Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top Crime Fiction of 2012

If you haven’t read the online publication, January Magazine, edited by Linda L. Richards, you should really give this publication a try. They always have insightful articles about books and news in the writing/publishing world. At the end of each year they also produce their Best Of lists in a number of different categories. This week’s entry is crime fiction. Long-time reviewer and contributor J. Kingston Pierce has compiled a list that includes comments from various reviewers.

Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of these books, but I now have a great start to my 2013 reading list. Here’s the list, with brief excerpts of reviewers’ comments or the setting description:

Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke (described as a wild, zany read)
Big Maria by Johnny Shaw (an exciting young writer)
The Blackhouse by Peter May (the first of a trilogy set in Scotland’s Hebrides archipelago)
Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason (set in Iceland, and translated by Victoria Cribb)
Broken Harbor by Tanya French (a compelling and finely crafted tale)
Confined Space by Deryn Collier (might put Canadian crime writing into the spotlight)
Creole Belle by James Lee Burke (a Dave Robicheaux mystery)
Dare Me by Megan Abbott (a possibly breakout book by a writer at the top of her game)
Dark Room by Steve Mosby (a superb thriller)
Dominion by C.J. Sansom (a what-if spy adventure set in 1952)
The Double Game by Dan Fesperman (a brilliant tribute to spy literature in general)
El Gavilan by Craig McDonald (his most compelling work to date)
The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (set in New York in 1845)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (prepare to be disturbed in this disquieting tale)
House of the Hunted by Mark Mills (a refreshing change from rapid-clip adventures)

You can

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Are Dedicated E-Readers Becoming Obsolete?

An article in states that tablet sales are now surpassing e-readers and that Kindle sales are falling to Kindle Fire. A research firm anticipates that 15 million Kindles will be shipped this year, which is down by 40% from the previous year. As the article indicates, consumers apparently want more from their devices than the ability to read.

Amazon seems to be undermining itself by offering a tablet version of its product. The article suggests there isn’t room for both devices, and that tablets will apparently win the battle. You can find more in the article at

Speaking of battles, it appears that Wal-Mart and Amazon are in a battle for sales. Wal-Mart has stopped carrying Kindle products, and has stepped up its efforts to sell Apple tablets. They’re offering iPads at discounted prices and offering a $30 iTunes gift card in the bargain. According to a piece in The Motley Fool, Wal-Mart and Amazon have been on a collision course for some time, as Wal-Mart believes Amazon has encroached on its territory. It’s estimated that Amazon sales will reach $22 billion this season. Online sales growth has exceeded that of physical stores, and with the development of tablets, Amazon seems intent on grabbing an even larger share of the pie. It’s a strategy Wal-Mart doesn’t want to support. Neither does Target as they too pulled Kindle devices from their stores back in May. The tablet war is on! To read more, go to

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why Miss Marple Knitted

Is "knitted" the past tense for "knit"? Shouldn't it be "knat"? No, knitted is correct.

I've recently taken up knitting, and I highly recommend it for writers.

If you're stuck in your story, you can knit and think about it. The repetitive task of knitting might just fool your inner editor into paying attention to the handwork so your subconscious can create without interference.

If you're stalling on working on a story, knitting can make you feel productive.

If your family doesn't understand that you're WORKING when you look like you're just sitting there staring into space, knitting can fool them into letting you alone.

A knitting project underway is almost as good for starting conversations as a puppy. Strangers -- male as well as female -- ask you what you're making. They can easily be led into talking about themselves.

Depending on how poor a job one does, one can be a source of sympathy and gentle amusement to one's companions. Or comfort. The fifth time I dropped one of my knitting needles in the waiting room, one woman said, "I'm in the early stages of Parkinson's, but I don't do that."

There's something so cozy about knitting. I'm sure Miss Marple used it to put people at ease and off guard, the shifty old sly-boots!

I may teach one of my characters to knit. I wonder who it will be....

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Publisher Not Asking for Ebook Rights?

Two of the most intriguing authors of 2012 are E.L. James and Hugh Howey, for good reason. As you likely already know, James is the author of the phenomenally popular Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. All three books in the series were published in 2011 by a print on demand company in Australia. Word of mouth boosted ebooks sales to 250,000, while the trade paperback copy lagged behind at about 7,000. When one of the big six publishers, Random House/Vintage came along and offered Ms. James and her agent a contract, the stipulation was that Vintage also keep all ebook rights or there would be no deal. Needless to say, they went for it.

According to a fascinating blog by Steven Pressfield, although Ms. James has made a great deal of money from her books, she likely would have made millions more if she’d turned the contract down and kept her rights. He estimates that the publisher made $72 million from paperback sales alone, which was why Random House gave each employees a $5,000 bonus this year. Pressfield goes into a number of calculations to prove his point, which you can find in the link below.

Now, here’s the really interesting bit. Simon & Schuster also bid on the Grey trilogy and lost. Pressfield says they too did the math on paperback profits, so when another opportunity arose they changed tactics. S & S offered a contract to Hugh Howey, author of a popular series called Wool, (which had already sold 300,000 ebooks before the offer) and allowed them to keep the ebook rights! As Pressfield says, the decision to publish Howey’s books in hard cover and trade paperback only is a game changer. It will be interesting to see if more deals like this occur in future. It appears that Howey could soon become a very rich man, if he isn't already.

I urge you to read the whole piece, as there plenty more good observations in there, at

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Amazon Clarifies Review Policies

I’ve written before about the number of reviewers who have had their reviews pulled from Amazon for various reasons. I’ve heard that some people have reposted them with success, but perhaps those reviews will be pulled again, who knows? If it’s any help, I found a link to Amazon’s latest review policies. You’ll note that Amazon clearly says they haven’t changed their policies. They don’t and never have accepted promotional content. There are other reasons for pulling a review, which includes:
  • product manufacturer posts a review of their own product, posing as an unbiased shopper
  • A shopper, unhappy with her purchase, posts multiple negative reviews for the same product
  • A customer posts a review in exchange for $5
  • A customer posts a review of a game, in exchange for bonus in-game credits
  • A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales
  • A shopper posts a review of the product, after being promised a refund in exchange.
  • A seller posts negative reviews on his competitor's product
  • An artist posts a positive review on a peer's album in exchange for receiving a positive review from them

Sunday, December 02, 2012

This Legal Battle has Huge Ramifications for Authors & Publishers

I came across a really interesting blog called Legal Minimum by Don McGowan which discusses at length a class action lawsuit launched by several Harlequin authors against their publisher. In this day and age, lawsuits are nothing new, yet the outcome of this one could have huge ramifications for all authors and their publishers.

