Montana to “do her duty”, she has other plans. Montana hasn’t been home for a long time, almost as long as Benjamin Franklin Reamer quit being her father. Dallas is now her home and it’s where her heart is. The only problem is her father doesn’t like taking “no” for an answer.

When her lover and mate is shot and she learns those responsible come from her birth pride and clan, CJ has no choice but to return to the home she left so long ago. At least she won’t be going alone. Clan alphas Matt and Finn Kincade aren’t about to take any risks where their friend is concerned. Nor is her mate, Rafe Walkinghorse, going to let her go without him.

Going home means digging up painful memories and family secrets. But will it also mean death – or worse – for CJ and her friends?


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Vengeance from Ashes
By Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.


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Chosen of Azara
By Kyra Halland

Juzeva: Born a princess of the beautiful land of Savaru, dedicated to the service of the magical Source Azara, she is forced to marry a man she doesn’t know for the sake of her country’s survival, and finds herself trapped in a web of evil and betrayal…

Sevry: The last king of the war-ravaged land of Savaru, he is tasked by Azara with finding the secret that his aunt Juzeva carried with her when she disappeared – the secret that will bring Savaru back to life – and finds himself hounded by evil men who want to use that secret for their own terrible purposes…

Lucie: A pampered young noblewoman, haunted by visions of a desperate man, she is unaware of her true heritage and the power she holds to restore life to a long-dead land…

Then Sevry, Savaru’s past, and Juzeva’s secret catch up with Lucie, leading her to adventure, danger, and a love that will forever change her life and the lost land of Savaru.


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Wings
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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Witchfinder (Magical Empires)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


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Elizabeth of Vindobona: Book Three in the Colplatschki Chronicles
By Alma T.C. Boykin

All’s unfair in love and politics.

Countess Colonel Elizabeth of Vindobona has fought against Frankonia and the Turkowi, faced down a heretic traitor, evaded the romantic attentions of the emperor’s brother, and rebuilt the estate of Donatello Bend. But Court politics prove too much even for her. Sent to the far end of the Empire, Elizabeth and her allies race to save the Empire when a surprise invasion puts all else to naught. Even if she succeeds, love may prove Elizabeth’s final undoing.

Fortune favors the bold—but gunpowder settles everything.


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The Grave Artist
By Paula Lynn Johnson

“Johnson presents a believable, multilayered heroine whose narration is lively and insightful . . . The action is brisk, with a surprising but believable twist near the end. Never stilted or clumsy, this debut novel reads like the work of a far more experienced writer.” – Kirkus Reviews

16-year-old Clare can’t stop drawing the bizarre, winged skulls she calls “Sammies”. Her psychiatrist assumes the compulsive drawings are just expressions of Clare’s grief over her father abandoning her. But then Clare discovers that her Sammies are exact matches for the Death’s Head on the grave of Samantha Forsythe, a teen who reportedly fell to her death over two centuries ago.

Before long, Clare’s drawings morph into cryptic writings that urge her to uncover the truth behind Samantha’s death. Together with Neil — the friend she might be falling for — Clare scours the local history for clues. She finds that, although Samantha was engaged to a wealthy landowner, there were whispered rumors of her involvement with a younger, biracial man.

Soon, Clare is haunted by disturbing dream images — a mysterious eye, a broken chain — that point to someone Samantha called her “Dearest”. But who is Dearest? And why does Samantha need Clare to find him so badly?

Isolated and carrying hidden scars of her own, Clare fears her obsession with Samantha will threaten her sanity and safety. But it seems she has no choice in the matter . . .

The Grave Artist is a compelling paranormal murder mystery and a poignant story about loss and what it means thrive in a less-than-perfect reality.


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Cold Trap
By Jon Waskan

Economic geologist Og Rowley knows Unity well. He helped design it. He led its first science team. And upon his return home, he looked forward to reuniting with gal pal Moochy and plucky protégé Sej, who were each completing Unity missions of their own. But when word arrives that Sej has vanished, NASA sends Og back to Unity to investigate, launching him headlong into a secret battle to thwart the global aspirations of the Sino-Russian Entente. As for Moochy, well she has a secret of her own, one that could unlock the mystery of complex life and even deliver up a key to the stars … if it doesn’t cause a mass extinction first.


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What the Deaf Mute Heard
By G.D. Gearino

When ten-year-old Sammy awakens in an empty bus after an overnight trip, it’s a moment of paralyzing disorientation: He doesn’t know where he is, his mother has disappeared, and he’s surrounded by strangers.

The town is Barrington, Georgia, and Sammy grows up there — never leaving the bus station, in fact — and almost three decades pass before he speaks another word. But the man who everyone in Barrington assumes is a deaf-mute handyman reveals the town’s secrets, and in the process learns the story of his own life.

The basis for the most popular television movie in a generation (not to mention the most-watched Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation in history), “What the Deaf-Mute Heard” is a tale that stays with you long after the last page is turned.


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Slow Death in the Fast Lane
By J.W. Kerwin

On the surface, Slow Death in the Fast Lane is a wildly entertaining story about an unconventional attorney who defends a client charged with criminal tax fraud by putting the IRS and America’s tax laws on trial. But underneath the fast action, quirky characters, and outrageous courtroom stunts is a scathing indictment of a federal agency that many believe has become far too powerful.

Although a work of fiction, the book reveals a number of IRS practices, including a little known sting operation targeting small businesses.

In the particularly entertaining chapter, “Dean Wormer must be running the IRS,” an expert witness uses the “double secret probation” scene from National Lampoon’s Animal House to explain why the Internal Revenue Code violates constitutionally mandated due process requirements.


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The Mystery of the Dying Woman
By Paul Leone

London, 1888 AD. Zillah Harvey came to the city to make a better living than the country could offer… but a brutal encounter on the streets of Whitechapel opens doorways to a new and sinister world. The first in an occasional series of Victorian occult detective stories.


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Trail of Second Chances
By Paul Duffau

A high-octane adventure on a wild Montana mountain as one girl finds herself racing for her life against a malignant fire. It should have been the highlight of the summer, a training camp for elite runners in the mountains of Montana. Coached by her father, and frustrated by his efforts to hold her back, Becca Hawthorne dreams of competing in the Olympics. She earned her chance to test herself against the best runners in the Pacific Northwest. But now she faces a tougher opponent than even the fastest girl. An action-filled roller coaster ride that keeps you turning the pages as the fire creeps closer.

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A Mainstream Publisher May Not Be Your Friend

Friday, June 27th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

mrpotter

Charlie here. So Sarah is away at science-fiction-writer summer camp, and I’m doing the prose for the book plug links this week. (Don’t forget to email book.plug.friday@gmail.com for guidelines if you would like your book plugged here, leading to fame and fortune.) I can’t promise a fiery Latin rant like last week, but think of this as an appendix — small, kinda slimy, and no one is quite sure what it does.

This time, I’m going to do a little arithmetic. Amazon’s royalty options are a little bit arcane, because of special programs and multiple currencies, but here are the basic rules:

  • You can get 35 percent of the sale price as a flat rate for any book from a minimum of between 99¢ and $2.99 — depending on the size of the book in megabytes — up to $200. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a $200 ebook.
  • Or if you meet some conditions, you can get 70 percent of the sale price, as long as the price you set is between $2.99 and $9.99. You also pay a data transfer fee, which is 15¢ a megabyte. (Which, for most fiction, means about 15¢.)

The conditions aren’t particularly onerous: first, if you have the right to publish the work in some country, Amazon has to be able to e-publish your book in that country; second, the book can’t consist primarily of public-domain content — you can’t ebookify something from Project Gutenberg and get the 70 percent rate; third, the e-book has to be enabled for text-to-speech; and you have to set the e-book price at least 20 percent below the cover price of the physical edition.

So, now I picked a novel at random from the ones Amazon is pushing, The Hurricane Sisters. It’s from the most mainstream of mainstream publishers: William Morrow, part of HarperCollins. From the blurb, it’s a standard sort of Southern-gothic chick-book, with the powerful lover, the gay brother, the BFF, family troubles. (God, no, I haven’t read it! The blurb sounds like it would be a more honest work redone as porn, but that’s a topic for another time.)


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The Hurricane Sisters: A Novel
By Dorothea Benton Frank 

Hurricane season begins early and rumbles all summer long, well into September. Often people’s lives reflect the weather and The Hurricane Sisters is just such a story.

Once again Dorothea Benton Frank takes us deep into the heart of her magical South Carolina Lowcountry on a tumultuous journey filled with longings, disappointments, and, finally, a road toward happiness that is hard earned. There we meet three generations of women buried in secrets. The determined matriarch, Maisie Pringle, at eighty, is a force to be reckoned with because she will have the final word on everything, especially when she’s dead wrong. Her daughter, Liz, is caught up in the classic maelstrom of being middle-age and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. And Liz’s beautiful twenty-something daughter, Ashley, whose dreamy ambitions of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds.

[Shortened....]

The Lowcountry has endured its share of war and bloodshed like the rest of the South, but this storm season we watch Maisie, Liz, Ashley, and Mary Beth deal with challenges that demand they face the truth about themselves. After a terrible confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness, but can they establish a new order for the future of them all?


But look at the price. $12.99. Easily more than 20 percent less that the hardcover price, text-to-speech is enabled, and I’m sure that HC will happily sell it anywhere they have publication rights.

So, this is the part of Book Plug Friday where we do arithmetic.

$ 12.99  
x  0.35  
-------
   4.65  

Amazon is paying $4.65 to HarperCollins for each copy of the e-book they sell. But they seem to be able to qualify for the better rate in terms of the other conditions. Which means

$  9.99  
x  0.70  
-------
   6.99  

Let that be a lesson to you indie writers: 70 percent is better than 35 percent. Also, let that be a lesson to you, HarperCollins: 70 percent of $9.99 is better than 35 percent of $12.99.

And let that be a lesson to you, Dorothea Benton Frank: for some reason, HarperCollins is happy to give up $2.34 of your money.

Don’t you wonder why?


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Golf Cart Blues
By Walt Pimbley 

“A foursome from Fordo (Iran’s nuclear bomb research center) take a breather on the links, where they discover that Commies make poor caddies. When Mossad
shows up to play through, things get dicey.”

FREE on Kindle for a few days!


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Master Minds
By Edited by Juliana Rew 

A new collection of science fiction and fantasy stories for Summer 2014 on the theme of “intelligence.”


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In Treachery Forged
By David A. Tatum 

Following the rebellion of the Borden Isles, the Kingdom of Svieda was forced to make a pact with the Sho’Curlas Alliance in order to maintain the world’s balance of power.

Many years later, that pact was betrayed, suddenly and irrevocably, when the Sword King of Svieda was brutally assassinated by the Sho’Curlas Ambassador in the opening act of an invasion.

To help save his country in the ensuing war, Sword Prince Maelgyn must travel to the Province of Sopan, take command of his armies, and join his cousins in battle. Along the way he rescues a Dwarven caravan, forges a badly needed alliance, and accidentally gets married.

And then he learns about the dragons….


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Urdaisunia
By Kyra Halland 

Rashali, a widowed Urdai peasant, has vowed to destroy the Sazars who conquered Urdaisunia and brought her people to ruin.

Prince Eruz, heir to the Sazar throne, walks a dangerous line between loyalty and treason as he tries to do what is best for all the people of Urdaisunia.

The gods who once favored Urdaisunia have turned their backs on the land and left it to die.

When Rashali and Eruz meet by chance, the gods take notice, sending peasant and prince on intertwining paths of danger, intrigue, love, and war – paths that will change their lives, the destiny of Urdaisunia, and even the fate of the gods, forever.


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Wizard’s Heir
By Michael A, Hooten
Gwydion ap Don is a talented harpist, and a known rogue. But his Uncle Math sees something more: a young man with the magical talent to succeed him as Lord Gwynedd. But to learn magic, Gwydion will also have to learn self-control, duty, honor, and the martial arts. He’s not sure which will be the hardest. And when his training in magic begins in earnest, his whole world will change, as well as how he sees himself.

Based on the ancient Welsh myths from the Mabinogion, but set in the world of Cricket’s Song, this new series looks at one of the three great bards of Glencairck, Gwydion. But long before he became a great bard, he had to learn how to be a good man. This is the story of how his uncle tries to temper him into a leader, and a suitable heir.


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Fate and Fair Winds
By Dory Codington 

Adventure / Romance: Fate and Fair Winds takes place in Philadelphia in the months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The novel explores what it means to be free and independent from both a personal and a political standpoint.

Rebecca is a stubborn Pennsylvania farm girl, searching for her right to independence. Her father has used her dowry to buy a neighbor’s land and has offered to arrange her marriage to that neighbor as an alternative to having a dowry. This is an option she finds repugnant, but perhaps inevitable.

John FitzSimmon has been traveling the coastal colonies to learn what he can about the mood of the Colonists for his commander Gen. William Howe. He stops in Philadelphia to meet with his brother Jason, the captain of a merchant vessel docked at the harbor. When his shadow falls over the sketch Rebecca has made of the pretty ship, she asks him a question that will change both their lives.


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Self-Publishing With Burning Slug
By Anthony W. Hursh 

The Burning Slug book engine (http://burningslug.com/) is quite possibly the fastest way to get your text into book form. From the same manuscript file you can produce:

  • EPUB format (iBooks, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and many other readers)
  • MOBI format (Kindle)
  • Print-ready PDF
  • Stand-alone website

This manual was itself compiled with Burning Slug. The EPUB, Kindle, and print versions were all generated from the same manuscript without any text changes for the different versions.


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What About the Boy? A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son
By Stephen Gallup 

Nobody knew what hurt little Joseph, and no one was offering a way to help him. He cried most of the time, and thrashed about as if in pain. He wasn’t learning how to crawl, talk, or interact normally. Doctors told his parents to seek counseling, because nothing could help their son, and the quality of their own lives was at risk. Refusal to accept that advice changed their lives forever. WHAT ABOUT THE BOY? A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son chronicles a family’s rejection of hopelessness and their commitment to the pursuit of normalcy.


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Father’s Day: More Married. More Husband. More Father. More Man.
By Greg Swann 

Families without fathers typically are not families for long, and they are rarely strong families. The families from which children emerge the strongest – best-prepared intellectually, emotionally and in future earning-power – are the best-fathered families. Dad is the unchallenged leader of his brood, and everyone recognizes that it is his steady, unwavering, mission-critical leadership that most makes them a family. He never stops driving his family, and – in direct consequence – they are proud to go where he takes them.

Father’s Day is about making more families like that, helping Dad find his way back to his leadership role, helping him take charge and get his family moving again.


