When bad publishers attack… again…

It’s not a big secret that every now and then a publisher pops up that seems to be good at the outset and then flounders like a fish out of water, gasping for air before flopping to a ‘orrible death. We’ve seen a lot of these on the Absolute Write forum, mostly because of the plethora of one-person outfits that start up with the best of intentions (to publish their own works) and end up in water way over their head.

The most recent implosion seems to be Ridan Publishing and Robin Sullivan. In a nutshell she created Ridan to publish her husband’s work (which later got picked up by Orbit and is doing quite well) and later took on other authors. She came to the attention of the AW crew mostly because of her claims that seems to be, well… outlandish. That she could pay high royalties and maintain a high sell rate despite never updating her website or doing much promotion other than cranking out ebooks with fabulous covers (courtesy of her husband) and give the author a contract that had an opt-out clause that could be invoked within 30 days – hardly standard for the industry.

Unfortunately these dreams came to a smashing halt with the discovery last week that she wasn’t paying royalties to A.C. Crispin for her Starbridge series, out of print and which Ms Crispin wanted to see back in print to provide funds for her medical costs. Now if you don’t know who Ms Crispin is… well, let’s just say she’s a Big Name in the author world and you really don’t want to mess with her.

Ms Crispin hadn’t seen royalties for a year on these books and no communicaton with Ridan/Robin Sullivan. She invoked her clause to opt out of the relationship but the registered letter sat at the post office.



Then Jim C. Hines got into the picture. Again, if you don’t know who he is – let’s just say that he’s quite Da Man. It seems that his threat to “drop the internet” on Robin’s head prompted a phone call from Sullivan to Ms Crispin and the news came out that they were negotiating an amicable split.

Then this, just today.  On the Kindleboards where RS and Ridan basically made their reputation for supporting self-published authors and where she plucked a few for her personal stable. To say it’s insulting and disgusting is to understate the obvious. She not only throws down the amount of money she owes Ms Crispin, violating the trust between author and publisher, she blows off the entire situation and twists it around to make herself look like the good guy for doing what she’s doing to “help out”.

Gobsmacked, I iz.

This illustrates, unfortunately, a trend we’re seeing more and more of online – small one-person outfits who just can’t handle the work of running a company single-handedly and get in way over their head. There’s been numerous examples over the years tracked in AW of these people dragging down not only the authors they pull into their whirlpool but also editors, artists and others who get trapped when the sole person gets sick or has a personal crisis or something else. Whatever the reason the authors are left high and dry because there’s no one else to do the work or send out the checks or get the books released.

If nothing else the Ridan story should be a warning sign for all authors looking for a publisher – if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. And a small outfit, especially with only one person on the payroll can easily lock up your rights for a long, long time.

As regards this situation – I can safely say I wouldn’t recommend Ridan to my worst enemy right now.

As with all things – imo, jmmv.

On buying reviews…

It’s been an interesting weekend thanks to this article in the NYT – in a nutshell it details how people, usually self-published authors, can and do purchase reviews so that they end up with a stack of glowing five-star reviews on Amazon.com. The biggest revelation is that John Locke, long considered to be one of the biggest self-pub successes, not only admits to using this service to obtain over 300+ positive reviews but shows no alarm or concern that he did.

Frankly I’m not sure what to make of this. I was raised in what I think was a pretty ethical home and while I’ve done and said things that I regret later (it’s a Catholic thang) I can’t say I’ve ever entertained the idea of paying someone to review my books. It’s just not on my moral compass to do so. I’ve given books away on Goodreads and know that they’re expected to give a review back but that doesn’t guarantee a good review, just a review.

At the moment I have five books on Amazon – the three Blaze of Glory superhero books, my steampunk romance Wild Cards and the first in the Blood of the Pride series along with a few self-pubbed short stories. Most of them have reviews but not all – and while it’d be nice to have *more* reviews I can’t bring myself to consider paying out money for an unknown person to vomit five stars on my books to encourage others to buy it – because to me it’s under false pretenses. If you like my books you’ll hopefully leave a review – but if you buy my books based on a paid reviewer leaving glowing praise because he/she was paid to say it…

And I’m seeing plenty of denouncements of Locke’s methods I see almost as many writers pointing out that, well, the Big Six do it and why can’t *they* do it? After all, if we’re all breaking the rules then it’s all okay, right?

