Another Epub to Bite the Dust?

Read this at Smart Bitches, and draw your own conclusions.

I read one post that said it was documented that authors had to pay something like 35 cents per book that was put up on the Mardi Gras website.

Yeah, you read that right. I mean, WTF? If this is true, if this is documented, I wonder if those authors had any recourse. Was this something stated in their contracts in fine print, or was it just sort of slipped in, without anyone finding out?

Without anyone finding out, apparently, except near the end.

My sympathies go out to those authors who have been or will soon be stiffed.

~Nancy Beck


The lawyer thing yesterday didn't go too well; in fact, the Prosecutor From Hades sent along a deal that was worse than the prior one.

Hmm, maybe the name Prosecutor From Hell is redundant...

So, anyway, we'll be going to the courthouse tomorry to see what the judge has to say in all of this. There's an outside chance the judge will say, "Tough crap, he gets no jail time," but (sadly) I don't think that's going to happen.

Say what you wish about the U.S. justice system, but it just ain't fair to those people who have true mental illnesses.


~Nancy Beck


Writing Over the Weekend

Well, I did some more writing over the weekend, although not as much as I wanted to; the damned heat on Saturday made us order out Chinese rather than going to our usual watering hole (since the air conditioning doesn't always work so well there). And then Sunday...we were both utter lazybones. I don't think either of us left the property.

Made a couple of changes to the first scene of The Bone Eater, and moved on to Chapter 2. The first scene there needed to be worked on, and I changed Diego flopping over the body, which is a definite no-no in policeland. There were a couple of changes I wasn't happy with, as hubby seemed to need to talk at that point (and considering what he's been going through, how could I give him the cold shoulder?).

But that's what the revision process is for. :-) Still, my main concern was clearing out the rest of my ill-fated thought of bringing in 3rd POV through Diego's eyes; I re-read that and thought most of it was drivel, so most of it went out the window.

Although I'll do another two or three rounds of revisions, I feel like I'm on the right course with this particular story.

I'd like to work some more on this, but hubby and I have to go meet with the lawyer this afternoon (originally, the lawyer's admin called me and I set up the meeting for tomorrow, but the lawyer insisted on seeing us today; cross your fingers that it's a decent offer from the prosecutor [as opposed to the first offer, which positively sucked]). Whether I'll have the umption to do anything after the meeting...only time will tell.

Good writing, everyone!

~Nancy Beck


To Series or Not to Series

This is the first in a sporadic series ;-) of posts talking about Janet Evanovich's How I Write.

The number one thing to realize is that this is Ms. Evanovich's look at how she, specifically, writes. It's not strictly a how-to book, although she (and Ina Yalof, who helped write the book) gives out some good advice. Anything she says should be considered nothing more than that, or guidelines, at the very most; there's nothing here that's etched in granite (if you're from or live in New Hampshire, you'll understand this small joke).

The Pros of Writing a Series

Someone asked about the pros and cons of writing a series. I'll quote the pros Ms. Evanovich throws out:
If you're in it for the long haul and if it's a success, you develop a loyal readership. Also, if you've given your main character a specific occupation or your setting is distinctive, you can do your in-depth research once or twice and you don't have to keep learning about new things. Less research equals more time to write. --pg. 109
Ah, but there's the rub in the first sentence: If it's a success. Now, my take on this is that even if you have a series in mind, you wrap up the main problem in that first book in case that novel tanks. Leave a tendril or two open somewhere in there so you can hang the rest of the series on that particular idea.

For instance, in my current WIP, I'm going to have a fairly major character admit that she did something that might have unleashed a series of demons into our world (but for the past few months has done something to keep those beasties contained). It's not the major thrust of this book, which I've entitled The Bone Eater. But if I manage to sell this thing, and if enough people are interested in it, I have ideas for further books. (And I'll probably hint at this in my query letter to agents.)

If...if...if...that's the operative word. It's all conjecture at this point. The main problem, though, is wrapped up at the end of the book. No cliffhangers like the stereotypical fantasy trilogy.

