Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Dave Freer’

Parasite load

“So nat’ralists observe, a flea

Has smaller fleas that on him prey;

And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em.”

Jonathan Swift, On Poetry: A Rhapsody

We’re all a cheerful heaving mass of parasites.  Parasites on parasites at times. A delightful thought, one of the joys of having a biologist write about writing…

Some of these parasites do no real harm – we can survive them, although we might do better without them. Some of course, do harm. They can maim, hobble, weaken and indeed kill. There are tales of cows being killed by mosquitos, by sheer blood-loss (not, thank heavens where I live). Other parasites stray a little… or even quite a lot into the area of commensualism, and right through to outright symbiosis.

It might, for example be said that the male anglerfish particularly in the deep-sea ceratiidae (the sea devils) is perfect example of parasitism that is essential to the survival… not of the host but the host’s products – well, offspring. Genes.

You see out in the deep blue desert – well, ocean, but it is de facto rather like a desert in that food is sparse and scattered (although there is plenty of water) – but it’s nutrient poor, deep and cold. The possibility of finding prey is small, and find sex when you need to breed, well, let’s put it this way, you’d have more luck finding a nudist colony in Riyadh. So the sea devil females have a way around this. They keep one… well I was going to handy, but it more like hanging around their butts.

Now, as I said food is scarce, and taking someone for dinner down there is well, usually digestive, for at least one. If you have ever seen an anglerfish you’d know they are like banks – a little dangly ‘bait’ on the end of the illicium – held just above a vast mouth full of evil teeth to make sure dinner doesn’t leave undigested. The males are more like politicians, they can somehow – despite having lousy noses or eyes or anything else except testes, find females in watery waste. Perhaps there is a sea-devil pub.

Once they find a female… they bite her. This may be just as well as she’s all too well equipped to bite them, and they’re small and feeble compared to her. Females need to be big to accommodate a lot of relatively large eggs – males do not.

And at this point things get really, really weird… as he bites and then releases an enzyme that digests the skin on his mouth, and her body, where he has bitten… and the ‘wound’ heals up with the male and female joined in sense humans can never experience. The male and female join at the tissue level, and share blood-vessels.

He gets what he needs to live directly from her bloodstream. The bits he no longer need atrophy. He’s there to be sperm when she needs it. Sometimes as many as eight males can be found like ticks that have actually grown into the host (and you see why biologists look at arts graduate sf writers blathering about ‘non-binary sex’ with amusement.).

I suppose too many would kill her, but it is a system that works, despite the fact that the parasitic males draw all their nourishment, and indeed oxygen from the host. Without them, the species would die. With them, individuals may.

It has parallels in our lives (and no I don’t just mean the waste of space who does little more than father children) and of course in the writing world.

Most of life involves ‘carrying’ a ‘freeloading parasite’ load which may do you (or at least humans in general) some good – or not. There’s a fine line between the benefits (if they exist) and the sheer cost of carrying this load. Governments (national and local) and bureaucrats with their slew of petty rules and associated costs and taxes are good example. Yes, they might protect you from being eaten, but they’ll make up for it by devouring much of your subsistence without doing much positive, most of the time. Still, rather like the male anglerfish, they’re supposed to be there when you need them.

In writing there is some difference of opinion as to who the degenerate freeloaders are. From the point of view of agents, traditional publishers, and at least some of retail, we are. We’re interchangeable widgets, sucking their blood and giving precious little in exchange. Without them, we are nothing, and while they need us as a group, as individuals we’re worthless, instantly exchangeable if we want too much of their precious lifeblood for doing the trivia we do. After all, any fool can write books. Look at Freer for example… It’s one point of view.

As with so much of writing, the point of view makes quite a difference, as I for one am reluctant to see myself as an exchangeable widget. However, while I may want and benefit some – or all – of the services that agents, Trad publishers, and retail provide (almost as an afterthought it seems at times) – I can do without them. Some writers can do very well without them, selling directly. You can certainly cut some of them, and benefit a lot from carrying less of a parasite load, and simply do what they do yourself, or contract it out for less. The agents, traditional publishers and retailers can do without me, but they cannot do without writers.

It then becomes – for the writer, anyway, an equation of can he survive and have his work thrive alone in the deep blue sea of making a living from writing, or does he need all, or some of the ‘parasites’ so they’re there at the right time, so his work does not fail to find readers. That equation varies from writer to writer. Honestly, I believe if you can, you’re wise to outsource proofing. Unless you’re a wiz at covers or the cost cannot be met, well, they’re your display. If you can afford – and if you can find a good structural editor, take this opportunity with both hands. They can turn a mediocre or even bad book into something great, just by finding where and how to tweak it. This is difficult, because most Trad publishing houses don’t have them either. Copy editors have value, but seriously, most of them are widgets. If you find one that isn’t, hang onto them. Marketing… well IF you can do it well, great, if you will probably do it better than any publisher’s employee, even though they have the contacts etc. You will work only for you. He or she will work for the publisher – who has lots of irons in the fire. Even outsourcing here is tricky – so much marketing these days is social media.

When it comes to retail – unless you have a social media platform par excellence and/or a mailing list, retail still are ‘have to have’. That’ll cost you. But some parasite load has to be carried.

It’s always good to know what you’re carrying, and to work out if it has value relative to the cost.

Otherwise ditch the sucker.

As the anglerfish didn’t say, ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea.’

And biology is very useful for designing implausible aliens.

Slog

I see in today’s paper that Australian research identifies me as a ‘slogger’ – a bloke who would like to work less but needs the money. And there I thought I was just a lazy beggar who would like to fish a bit more often.

The interesting part to their whole schpiel – which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, because I am not a pigeon and they have a desperate need to put everyone in pigeon-holes – was that it seemed to hinge aspiration and reward… and that it was plainly very, very viewpoint orientated.

According to them, I would be less well socially connected, and less adept at it than any other group. Now I’m no Kim Kardashian (just in case you failed to notice the beard) and I’m a failure at twittering my every moment and movement (including bowel, or, after alphabet soup, vowel). But I have if anything too good an actual social life and chat to too many people the book-of-faces.

I’m a writer, I like to watch, to listen, to study people, to think about what they say, and why they say it. This means I can better grasp what a character – who is vastly different to me in every imaginable way, and possibly some I would rather not imagine – would plausibly react in the bloody awful mess I put them in my books. I am kind like that. I mean, here I am playing god, I could at least have them win the Lotto, meet Mr or Miss Right, and live happily ever after with a large library and enough Chateau Lar Feet (as this is Dave Freer writing, not something common like Chateau Lafite) and Magret de Canard with a black cherry reduction, to at least die happy. Nooo, instead I put them in awful positions (some not even in Kama Sutra) facing certain death, usually sober and before dinner. Yes, I am a miserable bastard. Being one is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Of course, tough jobs are supposed to pay well (which would put me on the wrong side of the pigeon-hole margin). Sadly, no one else seems to think it a tough job (one of these point-of-view things I alluded to). In terms of aspiration, however, I’ve never come across an author who didn’t aspire to being rich and successful. I’ve met an awful lot who aspire to be Castle on TV – rich famous and living the good life without all the tedium of actually writing. I’ve met others – and I’d put myself among them, who would do the job if they didn’t get to write, and fair number who could certainly have been richer than an author is likely to be, if they’d chosen a different path. Some of them even realized that before they went down the writer’s path.

Now, sloggers (according to pigeon-holers) work because they must, and don’t earn much, or ever hope to earn much. Yet… all novelists, for at least for a substantive part of their job are literally sloggers. Producing a book (let alone a career as an author) is a long-haul process. And part of any long haul process is sheer dogged determination – or plain old-fashioned slog (unless you are Castle, and that only happens on TV.) Even if somehow you do make every ounce of writing your twentieth novel a thing of joy (and yes, I manage to end up loving my books, even those I wished I had never agreed to write), there is still editing and proofs, and then inserting the proof corrections.

And even those of us who love the writing itself are faced with horrible parts of it. For me the most difficult is writing the ‘links’ between the scenes which I have to make sure maintain continuity – usually complex – and yet must be short, clean… and the reader is barely aware of. There is always a resentful part of my mind that says ‘I am working my butt off to make this slick, clear… and virtually invisible. You would only know it existed at all (if I have done it well) if it wasn’t there. Like the servant who actually did the cleaning in the society hostess’s home (and listens to her being praised for it), there is a degree of resentment that my hardest and, IMO some of my best work is something that is only good if no one knows I’ve done it.

The times of sheer dogged slogging is an unavoidable fact of life for 99.99998% of any author who makes a career out of it. You just can’t let it show in your writing, because your readers are paying you for tedious attention to detail in your work, not for tedium in their entertainment.

Like my laziness… it’s a question of perspective and perception. I’m not much good at just sit-and-do nothing. Hell for me would be sunbathing. I do work long hours, but I have slowed down from 5 hours sleep a night – which is when I wasn’t being lazy. I’ve actually got a rigid system of self-bribery and corruption worked into a structured calendar, word counts – which have timed ‘rewards’ of checking facebook, or working in the garden, or going fishing – yes, I really do book the hours, and even try to enforce some reading, research and even free time. I’m not very good at the latter, but there is a point where you’re either staring at the screen or writing crap you will delete. It is, compared to most office workers, terribly regimented and disciplined – and the boss watches every damn thing I do.

Of course to the reader who is waiting for the next book I’m also a useless, lazy scut who never gets around to it.

