Friday, March 28, 2008

Amazon - The Five Hundred Pound Gorilla

Oh dear, it's a sad day when I find myself agreeing with PublishAmerica.

"PublishAmerica will not comply with Amazon's ultimatum, and will not allow that company to dictate who will print PublishAmerica's books, and at what conditions."

The fuss is over Amazon's decision to require their POD (print-on-demand) publishers to produce their books through Amazon's own POD supplier, BookSurge. You don't print through them, Amazon will disable the BUY button on your book's page. Lovely. So if you decide you wish to have Lightning Source,, etal., print your books, Amazon will cut you off at the knees. You still can be part of their Amazon Marketplace ($29.95 per year and 55% discount on retail price plus cost of shipping to Amazon). Trust me, you don't make money that way.

If you print through BookSurge, Amazon will assess a printing fee for the book, a set-up charge ($55) and still lop 48% off the top. At present they're waiving the $55 set-up fee to encourage folks to take part in their generous offer. To add insult and annoyance, BookSurge's specs are different than Lightning Source and some of the others, so not only do you have to set up the book twice (and yes, this does take some time) but you have to maintain two different file configurations lest you need to make changes down the line. What a freakin' bite.

An excellent, though long, article on the changes can be found at Writer's Weekly.

I've seen a few of BookSurge's creations. Other POD publishers do a better job. Lightning Source's work used to be so-so. They've improved and's is very good. I know Amazon wants to ensure their investment in BookSurge was a sound decision. Pissing off your existing customers to make a few more bucks is never a bright move.

I'll be writing their investment department, letting them know I think this is a bone-headed stunt. And if they proceed, I will vote with my dollars. There are other places I can purchase my books. Respect goes both ways.

Monday, March 17, 2008


The weekend in High Point, NC went well except for one minor glitch (explained later). The hotel (a Radisson) had a Sleep Comfort bed so I could adjust it to the proper degree of "ahhhh". I was on a quiet floor (no room parties) and that allowed me to get my sleep which I needed after the acrobatic couple from Thurs. night. The hotel's restaurant didn't do well Fri eve (45 min to get our meal) but switched to buffets from that point on and did just fine. The food was tasty and inexpensive by con standards ($8.95 for a supper buffet). That never happens.

The programming went pretty well. Some panels were better than others, but all had value. We had an interesting discussion during one panel about how long one should wait until throwing a hissy fit if your royalties aren't paid on time and your emails about those royalties are being ignored. Since most publishers only pay every six months and then they try to drag the actual check writing another three to four months, it can get annoying. Most of the authors said 4-6 mos. I said 2 beyond when they're contractually required to issue the check, especially if they're blowing you off. My recommendation to the fellow was to assess his downside risk and go from there. If the problem continues, take your work to a new publisher. The contract says that I do "X" and they do "Y". That's why you have a contract. If one party is not living up to the contract, that's a problem. Fortunately, my publisher is very good at issuing those checks. Not all of them are.

I also had the opportunity to share a dealer's room table with Tony Ruggiero, fellow DMP author, and dear Mary who always has some knitting project in hand. At Dragon*Con last year she was making (of course) a dragon scarf. This weekend she was making a baby sweater for a friend. I had a lot of fun razzing her about that. Tony's next book in the Team of Darkness Series (Operation Save the Innocent) is due out in April. We're all looking forward to it.

I also got to spend some time with Lee Martindale and commiserate with her (in her smoking room) with a cigar and some Aberlour A'bunadh single malt scotch. (If you're going to have vices, have good ones.) And I introduced Alan Wold to the Aberlour, as well, which was only fair as he'd gotten me hooked on Laphroaig a few cons back. I also got to talk to author Kristy Tallman. She was at RavenCon last year, but I didn't get a chance to officially meet her.

And now for the slight wrinkle in my weekend: 12:30 Sunday I pack the car, hop in, turn the key. Nothing. Zip. Da nada. Someone had left the map light on since Friday noon. Now I couldn't possibly be THAT stupid so someone had to have broken into the car, turned on the map light and then relocked the vehicle so no one would know. Yeah, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. Any other possibility to is to embarrassing to consider. I called Honda's Roadside Assistance and they sent a very nice fellow to get the car started and I was out of High Point like a shot. Oh, and just to be annoying: the Gizmo (as we call it) got 49.7 mpg during the trip. It's a Honda Civic Hybrid. Fine car. The highest gas price for regular I saw was $3.40. Youch.

Of course, while I was gone downtown Atlanta had urban renewal courtesy of a tornado. Nasty. I can only imagine what it would be like in the middle of Dragon*Con (shudders.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

An Author's Life

Lest you believe that an author's life is all glitz and glamor, with the occasional period of writing, it's not quite that Hollywood. I'm currently ensconced in a Microtel, an overnight on the way to High Point, NC and StellarCon. It's not that long of a drive from Atlanta to High Point, but I had no desire to get on the road at O'Dark Thirty so I popped up here yesterday afternoon. After a nutritious yet uninspiring dinner at IHOP, I settled in for some writing time. By eleven or so, my brain seized up so I went to bed in my room near the front desk (as requested).