I encourage you to read the blog post for details, but it boils down to the fact that Harlequin allegedly is giving their authors only 3 to 4% royalties on their ebooks due to a strange (and possibly prejudicial) arrangement between Harlequin Enterprises (HE) and Harlequin Switzerland (HS) Authors originally signed contracts through HS, however Harlequin Canada administered those contracts. With ebooks, licensing rights were issued back to HE.  Original publishing contracts with HS gave authors 50% royalties on ebooks, however, the license with HE gave HS only 6 to 8% of the cover price, which meant that authors only got 50% of that! Yikes! The authors came this was an unlawful tax dodge. Needless to say, Harlequin disagrees.

As you’ll note in the blog, there are other legal issues at play here, but McGowan notes that the ramifications could be as huge as it was in the music industry when Eminem sued his record label for treating digital music like physical goods when, in fact, consumers were making a digital purchase under the licensing agreement  with iTunes. Eminem was supposed to have received 50% of digital sales, however, he was paid 12 to 20%, the same he received for the physical product. He sued and won, which improved the royalty situation for other musicians. McGowan says the same outcome could happen for authors.

He also points out, though, that publishers are entitled to produce whatever tax plan and advantage they can, provided it doesn’t prejudice authors, and this is the heart of the issue. It will be interesting to see how this turns out. To read more of McGowan’s interesting blog and related links, go to

Friday, November 30, 2012

Amazon Prime Members Can Borrow eBooks with Kindle Owners' Lending Library

Did you know that if you have a Prime membership on Amazon and live in the USA or UK, you can borrow one ebook a month via the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

You can choose from 180,000+ ebooks FREE, including over 100 New York Times bestsellers. And there are no due dates.

A Prime membership has other advantages too. For only $79/year or £49/year, you'll also receive free 2-day shipping on millions of items on Amazon, plus unlimited streaming of over 25,000 movies and TV shows. There are other perks too. You can learn more about Prime here.

You can borrow directly from your Kindle (e-ink versions and Fire):

1. On e-ink devices (regular Kindles & Touch), click on "See all categories" then scroll down to "Kindle Owners' Lending Library" to view titles. Find a book and click on it to either buy or borrow for free.

2. On Kindle Fire devices, the Lending Library is located in the bookstore. Browse books and look for Prime badge. Click on a title and you'll have the option to either buy or borrow for free.

3. You can also borrow and read on an app for your desktop, iPad and more. Download your borrowed books directly from by looking for titles that show the Amazon Prime icon.

Remember, as a US or UK Prime member, you're entitled to 1 free borrow a month. That's 12 free books each year.

Don't own a Kindle? Get yours now. If you're not a US Prime member, start your one month free trial today. If you live in the UK, start your one month free trial of Prime here.

Borrow Cheryl Kaye Tardif books! Look for the Prime icon.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why Goodreads is Important for Authors

If you’re a writer and reader, you’ve likely heard of the popular site If you haven’t, you should check it out. The site is devoted to the love of books and has twelve million members. Among those members, 410,000,000 books have been listed on their shelves! But here’s the other reason you should join, particularly if you’re an author. According to one blog, it’s a great way for a new book to get noticed, as demonstrate by new author Colleen Hoover with her first book, Slammed

Hoover succeeded by first offering a pair of free giveaways. From there a few prominent bloggers wrote about the book, spreading the word to their followers (there’s more about these bloggers in the link below). The bloggers gave the book enough ratings for the Goodreads search engine to place it on their recommended reading list. The book came out in January. By summer it was on the New York Times ebook bestseller list, and then Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books imprint took notice.

As noted, one has to have a lot of good ratings. Slammed had 20,000 averaging 4.4 out of 5. Of course, it all starts with writing a good book!! To read more about Hoover’s success story in the Goodreads blog post, go to

By the way, I invite you to visit my Goodreads page at Debra Purdy Kong

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dealing With Writer's Block

Suppose you're writing along, and the well runs dry.  What can you do?  The best thing, of course, is don't get stuck:

    1.  Believe in yourself.  Respect your work, and insist that others respect your work, too.  Don't let people diminish you by saying things like:  "So you want to be a writer?"  They don't mean to spit in your face.  What they think they're saying is, "So you hope to be a successfully published writer?"  If you write, you're a writer -- a real writer -- as real as James Herriot or Harlan Ellison or Erma Bombeck or Margaret Wise Brown.

Don't be discouraged if what's coming out of you is a poor echo of the concept in your head:  an idea shines with potential; when you begin to put that idea on paper, you have to make choices, and every choice limits that potential.  Writing down a story is like catching and chloroforming and pinning and mounting a butterfly, with these differences: When you write, you end up with an endless variety of mounted specimens, and the real butterfly is still alive.

     2.  Permit yourself to succeed.  Every time you turn out a piece of work that's as well done as you can do it, you're a success.  You don't have to earn a nickle.  You don't have to be slapped on the back and congratulated or asked for your autograph or even asked to try again.  Above and beyond and anything else notwithstanding, a writer writes, and a good writer writes as well as possible.

    3.  Don't talk so much about your book before you've finished it that you don't need to write it anymore.

    4.  Work in the way that works for you.  If you need a rough plan, or a detailed plan, or a physical object for inspiration and no plan at all, go with it.  Feel free to experiment with advice, but use what works for you.

    5.  Don't mistake the blueprint for the house.  You have to be open to letting your characters and story line surprise you. You have to be willing to think those surprises through, and decide whether the changes will make a better book, or should be filed for another book.

    6.  Hemingway, among others, suggests you should never stop writing at the end of a scene. Always stop before the end or just after the beginning of the next scene.

    7.  Set a goal.  So many pages a day, or a week, or by the end of the school year.  If you don't meet that goal, so what? It's just something to aim for; an incentive; a little extra oomph.  If goals blank you out, do the reverse; remind yourself that you're not on a timetable.

All right, too late, you're stuck already.  Now what?

    1. Drop back and punt.  Re-read the last page you wrote, or the last chapter, or as much as you have to, to get back the feel of the writing.  Some writers recommend re-typing a few pages to prime the pump.

    2.    Do something else for a while.  Read, or process pickles, or take a walk.  Work on an alternate project.  Do a crossword puzzle.

    3.    Have a chat with your characters. Ask them questions you know the answers to, and questions you don't know the answers to. You might learn some surprising details. If this happens to you, please don't forget that these surprises are still under your control and, if one of your characters reveals that he is a transvestite lounge-singer, you have the power to say, "No, you're not."

    4.    Start someplace else.  Try writing a scene from a different point of view; maybe you've chosen the wrong viewpoint character.  Choose a different place to start, or a different type of opening.

