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Posts tagged ‘Honor from Ashes’

A Cautionary Tale, Part 2

Last week, I wrote “A Cautionary Tale” about what initially appeared to be a bump in the road in the release of Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). What I didn’t know was that the problem would continue to exist not just for that day but for days and days. In fact, it isn’t completely dealt with as I type this. Things are better, for certain definitions of better, but I’m still seeing the negative impact of what happened.

A quick reminder of what happened. A week ago yesterday, I woke to an email from Kindle Quality Control saying there was a problem with the file for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). It had the right cover but the wrong ASIN and interior file. Within half an hour I updated the file. Approximately six hours later, I received notice that the file had gone live. Except it hadn’t. For most of the next five days, the purchase and KU read for free buttons would not be active. Some of the time, it would say the book was unavailable. Or the buttons would be there but the disclaimer that the book was under review and therefore not available for purchase would be present. Those few times you could buy the book, you might have gotten the correct book or you might not have.

Making matters worse, for whatever reason, the emails that should have been sent out to those who had pre-ordered or purchased before the file was pulled were not. Nor did Kindle Customer Support have a clear idea of what was going on. Some of those who tried helping those with the wrong file did what they were supposed to do — the pushed through the updated file. Others said to return the book and try to buy it later. Still others said to wait and see if the update came through later.

The result, as I’m sure you can imagine, was a number of returns (the most I have ever had for any book) and negative reviews. Both of which brought up other issues.

Finally, last Wednesday, I had had enough and I e-mailed Jeff Bezos. I knew he wouldn’t actually see the email but it made me feel better. It was a business-like letter, detailing everything I had been through to that point. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call late in the day from someone who had gotten the job of trying to find out what was going on and making sure things got cleared up.

Long story short, she talked to different departments and made sure the web page was made stable and my book could be purchased. She talked to the folks in charge of reviews. She listened as I explained how this fiasco had impacted the book’s release and prevented me from doing any true marketing because I couldn’t guarantee those interested would be able to buy the book — or that they would receive the right one when they did.

She admitted that the problem pointed out some shortfalls in their process when a book is under review after the quality of it is called into question by Amazon customers. There is no clear procedure for letting Kindle Support know what is going on or what phase of the review they are at. Nor is there a clear procedure for letting the author know what is going on. All authors get is an email saying the book is under review and they will be contacted when it is approved. Well, you get a note from KDP saying the file has been approved but that isn’t the same as QA saying it is approved. So my contact at Amazon is recommending that this process be improved so others don’t have to go through what I have.

As for the 1-star reviews based on getting the wrong file, well, I’m stuck with them. The Review Department — I think you are starting to get the picture. This quickly became a situation where one hand didn’t know what the other was doing and didn’t care once it did — won’t remove the negative reviews. It doesn’t matter that they have nothing to do with the book. The fact that they deal with customer experience is enough to make the “valid” reviews. It doesn’t matter that these reviews are coming in now because Amazon didn’t act quickly enough doesn’t matter either. All I can do is grin and bear it — and as you to down vote them.

Actually, there is more I can do but I need your help to do it. If you received the wrong book after Thursday of this past week, especially if you have yet to receive the correct one, let me know. When I contacted Amazon yesterday about the continuing problem, I was asked to provide specifics.

Amazon is very understanding about my concern and understands this has cost me money and some good will with my readers. Their recompense for it is to allow me a couple of extra days of promotion through Kindle Unlimited. This is more than a little counter-productive, although I accepted it. First, I rarely run promos for a new book. Second, that promo (if I run it) won’t make up for the money I’ve lost. Nor will it replace the good will that has been soured. In fact, it might cause more ill-will. After all, I would be doing a giveaway or countdown deal for a book my readers have just paid full price on.

What am I taking away from all this? Good question and one I’m still asking myself since this is still an on-going situation. I’ll try to sort it out here.