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Scout’s Honor
By Henry Vogel 

Told in a relentlessly fast-paced and breathless style, SCOUT’S HONOR is an exciting modern homage to the classic tales of planetary romance made famous by writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett, as well as the cliffhanger-driven energy of the early science fiction movie serials. If you like your heroes unabashedly heroic, your heroines feisty and true, and your plots filled with dangers, twists, turns, and double-crosses upon triple-crosses, you’ll enjoy SCOUT’S HONOR.


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Dark Invasion
By Mark Whittington 

Having escaped the Nazi vampire hunter, SS officer Kurt Hesselman, the Contessa Gabriella Doria finds herself in neutral Switzerland and in the company of American spy master Allen Dulles. Dulles sends Gabriella on a mission that might cut short the war by a year. She is to infiltrate occupied France, contact Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and persuade him to change sides and fight on the side of the allies. But Gabriella will soon face peril from all sides, including from an enemy that she had thought dead and buried.

A direct sequel to Gabriella’s first World War II adventure, Dark Sanction.


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War To the Knife
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 an opportunity 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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The Publishing Business Is In Crisis

Friday, June 20th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

 People surround a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, which was toppled by protesters during a rally organized by supporters of EU integration in Kiev

This is Sarah and this week I realized that traditional publishing is in more trouble than I thought.  In fact it’s entirely possible the end is nigh at least for the business as it’s been since I entered.

You see, there have always been cracks and signs of break down amid the glitzy façade of traditional publishing.  Most of it, though, was the normal churn of the business, as it changed and tilted and adapted, for a certain version of adapting, to new conditions.

When I came into this field I was told two things by older and more experienced colleagues.  One of them was that for all its glitzy innovation and its very real new ways of doing business, the publishing business remained at heart a nineteenth century business: contracts weren’t as important as a hand shake; who you were as someone for people to work with was more important than cold hard sales; your publisher would take care of you.  All of these things – except for one publisher in the field (Baen Books) – were a lie by the time I started in the late nineties.  Well, maybe not the first.  If your book was a year late in being published, and technically out of contract (my very first published book, Ill Met By Moonlight, now indie) the contract meant nothing.

This was my first experience with the fact that the book business was in fact not a nineteenth century business, but a fourteenth century one. You came in and you were an indentured serf.  No matter how badly you were treated, you had to be nice to the Lord, because he held your life in his hands. And no matter how badly you were treated, the other Lords would side with each other and conspire to keep you in servitude and destroy you if you spoke out against it.

The second thing I was told when I came in was “the publishing business is in crisis.  And it’s always been.”

This was meant to imply that for all the moaning and bitching from publishers about how bad things were (usually when making an offer for a book) things went on and the publishers continued being paid their salaries and their pensions and writers had both the security of knowing the business would continue and the awful certainty it would continue the same way – with them as peons.

This was the same kind of truth as the one above.  To an extent it was true.  You saw churn and failing lines and ups and downs in the field, but the field went on, no matter how many times your publisher told you they were effectively broke.

Except it wasn’t true in another way.  For all the “keep on keeping on” the average print run for your “normal” (midlist) author had changed drastically, from around 70K or so books in the seventies, to around 7K nowadays.

The excuses abounded: “People no longer read” and “It’s all the other entertainment media” and even “Our books are too smart/daring/special for those dumb readers.”

Truth of course was nothing of the kind, as most of us who are readers knew.  It’s more that the books that were being offered and how people found them had changed profoundly under the cloak of business as usual.

How many of you in the past twenty years or so went into a chain book store and came out with no books and disappointed?  You remembered perfectly well going to the convenience store around the corner and against your will spending your last dime on a paperback because it looked so good, but now here you were, in a chain store, surrounded by metric miles of books and unable to find anything you even wanted to look at.

I realized around the early nineties that my reading life had changed.  It had changed because I rarely found a book I wanted to read.  Reading remained my main form of entertainment, but in the mid nineties I turned to fanfic on line, because I couldn’t find anything to read in the stores.

The problem was this: most of the books on the shelves, whether at our large indie store, or Barnes and Noble, or Borders (all then within easy distance from my house) completely failed to interest me.  And I read Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and both popular history and historical novels.

However, with very few exceptions, no matter what I got from the shelves in SF/F it always turned out to be a lament about oppression, a glorification of victimhood or a “Humanity is vermin on the Earth” book.  So I stayed home and re-read my Heinleins until they became part of my thought process.

As for Mystery it went through a long slog of trying to be “realistic.”  I don’t read mystery to read about real cops doing their jobs, which, like most other jobs, are boring day-to-day routine, even when the results turn out exciting.  And I certainly don’t read mystery to come up in the end against the conclusion that there is no justice in this sad workaday world.  For that, I read the news.

I knew what the issue was, at least to an extent.  As a would-be writer I’d bought a ton of how-to-write mystery books, all of whom sneered at Agatha Christie and explained to us that cozies weren’t “real” mysteries.  In real mysteries, professionals solved murders, and the professionals were always right.  This maligning a fiction genre because it isn’t “real” is something that could only make sense to intellectuals.  People on the street know enough to say “of course it’s not, you dope. Real life isn’t FUN and fiction is supposed to be. In fact, this is still going on.  See this for instance, which a friend of mine characterized as the publisher equivalent of a chocolate manufacturer complaining that the customers liked sugar and not ground glass in their chocolate and were therefore “unsophisticated rubes”

That is part of how the business had changed.  It had changed to becoming a “push” business in which the customer would take what the publishers wanted to sell them and like it.  (Which is why even when “cozy mysteries” came back, we kept getting weird waves of stuff no one wanted to read, like the solid two years when EVERY character in a mystery sounded like a Sex in the City character to the point even this shoe addict had no interest in it.)

But publishing had been taken over by MBAs and had been concentrated in the hands of six conglomerates. Selling books the public wants to read is fickle.  You never know what those rubes your clients will want. Look how they embraced Dune which was published by a tiny press. Who could have guessed they’d like it? And why had all those mom and pop bookstore owners pushed this obscure book from nowhere?

When publishing fell in the hands of people trained to manage businesses predicting how a book would do was REALLY important.  It was also impossible.  So the new CEOs moved to do what dictators always do: eliminate the human factor.

Slowly — helped by changes in book retail, which in turn was helped by giving discounts to chain bookstores and leaving mom and pop’s out in the cold — they turned book selling into a “command economy”.  Someone at the top had a five year plan, predicted how much each book would sell, and it sold that.  This was accomplished by telling the stores how many books to stock and it was aided and abetted by stores stocking the same books in a “tri-state area” and also stocking according to “publisher confidence,” i.e. how many books the publisher said they would sell.  Fortunately the new bookstore managers were “Sales Professionals,” not readers, so very few read or hand-pushed a book.  Also fortunately most of those messy power readers whose main form of entertainment was reading (on vacation I can power through six novels a day, while doing stuff with my husband and sons on the side) had given up.  They were re-reading their extensive collection, or they kept changing genres in search of one that was still fun to read.  (In the early two thousands I found that most of my friends were now reading popular history because, bizarrely, it was less politically correct than fiction. It didn’t last. The publishers caught on and started pushing PC there too.  In fact, about five years ago, when things started falling apart for them, they were in the process of doing this to Romance, where I’d been driven to escape their insanity. I read my first romance in my thirties, and by five years ago was reading five or six a day. And then all the new releases featured historical heroines who were suffragettes or modern-day-style feminists, or evil business owners, or… you know the drill and so do I.)

The result were lowered print runs, but by gum, the publishers had total control on how a book would do.  If they targeted you for bestseller, you’d become one, even if they had to fudge the numbers to do it. (Look, the numbers are inherently fudged because according to the publishers themselves, they pay according to Nielsen numbers.  Those of us who have become publishers and know what ships know that Nielsen represents at best one-third of books sold.  For some books – those that sell in less traditional markets, like military-base stores or comic bookshops – it represents one tenth or less of sales.  Yes, you’d think it would be a matter of counting how many books shipped and how many were returned, but trust me, because of legacy systems it’s far crazier than that.  And even ebook sales, due to the byzantine way in which they’re reported, are very hard if you’re keeping track for anyone but yourself.)

This worked about as well as you expect of top-down systems. By the time Amazon came along, we were more than ready for them.  Don’t let the Amazon-whiners deceive you.  If everything had been fine in publishing – say if Amazon had come around in the seventies – it would have had an impact, but not nearly as large.

But Amazon moved in on a vacuum. Even now, the main publishers don’t get it (as Joe Konrath proves, taking Hachette to task.) Suddenly readers could find the authors that never got stocked, and found out that hey, books were still being published they wanted to read.  (From the other side, the authors’ statements didn’t change much, even though they suddenly found themselves hailed as celebrities by neighbors and repairmen who came to the house.  Strange.  It’s almost like those numbers are the ones the publishing house decided on, and not what really sold.  Some day, when my husband has time, he’s going to do a dissection of my mystery royalty reports, where – I swear – the print run changes in a quantum manner, to avoid paying me royalties. It’s obvious even to me that they’re lying, but my husband is a mathematician and will have lots of fun with it.)

Then Amazon opened the market to self-publishing, and people could find things that they wanted to read that insulted neither their intelligence nor their political beliefs.

Thereby precipitating whining, denial and outright illegal price-fixing from the publishers.

But you know, I didn’t quite believe in the revolution.  Oh, I believed I could make a living from it, at least at the level I was making.  Witchfinder proved that, if nothing else.  (Though I need to bring out the two sequels soon or sales will crash.  Indie has low attention span, because it’s spoiled for choice.)

However for real push, for real penetration of market, traditional publishing still held control. They could still make something a bestseller if they wanted to and pushed enough. Or at least so I thought.

I saw some signs it might not be so, because if I’m right, they tried to push Night Circus to the same level of publicity as Twilight.  It didn’t get there.  Nowhere near.

But then maybe I was wrong, because this was like a middle school chick watching the boys to see who liked her, or the free world watching the May day parade to see who was in and who was out at the Kremlin.  One thing was sure, we’d get things wrong.

And then this week, I saw the walls tumble down.  I saw the statue of Lenin dragged through the streets.

I saw Hillary’s book tank.

Oh, sure, they spin it.  They’re publishers.  They know how to spin.  They’ve been doing it for decades.  They say it’s selling well enough.  They say it’s the “changing book market.”  But it’s not.

““The rollout was touted as the best planned book tour ever, meticulously crafted by the smartest Hillary aides, publishing PR gurus, and the savviest superagents,” writes another publishing source.

“The book will probably debut on the bestseller list at number one and then fall like a rock. After the smoke clears, with tens of thousands of books sitting in warehouses collecting dust, there’ll be a lot of handwringing and probably a few people without jobs.”

The book will debut on the bestseller list, because that’s determined not by books bought but by “laydown”, i.e. how many books the publisher shipped.  (Bet you didn’t know a book can be a “bestseller” without selling a single book.

What you might not appreciate from the outside is how amazing, how impossible this is.  They still have control over what ships (and therefore gets on the bestseller list for at least one week), they have control over the figures they show, they have control over publicity, they can strong-arm bookstores to stock a book and to push it.  And you bet your bottom dollar they deployed all this in favor of Hillary.

And it tanked.  It tanked so publicly, so visibly, it can’t be denied.

Even five years ago, they could push Obama to bestsellerdom, whether that was true or Memorex.  (Those of us with experience saw a lot of discounted Obama merchandise, but never mind.)

Now they can’t.  And if they can’t do it for Hillary! having pulled all the stops, then they certainly can no longer do it for the industry darlings, those politically correct parrots they’ve been pushing up readers’ noses for years.  They can still probably lie about those.  They’re not as public a flop as Hillary.  But all the lies and all the gloss won’t save them from losing their shirts.

Will they go bankrupt?  I doubt it.  As we’ve learned with Russia the fall of evil empires is complex.

However, it’s safe to say their domination of the market is over.

I’ve seen the equivalent of Lenin’s statue dragged through the streets this week.  They can’t take that away from me.  And they can’t take my freedom.  I’m like one of those East Germans who, when the wall came down, rode their Trabants as far as they could and then walked away, west, ever west, many of them ending up in Portugal, by the sea.

As both a writer and a libertarian who decries the domination of the left-pc point of view in our culture, I’m perhaps more moved by this than the average person. Forgive me the religious-sounding quotation.  I’m going to quote Elizabeth the first, quoting the Bible. When, against all odds, she found she had survived her two siblings (without being killed) and become Queen (news were brought to her in the tower, so it was a near thing) she’s reported to have said “This is the day the Lord has made, and it is marvelous in our sight.”

And so it is.


Hat tip to reader Laura Montgomery, who points us to Indie Author Land:

Indie-Author-Land

 

Their “about us” page describes them as:

But since you’re here, this is what there is to know: Indie Author Land is run by a couple.  She is a journalist covering the arts, and he is a computer programmer. Neither one of us is an author, but we are both voracious readers and both want to contribute, in whatever way we can, to the creation of good fiction.

Hence, Indie Author Land…

The site is growing, and this is what we want. Our idea is for that growth to be organic, fluid – growing to fill whatever void it may come across.

(And, selfishly, helping us find our next favourite book!)

They sound like the right kind of folks.


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Witchfinder (Magical Empires)
By Sarah Hoyt 

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


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Cardinal Points
By Dory Codington 

Adventure / Romance. Cardinal Points begins at the very beginning of the American Revolution, the night the colonists of Boston, threw crates and crates of good China tea into the harbor to protest, taxes and Governors Hutchinson’s decisions about shipping and selling.
Jason, a merchant sailor and the fourth son of a Duke, arrived in Boston just in time to get caught in the brewing turmoil over the tea stored on three ships.
Oona was there to help, anxious to be a part of the town’s search for freedom and independence. She did not expect, while she stuck feathers in dark wool caps and boot black on familiar faces, to see a smile she had not seen for ten years. When the man attached to the impish grin picked her up and kissed her while the crowd of disguised men howled, it was as if her dreams had come true


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Deadly Secrets
By Autumn Killingham 

The murder of socialite, Jackie Johnson, during a dinner party in her mansion, plunges Detective Slivy Brown into an unfamiliar world drenched with privilege and excess. Besides an unfaithful husband eager to inherit her fortune, dinner guests and servants harbor marvelous motives for murder.

Slivy, the daughter of a cop killed in the line of duty, is unhappily partnered with Detective Wilbur Pendleton, the annoyingly pompous son of the police chief. Together, they chase elusive clues and watch each suspect slither away.

Stumped by the evidence and stymied by Slivy’s recurrent nightmares, the investigation stalls until Slivy uncovers a sordid family secret that brings her face-to-face with the murderer and drags the detective into the heart of her own spine-chilling nightmare. There, she confronts the demons of her past and the challenges of her future.