    5.  Writer's block is your friend. I have been known to get stuck, but I don't call it writer's block, though.  When I feel myself heading into a strong resistance, I stop dead the water; I've learned that, when my subconscious resists writing, I'm doing something wrong.  I stop and take a look at what I'm doing:  Am I letting a character dictate to me? Am I bulling along with my outline, when I've stumbled on a better alternative?  Am I forgetting to answer an important question?  Am I making a character do or say something he or she wouldn't do or say, just to get through a scene, or in order to put in a line of dialogue I like?  When I've identified and corrected the problem, my block is gone. 

I've formed a habit of making a mental note of places in my writing that felt a little "iffy" when I wrote or re-read them, then paying attention to what my beta readers have to say.  It was always those "iffy" bits that bothered them; now I know I can trust my instincts. Maybe your block will be your instincts trying to tell you something.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is the e-Reading Explosion as Large as We Thought?

Those who’ve been following my blog know I’ve covered a fair amount of stats that reflect the huge rise in  e-reader and e-book sales. I still think the trend is growing, however an interesting survey in suggests that a third of e-reader owners only used them once!

The survey came from and polled only 2,000 people, so who knows how accurately their survey reflects what’s happening in the digital world? Having said that, I don’t think the survey is horribly off the mark. The survey also showed that 17% used their readers once a week while 29% used theirs every day.

Of those asked why they’d only used their e-readers once, 57% said they were too busy too read, 25% reported that they preferred physical books, and 22% had received the e-reader as a gift and didn’t think they were necessary. I have to wonder if these gadgets are catching on as much as Amazon and others would have us believe? Sure, Amazon sells a lot of Kindles, but is every buyer using them regularly? Are a third of consumers using the device only once or twice, then tossing it in a drawer?

My Sony was given to me as a gift. It took me three months to take it out of the box. I downloaded a few things, but I haven’t used it in months, as I too prefer physical books and have a large stack still waiting to be read. This would likely change if I downsized my home, or traveled more often.

I’m convinced more than ever that those who try e-readers and download books are reading only a fraction of them, particularly if they are free. The bottom line is that print still has its place and people are still busy, and trying to find avid readers will always be a challenge. You can find the piece at

Monday, November 12, 2012

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

Light Bringer, my most recent release from Second Wind Publishing, stewed in my brain pan for several years before I actually started to write it. It was the first book I conceived, but I couldn’t figure out who my alien characters were, where they were from, how they traveled here, and why they came, so when other stories captured my imagination, I followed my enthusiasm. In between finishing my various novels, I worked on Light Bringer, trying to develop the idea and research the specifics. If you include my research, which I’d been doing for decades before the story ever entered my mind, you could say the idea for the book had been developing for about thirty years.

Here are some other authors’ responses to the question of how long the idea had been developing before beginning to write their stories. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Jerold Last, Author of “The Ambivalent Corpse”

book. In this case “a while” spanned 12 years. The major challenges for me are finding the time to write and the discipline to edit the dialogue and descriptive passages over and over until things feel right and pass my wife’s critical evaluation. I haven’t needed to spend much time on research as yet, since I’ve lived in the locations that the books have been set in.

From an interview with Guy Harrison, author of “Agents of Change”
For over a year, if you can believe it. I originally wrote Agents of Change as a television pilot script around this time last year. As an aspiring screenwriter for many years, I finally got tired of banging my head against the wall as I attempted to sell the script.
This past October, I finally asked myself “what if I wrote a novel?” I really believed in the television pilot’s concept but knew I needed to rework it for the purposes of a book. It’s darker than the television series would have been. Truth be told, I actually like it a lot better as a novel.

From an interview with Dale Cozort, Author of “Exchange”

For this particular book, almost twenty years. I know that because I came across a notebook with dated entries from when I was in my late teens outlining some of the ideas. That’s unusual for me. Most of my stories go from concept to writing within a year or two. I had the idea for Exchange long before I had the maturity or self-discipline to write it.

From an interview with Stephen Prosapio, Author of “Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum”

Funny in that this story had to “brew” quite a while, Pat. I thought up the rough idea for GHOSTS OF ROSEWOOD ASYLUM after my first novel DREAM WAR didn’t sell to the Big Six publishers. I didn’t quite pitch it right to my agent though, and she suggested I go with another idea I had at the time (a vampire novel). Unfortunately, I got blocked with that idea and came back to the TV Paranormal Investigator angle. Pitching it a second time to my agent went much better. She gave me some great advice. Thus, GHOSTS OF ROSEWOOD ASYLUM (GoRA) was the easiest novel to write thus far. I wrote the first draft within 3 months.

From an interview with Ellis Vidler, Author of “Cold Comfort”

Cold Comfort took about a year to write and five more to revise till I felt it was right. The first one, Haunting Refrain, took eight years to complete. I’m getting better.

From an interview with Joylene Nowell Butler, Author of “Broken but not Dead”

Too long. Someone asked me the other day about my mother and it occurred to me then that the day she died I’d written the first four pages of “Broken but not Dead”. I gave them to her to read, then retired for the night. When I got up the next morning the pages were on the dining room table with spelling corrections and a note that said she liked it very much. I didn’t realize then that she’d passed. That was October 16, 1999. It takes me a long time to write, and I don’t think it’s because I’m slow. I work on so many different projects at the same time and I like to take breaks and distance myself often.

So, How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire and follow the instruction.)

Got 'Starving Writer Syndrome'? Want to free up money in your home?

As a writer and published author, I know how difficult our industry can be, and how uncertain a writer's income can be. I've had my ups and downs, suffered from what I call "Starving Writer Syndrome" (akin to Starving Artist Syndrome). I've experienced many years where I spent more than I earned. It's not fun, and it places a huge amount of stress on a writer's self-confidence, financial situation and family.

For years, I've made it my mission to help other writers when I can, and therefore I'd like to introduce you, my fellow writers, to my brother, Derek Kaye. He's a financial advisor, and he has a plan for you to free up money in your home--even if you think there's nothing available.

Let me introduce you to Derek's 'Get Your Finances On Track' system...

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Derek tells me this isn't just about getting out of debt. It's about discovering an entirely new way of looking at money and running your house-hold so that you can finally get ahead and start pursuing your dreams.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

What's Old is New Again, and Still Sparks Debate

There have been a number of articles and blogs over recent months about how self-publishers are destroying the publishing world. There have probably been almost as many responses convinced that indie authors are saving the industry. An interesting guest blog by Ed Robertson comes down on the saving side, focusing mainly on book pricing. Robertson provides some interesting stats which does appear to show that the publishing industry has shot itself in the foot by charging far more for books than one might perceive reasonable.