*shakes head*

I don’t get it.

Maybe I’m just too naive to be a writer in this Brave New World where everyone’s expected to break the rules in order to sell their books. I’d much rather have only a few reviews from honest people who liked my books than pay money for drumming up false reviews and thus generating sales that may be putting money in my pocket but selling snake-oil stories to unsuspecting readers who might not even consider my books if it weren’t for the glowing reviews.

But that’s just me. And if you’ve left a review of one of my works on Amazon or on GR I thank you. Because I know they’re legitimate and honest and while I may not be making millions like John Locke at least I can sleep at night.

Although I wouldn’t mind having my pillowcase stuffed with ones…



Always moving forward…

I’ve got, at last count, over fifty books on the art of writing on my bookshelves. At least that many in ebook form on my Nook.

That’s a lot of books. And I keep adding to them because I believe I cannot ever NOT keep moving forward and learning how to tell a better story.

I think it’s important for all authors to keep doing this – learning something about the craft. It may be by going to seminars or conferences, chatting in online forums or reading books but an author can’t sit back and claim they’ve reached the heights of what he/she knows about writing and that’s it.


I’ve decided to put a few notes below on authors and their books I highly recommend to anyone looking for something to add to their shelves – and feel free to add your own recommendations below!

(all links to B&N – I’m a Nook girl!)

Chuck Wendig – the man is profane and vulgar and he punches you with the truth whether you like it or not. Start with 250 Things You Should Know About Writing and move onto his further works. Follow him on Twitter and visit him at Terrible Minds. He speaks wisdom even if he whacks you over the head with a chair with it.

James Scott Bell – his writing books for Writer’s Digest are faboo but I also have to recommend his self-pub book, Writing Fiction For All You’re Worth. The man puts it out there in plain language and you’ll find all of his books gems to have in your writing library.

A note of caution, though – with the arrival of self-publishing there’s a LOT of “how to” books flooding the ‘net about how to Be A Great Writer written by, well… not so great writers. Some are thinly-disguised attempts for you to buy their works, some rants against trade publishing and some just plain old bad advice warped by bad experiences with bad information. Check out the author before buying ANY writing books – see what his/her track record is. See beyond a flashy cover and five star recommendations.

But keep on reading. And writing!


Going to Origins Game Fair this year? Me too!

About a decade ago I was searching for something that the Wookie and I could do for our anniversary – something a bit different. And legal. At least in Pennsylvania.

It was a delight to find the Origins Game Fair only a few hours away in Columbus, Ohio. We made a few preliminary one-day blitzes to see if it was to our liking and as time went on, made it a yearly trip with a hotel stay and everything.

We’re both gamers, to a degree – I cut my teeth on 1st Ed. AD&D and went on to enjoy Battletech, Wings of War/Glory, etc. He’s been an RPG boy from practically birth and loves Heroclix, Pathfinder and Memoir ’44 so we really look forward to every year’s trip.

But this year is different – I’ve been lucky enough to be included in the Library Track, the fast-growing area dedicated to authors both in and outside of the gaming field.

I’ll be on the “Tradition!” panel, the “Building Your World” panel on Friday and the “Flash Us, Part 2” panel on Saturday. And when I’m not getting soundly thomped by a ten-year old in various games, I’ll be at my table in the Library area inside the Dealers’ Hall offering print copies of “Blaze of Glory” and “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” along with discount coupons for “Blood of The Pride”!

So if you’re going to be in the area at the end of the month and looking to get some faboo gaming time in along with a great dealers’ room… and, oh, yes – some fantastic writing seminars with the likes of Mike Stackpole and others, drop on by and say hello!


World’s Biggest Bookstore – and *me*!