So: as usual this is all about writing and technique. And as usual I have been trying to do what I am informed is wicked colonial imperialism – showing not telling. If that’s wicked imperialism, bring it on, I reckon, because it works for readers. ‘Wicked’ is a point of view issue too. What I was trying to explain is a layer of complexity that many writers never quite grasp.

At the bottom end characters are WYSIYG (what you see is what you get) which is lovely when translating e-books, but a bit weak as a character. The character is as they are portrayed – both in how they see themselves, and, identically as they are seen by anyone else. IE. Joe is a hard-working, clever, kind man. That’s how Joe sees himself, and how other characters see Joe. That is also how the readers see Joe. And oddly, comments like ‘unrealistic/ dull/poor/one-dimensional characters’ will creep into the reviews. That may be true, but I have often found this really is an inability to express something the reader is aware of without grasping quite what causes the disconnect.

The disconnect is of course, that what the character perceives themselves as – from their own point of view – is never what others see them as. Many writers manage this reasonably well. Joe sees himself as a hard-working, clever, kind man. Mary (another character) sees him as lazy, dim-witted, and un-feeling.

This is real life. Listen to any dispute and you may think that the two principals are describing a separate set of events. Divorce cases, doubly so. And when you get down to poltics… Well, looking at it from Australia, ardent Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s supporters plainly live in widely separated alternate universes which branched off from each other just after there first was light.

Dispassionately, and from neither point of view… exists another real story entirely, with more or less elements from both and things which are in neither viewpoint. Just so with the story in the READER’S head. This is the stage which great authors get to. They understand that they’re working with each character’s perception of themselves, and the other (often multiple) character’s perception of themselves AND of the other characters. All of this adds up to the author carrying his or authorial perception of the character to the reader. Joe sees himself as a hard-working, clever, kind man. Mary sees him as lazy, dim-witted, and un-feeling. Mary sees herself as not popular, and unhappy about this, and far brighter than Joe. Joe sees Mary as happy, loving and understanding, and not too bright. Both of their actions and responses are shaped by own perceptions… and by reality (in this case, authorial reality) The clever author manages to carry through the ‘reality’ that Mary doesn’t care for Joe, but wants to be liked, and is manipulating his feelings. She’s not actually as bright as she thinks she is, or she would realize that her un-lovable-ness isn’t how Joe sees her. But she’s brighter than Joe think she is. Joe, on the hand is hard-working, none-too-bright, but is actually kind.

It’s a multi-dimensional maze, which the reader SHOULD be unaware of as they’re led through. It’s a slog, getting it right, because to do so you will have to enter (at least) three different head-spaces.

This is why head-hopping is a poor idea. It confuses most authors, and that in turn confuses most readers. That is why the discipline exists, not for its own sake.

Of course, it’s never that simple. The ‘authorial’ head-space will quite possibly be not quite the way the reader sees it. When I was writing JOY COMETH WITH THE MORNING I wrote the book from a single point of view (hers) but made it clear by the responses of the other characters to her, that her perspective was not theirs, and that they saw her quite differently – and of course, I as the author saw all of them quite differently.

What I should have been prepared for… but wasn’t, was the range of very different ways readers saw her.

It’s a complex web we weave.

But we set out to deceive.

That’s why it is called ‘fiction.’

Third Annual Indie Author Labor Day Sale

I’d like to thank Amie Gibbons for pulling this together. Between school and life, I’ve been too busy to think straight, let alone do the legwork. You should really check out her work – she writes fun, original urban fantasy/mythology that is as perky as she is. 

It’s that time of year again. The kiddies are back in school, vacations have been vacationed, the season of burned skin is over, and people are getting back into their usual routines.
And you know what that means.
The Third Annual Indie Author Labor Day Sale!
Whether you are eating pumpkin spice everything or counting the days until Halloween, as the nights cool, you’re going to want to check out the latest sales in Sci Fi, Fantasy and Mystery from your favorite indies.
Enjoy!

gods defenseThe Gods Defense  
By Amie Gibbons

Sale price: $0.99 from 9/3 to 9/6; $2.99 from 9/6 to 9/9.
Blurb: In a world where the gods and magic have returned, enforcing justice just got a lot more hazardous!
Cassandra Berry is a prosecutor with a problem; the Defendant in her latest case is claiming Dionysus made him do it, and if he wins, defendants across the country will be pulling this excuse in every case. In order to get the god to answer a subpoena, she asks Apollo for help.
But divine favors always come with strings attached…

witchfindercoverfinalWitchfinder 

By Sarah Hoyt

$2.99

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

sword and bloodcoverfinalSword and Blood

by Sarah Hoyt

$2.99

The France of the Musketeers has changed. Decades ago, someone opened a tomb in Eastern Europe, and from that tomb crawled an ancient horror, who in turn woke others of its kind.
Now Paris is beset by vampires, the countryside barren and abandoned. The Cardinal has become a vampire, the church is banned, the king too cowed to fight.
Until now, the three Musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis have stood as a bulwark against the encroaching evil, their swords defending the innocent and helpless.
But last night, in a blood mass, Athos was turned into a Vampire. And a young vampire orphan has just arrived from Gascony: Monsieur D’Artagnan.
Things are about to get… complicated.
This book was originally published under the pen name Sarah Marques.

Sword of Arelionsword of arelion
By Amanda S. Green
Sale price: $$2.99
Blurb: War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.
Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.
Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.
Dagger of Elanna, Book 2 of Sword of the Gods, coming October 2016.

Yep! This one's mine. It will be coming out later in the month, and you'll see it again as a link. But the cover for this is a fractal starfield and nebula, bought elements of the spaceship and station. I painted the engine flames, the green element under the title, and that was it... So clean and pretty. For my next project, I'll be working on creating my own spaceships so I'm not stuck buying and altering them.

Jade Star

by Cedar Sanderson

$2.99

Blurb: Jade is determined to die. She is old, and useless, when she points her tiny subspace craft at the cold stars. She wakes up in the care of others who refuse to grant her death, and instead give her a new mission in life.

Jade isn’t happy, and she only gets angrier when she learns that her mysterious new home hides a horrible secret. It’s time for this old lady to kick butt and take names. Aliens, death, destruction… nothing trumps the fierce old woman who is protecting her family.
Big BlueBig Blue 
by David L. Burkhead
Sale price: $2.99
Blurb: When an accidentally detonated nuke from a stolen submarine releases something never before seen, Sea Hawk pilot Lieutenant Steve Pomerantz is sent to investigate. He finds a blue-green monster ten times the size of the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex and seemingly impervious to every weapon in mankind’s arsenal.
Earthquakes in the South Pacific, at a location dubbed as the most remote spot on Earth, raise tsunamis all along the West Coast. Air Force Captain Jamal White, pilot of a C-130 Hercules is pulled off of search and rescue duties to ferry two scientists to investigate. What they find is a new continent arisen from the deep. And on that continent something stirs, bringing terror and madness in its wake.
Two monsters, one from the frozen North Atlantic, one from the remote South Pacific, on a collision course with the survival of mankind hanging in the balance.

Grey Man ChangesThe Grey Man- Changes
By JL Curtis
Sale price: $0.99 from 9/3 to 9/6; $2.99 from 9/6 to 9/9.
Blurb- When Texas Deputy Sheriff John Cronin thwarts the Cartel’s plan to get paid to smuggle Muslims across the border, he becomes the target of the Cartel once again. One try fails, but the cartel isn’t about to give up. With his granddaughter, Jesse, still recovering from her last run-in with the Cartel and now far away with her Marine husband on a military base, Cronin only has to worry about the innocents around him.
One way or another, this old school law man plans to end this cat and mouse game for good. But, this time, the Cartel is playing for keeps; ending this war might just cost the old man his life.
Either way Cronin plans to go out on his feet, fighting tooth and nail.

Empire OneEmpire of the One
By Pam Uphoff
Sale price: $0.99
Blurb: They’d been attacked through a dimensional gate. Now they’ve located the attackers’ world and it’s time for Xen Wolfson to do some hands-on spying. Can he and his fellow spies learn enough to stop an all out war? As “Endi Dewulfe” he infiltrates the High Oner society from the bottom.

 

tomTOM 
By Dave Freer

Sale price: 9/4 8am-7.59pm -99 cents
9/4 -9/5 8pm-7.59am -$1.99
9/5 8am-7.59pm -$2.99
9/5-9/6 8pm-7.59am $3.99

Blurb: Tom is a cat in trouble. The worst possible kind of trouble: he’s been turned into a human. Transformed by an irascible old magician in need of a famulus — a servant and an assistant, Tom is as good at being a servant as a cat ever is. The assistant part is more to Tom’s taste: he rather fancies impressing the girl cats and terrorizing the other toms by transforming himself into a tiger. But the world of magic, a vanished and cursed princess, and a haunted skull, and a demon in the chamber-pot, to say nothing of conspiring wizards and the wickedest witch in the west, all seem to be out to kill Tom. He is a cat coming to terms with being a boy, dealing with all this. He has a raven and a cheese as. sort of allies. And of course there is the princess.
If you were looking for ‘War and Peace’ this is the wrong book for you. It’s a light-hearted and gently satirical fantasy, full of terrible puns and… cats.