The other interesting aspect to his blog is that this is not the first time people have cried “publishing is dying!” Robertson notes that it also happened back in 1939 when Robert De Graff of Pocket Books began selling paperbacks for twenty-five cents. At that time, hard covers were between $2.50 and $3.00. In 2012 terms, this means a hard cover would be $40 to $50 and the mass market paperback version would be $4.16. A big difference! Pocket Books’ strategy sparked a lot of debate. Some authors weren’t interested in selling their books for twenty-five cents, while genre authors were happy that their books were selling in greater numbers than ever. Furthermore, the quality of the covers was hotly disputed. The thing was that within five years Pocket Books sold 100 million copies. Is any of this sounding familiar yet?

As Robertson points out, for a number of reasons, publishers didn’t keep the price of their books affordable and thus sales began to drop. I won’t recap the whole blog here, but suggest you give it a read. He also provides other links to more of a historical view of the publishing industry. You know, someone (if they haven’t already) ought to write a book about the publishing industry of the last 150 years. I’d buy a copy. To read his blog (he’s guesting on David Gaughran’s blog), go to

Monday, November 05, 2012

Did Writing Your Book Change Your Life?

I wish I could say writing my latest novel Light Bringer changed my life, it would make a good story, but the fact is, it made little difference outside of bringing to a close a lifetime of research. It was the fourth novel I wrote. I’d already experienced the joy and sense of accomplishment completing a novel gives one, and I’d already experienced the disappointment that comes from having a novel rejected. I’d already experienced the joy of getting published and the disappointment of lackluster sales. Now, if Light Bringer would go viral, that would change my life!

Writing Grief: The Great Yearning, my non-fiction book about surviving grief, didn't change my life, either. In fact, my life had changed first. Writing was how I coped with the changes.

Here are some responses from fellow Second Wind Publishing authors about how writing their book changed their lives. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with: J J Dare, Author of False Positive and False World

Writing my first book a few years ago gave me confidence. I believe it was an exercise to prepare me for the challenges I would shortly face in my personal life.

From an interview with: Noah Baird, Author of Donations to Clarity

I think people thought I was pretty weird before the book. They still think I’m weird, but I think I get a pass now because I’m a writer.

From an interview with: Calvin Davis, Author of The Phantom Lady of Paris

After penning the Phantom Lady, I was not the same person. The actual writing of the novel took about five and a half years. During that period, I wrote and rewrote again and again, etc. That said, the truth is, it took me all my life to write the Phantom Lady. The penning of my two other novels was preparing me to write TPLOP. The production of my countless short stories was also tutoring me on how to create the Phantom Lady. And during all this time of schooling, “the lady” was inside me clamoring to be liberated, as I was clamoring to liberate her. “Free me…free me,” she screamed. When I completed the last sentence of the novel, the lady was finally liberated. “Thank you, Calvin,” she said. “Thank you.” Finally, she was free…and so was I.

From an interview with: Sherrie Hansen, Author of Merry Go Round

I think each book that I’ve written has changed my life. I remember an episode of Star Trek, Next Generation, when Jean Luc Picard was swept away to live out his life on another planet. He eventually fell in love, married, had children, and learned to play a musical instrument. When his new world came to an end, he learned that he had never left the Enterprise, and that the whole alternate life experience had occurred only in his mind, in a few days time. I feel like that every time I finish a book. It’s like I’ve visited some alternate reality and lived the life of my character from start to finish, feeling what they feel and experiencing what they experience, when in reality, I’ve just been sitting at my desk, typing away. In a very real way, I think each book makes me a richer, more multi-faceted, more understanding person because I’ve walked a mile (or a hundred) in my character’s shoes.

From an interview with: Coco Ihle, author of She Had to Know

Absolutely. In a couple of ways. My sister and I talked in detail about our lives before we met, and how we felt about all the things that happened and didn’t happen through the years. Our talks created a stronger bond between us.

Another way my life changed was, my adopted mother used to accuse me of starting projects and losing interest before finishing them. Well, I took that criticism to heart. I know she’s up there smiling down at me, because I finish projects now.

So, do you think writing your book changed your life?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Two Takes on Amazon Removing Reviews

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I had heard that Amazon is removing reviews from their site on a fairly large scale. Author Joe Konrath discovered that some reviews he posted have also been removed, reviews he says are legitimate and have nothing to do with the sock puppetry that started this mess.

If you follow stories in the author/reviewing/publishing world, you’re likely familiar with the term, but for those who don’t know, sock puppets are authors who favorably review someone’s book in exchange for a good review of their own, among other things. Authors who’ve paid for reviews have also seen those reviews removed (this has been going on for some time). Also, as I wrote in a previous blog some authors have stooped to adopting fake identities to give themselves wonderful, 5-star reviews while trashing their competition. Honestly, it’s been a bit of a zoo in Amazon’s reviewing world, but as Konrath notes in his blog, legitimate reviewers are now being branded with the sock puppets.

Konrath wrote that Amazon’s decision to remove reviews was in response to a petition with four hundred signatures for the fake reviews to stop. Amazon listened and now, are arbitrarily (or so it seems to some) removing reviews they don’t think are legitimate. So, how do they define legitimate?

The response to Amazon’s review removal has prompted different takes on the issue and here are just two of them. First, Konrath doesn’t blame Amazon for taking these measures. As he wrote in a letter to Amazon, he still believes in the company for doing more to help authors than almost anyone else in the publishing world. He does, however, blame the petitioners. As Konrath notes, this won’t hurt him specifically as he still has thousands of posted reviews and book sales haven’t diminished. He acknowledges that this does hurt the small author who’s trying to get noticed and build a presence, and it will also make him choosier about the books he reviews in future. By the way, he has links to the sock puppet petitioners. To read more of his interesting blog, go to

A different viewpoint from Derek Blass clearly places the blame on Amazon, and comes in the form of his own petition demanding they stop arbitrarily removing reviews. His position is that this is move is hurting independently published authors and vulnerable booksellers. He’s also asking that Amazon produce clearer, more definitive guidelines regarding what reviewers can and cannot post. You can find his petition at

I’m not completely sure if Amazon’s decisions are arbitrary, as I’ve not heard any clear explanation about how they decide which reviews to remove. Clearly, sock puppetry sparked a lot of anger, and Amazon’s response has triggered more anger, but controversy is nothing new in the publishing world.

I’ve posted 184 reviews on Amazon. I’m not sure if any of them will be removed, but I’m not planning to spend time worrying about it. There are two many other reviewing opportunities on Goodreads and elsewhere, and there are far too many books to write to lose precious time worrying about Amazon’s latest moves, at least for now.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

When Things Sour with Amazon

An interesting blog by Martin Bekkelund made the rounds this week, when he wrote about a friend named Linn whose Kindle account was suddenly closed and all of her books deleted. Linn wrote to Amazon to ask why. As far as she knew she’d broken no rules. She received an email from Michael Murphy, representing Executive Customer Relations with He wrote that her account was directly related to another account which was previously closed due to an abuse of policies. He also said that Amazon has the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, delete content, and cancel orders at their discretion. He then advised her that any attempt to open a new account would be unsuccessful. In other words, they were done with her.

