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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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Writing: We’ll Be Rich Beyond The Dreams of Average!

Friday, January 17th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

shutterstock_126154709
Hi.  This is Sarah Hoyt, and I’m a writer.  This, as we all know, means I live in my mansion, attended hand and foot by my devoted staff.  On Wednesday nights, I have poker night with Stephen King. When not doing that, or you know, having my manicure done and my ankles polished, or whatever, I write 200 words a day.  Well, I call it writing.  Really, I just dictate to one of my ten secretaries, between splashes in the pool.

Those of you who know me and have visited can stop choking with laughter now.

What is depicted above is the Hollywood idea of a writer.  No, not a bestseller, but a writer.  Any writer.  (And we’ll mention bestsellers later.)

I remember going with a friend to watch the movie Sliding Doors. My friend was also at the time my best writing buddy (Rebecca Lickiss) and our first novels had just come out within months of each other. As we sat there, the scene where the main character tells her unpublished boyfriend “I know this is only until you sell your novel, and then we’ll be rich!” and I laughed so hard I almost died.  Rebecca was also laughing, so it took us a while to realize that no one else in the theater had even chuckled.  You could hear them thinking in the silence “Well, it is true, right?  Why are the crazy chicks laughing?”

Years later, a friend who was having issues selling had to get a minimum wage job to keep her family in roof and three meals a day.  This was going well until the boss found she had three books published – at which point he called her into his office and asked her if she had got that job for research because, well, she had three (mass market paperbacks) out, so she was a millionaire, right?

shutterstock_97240766

Lately there’s been an awful lot of talk about how much you make as a writer, and I was shocked to find I compare well to the President of SFWA, but even so, I’m making about what a top administrative secretary commands in my area, or perhaps a smidgen more than what an untenured assistant professor at a college would make, teaching a liberal arts course.  Since one or the other are my options for employment and I can write in the warm and commute nine feet from bed to office, I’m willing to trade that for having weekends off.  (Well, yes, I used to speak seven languages, and I could get them back easily, but since English is the lingua franca of the world, translation jobs aren’t as plentiful as you’d think.  Yes, back when I freelanced as a translator I did quite well in technical, scientific and financial translation, but, like writing, it’s a field in which you advance by reputation and recommendation, and I’ve been out of it for 22 years now.)

Part of this is the way that traditional publishing pays, where you can get nominally huge advances but it only pays over years.  (My husband’s first blog post was about this, and it might be worth reading.) Indie opens a pathway to make more money faster, but it’s exponentially more upfront work. In the last year, I saw my income explode from indie, as I put more of my trunk novels up.

Writers often fan themselves with money -- when they're tired of swimming in the stuff. At least writers in movies do.  In real life, not so much!

Writers often fan themselves with money — when they’re tired of swimming in the stuff. At least writers in movies do. In real life, not so much!

BUT I’m very slow at doing that, because I’m trying to fit an indie career around my commitments with Baen. Beyond my debt of gratitude to Baen for bailing me out of a couple of rough spots and for giving me a shot when my career was dead way back when, I also like both forms of writing.  So, indie goes slow and right now accounts for about a tenth of my income, though that should grow this year.

Still, give some consideration to the books below. Maybe you can help some indie writer’s income grow.

Though I very much doubt that it will grow to the point of fictional writers’ money.


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Nocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives)
By Amanda S Green

Lt. Mackenzie Santos swears she will never take another vacation again as long as she lives. The moment she returns home, two federal agents are there to take her into custody. Then she finds out her partner, Sgt. Patricia Collins, as well as several others are missing. Several of the missing have connections to law enforcement. All are connected to Mac through one important and very secret fact — they are all shapechangers. Has someone finally discovered that the myths and bad Hollywood movies are actually based on fact or is there something else, something more insidious at work?

Mac finds herself in a race against time not only to save her partner and the others but to discover who was behind their disappearances. As she does, she finds herself dealing with Internal Affairs, dirty cops, the Feds and a possible conspiracy within the shapeshifter community that could not only bring their existence to light but cause a civil war between shifters.