Unproven ConceptAn Unproven Concept
By James Young
Sale price: Countdown sale starts at $.99 on 9/5 and ends at $2.75 on 9/12. Concurrent sale on Amazon.co.uk
Blurb: In the year 3050, First Contact goes horribly wrong when the starliner Titanic is set upon by previously unknown aliens. Outnumbered, outgunned, and with their crippled vessel in a decaying orbit around a gas giant, the Titanic’s crew must choose between saving themselves… or saving Humanity.
“This is a space opera that plays out on a grand scale, and Young conducted it with aplomb.” – Pop Cults, the website of Geek and Alternative Culture.

fenrir rebornFenrir Reborn
By Anita C. Young
Sale price: Free from 9/4 to 9/8.
Blurb: Sindri Modulf has been tested many times throughout his long life, but for every feat he has faced, he has artfully dodged countless more with easy humour and a deadly axe. Those well-honed abilities will prove useless when he is faced with one of the greatest challenges of his life; he must bring back a grief-stricken Seer from the edge of catatonia. Unwilling to let the mind of the most powerful woman in 1000 years be ravaged by Empaths and Telepaths, Sindri does something he hasn’t done for centuries: bare his soul.

 

Tortoise Kebab

Here I am still busy with Xeno’s last chapter (which has become at least one more chapter) in trying to finish TOM – the ‘quick’ light fantasy/satire novel about a semi-feral young cat who finds himself transformed into being a curmudgeonly magician’s apprentice – that I was doing as light relief from more complex books.

Laugh, you bastards (my time will come at the end of NaNoWriMo…).

Eventually the tortoise gets skewered on the arrow, and very convenient for rotisserie roasting they are like that. Humor is hard, especially on writers and tortoises. Besides, one man’s joke is another’s elected representative.

My stories evolve toward complexity and I’m a picky fellow who likes to tie off the ends, and of course the ends just don’t co-operate, as these characters have minds of their own (and they know I am pretty weak-minded and so they over-rule me and do their own thing). I have warned my characters in no uncertain terms: any more of this and I shall parcel them up and send them to Kate. Then they will learn the meaning of an iron will, blunt speech and a sharp stake… or is that Jeremy Irons, sharp speech and a blunt stake?

They still pay absolutely no attention to me…

Which, of course, is as it should be.

A story is as long as itself. Without resorting to padding, adding more characters and more dialogue and more show-not-tell can increase markedly increase the word-count, and as traditional publishing had a habit of contracting specific counts (within a range) this was quite important for an author.

Now the only ‘dictat’ is how willing readers are to pay that price for that length. Most of Traditional Publishing still seems of the opinion that that figure is ‘a lot even for e-books’. Which is, quite honestly, wishful thinking. Of course, we humans are pretty good at wishful thinking and fooling ourselves that something is a good idea. Look at half of the fine messes I get myself into… The other half just happen. Really. Like the two-possums-in-my-house-in-one-night evening I enjoyed on Saturday night – which involved me running around the house about beating one with a cake-cooling rack (reality can be much more bizarre than fiction. Fiction needs to be plausible.).

Talking of sales, it has been mildly amusing lately how the Puppy Kickers have been twisting themselves into pretzels. First we had the Puppy Kicker saying how crass we were for always being interested in money. Obviously ahrt and educating the masses in right-think was more important. Well, he or she is welcome to it, just so long as they don’t want the readers to pay for it whether they want to or not.

Oh wait.

Silly me. It is the reader’s fault if they don’t want it, isn’t it? Bad readers. They must be shamed, isolated and intimidated out of this.

Next breath we have John Scalzi saying that those bad readers are wrong to spend their money on classics and that they should give their money to modern authors who need it if they are to keep writing.

Of course, and by that logic… Those bad readers – by the same rules — shouldn’t give it to rich authors like John Scalzi… They should give it to the poor authors.

And that, according to other Puppy Kickers, is the Sad Puppies in general, and Larry Correia in specific. We’re not complaining if John and his fans want to go ahead and do this. They can even do it anonymously… like, you know, readers buying books do. No one need know they took notice of us. We’re all – more Puppy Kicker statements — apparently so useless that we crave any notice at all, because we’re all failed authors. So… in Puppy Kicker pretzel logic we would, naturally, as failed authors, be keen on using money as a measure of success – as I gather we crass Sad Puppies do. Oh and according to twitter twit who calls himself Drave the moonrascal – Larry Correia is a failure because he doesn’t get 500 people at all his book signings… (which will make you laugh a lot if you’re an author. It’s possibly the stupidest thing a Puppy Kicker has come up with, and the competition is stiff.)

To be fair, in sales terms, I think, yes, their attacks on us have certainly done me a lot of good. I found, much to my surprise a couple of weeks ago, that I’d entered that second happy stage of a writer’s career. (I forget now who said it – but one the greats said something like this: ‘there are 3 stages to a writer’s career – 1)where he can’t sell what he can write (assuming ‘sell’ means for enough to live on, and not just ‘at all’) and must write what he can sell 2) where he can sell anything he can write 3)where he can sell far more than he will ever write. I’m still not making a fortune, but yes, living simply and cheaply, we’re seeing a little more come in than go out, and more than last year, or the year before. But it seems I can now choose what I write, and my publisher will consider it – and if not I go to Kindle and it will sell enough copies to keep us going. It’s a long way from fame and fortune, but it lets me do what I love.

A large part of this is, no doubt, due to better folk than me, and the Puppy Kickers loud attempts to denigrate and suppress us and our work. It doesn’t take a genius (not even a mad one) to look at the well documented declining traditional book sales, particularly in sf/fantasy, and the demographics of the market place, to realize that all those readers were going elsewhere for their entertainment. Enough of them came my way to make a lot of difference to my bottom line, had obviously left buying sf/fantasy because they didn’t like what was on offer, publicized to the wazoo, and in every brick-and-mortar bookstore. It seems we’re catching a lot of those – I have had a lot of ‘I’d given up on sf until…’

The Puppy Kickers of course have the problem that not only has most of traditional publishing been obedient to their dictates and narrowed their offering down to ‘extremely PC, Correct Message before story, and let’s denigrate anyone who doesn’t fit our chosen ‘progressive’ philosophy.’ There is certainly a space for this – but it is probably 5% of the market who love it, and 20% who will put up with it, at best. The same would be true of the opposite extreme… but there really isn’t a major Trad publisher pushing that line. Where the Puppy Kickers went wrong of course was that the readers – no matter if they were in the 5%, 25% or 75% — had had the very existence of anything else – or of people who liked anything else, quite effectively drummed out. There were a nucleus of Baen readers and that was it, and a lot possible customers didn’t know about Baen let alone many Indies.

So in attacking us to protect the writers of the 5%… – and the reaction to those attacks, they told many of the other 95% of readers that there are alternatives. Of course awful… I forget now Irene Gallo’s exact foolish words ‘poor to terrible’ or something. But for many readers that was the first time they knew anything else was being published.

That 5% is not just saturated with that 5%, it’s supersaturated, and yes, a lot of the smaller trad darlings are crystalizing out and falling to the bottom. I gather things are fairly dire. On the other hand the other 95% are under-saturated, and all we needed was for people to know we existed. There are many less of us in Trad publishing than the 5%.

SF/Fantasy was always ahead of the curve with giving space to the ‘odd’ people of the demographic (and yeah, I’m odd.). But the reality is that a book designed to appeal – at the expense of a large section of your populace — to say 0.25% of your population is not going to do very well, very often. I hope trad published sf opens up again, as it seems to be with Indy – not so much for my sake but because there are some great writers not made for Indy. I just hope we can let reality and reader choice sort out how much of what is being bought. I’m quite happy seeing Vox Day _AND_ Nora Jemisin offered to the public. They will appeal to different parts of that public, and some people might even enjoy both (or neither). In the end it might be about people reading more, and reading more sf/fantasy. If you’re a good writer, and entertaining you might even win some people over to the dark side (This depends on your point of view, but I am assured they have cookies).

I have to wonder what people who wish to exclude ‘badthink’ from being available think of readers. Do they assume all readers are stupid and terribly easily led?

(Looks at politicians they support…) Don’t answer that question!

Anyway, back to Tortoise Kebabs for me. Thank you for the extra sales, Puppy Kickers. If you feel in need of giving yourselves apoplexy this novella is bound to do it for you.

Halloween Sale and More

(Updated @ 1130 hrs)

It’s the time of ghouls and goblins and things that go bump in the night. Halloween is one of my favorite times of year. To celebrate this year, some of the Mad Genii and friends are taking part in a limited time sale of some of their work. (Be sure to confirm the prices before purchasing. All titles should be on sale but Amazon doesn’t always start sales early in the morning.) Please check back later for additional titles and details. Thanks!

***

A Cat Among Dragons
by Alma T. C. Boykin
$1.99
New listing

She wanted to live life on her own terms. Her enemies had other ideas. The galaxy is about to discover just what a cornered cat can do.

They started it. Her father’s people declared her a corrupt half-breed, one unfit to live. Now she’s on the run, fleeing back in time. When she joined an interstellar mercenary company, she did not anticipate becoming the Pet of House Nagali, becoming the student of a mysterious but very well connected Healer and diplomat, and fighting her way into power as the only sentient mammal in the court of a reptilian empire.

This collection of short stories, the first in the Cat Among Dragons series, begins the saga of Rada Ni Drako and her odd assortment of allies. Join the adventure as Rada takes on her father’s people and tries to keep her head, and the rest of her, intact.

***

The Kinmar
by David L. Burkhead
On sale for $0.99 October 25-31.