Linn claims she had no idea how she’d broken any rules and asked for further explanation. She told Murphy she had only one account, which was with, not All Murphy would say was that her account was related to a previously blocked account, but he wouldn’t tell her how they were related. She wrote again for more explanation, but had no luck. Also, whatever money she spent on Kindle and ebooks wouldn’t be returned.

Bekkelund says that in the world of technology, DRM (Digital Rights Management), user and privacy rights, or lack of them, are not in the consumers’ best interest, and in this case, it appears that he’s right. It’s also important to mention, though, that obviously we don’t know the whole story as Amazon won’t disclose key information. I do know that it’s really important to read the fine print when dealing with Amazon, or any business for that matter. It will be interesting to see if other Kindle users go public with similar experiences.

Bekkelund’s blog also appeared on Yahoo News this week. In a sidebar, Yahoo asked readers if they would buy Amazon ebooks after reading the article. 89% voted no. I’ve never owned a Kindle and am now even less inspired to purchase one.

I also heard this week that Amazon’s seriously considering removing any review written by authors because of all the bogus, self-serving reviews that have appeared. Don’t get me started on how ludicrous this is. Plenty of authors write thoughtful, considerate reviews about books with no connection to the author at all. I’ve reviewed three of E.M. Forster’s books and several Nancy Drew mysteries over the past year. Since both authors have been dead for some time, there’s clearly no I’ll write-a-positive-review-if-you-do-the-same-for-me arrangement. Will Amazon figure this out? Somehow I doubt it. Plenty of non-authors write ridiculous things. We’ll see how this plays out in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reviewer Commits Fraud?

I read a fascinating blog the other day from a group calling themselves the Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society. For those of you who don’t know, Klausner has been a prolific reviewer on amazon for a number of years. In fact, she reviewed my first book, Taxed to Death, quite some time ago. She also happily accepted a copy of Fatal Encryption, although I don’t believe a review was ever posted, although I’m not sure because I don’t follow up to see who’s reviewed my books. For some time, I’ve heard negative comments about Klausner, and frankly, I’ve been ambivalent on the issue, however the group’s recent blog “She Works Hard for the Money” convinced me that the negative comments have merit.

According to the blog, Klausner has over 28,000 reviews to date. By any standard, it would be impossible for her to have read and properly reviewed that many books alone. At issue here, though, is not the reviews, but what she’s been doing with all of those free books she’s received over the years.

The bloggers did some detective work, piecing together bits of personal information Klausner has revealed on various sites, and discovered that her son has been selling the books on various sites. In fact, he’s sold so many that he has accumulated 7,500 comments through just one venue alone. Also, a significant percentage of the sold books were actually available for sale before the publisher’s release date, which means the Klausner family has been selling advanced review copies. Worse, in the reviews Harriet does post, she never states that she received a free copy for review, which is apparently a violation of the Federal Trade Commission guidelines regarding disclosure. That she inevitably posts only positive reviews means she’s endorsing the product in exchange for a free book. Again, this is not what real reviewers do.

I have no idea how much money Klausner’s made from the sale of all those books, but it appears that by using her son’s name and email address, she’s been less than forthcoming about her activities. By the way, the bloggers bought a couple of books from these sites and the address is the same as Klausner’s. It makes you wonder about her true motive for posting all those reviews, also posted on other sites, doesn’t it? I’m not sure what Amazon would, or should, do with this information.

I suspect that Harriet Klausner isn’t the only reviewer who acquires free books then sells them on other sites. And I’m quite sure she’s only one of many reviewers who don’t disclose the free copies received in exchange for a review. In fact, I’m sure many reviewers are unaware of the FTC guidelines to begin with. The point is, this type of activity gives readers good reason to question the legitimacy of reviews. I’m also sure it makes authors wonder if reviewers are profiting from their books in less than forthcoming ways.

To read the blog, which goes into detail about how the detective work was done, go to

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Life Into Art

One of the greatest things about self-publishing, it seems to me, is the opportunity for everyone to write and publish an autobiography, memoir, or some form of family history. A nephew of my husband's recently published the life of his grandfather, my husband's uncle, for which the family was very grateful.

But where do you start, supposing you want to write a personal history?

According to Seymour Rothman, newspaperman and author of YOUR MEMOIRS,COLLECTING THEM FOR FUN AND POSTERITY, "Memoirs are about you and life."

So is any form of writing, if you care about it. Many authors, especially in the past, kept diaries or detailed journals recording events, the authors' impressions, and any ideas for characters or plots sparked by those events.

But let's take memoirs as a starting point, go through writing one's life, and end with writing
from life.

Memoirs are like autobiographies, but are less formal.

Autobiographies are expected to be very precise and verifiable. Memoirs are your memories: What you remember happening, what you remember thinking or now think about what happened, and what you learned from the event.

Rothman suggests beginning with five envelopes, labeled: Dates, History, Thoughts, Lessons, Miscellany.


Make lists of all the dates you remember.

If a date sparks a memory, or a host of memories, write those memories down on separate pieces of paper and put them in the appropriate envelope. If they would go just as well in one envelope as another, put them wherever you like; it'll all come together in the end, anyway. 

Mr. Rothman suggests heading your date lists: Forebears, Birthdays, Residences, Education, Employment, and Good Times and Bad. I would add Deaths, Important personal events, and Important public events. The dates may be exact, or approximate, or you may remember events but not the dates. You can dig for the dates later; for now, just name the event.

You may not have any useable memories connected with a date, but thinking about that date might free-associate into useable memories: (You may not remember anything special about any of your baby brother's birthdays, but you may have many special memories about your baby brother.)


As far as family history goes, if you don't have facts, put down clues.

Clues were what led Alex Haley to the re-creation of his family's history. Collect stories from relatives and friends and your own memory: Birthing stories, holiday stories, funeral stories, illness stories, accident stories, car stories, pet stories.


Your thoughts express your philosophy of life, your personality.


Ask yourself: What is the most important lesson you've learned in life? Why do you say that?

Thoughts and lessons are very close, sometimes intertwined. Don't worry about that; again, it doesn't matter what envelope you put it in, as long as you get it out on paper.

SOURCES for locating, remembering, or dating events:

The old family Bible, letters, scrapbooks, school yearbooks, diaries and journals, old city directories, genealogies, photos, newspaper clippings, business papers, report cards, documents, souvenirs and programs, school essays themes and dissertations, old "TV Guide"'s, old magazines, old movies, favorite foods -- a major source, ultimately the major source, is YOUR MEMORY.