To give you a sense of my night:
11:30 -- curl up in bed
12:15 -- brain finally shuts down
1:00 -- awake to the sounds of a couple (either next door or upstairs) in the throes of sexual congress. She was clearly enjoying herself and wants the world to know it.
1:30 -- someone at the front desk decides to print a report on the World's Noisiest Receipt Printer that goes on a very long time.
1:45 -- blissful oblivion
3:00 -- knocking on a door somewhere nearby until someone finally gets their ass out of bed to answer it.
5:00 -- The Couple fire up for Round #2. This guy must be awesome is all I can say.
5:30 -- Jana crams in her earplugs and goes back to sleep.

While I was awake I did work out a key portion of the Save London From Destruction Scene so maybe there was some good in this after all. Ironically, in the last book Sergeant Keats had to listen to his neighbors at the boarding house in Rotherhithe doing the same thing. I resisted the temptation to pound on the wall and yell, "Give a rest, ya lecherous sod!"

Today I (hopefully) zip in the remaining hour or so to High Point, unpack and GET A NAP. That way I'll be a bit more human at 3 p.m. when the con starts.

I know -- all of this is book fodder. Problem is, some of it I've already used.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

For Better or Worse... But Not For the Press Conferences

I'm a lengthily married person so I know about temptation. I attend a lot of conventions and there are some rather nice fellows at some of these. Since it is a convention I could probably get a little on the side and my spouse would never know. Unfortunately, I would. Guilt plays havoc with me. Hubby and I agree that every now and then one's eyes roam, but as long as the rest of you doesn't, we're in good shape. For us, crossing that line is not worth it. If it was, we'd have an open marriage, which seems a bit of an oxymoron to me. Maybe I'm just a bit old-fashioned.

The point of this post is the Spitzer fiasco. Yet again we have the power broker at the podium telling the world how he let them and his family down while his loyal wife is by his side. After the event, they're holding hands as they leave. Now I don't know the family dynamics there, but this always chafes me. The guy gets caught with his pants down and the faithful wife is there for him.

Just once I would love to see the following happen:
Guy Who Got Caught: "I admit I had a relationship with that woman, man, prostitute, sorority, football team. This is a deep blow to my career and, oh yeah, my family. As you can see, my beloved wife is up here with me so you know she'll forgive me. You should do the same because, hey, it's a guy thing."

When I Got Caught is through with his spiel, the wife leans over to the mic and says, "I have a few words on this subject." This will, of course, be a surprise to Lover Boy as he figures she's supposed to just stand there and look supportive.

Wife continues, "While I'm here being publicly humiliated because you can't keep your dick in your pants, the locks are being changed and your crap is being thrown out on the lawn. " She slaps down a sheaf of papers in front of him. "The divorce papers. Trust me, jerk, I'm taking half of everything. Then I'm going to write a tell-all book about what an ass you are and donate the proceeds to a battered women's shelter. Oh, and one final thing. You know those penis enhancing ads you get in the email? Try reading them."

Then wife walks off. I figure she'd get a standing ovation, at least from the women in the audience. Just once I'd love to see the woman in this horrendous tale nail the bastard during the press conference. Then I can die happy.*

Now a question -- does anyone remember a press conference where a female high roller admits to getting horizontal outside of her marriage and her husband stands up there with her looking supportive? If it's happened, I regret not seeing it. I would have felt for the guy, big time.

*Now that I think of it, there was recently an incident in China where a lady lit into her hubby on national TV for screwing around on her. It was a real shocker over there. If I remember it right, they put her in jail.

Update: Here's an article about why wives take the heat with their husbands. The video is very interesting in that former Mrs. McGreevey says that for three days her hubby was cloistered with the political and lawyer types trying to determine his future, she was trying to work out what to do on her own. That says it all. Maybe it is easy for some of us to ask "Why are you up there with him?" but it's a legitimate question. Yes, it's a personal decision. Still, the question should be asked.

And finally, a nice piece in Newsweek that asks the same question.

Okay, one last post on this subject. I got it all wrong: it's the wife's fault. I shoulda known.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Bit of Good News

At some point in every book there is the tendency to whine "Am I done yet?" I hit that on Tuesday. Editing is sorta fun in the same way that cleaning the cat's litter box is entertaining. It's not great while you're doing it, but the end result is satisfyingly tidy.

Whilst I was in the middle of my doldrums (now is when new projects have a particularly strong pull) I received some good news. VIRTUAL EVIL is a finalist for a ForeWord Magazine Award for Science Fiction. I was a finalist for this award last year as well as Book of the Year. I won Book of the Year and, very rightly, you cannot win both. The chances of winning Book of the Year two years in a row is astronomical, so that's not something I have to worry about. I'm quite pleased I'm a finalist in SF, however. Another Dragon Moon book The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction - Vol. 1 - First Contact is also a finalist (in the Career category).

So that pulled me out of my funk and spurred me on to finish the third book. A nice incentive. If they liked VIRTUAL EVIL, wait 'til they read MADMAN'S DANCE.