Not that I have a problem with that. :-)

Another interesting point Ms. Evanovich makes is that it "...lets you develop the characters in far more detail so that both you and the reader get to know them better with each book." [Page 110] This is what I like about Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series: We get to know more and more about Harry Dresden, his feelings about certain things/ideas, and the major trouble he's in with the wizard side of his world.

That's what I hope to do with The Bone Eater. Only time will tell.

The Cons to Writing a Series

Ms. Evanovich came up with two cons:
If you start a series and it's succesfful, you're locked into it, often for years, so that if you have other ideas for other books you have to forego them for a while. Also, you always have to start out giving the reader information that all your old readers already know...The challenge is to make it fresh for you and for the reader every time. --page 110
I guess there are worse things than having a popular series that sells well every year. (Heh. I should be so fortunate.) But I think I understand where she's coming from. I do have another idea (a time travel-type story which needs a major revision), but would I have enough time to work on it if the other turned into a success? I'd like to say it wouldn't be a problem, but I just don't know that. I do like the character in The Bone Eater, so I don't think I'll get sick of them anytime soon. (Famous last words, I know. ;-) ) But would I have enough quality time?

Probably not.

But I'll worry about that if--and only if--it comes.

And then there's that, "Well, Jackie is five foot four, takes meds every day, has a dog" stuff that would have to go at the start of every book, for those people who come in the middle of the series and haven't a clue as to the who/what/where stuff. (Like I did with the Stephanie Plum series.) To me, this is less of a con than the other one, because to me it's just a fun exercise in throwing out bits and pieces to get everyone up to speed: Time to get the creative juices flowing!


~Nancy Beck


Writing, Writing, Writing

Yesterday was a busy day at work, and I did some lurking at different writer-type blogs (Evil Editor, for example).

However, I did do some writing over the weekend (yay, me!). I lugged out Ye Laptop and attached my jump drive to it (where my WIP is located). I re-did the opening scene. It still isn't quite right--what writer ever thinks that?--but I think the opening line is much better. It sets up what's coming a tad later in the chapter, and it gives some background to Jackie and her thinking.

I went back this morning, before I went off to work, and did a little more tinkering because something was bothering me. But then I left it as is, deciding to move on.

That's important for me--because in the past, I've tended to be stuck on the same few paragraphs, vainly attempting to get them into perfect shape.

Like that's ever going to happen.

I'll strive for the best I can do, and leave it at that. (After 9 or 10 revisions, heh.)

There's also another problem later on, and I didn't remember it until I woke up Monday morning. I was in sort of rush yesterday and couldn't tackle it, but I'll work on it later today.

The problem is in what the Diego character--he's in the Shadow Force, a police force (of sorts) that takes care of supernatural cases--does to the dead guy Jackie falls on (almost literally). I bought a book last week called Scene of the Crime: A Writer's Guide to Crime-Scene Investigations by Anne Wingate. She's a former cop who writes crime fiction/mysteries.

Her first rule of thumb at a crime scene: Don't touch anything.

Although the cops in this shadow force are going to be dealing with some unusual dead and maimed bodies (ooo-wee-ooo), I want to incorporate some real-life police procedures into the mix.

And I have Diego violating that first rule of thumb, by turning the body over with his boot.

Now, later on, I might go back to the original version; the story might work better, or it might explain something down the line. But for right now, considering Diego is a former, regular cop, I don't think anyone's going to buy it. Maybe if he were a rookie, but that's not the case--I have him setting up this shadow force, so he's got to be pretty familiar with police procedure (and if he did do something like that in the past, he's going to get a lot of people yelling at him).

Another thing I noticed is that I expected the first chapter to end at a certain point; it felt like it should end, but it didn't. I went on for another 200-300 words.

Too long. I moved most of those words to the next chapter, with the opening line there something like: "Is this guy the Slasher?" He's not, and it's obviously apparent because Diego doesn't knife her, but when you've lost a lot of blood, you don't necessarily think of the obvious...

Another book I bought, out of curiosity, was How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof. Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows how much I lurve the Stephanie Plum series, so I wondered where she grew up (not in Trenton), how she works, etc., etc.

Are there any new insights? No, not for people who've been trying this writing thing for a while. But I love her sense of humor throughout, and a lot of it is self-deprecating humor (must be a Jersey trait ;-)). There's some good advice as to agents and publishing and the like, which I'll probably explore in the next couple of posts or so.

