Sunday, May 26, 2013

BLOG-BOMB!!! The victim: L.J. Holmes

Okay, I'm pretty excited this week. Actually, my timing is like a week off here, so bear with me for a mention in passing: Lies and Paine, my upcoming release, is coming up June 14th from MuseItUp Publishing (yay!).Last week, I posted an excerpt, but at that time I didn't have a cover to post. Well, on my birthday, I got cover art. It's on the "my Books" page here, so click on that real quick if you want to see it.

The reason I'm not tooting my own horn again this week, is that for a while now, I've wanted to get with my adopted sister at MuseItUp, L. J. Holmes, for an interview. Well, with both of us being busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest, the interview part will come later.

But I just finished a short work of Lin's, a mini-mystery titled She's Gone.

Guys, you want to get this one. For one, the cover is so intriguing, I couldn't resist being attracted to the story within. It's a short read, only 26 pages, but there's a whole lotta story packed in there. I spent just as much time enjoying the tongue-in-cheek humor as I did the way she drug my heart through the maze of clues left behind as Jon Ross wonders why his beautiful wife has suddenly disappeared-- Right along with every last possession of hers. Don't get in too big a rush to conclude what happened or why, because if there's one thing L.J. has a handle on, it's how to surprise a reader.

Okay, so the main reason I wanted to do this post was to highlight L.J. and hopefully steer some of you toward her work. She just finished her first full-length novel, and shares credits on some stories with her daughter, Kat Holmes. You thought I cranked out some stroies? Holy cow, these two have a fistful of stories published in the time it took me to do four.

Lin has been with MuseItUp since Day One, and was one of the first to welcome me there with open arms. Since then, we've found out just how small the world really is (her brother used to be a pilot for the company for which I work!) We've become pretty close friends since then.

But friendship aside, Her writing style is very easy on the eyes, and the impact her story makes will remain for some time.

Anyway, do yourself a favor and check out L.J.'s work at

Scroll down the left side of the page and click on the Author Search. Scroll down again til you find her. I'm pretty sure you'll find something to like.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Coming Soon: Lies and Paine

Greetings, castaways.

This week, I wanted to share with you something special to me. It's the final punctuation placed on my award-winning series The NADIA Project. Someone's story just had to be told to its completion, and I'm sure you all can guess who I'm talking about.

By the time Critical Mass  closes out, you'll either love her or you'll hate her guts. She's everyone's hopeless flirt and loose cannon all rolled into one, whether an angel or demon no one has quite figured out yet.

So without further ado, let's grab a peek at Jenna by way of Lies and Paine:


Jenna Paine doesn’t know how “special” she really is. Raised by her scientist mother and a Japanese tutor named Mama-San, her special abilities go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of her schoolwork and training. However, other eyes are watching as well, from behind a veil of secrets. And they have plans for someone with precisely Jenna’s talents. 

In college, she meets a group of people who introduce her to a new vision for world peace, and a way to realize it.  

But when the cost for peace is measured in blood, can Jenna get out before it’s too late?

Project 14-257. Day 3653. Subject believes she is a normal human child of ten years. Doctor Paine continues on-site monitoring and Dr. Spielberg remains as project head. With additions to staff, project direction shifts from emphasis on normalcy to exploitation of design enhancements. Initial variation of The Turing Test now becomes realization of new human advancement. Modified project completion date Day 7305. Pending success of the remote incubation process (see Project 15-013, pending), project is on target to become our crowning achievement.

* * * *

Workmen came to empty the garage the day after Mama-San moved in. Special equipment arrived the next day on a big truck. Jenna watched them bring in boxes and bags of strange-looking gadgets, the purpose of which she could only guess. Mama-San started slowly, with special games that Jenna liked. She played them with Jenna every day after her homework was done, sometimes into late hours. They started out as a funny kind of slow dance, and when Jenna danced like that, she found she wouldn’t think so much about Daddy. It made it easier to throw herself into the other games, which involved faster moves. Moves that broke things.

Jenna imagined the boards and bricks to be the worst things in her life. She named them as her fists and feet rained shattering blows upon them, smiling in satisfaction at every crunch or crack that rang up her limbs and into her ears. They were Melissa Wheaton, who whispered behind Jenna’s back at school all day, calling her “freak” and “loser” for her eyes, larger and sharper than everyone else’s. They were Ricky Blanton, who had picked on Jenna every day since first grade. They were Cancer, who took her daddy away and put him in the ground.

One day Mama-San handed Jenna a package wrapped in a red scarf. When Jenna undid the string, on the silk lay a coarse wool belt, as black as night. And wound in the belt, pure and bright, lay a beautiful red candy. She was so overjoyed, she threw her arms around the woman’s waist and squeezed until Mama-San’s gentle hands pulled her loose. When she looked up, Mama-San stood beaming with pride. “You have done well, Sakana-Chan. I’m so proud of you!”
“I want to show Mother!” Jenna took off at a run. She found her mother on the phone with Dr. Spielberg, talking about research notes and some boring new project Mother had become involved in.