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The Long Voyage of the Little Fleet
By Mackey Chandler 

In the first book of this series “Family Law”, Lee’s parents and their business partner Gordon found a class A habitable planet. They thought their quest as explorers was over and they’d live a life of ease. But before they could return and register their claim Lee’s parents died doing a survey of the surface. That left Lee two-thirds owner of the claim and their partner Gordon obligated by his word with her parents to raise Lee. She had grown up aboard ship with her uncle Gordon and he was the only family she’d ever known. Him adopting her was an obvious arrangement – to them. Other people didn’t see it so clearly over the picky little fact Gordon wasn’t human.

After finding prejudice and hostility on several worlds Lee was of the opinion planets might be nice to visit, but terrible places to live. She wanted back in space exploring. Fortunately Gordon was agreeable and the income from their discovery made outfitting an expedition possible. Lee wanted to go DEEP – out where it was entirely unknown and the potential prizes huge. After all, if they kept exploring tentatively they might run up against the border of some bold star faring race who had gobbled up all the best real estate. It wasn’t hard to find others of a like mind for a really long voyage. This sequel to “Family Law” is the story of their incredible voyage.


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The Fields Where Soldiers Play
By B. J. Beck 

FROM THE DEPTHS of a tunnel to the peak of a mountain, a soldier rarely chooses his battlefield …

Sir Jacien Blyne of Newelen was coming home, but a conspiracy has formed in his absence to overthrow the kingdom. Given no time for rest or to reconcile with his wife, Jacien must take up arms once again.

Along with a cave-dwelling Daferin and a disciplined female warrior, Jacien will face an overwhelming enemy with the advantage of Reticulative Magic on its side.

His chances, however, are irrelevant when his country is at stake.

Unfortunately, the invaders want more than Newelen.


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Priestesses
By Francis W. Porretto 

Helen and Martine run unusual establishments: “sex shops” in Los Angeles and New York that never ask payment for their wares. They aren’t there to make a monetary profit. Their mission is more serious than that. As priestesses of fleshly desire, they seek to spread erotic knowledge throughout Mankind. Quoth Helen: “A dollop of physical pleasure here and there, a little instruction in the ways of the body, a helping hand toward the fulfillment of this marriage or that affair, can sometimes avert the most terrible alternatives you could imagine.” Erotica for good people.


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Let No False Angels
By Wesley Morrison 

The others came for Heinrich Aguirre when he was a child. Born in one of the Germanies with a light inside his mind, Aguirre is raised to take his place as one of the Magian, the rare few who can part the veil between the many versions of Earth. Vowing to protect these endless worlds and all who live in them, Magian do not hesitate. But during his first battle, while still less than a man, Aguirre does, only to see the magus who raised him die instead.

For his sin, the others banish Aguirre to the solitary path.

Seventeen years later, Magian are being slaughtered, and with a kind of power no magus has ever seen before. Suspicion quickly falls on Aguirre, who realizes that his only hope is to find the truth himself. So Aguirre turns his back on those who have already turned their backs on him, and with the Magian in pursuit, he races to save his own kind before they kill him first.

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Will Tripp, Pissed Off Attorney At Law

Friday, June 13th, 2014 - by Roger Kimball

Now that we have the “disinvitation season” behind us, that spring frolic in which our pampered institutions of higher education indulge in a little bacchanal of politically correct frenzy, inviting only to disinvite commencement speakers who have said or done something, anything, that does not pass muster with this week’s Commissar of Correctness—now, I saw, that we’re well into June and the feminists, transexuals, racialists, eco-gender lesbian vegan anti-capitalists, and all the other assorted exotic fauna that congregate in and around the academy have decamped to restore their tissues and dream of victims yet to come, it is time for a little respite from that stultifying hothouse of intolerance.  I can think of few more delightful antidotes to that lank, joy-killing species of snarling self-indulgence than Harry Stein’s new novel Will Tripp, Pissed Off Attorney At Law. 

Meet Counselor Tripp. He’s a proud dwarf who was paying his way through law school by means of his athletic prowess, sort of. He made good money being tossed by the inebriated patrons of a local bar until some do-gooding crusader took time away from battling against second-hand smoke and carbon emissions to intervene to Save the Dwarfs and got the sport of dwarf tossing declared illegal. Will’s new employment as he struggled through law school was inspecting sewers.

It was while padding down the local cloaca maxima that Will’s settled dislike of politically correct busybodies hardened into a gem-like and hilarious contempt. I won’t give away the plot of this clever divertissement, except to say that the story takes place on a college campus near you and involves a deliciously repulsive feminist charlatan—you know her, too—and various emasculated specimens of homo academicus. 

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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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Doing the Work

Friday, April 25th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Sometimes you just need another hand on the job.

Sometimes you just need another hand on the job.

So, hi, this is Sarah, and I’ve been writing for a long, long time.  Okay, I’ve been writing since I was about two, but writing with intent to become a professional since about six.  Obviously I didn’t have a very focused business plan for this, since it took me more than thirty years, though perhaps it was slightly more realistic than my previous career plans of becoming a cat or an angel.  (The first being morphologically unlikely and the second just unlikely, unless it were one of those angels with very dark wings.)

Having broken into my chosen field at almost forty, you’d think I’d be safe from a midlife crisis.  And in a way I am.  So the field decided to have a midlife crisis around me.  Which is… special.  We won’t rehash how we got here, and I will say right away that I’m very glad there are indie options.  I love my publisher, and I have no plans to replace them with Indie, but I like having the option of going indie for some books.  It means there are no unpublishable books.  By this I don’t mean quality-wise.  There are regrettably published books.  Of course IMHO some bestsellers fall in that category, so what do I know?

What I mean though is that there is no longer a bright line, delineated by others that says “you can’t write that.”  For a long time the “you can’t write that” for me was space opera, which hurt, since that’s what I started writing to write.  My novel (Prometheus Award Winner 2011 and still selling) Darkship Thieves wasn’t even submitted by my agents until I had sold it by unusual means.  It sat for 13 years in a drawer.  This was based not on quality but on “it will never sell” – you see, it was science fiction but not “big idea” or “introspective” enough.  So there was no market for it.

I have at least 10 other books that were rejected, most of them by agents who wouldn’t submit them. One of them, the one I just released indie – Witchfinder – was never sent out because “you can’t have a computer programmer fall into a magical world.  People won’t know how to shelf it.”

So, I appreciate the openness and ability to publish whatever of indie.  But I still have a traditional career, and… let’s face it, okay? I am fifty one, and I don’t have all the time in the world.  I’m managing, barely.

But there are people who are older than I, and who can’t either take the time to learn how to do this, or who simply don’t have the time.  And for those there are support professionals.

If you’re going to get a support professional, it’s important to know what you’re getting and what you’re paying for.  You should for instance figure out exactly what an editor would do. A structural editor should be paid more than a copyeditor.  He/she would also have a completely different background.  My structural editor is a friend with a professional history as an editor.

I wouldn’t trust someone I don’t know with that sort of thing, and if I needed to hire a total stranger, I’d interview him/her and then ask him/her to do a sample.

Of the people linked below (and if you’re a support professional feel free to send us a link to book plug Friday, I’ve worked with Patrick Richardson for copy editing (because his background is journalism, I prefer him for non-fiction, but he edited a novel for a friend, and he did a fine job,) Rune Wright for typesetting, Jason Dyck for proofing and Cedar Sanderson for cover design.  I can recommend all four of them.

So for typesetting and formatting: Rune Wright.  He has all the details on his website.

For Jason Dyck, we have an email address.  He was both affordable and prompt with proof-reading for me.

For Pat Richardson, we also have an email address. And I can recommend him for proof reading.

Cedar Sanderson is new, but comes from a graphic arts background and if you need a cover designed, her work is simply a cut above.  This is her website.

Then there is Barb Caffrey who has a testimonial from one of her clients. I’ve never worked with Barb, so I can’t personally recommend her.

And that’s it for now.  If you’re an indie publishing support professional, send us your info.

And I’m out of here. Below are links to some fine indie works, some of which might be by yours truly.  (If I remember if I can squeeze in this week, which I don’t, since I’m mid novel and don’t have a brain.)


Remember, tell all your writer friends [Pssst, Sarah!] 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.

Deadlines are flexible, but in general the deadline for Friday is Tuesday the preceding week. So, for example, the deadline for March 7 was February 22.

That said, last week was a really big one, so some books are being put off until next week. Hey, we said the deadlines are flexible.

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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After the Blast
By T. L. Knighton 

Jason wasn’t having a bad day, but all that changed with a blinding flash of light and a mushroom cloud on the horizon. Overweight and out of shape, Jason must struggle home, only to learn that finding his family would be more of a challenge.

Along the way, he transforms into someone different. Is he the kind of man that is the problem with this new world, or the kind of man this new world needs?


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An Elfy On The Loose
By Barb Caffrey 

He’s supposed to be the Watcher for his people, the representative on Earth from his dimension, but the small being known to his enemies as “Jonny-Wonny” wakes up to big trouble — trapped in a bizarre house in Knightsville, California with humans straight out of reality TV. Jon knows that something has gone dreadfully wrong — he’s starving, lonely and dressed in funny clothes.

Enter the couple’s ten-year-old diminutive daughter, who is “Not Daisy!” but is brilliant, sweet…and using high level magic with ease. She’s also desperately in need of a friend.

Insisting her name is really Sarah, and christening him Bruno, his new friend asks him how they’re going to get out of there.

The only thing that comes to mind is for Bruno to ask his teacher, Roberto the Wise, for help. But Roberto’s attempt at help only enmeshes all three of them further in a web of deceit and treachery. Bruno finds out that, unfortunately, most of what he thought he knew about himself was very wrong…and much of what Sarah knows about herself is also wrong, including her age.

Worst of all, a Dark Elf is on the scene and is intent on corrupting the local Humans, including Sarah’s parents.

New names, new locations, a new mission–Bruno is going to get to the bottom of all the craziness, and Sarah will be there for him every step of the way.

Watch out, universe–an Elfy is on the loose!


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In Time of Peril
By T.K. Naliaka 

Raised on the edge of chaos in West Africa, Christopher Decatur is back in America for college, leaving behind dunes, baobabs, and nomads. His history class embarks on a week-long American Revolution reenactment hiking trip near Lake Champlain, but the backwoods are no refuge from the dangers of the world as the group unexpectedly collides with a murderous and mysterious gang. As Chris faces an ordeal of deadly threats with uncooperative classmates in a high-stakes battle of wits and cultures against ruthless foes, Chris’s father Robert Decatur risks everything to rescue his son from the hands of evil. In Time of Peril launches The Decaturs adventure series, inspired by Louis L’Amour’s Sacketts.

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How NOT To Go Insane By Degrees

Friday, April 18th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
She was warned.  But this indie writer couldn't keep from checking her figures and rank every five minutes!

She was warned. But this indie writer couldn’t keep from checking her figures and rank every five minutes!

No, no, no, this is not alluding to Glenn Reynold’s study of the education bubble.  What I’m talking about here are the various crazy making pitfalls that haunt the indie writer.

Mind you, it wasn’t all that easy to be a traditionally published author either.  This is Sarah, and I was traditionally published for over ten years before I first dipped toe into indie waters with a publishing company I control (Goldport Press) and the innards and numbers of which I could see moment to moment.

As … ah… interesting as my first publication experience was, I’m sure I must have driven my editor crazier than any other writer had driven her before.  I wanted to know moment to moment what they were doing to promote the book – turned out nothing, but she couldn’t tell me that, I guess – and also how the book was doing.  I don’t think she could tell me the latter if she wanted. Statements the traditional way involve some arcane sampling, a lot of relying on Nielsen’s, and, in the more scrupulously run places, a counting of what came in for which book. (In the big houses none of this is very accurate because the practices date back to the early century “estimated printruns” accounting.)

Anyway, they wouldn’t have any numbers for a good six months, maybe longer, and to ask for them must have driven the editor insane.

Fortunately in indie, at least with a company you control, or an editor who will put up with you asking often enough, there’s a lot of data coming in from the very first minute.

I discovered the fascination of checking my numbers when I first put up one of my backlist short stories. This is a short story whose rights had reverted to me, and I decided to see if it would sell – I forget what it was, but I THINK it was The Play and The Thing.

Anyway, I put it up, and started checking. Considering it made me $12 that first month, you may guess how slowly that ticker moved.  But I had to check and itemize the milestones.  “Ooh, ooh, first sale in England.”

Then I put up a lot more stories and there were still times of driving myself insane: for instance, when I had a freebie running, I kept checking to see how many I’d given away, and if it was budging the others at all.

It did make the other sales go up (I do put links to similar stories at the back of the book, mind.) Two years ago, from November through Jan. I was making $400 a month and kept checking to see it go up.

Then came the summer-of-sales-death, last year. Nothing moved. I mean, my income dipped down under $100 for a month.  And for a while there I thought it was going to be $12. I swear all the sales came in the last week.

Still, largely, I had it under control.  I made myself check only once a week.  Even then it was enough to worry me.  Take the month ONLY No Will but His sold until the twentieth.  I was wondering what the heck was wrong.

BUT as I say, I kept it under control.

Until this month, when I put out Witchfinder, my first indie novel.  And then the checking every hour or so started.

It’s been okay – with minor hiccups – save for… after the fifteenth.  Honestly, if I weren’t also selling used books via Amazon (mostly the kids’ old textbooks but also some specialized research I bought years ago and will never touch again) I’d think there was something wrong with my books.  But no.  The sales on the used books dipped even lower than the ebook ones, and I had my first day (in two weeks, granted) of no sales, yesterday.

My husband says this is known of every businessman for the two weeks after taxes.  Who knew?

So – in the interest of saving you from going as crazy as I am, here are some rules for indie mind-space management.

1-      Yes, you could suddenly sell 100 copies in the next ten minutes.  But there’s nothing you can do to make them do so, and if you sell them or not, the result is the same without you watching the numbers.  Try to limit yourself to say early morning and late at night.

2-      Stop trying to interpret patterns in your sales.  That’s like reading tea leaves but less coherent.  Why is it that as I was doing a big push on Witchfinder, I suddenly started selling my little how-to booklet May You Write Interesting Books all across the outlets?  Who knows?  Maybe people read Witchfinder and it was wonderful and they want books on how to do that?  OTOH maybe a writers group with 40 people, somewhere in Kansas (or online and all over the country) discovered the booklet.  This stuff happens.  At any rate, I can’t influence it.

3-      Why does the first book in a series sell very well, the next sells okay, and the third one sells not at all.  Death of A Musketeer is a good seller every month; The Musketeer’s Seamstress sells pretty well; The Musketeer’s Apprentice sells not at all.  This puzzle is made more complex by the fact that the fourth book, The Musketeer’s Inheritance, is selling like crazy.  Yes, The Musketeer’s Apprentice has a bad review (for the Berkley version.  There was some… interesting editing).  But surely people who trust me with the other books would give it a chance?  Or did I go nuts and have a spelling mistake on the cover?  (It wouldn’t be the first time.)  If it does, I can’t see it, so maybe it is the fact that online selling, because of the huge market place involved (all the world) slips the bonds of logic to an extent.  It partakes the mechanics of a sand pile.  There might be a reason that grain moved and not that other, but the calculations would be infinitely complex.  As for knowing how to start an avalanche of sales; if anyone knew how, the big companies would be doing it.  So, stop checking the numbers and go write.