She also has a section on encouragement, which I really liked. For instance, did you know it took her 10 years of rejections before her novel was published (and it was not her first one, either).

Small encouragement, you say? But what it shows is that she hung in there, persisted, kept writing, and eventually broke through.

If she can do it, why can't we, the Great Unpublished (For Now), do so?



I Usually Don't Like to Point Out Bad Reviews, But...

Okay, what wannabe writer doesn't look at bad reviews from time to time? I've done it to the books in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I've laughed at half a dozen of them, others I just scratch my head...if you don't like them, why continue to read them? I gave up after the fourth book.

BTW, if you like the Wheel of Time series, more power to you. People like what they like, I've always said, and there is no thing called a guilty pleasure: Either it's a pleasure or it's not. There's no reason to feel guilty about something you like that someone else doesn't. (Like disco music. Say what you will, but I like a lot of it. So there. ;-))

Anyway, I like to check out reviews other than fantasy books. One of the sites I cruise through is Mrs. Giggles. The reviews she gives are almost always funny, rarely glowing, but decent reviews. Once in a while, there's a howler, which is what this post is about.

Mrs. Giggles gives her reviews numbers, with the lower the number, the worse the review. This one, for a book called Key to Conflict has to be the lowest I've ever seen there: 08. (ETA: I now see she has lower ones, and, yes, a couple of them are 01.) Gads, I thought, could it be that bad? I read a few reviews on Amazon, and, yup, seems to be almost universal that this one is a stinker. Although I'll reserve giving my own opinion as I haven't read it, almost everything points to the fact that the woman who wrote this was a wannabe...who used to work for a very well-known author.

My take on it: Just because you work (or used to work) for an author in some capacity doesn't necessarily mean you know how to write a story well.

Read the Mrs. Giggles review and then the Amazon ones. I might see if I can pick up a used copy somewhere so I can see for myself if it really is that bad.


~Nancy Beck


Back to Publisher's Marketplace stuff. I found this in the free e-newsletter, Publisher's Lunch:

Success through Republishing
The WSJ's weekend advisor highlights Persephone Books and New York Review Books as "finding unlikely success in the overcrowded book industry by turning out reprints of decades-old titles."

They say Persephone will expand distribution next year beyond their own site and Amazon to include some bookstores. Plus: "Reprint publishers aren't under the same pressure to create instant hits as are publishers of new material, says NYRB publisher Rea Hederman. His books often take a year to gather momentum compared with the month or two that bookstores give a new title before they pull it from shelves. When NYRB last October released "A Savage War of Peace," about France's occupation of Algeria, it didn't take off at first. But what some people see as parallels to Iraq in the 1977 book have since turned it into a hit with American armed services. The title has sold more than 20,000 copies."
What's old is new again, hmm? Who wouldn't like to see new versions of old titles back in print? I certainly wouldn't mind, and who knows...maybe I'd find a "new" author to whet my reading appetite (which is really huge, at the moment).

~Nancy Beck



I found this in the free version of Publisher's Lunch:
Also in the UK, the Telegraph advises that "in publishing...books about the Second World War, fiction and non-fiction, look set to be one of the hottest phenomena of the next decade," with a "breadth and intensity of public interest."

Carlton Books has prospered with repackaged Commando comics; Headline is "republishing vintage true-life Second World War adventures including Odette, Boldness Be My Friend, and John Kenneally VC's The Honour and the Shame; Bantam Press has paid a six-figure sum for a series of Sharpe-style adventures about a Second World War infantryman by James Holland; and Bloomsbury will shortly launch my fictional series in a similar vein about a Flashmanesque hero named Dick Coward.
Interesting. I actually have a finished but stuffed-to-the-gills novel about WWII gathering dust. It's about a woman traveling back in time to 1942 San Francisco, to take a chance on seeing her birth mother. She gets back there by making a deal with an uppity Roman goddess, who won't tell her (or is not allowed to tell her) whom her birth mother is. Besides that, the MC messes up history somewhat. It ends on a bittersweet note...which I'm not giving away here. :-)

Following prognostications isn't the way to go, but as I've already got something along these lines...hmm...I'll have to look again at this after I finish my current WIP.