Mother held a finger up as Jenna approached, breathless. “Anna, put Petr on. I have a piece of my mind for him.” She put a hand over the mouthpiece long enough to say to Jenna, “Hold just a moment. Wait in the living room.”

Jenna retreated obediently and sat on the couch until Mother entered, rubbing her head. “I swear that man is going to be the death of me yet.”

“Here, Mother. Mama-San gave me this.” Jenna stood and laid the belt reverently across her mother’s arm.

Mother held it up. “Well, isn’t that lovely. I take it there is some sort of significance to it?”

A swell of pride grew in Jenna’s chest. “It’s for taekwondo. It means I can teach now.”

“That’s lovely, dear. Is your homework done?”

“Mama-San just wanted to take a few minutes—“

“Mama-San should be helping you with your math, dear. Homework first. Play later.” She handed the belt back to Jenna and walked out, speaking over her shoulder as she left. “I’ll call when dinner’s ready.”

Jenna stood frozen, her first black belt suddenly heavy in her arms. She looked down at it. She’d thought it was special, the way Mama-San handed it to her all wrapped in the beautiful scarf and tied with a ribbon. But Mother didn’t seem to think it was. She just turned and left.

Jenna’s hand dropped. On the way down, she brushed her pocket. Reaching in, she brought out her confirmation. The red candy glowed in the light of the corner lamp. That made the belt special. She brought the candy to her mouth, preparing to pop it in, but hesitated just at her lips. It was special. Should she really eat it so quickly, after working so hard to earn it? Just getting a red piece was too rich a reward to squander on a moment’s pleasure.

She’d lost count of the green candies Mama-San had given her for each skill learned. After the first few pieces, she quit eating the green candy. They went into the trash when she thought Mama-San wasn’t looking. She didn’t want the green candy, dammit. She wanted red.

No, this was special. She carried her new prizes upstairs to her bedroom. The candy she placed on her bookshelf with trembling, careful fingers. Then she undid the white student’s belt from her gi and wrapped the black one around her waist. She stood back to look at herself in the mirror on the back of her door. The girl in the looking glass stared back with a new kind of strength Jenna Paine never thought could be there. She took a wide stance and threw a series of lightning punches into the air, finishing with a side kick that stopped just short of the fragile mirror. Then, carefully extending her toes, Jenna touched the glass before lowering her leg again with a smile.

Okay, Mama-San. What’s next?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On Publishing: Contracts

Fellow Castaways,

This week, let's talk about contracts. I know several of you have elected to go the independent route and self-publish (I trust you had professional editing services. Please tell me you did), but sooner or later, even you will encounter a contract.

Victorine Lieske, the self-publishing champion and mentor to all prospective Indies, related to us at the critique site some time ago, that her novel Not What She Seems hit the NYT Best-Seller list for eBooks. Yay, Vicki. Lo and behold, she was approached by not one, not two, but three different agencies desiring to represent her book to the Big Six publishing Houses, and correct me if I'm wrong, Vicki, but wasn't there talk of a movie deal as well?

Anyway, as a writer, even an independent one, you will need to have some insight on contracts. Now, I'm not a contract or IP attorney, but I've seen a few contracts, being a contract-published author, and have gathered some knowledge from other pros about what terms to look for and what red flags to watch for. Mainly because I damn near fell victim to several scams in my search for a publisher for my work, and so many writers even now are settling for pathetic terms in contracts, because they don't know what they don't know. So let's look at some things on contract terms here:

1.) Rights. When the publisher talks about rights, they will be specific about what rights they are negotiating with you. No publisher should demand copyright. That's yours, 100%, no matter what. That's not to say someone won't try to wangle it out of you in the contract. Copyright is what makes the work yours. NEVER give it up. Period. That would be a deal-killer for me.

The rights a publisher wants are the publication rights. That's a world different from copyright. They want the exclusive right to publish and distribute your work. That's perfectly reasonable.

2.) Format. The contract should be specific about which formats are up for negotiation. The three current formats are eBook, print, and audio. If the contract only covers one format, guess what? The other formats are open to their own contract terms, with anyone else! My publisher sends me two contracts to sign: One for the eBook, and another separate contract for the print version. They don't distribute audiobook, so I am free to negotiate terms for an audio version on my own. Read carefully, though. Your publisher may specify "any and all formats" in one contract. That would raise a red flag for me. It may not be a deal-killer, but I'd read the rest very carefully indeed.

3.) Length of term. The contract should specify a set time span, and it better damn well not be "for term of copyright." Seriously? You want to be roped into a contract until 70 years after you die? My publisher specifies a 3-year term. At the end of that three years, we either renew by mutual consent, or terminate the contract, with publication rights reverting to me (after issuance of a letter of release from the publisher). Some publishers ask for five years, others for seven. I wouldn't go any longer than seven. Seven years is a long time to be stapled to one deal.