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The Stars Came Back
By Rolf Nelson

Short blurb: How do you stop a bar fight with… earplugs? You’ll find out in this space-western sci-fi in the Firefly vein. Part military fiction, part mystery, part space-opera, part action-adventure, with everything from Greek and Latin to Talk Like a Pirate day, from swords-and-sandals combat to space-ship combat strategies, from contemplating philosophy, duty, and faith to the simple reality of earning a living and making ends meet as an independent contractor while dealing with corrupt officials and mercenaries. How DO you earn a living when the most important things aboard could get you nuked on sight if anyone knew… especially if you don’t know about them yourself?


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Notes To My Kids: Little Stories About My Grown Up Kids
By Jeffery W. Turner

Jeffery W. Turner turns his attention now to his two children. This book is filled with stories about their childhood lives and experiences. The notes cover things that involve all children: their birth, when they were sick, how they started walking, times with their grandparents, special holiday times, the houses that were home, beloved pets lost, and leaving the nest. If you are a parent with grown up children you will identify with these tales. They tell the story of the lives of two children as seen through the eyes of their father as they grew up. And paint a picture we have lived as parents, one our own children will see when they too have kids one day.


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Forgiving Michael
By Walt Pimbley

“Mikey, what trouble he’s been!” thought Grandma Liu. “Why do we wish for smart children? Mikey’s so smart, he melted the basement and made us all run. Not on purpose, he’s a kindhearted boy. Except when he’s sending dirty pictures to his friends on the Internet and getting my children killed!”

A school project gone wrong. The secret to a doomsday weapon in a teen’s head. Michael’s wanted alive in Moscow, Peking, Tehran. Wanted dead by Tel Aviv! Even Washington’s grown a little peevish with this All-American boy. With sinister spies and comely assassins on the prowl, can Mike’s Christian family find a way to safety?


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Tour of Duty: Stories and Provocations
By Michael Z. Williamson

It’s a tough universe out there. A hard-hitting collection of the best fiction of Michael Z. Williamson, creator of the popular Freehold military SF saga, along with a helping of truth-telling nonfiction by a guy who has been there and done that, both at home and abroad.

Duty in the face of danger on a planetary scale. Pride and competence in the face of idiotic clients who hate that that they need your services, and an enemy who wants to make your bad day even worse. These are stories of the warriors and civilians who get things done in extreme situations, whether it’s rescue from a ship broken in space and leaking air and radiation, hard choices by a brigade of mercenary swords in a world of blood and magic, or scramble and response by troops in the Sandbox doing what it takes to make it through another scorching, rocket-filled day.


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Little Red-Hood and the Wolf-Man
By Cedar Sanderson

A short story retelling the classic tale, where little Red Riding Hood carries a shotgun and the Wolf may not be all bad. It is Grandmother, or as she is known in her native Russian, Babushka, who has the biggest secret of them all…


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Take The Star Road
By Peter Grant

Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to get his feet on the star road to find a better homeworld. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship, leaving the corruption and crime of Earth behind. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his head down and the decks clean?

He never counted on the interstellar trade routes having their own problems, from local wars to plagues of pirates – and the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead…


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Being Me (BBW Romance)
By Mac Flynn

Mitsy Collins can handle herself with wit, but not with her weight. She’s content in her world of skinny coworkers and fulfilling the needs of her cat, Mr. Perkins, but that all changes when her office floor gets a new boss, Steven Dunner. The rumors of his physique don’t lie and the whole floor is in combat mode to win his attention with his heart as the consolation prize.

Mitsy keeps out of the war, but becomes a casualty when Dunner ignores the bloodshed and takes aim at her. Is his intentions pure? Can Dunner really want her? Will Mr. Perkins be jealous?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do I think is driving this creep?

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How To Write A Proposal

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

You want to write a novel? For me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Plug Friday: Creativity and Creation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives)
By Amanda S. Green 

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

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

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

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


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ConVent (The Vampire Con Series)
By Kate Paulk 

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

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


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The Empathy Effect
By Bob Lock 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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Lights in the Deep
By Brad R. Torgersen 

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

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

Introductions by Stanley Schmidt, Mike Resnick and Allan Cole.