While I was up in Canada last month visiting my sick mother I made a quick trip into Toronto and to my fav hangout – the World’s Biggest Bookstore. If you’ve never been there… well, you’ve missed out on one of the great wonders of the world. It’s a beautifully stocked monster bookstore with almost everything you can imagine. I spent many an hour there when I lived in Toronto browsing the shelves and just wallowing in all of the literary goodness.

And I saw this:

Now, I’d already been told by the wonderful Jessica Strider that she’d shelved some copies of both “Blaze of Glory” and “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” but I wasn’t prepared to actually SEE them on the shelves. Not to mention getting to sign them and watch the staff slap the “Autographed by Author” sticker on them. Again, my thanks to Jessica and the great staff for making an old broad’s day!

I can now die a happy woman. If nothing else I’ve managed to get on the shelves of my hometown dream bookstore. What’s better than that?

(Okay, more money would help. Did I mention I’ve finished and submitted the sequel to “Blood of the Pride”?)


Why WoTC should be looking at Borders

Warning: Geek Gamer Girl post following.

One of my most prized possessions is a 1st Edition of the Player’s Handbook for AD&D, the classic “thief prying the jewel from the idol” hardcover. It’s on the shelf next to all of my hubby’s 2nd Edition books, all the 3.0, 3.5 books and a heck of a lot of d20 books from Hackmaster to Exalted to Green Ronin to Palladium Books.

Yes, we’re *that* sort of people.

But what you won’t find on our shelves is any 4.0 books. When this newest incarnation of AD&D came out we looked at it, played a demo game at Origins (with the biggest pack of powergamers EVAH who harassed and rushed us for the entire hour) and decided it wasn’t for us.

It wasn’t AD&D. Wasn’t sure what it was but it wasn’t for us.

Leap ahead a few years and now we’re seeing WoTC brag about the new, improved 5th Edition on the way. Monte Cook will save us all.


But I’m not going to write about the details of the different gaming systems or if one’s better than the other. I’m going to write about why I think Wizards should be looking at the demise of Borders, a major bookstore chain, and rethinking their strategy when it comes to their backlist.

When our local Borders was closing we visited it often to say our goodbyes to the staff who had helped us for years, in my hubby’s case for decades, to find good books. One of the saleswomen moaned to us – “The problem is that Borders doesn’t believe in backlists.”

Now you might be asking yourself – what’s a backlist? Well, a backlist is basically what it sounds like – a list of books not currently in the new release section. It’s usually the first or second books in a series that you *can’t* find when you pick up the fourth or fifth and want to read the series from the start.

Which was the problem with this particular store. No matter what the staff tried to do Borders insisted on *only* stocking new releases. So if you wanted the older books in a series or just an author’s older works you were out of luck. Cue Amazon’s one-click ordering system.

We really miss our Borders but knew the frustration of not being able to get older books. New releases are nice but sometimes you want the choice of an author’s past books or collect the entire series from the start.

Back to WoTC.

When 4th Edition was released the tale goes that WoTC immediately began pulping ALL of their older stock. ALL of the 3.0, 3.5, all of it. After all, why would you want to keep printing and shipping an older version of the game while you were trying to convert your existing playerbase to 4th?

*loud buzzing noise*

And there’s the rub. Right now any printed copies of 3.5 are hot, hot, hot on the secondary market.

Money lost to WoTC because of their scorched earth policy. Now, I understand the concept of making your core players shift to the new system by simply denying them the sourcebooks to keep playing the old game… but considering 4th Ed. is, as far as I’m concerned, a whole different gaming system it would have been in WoTC’s best interests to keep 3.5 in print or at least in digital copies. The amount of money lost to the secondary market as 3.5 players either replace their own copies or NEW players move to 3.5 … well, it’s got to be a lot.

Now I realize it’s not really a fair comparison, gaming books and novels – but I think there’s lessons here to be learned. First, never discount the demand for your backlist. Whether it’s old gaming books or a series of novels, there’s always someone out there who will want it. Heck, there’s still a demand for D&D modules – the really old-school THACO types. 2nd Edition is still hot at gaming conventions and everyone still loves the d20 generic systems out there – and Pathfinder seems well on the way to rule them all.