4.) Terms of termination. You need to see specific conditions listed under which the contract may be terminated. What if the publisher goes out of business? What if you die? What if a Hrung chooses to collapse on Earth? You need to know these things. You need an "out" as well as the publisher. They may want to cut you loose if you don't "pay out" on your first print run. They may even want their advance back. In some cases, that may be a considerable sum.

Those are the "Big Things" to look for, but there may be more. For an excellent example, go to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website:

The more you know, the more powerful you are. Don't get taken in by scam artists.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Excerpt: Critical Mass

This week I want to share an excerpt from my latest work, just released in February. Critical Mass closes out the full-length novels of The NADIA Project, and some readers have told me it's the best one of the three. Now, next month, I have a novella coming out, Lies and Paine, that fills out the story behind everyone's favorite kick-ass anti-heroine.

This scene from Critical Mass sets up a little picture of Jenna and Jimmy. You can check out the book at

Jimmy sat on the porch, watching the dull routine of the afternoon in front of
him. The air commandos not on guard sat in the shade of Nadia’s lawn for lunch,
weapons within easy reach. Those on duty at the detention shacks stood their
watches, ever vigilant against any attempted breakout. The occasional fly or wasp
buzzed by, its hypnotic drone lulling the man in the wooden chair. The pain med
Watts had given him was just starting to do its work, and the ache in Jimmy’s
shoulder was finally at a tolerable level. But on the downside, that warm, sleepy
feeling Jimmy hated so much was just beginning to creep in and steal the rest of
his afternoon.

The old warrior’s eyes had just drifted shut when the screen door opened with a
protest of springs. The steps on the porch were light and favored one side. The soft
scent in his nostrils confirmed the identity of the other party. “Afternoon, Miss
Paine,” he mumbled through the painkiller’s haze. Another smell, cool and yeasty,
wafted to him and he held out a hand to receive the cold bottle offered, his eyes
still closed.

He couldn’t resist his own grin at the smile in her voice. “You must have sonar,
you old coot.” The chair next to Jimmy’s creaked as Jenna settled into it. She
clinked her bottle against his and took a pull.

The first swallow went down good, so he took a second before speaking.
“How’s the leg?”

“Better, thanks. A little stiff, but I can work with it.”

“Good. Wouldn’t want ya to miss out just ’cause ya got a little hitch in your

“Jimmy, I wouldn’t miss this if I had a whole leg off.”

“Big deal, eh?

Jenna looked out at the yard for a while before answering. “They lied to me. I
don’t like being lied to.”

“But do you still believe in what they want? World unity and Kumbaya, and all
that crap?”

Jenna tensed and clenched her jaw at the offhand remark. “When you kill
someone, what do you feel?”

Jimmy bristled at the question. “You’re kidding, right?” Feel? How the hell am
I supposed to feel? What kind of stupid questions was that?

Jenna’s eyes narrowed with passion. “I want to know what you feel when you
pull a trigger and put a bullet into another person, and let their life spill out. In
whose name did you do it? Yours? Your country’s? And how did it solve
anything?” She looked away. “That wasn’t even enough, was it? You had to teach
others how to kill, too. For a border. An imaginary line on a map.”

She paused long enough to take a swallow. “So before you label someone’s
beliefs as ‘crap,’ just think about what it felt like every time you killed someone
for that imaginary line.”

The hair stood up on Jimmy’s neck. I swear, if you were a man, I’d pin your
ears back…
As it was, there was no way he was going to let that one go. It had
been a long time since he needed to shift into sergeant mode, but the shift was as
smooth as his last class of recruits.

“Young lady.” He struggled through gritted teeth. “I didn’t kill anyone for a
line. I killed to save an idea. That idea was that free men should be able to defend
themselves from oppression and tyranny and help other men to live free as well.
Them poor jackwagons who stood in the way of that idea were the ones I killed.
And to tell you the truth, I don’t feel a damned thing for ’em. That line on the map
you’re goin’ on about is the line that says, ‘on this side you’re free to choose your
own destiny.’ And I’ll spill as much blood as I have to to make sure it stays where
it’s at.”

Jimmy sniffed and set his bottle on the small table between them. “Look at
you, giving me the ‘baby-killer’ speech. How many bodies have you left behind?
Why don’t you tell me what you felt when you stood over the bodies of the people
you laid out for a lie?”

He gave her a cold smile then and watched the steel in her eyes melt away. “I’ll
grant you, hon, you ain’t any worse than me. But you sure as hell ain’t any sight

Leaning his chair back, he said, “Now, I’d be willin’ to bet your vision for this
earth ain’t too far from mine. We just ended up thinkin’ about it from some
different places.” He fixed her eyes again with his. “I do know if I’d have had a
half-dozen more of you on my team, we’d have buried less of our boys and more
of theirs.”

Jenna broke her gaze away and looked across the yard. In the silence that
followed, Jimmy imagined he could hear the gears working inside her head. He
just hoped that, whatever she decided in the end about whatever it was she was
pondering, it wouldn’t affect her edge when it came down to brass knuckles and
billy clubs.

Things were going to get bad enough as it was.