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Bolg, PI: The Vampire Bride
By Dave Freer 

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

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

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

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Book Review: The Forest of Assassins by David Forsmark and Timothy Imholt

Monday, January 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

The Forest Of Assassins

I have a confession to make: I know far too little about the Vietnam War. My dad served in the Air Force in Libya in the mid 60s, so I don’t have any firsthand accounts of what life was like during the war, and I’m aware of enough to know that most of the films and TV specials I’ve seen were produced from a certain point of view. So, when I received the opportunity to review the new novel The Forest of Assassins by my PJM colleague David Forsmark and Dr. Timothy Imholt, I jumped at the chance to learn something new while enjoying a different kind of literary experience.

The year is 1964. The war in Vietnam is in its infancy, and the top secret Navy SEAL program is new enough that hardly anyone serving there has heard of it. Lieutenant Hank Dillon commands a unit of the elite SEALs in a dangerous area known as the “Forest of Assassins.” Dillon and his men trust each other with their lives, and Dillon believes he knows who else he can trust. We follow Dillon and his team from mission to mission, each one with increasing complexity and precision and greater danger. Dillon leads his men admirably and heroically, but inwardly he expresses his fear for their safety and his worry about the future of the Vietnamese people for whom they are fighting.

I know it sounds like a cliche, but as I read The Forest of Assassins, I felt like I was right there in the jungles of Southeast Asia with Dillon and his men. The violence and bloodshed are vivid and memorable, yet rarely gruesome. The authors’ attention to detail adds so much to the story, and their depiction of life in country kept the plot from feeling like battle after battle after battle.

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Making the Most of What You Have

Saturday, December 28th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling your writing in 13 weeks, week 12

You can't have everything you want.  Learn to make the most of what you have.

You can’t have everything you want. Learn to make the most of what you have.

My grandmother was a great one for making the most of what you had.  Things got mended and sewn, and made to serve another turn.  In another sense, too, she was one for making the most of what you have.  One of her sayings was “when you lose heart, run on your gut.”

Recently on my blog, I got accused of being Irish for essentially saying the equivalent of “the food is terrible in this establishment, but I keep coming back because the portions are so large.”

The weird thing is that in the world of indie publishing these are good things.

I recently took a marketing class with WGM publishing.  Did it tell me much that I didn’t know?  No.  But sometimes it’s important to get a confirmation of what you know to be true through someone else’s eyes.

We’ll return to this again because there is another point there – that the field is shifting so fast that sometimes you see things changing and you can’t be sure if it’s changing just for you or for everyone else.  And you can’t tell if it’s a trend or a bleep like the ridiculously low sales figures over summer.

So you take classes, or you get together with friends to talk how sales are going, or you throw out an SOS on indie publisher boards – to see how it’s going and what’s worked for other people.

The main thing I learned is that the old ways don’t seem to work.  I was talking to a friend about this and I pointed out that from what I’ve seen, unless you have the kind of money that can blanket the airwaves and tv stations with advertisements; unless you can put an ad up on Time Square, unless you can give your book the send off party to end all send off parties… don’t bother.

It used to be that you could give your book a relatively solid send off by having parties at a few of the larger conventions, or by going to BEA and charming the book sellers.  You still can, to an extent, if you have a publisher behind you, pushing all the way.  (Though I’m not sure how effective that is – and neither is anyone else, because the metrics are slippery.)

To an extent publicity has always bedeviled authors.  Readers approach reading as a personal relationship to the author, and it’s very hard to create those with any sort of one-size-fits-all campaign.

Some people I knew back in the nineties hired publicists.  I tried to hire one.  But even the expensive ones didn’t seem to have any clue how to promote my books.  I remember one in particular who, three years after the Shakespeare Series crashed and burned and just before the last of them was taken off print designed this entire proposed marketing campaign based on… my writing about Shakespeare for Academic journals to promote these books.  Forget that writing for academic journals was a career in itself, and one I didn’t want, I couldn’t seem to get these people to understand the books were out of print, a death more final than that of any mortal body.

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Book Plug Friday: Everything Changes – The Center Cannot Hold

Friday, December 27th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
A sunset is just a sunrise looked at from the wrong location.  Sometimes you have to change your writing career location.