Second – digital rules. Right now many authors are racing to get their backlist of works into digital form because ebooks are pretty well forever and if you want to find older works by a particular author you’ll be able to digitally download and enjoy hours and hours of reading. I’ve been enjoying all of J.D. Robb’s past In Death books in ebook form because it’s easier than trying to find the paperbacks, most of which are too old and would only be in used bookstores, if even there.

There’s nothing stopping WoTC from making official digital copies of 3.5 available through their website and making money. No cost to print, nothing other than the price of keeping the website going.

But I guess the question here is – will WoTC realize that one of the reasons Borders, a major bookstore chain, fell was because they didn’t look behind them and try to serve customers who wanted *more* than just the hottest new releases? Or will 5th Edition mean that all the 4E books race towards the shredder to be erased like their earlier versions?

As usual, jmo – ymmv.

(And I’ll be at Origins this year – shout out to ma peeps!)

New Babbage steampunk stories!

A few years ago I ventured into the virtual world of Second Life, a free online world where you can wander anywhere and anywhen, taking up different avatars and accessories as you wanted to.

I landed in a steampunk sim called New Babbage – a quaint little town with a few little quirks. Not that I was without my own, becoming Sheryl Skytower, the Clockwork Dragon of New Babbage!

Recently the New Babbage Fiction Press put out their first work – Tales of New Babbage, The Steampunk City – Volume One.

I am happy to say that I helped out by writing some of the introductions to these fine tales – stories by and about the citizens of this virtual steampunk world.

If you’re looking for something different to add to your reading pile may I suggest this wonderful book – available now in print.

And if anyone wants to wander into Second Life – it’s free, VERY easy to learn, and a great way to make friends and visit other worlds from Victorian steampunk to reproductions of famous cities to art galleries to nightclubs and RPG sims.

Just be sure to drop your favorite clockwork dragon a note!


Why cover artists are Gods and Goddesses…

I love cover art. I’ll admit it’s one of the first things that brings me up to a book and makes me grab it off the shelf. Only then do I look at the synopsis and the back blurb, flip through the pages and read a bit.

I’m *that* type of reader.

Which is why I love and worship those talented people who do cover art. I’ve seen some mighty BAD covers and I’ve seen some mighty FABOO covers over the years, going all the way back to when I worked as an editorial secretary for Penguin Books Canada.

Back then the art department consisted of two artists and a manager who worked wonders with their sketchpads (remember, this was in the 80’s and BEFORE computer programs took off) and came up with beautiful images for the books. But it was a long, complicated process of meetings and discussions and reworking images until it all came together to produce some wonderful covers.

One of my favorite stories is when we were working on Peter C. Newman’s history of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He wanted a certain image used on the cover of one volume and there was a problem – the canoe in the image just didn’t look right with the voyageurs looking to one side.

The cure? Flipping the image. The only way you’d know it wasn’t the original picture was the reversal of the HBC logo at the front of the canoe. It made the book even better.

Or Pierre Berton’s “Vimy”, an oral history of the epic WWI battle. After a lot of planning they settled on a purple cover with a poppy on the front. So little that said so much. Perfect.

With the introduction of such programs as Poser and Paintshop it’s become easier to produce covers and small presses have taken advantage of this to create some fine, fine images.

And… some awful, awful, ‘orrible book covers that shouldn’t have seen the light of day.

Exhibit one: Catherine Cookson’s backlist.

Take a minute. Get that blood out of your eyes. Please, take a minute.

Cover art is everything. Cover art will grab the reader before your words can and I thank God every day for the talented people I’ve had working on my behalf to create great cover art for my books.

Sure, my stories have to live up to the cover art. But without a good image I won’t even get a chance for the reader to pick it up and read a few words.

Think about it next time you grab a book in e-form or paperback. And send a silent thank-you to the cover artists who make magic happen for us authors with each and every creation.



Why you shouldn’t listen to me…

Every once in a while I get asked for writing advice, either in RL or in Second Life where I run around as a tiny clockwork dragon and hang out in steampunk sims. And I have the same answer for both lives – don’t ask me for writing advice!