For me:

  • I have to be even more careful than ever before to make sure there is no issue with my work when I get ready to upload a file.
  • I am going to think long and hard about doing pre-orders in the future. Not only because of the impact they have on publication day numbers (As Dorothy pointed out, pre-orders don’t count toward release date rankings but count on the day of the pre-order) but because of the length of time it has taken to deal with the current situation.
  • While I am still frustrated and disappointed in Amazon and the way it has handled this situation, especially the negative reviews, I will continue working with them. They have tried to do what they can to assist me and they are still the big dog when it comes to indie publishing. They are also the easiest of the outlets to access and use, both as a reader and as a writer.
  • I will pay closer attention to what is happening re: foreign sales if I do another pre-order because I might have spotted the issue a few hours before Amazon notified me if I had this time.
  • If I should get another such notice form Amazon, I will download the preview file (again) before uploading a new file. This serves two purposes. It will let me see if I did upload the wrong file (which I still deny because I checked my copy of not only what was uploaded but the preview file I downloaded) but it gives proof to Amazon that the problem is on their end. What happens when you upload a file to Amazon, that new file overwrites the old file so they will not admit any problem being their fault because they can’t check it on their own servers once that new file is uploaded.

Regarding Amazon:

  • It is still the only real game in town so I will continue working with them.
  • Amazon needs to improve the communication between departments within the KDP process.
  • Amazon needs to reconsider its policy about reviews and make it easier for authors to challenge reviews. I have no problem getting a negative review because someone doesn’t like my work. But when, as in this case, I have jumped through every hoop to correct a technical problem and yet Amazon drags its feet, those reviews are on them and not on me. I should not continue to be punished as a result. No author should.
  • Amazon needs to make it easier — as in possible — to contact the Kindle KDP QA people after a book has been removed for review. As it stands right now, the only thing you can do is contact Kindle KDP support (which can be fun in and of itself) and then ask them to contact QA. You may or may not be successful.

The biggest decision I have to make now is about what my next step should be. I will continue letting my contact at Amazon know of any problems with the book’s download that are brought to my attention. I am planning on a new title in the series, an extra title that will take place before the events of Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1). I’ll figure out a way to make it available to those of you who have stuck with me through all this before it goes up for sale on Amazon. (It may be that I will announce it here and on my blog and put it up for a very limited time for free there before it goes up on Amazon. I’m still working on that.) But do I start writing Victory from Ashes now, putting it out ASAP, or do I keep with my current publication schedule and not write it until later this year, early next year? What are your thoughts?

What this all shows is that writing is like any other business. Not every release goes as smoothly as you want it to. There can be breaks in the supply or delivery chain. It would be easy to throw my hands up and say I’m never working with Amazon again. But that would be a perfect example of cutting off my nose to spite my face. Mistakes happen — and did, on both our parts. Now I have to work my butt off to make up for the problems and rebuild from it. Fortunately, Amazon has done what it can. Not as much as I would have liked but more than many companies would have. So I move forward. All I have to decide is which path to take — or, more specifically, which book to write now.

In the meantime, I’d appreciate knowing if you are still having trouble getting the right file downloaded. I’d also appreciate it if you would leave a review once you’ve read Honor from Ashes. Those reviews will go a long way to counter the negative ones.

 

A Cautionary Tale

Update at the bottom of the post.

Update 2 added at 9:50 pm CST — see below.

Yesterday probably had to be the worst day in my life as an indie author. Release days are always nerve-wracking. Will people buy your book? Will they like your book? Or will they say your baby is ugly and laugh like mean girls? All of that paled into nothingness when I woke to find an email from Amazon telling me they had pulled Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) and it would not be on sale until I fixed the issue(s) reported by customers.

Gulp! The book had only been out for hours when the email had been sent. What was wrong?

I scoured the email for an explanation and the only thing it told me was “Metadata & cover image are of “Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3)”, but the ASIN contains “Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2).”

What?

So, at 0730 I was trying to figure out how in the hell I had managed to upload the wrong file — except nothing I found showed that I had. The only possible explanation I could find was that I had forgotten to do one thing when I copied the legal page from Duty from Ashes to the Honor from Ashes file was change the AISN. The rest of the text was correct — in my upload file but not in the file that was being sent to those kind folks who had pre-ordered my book.

So, I did what any reasonable author would do in that situation: I panicked. I cursed. I even cried a little. But then I pulled up the base file, changed the AISN and re-uploaded it to my account. I also sent an email to Amazon at 0806 to let them know I had done as they asked. Then I blogged over at Nocturnal Lives to let folks know what was going on.

And I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited some more.

And still Honor from Ashes was removed from sale. At one point, you could hit the buy or read for free buttons but you would get an error message. Then the dreaded “this item is under review” language hit the product page.

