Archive for April, 2011

A year or so ago, Sarah A. Hoyt and Kate Paulk challenged me to write a historical fantasy.  Now, I know some of you don’t see that as being all that hard.  But you have to take into account the source of the challenge.  Sarah has been known to put on her pointy boots and kick me in the butt to get me to write.  Kate, on the other hand, can be down right evil in her attempt to assist Sarah in keeping my butt in chair and fingers on the keyboard.  So any old historical fantasy just wasn’t going to do.  Oh no, they had to choose something not only off the beaten path but also something, to quote Monty Python, “completely different”.  The result was Russian Nights.  It’s almost finished, but hasn’t been edited yet…so take that as fair warning.

Set in St. Petersburg, Russia in the months before the Russian Revolution, this is a world of intrigue, political machination and magic.  Grigori Rasputin, the Mad Monk, is at the center of it all and knows his life depends on finding a way to save the life of the tsaravich.  But in this world, young Alexei doesn’t suffer from hemophilia, although the world at large believes he suffers from the “curse of the royals”.  No,  magic is the source of his illness and the only means to save him.  But to do so, others must be sacrificed.  All for the good of Mother Russia — and, of course, Rasputin.

As with our own timeline, Rasputin is feared and despised and the royals mistrusted.  Too many people, too many children have simply disappeared.  The tsars cossacks have been too enthusiastic in quashing the protests and strikes.  The pogroms have only stirred the troubled pot even more.

That should do as an intro…at least I hope it does.  Kate and Sarah didn’t give me much more than that when they set me down this road.  Now, with apologies to those who have already seen this, I give you the opening of Russian Nights.

*     *     *     *

St. Petersburg, Russia
January 1913

Winter settled on the city, blanketing it with a fresh coat of snow. Several blocks away, ice covered the Neva River, a reminder Spring was still several months away. Clouds hung heavily in the sky. Only the pale light from an occasional street lamp broke the darkness that mimicked an early dusk. Snowflakes, larger than any he’d seen in a long while, danced in the wind and mocked him as he moved as quickly as he dared in the direction of Rastelli Square.

Why had he insisted the cab drop him so far from his destination? Surely the need for discretion didn’t require him to chance freezing to death. Of course it did. A little discomfort was small enough price to pay to avoid discovery. He’d learned that lesson well over the years.

A gust of bitterly cold wind blowing in from the Gulf of Finland cut through him, chilling him to the bone. His step faltered as his boot heel landed on a patch of ice. His foot slid. His arms flailed as he struggled to keep on his feet. He would not fall. He wouldn’t.

No doubt about it. Winter here had to be the earthly representation of the Third Circle of Hell. Only Russian snow was white, not the black Dante wrote of.

Damn Peter the First! He’d wanted the Russian capital to be a showpiece; something to prove to the Europeans that Russia was a country to be reckoned with not only militarily, but artistically as well. That was all well and good, but Peter had not considered the problems with moving this far north. Nor had he thought about how those coming after him would pay for his ambition.

Instead, he’d instructed his ministers to find the best engineers to design a new capital on the Gulf of Finland. That would give him the natural port he desired. More importantly, the new capital would be closer to Europe, better for trade and, if one was to be honest, rapid troop movement.

Of course, engineering prowess hadn’t been enough. Not to build an entire city on marshlands. So many of those possessed of the old magic had been pressed into service. They had reshaped the land and the weather so construction of Peter’s showplace could proceed.

None of that mattered when all Grigori Yefimovich cared about was reaching his destination without catching his death of cold.

If only Peter I had left the capital in Moscow. St. Petersburg was too far north and too cold in the winter, especially now that the royal mages seemed unable to control the weather as they once had. Something had happened since the days of Peter the Great – and even Catherine after him. The old magics had deserted the royals. But this was neither the time nor the place for contemplations about things he could not control.

He hunched deeper into his heavy coat and reminded himself that, cold as it was, this was nothing compared to all those winters he’d survived in Siberia as he grew into manhood Not that the memory warmed him any.