Because I’m not one to ask. I’m a tough old broad who lucked out after a decade of writing fanfiction into finding editors and publishers willing to take a chance on my original fiction and actually PAY me to write my dreams down. I might be a decent writer and I sure like to think I can spin a yarn that’ll have you plunking down coin to purchase but I’m in no position to deliver golden words o’wisdom on writing.

However, being a writing craft book junkie, I *can* point you to people who know what they’re talking about and who have much, much more credibility than I do in this writing business.

Here they are – just a handful off my fat shelf of writing books and in no particular order – but I think that during this crazy month of NaNoWriMo everyone deserves to discover these gems.

Chuck Wendig

His books on writing are cheap, profane and will kick you in the nuts to get writing. Not for the weak of heart but it’s just what a writer needs at times.

James Scott Bell

The Art of War for Writers is an excellent book plus all of his nonfiction works. Buy, read, digest…

Writers Digest Books – Write Great Fiction series

Written by different authors including Mr. Bell above, this is a must-have for authors looking to kick their writing to a new level. Available in ebook form as well for those of us looking to save shelf space.

I could go on and I might in another post but these are a few of the books on my writing craft shelf that really helped me become a better writing – and keep on becoming, since I reread them at regular intervals.

As with all things literary – your mileage might vary. But I think these are some of the best books out there helping new writers (and old ones) improve and if you haven’t checked them out – you should.

Keep on writing and keep on having fun!

Now… tea!


Welcome to 2011 Blatherings!

It’s been a while since I posted here and for that I should apologize – but, frankly, I’m one of those people that don’t really feel that posting nothing every day is a Good Thing. While there’s been things going on here and there I didn’t think it was worth wasting the bandwidth for bits and pieces that could be better combined into a decent fat post.

That’s me, saving the bandwidth.


Anyway, bits and pieces as follows…

2010 = buh-bye. Good bye gall bladder, herniated back disc and root canal on the 23rd of December. Thanks for “Blaze of Glory” and “Wild Cards and Iron Horses”! Had an excellent year writing and looking forward to a good 2011 although I can’t promise two books a year, thank you very much!

Interesting links:

Toad’s Corner reviews “Blaze of Glory” 
Disclaimer: Nerine edited “What God and Cats Know” for Lyrical Press, so she might be a bit biased. But I still love having her review! If you’re looking for a good review site with plenty of odd books from small presses, check her out.

The Romance Studio review of “Blaze of Glory”

Pretty self-explanatory – but it led to… THIS! Updates to follow but thrilled to be noticed!

Mrs. Giggles, one of the best-known blogger reviewers, chose “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” as one of her best for 2010!

and AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review also liked “Blaze of Glory”… although I think the reviewer thought the book was YA.

And, finally, the current issue of Romantic Times Book Reviews gives three out of five stars to “Blaze of Glory” – no online link up yet but if you see the Feb. issue on your local magazine rack, sneak a peak at page 85. I’m happy!

“Blaze of Glory” is also set for a paperback release of February – as in, less than a month from now. If you’ve been waiting to grab an actual paperback copy. drop on over to your local B&N and snag a copy – or order it off a website!

Amazon and B&N are taking pre-orders right now… right at your fingertips. How I love online shopping! It’s also up onBorders, but frankly you’ll save more on both the ebook version and the print on other sites. Sorry, Borders!

Let’s see…. my views of self-pubbing haven’t changed much, other than to remind me that there are always people ready to take advantage of others to make money. Self pub if you want, but be careful – there are a lot of self-proclaimed prophets and experts ready to take your money and not give you anything back. And the prophets saying that print is dead are definitely shooting smoke out their collective butts since I don’t see it happening within my lifetime. But that’s just me.

This year? Well, right now I’m working on the sequel to “Blaze of Glory” and a short story to sub to a Samhain anthology – but we’ll see where the tide takes us. A year ago I had no idea what was going on and I don’t like to make those sorts of predictions.


Anyway, that’s the blatherings from this old dragon – best of the new year to you all and hope to chat soon!