And the returns continued.

At 1022, I sent another email to KDP to find out what was going on. As with the earlier message, there was silence. Around noon, I went to my dashboard for KDP and sent a message to the help desk, asking for an update, noting that I was losing money and all I could do was tell those who were hitting my boards on Amazon that I had done what had been asked of me but was as much in the dark right now as were they.

I spent the day, gritting my teeth, unable to work, as I watched the returns continue. Fortunately, those who checked the boards, saw what was happening and they, in turn, took to the two one-star reviews to explain what was going on. But the damage has been done. There are now reviews for Honor from Ashes, claiming it is nothing more than a reprint of Duty from Ashes under a different title. Any new readers who might consider buying the book may be run off because of that.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I did finally hear from Amazon at 2238 hrs last night, almost 20 hours after their initial email to me. Again, they alleged I uploaded the wrong file — but did not include the file so I could check it myself. Okay, I can live with that. I don’t like it, but I can live with it. However, there was nothing said about how long it would be until the book was once more available for purchase. (Note, too, that after I uploaded the new file a little after 0800, I received an email from them saying it was “live” at 1242 hrs. It showed on my dashboard as being live. The preview of the book on the product page showed the new file almost instantly. And yet it was still not available for purchase.)

I asked again, how long. So far, I have had no response.

I kept busy on the Amazon boards that deal with the book, answering questions, assuring readers that I had done everything I could and it was in Amazon’s hands. Their frustration over the delay matched my own — and I will be in contact with them when I figure out how to thank them for their patience.

Sleep was fitful last night as a result. Would I wake up this morning to find the book still unavailable? Even if it was finally available, how deep would the damage be? Returns had been taking place all day. Negative reviews were coming in. How would all that impact the first “day”/week sales?

So, when I finally rolled out of bed this morning, I very hesitantly checked email. Sigh. Nothing from Amazon. So I went to the product page, fully expecting to find it still reflecting the fact it was “under review”. Fortunately, it is now “live”. You can buy it or borrow it under the Kindle Unlimited program. Unfortunately, there are now two 1-star reviews. The only saving grace is the 4-star review (leaving an average of 2-stars — GULP!) and comments from those who had been following the boards to the reviewers that they needed to wait until Amazon made the correct file available. I thank each and every one of those fans who responded to those reviews. I hope those reviewers go back and edit their reviews but I’m afraid the damage has been done.

This entire affair has shown the one real fault in the KDP program, whether you are in KDP or KDP select/Unlimited. There is no way to pick up the phone and call them when you first see a problem. You are limited to e-mail. Sure, if the emails go on long enough, they may call you but that doesn’t help in situations like the one I faced where time is of the essence. It has left a sour taste in my mouth, as well as in the mouths of my fans.

Does this mean I will look for an alternative to KDP? No. It is the big dog in the game and moving away from it would be more than counter-productive. It does mean I will be even more careful about my uploads. It means I will continue trying to find out exactly what happened and how to avoid it in the future. Most of all, it means I need to those who read the book and enjoyed it to post positive reviews to counter the negative ones.

In the meantime, I will edit the product description to note that the previous download problems have been corrected. Hopefully, after a week, that will stem the damage that has already occurred. I don’t know.

All I can say is “damn it” and censor myself from saying anything else.

In the meantime, here is the link to the NOW live product page:

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3)

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

UPDATE: If you downloaded the book as a result of pre-ordering it, please confirm that you have the corrected version. It appears that some people have not automatically received it. Check your settings (Manage My Devices and Content/Settings) to see if you have automatic updates turned on. If not, you may need to delete the file from your device — NOT your account — and re-download. If that doesn’t work, contact Amazon and let me know. Amazon should respond quickly and get you the correct file. If not, I need to know. Thanks!

Update 2: Since the last update, I have been on the phone three times with Amazon, as well as having exchanged several emails with them. Problems still persist. Here is what I can tell you. If you pre-ordered the book and have not received the correct version, you need to contact Amazon (calling is the best) and ask them to push the update through. I have requested they push it through to everyone but it doesn’t appear they have done so. Also, for whatever reason, the ability to buy the book comes and goes. There is a notice on the page that they have the book under review and have contacted me about it. Wrong. The one and only time they did so was yesterday morning and that file has been replaced, approved and checked by them. I can do nothing else until business hours tomorrow because KDP tech support doesn’t work nights. Bear with me and I will keep you informed. Thanks for the understanding and support.