Today, however, the weather acted as his ally. The threat of being caught in one of Russia’s infamous blizzards kept the faint of heart safely inside, all but insuring he’d arrive at Smolny Cathedral without curious eyes seeing. He might look like someone from ordinary peasant stock — which he happened to be – and, therefore, no one of any importance. But, as the last few years had proven, sometimes unpleasantly, he was no ordinary peasant, no ordinary man. Because of that, even the most lowly of St. Petersburg’s citizens knew his face and would mark his passage. At least now he had a chance of moving through the streets unseen.

He quickened his pace and soon turned down the stone path leading to Smolny Cathedral. A slight smile touched his lips as his gloved hands worked the ornate iron gate’s locking mechanism with an ease that betrayed the number of times he’d done so before. Neither Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, who had envisioned the cathedral as monastery for nuns, nor Catherine the Great, who had halted construction on the cathedral because she disliked the design, could have imagined his use for Smolny. Not that they would object. Both of those great women knew the importance of protecting Mother Russia and her rulers, no matter what the cost.

His booted feet moved surely yet carefully along the path, avoiding the occasional ice patch, until he stood before an unadorned door near the rear of the cathedral. A quick look over his shoulder confirmed what he already knew. No one who might be passing could see him from the street.

He didn’t pause to knock or announce his presence. He didn’t need to, not when he came in service of the Tsar or, more precisely, the Tsarina. Besides, it would be so much better if he could accomplish his task without any of the priests inside realizing he’d been there.

He closed the door behind him and almost moaned in relief to no longer be buffeted by the wind. Cold as the corridor was, it was still much warmer than outside. He could take comfort in that and not much else.

The cathedral might be a showplace with its ornate stylings, high ceilings and polished Revel stone floors. Yet it offered him little in the way of comfort. No, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t the building itself that denied him. It was the priests within, those who resented him and his place with the Royal Family.

Determination replaced his relief to be inside. He had no time to waste, not if he wanted to avoid being caught there should the weather deteriorate even further. So no more ruminating. He had a job to do.

A soft footfall as he turned to the ancient coat tree in the corner warned him he was no longer alone. Frustration boiled and, for one brief moment, he closed his eyes. He’d prayed that just this once he’d be able to slip in and out of the cathedral without the priests knowing he’d been there. Perhaps this was his test. If he managed, again, not to let them know the real reason for his visit, he might finally accomplish his goal.

That had to be it. God did work in mysterious ways. Perhaps He used these priests to remind Grigori Yefimovich not to become too sure of himself. The sin of pride had felled many men. Grigori yefimovich would not be one of them. But what to do now?

That he had an answer for, one born from experience. He wouldn’t acknowledge the newcomer. Not yet. Let them make the first move so he could decide the best way to respond.

He waited, doing his best to ease the frustration from his expression and still his emotions. Instead of turning, he finished unwinding the scarf from around the bottom of his face and neck. Then he removed his hat, stuffing his scarf and gloves inside his hat before placing it atop the coat rack. To give himself a few moments more, he slowly unbuttoned his heavy black coat, ignoring the frayed cuffs and the third button barely hanging on by a thread. He must remember to have someone fix that. Or maybe not. A missing button, like the frayed cuffs and worn wool of the coat, even his long hair and scraggly beard, were all part of the image he’d so carefully crafted to suit his needs.

By the time he shrugged out of his coat, revealing an equally worn black cassock beneath it, hands were there to assist him. He bowed his head slightly, indicating an appreciation he didn’t feel.

“It has been some time since you last visited us, Father Grigori,” the newcomer said as he made use of the coat rack.

There could be no mistaking the slight note of censure in the younger man’s voice, and an anger as cold as the wind outside knotted in Grigori’s Yefimovich’s stomach. How dare he!

“My duties to the Royal Family keep me very busy, Father Dmitri.” Let that be a reminder as to which of them bore the real power. “Is the bishop in residence today?”

“He is. Shall I announce you?”

Grigori Yefimovich paused and chewed the edges of his scruffy mustache, as if deep in thought. Let Father Dmitri believe him hesitant to interrupt the bishop. Much as he hated it, he had to maintain the illusion of a respectful servant, one not worthy to be interrupting Bishop Malenko. How ironic. If anyone was unworthy, it was Malenko and the priests who served him. They had no true calling from God, not as he did.