Rothman says, "Talking about yourself opens your memory. Exchanging memories and experiences with others reminds you of things long forgotten." This is true whether you're talking to someone who's known you all your life, or a stranger in the doctor's waiting room.

When a conversation, or something you're reading -- anything -- sparks a memory, hold onto it and make a note of it. You can expand it later.


Collect your dates, actual or approximate, and match the events with them.

This gives you an outline in chronological order. Match events to dates, lessons and thoughts to events. If you have lessons and thoughts left over, save them for something else, or put them at the end of your book under the heading of Random Ramblings, or Advice to the Young or something.
If you want to center your autobiography on one pivotal event or set of events, you may want to select only those events, thoughts, and lessons which had the most bearing on what you see as the heart of your story.

This is where fiction comes in.

JamesN. Young, in the book, 101 PLOTS USED AND ABUSED, says, "Stories out of real life...were written by Life; and Life, which scribbles in accordance with no plan, is a poor technician. ...They are plotless."

But are James Herriot's real life stories plotless? No. How is that possible? He imposes a structure on the events. He selects dates, thoughts, feelings, lessons, and minor events which highlight his major events, and he treats himself as if he were a fictional character. He's objective about himself; he shows himself warts and all. We have no trouble believing it when he does something noble, because we've seen him doing or thinking something petty, and that gives him credibility.

So, begin by picking an imaginary reader for whom you are writing.

What kind of image of yourself do you want to project? What message do you want the work to carry? What is this piece of writing for? Who is it for?

For instance, let's take Edith.

She has had a major experience that she wants to get on paper, maybe for herself, maybe for her family, maybe for other people who are going through the same kind of experience.
  1. She decides to start with a Preface answering these questions:  Who am I? Why am I writing this? When am I writing this? What is my current situation?
  2. Family history
  3. Memories leading to (what Rothman calls) the Big Event
  4. The Big Event
  5. Anti-climax and wrap-up.
That's just one way of ordering the material. Choose your own way. After all -- It's your story!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why I Write About Grief

I started writing about grief not only to make sense of my own feelings, but also as a rebellion against a society that reveres happiness at all costs.

To be honest, I never had any intention of getting personal in my online writing, but after my life mate/soul mate died, everything changed. I’d intended to keep my grief to myself and continue writing innocuous little posts, but I kept stumbling over people’s ignorance of grief. I found this ignorance in people I knew. (I will never forget those blank looks of incomprehension in people’s eyes when, sobbing, I told them about my loss. Sometimes they looked at me as if I were an alien species, or some kind of strange bug.)

And I found this ignorance in books I read.

One novelist dismissed her character’s grief at the death of his wife with a single sentence, “He went through all the five stages of grief.” Anyone who has gone through the multi-faceted grief of losing a soul mate knows that there are dozens of stages of grief (or none at all). You spiral round and round, in a dizzying whirl of emotions, not just shock and anger and sadness, but frustration, bitterness, yearning, hope, helplessness, confusion, loneliness, despair, guilt, questioning, angst over loss of faith, and you keep revisiting each of these emotions, hanging on the best you can, until ideally, you reach a place of peace and life opens up again.

Another novelist had her widow cry for a night then put aside her grief and get on with her life. Believe me, you can’t put aside such grief. It’s not just emotional but also physical, a ripping away of his presence from your soul, a deep-seated panic when your lizard brain realizes that half of your survival unit is gone, a body/mind bewilderment so great you can barely breathe. You don’t control raw grief. Grief controls you.

Not only did I discover that few people had any idea of the scope of such grief, most people selfishly urged the bereft to get on with their lives because they couldn’t bear to see their mother/sister/friend’s sadness.

There is something dreadfully wrong with a society that expects the bereft to hide their grief after a couple of months simply because it makes people uncomfortable to see outward shows of mourning. Seeing grief makes people realize how ephemeral their lives really are, and they can’t handle it (which leaves the bereft, who already feel isolated, totally alone with their sorrow.) It also cracks the facade of our relentlessly glass-half-full society.

Although I am a private person, not given to airing my problems in public, I thought it wrong to continue the charade that life goes on as normal after losing the person who made life worth living. So, over the past two-and-a-half years, I have made it my mission to tell the truth about grief. Even though I have mostly reached the stage of peace, and life is opening up again, at least a little bit, grief is still a part of my life. There is a void in my world — an absence — where he once was, and that void shadows me and probably always will. Although his death changed the circumstances of my life, thrusting me into an alien world, grief — living with it, dealing with it, accepting it — changed me . . . forever. It has made me who I am today and who I will become tomorrow — strong, confident, and able to handle anything that comes my way.

Would I prefer to have him in my life? Absolutely. But that is not an option. All I can do, all any of us can do, is deal with what lies before us, regardless of a society that frowns on mourning. It takes three to five years to find a renewed interest in life after such a grievous loss, so the next time you see your mother, father, sister, daughter crying for her/his spouse, deal with it. Just because you’re no longer tearful, be aware that even though you have lost the same person, you have not lost the same connection. If it makes you sad to see her mourning, think how much sadder it is for her to experience that sorrow. Hug her, be there for her. Don’t hurry her through grief. She’ll find her way back to happiness in her own time.


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Print Still Rules in Canada

Earlier this week, a CBC report announced that a non-profit industry group called BookNet Canada conducted several consumer surveys during the first half of this year, and made some interesting discoveries regarding print and ebook sales in Canada.

Results show that ebook sales now represent 16.3% of total book sales, which is a huge surge in digital sales over the last two or three years. The study also showed that while book sales overall have remained fairly steady over the years, consumers are buying fewer books through traditional bookstores. In fact, 30% of book sales now come from big box stores and 27.5% came from online sources.

Compared with the United States, however, print sales are more prevalent here than in the U.S. with paperbacks making up 56.7% of the market and hard covers 23.6% Only 7% of book buyers, however, purchase both print and ebooks. I found this stat strange because many people I know buy both. According to the article, one reason Canada sells more print titles than the U.S. is because Canada entered the ebook market later than the U.S., and there are fewer Canadian ebook retailers than south of the border.

Generally speaking, consumers are paying less for books than they used to. This could be because of big box store discounts and that ebooks are generally lowered priced anyway. It will be interesting to see how quickly and how far the rise in ebook sales surges before it levels off. You can find more interesting info at

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Word on the Street, Vancouver

Once again, BC members of the BC/Yukon chapter of Crime Writers of Canada were out in full force to man the table at this year’s Word on the Street festival in Vancouver. For those of you who don’t know about it, this annual free event is held in cities across Canada usually during the last Sunday of September. Its purpose is to celebrate literacy and books, and many nonprofit organizations, publishers, booksellers, and writers help make this happen. Workshops, panel discussions, reading, and entertainment are provided in the main Vancouver Public library and in tents on two streets which are blocked off for the occasion.