When a book becomes a series

Jason is being held hostage by work this week. He mumbled (can you mumble via IM?) something about 120 hour work week. So I said I’d stand in for him. The following post is one I wrote for Nocturnal-Lives a couple of months ago (with a few updates today). I thought I’d run it here today because Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) will go live in a little more than two weeks.

How did I find myself writing a series? Usually, I don’t set out to do so. Honor and Duty (3 Book Series) was the exception. I knew it would be a series. The initial plan was for two books, three at the most. I wanted to do a story arc that took the main character, Ashlyn Shaw, from betrayal to redemption. I wanted it to be a mix of space opera and military science fiction. What I didn’t expect was that it, too, in many ways would take on a life of its own.

The first inklings of the plot for Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) took root some time ago. A hint of a plot here, a glimpse of a character there. When I finally decided it was time to sit down and see if I could get it all to gel together, I had the basic premise firmly in mind. What I hadn’t expected was that this would be a book that resisted all attempts to outline, basic or in detail. It had a way it wanted to be written and nothing else would do.

So, after fighting it for a while, I gave in and let the muse — I have mentioned before she is not only evil but stubborn, or maybe evilly stubborn or stubbornly evil — have her way. What came out is a novel I’m proud of. It is also one I had fun writing, once I quit fighting it. More importantly, Vengeance does exactly what I wanted it to do. It is peopled by characters who aren’t perfect. They are flawed and know it. Sometimes they fight those flaws and other times they give in and do things they will come to regret. The heroes make mistakes and have “bad thoughts”. The villains might enjoy what they are doing but they do, on the whole, have some redeeming qualities. Not all of them mind you. After all, there needs to be at least one sociopath in any evil scheme, right?

Ashlyn Shaw has been betrayed by the Corps she devoted much of her life to. Worse, that betrayal led to the deaths of some of the men and women who had been under her command. The result was that she had been court martialed and, along with the survivors from her team, sent to a penal colony where brutal conditions would be an improvement most days. When she is returned to the capital without warning, the last thing she’s willing to do is trust those who now ask for her help. That changes when the capital is attacked and she slowly begins to understand that things have changed and those who turned a blind eye to the way she and her people had been betrayed were no longer in power. Not that she is willing to put aside all her doubts and suspicions, even when her people are freed and every one of them receives not only a pardon but full exoneration of all charges against them.

After all, she has a duty not only to the Corps or her homeworld but to those who had looked to her for leadership and protection. She would discover who had betrayed them and that person (or persons) would face justice, even if it came at her hand. Especially if it could come at her hand.

Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) picks up where Vengeance left off. Ash is starting to settle back in to her role as a Marine. She watches closely as the investigation into the events leading up to her court martial continues. Trust is slowly returning but that niggling voice of doubt is still there. It is something she fights on a daily basis, except when she is with her son. He is her anchor and her reason for not doing anything foolish. They had been separated during her time at the penal colony and she would not let that happen again. Duty might take her away from him for extended periods of time but, short of death, she would always return home.

War is now a way of life for Ash’s homeworld and its allies. The enemy is one they know well, one they have fought before. But there is something different this time. Tactics and strategies have changed. More importantly, the enemy now has ships and weaponry it hadn’t had just a few years ago, before a ceasefire had been agreed upon. That bothers Ash as well as some of her superiors. Is the enemy receiving aid — or more — from a third party they have yet to identify? Or is this simply a case of them putting to use material gained as a part of the renewed hostilities?

In spite or, or maybe because of, her time at the penal colony, Ash and her Marines are sent on a mission to help liberate one of the systems seized by the enemy. Finding allied prisoners being held in conditions similar to those she had endured almost sends her over the edge. The only thing that keeps her from killing the commandant of the camp were her own people stepping in. That, and seeing how they understood and agreed with her but how they were also determined not to let her do anything foolish, causes her to step back. It is hard and she knows how close she came to breaking. More importantly, she is ready to face the consequences when she returns home, not that she wouldn’t do it all over again because it helped get them the information they needed to not only save more POWs but because of the possible intelligence it led to.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is currently available for pre-order. In this book, the war is in full swing. As the intelligence Ash and her people found, as well as that being sent from other units, is reviewed, it becomes clear that their suspicions were correct. There is a third party involved in the battle, one no one suspected. Add to that the fact the third party has operatives on-planet who are determined to make sure those who set up Ash and her people never reveal what they know.