A sunset is just a sunrise looked at from the wrong location. Sometimes you have to change your writing career location.

[This is Sarah speaking]  Yeats said when the center could not hold mere anarchy was loosed upon the world.

He was right and wrong.  Sometimes the apocalypse is just the beginning looked at upside down.

So – when I first got into this writing thing, I was told, hold on fast, everything changes. But I don’t think any of my colleagues knew what change was.  Certainly I didn’t.

Yes, yes, the writing field was a permanently moving whirligig, with everything changing constantly, but squint a little and you’d see it was actually a fairly predictable merry go round.  Just like in a good merry go round, you’d have the impression of constant change, but it was only the same scenery viewing now from up, now from down: publishers came up; publishers failed. Light and shadows played differently depending to where you, personally, were in your career.  And things might change depending on new stores opening or consolidating.

Mind you, throughout all this real change was taking place. The publisher consolidation of the eighties, which left us with only six big houses which gave discounts to the big chains (because they were easier to deal with) led to the indie bookstore die-off of the early nineties and actually made possible the push model of the late nineties and early oughts, where the houses dictated what appeared on the shelves and what the consumer might want or not meant nothing.

But from the perspective of the writer-on-the-ground nothing much had changed since the seventies, not even the advances.  You wrote the book the same way (okay, you used a computer, but you still printed it in more or less the same format your mom would have done, if your mom were a writer), you submitted the same way, things moved in mysterious ways, you got accepted or rejected, and it sold or not, which dictated how your career went on or didn’t.

Writers that had broken in as many as twenty years before me were still reliable sources of advice on which conventions to attend, which editors to schmooze, and how to improve your standing…

And then came the indie revolution. Just like with learning punctuation, I sort of missed it.  I stayed home that day from school – for the punctuation I mean – yes, every day for every one of the seven languages I learned.  Deal.  It’s a curse.

For indie, I was busy writing novels, which is like staying home from school but with less Ovaltine and more swearing and typing.  So it took me a long long time to figure out something was different, and I might not have realized something was wrong, if I hadn’t needed to part with my agent and therefore contacted Kristine Kathryn Rusch and she told me what had been going on while I was furiously typing.

However, this was three (four?) years ago, and even with my level of novel-blindness, I think by now I’d have noticed something was different.

Here are the signs that something has fundamentally shifted in the writing profession. 2013 was the year that:

  • I know more people who self-publish and are making a living wage (or close to it) than I know people who traditionally publish and are making a living wage.
  • the standards expected of indie writers as to covers, etc. fully matches that expected of traditional publishing.
  • People who were previously traditionally published talk openly about publishing their old works.
  • Most of my professionally published friends are also indie publishing.
  • It used to be when professional writers got together we talked taxes.  Now we talk indie publishing, equipment, covers AND whatever the heck is the then current glitch with Amazon/Kobo/Barnes and Noble/Smashwords.  Then we talk how to get around it.
  • Writers are becoming more gregarious – this is slow.  The traditional model put us all in competition with each other for a half dozen slots. The indie model rewards vast, freely cooperative networks who voluntarily exchange information and expertise. As slow as the change is, 2013 was when I noticed that a lot of my colleagues were being a lot more friendly and a lot less concerned about what the big houses would think of their friendships/circle.
  • Fans acted like it was odd that I didn’t have a selling table for my indie works at a con.  They literally don’t know how to find you/what to do, if you don’t have a selling table as an author.

This is upside down from a few years ago, when people with tables were rank newbies.

The poet was wrong, when he talked about how “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  Yes, everything is changing.  Yes, a lot of it is unpredictable.  But there is nothing “mere” about this anarchy.  It is, on the contrary, glorious!

[Charlie here:] A bigger crop this week, with one special deal: Michael Joseph’s books A New Dawn Rising and Death In July are available for free from today, 27th December, until 31st December.

Authors: in general, the deadline for book plugs is Tuesday of the PRECEDING week. Last week and this week were light, and I happened to notice this one had a promotion going, but don’t bet on this working every time.


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Elizabeth of Starland
By Alma T.C. Boykin 

Elizabeth von Sarmas – a woman almost as impossible as her white mule.