Kreg and Kaila, knights of Aerioch, interrupt their mission to chase down the raiders that destroyed a village. Much to their surprise, the raiders turn out to be Kinmar, the half-man/half-animal remnants of the magical Changeling War. Outnumbered and surrounded, wounded, with only the strange magic of the Knightbond on their side, can they survive, much less ensure that no one ravages the people of Aerioch with impunity?

***

Jinxers
by Sabrina Chase
On sale for $0.99 from October 27 through November 2.

Young Jin survives on his own in the streets of Thama, using his wits and climbing skills to find food and shelter. On a bitterly cold night, desperate to avoid freezing, he enters the burned wreckage of a long-abandoned warehouse searching for anything of value. Searching despite the danger—for the warehouse once belonged to jinxers, and no one knows how their magic works…or how long it remains. Jin discovers a beautiful crystal sphere in the ashes—and suddenly finds himself transported to the desert world of Darha.

His foreign appearance immediately brands him an outsider, and he must rely on his Darha friends to conceal him from the mysterious rulers of the local fort. But Jin must face the fort’s dangers—for inside may lie the key to his return to Thama…and the key to his own hidden magic powers.

***

Bolg, PI: Away with the fairies
by Dave Freer
On sale for $0.99
New listing

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 this restricts him to oddball clients. In this his first case, a wealthy fruitcake who want to dance with the fairies. Most PI’s would do their best to avoid this because they know there are no fairies. Bolg would like to avoid it because he knows the fairies too well, and they’re mean.

Aided by a gargoyle informer and an ancient Celtic wizard, he sets about trying to oblige his client, and keep both of them alive. It’s no sinecure.

***

Nocturnal Lives (Boxed Set)
by Amanda S. Green
On sale for 1.99 October 29 – November 2.

This “box set” includes the first three novels in the Nocturnal Lives series.

Nocturnal Origins
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.

Nocturnal Serenade
Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

Nocturnal Interlude
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.

***

Hunted by Moonlight (Hunter’s Moon)
by Ellie Ferguson
On sale for $0.99 October 29 – November 2.

This boxed set contains the first three novels in the Hunter’s Moon series.

Hunted:

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

Hunter’s Duty:

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?

Hunter’s Home:

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

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

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

***

Bloody Eden (Soldiers of New Eden Book 2)
by T. L. Knighton
On sale for $0.99.

Ten years after a nuclear war forced Jason Calvin to fight his way across Georgia and through a brutal warlord, life has settled down a bit in a town called New Eden. As the town sheriff, Jason keeps the peace.

After saving a family from a horrible fate, that peace becomes threatened when a sadistic military man shows up, claiming the family are fugitives from his draconian justice system and they’re coming back whether anyone in New Eden likes it or not…and maybe some of New Eden’s own as well.

Unfortunately for him, Jason isn’t about to just let something like that go.

“Bloody Eden” is the action packed sequel to the hit novelette “After the Blast”.

***

Bad Moon on the Rise (Soldiers of New Eden Book 3)
by T. L. Knighton
On sale for $0.99.

Sheriff Jason Calvin and the people of New Eden have managed to move on from a brutal war with a neighboring town. In the aftermath, a new government rose from the ashes to bring peace to the Tennessee Valley.

Unfortunately, there always seems to be people who have no interest in peace as a group of ruthless thugs with a personal axe to grind kills one of Jason’s closest friends. Now, the sheriff has to deal with meddlesome bureaucrats, a conniving rival, and old enemies in an effort to find the men responsible, plus the small army protecting them, and bring them to justice.

Bad Moon on the Rise continues the story first told in After the Blast and continued in Bloody Eden.

***

Vulcan’s Kittens (Children of Myth Book 1)
by Cedar Sanderson
On sale for $0.99 Oct 29th through Nov 3rd

12-year-old Linnea Vulkane is looking forward to a long, lazy summer on Grandpa Heph’s farm, watching newborn kittens grow up and helping out with chores. That all goes out the window the night Mars, god of war, demands her grandfather abandon her and return to Olympus for the brewing war.

Now Old Vulcan is racing around the world and across higher planes with Sehkmet to gather allies, leaving Linn and an old immortal friend to protect the farm and the very special litter. But even the best wards won’t last forever, and when the farm goes up in flames, she is on the run with a daypack, a strange horse, a sword, and an armful of kittens. Linn needs to grow up fast and master her powers, before the war finds the unlikely refugees…

***

Empire of the One (Wine of the Gods Book 14)
by Pam Uphoff
On sale for $0.99 through the Halloween weekend.

Cross-dimensional espionage!

Earth and the Empire of the One have clashed twice. Once the Empire lost a colony to Earth. The second time was a draw, with neither side gaining control of a mineral rich world with a medieval level society.

Alert for intruders from Earth, the Empire’s agents are about to be blindsided by spies from that medieval world–and magic.

***

Fenrir Reborn: A Sindri Modulf Novella (Architects of Lore Book 2)
by Anita C. Young
Free October 29 – November 2.

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

***

Just added:

Neighborhood Bark-B-Q (Spooky-hoods Book 2)
by Dan Hoyt
Free Promotion for Halloween

A humorous fantasy short story by SF/F author and anthologist Daniel M. Hoyt.

Looking for a new home, Mr. Wolff? We have the perfect place for you: Moonlit Thicket, where all of your neighbors understand your special needs. Once you’re accepted, you’re pretty much part of the family, so don’t be shy! Oh? You work at Loopy’s? Great! You’ll fit right in here. And don’t forget the free haircuts!

***

ConVent (The Vampire Con Series Book 1)
by Kate Paulk
On sale for $2.99. Marked down from $4.99

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.

***

The Blood like Wine
by Sarah A. Hoyt
Free

Sylvie would do anything not to be poor ever again. Unfortunately, at the time of the French revolution, wealth might cost her her life, or at least her soul.

A short story.

***

Something Worse Hereafter
by Sarah A. Hoyt
Free

Dying is easy. It’s staying alive afterwards that is difficult. Catrina finds herself in hell, fighting demons for her sustenance and only solving the riddle of her half-remembered past existence will allow her to escape.

A Short Story.

***

Ratskiller (King of Cats)
by Robert A. Hoyt
Free

… Long before the bird reared its ugly beak, there was beer. And lots of it.

In the humble world of alley cats, Tom has everything he needs: interesting enemies, a long list of girl cats who’d like to scratch his eyes out, and enough beer to make sure his repressed memories and his mysterious destiny stay repressed.

Until Wild Rat microbrewery shuts down.

To restore his favorite beer to its former glory, Tom will have to fight prissy bureaucrats, streetwise alley cats, and Broxton’s most barbaric rats. And behind it all, an evil so great that even Broxton’s most hardened rodents dare not squeak of it.

***

And now for the more — with an apology because WordPress is being its usual uncooperative self and the plug-in needed to make this work the way it is supposed to is refusing to install properly. Anyway. . . .

There is a new podcast out there. It’s name says it all for those who have followed the Sad Puppies for any length of time — The #WrongFun Podcast. Among those who have appeared on it so far are our own Mad Genii Sarah, Cedar and Kate. You can find the podcast here. (I promise as soon as I can get the plugin working properly to have the podcasts onboard here.) In the meantime, go take a look at the WrongFun site.

blurbs and descriptions

“Hello, I’m Dave… and yes, I, I… have a reading problem…”
“Go on Dave, you’re among friends here. We’ve all been there.”
“Well, I don’t think I want to quit. But… but I need help.”
“Oh, none of us do, when you’re deep in a great book. But the bastards put that Amazon link at the end to the next one.”
“Uh. Not quite my problem. I’m still one of the guys who loves to wonder around a bookshop and look at the covers and read the blurbs… but lately, um…”
“You’ve got to go electronic, Dave.”
“You’re sure?”
“Yeah, go to Amazon. Start with your favorite author.”
“Man, you don’t understand. Most of my favorite authors seem to be suffering from death. Baen only produce a handful, and I keep hitting stuff I can’t use, not even on my five books a day reading jags. I like to read the blurbs, see if I’m going to like it. The ones on Amazon suck.”

As you may gather, I have just been told (aka ‘offered the opportunity’ :-)) to write a description for CHANGELING’S ISLAND. It appears that blubs – the text on the back of a paperback or in the cover-flap of a hardcover, are not necessarily the same as the descriptions on Amazon. Writing either descriptions or blurbs is a skill, and not one of mine. Still, we do what must be done (and today ‘what must be done’ was two tons of firewood, so my hands are sore and not feeling like a lot of typing. So I plan to cheat, a bit).

Blurbs and covers… they’re about getting readers to engage – often on a very fleeting look. Therefore in my mind it makes sense – if you’re looking at readers who know neither the author nor anything about it that the book must 1)signal what it by the cover. 2)signal what it is by the blurb, 3)Hook the reader. 4)tell them something about the story and setting. Unless they are pre-interested… that’d better be quite easy reading, unless the hook is just too good.

Here is the paperback blurb off Louis L’Amour’s FLINT (and yes, the pictures are Amazon links. If you have certain adblockers, you won’t see them) –

He rode alone. He came out of the Malpais, the terrible volcanic badlands where nothing can live, riding a giant red stallion no other man could put a hand to. His boots were polished, his speech was gentle, but his guns were quick and smooth as silk. He shot first and talked later.
Nobody knew who he was or what he wanted. But they did know that where he walked Death walked too.
It has
0% Passive voice.
Flesch reading ease 87.8
Flesch-Kincaid grade 4.0

Here is the description Amazon for the same book.