Because it is war, people die. Ash is going to face the loss of not only some of those under her command but of people close to her. The first is expected. They are Marines and their unit is the one often sent into the worst possible situations, the unit expected to do the impossible. The latter is something she has always known to be possible but never something easy to take.

Here’s the blurb:

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Honor won’t be the last book in the series. There will be one more to complete this story arc. However, my evil muse is already telling me that there will be more stories written in this universe. Some will have Ash and company as supporting characters. Others will focus on some of the characters we’ve met but who didn’t play major roles in this series.

Or, my muse could fool me again and decide that there will be another two books in the series. I just have to remember to remind her that there comes a time when all series, no matter how much she loves them, must come to an end.

Putting things into perspective

One of the challenges anyone who happens to be self-employed faces is having to carry on in the face of real life challenges. It doesn’t matter what your profession. You can be an accountant or professional dog walker, a painter or a writer. When you are self-employed, you don’t have the cushion of paid time off or sick leave. No matter what the hurdle life throws at you, you have to find a way to continue working. If you don’t, the money stops. That is the reality of the situation.

It is also one that was brought home to me with a vengeance this past week. Oh, I know we here at MGC talk about life derailing us from time to time. Usually, it is only a bump in the road. It throws us off our plans and makes us have to reflect for a bit to find a new plan of attack. Sometimes it becomes hard to push through, more because what we had planned has suddenly fallen through than anything else. There are times when we have to focus on things other than our writing but we always know we will get back to it sooner rather than later. We have managed to survive moves (and I still shake my head in wonder at how Dave and Barbs managed to move to Flinders Island without going absolutely insane) and illness and job loss and more.

This past week, however, I found myself faced with something that made me realize how important it is to put things into perspective. But it was more than that, not only do we have to put all those hurdles into perspective but we have to have an emergency game plan, not just for life but for work. Why? Because things happen and we can’t always control it.

I won’t go into details here because the hurdle isn’t mine, not really. But it is one that will impact me because it has risen up to hit people I care about. One of my oldest and dearest friends is facing a challenge the vast majority of us will only ever read about. She is going to need me with her as she faces this challenge. Even if she hadn’t asked, I would be there for her. Why? Because she has always been there for me and mine.

That’s what friends and family do. You rally around those you care about.

But, when you do, work is impacted.

I know that the next few weeks and months will see us waiting for the shoe to drop. In some ways, it will be like those last weeks of pregnancy. A bag will be packed, the gas tank filled and we will all be waiting for the phone to ring to tell us it is time to leave. No, not a bug-out, at least not in a Ringo-esque sort of way. This is the call to get to the hospital within a certain amount of time. The clock is ticking and it is very loud.

It has impacted my work and will continue to. It’s hard not to let it when suddenly you are reminded what is important in life. So I spent some time over the last week figuring out how to deal with the rollercoaster the next few weeks and months will be. Part of it will mean being very disciplined about work on those days when I know I can work. Those days — like today — the butt goes into the chair after the first cup of coffee and it basically stays there until the end of the work day. Yep, I am forcing myself to get back into the habit of an 8 – 5 work day. Not all of it is writing. There are breaks for research, all carefully timed so I don’t fall down the research hole, and editing. Then there are the inevitable interruptions to let the dog out — and bring him back in.

I am also having to look more closely at my publishing schedule and how to keep as close to it as I can without completely going off the tracks when the proverbial fecal matter hits the fan. I have always had more than one project going at a time. Usually, that has meant I’ve been writing one novel while plotting the next one. That hasn’t changed but I now am looking at writing, editing and plotting all at the same time. It takes discipline, but it can and will be done.

It has also meant changing what I have with me at any time. I’ve always had my phone and a small notepad squirreled away in my purse in case I needed to make a note about something. Smart phones are great for being able to use for dictation and look up things, etc. Now, however, the small purse — my preference — has been traded for a larger one. The smartphone and pad have been joined by my Surface Pro 3, stylus and charger. Why? Because the SP3 gives me everything my laptop does but at a fraction of the weight. The screen, while small, is still larger than my Android tablet and the keyboard is much better than the virtual keyboard on the Android. Add in the thumb drive with all my working files and I have my office on the go.