4-      You are human.  I keep telling people this in hopes they’ll make me believe it. There will be mistakes.  Some typos will escape you.  For instance, I know there are five typos in Witchfinder because I’ve got that many lists with at least one valid typo.  The others (curiously, usually five, also) were only things people thought were typos.  (Guys, the subjunctive is not a typo.  Main publishing houses decided to eliminate it in copyediting about ten years ago because “it’s old fashioned.”  That’s like saying the possessive is old-fashioned.  It reads strange to you because you haven’t seen it, but this ex-English-teacher (ESL) begs you to look it up and reacquaint yourself with it.)  That many typos – and more – escape the big publishers.  Take a deep breath and stop cowering.  My worst snafu was when my glasses weren’t working and I missed a row of “ghost” text, (the title, misspelled and upside down) on my cover of Something Worse Hereafter.  (And yes, that cover is a crime against humanity or at least humanity’s eyes.  I’m redoing the old ones as I have time. It was all cutting edge at the time!) Oh, that was fun.  Also, no one said anything until a fan asked me what that meant.)  You know what, I survived it.  You are human, not a machine, and your errors are probably not worse than things big publishing houses have done.

5-      Not to say you should put stuff out and never look again.  One of the best things about indies is that we can be flexible and fast, like the English ships against the Armada.  Lacking formidable size, we have adaptability.  Keep your ear to the ground.  Form connections.  Learn if your cover style is out of date, or if your pricing has fallen out of sinc with trends.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to goose sales.  But don’t change your cover every day or your price every week.  Take a deep breath.  Set yourself a time, like every three months, and do it then.

6-      Write the next book.  Even if you are the best salesperson in the world, the best way to sell a book is to write the next one.  That way you have many more chances one of them will take off, and when it does, you might start an unstoppable avalanche of sales.  At least there will be a chance.  So, shut up and go write!


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Voyageur’s Cap
By Cedar Sanderson

Duty brought Lia to the backwater planet. Honor bound her to fulfill the promise she made to Daz before his death to see his daughter, Serene, safely away and enrolled at the Academy. Neither expected their trip to be interrupted by distress signals, abandoned ships and space pirates. A novella of a galaxy returned to the explorers after civilization has collapsed, again.


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Trophy Target
By Allen Mitchum

tro·phy ['trō-fē] tar·get [ˈtär-gət] – A uniquely high value individual captured and used by an enemy as leverage for political, military or other strategic purposes

Deep in the jungle of French Guiana, a once anonymous soldier of the French Foreign Legion mysteriously disappears. Days later, word reaches his younger brother, Prince Erik Rohde, second in line to the Danish throne. Doubting the government’s capabilities and questioning the Prime Minister’s sincerity, Erik turns to the world’s top mercenary, Fadi Khaldun, to rescue his brother.

Fadi Khaldun is a former assassin of the Saudi government determined to make amends for his malicious past. In his new life as a hired gun, clients contract Fadi to rescue hostages, avenge the deaths of loved ones and destroy terrorist and organized crime rings in the deadliest conflict zones on the planet. Now he embarks on his most high profile and dangerous job yet to rescue the crown prince of Denmark. From the jungles of South America to the mountains of South East Asia, Fadi meticulously hunts the prince’s kidnappers while enemies at the highest level of government conspire against him.


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BLED WHITE
By Barbara Morgenroth

Bled white by corrupt politicians, the country has bottomed out.

Each day is an effort to survive with the meager remnants of what’s left.

When Sophie Cook is found dazed after a brutal assault by local thugs, she is considered an outsider in the town she must now call home. Only with the help of Wolf Harndon, can she get by.

Life is hard, almost impossible. In Wolf, Sophie sees compassion. In Sophie, Wolf sees a future he didn’t believe existed.

Peace is a fantasy as long as the Russells continue their raids. Wolf is tasked with stopping them. That’s when the war begins and the losses start.

Wolf and Sophie have no idea that even with nothing, there is still so much to lose.

Can they survive?

Can their love survive?


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Predatory Kill: A Legal Thriller
By Kenneth Eade

A compelling legal novel by the best selling author of “An Involuntary Spy”. Brent Marks had paid his dues as a lawyer, having taken his share of divorces and drunk driving cases over his 20 year career, but had finally reached a place in his life where he could take on cases of social importance. What he least expected was for April Marsh’s predatory lending case against the big banks for wrongful foreclosure on her parent’s home to turn into a murder investigation. April’s mother was murdered. Her father was beaten within an inch of his life, and she believes their predatory lender is to blame. Are banks really that above the law?


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.

Deadlines are flexible, but in general the deadline for Friday is Tuesday the preceding week. So, for example, the deadline for March 7 was February 22.

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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The World Turned Upside Down

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

Surrender_of_Lord_Cornwallis

Sarah here. One thing for sure is that the publishing industry (following the footsteps of the music industry, the newspaper industry, and all the lemmings who went before it) would rather die sure of its convictions than change.

They will keep insisting that the old model was right, the new model is wrong, and dang it, people will soon realize and come back to them crying… or something.

My friend Amanda Green posted about this at Mad Genius Club this week. Yet another consultant telling the publishing industry what they want to hear: that ebooks are underpriced at…. what they’re selling for, that people should want to pay more for the “convenience”, that it’s just a rental of a service, and of course if you want it in more than one device, you should pay again.

Really, how many times have we heard this? It started with the traditionals manfully declaring that no, ebooks would never take a significant chunk out of paper sales.  They were a specialty, a fad, a curiosity.  No one really wanted to read on the computer screen (this while the kindle was becoming popular.)  Then we were treated to the spectacle of senior VPs in New York Publishing talking about how much they gave their authors in terms of support, of covers, of editing. Well, that is only going to sound good if you don’t know any mid-list authors who talk.  And even then, the reading public doesn’t care.  Once indie upped its game a little, it competed handily with the bottom of the publisher “support.” And customers bought indie.

Now we’re back to “we really should be able to charge a lot more” and the new twist of “ebooks are so much more convenient.”  (Apparently they got that we’re not lugging our CTR monitors to the bathtub to read there. Who knew?)

From Amanda Green’s article:

Now we have someone who calls himself a pricing consultant telling everyone that e-books aren’t a product but a service. Yep, those publishers and their bean counters are doing dances of glee. Someone finally understands!

“Ebooks should be more expensive than they are, more than print books — a lot more,” said Luby, adding that ebooks are relatively cheap because publishers and retailers don’t properly explain their benefits, namely, convenience.

And now those same publishers and bean counters are singing as they dance. Hallelujah! Someone is finally saying what we’ve said all along.We should be able to charge the reader more for something that costs us less, much less, because it is convenient for the reader.

The astounding thing is that they prefer to do this, to actually looking at other industries that have faced catastrophic change, and which went down the merry path to h*ll by holding on to their old model and paying high-priced consultants to tell them to keep jumping, everything was fine.

My friend and co-blogger Dave Freer has some ideas on how the Publishing Industry could restructure. His ideas are good and he gives them for free, but they won’t listen.  They want to be told everything will go on as it has been, and that their model is viable.

I imagine King George was told that the rebellion in the colonies was a passing fad too.

This is how the world turns upside down.  The old model can’t and won’t adapt, and the new model becomes the only model.

Other industries caught in catastrophic change should take note.  And even those of our governing elites who think that applying an early twentieth century model will work, (and at that one that never worked anywhere) should take note.  The world is changing.  Technology is changing.  If you don’t think of new ways of doing things, the world will change OVER you.

Like King George, they should realize that new places, real or virtual, create a new spirit and the old cudgel won’t bring the desired results. But they won’t….

They’ll go to sleep, telling themselves pretty fairytales.  And while they sleep, we’ll build the future.


Charlie here. This is late again because I’ve spent the whole week dealing with issues caused by the Heartbleed bug. No, that’s not an emo band. I’ll have more about the bug up, but let me just say, I’m usually the guy telling you “Oh, it’s not that serious.” Well, this one’s pretty bad. Check every website you use often, and as soon as they are confirmed to have updated, change your passwords. In particular, if you use Amazon — and I’m guessing you do, since these links aren’t much use otherwise — you should change your password.

Go do it now. I’ll wait.


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.


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Witchfinder
By Sarah A Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


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The Unexpecteds
By Kathryn Judson

Out west in Northam, 11-year-old Shayna Miller finds that living underground to escape government persecution is only one problem among many. For instance, her dad never keeps his family in one community very long. It’s almost like he’s running from something horrible in Subterra. But what?

Other books in this series are The Smolder, and The Birdwatcher.


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Why We Raise Belgian Horses
By Kathryn Judson

When famine threatens a small fishing village in 19th-century Norway, 17-year-old Lars and his 5-year-old brother, Torvald, are sent to America to live with their Uncle Anders in the Dakota Territory. When Lars buys his first horse, he accidentally buys a horse that’s widely considered a joke. But that ‘crazy’ horse is about to prove his detractors wrong. Historical fiction. Roughly 78,000 words.


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In the Shadow of Death: Reflections on a Chronic Illness
By Cyn Bagley

When Cyn Bagley became ill in 2002, she thought that it was a case of conjunctivitis and would go away in a week. From eye problems to kidney failure, she tells the story of her diagnosis and treatment. The reflection also contains essays like “half-naked in the doctor’s office,” and “Tales from the Bed.” Even though she deals with a suppressed immune system daily, she has learned that survival is not only physical health, but mental toughness.


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The Reprisal
By Allen Mitchum

The Reprisal chronicles a revenge mission of the world’s deadliest mercenary Fadi Khaldun. A former assassin of the Saudi government determined to make amends for his malicious past, Fadi sets out to destroy an Iraqi kidnapping ring that brutally killed his client’s son. His relentless and lethal pursuit of the killers through the streets of Baghdad and rural Iraq leads him head on into a startling international criminal conspiracy.

The Reprisal is the first installment in the new Lethal Solutions Short Story Series featuring missions of Fadi Khaldun. The first thirteen chapters of Mitchum’s new full length action thriller Trophy Target also featuring Fadik Khaldun is included as a bonus at the end of The Reprisal.

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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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I Read Dead People

Friday, March 28th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
It came from the bookstore, and it wants your sales!

It came from the bookstore, and it wants your sales!

They’re dead. And they outsell you.

This is Sarah. Lately I’ve been culling my used books. That is, the books on my shelves that I need to get rid of if we ever (let alone this year, which we’d like to, though I’ll admit is not looking likely) are to move.

Several things have changed, since the last time I’ve done this 21 years ago when moving from Columbia, South Carolina, to Colorado.  First of all my son, who had to be put in a playpen to keep him from running around while I sorted books and teething on the Agatha Christies is now 22 and is helping me enter stuff for sale on Amazon.  Second, we’re getting rid of way more books, proportionally.  (In total too, since it’s a 21 year accumulation instead of seven.)

We’re getting rid of almost everything except my research books (I can’t do research on the kindle.  It simply won’t work.) signed books by friends, books which aren’t available in e-format (Brother Cadfael, at least last I checked) and books which I’m likely to re-read at least once a year (so, all of Heinlein.)

I’m picking up every book and going “justify your existence to me, in this format.”  Because… in 21 years the world has changed and the ability to read on the kindle paper white means I don’t have to have bookcases in every room and the attic and basement filled with boxes. I can carry my reading needs with me wherever I go. Even the research books are getting culled. I’m now fairly sure I will never write anything set during the Russian revolution, for instance. I just don’t like the period enough.

Anyway, so as we’re culling these books and putting them up on Amazon, my son first noticed something: some of the old writers still fetch a good price, even though you’d think the world would be flooded with their books: Agatha Christie, Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke.

Then I started noticing other patterns. It’s gotten to the point if a book has a gorgeous cover and obviously got lots of publisher push, I know the hard cover, used, five years later, will be selling for one cent. OTOH you come across these books that look like they were thrown together with a clip art cover by an illiterate intern, and the paperback goes for $70 a copy.

The latter was a sign of how out of touch with what customers really wanted publishing got to be in the last few decades.  They printed some books way too tight, thereby making their copies precious, while they pushed books that really had no market.

On the other hand, if you look at how the greats of the past and how they’re selling, it proves that there is a deep market just waiting to happen.

It is a sobering notion that I’m being outsold — massively outsold as my indie sales this month were painful — by a bunch of dead people.  But it is also an incentive to try harder.

The good thing about indie is that all your sales depend on you. That’s the bad thing too of course.  but over all, I’m glad of it.  My own failures is something I can deal with. Other people’s are out of my control.


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.

Deadlines are flexible, but in general the deadline for Friday is Tuesday the preceding week. So, for example, the deadline for March 7 was February 22.

That said, last week was a really big one, so some books are being put off until next week. Hey, we said the deadlines are flexible.

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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Cat’s Paw
By Robert A Hoyt

The Mountain at The End Of The World upon which a bird sharpens its beak is down to where one more beak-wipe will eliminate it, and thus bring about the end of the universe. The only ones who can save us are… a bunch of stray cats.


Pager
By Gerry Garibaldi

Does romance have a future? It’s the year 2165, and one man thinks so… As a pager, Peter Mandrin’s job is to track things down – criminals, shipments, missing transports, anything that turns a profit – and he’s just sacked the catch of a lifetime, infamous embezzler Roger Finlay. As a reward Mandrin wins Finlay’s vintage 1960’s four bedroom, ranch-style house, complete with sports court and old-fashioned swimming pool, on the most expensive planet in the universe, Earth. From low-life pager, he’s hit the sweet, sweet big-time. In Pager two hundred years have passed and a hostile, canyon-like divide has developed between men and women. Marriage is an arcane word, mutual suspicion abounds, and Wallys (artificial life) fill in the emotional void. Up to now, it’s just been Peter and his insouciant, sexy Wally, Debris, the replicant woman of his dreams. That is, until he meets the real woman who lives next door, the mysterious Wendy Roseland. In Wendy, Peter discovers that the human touch and passions it arouses are greater than anything he imagined. Unlike Debris, it’s Wendy imperfections that beguile him the most. In her arms, he suddenly feels the ticking clock of his own mortality — and it frightens him. He wants to be with her forever. When Wendy suddenly flees the planet, Peter does what he does best: tracks down the truth behind her disappearance.


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Hubris:The Azdhagi Reborn
By Alma T.C. Boykin

What price empire?