For the SF in Everyone

That's Science Fiction, for the uninitiated. ;-)

Anyway, I was listening to the local, all-volunteer radio when the hosts brought up a little tidbit about Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute coming up with a battery that could be mistaken for a piece of paper.

It's a nanoengineered battery (hmm, makes me think of Star Trek Voyager, and nanoprobes). I find stuff like this quite fascinating; I've always been a sucker for NASA and going to the moon and the space station and all...

But I digress.

I point this out merely because we can get ideas from just about anywhere. It can be a small, simple article in the local newspaper, or it can be something that's mind blowing (to me, anyway) as this battery. It can come from listening to some music, or overhearing a passing conversation. It's when that certain "Aha!" or "Yes!" moment comes that makes you dance around like an idiot, looking for paper and a pen or pencil, just so you can get the thought down. (I've tried the "I'll remember by the time I get home/to work/to the bowling alley" but, trust me, it doesn't work.) It may turn out to be nothing...but you never know.

Live long and prosper.

~Nancy Beck


Giving Your Characters Personalities

I had a very nice weekend, especially on Saturday. If you live anywhere near (or are planning to be visiting) the Allentown, PA area, you must stop in at the Allentown Art Museum.

Why, you say? Because until September 16, 2007, they have a fabulous exhibit of Warner Bros cartoons. I am an utter maniac when it comes to Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, to the point where I can pick out individual cartoons just by listening to the opening music (of the cartoons themselves, not the usual themes at the very beginning).

It's a wonderful little exhibit, which include model sheets and everything else an animator needs to ply his/her trade, at least back during the 1930s-1950s. They also play cartoons on TVs interspersed throughout the space, plus they do give a live guided tour on Saturday at 2:00pm.

Hubby and I didn't need a live tour guide, as we had me. (Hey, bub, how's that for humble?)

Now you're wondering, "How the hell is Nancy going to tie this in with writing?"


Actually, I got to thinking about the different animation directors for Warner Bros. over the years, staring with Tex Avery (who came up with the definitive Bugs Bunny, as well as Bugs' classic phrase, "What's up, doc?"), continuing through Bob Clampett (whose animations included people and animals with huge crania), Friz Freleng (the first of the WB directors, who came up with WB's first star, Porky Pig), and Robert McKimson (his contributions included Foghorn Leghorn and the Tazmanian Devil).

But the one I want to concentrate on is my favorite, Chuck Jones.

He was more into the psychology of those characters he created and the ones he refined. For him, there had to be reason for Daffy Duck exploding into action, or for Bugs declaring, "Of course you realize, this means war!" For Daffy, it was self preservation, with an intense greediness; for Bugs, he neither wanted to be physically nor mentally humiliated or attacked, so he had to fight back - in his own way, naturally.

As the main characters developed, especially in the 1950s, when Jones' unit seemed to surge to the forefront with idea and such, he imbued these "backstories" onto his characters. The result? More depth, more of an understanding of where these characters are coming from, and why they're reacting the way they do. Now, Bob Clampett had Daffy doing silly, inane things just for the sake that they're silly and inane, and that's all right; I enjoy Clampett's cartoons specifically for those reasons.

But as a wannabe writer, I take comfort in the fact (and you'll see even more reason why in a moment) that Jones did this with "beings" that really aren't more than graphite and paper (in its most primitive form). A man introduced Chuck Jones to his young son as "the man who draws Bugs Bunny." His son corrected him. "No, he draws pictures of Bugs Bunny."

Damn. That's what I want people to say about my characters; that they find the characters interesting, that they want to know more, yadda, yadda, yadda. The young boy paid Jones quite a compliment.

The comfort factor in this? When Chuck Jones started out back in the 1930s, he said he was overwhelmed at becoming a director; in fact, he was scared out of his wits. You'll notice that his cartoons of that time (up until about 1941) had characters that were in scary circumstances; and that his cartoons cleaved tightly onto the Disney mold of realism.

