Sunday, January 27, 2013

Publishing: To Pay, or Not to Pay?

Back in the early days of my publishing attempts, I found a book in the company book exchange. It was an innocent-looking little tome of about 200 words called "Manuscript Submission" by Scott Edelstein. I'd never heard of the guy, but I picked it up because I was totally lost as to how to get my novel to market, and wanted a springboard.

As it turns out, I recommend that book to anyone who has an interest in getting their work published. I can't begin to list the lessons that have helped me in good stead through the years in generating contacts, getting my foot through the door, and putting together submissions packages.

But the biggest lesson I learned from that book, and from other sources in the publishing industry, is this: There is no substitute for doing your homework on your options. And the first option any writer has is whether to pursue a contract deal or self-publish.

Whether you want to seal a deal with a print publisher, ePublisher, subsidy publisher, or any other type, you need to understand their business model. Most reputable publishers do NOT ask the writer for any money. I say most, because there are self-publishing houses that provide good services to authors for a fee. You must understand what you're walking into before you sign anything. If you are not looking to self-publish in print, you'd better not be paying dime one, unless there is an agreement for cover art and editing services involved. The problem even with most of these deals is, the cover art tends to be copy-and-paste rubber-stamp crap, and the "editing services" tend toward a cursory once-over without any in-depth correction of grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.

Now, I know Kindle doesn't charge a penny for publishing using their services, and that's a big attractor for authors who don't have the cash resources to invest in professional services to prepare their work for market. They also hear horror stories about publishing houses who give their authors a pittance while the editor-in-chief rakes it in on the backs of the writers.

The truth is, you're going to pay, sooner or later. You either pay for professional cover art and editing before your Kindle version goes live, or you give a portion to your publishing house for providing those services for you. If you self-pub, you will pay a flat fee for those services, and when those are paid off through sales, the rest is your profit. (writing may be an art, but publishing is a business. Remember that). If you sign a contract, the terms of the contract rule. The publisher will pick up the up-front costs for those services in return for a share of your profits. The House will also provide distribution through their own vendors, which generally means a wider exposure than self-publishing, where you are totally on your own.

Look, it's your work. What you do with it is up to you. I'm just tired of seeing writers get taken for a ride by "publishing houses" that make more money from writers than they do from book sales. I'm also tired of seeing writers sell themselves short by rushing work to market that's only half-finished, namely unedited, and them they wallow at the bottom of the list with 20 sales instead of being the best they can be.

As a writer, you can take readers on a ride through whole worlds of your imagination. Don't cut yourself short by skimping on the polishing services you need to complete the work. If you self-pub, get it edited by a professional. It's an investment that can only pay for itself in the long run.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

More on Coffee


When I was a kid, I never liked coffee. It was just always too bitter for my delicate palate. The Air Force changed all that. Coffee is thicker than blood in the military. If you don't drink it when you enter Boot Camp, you will before you graduate from your career training. At Shaw AFB, my duty station, our section commander and squadron commander had to have their coffee for morning briefing. If it wasn't ready precisely at 7AM, God help you. We had two coffee makers: one 12-cup standard Bunn and one of those metal monsters that might have been the secret entrance to a missile silo. I'm not sure to this day. I just knew the job-controller had to start that one about 5:30 to get it ready for Captain Wright and Colonel Barron.

 You know, I always thought those canteen cups looked like something hospital patients releive themselves in. And why the heck is that guy smiling, anyway? He must have had four cups of Type Four.

At the hangar where I work, about 75% of us are veterans. So it goes to follow that we have four coffee pots, and only one of them brews decaf.

There are four types of coffee. Five if you count that frou-frou stuff with the little green logo on the side of the cup. We'll get to that later.

Type One is Mild Roast, or what we hard-core drinkers like to call "swamp water." I've seen darker brews at Tahquamenon Falls. You can read the printing on the bottom of the cup, and if you swallow real slow, you may be able to taste it before it slides on down your gullet. During spawning season, you might have to be careful a salmon doesn't come up the other way


Type Two is Medium Roast, or what we call Jailhouse Coffee. It's a little more robust that Type One. The aroma as it brews is just strong enough to get the attention of junior commissioned officers, who will then circle the coffeemaker in a threatening manner. You might not see the bottom of the cup, but a spoon inserted halfway down will still be visible. Don't worry, if you're worth your salt you haven't washed your cup in three and a half years. The flavor will leech from the sides of your cup and left to sit a couple minutes, the brew will transform into a near equivalent of:

Type Three, or Dark Roast. Vets have a good laugh at this one, especially sergeants. It might be god enough for a Captain, but any enlsted man or hangar mechanic would turn his nose up at it. It's just damned-near unpatriotic to touch it to your lips. If you do, do not tell this man:

If I need to tell you why, stick to Type One.