A genetics research team promised they could make the Azdhagi endothermic, larger, and perhaps telepathic. All they needed was permission to modify two little genes. But remaking the species triggered a crisis no one could have imagined, when genetic modification collided with greed and a touch of madness. As a generation of juniors begins dying, long-simmering disputes within the Azdhag Pack boil into near civil war. King Emperor Seetoh needs all his strength to hold the Empire together. Can Lords Tarkeela and Kirlin set aside their fight long enough to help reunify the Pack?

When disaster strikes, OutClan and PackLord must hunt together or the Azdhagi will perish.

A novel, set 400 years before A Cat Among Dragons.


Sufficient Ransom: A Novel
By Sylvia Sarno

Ever wonder what it feels like to have it all—family, career, health, money—and not be happy? Ann Olson takes her life for granted until her young son, Travis, disappears from the backyard one evening. Searching for her son, Ann throws caution to the wind. Soon, she finds herself enmeshed in the seedy world of Mexican drug dealers who operate just across the border in Tijuana. Does Ann, an atheist, embrace Christianity despite her husband warning that her pastor friend is more interested in converting her than in finding Travis? Does she make it out of the drug tunnel alive, or is her rashness her downfall? And is Travis’s disappearance related to that of other recently missing children in San Diego? A story of a mother’s love, courage in the face of evil, and her unexpected journey of self-discovery along the way.


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The Musketeer’s Apprentice
By Sarah A. Hoyt (writing as Sarah D’Almeida)

It’s August in Paris 1625 and Porthos, once a dancing and fencing master, has taken as apprentice a young nobleman, whom he’s teaching to fence and ride. When the young man dies, poisoned, the stories of his ancestry and domicile unravel into layer after layer of deception and blackmail, involving Porthos’s relatives and his own past.

Can Porthos, Athos, Aramis and D’Artagnan dodge the Cardinal’s guards while finding the real murderer? Who was Guillaume Jaucourt, and who could have killed him? And why?

It’s one for all and all for one with the swashbuckling sleuths, in a race against time and their own misgivings.

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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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I Have No Arms, and I Must Type

Friday, March 21st, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
It's a metaphor for the writer's existence!

It’s a metaphor for the writer’s existence!

Hi, this is Sarah, and today we’re going to talk about Lloyd Biggle, Jr. Or, more particularly we’re going to talk about one of Lloyd Biggle, Jr’s books, The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets. There will be some spoilers, but the point of something like The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets is not the solution, but the execution.

It was always one of my favorite space operas, and then about five years ago, I started to get the impression it was more than that.

Back when I was in a writers’ group, one of our friends, Alan Lickiss, used to start his comments on every story, no matter how silly, with “Well, I thought it was a metaphor for the human existence.” No, he didn’t actually think that, it had just become a running gag and it made people nervous about getting a critique laugh.

Well, more and more, up till a few years ago, I got the impression that The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets was a metaphor of the writer existence specifically as it existed at the close of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty first.

The novel’s main character is a diplomatic envoy, or perhaps a diplomatic operative. Earth at the time encourages democracy, but doesn’t impose it from outside. In fact, the motto of the department is “Democracy imposed from the outside is the worst of tyrannies.”

So these people go in and are supposed to ease things so the prospective colony wants democracy.

The planet our hero finds himself in has a culture (the people are essentially humans) so starved for beauty and art that they’ll risk their lives to get them.

The harpers who play before the king are the most highly respected artists, each with an adoring fandom. But the king is mad. The punishment for crimes in this world is to have your arm cut off. Periodically for no reason at all, he has one of these man mutilated and become pariahs, like other criminals, living in “camps of armless.”

They can no longer play and therefore cannot reach their adoring fandom. And since by custom the armless don’t exist, these men are the living dead.

If you’re not following along with the similarity, until two, three years ago, this is what happened to writers. Suddenly one of the mad kings of the NYC establishment, determined you must be thrown out of the field. Perhaps you really didn’t sell very well, but in the cases I know nine times out of ten the cover was horrible, or they failed to print enough books, or no one pushed them. But when you didn’t sell the fault was yours. The lightest punishment might be that you got told you couldn’t work in that field/series/subgenre anymore. This is how I ended up with a string of names and different series. Sometimes, they just shut their ranks against you. And some of these were inexplicable. For instance, not only did my friend Rebecca Lickiss’s second book, Never After undergo three printings, but it was an SF book club alternate selection. But her multiple proposals were all rejected by the house, and no one else picked her up. I have theories, but mostly it’s the act of a mad king.

If you stayed on, you had perhaps the hardest time. When people told you they’d just discovered your first series, ten years after it had gone out of print and asked why you weren’t writing more, you couldn’t say “The house dropped it on the floor and then refused to buy more.” You had to smile and say “Well, I just didn’t want to write it anymore.” And accept the anger from the fan.

And sometimes, you just disappeared. And you were so embarrassed, you stopped going to conventions or interacting with the fans, and people thought you’d died or had stopped writing.

In The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets, the main character finds a way to bring those dispossessed, mutilated men to the attention of their fans again.

And indie is doing that for writers, now.

My friend, Cedar Sanderson went to her first convention as a professional this last weekend, and there she met Christopher Stasheff, whom many of us thought was dead or had stopped writing. (The two often being indistinguishable for writers, themselves.)

She interviewed him for a post in my blog last Monday. You might want to read the full interview. This is how Cedar met him, and what she found out:

I did a doubletake, then caught my First Reader, who was serving as my escort, and brought him back to where the gentleman was now standing looking at the table of bookmarks and promotional goodies. It was Christopher Stasheff, who I knew was my First Reader’s favorite fantasy author, and neither of us had any idea he would be at the convention. Nor, as it turns out, had the concom; he had decided to attend with his son on the spur of the moment. We chatted briefly, and after I got home and was talking online about meeting this living legend, I came up with the idea of asking him for an interview.

You see, while we were chatting that first time, he had responded to my question of “are you still writing?” with “yes, but no one is buying.” He went on to tell us that his son has set up a website for him  and they are beginning to release both his recent work, in snippets, and past work which has reverted to him.

Below, I know there will be links to Christopher Stasheff’s books. Buy one. Or two. Or three. I remember him as one of the best fantasy writers. For a long time, he was in exile, unable to reach his readers.

Now he and others are making their way out of the camps of the mutilated.

Think of your favorite writers, the ones who disappeared, and you don’t know if they’re living or dead. Maybe we should make a list of the disappeared and call them back to their fans. Because indie will let them return and reach us. This field was never about the intercession of a gate keeper. It was always about the relationship of the artist and a public who loves his/her art.

And now mad kings can’t keep us away from the fans anymore.

Hark, do you hear the call of indie? It’s the still, small voice of freedom.


[Charlie now.] I want to second Sarah’s recommendation for Chris Stasheff’s books. I honestly thought I’d read he had died, so I’m pleased to be wrong. (And how often do you see me write that?)

The thing is, he’s got lots of books. So here’s what I’m gonna do: I’m going to link four of his books instead of the usual two per author, and mix them into the others. Remember Rule 10: The whim of the editors is law, even with respect to the preceding rules. But I’m also going to strongly suggest you visit Chris’s Amazon Author’s Page for more books and more information.


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.

Deadlines are flexible, but in general the deadline for Friday is Tuesday the preceding week. So, for example, the deadline for March 7 was February 22.

That said, last week was a really big one, so some books are being put off until next week. Hey, we said the deadlines are flexible.

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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The Warlock in Spite of Himself
By Christopher Stasheff

Rod Gallowglass is a man of science who does not believe in magic. ** Gramarye is a world of witches and warlocks. Of strange abilities and phenomena. A world where society mirrors Earth’s own Middle Ages, and a world headed for doom. **

Rod Gallowglass must become a part of the local fabric to save the world from both itself and external forces that threaten its existence. But to do so, he must put aside his own convictions and beliefs, and become a warlock, in spite of himself. **

A grand adventure mixing science fi ction with elements of fantasy, this is the book that launched a whole series (fourteen books and counting).


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The Grey Man- Vignettes
By JL Curtis

John Cronin is a Texas rancher and lawman, a decorated Vietnam vet with connections to law enforcement agencies all around the world. Whether it’s a sniper competition or teaching the feds a thing or two about police work, Cronin doesn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Of course, this slow-talking lawman’s biggest challenge yet might be when his granddaughter Jesse falls in love with a Marine. When drug smugglers stir up trouble in Cronin’s backyard and try to kill Jesse and her new beau, all hell breaks loose, and Cronin and his granddaughter are just the people to set things right.


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Her Majesty’s Wizard
By Christopher Stasheff

This 25th anniversary eBook edition of this classic story includes a new introduction by the author and new cover art by Anne Maria Brant!

Matt didn’t know the scrap of parchment was a trap. So he read the runes – and found himself on a world where reciting poetry verses worked magic. His first effort got him locked in a dungeon by the evil sorcerer Malingo. Trying for light, he brought forth a fire-breathing, drunken dragon, who told him Princess Alisande, rightful ruler of Merovence, was also held in the dungeon.

Naturally, he had to free her, himself, and the dragon, using poetry lifted from Shakespeare. And because she was young and beautiful, he swore to serve as her wizard. Then he learned that his job as wizard was to fix it so the three of them could overcome all the dark magic and armies of Malingo!

The addition to the party of a lust-witch and a priest who became a werewolf now and then didn’t seem much help. Matt figured he had got himself into quite a predicament.

For once, he was right!


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Bound into the Blood, Book 4 of The Hounds of Annwn
By Karen Myers

Book 4 of The Hounds of Annwn.

DISTURBING THE FAMILY SECRETS COULD BRING RUIN TO EVERYTHING HE’S WORKED SO HARD TO BUILD.

George Talbot Traherne, the human huntsman for the Wild Hunt, is preparing for the birth of his child by exploring the family papers about his parents and their deaths. When his improved relationship with his patron, the antlered god Cernunnos, is jeopardized by an unexpected opposition, he finds he must choose between loyalty to family and loyalty to a god.

He discovers he doesn’t know either of them as well as he thought he did. His search for answers takes him to the human world with unsuitable companions.

How will he keep a rock-wight safe from detection, or even teach her the rules of the road? And what will he awaken in the process, bringing disaster back to his family on his own doorstep? What if his loyalty is misplaced? What will be the price of his mistakes?

http://www.amazon.com/Bound-into-Blood-Virginian-Elfland-ebook/dp/B00IPY38Q6/


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A Wizard in Bedlam
By Christopher Stasheff

The rebel slaves need a leader. Even if he’s a wizard. Even if he’s dead…

The revolutionary DeCade died generations ago, leading the last great revolt of the planet Melange’s churls against their despotic feudal masters. His staff and bones were broken and lost; only his songs remain.

The churl Dulain joined the Resistance in his youth – an exile Resistance, devoted to readying the churls for their next great attempt at freedom. Now that moment finally nears. Back on Melange for the first time in years, Dulain must now hasten that revolt… or die.

The Giant Gar is the mysterious stranger whom no one knows, a power greater than he seems. More powerful, perhaps, than churls, masters, or even the Resistance…

This ebook edition contains new cover art by Margaret Miller and Ashley Cser, and an introduction by the author!


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The Dragonslayers, Volume 1: The Righteous and the Lawless
By Matthew Maynard

A clerical error. A loss. An opportunity. A hope. A pursuit…

When Scott Philipson loses his parents to a no-knock drug raid on the wrong house, he turns in desperation to selling marijuana to make ends meet. He gets plenty of help from his girlfriend Carley, but can he evade the grasp of Officer William Cavanaugh? The stakes rise when a doctor approaches him with an offer he shouldn’t refuse…

(Note: Matthew Maynard will be signing copies at the Virginia Festival of the Book Annual Book Fair in Charlottesville, VA on March 22nd.)


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Mind Out of Time
By Christopher Stasheff

Angus McAran, born brilliant but deformed, had as little use for other people as they had for him. Until the day he met the Neanderthal… and discovered that he had destiny, one he wasn’t sure he wanted. This is the origin story of Doc Angus and his time traveling organization, GRIPE.


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The Bookworm Returns: Life in Obama’s America:
By The Bookworm

In 2008, President Barack Obama promised that he would fundamentally transform America — and that’s one of the few promises he’s kept. In a series of clear, elegant, witty essays, Bookworm looks at the changes in American society since Obama became president. These changes have seen America become a poorer, less safe, less free, more racially-charged nation, adrift in a world that, without America as both protector and anchor, is also become increasingly poor and dangerous.


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Strangelets with a Side of Grilled Spam: Season One (The Strangelets Series)
By Michael Angel

After the original short story spent 21 months on the Top 100 Lists, Strangelets with a Side of Grilled Spam: Season One takes us through the entire post-apocalyptic saga.

Pursued by packs of deadly ‘steelies’, Lieutenant Shane MacWilliams and his Humvee crew journey through an America shattered by an alien invasion.

Things look grim…until MacWilliams comes across something that could turn the tide. It falls to him and his crew to get the word out across a land choked with post-apocalyptic wreckage and teeming with deadly alien monsters.

Their journey is blocked by steelie hunter-killers, vision-shrouding sand storms, and nightmare plains turned to radioactive slag by nuclear fallout.

And at the end looms their final confrontation with a horde of aliens set to wipe out the human species!


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The Thank You Angel
By Ann Trenton

A little girl learns about the joy of saying “Thank You” from her grandmother and the Thank You Angel.

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A Book About Fairies… That Boys Will Love Too

Friday, March 7th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

IronKingCover

This week, I cheated. I know I promised you guys last week that I’d start a blog series on adventure books for young boys, to encourage reading — and for men and women of all ages who yearn for an old-fashioned swashbuckling yarn. I went through my bookshelves and pulled out some classics, to kick things off. And then, instead of reading any of those selections, I got pulled into a fantasy tale set in fairyland, published by Harlequin Teen.

The good news is, I think your boys should read it, too.

I know there aren’t a lot of teen boys who would want to be caught reading a Harlequin book, especially one featuring pixies and fairy magic and sparkling gowns. But in both the land of fairies and real life, appearances can be deceiving, and Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King has enough adventure, action, gore, surprise twists, creepy creatures, and sly humor to keep girls and boys alike rapt for hours. I haven’t finished a book in two days in a long, long time, but The Iron King made me feel resentful of any time I had to spend not reading it until I managed to turn the last page.

Protagonist Meghan Chase is an average high schooler and a bit of a tomboy. But her humdrum life is overturned when fairies exchange her little brother, Ethan, for a changeling — a vicious monster who has assumed Ethan’s features, if not his sweet personality. That night, she also learns that her best friend Robbie is actually Robin Goodfellow — more commonly known as Puck, the mischievous fairy from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Puck leads Meghan into the land of the fairies, where she seeks her little brother and in the process becomes embroiled in the political schemings of the Summer and Winter Courts. She and her companions encounter a stunning array of creatures along the way, from ogres and goblins to dryads and satyrs.