This year, our Vancouver celebration was held on September 30th, a week later than other cities, but the weather remained glorious. Since those of us with smaller tables are situated outside the library’s perimeter, weather matters. As usual, our table was beside the romance writers’ table, which is always great fun and works well for attendees. After all, crime and romance tend to go together, and those romance writers really do have the coolest bookmarks!

Volunteers handed out CWC bookmarks, and those who dropped by our table know that crime writing is flourishing not only in BC but throughout Canada. We were delighted to see familiar faces return and continue to buy books in support of local authors.

Leaving the table in capable hands, I walked around the festival, listened to writers read their work aloud, and caught up with colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while. One of the reasons I attend this festival every year is because there is always a sense of fun and positive energy there. The event makes me happy to be part of the reading and writing community.

Huge thanks to volunteers Joan Donaldson-Yarmey, Cathy Ace, Roberta Rich, Colleen Cross, Sharon Rowse, Anne Barton, Elizabeth Elwood, and Ruth Donald who made the day so much fun. Elizabeth’s husband, Hugh, did a superb job of directing people to our table, and volunteer Anne Hopkinson, who had her plate full with other volunteer duties, still made time to help promote us. I’m really grateful for everyone’s contribution and can’t wait to do this again next year!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind. I am thrilled to be a part of this extraordinary project.
"As someone who constantly evaluates novels for publication, I was astonished at the breadth and clarity of the wonderful advice contained in this handbook. It addresses concerns as grand as plot development and as simple but essential as formatting your submission. It offers crucial advice on literary topics ranging from character development to the description of action. Virtually every subject that is of great concern to publishers — and therefore to authors — is covered in this clear, humorous and enormously useful guide." --Mike Simpson, Chief Editor of Second Wind Publishing

Table of Contents

A Publisher's Top and Bottom Five: What We're Looking For vs. What We're Watching For by Mike Simpson
On Becoming an Author by Susan Surman
Finding Time to Write & Overcoming Writer’s Block by Mairead Walpole
Creating Incredible but Credible Characters by Pat Bertram
How to Begin and End a Story by Lazarus Barnhill
Plot Twists: Three Little Questions by Norm Brown
Points of View by Juliet Waldron
Moving Smoothly: Transitioning in Writing by Jan Linton (JJ Dare)
Captivating Settings by Deborah J Ledford
Foreshadowing by Nancy A Niles
Timing by Claire Collins
Don’t Keep Me Dangling by Sherrie Hansen
Sex SCENES not SEX Scenes by Pat Bertram
Film as Literary Influence on the Novel: How to Approach Scenes by Eric Wasserman
How Much Narrative is Too Much by J. Conrad Guest
A Jerk’s Guide to Comedy Writing by Noah Baird
The Challenges and Joys of Writing a Novel Series by Christine Husom
Creating a Believable Science-Fiction Environment by Dellani Oakes
Write it Right by Dellani Oakes
The Importance of Formatting by Deborah J Ledford
Writing Aids and Organizational Tools by Coco Ihle

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

Click here to Help Us Celebrate the Publication of Our 100th Book!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tripping Over That Raised Bar

Last week’s blog was about defining the value of a book. I guess you could say that today’s is about defining the value of a writer. Every profession has its stars and deadbeats, people who set a standard of excellent in their work and behavior, and those drag the profession though the muck. The world of publishing has taken a lot of hits over recent years about its lack of professionalism over everything from fake reviews and literary agents, to amateurish indie books, stingy publishers, and trash talk on all sorts of networking sites.

Sometimes it’s hard to rise above it, to ignore nasty reviews, accounting errors in royalties, and all the other things that are part of the profession, and just get on with writing the best book possible. But lots of writers do, and I admire those who’ve worked hard and landed traditional contracts that pay great advances.

As you all know, when a publisher and author sign a contract it’s a binding legal document that should be honored on both sides if reputations want to be saved and lawsuits avoided. An advance-paying, contract offer from a large publishing house is pretty much the holy grail for writers seeking the traditional route. So, I was surprised to read about the number of authors who’ve reneged on their contracts with the Penguin group, and are now being sued for a return of advanced money, with interest.

Heaven knows Penguin has made mistakes in its past. What company hasn’t? But this time, they have a legitimate gripe. What I find so amazing is that an author would take someone else’s money and not deliver the goods as promised. An article in the lists several authors who are now being sued, however, it doesn’t report on the authors’ side of things, so maybe there are reasonable excuses in some cases, I don’t know. But as the article indicates, saying that you’ve spent the money is no defense.

Aside from squandering an amazing opportunity, the other troubling aspect of this is that the authors’ lack of professionalism doesn’t help the rest of us gain respect from the public. Of course, Penguin’s lawsuits are only one small part of the publishing scene, but when stuff like this happens (let alone the points raised at the top of this blog post), should book buyers seriously be expected to run out and fill their shopping carts with books? The bar which has been raised by wonderful authors over the years seems shaky to me. Given the lies some writers have passed off as nonfiction in recent years, and other highly publicized gaffs (see an earlier post on writers behaving badly), I wonder if readers have started to think a writer’s word isn’t worth much, never mind the quality of his books. And that diminishes us all.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Defining the Value of a Book

An interesting article in this week discussed the ebook price war happening in the U.K. The article says that ebook sales were up 188% in the first half of this year. Part of the reason for this is that Sony and Amazon are offering new titles by well known authors such as Jeffrey Archer and James Herbert for just 20 pence! One horror author boasts sales of 10,000 to 20,000 copies a week at this price, yet he and his publisher are being paid royalties on the full price.

The appeal of 20p titles has become a double-edged sword. Authors, while delighted with increased sales, are concerned that the 20p price will become the norm. The fear is that readers won’t buy a book unless the prices are this low. Also, not everyone will receive royalties on original prices. Given the way contracts are written these days, I’m sure that many authors are relinquishing decent royalties to gain readers.

Here’s the other point, and one I’ve heard debated before. If new books by bestselling authors continue the 20p trend, will the perception of a book’s value change? In other words, if books are priced less than the value of a pack of gum, will they have any real value to potential buyers to begin with? Will cheaply priced ebooks be quickly consumed and then discarded with the same regard as that stick of gum?

I know that defining a book’s value is subjective and holds a wide variety of opinion. It’s always been that way. Several years ago, I bought a paperback for fifty cents at a library sale, and told a friend about my great find. He had already read the book and asked me how much I paid. When I told him he said “you paid too much”. He wasn’t cheap (although he was thrifty) but he didn’t like the book. It happens all the time. You pick up two books on the shelf, same price, same size, and both with intriguing blurbs, but the content of one might be beautifully written while the other is mediocre. And what you think is beautiful, the person next to you might think is mediocre. In other words, the value of a book is based on personal opinion about the content.