Fortunately, the bishop hadn’t realized why he continued to visit. Of course, that was because Malenko and the younger priests were so busy being bastions of condemnation for what he did and for how he served the Royal Family, especially the Tsarina. Let them. He would no more abandon his calling as spiritual advisor to the Romanovs than he would willingly return to Siberia.

“Shall I tell Bishop Malenko you wish an audience, Father Grigori? He has a full schedule today, so I cannot promise he will be available to speak with you.”

That hint of impatience, of censure he’d come to expect once more crept into Father Dmitri’s voice. Fool! He would never enjoy the privilege of serving the Royal Family. Dmitri Rostapovich, newly ordained and assigned as the aging bishop’s secretary only because of who his family happened to be, would never understand that either.

Full schedule, indeed. Now the young fool lies to me. One day he shall learn just how foolish it is to try my patience.

Before he could answer, the sound of young voices raised in hymn filled the air and Father Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin smiled slightly. Excellent. He hadn’t braved the elements for naught after all.

No indeed. He’d come to the cathedral, as he had on a number of other occasions, to make a selection. He would visit the boys he’d heard singing and take their measure. Then he’d choose from them a suitable candidate to act as companion to Alexei Nickolaevich Romanov, Tsarevich and supposed hemophiliac.

It sounded so simple, so harmless. One or two boys chosen by the priest who advised the Royal Family, the holy man who’d saved the future tsar of all Mother Russia. The lucky one would become playmate and confidante to the Tsarevich. What an honor, not only for the boy, but for his family as well. An honor none had yet to decline.

But the one chosen would also be so much more than a simple companion to the Tsarevich. Not that the boy, or his family, would be told. The Royal Family couldn’t afford for their subjects to know the truth, not when so many already questioned the need for a tsar. Any hint of weakness in the Tsarevich, any hint of him being different, had to be avoided, no matter what the cost.

It fell to Rasputin to make the selection. After discussing his choice with the Tsarina, he would visit the boy’s family and give them the glorious news that their son had received the honor of being the Tsarevich’s close companion. It was his duty to convince the family to say goodbye to their son, to remind them of the benefits their son would receive – private tutors, the finest clothes, social contacts and, most important of all, a personal connection to the future ruler of Mother Russia. Then he’d promise they would soon be invited to the Winter Palace, or one of the other royal residences, to visit their son.

A visit that would never happen if everything went as it should.

So he had to be careful, not only in how he dealt with the bishop and the priests at Smolny, but also with his choice of whom to invite to become the Tsarevich’s companion. The lad, just like all those before him, would be chosen for something very unique to him. He must be strong in the old magic. The magic that had run through the royal lines of Russian aristocracy since before the Romanovs took power three hundred years earlier. A magic that had tragically, disastrously been declining within the Royal Family for generations.

A decline, Rasputin knew, that had led in great part to the challenges now facing the Tsar.

But that would, if all went according to God’s plan, change once the right boy was at the royal palace and introduced to the Tsarevich….

It was best not to think about that now, however. Several of the priests assigned to the cathedral were senstives. Of them, some already plotted against him. He knew it. Just as he knew they were jealous. Jealous of how God favored him. Jealous of his relationship with the Royal Family. Because of that, Rasputin couldn’t allow himself to become careless. He’d play their games and be patient until the day came when he could finally show them just how dangerous it was to attempt to undermine him.

A soft cough reminded him one of those sensitives stood before him, waiting impatiently for an answer. Rasputin once again carefully schooled his features before answering.

“Please, Father Dmitri.” He bowed slightly, hands folded before him. “While I wait to see the bishop, I shall look in on the boys and see how their lessons progress.”

For a moment, it seemed Father Dmitri might object. Then, with a nod just short of being curt, the young priest turned and started down the corridor. Rasputin watched, his pale blue eyes cold and hard.

Father Dmitri was just like all the rest, all those who whispered their poisonous lies in the Tsar’s ear. Just like those who tried to diminish him in the eyes of the Tsarina. They’d succeeded once because he’d allowed himself to grow too sure of himself and of his place in the Royals’ lives. That carelessness had found him torn from the Royal Family and his place at their side as ordained by God. Not again.