Author Julie Kagawa has a prodigious imagination and a knack for clever action and suspense scenes that reminds me of The Princess Bride, another seemingly “girly” tale that has captured the imaginations of thousands of young boys. The Iron King hits all the right notes that I listen for in an adventure tale: fast-paced action scenes, cleverly choreographed; wry banter between friends and enemies alike; a diverse host of companions and foes, with entertaining quirks and foibles; a journey through a variety of landscapes; and a good mix of physical challenges for the heroes, and mental ones, such as riddles and bargains.

If you, or your boys, loved The Princess Bride, tales of Robin Hood, or The Hobbit, Kagawa’s The Iron King will hit the spot.

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Join The Club

Friday, March 7th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
In the Human Wave clubhouse, we only care about the stories you tell.

In the Human Wave clubhouse, we only care about the stories you tell.

Hi, this is Sarah, and I’m tired.

So, lately I’m looking over all the “controversies” over who gets to be recognized as writing science fiction and who gets not to be, and how the cool kids club in SF/F needs to be restricted to people who are genetically diverse, endowed with vagina or in other ways part of the “victim club.”  Then there’s the whole thing with “stealing victimhood.”  Unless you’re a member of a mean girls approved victimhood class or you spend your entire life beating your chest, you’re not allowed to write about anyone who is from a different genetic/orientation/handicap class than you. That’s stealing victimhood. I’m so used to this that I didn’t even blink at the article in Salon ragging on white belly dancers.

Note the arrow of victimhood goes only one way.  I’m completely able to write a white male because, since he’s supposed to be an oppressor, I can’t steal his “victimhood.”  No, not even if I write about a white male who’s been beaten from birth, and who never had anything. Because… he’s supposed to have white male privilege, which I suppose is a magical attribute that keeps him warm and dry and fed.

In case this is not obvious I’m tired. I’m tired of people importing Marxist privilege and victimhood classes into their heads without a whit of thought. I’m tired of their trying to justify their casual racism.

Casual racism?  Yes, what else do you think the entire confusion of culture with race is? My kids, (half Portuguese) were repeatedly put in ESL classes taught in Spanish, leading to my descending on the school in escalating rages, until I got in the secretary’s face and said “Why are you teaching my children in the language of their ancient enemies?” This they got. This stopped it. And this is extreme nonsense. My kids are American. They speak English as their first language.  They belong to the curious Geek subculture. They’re American. But in the mind of people for whom race equals culture, it made sense they’d hate Spaniards, because their ancestors fought them. (And traded with them.  And mated with them, because nearby countries do.  But I couldn’t say that, because then they’d put the kids back in Spanish.)

What is this belief that people’s characteristics are determined by their ancestors’ genes and nothing else, but casual racism? Every supermarket shopper (I wish I were joking) who chided me for not teaching my kids “their language” believed that language is somehow genetically inherited, never mind that this goes against the evidence of the entire history of mankind.  (No?  Are you speaking Caldean?  Or whatever proto language Og the caveman spoke?)

Worse, note that it is enough to be part-blood of one of the oppressed, downtrodden or just unfashionable (well, once upon a time, Portuguese and Spanish did divide the world between them) ethnicities to be of that ethnicity and to be unable to speak English as your native language. Because, you know, we little brown people (well, give me a month at the beach and I am.  I consider the lack of a month at the beach a violation of my basic human rights) can never possibly speak the language of the “oppressors” who must therefore be obviously superior.

In the same way, the article at Slate drips with “leave them belly dancing, because, I mean, that’s all they have.”

I’m tired.

And when I’m tired, I do revert to type.  There is a tendency to put my hands on either side of my hips and speak frankly.  Only I’ve done that, and the insanity continues.

So, I say undermine them. Take their victimhood away and flush it in a river of good fiction that doesn’t care what color you are, or what language your ancestors spoke: a flood of good storytelling that doesn’t care about anything but telling a convincing story that makes internal sense and that people want to read.

Years ago, tired of all the books in which humans are the villains, western culture is the villain, white males are the villains, males are the villains, and no woman, gay or person of color can possibly do any wrong, I wrote a post about a new kind of literature, “Human Wave.”  The reason I called it that was an answer to the “New Wave” which, back in the seventies tried to be revolutionary and challenging and ended up devolving into the political correctness we see today.

The requirements of Human Wave writing are: It should be human positive. This doesn’t mean other races can’t be awesome, or that we can’t have bad endings, just spare us the pseudo-profound “humans are a cancer upon the Earth.”  You know you don’t really believe it.  If you did, you’d have offed yourself before writing it.

So enough with the pseudo-enlightened chest-beating. I’m not the only one who is tired of it.  Judging by the way the print runs have dropped in the last forty years, most people are.

If you’re a human wave writer, you can be any color, gender or orientation. So can your heroes. So can your villains.  We don’t care.  All we care is that you’re readable, and that you’re not beating up on humans or pushing Marxist victimhood classes down our throats.

And the people who insist you need to be this tan to get into the club?  Their culture is dead and walking.  They just don’t know it yet.


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.

Deadlines are flexible, but in general the deadline for Friday is Tuesday the preceding week. So, for example, the deadline for March 7 was February 22.

That said, last week was a really big one, so some books are being put off until next week. Hey, we said the deadlines are flexible.

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 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, an entire society must change.


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The Running Girl
By D. Alexander Neill

Ally of Eldisle, sword-thegn and sometime mage, bears twin burdens: a complicated heritage, and a penchant for finding herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Faced with false accusations of treason and murder, she flees to foreign lands, finding enemies all around, friends in unexpected places, and wonders undreamed-of. While struggling to keep an ancient treasure out of unfriendly hands, she is forced to reconcile her preconceptions about the wider world and its myriad inhabitants with her own origins – and to come to terms with the meaning of a bloodline lost in the depths of antiquity, created by ancestors both inhuman and unknown, and with the awful powers they have bequeathed her.


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I, Geek: Confessions of a Geeky Mind
By Joseph Dickerson

A collection of essays on all things geek – technology, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Dungeons and Dragons, and more!

From the introduction:
A few years ago, this open geekness would have been shunned, and I would have been subject to random wedgies from strangers as I walked down the street. Well, no more. Now, geek is chic. Shows like The Big Bang Theory has allowed people like me to let our “geek flags fly” with pride, and all of a sudden we are the cool kids… mostly.

The geek have inherited the earth.


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The Book of Helen
By Sherry G Antonetti

“Everyone thinks they know what happened in the Trojan War and afterwards, but no one ever bothered to ask me.” –Helen of Troy

At 65, the famous Helen of Troy finds herself in a new role, that of having no title, husband or things to do as she faces exile on the island of Rhodes. Her hoarded wealth, fabulous stories of the past, and a newly acquired servant/scribe named Pythia , should allow Helen to establish her own legacy, but there are some who won’t be courted.

Helen begins to ply her legendary charm, wit and capacity to create beauty and spectacle in her new home to win the hearts of the people with great effect. But Helen rarely recognizes that as she ascends, others might resent her casual winning over of everyone. Queen Polyoxo has granted sanctuary to her childhood friend for reasons other than friendship, leaving Pythia caught in the wake of two very powerful women with very different means of conveying and maintaining authority.

Can Helen with all her treasures and stories and charisma win over everyone? Or will the need for revenge, threaten the life of the most beautiful woman in the world and those who serve her?


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PAGER
By Gerry Garibaldi

Does romance have a future? It’s the year 2165, and one man thinks so… As a pager, Peter Mandrin’s job is to track things down – criminals, shipments, missing transports, anything that turns a profit – and he’s just sacked the catch of a lifetime, infamous embezzler Roger Finlay. As a reward Mandrin wins Finlay’s vintage 1960’s four bedroom, ranch-style house, complete with sports court and old-fashioned swimming pool, on the most expensive planet in the universe, Earth. From low-life pager, he’s hit the sweet, sweet big-time. In Pager two hundred years have passed and a hostile, canyon-like divide has developed between men and women. Marriage is an arcane word, mutual suspicion abounds, and Wallys (artificial life) fill in the emotional void. Up to now, it’s just been Peter and his insouciant, sexy Wally, Debris, the replicant woman of his dreams. That is, until he meets the real woman who lives next door, the mysterious Wendy Roseland. In Wendy, Peter discovers that the human touch and passions it arouses are greater than anything he imagined. Unlike Debris, it’s Wendy imperfections that beguile him the most. In her arms, he suddenly feels the ticking clock of his own mortality — and it frightens him. He wants to be with her forever. When Wendy suddenly flees the planet, Peter does what he does best: tracks down the truth behind her disappearance.


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A Warrior’s Path
By Davis Ashura

“The characters, dialogue and action are mature enough to satisfy readers at the older end of the YA range, and the author weaves them all into an attention-sustaining tale…the milieu is markedly original…first rate world-building.”

Kirkus Reviews.

Two millennia ago She thundered into the skies of Arisa: Suwraith, a demon bent on Humanity’s extinction.

Into this world is born Rukh Shektan, a peerless young warrior from a Caste of warriors, devoted to the sanctity of his home and his way of life. He is well-versed in the keen language of swords but all his courage and skills may not save him. A challenge comes, one that threatens all he once thought true and puts at risk all he holds dear. And it will enter his life in the form of one of Humanity’s greatest enemies – and perhaps its greatest allies.

Worse, he will learn of Suwraith’s plans. The Sorrow Bringer has dread intentions for his home. The city of Ashoka is to be razed and her people slaughtered.


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The Cenacle Scroll
By Anthony F. Lewis

Jennifer Goodwyn, a Cornell University graduate student, inadvertently returns home to sleepy Ithaca, N.Y. from an archaeological dig at the Cenacle—the purported site of the Last Supper—with an ancient bone box. The ossuary is found to contain several pieces of early first century stoneware, and a mysterious, tiny scroll. When the Aramaic glyphs on the slip of crumbling papyrus are translated, they identify the humble dinner setting as the one used by a rabblerousing Nazarene rabbi at his Seder meal, on the evening he’d been arrested by the Romans.

One ill-considered impulse—asking a local parish priest to say Mass with the cup—sweeps Jennifer away to churches, cathedrals, sports stadiums, and to a powerful Cardinal’s basilica to celebrate Mass with the vessel and to exhibit it before ever-growing crowds of believers.

But soon, all hell breaks loose. While the State Department is aggressively seeking its return to Israel, a nationwide political movement starts rising up around the relic. And Jennifer soon discovers that the storied artifact is causing sickness and even death among those who remain too long in its presence.

In an effort to stem the political mayhem and insure the safety of the faithful, Jennifer hits the road, trying to stay one step ahead of the feds until she can find a way to quell the growing public chaos unleashed by the revelations of The Cenacle Scroll.


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Aqua Vitae
By Anthony F. Lewis

Wildlife biologist Jackie Bannon may have found just the job to jump-start her stalled career. A potential client with seemingly bottomless pockets and plans for an unorthodox business venture has invited her to his private Caribbean island to discuss her coming on board.

At first glance, the place seems a textbook tropical paradise: glistening white sand beaches, lush highland forests, every inch teeming with exotic flowers and wildlife. But a closer look reveals widespread abnormal behavior among the native animal species; behavior that Jackie recognizes as deeply problematic.

Despite her misgivings, she wasn’t about to turn down a high-paying job on a luxurious private island, especially one that could remake her career, and she relished the independence she would be allowed. But with that independence would come responsibility, and she could already see that there was much more to this island than meets the eye…


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Big Boys Don’t Cry
By Tom Kratman

Big Boys Don’t Cry is a novella from military science fiction author Tom Kratman, known for A Desert Called Peace. The story concerns the life cycle of a Ratha, a sentient future supertank that dutifully fights Man’s battles on dozens of alien worlds. But how long will an intelligent war machine with enough firepower to flatten a city be content to remain Man’s obedient slave?


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Iron Magic
By T. M. BRIDGELAND

The wind blows from the sea to the mountains, bringing snow and rain in season, creating a paradise so enchanting that the first inhabitants named it ‘Eden’. This year Eden was invaded and sacked. The books were burned, and fanatics hunted and killed the few who still studied the old knowledge of magic.

In the ancient, haunted city of Selzburg, a new power is rising. A local guild has uncovered a book revealing the secrets of black magic, long lost and nearly forgotten.

Kail, a young magician from Eden hopes to ally with these new sorcerers, though he mistrusts the source of their power. His plans go awry when a princess is abducted and circumstantial evidence points to him as the perpetrator. Now a wanted man, Kail still hopes to turn the sorcerers from enemies into allies.

With the help of an abusive girlfriend, a street boy named Rat and a possibly possessed horse, he has to save the princess, clear his name and gain the sorcerers’ aid against their common enemy.

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5 Adventure Books for Reading-Reluctant Boys

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Raidersteaser

Recent research has demonstrated that young boys are falling behind girls in reading comprehension and that part of the problem may be that they are less enthusiastic recreational readers. There are lots of theories on why this is, and how to correct it, but one of the most common solutions is simply to provide more reading material targeted specifically to boys. Of course, that’s a political-correctness minefield (after all, if we “gender” things like adventure and science, are we now excluding girls from those things?). But the way I see it, there are also plenty of young girls who also crave traditionally “boyish” reading material who are also left adrift in search of their next adventure fix, so everyone wins if more of that material is produced or brought to light.

I was one such girl — as a middle schooler I loved few things more than Indiana Jones, The Mummy, and the swashbuckling tales of C. S. Forester. As a grown-up, I often feel nostalgic for those yarns as I slog through the drier, more nihilistic literary offerings that will supposedly enhance my mind. So, for the next few months, I’m going to review some forgotten gems of adventure fiction. If you have a reluctant reader, maybe curling up with him (or her) and one of these books will inspire the same love of reading that I found in my first fictional adventures. Here’s a list of classics to kick it off.

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Author By Choice!

Friday, February 21st, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

shutterstock_177549233

I’ve been a writer for as long as I remember. “I”, here, being Charlie. (Sarah’s as sick as an oyster. A dog will at least whine. All an oyster does is twitch when you put lemon juice on. The oyster tells me she’s on Godzillamycin and will be better soon.)

Anyway, as I say, I’ve been a writer certainly since about 20 minutes after I realized that someone actually made up those Tom Swift Jr. stories. By the time I was nine, I was writing and selling a mimeographed local “newspaper” for a penny a legal-sized sheet. Which cost a couple cents a sheet to publish; I was already ahead of my time in the news business.

After the first time I dropped out of college, I made some professional sales to the True Confession magazines and had my first experience with that special feeling when your characters are doing all the work and you’re just typing out what they’re saying. I also published a few non-fiction things in small markets, sometimes for money and sometimes just for the glory — or at least as much glory as you can get for publishing an article arguing that Japanese monshogaku really is a form of heraldry, under a made-up name in a Society for Creative Anachronism journal.

Then I got more serious about school, and then I got a job, and then I got another job, and then I went to graduate school, where I had a dissertation to write so I obviously had to write fiction instead.