The other thing I’ve done to make work more streamlined is I have turned off social media. Once the butt goes in the chair, I disconnect from Facebook, etc., and only go back at lunch and after the “work day” is over. Oh, it isn’t a complete cut off because there are a few folks I keep in touch with through social media. Notices go to my phone and I check them during breaks. However, all I see are headlines. If it isn’t an emergency, those notices get dismissed, forgotten until after work.

The result has been that I can and have been getting the job done despite the worry that is constantly there right now. I am working hard to not only meet the schedule I set for myself at the beginning of the year but to get ahead. I want that cushion for the day when we get the call telling us it is time to meet my friends at the hospital. I want to be able to be there for them and not worry about falling behind on “work”. I need to know that I am keeping with my schedule so the money can and will keep coming in. I need to know that, no matter what the time of day or day of the week, I am able to continue working without worry about where I happen to be. So, I will push now to get as much done as possible. I will plan for those days spent in waiting rooms by having a go-bag ready. That means always making sure I know where power cords are and extra thumb drives with all my current files backed up onto them.

It means being flexible, something I’m not always good at. But for now, it also means being disciplined.

So here’s my question for you. Are you prepared to continue pushing through you work in the face of a crisis? If so, what steps have you taken? If not, why not?

Finally, because I am a working writer, that means I need to do some promo — which I suck at.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) will go live April 18th. It is available now for pre-order. Here is a short snippet. This is from the rough draft — I’m still working on my first cup of coffee this morning and getting up to find my thumb drive means moving the cat and dog currently guarding my feet. VBEG

*   *   *

“Please have a seat, Colonel. The others will join you shortly.”

Before she could reply, the young lieutenant stepped back and the door slid shut. For a moment, Lt. Colonel Ashlyn Shaw stared at the door, her concern growing. It went beyond this unscheduled – and so far unexplained – summons to meet with General Helen Okafor, Commandant of the Fuerconese Marine Corps. It even went beyond the very bad memories she had of this particular conference room. Something was wrong, very wrong. She could feel it all the way down to her bones. She simply didn’t know what it might be.

A frown tugged at the corners of her mouth as she looked around. Memories washed over her. Two and a half years ago, she had stood in this very same conference room, unaware that her life was about to be turned into a living Hell. That day, the JAG officer in charge of prosecuting her and the surviving members of her squad had offered her a deal. If she pled guilty to all charges, he would recommend a sentence of twenty-five years – without parole – and would make sure her people served only ten years He assured her it was much better than she would get if she were found guilty of the charges that had been leveled against her. She had refused. How could she plead guilty, how could she ask her people to plead guilty, when they had done nothing wrong? Foolishly, she had believed her beloved Corps would not turn its back on her and her squad mates.

That decision had cost all of them two years in the military penal colony on Tarsus. Two long years when she believed the Corps, her family and her homeworld had turned their backs on her. She knew better now but the hurt and the distrust sometimes returned. She had no doubt it would continue until those responsible for framing her and her squad, not to mention being responsible for the deaths of their squadmates, were tried and found guilty.

But she had to put that behind her.

She had put it behind her.

Breathing deeply, she turned and made her way to the table in the center of the room. The only other person present watched her, his expression betraying a mixture of concern and curiosity. Seeing it, she guessed he had more idea why they had been sent for than did she. Unfortunately, that did nothing to reassure her. Experience had taught her bad things came all too often from such meetings.

“Stand easy, Ash,” Admiral Richard Collins said before she could brace to attention. “Have seat.”

“Thank you, sir.” She sat opposite him and smiled in appreciation as he poured her a mug of coffee the carafe someone had left.

“By any chance do you know what this is all about?”

“That’s a negative, sir. I was hoping you could tell me.”

She heard the uncertainty in her voice and silently cursed it. No, she cursed the reason for it. The nightmares that had plagued her might be coming with less frequency but they still lurked just beneath the surface of her self-control. They mingled with the ever-present doubt that the last few months had been nothing but a ruse and she would soon find herself back on Tarsus, once again a military prisoner. Intellectually, she knew that to be false but it was hard to put the betrayals of the past behind her.