He left the West at the age of seventeen, leaving behind a rootless past and a bloody trail of violence. In the East he became one of the wealthiest financiers in America—and one of the most feared and hated.

Now, suffering from incurable cancer, he has come back to New Mexico to die alone. But when an all-out range war erupts, Flint chooses to help Nancy Kerrigan, a local rancher. A cold-eyed speculator is setting up the land swindle of a lifetime, and Buckdun, a notorious assassin, is there to back his play.

Flint alone can help Nancy save her ranch…with his cash, his connections—and his gun. He still has his legendary will to fight. All he needs is time, and that’s fast running out….
0% passive
Flesch reading ease 69.6
Flesch-Kincaid grade 7.5

Personally, I did buy on the first. Not sure (if I didn’t know the author) I would on the second. But it does carry quite a lot of information about the story, whereas the first did not really, but worked on hooking the reader to look inside…

I looked at the Hugo Finalists Amazon descriptions (I don’t have the actual books and therefore it hard to guess if this is the same as on the back of the paperback/jacket-copy. They’re in Alphabetical order.

Ancillary Sword


Breq is a soldier who used to be a warship. Once a weapon of conquest controlling thousands of minds, now she has only a single body and serves the emperor.

With a new ship and a troublesome crew, Breq is ordered to go to the only place in the galaxy she would agree to go: to Athoek Station to protect the family of a lieutenant she once knew – a lieutenant she murdered in cold blood.

33% Passive
Flesch reading ease 61
Flesch-Kincaid grade 10.8
The sheer shortness of this may positively influence it’s readability scores. There is little information about the story. The hook, IMO is the lieutenant she murdered in cold blood. I can’t say I’d have looked inside, or picked it up on the cover, but your mileage may vary. In terms of attracting readers I think it relies on being the second book, and the hype created by the publisher.

The Dark Between the Stars

Twenty years after the elemental conflict that nearly tore apart the cosmos in The Saga of Seven Suns, a new threat emerges from the darkness. The human race must set aside its own inner conflicts to rebuild their alliance with the Ildiran Empire for the survival of the galaxy.
In Kevin J. Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars, galactic empires clash, elemental beings devastate whole planetary systems, and factions of humanity are pitted against each other. Heroes rise and enemies make their last stands in the climax of an epic tale seven years in the making.

Passive 25%
Flesch reading ease 47,6
Flesch-Kincaid grade 12.5

Well, it is quite a description of the setting, not the story. No hooks for me. I personally like the cover.

The Goblin Emperor

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.
Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne-or his life.

Passive 16%
Flesch reading ease 49.5
Flesch-Kincaid grade 14.2

Well, that was more interesting to me. Once again a lot of scene setting, but several hooks.

Skin Game

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day…

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.
.
He doesn’t know the half of it…

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town, so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash and grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance…

Passive 0%
Flesch reading ease 57.6
Flesch-Kincaid grade 10

I have a problem with the cover – I like cowboy books so it works for me. Jim Butcher fans probably look no further than the name, and in context with the story they’re cool with the cover being appropriate. But to someone who neither knows Harry Dresden nor Jim Butcher… they might not even get to the description – Which IMO is several miles above the rest in quality (I’d love this description-writer to write mine!) It has hooks, it has quite a lot of scene setting (telling you what kind of book this is).

Three Body Problem (this picture is not a link)three body

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

The description is from the hard-cover. The kindle version is quite different and more attractive IMO. I gather it’s a good read, I quite like the cover, but that’s not a blurb that hooked me.

Passive 0%
Flesch reading ease 47.5
Flesch-Kincaid grade 11.5

And this is my attempt (which Baen may use none of, some of or as they please).
Addendum
🙂 CHANGELING’S ISLAND is YA (so not directly comparable) and the cover is not yet available. I’ve seen the art – it’s been up on Baen’s Bar, but I don’t have it.

CHANGELING’S ISLAND

Tim Ryan was a kid in trouble. Or who caused trouble just by being there, with his own personal poltergeist. His mother called him a changeling. After the shoplifting incident and the fire, he’d been sent to live with his crazy old grandmother, a woman who wouldn’t look at him, and talked to the fairies. And to make it worse she lived on a rundown old farm in the bush… on a remote island off the coast of Australia.

He was city boy, and he hated it. He didn’t milk cows, chase sheep or hunt fish with a spear. He didn’t go out on the wild sea in tiny boats. Except… well, here he had to. And the place didn’t hate him. It was a spirit place, a place of ancient magic, full of sadness, triumph, murder and survival. It wanted him here. Waiting just offshore lurked a Selkie, a seal woman, ready to trap him, to kill him, or take him somewhere else. Because Tim’s mother was right. He was a changeling, sort of. And this island was part of him, and he was part of it. It was in his bones, and the sea around it was in his blood.

It was his. He just had to learn to take it, to be an islander.

Sometimes that also meant taking trouble head on, whether it was drug-runners, snakes or risking his life at sea in the storm.

It was tough, but then, maybe, so was he.

4% Passive
Flesch reading ease 87
Flesch-Kincaid grade 3.7

And now you tell me which of those books you would have bought on cover/blurb (not knowing the authors, without the Hugo) and why? I need to learn :-).

It’s Wednesday and Sarah is MIA

Well, not really. She is at a workshop and we got an SOS from her earlier to let us know that her travel laptop has crapped out. Now, besides being a pain because it means her writing will be impacted, it means she isn’t able to do a blog today. So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to post a few links — some of them are very interesting reading and some show just how strange things can get on the internet — and I’m going to post a few book promos. Then I’m going to throw open the comments. I’d like to hear what you guys think about what’s going on in publishing, what you think about the links I posted and you can post ONE promo link. Sound good?

So, what better way than to start the day with a link to last week’s Book Plug Friday by our own Sarah and ChaSJWrlie Martin. For those who haven’t discovered BPF, it is a wonderful — and free — promotion tool for authors. That’s important. But even more important is how Charlie and Sarah discuss what is going on in publishing and, as they do in last week’s piece, show that the SJWs don’t even check their facts before staking to their soapboxes to complain about how women have been locked out of science fiction. In this particular case, they burst the bubble that has been put forth that women are “finally” making inroads into the awards scene in SF. Unlike the special ones, they did their homework and listed the female winners of the Nebulas. Funny, I don’t see how women were pushed out, do you?

And, while we’re talking about Sarah, let’s have an example of just how strange things can get on the internet. Back on the 6th, Laura J. Mixon posted her investigation into the blogger Requires Hate. You can find that post here. Needless to say, the interwebs blew up as the SJWs tried to process all that had happened and who RH turned out to be. And this is where things got more than a little weird. On another blog, a commenter posted that they thought our own Sarah and Requires Hate were one and the same. Yes, you read that right. I’ll leave you a few moments to consider that and to quit laughing. Sarah’s response when it was brought to her attention? Stunned silence and then hysterical laughter. Sort of like everyone else who knows her has reacted to read the comment.

The best response to the entire “report” has come, imo, from Larry Correia. Read it. Enjoy it. Consider all he says and let’s pop the popcorn and watch as this feeding frenzy becomes more and more frequent.

(BTW, apparently there has now been a call for the “whites” to step out of the conversation about RH and everything surrounding Mixon’s report. It seems the POC community needs time to consider and reflect on what has been revealed. Sorry, but if this is an issue of real import, then the voices of all should be heard. My opinion, of course.)

Now, onto something a bit more fun. I loved Larry’s reaction to his Czech book covers.

The Czechs are like “Patriarchy? What is this word? Is the succubus not sexy enough? Wait… Cis what? Do you mean we should make the werewolves on fire? We can do that. Dmitri! More fire! Now, why does this flabby man pose in his underwear like sexy pole dancer? You do not want to appeal to people who give you money? America is strange place.”

Take a look at the covers and you will see what he means and, to be honest, he’s right. I wish more American publishers would consider just how important a cover is in getting folks to pick a book up off the shelf — for those who still go to bookstores. But then, I’m not enlightened enough for the SJH/GHH set. I happen to like the covers.

Now, for a few book promos.

 

chaplainThe Chaplain’s War
by Brad Torgersen

The mantis cyborgs: insectlike, cruel, and determined to wipe humanity from the face of the galaxy.

The Fleet is humanity’s last chance: a multi-world, multi-national task force assembled to hold the line against the aliens’ overwhelming technology and firepower. Enter Harrison Barlow, who like so many young men of wars past, simply wants to serve his people and partake of the grand adventure of military life. Only, Harrison is not a hot pilot, nor a crack shot with a rifle. What good is a Chaplain’s Assistant in the interstellar battles which will decide the fate of all?

More than he thinks. Because while the mantis insectoids are determined to eliminate the human threat to mantis supremacy, they remember the errors of their past. Is there the slightest chance that humans might have value? Especially since humans seem to have the one thing the mantes explicitly do not: an innate ability to believe in what cannot be proven nor seen God. Captured and stranded behind enemy lines, Barlow must come to grips with the fact that he is not only bargaining for his own life, but the lives of everyone he knows and loves. And so he embarks upon an improbable gambit, determined to alter the course of the entire war.