I wasn’t wholly unsuccessful. Orson Scott Card read one of my stories and wrote me back “you are a writer!”, and after I requested permission to quote one of Ray Bradbury’s poems, he not only granted me the permission and complimented the story, but entered into a correspondence that lasted several years. And I embarked on a collection of one of the largest troves of Writers Of The Future Honorable Mentions in history.

I don’t remember how many any more, but I think if I’d have gotten one more I’d have gotten the complementary steak knives.

Then things happened, and I stopped writing and submitting fiction, and in fact I didn’t show anything I’d written to anyone until the Day of the Blog. I started commenting on Roger L Simon’s blog, and then PJM started, and I started writing for actual money. In fact, I’ve sold something over 300 articles now, and to a number of markets. Still no fiction, unless you count the DARPA grant applications in grad school.

This is all a long prologue — luckily pixels is cheap — to commenting on an article I read a few days ago. The article is “Is Traditional Publishing a Choice? Not really.” I recommend the whole article, but the basic point is simple: when someone says a writer “chose to go indie” or “chose traditional publishing”, what they really mean is that they chose to publish independently, or chose to enter a lottery in which the winnings are usually meager, the lottery administrators treat you like a serf, and then seem likely to cheat you on your winnings.

And that’s only if you actually win the lottery. Losing really sucks.

What happened is the Internet. I could start writing for publication, if not money, by commenting on blogs, and saw that some people actually liked what I was writing. Amazon and Kindle meant people writing books could publish the books for essentially nothing and make them available in the World’s Largest Bookstore™ — for better royalties than conventional publishing, and without the upfront costs and stigma of “vanity publishing”.

What’s more, it worked. John Locke became the first Kindle-only author to sell a million books — at 99¢ each, but still. Ric Locke, as far as I know unrelated to John, sold many thousands of his first (and, sadly, only) book, Temporary Duty, thanks to a plug on Instapundit. Just a couple of days ago, I got emails from two of the authors we’ve plugged here in Book plug Friday, who have sold between them several thousand books in a few weeks, which means they’ve probably gotten paid more than they might have gotten as an advance from a “real” publisher. All because they decided to be an author by choice — instead of entering the tradpub lottery, and becoming an author by chance.

Here are this week’s plugs for people who have become authors by choice.


Please pass word to all your writer friends that we accept submissions for Book Plug Friday at book.plug.friday@gmail.com. Submissions should include the TITLE, AUTHOR’S NAME as written on the cover, a short BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK.

Also: This has been a big couple of weeks for people offering us free copies of their books. It’s not that we don’t appreciate it, but honestly, we’re not reviewing these books, and speaking for myself the only way I’d have time to read more than I already do is if I could learn to read in my sleep. Sorry.


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Temporary Duty
By Ric Locke

A pair of enlisted sailors are assigned to an alien spaceship, to clean and prepare quarters for the real human delegation. Once there, they find that there’s a little more to it…

Alien worlds, exploding spaceships, IRS agents, derring-do, and a little sex. Oh, and mops, brooms, and dustpans. Truly there are wonders Out There.


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Passing In The Night
By Michael Kingswood

A year-long shift in the middle of the interstellar void can get pretty boring. For the Fourth shift crew of the starliner Pericles, enroute to Earth from one of the colony worlds, the passage could best be called routine.

Until the forward sensors detect an unknown and unexpected object ahead. What they find there, in the endless night of space, will forever change the universe, for them and for the all mankind.

Assuming they survive to tell anyone about the encounter.


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Twisted Breath of God
By Cedar Sanderson

A short story of the second contact with an alien civilization. Trade is good, luring humans into rushing their translations and contact with the aliens. A young man and a classroom of alien children are caught in the misunderstandings that ensue.


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The Smolder
By Kathryn Judson

Oleevaba is the proud, pampered breed representative of the Advanced Midstate New York breed of humans – until she’s kicked out of society for having too much initiative. She’s expected to dutifully and quietly starve to death like other expersons. Instead, she’s rescued by a parallel society that has, over several generations, become very good at staying out of sight. However, not all the Subterrans are happy about simply staying out of the clutches of the Topside government. Some of them yearn to live as free men, above ground, whatever the cost.

Other books set in The Smolder universe are The Birdwatcher and The Unexpecteds, both of which are set out West in Northam during the same time period as this book.


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Mutterings
By Clark Eugene Sutton

At age 93, after two careers, and after an active and satisfying retirement, Clark Sutton finds himself in Post-Retirement. His beloved Nora has passed on, the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids, have busy lives of their own, and Clark has to adjust to life in an assisted living facility. He buys a laptop computer and begins a journal.

Mutterings operates on two different levels. The first level is entertainment. Clark is good company. Reading his journal is like spending summer nights on the front poach with a favorite great uncle who fills the evenings with stories and eccentric opinions as to how the world should be. The second level is substantive. Be it campaign finance, taxes, welfare, the war on drugs, education, or many other topics, Clark has ideas you won’t hear on either Fox News or MSNBC. (Fox News because they are preoccupied with the buzz-issues-of-the-day; MSNBC because they are clueless.) Because Clark is such good company, you will enjoy reading his views without the need to agree with him. But then you put down the book and start to think: could the old geezer actually be right? If the old man is crazy, why do his ideas seem to make sense? After even more thought, the question becomes: Why is no one else proposing things like this?

Read Mutterings the first time for entertainment. Read it the second time to change your world view.


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Subjective Grounds: Writings by Persons with the Initials S.G.
Edited by Sean Gleeson

Sean Gleeson has searched all of literature to bring you what is, without a doubt, the world’s finest anthology of works by authors with the initials “S.G.” Spanning centuries, continents, cultures, and genres, this collection of highly enjoyable reads features writing by Susan Glaspell, Saxo Grammaticus, Samuel Gompers, Saint Gregory, Sun Guoting, Sidney Godolphin, and more.

Also, it’s the only book anywhere with the infamous article “Hack Heaven” by disgraced former journalist Stephen Glass.

You know what? This book would be a unique, thoughtful, and yet very cheap gift for a acquaintance with the initials S.G. You should keep a couple copies in your car or something. “Oh, hey, Sandy! Yeah, happy birthday. I got you this book.” You win.

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Fifth Beatle Brian Epstein’s Unsung Revolution

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

fifthbeatlecover

Gay at a time when homosexuality was a felony and Jewish in an era of “polite” antisemitism, one Liverpool lad broke into entertainment management at a time when the Anglo Lords in London ruled the biz. 50 years later the music world is only beginning to acknowledge that there’d be no Beatles without their manager, Brian Epstein.

This past weekend, Vivek Tiwary, the Gen-X producer that brought Green Day’s American Idiot to Broadway, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at The Fest for Beatles Fans about his mission to bring Epstein’s little known story to life via a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Fifth Beatlereleased by Dark Horse Comics.

What I unearthed after much difficult research (there is a paltry amount of information readily available on Brian, which is part of why I want to bring his story to the world) was not just an inspirational business story and a blueprint for what I wanted to accomplish with my career, but also a very human story, as summarized above. It’s a story I could relate to—and wanted to relate to—on so many levels. Brian became my “historical mentor”, if you will. A person from whose history I’ve tried to learn from—both what to do and what NOT to do. Brian was certainly a flawed and imperfect hero, but a hero all the same.

Tiwary has drawn inspiration from Epstein’s trailblazing ingenuity, citing that without Epstein’s persistence, Ed Sullivan never would have brought The Beatles to America. “People scoffed when I brought Sean Combs to Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun because they didn’t believe that Broadway attracted a black audience. I told them that was ridiculous; if we gave them a product they wanted, they would come.” Like Epstein decades before, Tiwary’s was a winning gamble.

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10 Things You Must Never/Always Do

Friday, February 7th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

It’s the Book Plug Friday!

Just go YOUR way.

Just go YOUR way.

Brad Torgensen has a blog up, on the contradictory advice writers get. His list reads like this:

1 and 2 — You must never/always self publish
3 and 4 – You must never/always use a well known trope for your story
5 and 6 – You must never/always offend someone with what you write
7 and 8 – You must never/always write short fiction
9-10 – You need a writers’ group to help you polish your work/your work is best right off the bat.

Brad is very rational and sane in his post, and you should read it.  Here’s an excerpt:

1. You must never self-publish.
This was gospel when I was plowing through my proverbial first million words of “practice” fiction. And at the time, it was good advice. Self-publishing invariably meant vanity publishing, which is a form of publishing where the author spends hundreds or even thousands of dollars of his/her own money, to put his/her book into print. Vanity presses tend to be scams as often as not, and with the advent of widespread electronic book platforms (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.) as well as print-on-demand options like Amazon.com’s CreateSpace, vanity presses are also wholly unnecessary. Plus, self-publishing doesn’t carry the same stigma it used to. Once upon a time self-publishing was a warning flag to the rest of the genre—hey guys, I couldn’t cut it with editors! These days, not so much. There are good writers who are self-publishing, and making a decent amount of money. You have no doubt heard of a few.

2. You must always self-publish.
A lot of bogeyman-mongering has been going on the past few years, where traditional publishing and publishers are concerned: that they will always rip you off, that they don’t abide by their own contracts, that the editors suck and don’t know what they’re doing, that anyone who signs with a traditional publisher becomes a “slave” to that publisher, and so on, and so forth. Frankly, it’s up to you to know your markets. Traditional publishing is still the best bet: to make money and get exposure. And it’s also got a degree of branding power that’s tough to argue with. Why? Because writers who make the editorial cut have at least survived one kind of significant professional filter. There are lots of readers who pay attention to this. So scope out those houses beforehand, talk to writers already under contract, and do your homework. An educated writer with a bit if business savvy can do well in trad pub.

Sarah, as you know, is less sane and far less polite.

So, her answers would go something like this:

1 and 2 — other than Baen and a couple of indie presses I have no intention of writing for anyone else, but should another house emerge that is rational and treats its authors as people not interchangeable widgets, I might be tempted.  The future will tell.

3 and 4 -  since I usually can’t find that box that people can’t think outside of — being so far out of it I can’t see it with a periscope — I don’t really have the option of using a familiar trope. Though since I grew up in Heinlein novels, I do sometimes go home again.

5 and 6 – Well… since apparently some people were offended with the politics of my shifters fantasies, which don’t got any, and since I seem to offend people by continuing to breathe, this too might be a moot point.  However my feeling is that you should write is what you FEEL intensely about. That’s what will be most present and alive to you. If you are lukewarm, the readers will be too.  So, some people will hate you for what you write.  Let them. Think about it, by raising their blood pressure you’re giving them all the benefits of exercise without trouble.

7 and 8 -  I am a natural novelist.  I trained myself to write short fiction because I thought that’s how one always broke into writing.  I’m glad — now — that I have the skill.  Was it worth the three years spent acquiring it?  Probably not.  But it was done, and now it is what it is.

9 and 10 – At some point — listen to me, all of you — everyone outgrows their writers’ group.  At that point, you’ll have to stand on your own two feet.  As for things being perfect off the bat… well, mine aren’t, but that’s why I have beta readers.

For all of these and the other contradictory pieces of advice you’ll get breaking in, remember — You might break in by following them, but to remain published and have a career, you must do it your way.  (Cues Frank Sinatra.)

Go and read Brad, who is, as I said, far more rational than I am.  Then come back here for the book plug Friday!


Last week we asked you to “please pass word to all your writer friends that we accept submissions for Book Plug Friday at book.plug.friday@gmail.com. Submissions should include the TITLE, AUTHOR’S NAME as written on the cover, a short BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK.”

And it worked! So do it again!


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Weight of Worlds
By Alma Alexander

A collection of breathless and enchanting tales of magic, cruelty, and sacrifice – a connoisseur’s box of chocolates, dark and bittersweet. to be nibbled at and savored. Alexander’s stories owe a debt to the dark and twisted fairy tales of Oscar WIlde and the passion and poignant drama of the tales of Hans Christian Andersen; the dozen stories here are fairy tales for grown-ups – they are not the sort of stories you might want to read to your young children at bedtime. But if you read them just before go to sleep, your reward is likely to be dreams that are rich and strange, and that you may feel you have walked for a little while on roads paved with real magic.


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Glimmer Vale
By Michael Kingswood

Lydelton, a small fishing town in a remote valley called Glimmer Vale, is the perfect place for two fighting men on the run to stop and decide on a plan. But when Julian and Raedrick arrive they find the town besieged by a ruthless band of brigands. Worse, the brigands have taken up station in the mountain passes, blocking the two friends’ escape. With no way around the brigands and no option of returning the way they came, Julian and Raedrick accept an offer of employment. Their mission: defeat the brigands and restore peace to Glimmer Vale.

They are outnumbered at least twenty to one, long odds even if they recruit help. But that help may not be enough when the specter of their past rears its head, forcing Julian and Raedrick to openly face what they are fleeing or risk losing not just their freedom but the lives and fortunes of Lydelton’s inhabitants.

Glimmer Vale is a short, fun fantasy adventure novel, the first installment in the Glimmer Vale Chronicles.


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A little book of cat: Meditations on Japanese art of sumi-e and the essence of catness.
By Poul A. Costinsky

Meditations on Japanese art of sumi-e and the essence of catness. All the illustrations in this book are original sumi-e (Japanese ink on paper) paintings by Poul A. Costinsky. The so-called poetry is too.


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Muddling Through MS: 40 Years of Doing It My Way
By Kathleen Scully Aquilino

Those with MS and the people whose lives they touch will find this book helpful in understanding the wide ranging effects with a firsthand look at what it is like to live day after day, year after year with the disease. Written by a woman who is still walking after more than 40 years, the author paints a full and encouraging picture of how it is possible to have a satisfying life despite illness. Kathleen Scully Aquilino experienced the first symptom while in college but was not officially diagnosed until she was 44. Through the growing number of ailments and afflictions her mysterious disease brought, she kept going. Working, Marrying. Making a home. Adopting and raising a daughter. The delay in diagnosis actually did a great deal to help her stay positive and active. There are some lessons here in the power of expectations.


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Ierna (Refrain of Legends)
By Les Hauge

Ierna is an island on a world at the center of the universe where magic and legend converge and an epic battle is raging between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. Ancient Ireland of Earth is a reflection of Ierna and what happens there will ultimately affect Earth and all other worlds.

Cuhal O’Connor has murdered his brother the King and, with the help of Porthcodal, the arch-druid of Tara, seeks to take the throne for himself. To support the king and his own ambition, the druid has unleashed old gods and dark forces to support the king in his subjugation of the country. He has called a race of evil sorcerers, the Fomorians, to the island to assist in his plans.