For whatever reason, he broke out of that, most likely in a cartoon called The Draft Horse (this is done on the verge or WWII or at the very start of the U.S.'s entrance into it; one frame that I remember is of a horse being drilled into holding up his legs, until all of his legs are in the air!). In this particular instance, he broke away, completely, from the Disney thing and from characters that are scared of their surroundings. This isn't to say the early Jones concoctions are devoid of humor; they're not. But I think Jones finally figure out for himself what he wanted to do and what he wanted to accomplish in his cartoons; he had a sense of himself, a sense of determination and a trust of his own abilities.

If he can do that with cartoons, why can't we do that as writers? It might take a while (as it did for Jones), but as we continue to write on a daily basis, as we continue to say, "Hey, yeah, that's how it's done," as we continue to gain confidence, why shouldn't we be able to get our stuff published?

Onward, forward...and don't forget to give your characters personalities that we'll be piqued by, whether they're mostly good characters or mostly bad characters.

~Nancy Beck


Queries and Synopses

Over at Elektra's cool Crapometer (see the sidebar for the link), a poster left a good link to Lisa Gardner's website. She writes romantic thrillers and suspense and all, but I agree with the poster that what she has to say will help no matter what genre you're writing.

The link is here.

Thanks, kis!

~Nancy Beck

What Was Your First Love?

Notice I didn't say who, heh.

I went to the nearby Borders to browse through the fantasy section (a 30% off e-coupon sure helps with that decision). I picked up 2 fantasy stories, Luck in the Shadows, by Lynn Flewelling, and Raven's Strike by Patricia Briggs. The former I've been curious about for a while, the latter is the 2nd book in a duology by Ms. Briggs.

But I surprised myself by picking up a mystery that didn't involve the Stephanie Plum character. Instead, as I was going through the mystery books, a thought popped into my head that tied in directly with the Egyptian CD course I recently listened to: I knew of an author who had a degree in Egyptology who wrote a slew of books using that knowledge.

Elizabeth Peters. I picked up one of her Amelia Peabody (Evil Editor fans, this is not Amelia Pettipants, lol!) mysteries, Tomb of the Golden Bird. As I was walking out of Borders, I chuckled at the thought of having a straight-on mystery, with (at least I don't think it has) any fantasy elements to it.

Because, you see, mysteries were my first love. (You knew I'd eventually get around to the reason for the title, didn't you?) As a teenager, I went to the library and routinely devoured just about anything that had "Mystery" on the spine: Phyllis A. Whitney, Dick Francis, etc. I lived for these stories, even though I rarely figured out who the hell did it. ("Uncle Fenster's aunt's son by her fifth husband?" No!") I'd gotten away from that in the last few years, as I hungered for anything fantasy.

That started to crack about 2 years or so ago when on a whim I picked up the eighth Stephanie Plum novel. I think it's been simmering for quite some time, and it's just now that the dolphin has come to the surface for a breather. I think it also ties in with my current WIP, as I realized it's developing into a fantastical murder mystery. Maybe a paranormal? I'm not sure at this point; I'll probably continue to label it urban fantasy, for now (if an agent or publisher wants to label it something else, I don't care, as long as the publish the damn thing).

So are you writing in the genre you originally loved when you were young?



PublishAmerica Is Bad For You

This has to be said again and again, so people aren't lured into their clutches.

So why is PublishAmerica (PA) so bad? You don't pay anything up front, right?


Somewhere along the line, PA will send an email to you with a "discounted sale" on buying your own book. You think: Big deal, I'll buy a 10 or 12 for a signing, or whatever.

Except that real publishers will give you free copies to hand out to friends and family.

Friends and Family

Which brings me to another point. You got friends and family? Good, because PA is gonna make sure you use 'em. They'll ask you, up front (or soon thereafter) for a list of friends and family. Why? Because they want you to bug them to buy your book. I don't know about you, but while I'd tell everybody about a book that I just had published, there's no way in hell I'm going to get in their faces and sell it every chance I get. I want to be on good terms with friends and family, thank you very much. :-) This is a sure way to get people pissed off at you. If a family member decides to buy my book, wonderful! If they tell me, I'll thank them profusely. But I know that not everyone is going to be interested in a particular genre, and since I want those close to me to like me, any amount of gabbing about a published book is going to be a complete soft sell.