Never again.

How much simpler things would have been had the priest on duty been anyone save Dmitri Rostapovich.

Still, plans made could just as easily be altered as the situation dictated. That lesson he’d learned well back in Siberia. So he’d look in on the boys today, making note of any who seemed likely to suit his needs. It would be easy enough later to arrange to meet the boy somewhere away from the cathedral. Some place where they would be uninterrupted as he took the boy’s measure. Then, if the boy was suitable, an “introduction” to the Tsarevich would be arranged.

Yes, patience today, success later and without those of his enemies who would work to foil his plans being forewarned

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the second Monday of the week?  It feels that way.  After a weekend filled with fun guests — and the massive and manic cleaning beforehand — and finally some rain, yesterday dawned with a new week’s worth of things to do, both personally and professionally.  Part of it was deciding how to handle my various blogging responsibilities.  Like so many writers and other folks in the publishing industry, I find myself active on more than just one blog.  That often winds up cutting into my writing time.  So, decisions needed to be made.  Basically, I’ll be blogging at The Naked Truth Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  I do my turn at Mad Genius Club every Sunday and the occasional Saturday.  That leaves Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays here.  Mind you, that is all subject to change as scheduling and breaking news dictates, especially for this blog and The Naked Truth.  But, it’s what I’m going to try for. . . we’ll see how it works.

Another thing I think I’m going to try is a regular snippet schedule.  It will keep me focused on my writing which is, I’ll admit, taking a backseat all too often to my duties at NRP.  So, I think I’ll start that today.  However, what isn’t going to be snippeted is the super sekrit project, mainly because I don’t know where it is going just yet.  Also, snippets will be rough, very rough, and will most likely change between when they appear here and in the final product.

Also, because of the problem of making sure the work being snippeted isn’t “published” before I get around to submitting it, snippets may not always be in order and I will never snippet more than 1/4 – 1/3 of the novel.  However, if you’re really interested in it, you can email or leave a comment asking to be a beta reader.  As any writer will tell you, beta readers are invaluable.

So, now to decide what to snippet, especially since I have dueling books in my head right now.  While I think about that, pardon me while I squee again.  Nocturnal Origins is doing pretty good so far as an e-book.  Actually, I’m thrilled with the preliminary numbers I’m seeing, but would, of course, love them to be better.  What author doesn’t?  And I’m absolutely ecstatic about the reviews it’s gotten so far.  I have to give a special shout out to Barb Caffrey at Shiny Book Review and say thanks for her review.

But the squee is for the fact the print version of Nocturnal Origins is now available (TPB).  You can order it from Amazon here.  It will soon be available from Barnes & Noble and you will be able to order it from your local bookstore as well.  There really is a special feeling to know your book is available in print.

I guess I’ll go figure out what to start snippeting.  Snippets will begin Thursday.  In the meantime, if you’ve read Nocturnal Origins and enjoyed it, please tell your friends.  I’m a firm believer that word of mouth really is the best advertising any author can get.

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What would a Friday be without the weekly (I know, sometimes daily and hourly) update on the Borders bankruptcy?

Bloomberg reported yesterday that Borders wants to find $50 million more in financing.  Mind you, this is in addition to the more than $500 million debtor-in-possession loan it has already secured.  The reason?  Because they aren’t selling as much as they’d forecast.  Gee, imagine that.  Have a bad business plan — oh wait, they haven’t filed their new business plan/restructuring plan with the bankruptcy court yet — and close a third of your stores and threaten the close of even more and your sales go down.  Who’d have thunk it?

Bitter?  You bet.  I love bookstores.  The Borders nearest to where I live is one of those closing, despite the fact the store was posting a profit.  Some very good folks have lost their jobs even as Borders was asking for permission to pay its executives millions in bonuses.  Sorry, I don’t believe in rewarding folks who aren’t getting the job done while punishing those who are.