Opposing Cuhal are Sean O’Connor, his younger brother, and Brian O’Mordha, former King’s Champion and high general of the army. They are determined to stop Cuhal, but have few resources and a price on their heads. They rescue Sean’s niece Maggie, the former king’s daughter, who escaped when Cuhal murdered her parents. Sean knows the true ruler of Tara must have the Gift, a psychic feel for the land, and while he doesn’t have it, Maggie does. They escape from Tara and set out for the fortress of another major family, the O’Neills, in search of allies.


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The First Impression
By David K. Thomasson

A man framed . . . his life ruined . . . and then the twists begin. Jack Bolt rose from a hillbilly childhood of poverty, neglect, and abuse. Thanks to his unusually keen mind and the faith of a teacher and a bookstore owner, his future looks bright. At age 25 he’s working maintenance in a college town, studying on a scholarship, and about to marry the girl of his dreams. During a routine service call at a church he runs into 13-year-old Sarah Ellison. Moments after he leaves, Sarah is brutally murdered. Bolt is charged with the crime and convicted by a brilliant prosecutor who uses his own honesty against him. He’s been framed with tainted evidence, but this is no whodunit. Bolt knows exactly who did it—Conrad Baylor, church deacon and deputy chief of police. Held in jail during his trial, Bolt is haunted by the ‘howdunit’: How did Baylor manage to tamper with the evidence and frame him? And how can he discover the secret and clear his name if he goes to prison? But then, in a strange turn of events, Bolt is offered a chance to prove his innocence and recover his once-promising future. That’s when a deadly game of cat-and-mouse begins . . .


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MUSES OF ROMA
By Rob Steiner

Marcus Antonius Primus began a golden age for humanity when he liberated Roma from Octavian Caesar and became sole Consul. With wisdom from the gods, future Antonii Consuls conquered the world and spawned an interstellar civilization.

Three weeks before the millennial anniversary of the Antonii Ascension, star freighter captain Kaeso Aemelius, a blacklisted security agent from Roman rival world Libertus, is asked by his former commanders to help a high-ranking Roman official defect. Kaeso misses his lone wolf espionage days – and its freedom from responsibility for a crew – so he sees the mission as a way back into the spy business. Kaeso sells it to his crew of outcasts as a quick, lucrative contract…without explaining his plan to abandon them for his old job.

But Kaeso soon learns the defector’s terrifying secret, one that proves the last thousand years of history was built on a lie.

Can Kaeso protect his crew from Roman and Liberti forces, who would lay waste to entire worlds to stop them from revealing the civilization-shattering truth?


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The Prisoner and The Assassin
By Tom Nixon

In the future, America is divided. It’s been two decades since Washington D.C. was destroyed and the West Coast devastated by EMPs and The Federal Council rules the country. Only the Free Territories, carved out in the bloody aftermath of two revolts against the Council defy them.

When a shocking assassination threatens the uneasy peace, the Prime Minister of the Free Territories, Chelsea Andrews is faced with a choice: fight to save the peace or take a chance to make America free once more. As both sides race to prevent a war that no one wants, a shadowy enemy from her past waits for his chance at revenge and the secret he holds could be the most powerful one of all:

Who is Prisoner 112?

The answer to that question may decide the fate of America, once and for all…


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Demi God
By Zoey Ivers

In a world where prayers are often answered, and saints talk to the Gods . . .
The First Gods created the Universe. And their time done, returned their Fire to their creation.

The Ancient Gods crafted the World, and the People. And their time done, gave their Fire to their creations.

Then Men became so great souled they became gods themselves upon the death of their final mortal bodies.

The Elder Siblings have long ruled the Continents, attending to Dynasties, Nations, and Wars.

The Younger Siblings are not yet so strong, and content themselves with matter of local importance. Hearth and Hone, Trade and Piracy. Death and Birth. Storms and Tides.

But men continue to act like men. Power accumulates, attracts and nurtures both good and bad stewards.

This is a time of the bad stewards. A time when the Church has ceased to serve god and congregants, and insists that the congregants serve the Church. A time when the saints are constrained in what they ask the Gods to do. A time when the son of a saint and a god is well advised to keep himself away from the gaze of the powerful.

This is a time when the gods themselves have become corrupted.

This is a time when a demi god can save the world—if he manages to first save himself.

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I Love that J. K. Rowling Wants to Break Up Ron and Hermione

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Harry Potter fans were outraged this weekend to learn that author J. K. Rowling regrets pairing up Harry’s buddies Ron and Hermione. She told readers that she stuck with the pairing because it was part of the plan all along, but looking back at how the characters evolved, she realized that Ron and Hermoine might not be the best for each other’s long-term happiness.

I love this news.

For an author, having two characters end up in a mismatched or potentially unhappy romance shouldn’t have to be a cause for regret. After all, fiction would be very dull if every character made the right choices and loved the right people. In fact, many authors gleefully torture their characters for their bad decisions, or just for plain fun (I’m looking at you, George R. R. Martin). Making bad things happen to your characters is necessary to advance an interesting story, no matter how painful writing those things might be for the author. And they can make for a deliciously addictive tale (I’m still looking at you, George R. R. Martin).

But I like how, despite that, J. K. Rowling still wants the best for her characters. She admitted that Ron probably wouldn’t be able to make Hermione happy. I don’t think that’s the credibility issue she says it is (people wind up in mismatched, unhappy pairings all the time in real life) but I do think it’s refreshing that she seems to care about whether her characters will wind up happy.

It reminds me of Stranger Than Fiction, the movie in which an author’s fictional creation fights to defend himself from the author’s plans to kill him at the end of her novel. More recently, Cabin in the Woods seemed to be Joss Whedon telling horror-movie creators, “How would you feel if the horrible things you did to your characters happened to you?” Both movies imply, at least a little, that some creators are getting tired of stories that treat characters like props to make The Author’s Big Point, or objects that exist to titillate.

Why is this important? Because audiences do want to engage with characters as if they were real. And when creators dehumanize characters, that attitude gets carried away from the theater or reading chair, and contributes to the dehumanization of people in real life. The more callous we become about the unhappiness inflicted on characters, the more callous we become about real people’s unhappiness.

Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for caring so much about your characters, even when it lets down a few fans. Treating characters like real people can introduce some much-needed positivity into a pretty nihilistic arts landscape.

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Girl Genius Vs. Tor

Friday, January 31st, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Coming at you from the 21st century is... Book Plug Friday!

Coming at you from the 21st century is… Book Plug Friday!

Hello all you  writers and readers out there.  This is Sarah A. Hoyt, coming at you from the bright, beautiful, shiny 21st century, where writers have all sorts of options for self-publishing and self marketing — where writers, in fact, often have to do their own marketing — and where, nonetheless, the traditional publishing houses still behave as though you had no other options and no other outlets.

Take, for instance the case of Phil Foglio, who wrote about his plight yesterday:

So after a year of this (yes, an entire year. We are Slow to Take Offense, here at Studio Foglio), I write to Mr. Hayden, asking him if our editor is dead, or just fired? This question surprises him, as he saw her in the office that morning. He seems sympathetic. We even have a face-to-face meeting at worldcon the next week where he explains that TOR just really doesn’t know how to sell graphic novels, and when someone takes on a job they don’t know how to do, they tend to just stick their fingers in their ears and hope that eventually, it goes away. Fair enough, I am occasionally like this with The Experiments.

I mention that we’ve been selling graphic novels fairly well for quite awhile, and that we’d cheerfully give them pointers. However, if they just can’t wrap their heads around it, which seems obvious since after three years they have yet to sell through the initial print run (We’d have done it in 16 months- and that’s with no advertising, which is a fair comparison, as they did no advertising either), then we’ll just sing a chorus of “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You”, and then we’ll publish them ourselves, because if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s publish and sell Girl Genius graphic novels.

But we can’t. Because our contract with TOR says we can’t publish “a competing product” for five years. Okay, what can we do about this? But now, Mr. Patrick Nielsen Hayden has apparently decided that we’re too much trouble.

Silence.

Read the whole thing.

As a writer who worked for years in traditional publishing with houses-other-than-Baen (Baen tends to be way more responsive, though sometimes overwhelmed) I can tell you this is about bog-standard treatment.  I will never forget for instance, three years after the issue of one of my trilogies, getting a phone call form my agent saying she had been on the phone with the editor who had just realized my series was steam punk and they’d marketed it all wrong. So… what did they do about it?  Nothing, that was the beginning and the end of that conversation.

Then there was the hot and cold running editor, who sometimes was my best friend and sometimes ignored me for weeks on end. I don’t know if this is sheer ineptitude, or just a way to keep writers off their stride or… yes. Just because it stems from ineptitude, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t serve the function of reminding the writer they’re at the mercy of the house.

And speaking of ineptitude… My friend Amanda Green (who also writes as Ellie Ferguson) is on the case covering Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s response to the whole mess:

According to Mr. Hayden, there are a bunch of senior editors but no editor-in-chief that they report to. They only report to the publisher. Yeah, right. I’m sure the publisher has time to know what’s going on with each editor and writer for the house. There’s an old saying about a chicken with its head cut off. Perhaps that is what’s happening at Tor. It certainly looks like it to me.

In fact, most of my experience in traditional publishing (except for Baen) has been that no one is at the controls, and things just sort of drift. Any other business would crash this way. Oh, wait. Traditional publishing is crashing too, even if in slow-mo.

So, let’s hear it for writers who take responsibility for their own business and mind their own store.  Yes they did build that!  Now see if by any chance you wanna buy what they have to sell!


Please pass word to all your writer friends that we accept submissions for Book Plug Friday at book.plug.friday@gmail.com. Submissions should include the TITLE, AUTHOR’S NAME as written on the cover, a short BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK.

And spell-check the blurbs, would’ja?


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Bitter Tales
By William Saunders

Short stories in which the fantastic encroaches on the everyday and everyday returns the compliment by encroaching on the fantastic.

A Review: “The sentences have a certain poetry to them and they read like silk. The descriptors that he uses fit the picture in my head so perfectly. His style of writing combined with his ability to describe pictures allows me to read this story so smoothly that I can see a movie instead of the words. ”


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Empire and Earth (Rediscovery Book 3)
By Dan Melson

Earth needed help – and nobody else was going to step up Graciela Juarez has gone from a late-twenties college student to Second Order Guardian and one of the Empire’s better pilots. But events on Earth are building to a climax, and the Empire is determined to let Earth sort things out for itself – or not. It really doesn’t matter to them. But it matters to Grace. By whatever means necessary, she will save Earth from the demons – and from its own insanity.


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Ill Met By Moonlight (Magical Shakespeare)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

Young Will Shakespeare is a humble school master who arrives home to find his wife and infant daughter, Susannah are missing, kidnapped by the fairies of Arden Woods, the children of Titania and Oberon. His attempts at rescue are interrupted and complicated by a feud over throne of fairyland, between Sylvanus, king regnant, and his younger brother Quicksilver who is both more and less than he seems. Amid treachery, murder, duel and seduction, Shakespeare discovers the enchantment of fairyland, which will always remain with him, for good and ill. (This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2001)

“Filled with quotations and references to the Works of Shakespeare, this debut novel will interest the playwright’s fans of any age” VOYA

“Sarah Hoyt has taken tremendous chances:She has told a tale of how Shakespeare became Shakespeare, weaving the language of the plays deftly through the narrative. Reading the book feels like discovering the origins of the quotes we know so well, rather than something derivative.” San Jose Mercury News.

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Angling For Readers

Friday, January 24th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Readers are wary fish.  You must take them by surprise and hook them before they know what hit them.

Readers are wary fish. You must take them by surprise and hook them before they know what hit them.

So, last week I  [This is Sarah] was on the internet, minding my own business, when someone posted an chapter of a book about burials in London.

Last thing I could possibly be interested in, right?

Except that it was fascinating. Having grown up in a place that has been populated and arguably civilized (for a meaning of civilized that restricts itself to some form of writing, and some form of social organization) since before the Punic wars, I’m familiar with the idea that what the great cities of the world are actually built on is… more of themselves, including their former inhabitants. But even so I hadn’t thought of things like the London subway having to detour around forgotten plague pits where the bones were packed so tight as to become impenetrable.

The flesh is weak and I ordered the book, Catharine Arnold’s Necropolis. As often happens (and this is inexplicable) the book was something I needed to read before I started the next book – Darkship Revenge – though no, it has nothing to do with funerals. It’s also a very good book in its own right, at least if you have the type of stainless steel lint trap of a mind that enjoys reading odd details of how such eternal things as burials were done in the past.

And the way in which I purchased it might be the only infallible way of attracting readers on the internet: if you give away a bit, and they like it, they will come.

It’s quite possible that nothing offends my sensibilities as much as a good writer giving away his work. It makes people think all of us should work for free.

On the other hand, like the bait hiding the hook, sometimes to give away a little only sells a whole lot more. After all, Jim Baen found that when a book went in the Baen electronic free library, it would only sell more copies in paper. And I have found that having a short story free on Amazon bolsters all my sales for weeks.

Sometimes we need to remember to be like pushers – the first hit is free.

This is something that traditional publishing – other than Baen – struggles to understand, and often it seems – witness the whole price fixing thing – that they don’t even particularly get “Loss leaders.”  But we who are indie and have to make it on our own would better understand both concepts.

After all, no one is going to market us if we don’t.  To be fair, that’s also true for traditional writers, most of the time.

And don’t forget, this week, that just about all the books we link here have a preview function, and the ability to download it.

Give yourself a chance to be hooked!

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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.

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Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories
By Jeffery W. Turner

Young adults are not the only ones that fall in love and get married. People in their middle age do that too. This book is the story of one such couple as told by the “notes” written by the husband to his wife. These notes are not just love notes but also tell the tale of how life tests people and how its events sometimes feel overwhelming. They also show how couples do get through difficult times and proceed on through their lives, not knowing to what destination many times. If you sometimes wonder if you are the only one over 40 with a difficult adult child, a conflict at work, or something else trying your patience, you are not alone. You will also know that life is also good, and sometimes filled with hope and love. Even for a brief time. These tales of life’s events and stories that we all share are contained in these pages, these “notes to Stephanie”.


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Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered
By Jeffery W. Turner

Continuing the stories told in Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories author Jeffery W. Turner tells us about days he remembers with Stephanie. Days that were good, frustrating, funny, or simply important in their lives. The days cover things like how Hurricane Ike effected them, places they drove to on Sunday afternoons, family gatherings at Christmas, their church, and many other things that all of us can identify with in our own lives. Regardless of what happened on each of these days remembered, they are days that one can treasure and enjoy reading about.


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A Guardian From Earth (Rediscovery book 2)
By Dan Melson

Graciela Juarez has become the first operant on Earth. Her mentor taught her the basic building blocks of her new abilities, but the Empire has had billions of operants for a hundred thousand years. They can teach her more in a few months than she will learn in years – abilities she can use to help Earth through a coming crisis. She undertakes a journey of self discovery and learning, and begins the hard work of secretly readying Earth for the coming crisis.

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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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