Type Four is Weapons-Grade coffee. Those aren't bubbles, they're eyes. You don't pour this stuff, you just kind of dump it down your gullet. Swallow quick before it gets away. The effect is achieved through a technique known only to sergeants and senior avionics technicians, and involves a process of compressing three times the normal amount of coffee in the brew basket. By the way, the sergeant above? He was white when he enlisted. How did he get that manly tan? Coffee. It's also why his chin strap is on the back of his head.

Now we come to Type Five, which warrants inclusion on the list only by virtue of the fact that the origin of the bean roughly approximates a species of organic material almost similar to, but not quite entirely unlike, a coffee bean (with a bow to Doug Adams). Seriously, what's with all that "mocha-made-my-mama-do-the-decaf" stuff? What would happen if, God Forbid, one actually just ordered "coffee" in one of those stores? Has anyone even dared to try? I just can't bring myself to pay ten bucks for a cuppa anything, either.


But dem's da beans.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Preview: Critical Mass (And a not-so-dirty little secret!)

Okay, first, I'm proud to say I have a special interview over at Nadia Kim's blog:

She's another really talented writer in her own right. Watch for her work when it comes out. I'm sure it will before long.

Okay, now to brass tacks. In about two and a half weeks, my third novel, Critical Mass, will be released through MuseItUp Publishing. I'm pretty excited about that, as it closes out (for the most part) the story of Nadia Velasquez and the NADIA Project.

I'll post that at the bottom of the page, but first, I want to share something with you. I know everyone loves convenience and one-stop-shopping is so popular these days, but think about this if you would: When you buy that next book on-lone, think about buying directly from the publisher instead of through Amazon or B&N online. The reason is, the list price is set by the publisher. You pay the same whether you buy from them or through a wholesaler. The difference is, the wholesaler takes a large cut of the profit for themselves. That means the royalty payment to the people who put in all the work to bring that work to market is much less.

So the best way to support your favorite authors is to buy from the publisher whenever possible. It might mean one more account. It means a few extra clicks on your device or computer. It's not as convenient. But it makes a big difference to the author, the editors and the cover artist who put in such long hours on bringing you your favorite books. We'd sure appreciate it.

Now for the fun part:(Buy link: )


"Together, they could save the world. Or destroy it."

Jenna Paine is a super spy, genetically enhanced to be more than human. Nadia Velasquez is a living weapon of mass destruction. When the secret organization who built them both decides they are no longer useful, two enemies are thrown together for the only purposes they could have in common: survival and revenge.

There's only one way out of The Pinnacle, and that's on a coroner's slab. Jenna lives through a treacherous attack vowing to exact her vengeance on the people who trained her to be the most deadly agent on the planet.

Wounded and on the run, she turns to the man who's sworn to make her face charges for her involvement in The Pinnacle's nefarious schemes.

After years spent hiding from The Pinnacle, Nadia runs into the one thing she never counted on: Shelf life. As her body breaks down, she realizes it's only a matter of the short time she has left to redeem her existence and give her daughter a chance to live free.
In the final showdown, the two transhumans join forces against a common enemy, and The Pinnacle come to know the deadly significance of…