King Laurence V of Frankonia intends to consign his problem to a convent. But Elizabeth has a different calling, despite her minders’ best efforts. Determined to put her talents to use, she and Snowy the Mule flee to the Eastern Empire. All she has to do is survive crossing half the continent, persuade someone to believe in her, navigate the imperial court, and outwit holy warriors who kill any woman they capture.

But Elizabeth comes from tough and sturdy stock. The planetary colonization company that abandoned ColPlat XI assumed everyone had died. Four hundred years later, King Laurence assumes that a gently reared young woman will obey. They are both in for a surprise.

The first novel in the four book series, The Chronicles of Colplatschki.


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Tri-Time
By Hailey Monacko 

Tri-Time is a sci-fi adventure with elements of suspense. Atliy, short for Atlanta, is a; highly intelligent, wise, and quick-thinking eleven yr old girl. Atliy befriends Augey who is; comedic, loyal, and a bit cowardly. Towards the beginning of the book, weird weather occurrences begin to happen. Thresholds start appearing all over the earth and weird-looking shades of lighting cover the sky. Atliy and Augey set out to figure out what is happening. Soon enough they are greeted by a strange, quirky girl named Zinky, who seems to know more about the situation than she is letting on. It becomes increasingly evident that the cosmos could be in immense danger. Atliy, Augey, and Zinky are thrown into an adventure where they must save the cosmos from what Atliy determines is a Tri-Time. A Tri-Time is when three times begin elapsing over themselves. Will these brave girls save the cosmos? Or will all life get sucked up into a super black hole, dense beyond imagination?


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The Awesome Adventures of Pickle Boy
By Jack Bee 

The Adventure Begins! A mysterious Uncle relates to his young nephew the amazing tale of Danny Green. Danny is an otherwise ordinary eleven year old boy from Brooklyn who discovers a long-lost secret formula that grants him incredible superhuman abilities. To Danny, this is the most awesome thing that has ever happened to anybody. But this ultimate dream-come-true begins to turn into a nightmare, as Danny must contend with well-connected class bullies, hostile media, and the sinister organization that is attempting to seize the formula for its own nefarious purposes. All this, while keeping his identity safe from his annoying and nosy little sister! Will Danny have what it takes to overcome these challenges, as well as a terrorist threat that threatens to flatten Manhattan? Or will the forces arrayed against him prove too much for his inexperience to overcome?


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Armageddon Girl
By C.J. Carella 

An engaging protagonist, interesting characters, lots of conspiracies and super-powered people with all the foibles and character flaws of non-super-powered people. The book is a page-turner, which is good because it’s almost 500 pages long! Be prepared to sacrifice at least one day to it. You won’t regret it!


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The Erl King’s Children
By Jordan Leah Hunter 

Lyllith, the last of the royal line of Érainn, has become the prisoner of Riv Orrsa, the ruthless man who conquered her kingdom and murdered her father. The choice she faces—becoming Riv Orrsa’s wife or death—is no choice at all.

But when a strange young boy appears in her barren cell one night, Lyllith is offered a chance at the only thing still worth living for: revenge. Accepting that chance plunges her into the middle of a contest thousands of years in the making, for the young boy is not what he seems, her new freedom is illusory, and she is the unwitting heir to an ancient legacy will the power to destroy the World.


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Eyes of Osiris (Architects of Lore Series)
By Anita C. Young 

Just when Dr. Kayara Ingham thinks she has finally escaped her dark past, a mysterious figure who calls himself an Architect of Lore enters her life. The renowned immunologist’s ordered world is thrown into chaos as she finds out not only are the things that go bump in the night real, but they want her. Kayara must learn to cope with this new reality while hoping her darkest secret does not come to light: she dreams of the future.


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An Unproven Concept (The Vergassy Chronicles)
By James Young 

Since its inception, the Confederation Fleet has been divided between the Line and Carrier factions. In the year 3050, the battlecruiser Constitution has been designed to merge the best of both worlds. With an experienced captain but untested crew, the vessel is unexpectedly called upon to save the passenger liner Titanic from a new and pressing threat.