Any way, there’s a lot of subtext in the Bloomberg article.  How much is true, I can’t say.  I expect a lot of it.  Unfortunately, I can’t even say I’m surprised.  This is a company that should have seen the writing on the wall more than two years ago and either didn’t or failed to do anything about it.  Now they want publishers and other suppliers to trust that they’ll pay their bills — after already proving before the bankruptcy filing that they won’t.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s time for them to prove they have a clue by filing their new business plan/reorganization plan instead of holding their hand out for more money while telling their creditors to bend over and trust them not to kick them in the rear again.

On another front, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a follow-up to her post about royalty statements.  I wrote about the original article earlier this week.  As I said then, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Rusch yet, but I have been following her blog for quite awhile now and I urge every writer and small press publisher/editor to do the same.

These two articles by Ms. Rusch point out problems I’ve heard about from writer friends for a long time.  No one has really rocked the boat because traditional publishing was the only game in town.  Now, however, with the advent of the Amazon KDP program as well as Barnes and Noble’s PubIt program, authors now have an alternative.  Throw in the growth of small press e-publishers and, well, the landscape is changing.

I won’t try to paraphrase what Ms. Rusch says in her articles.  Instead, I suggest you read them and the comments that follow.  Then, if you are traditionally published, check your royalty statements.  If you have access to your Bookscan numbers, look at them and compare them to what your statements say you sold.  Then, if you feel there is an under-reporting of your sales by your publisher, report it to your professional organizations and urge them to take action.

One last note.  Over at Mad Genius Club, there’s a writing prompt contest going on.  The winner will receive their choice of two titles from NRP, including Chris McMahon’s upcoming novella Flight of the Phoenix.  Go check it out.  You have until 0600 EST Sunday to get your entries in.

(Cross-posted to The Naked Truth.)

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I’m not going to take sides on whether the author of Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, intentionally misrepresented events and people in the book or whether he has misused funds supposedly raised for his charity.  Those charges will be examined ad nauseum in the coming days and weeks in the wake of the 60 Minutes piece this past Sunday.  However, the controversy surrounding Mortenson and the book does point out, yet again, one of the failings of publishing in today’s world.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, Three Cups of Tea is purportedly about Mortenson’s adventures after an failed attempt to climb K2.  According to the book, he wandered into a Pakistani village on his own, in need of medical assistance and the villagers took him in and cared for him.  Moved by their sacrifice in doing so, when asked by one of the children if he would build them a school, he said he would.  From that promise, according to the book, grew his charity and his efforts to build schools throughout the region.

Since the book was published, it has been placed on reading lists for high schools, colleges and Sunday School classes.  Millions of dollars have been raised to help support the effort to build these schools.  Mortenson has toured the country and beyond to promote the charity.

And that is where 60 Minutes comes in.  According to their piece, there are questions about the accuracy of parts of Mortenson’s book.  One of his companions on the trip detailed in the book said Mortenson had never been separated from the rest of the party.  Another man, one identified as a kidnapper in the book, said he and his companions never kidnapped Mortenson.  Questions were raised about how much of the money raised for the charity is being spent on charitable works and how much is going into Mortenson’s pocket.

As I said, I’m not going to take sides on whether Mortenson tried to pull the wool over the eyes of his readers and the contributors to his charity or if, as he has claimed, these so-called factual inconsistencies are the result of his co-author merging events from several trips into one — over Mortenson’s objections.

No, my concern here comes from the fact that a lot of this could have been prevented had Mortenson’s publisher done some simple fact-checking before the book came out.  There was a time when publishers took responsibility for what they put on the shelves.  A non-fiction book was checked not only for spelling and punctuation errors but for factual consistency and truth.  But, as with so many things in publishing, that has changed.  How often in the last decade or so have we read about publishers either recalling, canceling or putting disclaimers into books that had been highly touted as the latest hit in non-fiction?

Have publishers forgotten James Frey and his book A Million Little Lies?  Frey appeared on Oprah and she touted his memoir detailing the horrors he survived as an addict and convict.  Then, gasp, it turned out that much of the book was nothing more than an exercise in creativity.  The result saw an inclusion in later editions of the book from Doubleday that included not only an author’s note but also a publisher’s note/disclaimer.

There are others.  In 2009, Penguin brought out Matt McCarthy’s Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League MisfitWhen the so-called facts in the book were challenged, “Carolyn Coleburn, the vice president and director of publicity for Viking, which is an imprint of Penguin Group USA, said, “We rely on our authors to tell the truth and fact-check.”