Which brings us to distribution. PA only promotes their books through their own website. How many people on the Web do you really think is going to go out of their way to the PA site, hmm? Yes, your book will be listed on Amazon, but that's only a small part of distribution.

For widespread distribution, your book needs to be in bookstores all over the place. That means in Barnes & Noble stores across the U.S. (or wherever). That whole "we'll get your books into places across the fruited plain" is nothing but hogwash. PA expects you, and only you, to sell your book. Regular publishers have marketing departments. Sure, you can set up a website and do some marketing that way (and it can only help your book), but a publisher's marketing department can do so much more.

But back to distribution. Ingrams and Baker & Taylor are not distributors; they're wholesalers. What this means is that, unlike distributors, there's no sales force out there promoting your book. Distributors = salespeople. So you'd have your own little sales force talking to bookstores to get them to order your book (along with other books, naturally).

Publishers want you to do well; it's in their best interest for you to earn out your advance.


That's another thing. Ah, dear ol' PA, they're so nice, they give you a $1 advance.

Big freakin' deal.

The average advance from a big publisher? It's more like $5,000-$10,000. Yeah, up front you get that much. You don't have to pay it back, even if your book doesn't earn back that much.

That's right: The publisher is taking a risk by offering that off the bat. They must think your book will do fairly well if they're willing to hand over that much money, don't you think? While PA throws you a measly buck.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

So let's see...the author has to do most of the promotion, can't get his books into brick and mortar bookstores except on consignment (if he's lucky), he gets a crappy $1 "advance"...definitely not a place I'd consider going.

If all you want is to hold a book in your hands, then by all means, go to lulu.com. At least you'll have a decent cover, and can hand them out to friends and family whenever you want to.

I'll throw out a cliche here - avoid PA like the plague it is.




I just started up with a major revision on my WIP yesterday. I've started to incorporate my ideas from a post here a while ago. (I'm too lazy today to provide a link, lol.)

The beginning is quite slow going, as it usually is for me. I don't know why that is, but I suspect it's true for a lot of writers: Where the heck do I start this thing? I know that was true for Margaret Mitchell. I think she redid the beginning of Gone With the Wind half a dozen times, and even when it came out in print, she still didn't like it.

I heard that the book sold pretty well. ;-)

No doubt I'll change that beginning a few more times (or at least tweak it), but it'll do for right now, as it introduces the character and her voice and gets her moving out the door. She's dressed strangely, but it's for a reason, and it has nothing to do with fashion. (Chick lit for me begins and ends with Stephanie Plum, and she doesn't care about the latest fashion trends; come to think of it, neither do I. ;-) Go, Stephanie!) Maybe a lot of Jersey chicks are that way?

Heh heh.

Anyway, it's good to back to writing fiction again. Hubby went to see one of his brothers yesterday afternoon, and after the Yankees managed to sweep (finally!) someone, I decided it was time to get into the whole revision thing. This is a major revision, as I decided my MC, Jackie Sanura, was too thin on the characterization end; not enough meat there for me.

I'm hoping to do some more in the coming days and weeks, but I'm not going to make the mistake of trying to come up with a deadline at this point, as my personal life is still on the "I STILL don't know what's going to happen" part of the curve.

But at least I'm back to writing fiction instead of just reading it.

~Nancy Beck

Interview With Samhain Editor

Maybe you've decided your Magnum Opus should go the e-book route. You've exhausted yourself by going through a ton of agents and/or print publishers, and you really think it's good enough for publication somewhere (as long as it's not a vanity press).

If you're going the e-book route and have a romance or fantasy novel, you could do a lot worse than to go with Samhain Publishing. Yes, they also do print books, but you'll have to check the website to see what their policy is on that; you might have to sell x number of e-books in order for that to happen.

The interview with the editor of Samhain, Angela James, is here. It's a few months old, but it's relevant, in that Ms. James lets you in on (briefly, anyway) what editors do, and how (hint, hint) she was Samhain to expand beyond the romance genre (into SF, for example).

Might be worth your while to send your novel there, once they reopen to submissions (darn it, they closed it down pretty quickly - they must've received a ton in the last few days, alas).

~Nancy Beck