An Unproven Concept is based upon the short story “On Their Behalf,” a quarterfinalist (3 / 2004) in the “L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future” Science Fiction Contest.”


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A New Dawn Rising
By Michael Joseph 

Haunted by the loss of his wife and young daughter, reclusive ex-cop Sam Carlisle is offered a job working for wealthy businessman Carl Renshaw. An opportunity to move on and make a fresh start. But when Carl is murdered, the police suspect Sam is responsible, forcing him to hunt down the real killer himself.

Only someone doesn’t want Sam Carlisle finding out the truth…


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Death In July
By Michael Joseph 

Blurb: When retired war veteran Geoffrey Compton is found dead in his home, all the evidence points to suicide. However, his son Benjamin suspects there was more to the death and hires maverick ex-cop Sam Carlisle to investigate. Sam discovers a number of Geoffrey’s old acquaintances have also passed away recently in suspicious circumstances, leading him to believe somebody is exacting revenge on these people, snuffing out their lives in the most calculating manner. To prevent more fatalities, Sam must trawl the past and find the cause of this twisted retribution, putting himself on collision course with the elusive figure responsible.


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Periphery
By Alexx Bollen 

There is an old Victorian house posing as an office in “The Burned-Over District.” In that office, a giant, a waif, and a child wait for someone who can be shown the true nature of the world.

John is a man with a talent to see what is not there, or, at least, what was not there until that fateful day when a want-ad caught his eye and sent him into the depths of the woods… into the periphery.

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Know When to Hold It

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
You're in it for the long haul.  Time your game.

You’re in it for the long haul. Time your game.

Selling Your Writing In 13 Weeks, Week 11

I’m not recommending any of you give up on indie publishing because you think you hold a bad hand.  This is more a matter of “you’ve got to learn to pace it.”

Look, when I was young, before I got married, I used to run. I was about to say I used to run marathons, but I only ran a few formal ones. Mostly what I did was go for a good run to shake out the stress (as I was going to college, tutoring, writing, and had an active social life, there was a time interning in a newspaper and… well… things got stressful.  Oh, yeah, also I was politically involved.)  But I ran long distances.  I sucked as a sprinter, but I was really good long distance, even in competition, because I knew how to pace myself. I wasn’t that fast over any stretch of road, but I kept going and going and going so that as other people fell (panting) by the wayside, I would be one of the first if not the first across the finish line.

Writing indie is not a sprint – it’s a marathon.

One of my friends who is an indie writer and doing fairly well is accruing her own cluster of “starting out writers looking for advice.”  This is normal. This way of publishing is so new that each of us that goes a little way out of the starting gate will become a “guru” in no time.  It reminds me a lot of computer programing back in the eighties (my husband was a programmer at the time) or even of aviation in World War I or – further back – of “established settlers” in the West.

What all of these have in common is that they are fast-changing landscapes filled with adventure and peril (of a sort.  No.  Really.  No one is going to shoot you for publishing indie.  I hope.  But you can make a fool of yourself very easily.)

And in all of these the space between “newbie” and old man is incredibly short.  If you’ve been around the scene for even a little while, you become one of the “old, trusted ones.”

My friend Cedar Sanderson – two books out, a lot of mistakes made, a lot learned, and her second book selling shockingly well – found herself the guru of a small, starting out group.

Because I’ve been her mentor for about 11 years (during most of which she wasn’t writing, but dealing with life issues – but wanting to write eventually) she comes to me when she doesn’t know QUITE what to do.

One of the problems she brought me was one of her own fledglings, who is just starting out, and who – with a few short stories out – intends to make a living out of this in a couple of years.

She didn’t know how to explain to him that while this can happen, it’s not the most likely way for things to shake out.  (I didn’t either.  I mean, I can say things, but if people aren’t going to believe me…)

So, for those of you who are willing to believe me, before you get the idea that indie publishing (or any publishing) is the fast way to fame and fortune: writing is a business.  More importantly, writing is a craft and a profession.

We all know rich lawyers, rich doctors, rich artists, for that matter (well, I know a few who are very well off.)  However, no one sane has ever made a life plan that consists of the following: week one – graduate law school.  Week two – get a million dollar check.

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