Also in 2009, Penguin once again had a memoir exposed as being anything but completely factual.  In fact, it canceled Herman Rosenblatt’s memoir, Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love That Survived after it was revealed that, while he was a Holocaust survivor, he’d fabricated the details of how he met his wife.  (Also of note, this is another book that took in Oprah.)

In 2008, Penguin was hit with Love and Consequences which was supposedly a memoir of growing up in South Central LA as a mixed race foster child.  It turned out this book by Margaret Seltzer was nothing but pure fabrication.

And now we have Three Cups of Tea, from Viking — which is, iirc, part of Penguin Group.  Perhaps Viking and Penguin simply had a bad spell of several years when they forgot they ought to be doing the fact-checking and not relying on their authors, people trying to get them to buy the book for publication, to do so.  Somehow, I don’t think it is an isolated incident or time.  All it takes is a simple search to see the number of books that have been presented as non-fiction that are, at best fictionalized memoirs.  There has to come a point when publishers remember that fact-checking is part of their job.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Viking is now going to “review the book and its contents with the author. . . .”  Of course, this only came about after the 60 Minutes story, not when questions first started being raised about the factual accuracy of the book.  According to the Times, “The statement was a strong signal that Viking, an imprint of Penguin, is not convinced of the accuracy of Mr. Mortenson’s book.”  Gee, you think?

The solution is simple.  Publishers need to put quality control back into the process.  They need to fact check, they need to proof read and they need to copy edit their titles.  They need to do this on a consistent basis, not hit and miss.  A title like Three Cups of Tea is actually quite easy to check.  Mortenson named names and sited dates.  How hard would it have been to pick up a phone or send an email to the people involved?  How hard would it have been to ask Mortenson for supporting documentation?  Once again, Penguin — and publishing in general — fell down.

My biggest concern is that this is indicative of the attitude of so many in publishing today.  They worry more about getting a title out that looks like it might make them money than they are about verifying the product.  If this had been a food or drug item, it would have been recalled long ago and the manufacturer fined.  There is no such penalty for publishing.  The only check on it is the court of public opinion.  Is it any wonder so many people have a bad taste in their mouths about the industry — and the high price it charges for books — today?

More than that, as a writer, it appalls me to see this attitude from a major publisher.  If the publisher isn’t going to be the gatekeeper — something they keep saying they are whenever they try to dissuade us from bringing our titles out directly in digital format — why should we go to them. much less trust them to do right by us?  Frankly, their imitation of Marie Antoinette eating cake is going to wind up the same way it did for poor Marie — their business is going to be killed as they release the metaphorical guillotine because of their own don’t give-a-damn attitude.

The real losers in this latest almost-scandal are the kids who do rely on Mortenson’s charity for new schools.  And that is a shame.

Links of interest:


Three Cups of Deceit

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This past weekend was one of those rare weekends when I didn’t write, didn’t edit, didn’t do anything with regard to the publishing industry other than re-reading one of Dave Freer’s books for fun.  I didn’t even read the blogs I normally do.  Instead, I enjoyed spending the weekend at university with my son — always a reason to celebrate.

So, imagine my reaction when I got home last night and started going through my regular blog reading and found some of my concerns now being voiced by names bigger and more knowledgeable than I.

A little background first.  I may be a very small fish in a huge pond when it comes to being a published author, but I keep my ear to the ground and I talk to a number of others who have been in the business a lot longer than I.  One thread has seemed to be consistent of late — the concern that royalty statements aren’t accurately reflecting the number of sales any given author is making.  Now, this concern isn’t anything new.  Writers have had issues with Bookscan numbers for quite awhile simply because Bookscan doesn’t report all sales.  It simply reports sales from selected markets and then extrapolates from there.  Okay, it might be easier for a a publisher to simply pay a third party to do this, but come on, guys, the publisher surely knows how many books are printed, how many are shipped, how many are sitting in a warehouse somewhere and how many have been returned.  A simple in-house computing program could track that.