Critical Mass


Jon left the cabin and its sleeping owner, strolled around the back, and entered the weather-beaten woodshed. His hand found the lever in the darkened corner with the ease of habit. The secret door opened on silent hinges, and he followed the stairs down to the underground bunker that served as an emergency shelter, as well as the command center for their operation.
He hit the light switch at the bottom. In the glow from the overhead fluorescent, the common room revealed itself. Wood paneling lay over the concrete walls, providing some modicum of comfort. Crouching against the left wall was a small workbench under a four-foot by six-foot corkboard cluttered with photographs, printed sheets, and napkins scrawled with notes. A couple of wooden chairs sat next to the bench, at the edge of a large throw rug. Off to the left, a concrete-lined hallway led into gloom.
A flip of a switch at the end of the hall lit up doors on the left and on the right. At the far end of the tunnel, another staircase went up. Jon entered the first room on the right and turned on the light. A small counter and fridge greeted him. On the counter sat a coffee maker. He started a pot and walked back out into the common room.
Eleven people taunted him from candid photos tacked on the corkboard. Next to each was a printout. Jon put a finger on each photo as he named them out loud, a ritual he engaged in every time he came down: “John Bowman. Armando Lopez. Bruce Wilkes. Vladimir Kuznetzov. Bernadetta Caglioni. Noor Ah’halaami. Sirdar Karina Hattangadi.” Four other photos were pegged to the board in a separate group. “Jenna Paine. Walter Brady. Alan Whitfield. Mark Boyle.” Whitfield’s and Boyle’s pictures had thick borders drawn in red marker.
Footsteps on the stairs interrupted his thoughts. Bunny came around the corner and joined Jon at the board. Today’s T-shirt said BYTE ME. When he spoke, his Brooklyn accent came through strong, showing how many late hours he’d put in on this data. “Whaddaya think, Jonny?”
Jon waved at the top group of photos. “I think we’re up to our elbows in alligators. These people have more power and influence than most kings do. Are you positive these are the ones who built Nadia?”
“They’re the ones who put in the order. I’d stake my life on it. They’re all tied into the Global Unification Alliance. They dump tons of cash into it, on the order of billions a year, but they refuse to take a bow for all their little Boy Scout good deeds for the day. They’re clients of Twin Oaks Spa, and none of them ever go there without at least two others.”
The skinny little man touched a fingertip on the note beside each picture as he recapped. “Wilkes owns more ships than most third world navies. There ain’t a thing comin’ across the Atlantic that he don’t approve. Lopez moves oil and cattle all over Mexico and beyond, and for some reason all the drug cartels leave him be.”
“Maybe he’s moving more than cattle and oil.”
Bunny scowled deeper. “Or maybe they’re all afraid of him, Jonny. Ever figure that?” He went on with his litany. “Kuznetzov started in electronics engineering and got into arms dealing about twenty years ago. Rumor is the Russian mob is his little lap dog. Caglioni owns Aeritalia Airlines and Itamax Clothing. Miss Noor Don’t-Even-Ask-Me-How-To-Pronounce-It is a secret majority holder of Vandalore Industries, and a half-dozen other major conglomerates. She farts dollar bills, Jonny. In secret, of course. And our friend the Sirdar swings a bigger stick in OPEC than anyone wants to admit. She’s a sly one, that.”
Bunny sat in one of the chairs and spun it so he faced Jon. “Bowman we know. Dude owns the news. He paid Nadia’s hospital costs from the time she came alive ’til Twin Oaks released her. So he knows about her, and he was the one who sent her to Iran to ‘interview’ President Javad.”
Jon interjected, “That implicates him in the murder of President Bello in Nigeria, because another NADIA was used in that assassination. We have the video to prove it.”
“But to bring him down, Jonny, we have to bring Nadia forward, show the world that she’s an artificial person. So unless you wanna give her up, you gotta catch him some other way.”
“We need one more person on our side, to get through his mask.” Jon fingered the photo of Jenna again. “If we can turn her, she may help.”
Bunny shook his head. “That’s like reasoning with a rattlesnake. You met her twice, and you’re lucky to be alive.”
“Exactly. She doesn’t want to kill me for some reason. I think I could talk with her, if I could just find her.”
“If you’re an example of what she does to people she likes, I’d hate to see what happens to people she don’t like.”
“You’ve seen it, Bunny. Mark Boyle, the man who took the girls hostage. She popped his head with one shot. I wouldn’t be so sure she didn’t do Whitfield, too.”
“Still think she had somethin’ to do with that breakout in Vegas?”
Jon nodded. “The Air Force thought they had Nadia. Three dead Air Commandos and a crashed police car later, and suddenly they have nothing. Jenna and Nadia have similar builds, and they had the same hair color and style then. I think that’s too much of a coincidence, don’t you?”
Bunny pushed his glasses up on his nose with a nervous finger. “You sure you wanna get within ten miles of that?”
“We have to start somewhere, Bunny. I can’t touch the big wheels yet. The OSI wants solid proof before they can call out the dogs. Jenna could be just what the doctor ordered.” Jon went into the kitchenette and filled two cups as the conversation continued.
“So you want I should change my search to her?”
“We’ve hit nothing but dead ends on the others. We sure couldn’t lose.”
“What would the Doc say?”
“I’ll make it right with Donna. She’s the team leader, but I’m still the chief investigator.”
 “Okay, buddy, it’s your neck. Myself, I wouldn’t feel safe on the same land mass as that woman.”
Handing one cup to Bunny, Jon took a sip from his, swishing the brew around in his mouth before answering. “I didn’t say I’d feel safe, Bunny. But she’s our best chance.”
“Suggestion—if we can’t find her, there’s one sure way to get hold of her.”
“Do I even want to ask?”
“We get her attention and let her find us.”
A vague sense of dread rose in Jon’s chest as he sighed and rubbed his neck. “Yeah, I was afraid you’d say something like that.”