But here’s another thing. Suppose that beautifully written book has a stunning cover, terrific editing, and perfect formatting prepared by a team of professionals, yet it’s only 20p. How are those professionals supposed to pay their bills? Should they be forced to go without so buyers can get cheap goods?

I’m all for enticing readers. Heck, you know I’ve had my free days. But free weeks, months, years? The article doesn’t say how long Sony and Amazon are selling these titles for, but while this may introduce many new readers, will those readers expect all future book purchases to be 20p? If so, how will the writers and publishers pay their bills? Most writers, even good ones, make little enough as it is. If we devalue the price of a book, the publishing industry as a whole, and not just the traditional publishers, just might suffer. To read the whole article, go to

There are probably points I haven’t considered, and I welcome your comments on this topic!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Self-Publishing Stats Reveal Key Differences Among Earners

Another survey has made its way through the newsletter circuit. This one is about self-publishing and is called the Taleist Survey. The survey caught my attention because blogs are using the headline, “Women Fare Better at Self-Publishing”. Well yes, data from the 1,007 respondents did show that two-thirds of the top money earners were women, but the article also says that romance writers do better than other genres, which might partly explain the ratio. Although men write romances, the genre is still dominated by women.

Most revealing to me was the marked differences between writers who earn a living from self-publishing with those who didn’t. There were key factors at play, but before I get into it, I have to say that this study doesn’t seem to distinguish much between print and ebooks, and as I’ve written before, there is a big difference in sales ratios between those two formats.

The study revealed that top money earners spend 69% more time writing than lower income writers. They not only write a third more, but spend 24% more time on those words. In other words, editing is important. 29% of top earners have an agent, whereas only 10% of lower income earners do. Respondents who paid for professional editing earned, on average, 13% more than those who didn’t.

Here’s an interesting revelation. The group of respondents who earned least were the ones who spent the most time marketing. In fact, those who spent the least time marketing were earning the most money!

Another thing: the top money earners had four times more reviews for their most recent books and earned six times the revenue compared with those outside the top earning range. In other words, get as many reviews as you can, especially from established sources. It really does help sell books! To read more of the article go to

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Writers Behaving Badly

There have been many complaints about scathing1-star reviews posted on amazon. Some reviewers show an obvious lack of knowledge about the book, and/or a personal agenda designed to hurt the author’s reputation. It’s small wonder then that many readers believe amazon reviews aren’t honest or helpful.

Based on reviews I’ve read, I’d say the level of competency runs the whole gamut, as I’ve seen some really good reviews, along with the not-so-great ones. As a caveat, I need to say that I also post reviews on amazon, so I understand if you think I’m biased. I’ve also received 1 and 2-star reviews, but they weren’t hateful, so I let it go and moved on.

The online world is still like the old wild west, when people were trying to build lives on foreign ground. Back then, a few morons thought the new frontier entitled them to get away with bad behavior. The same thing applies to life in cyber space. It’s simple to create a fake identity and say what you want (up to a point) without anyone knowing who you really are, or so you think.

Reviewers with agendas develop a pattern and observant people pick up on that pattern. They also tend to discover that person’s real identity. This is exactly what happened to a British author who stooped to some pretty low tactics by giving himself great reviews while trashing fellow authors.

What’s different about this incident, though is that the culprit, author R.J. Ellroy, was already an award-winning, bestselling crime author. Ellroy apparently used a number of fake identities to give himself glowing reviews while he gave Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride, among others, 1-star reviews. He was outed by another British crime novelist and has now apologized, but Ellroy’s also facing a lot of wrath from readers everywhere and the condemnation of writers such as Ian Rankin, Lee Child and Val McDermid.

Why someone who already’s garnered awards and is able to make a living through his work felt compelled to act this way is baffling, but the sad thing is he’s only one of many lesser known authors who are behaving the same way.

I still believe that amazon is a good place to post reviews. It’s easy and reaches a lot of people who purchase a great deal of books there. I’m doing my best, along with others, to keep the bar from sinking into the sewer but honestly, sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. To read the whole article about Ellroy, go to

Friday, September 07, 2012

Visit My Books at the Bookmarks Festival of Books in Winston Salem!

My publisher, Second Wind Publishing, will be at the Bookmarks Festival of Books on Saturday, Sept. 8 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Downtown Arts District in Winston-Salem, centering on Trade and Sixth Streets. If you are going to the festival, stop by their booth and check out tthe books. They will be showcasing a variety of Second Wind titles, including perennial reader favorites, the newest releases, and best of all --- my books! Alas, I won't be there to talk to you, but my books say everything I want to say.

Light Bringer: Thirty-seven years after being abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Colorado, Becka Johnson has returned  to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

DAIDaughter Am I: When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born — she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

More Deaths Than One: Bob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in Southeast Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. He attends her new funeral and sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on? And why are two men who appear to be government agents hunting for him? With the help of Kerry Casillas, a baffling young woman Bob meets in a coffee shop, he uncovers the unimaginable truth.

A Spark of Heavenly Fire: In quarantined Colorado, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death, insomniac Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Who Can Inherit Your Ebooks and Digital Music?

So much has been written about the growing ebook revolution over the past couple of weeks that it’s tough to keep up. For example, did you know that the explosion of ebook sales in Great Britain has created a notable reduction in bookshelf space? U.S. observers aren’t surprised. Some estimate that the U.S. has only half the shelf space that was available in 2007, due to the closure of Barnes & Noble and many independent stores.

Another article says that available Brazilian ebooks have grown from 11,000 to 16,000 in a short period of time, and a press release from Amazon Media Room now boasts over 100 million books downloaded through their Kindle exclusive program. This is with a catalogue of only 180,000 tittles! Here’s the release, which names some of their bestsellers,

An article in poses a really interesting question: Who inherits your digital ebook and music collection? If you answer, “it’s complicated” you’re on the right track. Bequeathing your print books and CDs is one thing, but doing the same with your iTunes and ebook collection is another matter, partly because of ownership problems. When you purchase a book or CD it’s yours, but if you purchase a digital book, you’re not buying the right to own it but a license to use the digital files. Legally, this is a big difference!

Also, Apple and grant “nontransferable” rights, which means you can’t give your downloads to others. Furthermore, Apple only grants licenses to account holders, so what happens when the account holder dies? The potential for legal fallout is huge, as the law hasn’t really begun to address these issues. The article goes onto say that there are ways to inherit ebooks and digital music, which you can read at

By the way, today and tomorrow, Sept. 3rd are free days for my first Alex Bellamy mystery, TAXED TO DEATH. If you enjoy whodunnits with a little romance and humor, then meet Alex, the tax auditor who doesn’t have a clue, when it comes to murder.