So, Bookscan had been an issue of concern.  Then Amazon did something the publishers hated.  They made Bookscan numbers available to authors who take part in their Author Central program.  Oooops.  Now writers can track their own numbers for printed books without breaking the bank.

That then focused attention on e-book sales and gets back to my conversations with some of my writer friends.  More than one talked about how they were getting royalty statements saying they had sold a very small number of e-books — far less than what their fan mail and in-person conversations with readers led them to believe — and, very suspiciously, they sold the exact same number of copies of multiple titles.  Okay, I’m a pretty trusting person, but when a royalty statement says Author A sold 8 copies each of three books and this is exactly what they sold the previous royalty period as well…well, I start getting suspicious.

Seems I’m not alone.  One of those I respect a great deal in the business is Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Rusch, but I have followed her posts in “The Business Rusch” for some time now.  Her post on the 13th about royalty statements is something every writer needs to read, digest, read again and then act on.  Remember, the publishing industry is changing very rapidly right now and publishers are struggling to figure out how to adapt — I hope they are at least — and I think Ms. Rusch is right when she says that adopting a new accounting method that accurately tracks e-book sales is not high on publishers’ priority lists right now.

Maybe Bookscan will soon start tracking e-book sales as well.  It won’t be perfect, far from it.  But it will be one more weapon in a writer’s arsenal to protect himself.

(As an aside, another blog every writer should be following is Dean Wesley Smith‘s.  Between him and Ms. Rusch, the business of publishing is made much more understandable for writers at all stages of their careers.)

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Ooooh, Shiny Book

(Disclaimer: No books were harmed in the writing of this post. No vampires were made shiny and no werewolves were turned emo. Had either of the latter two occurred, said vamps and wolves would have been humanely extracted from the world of the written world for their sakes as well as for the sake of all readers out there.)

I must start with a confession. I am an e-book addict. You all know that. I’ve made no secret of how I love being able to put hundreds, thousands of books on my kindle or iPod touch and carry them with me. I love the convenience of being able to use my kindle to shop directly if I suddenly feel the need to have a new book and I just can’t wait on it any longer. Besides, why would I work for a digital press if I didn’t believe in e-books, right?

So what, you ask, do I have to confess? Well, I fell in love the other day. No, not that sort of love, although I did want to sleep with the new object of my affections. (Quit laughing, Sarah) Ah, I can see the looks of puzzlement in some of your faces and I see Kate covertly trying to find the number for the men in the white jackets. No, I haven’t lost my mind. But I have discovered something many others before me already knew.

Thursday I received the bound proof of Nocturnal Origins. It was like Christmas morning all over again. My hands shook as I ripped into the box. My breath caught as I carefully lifted the book from inside and turned it over. There, finally, one dream come true. I actually held a book with my name as author.

And it was soooooooo cool.

That isn’t to say I was more proud of the hard copy version of Origins than I have been of the e-book, because I’m not. But there is something about holding a book in your hands and seeing the physical manifestation of all your hard work.

Does this mean I’m not as big of an advocate of e-books as I was before Thursday? Absolutely not. But that feeling reminded me of something — there really is something special about “real” books. For those folks who are tactile, physical books will almost always be more enjoyable than e-books. What we are going to see over the next few years is a balancing out of the industry — I hope. E-books will gain more respectability while physical books will be ratcheted back some. I think we’ll see more of the POD hubs cropping up in bookstores and other outlets so stores don’t have to keep a lot of stock on hand. The customer simply orders the book while in the store, goes to have a cup of coffee or something, and comes back later to pick up his book. Technology like this may very well be one of the saviors of the print end of publishing.

In the meantime, however, let me have a moment to just go, “SQUEEEEEEE!”. I promise to be back to normal — or as normal as I ever am — next weekend.

(cross–posted from Mad Genius Club)

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I Have Been Pirated

I knew it was bound to happen.  At least I hoped it was.  No one wants to have their work pirated.  After all, it’s hard work to write a book and get it published.  So, once it is finally available, any writer wants folks to actually buy it.  We have bills to pay, after all.  But then there’s that niggling of self-doubt at the back of your mind.  What if no one thinks your book is good enough to pirate?  Okay, maybe I’m weird there.  But I had wondered.