***

joyJoy Cometh With The Mourning: A Reverend Joy Mystery
by Dave Freer

Reverend Joy Norton is a timid city girl, and she’s never been the primary priest in any parish. When her bishop sends her out to a remote back-country church, she doubts both her ability and her suitability. Those doubts grow when she hears of the mysterious death of her predecessor. But from the first encounter with her congregation — having her little car rescued from a muddy ditch, she finds herself deeply involved with her parishioners and touched by their qualities and eccentricities. Which makes it worse for her to think that one of the people she’s coming to care for murdered the previous priest…

***

joxsonJaxson: Military Romance (Island Warriors Book 1)
by Kris Keldaran

In book one of the Island Warriors: Kehau Makoa thought her life was on track. Fun-loving and taking everything in stride, until a combat veteran steps into her sight. The gorgeous dance teacher never imagined that on her agenda. Till now.

Jaxson “Johnny Rocket” Kuznia never saw a brawl he didn’t wade into with both fists flying. Broad, burly, and an expert with his hands, the Marine soon realizes Uncle Sam didn’t prepare him for everything that would be thrown into his path. It doesn’t take Jax long to figure out he will need every bit of skill and luck he’s got if he wants to win the heart of a woman he seems unable to live without.

From North Shore to Waikiki, and Ko ‘Olina to Kailua, the Jaëger Guardsmen put their hearts and lives on the line to learn if they’ve found a love that will last a lifetime.

***

gallileoThe Galileo Syndrome (Born Between Worlds) (Volume 1)
by Stephen J. Simmon

The world can be very frightened of change. History offers us endless examples of geniuses who were treated badly because their ideas threatened the established order … That’s because Galileo didn’t have a little sister named Peaches. Ricky Benson is a genius who was born with the ability to perceive – and travel between – parallel universes. Luckily, he was also born with a sister who is devoted to defending him, at any cost.

(The e-book will be available very soon — so keep checking back if you want digital instead of hard copy.)

***

farmhandFarmhand (Bluehills Book 1)
by Lilania Begley

Wounded veteran Dev Macquire needs some farm help until he recovers. When his father, Gray, brings home a new hand, he’s dismayed to meet Irina. How can a woman do the rough, heavy work they need? As she works her way into their life, and into his heart, he’s faced with a new dilemma. Can he persuade her to stay, and to accept a new role in his life?

Irina took the job on a whim. She just wanted to work hard enough to forget why her life was on hold and her future uncertain. Daily reminded of a brighter past, a childhood spent on horseback…but her new feelings for Dev were definitely not sisterly. At the end of the summer she’d leave, it was too dangerous to risk staying near him.

As a wildfire threatens the countryside, racing toward the Macquire place, Dev and Irina discover what true partnership can feel like, working together to find the arsonist who is responsible. When the fires die out, are there embers left smoldering in hearts?

***

dutyDuty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2)
by Sam Schall

Duty calls. Honor demands action.

Major Ashlyn Shaw has survived false accusations and a brutal military prison. Now free, she finds her homeworld once again at war with an enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy everything she holds dear. Duty has Ashlyn once again answering the call to serve. She has seen what the enemy is capable of and will do everything she can to prevent it from happening to the home she loves and the people she took an oath to protect.

But something has changed. It goes beyond the fact that the enemy has changed tactics they never wavered from during the previous war. It even goes beyond the fact that there is still a nagging doubt in the back of Ashlyn’s mind that those who betrayed her once before might do so again. No, there is more to the resumption of hostilities, something that seems to point at a new player in the game. But who and what are they playing at?

Will Ashlyn be able to unmask the real enemy before it is too late?

The spoil* of the poor is in your houses

 

Dave couldn’t make the internet work (oh noes, teh webz are busted!) So these are the words of the illustrious Grand Doc Monkey, not mine.

**************

‘The spoil* of the poor is in your houses.’
*AKA’loot’
We’ve talked about super-readers, the small percentage of readers who buy 25% of the books. I am sure the reason we wear our underpants outside our trousers is because we’re reading when we get dressed, and we rush into burning buildings is because we’re late for work and we’re busy reading and don’t notice. (It’s a joke, Joyce.) You can read more about here -– look at William Ockham’s comments.

Now these are very valuable people, can keep the indy e-book sellers afloat, because it takes them 3 or less hours to devour a book, they want at least a book a day, and most authors take a lot longer than 3 hours to produce the next. And at a book + a day, unless they’re super-wealthy as well as a super-reader, the super-reader, is very unlikely to be buying $30 hardbacks (or $30 e-books, heaven help us). Yes, there will be “I just can’t wait” purchases and “I treasure and re-read their books” purchases, but it’s more than likely they’re very price sensitive for a lot of their books.
They’re food-and-drink to the little guy. But they’re also only 25%… which leaves the 75%. Now just as I consider the traditional publishing industry to be — if not barking mad (which is not hard to believe sometimes), at least blinded by complacent stupidity caused by being the only game in town for a long time, and allowing their narrow left-wing PC orthodoxy to say ‘we can ignore demographics and what people want, they’ll read what is good for them, AND pay $30 for the privilege’, I’d consider ignoring the 75% and only focusing on the 25% a short-sighted strategy.

Because, here’s the thing… As long as you have a decent product, and the price reasonable: You have a large chance of getting a share of that 25%. We’re voracious. If desperate enough we’ll read the contents of shampoo bottles or even Hugo award winners. (Do remember the sad puppies). Most of us will re-read favorites, most of us have preferences, be that romance, MilSF, or something telling us how bad men are, or the inverse – if we can find it. There are A Few Good Men out there.

But we’re 3% of the population (the super-readers, not the good men). Which leaves the big unanswered: ‘Where are the rest, and why don’t they read more.

It seems to be that it is heavily skewed – if you get to 15% of the population read 65% of the books (thanks again to William Ockham). Taking that sort of curve, by the time you’ve got to the upper 25% of the population who read, you’ll have 90% of the titles sold. Those who are left, are bestsellers and celebrity garboil – or traditional publisher territory.

So why? Well, obviously some people just don’t read. Some are too dumb, IQ on the wrong side of 90 and there are only so many times you can read Janet and John, and some are put off by what they were made to read and what they found available to read. Now, there’s not a lot one can do about too dumb. But the rest would both useful to quantify and to get.

Secondly, the probability of someone reading is strongly related to one or both parents reading – it’s a genetic disease, which in theory then should
spread. The hard question is: why isn’t it?

Thirdly, reading and education level are strongly correlated. That doesn’t mean that if you never had much schooling you shouldn’t read, it means if you did it should be very probable you will, and if you’re educated and don’t read, questions need to be asked. If a large section of the demographic who could handle more education aren’t getting it, maybe if those who like to campaign for these sort of things would like to have a go. Aha. I hear our dear little friends in SFWA all shouting ‘Yay’ and cheering, yelling for their pet causes… It seems the largest sector of the English first language UK population which is chronically demographically under-represented at university/college, and does badly in secondary education and I suspect the same goes for the US, is poor, (shrieks and more cheering) and white, and male (and almost certainly largely heterosexual). Why the sudden deathly silence? You want people reading don’t you?

Fourthly people read for various reasons –for pleasure, for escapism, for reassurance, for comfort. Each of those has a different segment of the population and of course there is some overlap. All of them require however, that the reader be able to identify with protagonist. If we’re getting such small proportions reading, I think it is pretty clear that we’re doing the latter wrong. Why and how do we change it?

Fifthly – reading is a cheap way to get the above. Competing for the beer money is still what we’re doing… and that unless you’re a very rich hot-house flower, isn’t 30 bucks.

Perhaps Jim Hines in his inept PC White Knight defense of the poor put upon non-binary gender ‘sheit’ (or is that itshe?) was accidentally right. We could get more readers if modern sf ventured out of its comfort zone, stopped being so lazy and stereotypical in its characters, and looked at the non-stereotypical ones that most of the establishment don’t ever write (perhaps because they don’t know any, and they’re far happier believing their wildly inaccurate and inevitably derogatory stereotypes), and took aim at those we’re losing or have lost. They’re a large group, a lot rarer in modern sf than bizarre sexuality (where we’ve had hundreds of examples going back 70 years cited in the last week or so), or odd ethnicity, or strange religions and much, much rarer than atheists. These are all present in larger-than-demographic proportions… No, we need something that establishment sf is plainly afraid of writing… In fact, the last one I can think of was Billy Danger in Keith Laumer’s Galactic Odyssey.
(Update: Retrorockets points out that actually character was black. So what. His color is irrelevant to the story, what is, is that he was an honorable man, a hero, who never stopped trying to do what he set out to do. And he started as poor to the edge of desperation. And yep, definitely heterosexual.)
When last did you read a poor, decent, hard-working, honest, white, male heterosexual conservative Christian hero from a SFWA member? I can’t wait to see Jim Hines lead by example.
It would be kind of fun watching their heads explode…

A Bit of Promo for the Mad Ones

Promotion is one of those things every one of us at MGC knows we need to do but we don’t do nearly as often or as much as we should. We’d much rather be writing — or tearing out our fingernails — than promoting our own work. So, since we haven’t done this for awhile, I’ve listed some of our indie or small press books that are currently out. I’ve linked to the Amazon (U.S. store) pages, but most of the titles should be available through other stores as well. Remember, we have mouths to feed — our own, our kids (two and four legged) and editors to keep happy 😉

Some of Dave’s titles:

mankindwitchA Mankind Witch

To the North of the Holy Roman Empire are the pagan Norse-lands. It is here that Prince Manfred of Brittany, and Erik, his Icelandic bodyguard, must venture in the dead of winter to a mountainous land of trolls and ice to find a stolen pagan relic, the arm-ring of Odin, something so magical that it should not be possible to move it beyond its wards, let alone take it away. It is gone, and unless it is recovered before Yuletide and the re-affirmation of truce-oaths, a new Viking age will be born. King Vorenbras will lead his berserkers in an orgy of killing, rapine, looting and destruction, across the Empire’s unguarded North-Western flank.