“I guess we have to wait and see then.”

Ashlyn nodded again and produced her datapad. She might have to wait to find out why she’d been sent for but that didn’t mean she couldn’t work. There were always reports to review or write and assignments to be made. Even though the Devil Dogs had been groundside for almost a month, it was her job to keep them at combat readiness. Fuercon was at war and that meant they could be shipped out any time or, worse, the capital could once again come under attack.

The door once again slid open. Instantly, Ashlyn and Collins slid their chairs away from the table and stood. As they braced to attention, two others entered. They remained silent as they move to the table. Then, as the door closed and a low hum filled the room, signaling full security block had been put in place, Linden Klingsbury, Secretary of Defense, motioned for everyone to be seated.

“Thank you both for coming.” His deep voice might not betray his feelings but his eyes did. Ashlyn saw the worry and something else, anger maybe, reflected in them. “I apologize for not only the early hour but also for the lack of notice in getting you here. I assure you, it was necessary. The last thing General Okafor and I want is for certain parties to start asking questions we aren’t ready to answer.”

He broke off as a soft tone signaled someone at the door. A moment after the admiral lowered the security screen, the door slid open. The lieutenant who had shown Ash in earlier stepped inside, followed by an ensign carrying a tray with coffee and several covered dishes on it. They quickly served coffee to the newcomers and then topped off Ash’s and Collins’ mugs. After making sure nothing else was needed, they left the room. Klingsbury reactivated the security screen even as he motioned for everyone to help themselves.

“Admiral, Colonel, what you are about to see and hear cannot leave this room. The only reason you are being read in right now is because this information came to us through your actions as well as the actions of your people. Your last mission gave us a treasure trove of intel we are still examining. To be honest, even that isn’t reason enough to read you in. However, both of you have started asking questions that show you have started putting two and two together. These questions, while valid, are best left unasked for the moment. It is my hope you will understand before you leave here.”

Concern once again growing, Ashlyn reached for her mug. As she did, she thought back to that last mission. They had been lucky, probably luckier than they had any right to expect. For whatever reason, the enemy had moved out of the Cassius System, leaving only a minimal defensive presence. Whether they had been overconfident or there had been another motive, she didn’t know and, frankly, she didn’t care. That decision had meant First Fleet and the Devil Dogs had been able to liberate the system and rescue the POWs with minimal losses.

None of which explained what the admiral meant.

“Before we get started, I need you to confirm, on record, that none of what you are about to see or hear will leave this room without permission from either myself or General Okafor,” Klingsbury continued.

For a moment, neither Collins nor Ashlyn spoke. “A point of clarification, sir,” Collins said. “Does this apply to our XOs?”

“It does.”

Ash frowned. She did not like keeping her XO in the dark, no matter what the information might be. That was especially true if the information could help the Devil Dogs do their duty. “General, begging your pardon, but that could put our people at a serious disadvantage.”

“Ash, I understand your concerns,” General Helen Okafor said. “All we are asking is you don’t jump to conclusions until you have seen what we have to show you. If, after you have, you still want to discuss reading in your XOs, we will consider it.”

Knowing she could ask for nothing more, Ash nodded. “Then, with that proviso, I agree.”

“As do I,” Collins said.

“Thank you, both of you.” Klingsbury punched a code into the console in front of him and the holo display over the table came to life. The Fuerconese flag filled the display. “Admiral Collins, Colonel Shaw, the two of you, along with the men and women under your commands, have served Fuercon and its allies well. This information will help bring an end to the war, hopefully sooner rather than later. But it is not something we can move on just yet. Not without further confirmation of what it appears to represent. However, I believe that once you see this, you will understand its importance and the need for secrecy until we are ready to act.”

“Help yourselves to food and then we’ll get started. There is a lot for you to see and, unless I miss my guess, there will be even more to discuss,” Okafor said.

Ash cast a quick glance at Collins who shrugged. Like it or not, she would just have to wait to find out why she’d been summoned to this off-the-books meeting with the Commandant of the Fuerconese Marine Corps and Secretary of Defense.