Now, though, seeing a site that has Origins available for a free download — and it’s not a site NRP has an agreement with — I don’t know whether to be pleased or insulted.  Pirating really doesn’t bother me that much.  Not on an intellectual level.  Maybe I’ve spent too much time hanging around Baen that I’ve been infected by their point of view.  I really do feel that pirating is nothing more than a form of promotion.  It gets our books into hands that might not otherwise have gotten it.  Some of those folks will then go out and buy the book and others by me or other NRP authors.

But this site is one that bothers me.  Most pirate sites have contact addresses you can send a take down notice to.  This one doesn’t.  No, only after a searching and finally clicking on the “sign up for a new account” did I find a “contact us” link.  And that opened up an email form to fill out.  Further investigation shows that this particular site has only been around for three months.  But…and this is the big but…if you keep looking around, it is clear the site has been around much longer.  It is simply one of those that changes its address and name from time to time.

Now, like I said, I’m not all that worried about someone pirating my book.  In fact, I am sort of pleased — again, in a perverse sort of way — that only one site has, so far, posted it for free download.  (And no, I didn’t sign up for an account nor did I try to download it.  I like my computer too much to risk the sorts of bugs these sites tend to carry).  One of the reasons I like NRP, both as my publisher and as my employer, is the fact that it doesn’t attach DRM to its titles.  The fact that NRP titles aren’t showing up en masse on pirate sites tends to prove my theory that it is the challenge of DRM that brings out a lot of these guys, not just their need/desire to give away something that should be paid for.  Add in the fact that NRP doesn’t charge more than $4.99 so far and, well, there really is no reason to pirate their titles.

Still, part of me is outraged to find my first book on a pirate site even as it is thrilled to be there.  Mind you, I’ll be keeping my eye out for other sites as well as keeping an eye on this particular one.  In the meantime, I’ll keep writing.  After all, we do have to keep these pirates in business….right?


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Wow, it doesn’t seem possible that Nocturnal Origins has been out for a month.  Thanks to everyone who has bought it, read it and spread the word.  You’ve been great.

I know there have been some of you who have been waiting for the print version of Origins and I wanted to let you know that it will be available soon.  I have seen the page proofs and the cover design.  If everything goes as expected, it should be available in a week or so.  I’ll keep you guys in the loop.

So, while you wait, do you want more snippets?

(Yes, I’m trying to find reasons not to work on the top secret project that shall not be named because Nocturnal Serenade wants to be written and the tsp is dragging its feet.)

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This has been a very long week already.  Long with a lot of work done, and even a little writing.  Still, the super secret project isn’t behaving much better today than it was yesterday.  So, I’m going to disappear shortly and try to beat my subconscious into submission — I know, all I’ll do is give myself a headache.  But that might be progress ;-p

But I did want to share one bit of news with you.  I should have the page proofs for the print version of Nocturnal Origins in the next day or so.  Once I do, it will only be a very short time before it will be available for purchase in dead tree version as well as the digital version.  Thanks again to everyone who has already bought it — now, go out and spread the word.  I really want to write the sequel but sales need to continue as strong as they started to justify it.

Sorry, I suck at self-promotion and feel like I’m beating you over the heads and I really don’t mean to.  But I learned long ago that word of mouth really is the best way to promote a book.

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My current super secret project is kicking my butt.  It is one of those where I know exactly what I want to write.  The problem is, the brain isn’t cooperating with the fingers on the keyboard.  Instead of telling the story, it’s sitting there going “neener, neener” and blowing raspberries.  And I am not amused, especially not with a deadline staring down at me.

I’ve tried bribing it with chocolate and coffee, good beer and even the last of the Port Sarah brought me and all to no avail.  I’m into threats now.  I’ve told my brain to cooperate or I’d go find the friendly neighborhood zombie and let it have a snack.  And you know what?  My brain laughed at me, telling me the zombie is a vegan.

Vegan!  Has the world gone mad?  Or is it just me?

Yes, I’m rambling.  See what happens when the brain decides not to play nice?

Maybe if I promise it can write some more in the Origins universe if it will just let me get 10k words done today?  What do you think?

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