Princess Signy is the King’s older stepsister, and everyone believes her to be the thief, a witch and a murderess. Everyone, that is, but Cair, her stable-thrall, a man plucked from the ocean, with a hidden past. Cair doesn’t believe in witches or magic, let alone that Signy could steal and murder. If he has to drag the foremost knight of the age, and his deadly bodyguard kicking and screaming though the entire Norse nine worlds to prove it and free her, he’d do it. No Kobold, dwarf, or troll is going to stop him, or his scepticism. Not the wild hunt. Not even a Grendel. He doesn’t believe in this superstitious rubbish. He’s a man of science and learning, and he’s used that to fake his way into being feared as a magic worker. But for Signy, he’ll be all of mankind’s witches.

He’ll have to be, because that’s what it’ll take to defeat the dark magical forces which are marshalled against them.

forlornThe Forlorn

Across the one human colony world, a place technologically regressed to near medieval, possibly the last place humans still survive, a desperate search continues. Scattered across the deserts, tangled jungles, and alien fortresses, lie the core sections of the matter transmitter.

These sections hold the key to vast wealth, power, or… the fulfilment of the colony’s purpose: to help humankind survive the rabidly xenophobic alien Morkth who will tolerate no other intelligent species. The Morkth managed to follow the colony ship, and, despite their mothership being shot down and their queen being killed, they continue their relentless struggle to destroy humankind… and to reconstruct that incredibly valuable matter transmitter. If they succeed, they’ll be able to return to the hive with the location of the colony of vile humans, and have a new world to occupy. If they fail, they’ll destroy the planet.

The search has gone on for centuries, and it is all reaching an end point. The future hangs in the balance.

The Morkth have lasers, aircraft, nukes. Those who want the core sections for their own ends… have vast armies. Against them are three unlikely reluctant heroes: A street child thief, a dispossessed spoiled brat of a princess, and a confused, amoral Morkth-raised human, armed only with 14th century weapons and their own wits.

It’s a lost cause, a forlorn hope.

But it’s all humans have.

bolg brideBolg, PI: The Vampire Bride

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.

bolg wolfy ladiesBolg, PI: Wolfy Ladies

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 finding the missing mage who supplies the potion that helps werewolves retain their human shape at full moon, for a lady-wolf who finds the change interferes with her love life.

The ancient Celtic wizard he’s trying to trace is a friend, and shape shifter, and there far more going on than just a search for a missing person.

bolg fairiesBolg, PI: Away with the fairies

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 this restricts him to oddball clients. In this his first case, a wealthy fruitcake who want to dance with the fairies. Most PI’s would do their best to avoid this because they know there are no fairies. Bolg would like to avoid it because he knows the fairies to well, and they’re mean.

Aided by a gargoyle informer and an ancient Celtic wizard, he sets about trying to oblige his client, and keep both of them alive. It’s no sinecure.

without a traceWithout A Trace

Mike O’Hara has spent his life defending the family honor. His grandfather, Cap’n Al O’Hara, has been called everything from smuggler to coward and it is said he abandoned his family rather than pay his debts. Mike knows better, but what’s a boy to do?

When his father is injured in an automobile accident and the authorities threaten to take Mike from the family farm, Mike knows he has to do something. Spurred on by a radio transmission that just might be from Cap’n Al, Mike and his best friend, Amos, start out on a mission to find his grandfather. His journey takes him to an alternate South Africa inhabited by pirates and worse. Mike quickly finds himself in a race against time to rescue his grandfather and return home – before it’s too late.

Some of Amanda’s Titles:

nocturnaloriginscoverNocturnal Origins

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.

nocturnal SerenadeNocturnal Serenade

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

NOCTURNAL HAUNTSNocturnal Haunts

Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.

 

Some of Sarah’s titles:

atomA Touch of Night

In a world where magic reigns and being a shape shifter is the only crime that warrants immediate execution, this is how Pride and Prejudice would be written. The novel is set in the world of Sarah A. Hoyt’s Magical British Empire.

 

crawlingCrawling Between Heaven and Earth

A collection of short stories by Prometheus Award Winner Sarah A. Hoyt. The first edition of this collection was published by Dark Regions Press in paper, only. This updated edition contains two bonus short stories: High Stakes and Sweet Alice.

It also contains the stories: Elvis Died for Your Sins; Like Dreams Of Waking; Ariadne’s Skein;Thirst;Dear John;Trafalgar Square;The Green Bay Tree; Another George; Songs;Thy Vain Worlds;Crawling Between Heaven and Earth.

shakespeareMagical Shakespeare Omnibus

Combining the three books of Sarah A. Hoyt’s Magical Shakespeare series, this volume takes Shakespeare — always bedeviled, aided and hampered by the elves of Arden forest, the spawn of Titania and Oberon — from a young and anonymous schoolmaster to an acclaimed playwright. His fame, and his tradings with fairyland put his son Hamnet at risk, and might destroy Shakespeare himself.

This Omnibus combines Ill Met By Moonlight, All Night Awake and Any Man so Daring. These books were originally published by Ace/Berkley between 10/2001 and 10/2003.

“Wildly imaginative and poetic…. a delightful fantastic speculation” – Booklist
“The Author of Ill Met By Moonlight continues her portrayal of the secret life of William Shakespeare with a tale of deception and betrayal that brings to life the raucous world of Elizabethan England. Will have particular appeal to fans of literary fantasy.”

no willNo Will But His

Kathryn Howard belongs to a wealthy and powerful family, the same family that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s great love originated from. From a young age, her ambitious relatives maneuver to make her queen. Brought up in a careless manner, ignorant of the ways of the court, Kathryn falls victim to her kind heart, all the while wishing she could be the wife of Thomas Culpepper.

wingsWings

Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories, ranging between Elizabethan England and the far future. These short stories of Prometheus Award Winning author Sarah A. Hoyt have been published in anthologies like Cosmic Cocktails and magazines such as Analog and Asimov’s. The collection was originally published by Dark Regions Press in paper only.

This edition contains an introduction by Dave Freer and a bonus short story: With Unconfined Wings.

Some of Kate’s Titles:

conventConVent

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.

consensualConSensual

There are vampires in the lobby, succubi in the beds, and bodies in the bathroom. It’s ConSensual, where the editors are demons, the writers are crazy and the vampires and werewolves might be the most stable people in the room.

If that isn’t enough, Dracula is staying at the hotel on a business trip for his wood-based hardware chain, Kit Marlowe is one of the authors, and there’s an out of control baby vampire to deal with. Once again, the “Save the World” department is caught with its pants down.

confurConFur

A vampire at a science fiction convention might not seem that far-fetched except for one thing, Jim is a real vampire. Of course, he’s not the only supernatural being making the circuit. There are demon editors, succubi authors and the odd archangel. Jim’s learned how to deal with all of them, as well as the humans, without getting into too much trouble. But he’s about to learn a very important lesson – it is never wise to stand between a mother werewolf and her children, even if you aren’t the one responsible for their disappearances. There’s only one thing Jim can do. He has to find the kids and deal with those responsible. Little does he know this will lead to a long, and not always comfortable, relationship with a young werewolf who insists on calling him “Hickey”.

impalerImpaler

Impaler by Kate Paulk revisits the tale of Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler. This is the tale of historical fact mixed with fiction and a touch of fantasy. But this is most definitely not the tired tale of vampires skulking in the night, lying in wait for innocent victims. Impaler tells the tale of a man devoted to family and country, cursed and looking for redemption.

December, 1476. The only man feared by the all-conquering Ottoman Sultan battles to reclaim his throne. If he falls all of Europe lies open to the Ottoman armies. If he succeeds…

His army is outnumbered and outclassed, his country is tiny, and he is haunted by a terrible curse. But Vlad Draculea will risk everything on one almost impossible chance to free his people from the hated Ottoman Empire.

Some of Chris’ Titles:

Gah, my google-fu is failing me this morning. So, I’m going to direct you to Chris’ site and his blog for his latest work.

Chris’ website: http://chrismcmahon.net/

Chris’ blog: http://chrismcmahons.wordpress.com/

Some of our guest bloggers:

Ellie Ferguson

huntednewcoverHunted

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what.

Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

HUNTERSDUTYHunter’s Duty

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?

wbbWedding Bell Blues

Weddings always bring out the worst in people. Or at least that’s the way it seems to Jessica Jones as her younger sister’s wedding day approaches. It’s bad enough Jessie has to wear a bridesmaid dress that looks like it was designed by a color blind Harlequin. Then there’s the best man who is all hands and no manners. Now add in a murder and Jessie’s former lover — former because she caught him doing the horizontal tango on their kitchen table with her also-former best friend. It really is almost more than a girl should be expected to handle. . . .

C. S. Laurel

quickB. Quick

It was a night of triumphal activity for the Society For The Elimination of Good Looking Blonds. By sheer chance, middle-aged literature professor Bill Yates interrupts a murderer in the act of dumping an unconscious young man into the local river. Bill surprises himself by rescuing the young man and unwittingly plunges into a maelstrom of murder, psychoanalysis and Shakespeare. Falling in love with the young man he rescued is either fitting punishment or just reward for his trouble, and it will be a long time before Bill knows which.

qcaQuick Change Artist

In this story, Professor William Yates’ gets more than he bargains for when he wakes up with a snake tattoo, a pierced tongue and an even bigger surprise. It turns out a serial rapist who answers his description EXCEPT for having those, has kidnapped him and made him match. Bill and Brian interview “ink artists” and various one night stands to find him.