 

Some thoughts, some promo

After the usual suspects came up empty when I asked for blog topics last night, I found myself wondering just what to write about today. It would be easy enough to do a riff on the “outrage” over Neil Gaiman’s Clarion tweet. But that’s been done by better folks than me (waves at Brad). I could do a post on critique groups but, again, it’s been done before by several of us here. So what to do, what to do?

Then I came across the latest kerfluffle in the industry. Once again, there’s a debate going on about whether or not author’s should be paid royalties for used book sales. I touched on the topic earlier but it seems that this is the topic that won’t go away, at least not right away. So, here is the question: should authors be paid royalties for used book sales?

Kristen Lamb comes down on the side of paying royalties for used book sales.(Edited to add: while Ms. Lamb does not specifically say this, I felt it was inferred. As always, I leave it to our readers to go see what she had to say and make their own decision.)  It seems Ms. Lamb was up in arms over the fact that “like TEN writers” had linked to the Washington Post’s article about the resurgence of used bookstores. Worse, those writers were excited by them. Her biggest issue with used bookstores is that writers don’t get paid for books sold through them. She goes on to say that if she does buy a book through a used bookstore, she does her best to also buy the digital version so the author gets money. Her main point, if you haven’t already guessed, is that writers should be paid for their product.

Now, I like getting paid as much as the next writer. I’m not in this to suffer for my art. I have bills to pay and animals that really do start looking at me funny if they don’t get their kibble on time. But, as nice as it sounds to be paid for second sales, I’m a realist as well. It’s hard enough to get actual sales numbers from traditional publishing without worrying about how they will account for used book sales. Let’s face it, authors right now are only getting paid for books it is estimated are sold and it is going to stay that way as long as publishers use services like BookScan to tell them how many books are sold at certain stores and then — thanks to handwavium — this is how many books we think were sold system-wide.

So, say you do get through a clause in your publishing contract that says you will be paid for second sales of your books. How is that going to be handled? How many mom and pop used bookstores are there out there? Are you going to require them to put in the hardware and software necessary to scan every book that comes through their doors and then upload that data to some central server — ala BookScan — so publishers can then figure out what the royalty amount should be?

Next question: if you do that, are publishers then going to try to put limits on what the price for these used books might be? After all, publishers aren’t going to want to be left out of this equation. Neither are the agents. Do you see what I’m getting at? That royalty you, the author, were looking forward to is now a pittance of what it might have been because of all the other folks with their hands out.

Question the third: if you start tracking used book sales, will that impact the definition of “in print” for conversion purposes?

All of that is something to consider before we, as authors, start making demands where used bookstores are concerned. But there is more.

As I said, I’m not in this business just to give away my time and my work. This is my job just as much as it is my calling. If I wanted to just write, that’s what I’d do and I would return to the corporate world. After all, I spent years writing for my own entertainment and then shoved all that work under the bed, or in the closet or used it to build bonfires. Then someone — Sarah — applied pointy boots to my posterior and I haven’t looked back. I like the money I make from this gig and I like it when people tell me they have read something I wrote and enjoyed it. Getting those emails or PMs asking when the next book comes out gives me warm tingly feelings.

However, I recognize that used bookstores serve their purpose. Much like libraries, used bookstores allow people who either can’t or won’t pay new book prices to discover the work of authors they hadn’t tried before. We might not make a few pennies in royalties from that “sale” but we gain something else: word of mouth. That is our most important and powerful form of promotion. If someone likes something we write, they will tell their family and friends. Those folks, in turn, may very well buy one or more of our books, be it in print or digital. These same used book purchasers do still leave reviews on Amazon and other sites. That, too, is important. Sure, they don’t show up as “verified purchasers” but a good review is always something we should welcome.

Eric Flint has addressed this issue at length and, while he and I might not agree on a lot of things, this is one topic we are pretty much in agreement on. Go take a look at what he has to say.

Now for the promo, because I am in this for the money. For those who have been following my blog, you know that this last two months have been busy ones for me. I’ve managed to publish two novels and put a third up for pre-order.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is now available for pre-order. Release is set for April 18th.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Slay Bells Ring is a mixture of mystery and romance, with the emphasis more on mystery. This is the book that forced me to write it.

Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.

Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.

Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.

And finally, Nocturnal Challenge, the fourth book in the Nocturnal Lives series.

Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4)

By Amanda Green

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

The first three volumes (Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude
are available individually or as the Nocturnal Lives “boxed set”.) are also available.