 

quicksandQuicksand

When a dying man rings his doorbell, secrets from Professor William Yates’ past rise up, which threaten his relationship with Brian Quick, his reputation and his life. Caught in the quicksand of his past, he has to solve the murder to get free.

 

I know I’ve missed a couple of guest posters — not to mention all our wonderful commenters. I know I speak for everyone at MGC when I thank you for your support. Now, go out and spread the word of our books so we can feed our kitties and dogs and even our children 😉

 

Don’t knock at doors. Knock down walls instead

It’s no surprise to anyone who has been a regular follower of this blog to know I’m a big supporter of small press and indie publishing. I have been for a long time, long before I actually started working in the industry. But that doesn’t mean I wish ill to traditional publishing. It has its place. What it means is that I see traditional publishing houses having to change and adapt to new tech and new consumer demands or it will become like the dinosaur. Most will die while a very few will find a way to evolve and survive. But those that do survive will not look anything like they once did.

Before someone points out that trade sales increased last quarter thanks to the Hunger Games trilogy and Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ll say this. I’m glad sales increased. But I have a warning. These books are a short-lived trend. I’ll remind everyone about the huge decrease in sales the publisher had after the last Twilight book came out. Why? Because so much was put into pushing those books that there was nothing in place to take over as the new “it” book when the time came. Also because publishers, and not just the house that brought out Twilight, were busy putting out pale imitations of Twilight and, at least in my opinion, saturating the market with sparkly vampires.

So, is there a reason to try to go with a major publisher these days? Given the difficulty in landing one of the increasingly rare slots with a legacy publisher, is it worth an author’s time — not to mention ulcer and hair — to try to go that route?

I’ll admit, I started thinking about this question again the other day while reading one of the discussion boards I belong to. Someone had asked why an e-book would become unavailable. There were several good explanations for why, including the one that was accurate with regard to the e-book in question — the rights had reverted back to the author so the publisher could no longer sell the e-book.

From there the conversation drifted, as online discussions often do, into whether or not an author should self-publish. It seems the author in question is one who has been self-publishing her backlist and has been discussing her efforts online. She hasn’t held back, describing the good, the bad and the indifferent. More power to her. The way I look at it, the more open and honest discussion of the entire publishing spectrum there is, the better for authors and for readers.

Where I started shaking my head was when an author popped into the conversation and started talking about how he could never self-publish because he couldn’t afford it. The problem is he had fallen into the same trap so many who condemn self-publishing do: he was saying what the major publishers have said without actually investigating it himself. The only thing he really had right was that he wouldn’t get the upfront advance. Yeah, I’d love to have that. It would make life a lot easier. But when you consider that most books never earn out that advance according to publishers who never let you see actual sales figures, how do you know how much that book actually sold?

Big disclaimer here: everything I’m saying about publishers doesn’t hold for Baen. Baen is a solid house that treats its writers with respect. Baen also listens to its readers. The major houses could learn a lesson from Baen.

That said, let’s look at some of the misconceptions about publishing that came out in the thread.

The author commented that if he went the self-publishing route, he’d have to give up either editors or decent cover art as well as release to known venues. The first two because of cost and the second because of distribution.

No. No to all of it. You can find excellent editors who work for a very reasonable price if you want to pay for them. However, if you are in a writers group or if you know other authors, you can find someone who will edit for you in trade. The key is knowing what you want and in getting samples of their work as well as recommendations. As for cover art, with the exception of Baen and one or two others, most cover art these days is either stock or minimalistic. At least one house has delayed the release of all its titles in an imprint so the covers can be rebranded to look like Fifty Shades of Grey. If you look at another major house’s covers, you’ll see a solid color background, a large block banner in a darker color with the author’s name superimposed. Below that is a small, maybe only 1/3 of the cover, image with large block letters below for the title of the book. All design and not art. Even if you are hiring someone to do art for you, you can get a very good cover from young, hungry artists for no more than $200. However, you can do what so many — including established publishing houses of the legacy kind — and use sites that allow you to buy a license for a photo or piece of art at a very small price.

As for getting into known venues, yes, traditional publishers can get you into the bookstores. Note I said “can”, not “will”. And even if they get you into a bookstore, that doesn’t mean your book will be there in a large enough quantity to gather attention or that it will be there long enough to be found. Take a trip to your local bookstore, especially your local big box store. Walk along the aisles and look at the books. How many copies of any book that isn’t by a best seller are there? Make a note of the titles of one or two authors you haven’t heard of before. Note how many copies of these books there are. Go back in a month and see if those titles are still on the shelves. I’ll lay odds that, unless something happened to give the books push, they won’t be. Why? Because the self life of a book is measured in weeks, sometimes in days, not in months.

There’s something else to consider. You can go the POD — publish on demand — route as a self-published author. That means you can take your book into your local indie bookstore and ask them to carry it. Yes, it may cost you a bit upfront — and we are talking however much you want to spend to buy a few copies to show, and maybe give, to the buyer for that bookstore so they can see the quality of your book. If they like it, they can then order the book and stock it. All it will cost you is the price of an ISBN to get you listed in Books in Print and a little bit of time to go make friends with your local bookstore employees.

It irritates me to no end to see authors saying they can’t put out “professional-quality” books without having a publisher. That is a load of hooey. Is it easy? No. It takes time and effort, but it can be done. The fact that this author and those who think like him are out there saying stuff like this means they are smacking every author who self-publishes in the face. The truth is, these authors who are condemning indie authors and small presses are either publishing’s darlings or they are authors who really haven’t looked into what it takes to self-publish. I’ll lay odds that they also haven’t really looked at the fine print in their contracts to see just how their publishers are screwing them out of so very much.

Again, Baen is the exception. Otherwise, Dave and Sarah wouldn’t be working with them and the rest of us wouldn’t be such vocal supporters of them.

But the list of what publishers do for you grew in further posts from other folks on the list and my disbelief continued to grow with it.

1. Editing — uh, has anyone really looked at books coming out of major publishers over the last five years or so? Have you listened to authors and their horror stories about what sort of editing — or not editing — has gone on? You have to remember that publishers have pared their staffs tremendously and now outsource or let interns handle a lot of work once done by established and respected editors and copy editors. Frankly, I’ve seen better edited self-published and small press published books than I have from some of the big publishers.

2. Cover art — see my earlier comments. Cover art isn’t what it used to be for books, with the sometimes exception of romance. But even then, if you look closely, you’ll see that the artwork is being reused by different books. Yes, the biggest way to show you are new to publishing is to have a bad cover. Yes, covers are probably the hardest for most folks to do. But to think that only big publishers put out good covers or that you have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a cover is flat wrong.

3. Printing — wrong again. Any author can go POD and little to no cost. But the issue that you have to consider is this: where will your sales come from? With the trend showing that more and more readers are going digital, shouldn’t that be where you are focused? Note also that a number of small to mid-sized publishers, and even some major publishers, are now putting out titles digitally first and only taking them to print if a certain level of sales are reached.

4. Distribution — agreed, to a point. Again, see my comment above about placement in bookstores. But again, you are working off the old business model, a model that very well may not survive in its current form for much longer.

5. Marketing — okay, that sound of hysterical laughter you hear is coming from Sarah. Every publishing contract has a clause saying that there will be marketing and push for the book. Does it happen? Not really. The book is listed in a catalog and, if the market rep happens to have read and liked the book, she might suggest it to a bookstore purchasing agent. Otherwise, unless a book has been slotted for best seller status, that is the sum of the marketing. Authors are expected to market it themselves. They are told to brand their work, to have a website, to blog and go on blog tours, to tweet and facebook and all the other social media. They are to do trailers for their book and go talk to folks and, no, usually they are not reimbursed by the publisher. So why not do that for yourself and take yet another middleman out of the equation?

6. Accounting — oops, sorry, I just fell off my chair laughing. I’m sorry, but the accounting an author gets comes to them via bookscan. This is the form of alchemy used to say how many books have been sold and is totally unacceptable. In this day of computers and  RFIDs and instant communication, there is no reason a publisher shouldn’t know exactly how many books have been printed, shipped, sold, and returned. But no, they don’t do this. They hire a company — the same company that does the Neilson ratings for TV — to estimate sales. Depending on who you ask, these figures are 1/3 – 2/3 lower than actual sales. So, who gets screwed? The author.

I know there are authors out there who will never feel they’ve made it as an author until they have been published by a “real” publisher. Would I jump at a chance to work with a house like Baen? You betcha. But I also respect what authors like Larry Corriea who went the indie route, proved himself and landed a contract with Baen because of it. He, and others like him, have proven that you can make it as an indie author and can use that platform to launch into traditional publishing — if that is what you want.

So maybe instead of beating our heads against the wall, we should do what Larry did, do what authors like Sarah and Dave are doing. We should put our work out there in the best format we can. If we don’t put out the quality our fans want, we’ll know it. We’ll hear about it through the lack of sales and through the comments we’ll bet via reviews or email or facebook posts. But at least we are trying and not sitting in our rooms, beating our breasts and wailing about how unfair it is because we can’t break through.

A writer writes. A writer finds a way to get his work into the hands of his readers. If one path appears to be closed to you, then find another. If you don’t, you’ll never know if you could have made it because you’ll continue to knock on doors that may never open.