Monday, December 26, 2011

Introducing Debra Purdy Kong

Actually, I don't have to introduce Debra. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know her very well. She writes phenomenal articles about the state of the book business, decoding new industry advances, showing us where we are today, and helping us find our way through the blizzard of information.

She and I have been blog mates (along with Cheryl Tardif, who started the blog, and Marian Allen) for almost three years now, but Debra posts regularly every Saturday, and I post . . . whenever. In my defense, I have other blogs to take care of, one an excerpt blog where I post . . . you guessed it!! . . . book excerpts that authors send me to post, and I also have an interview blog.

Today, I am delighted to announce that Debra agreed to be a guest on both blogs!!

So, please stop by Pat Bertram Introduces . . . for an interview with Debra Purdy Kong, Author of “The Opposite of Dark” where we're talking about Debra's new book and her writing processes. Then stop by Dragon My Feet to read an Excerpt From “The Opposite of Dark” by Debra Purdy Kong.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Greetings

I was going to write a blog about the importance of wills for all authors, whether published or unpublished, but it’s a bit too maudlin for this festive season. So, I’ll save it for January, when the weather and the bills make life kind of blah already. :)

I’d much rather take a few moments to write about Christmas. We’re very fortunate to have family gathering at our house again this year. Christmas morning gift giving has been held here for each of the twenty-four years we’ve lived in this home, and it’s become a valued tradition.

I’ve always served brunch after gifts have been opened, which has involved everything from dim sum to crepes, Eggs Benedict, omelets, or simple eggs and bacon, depending on the year. The older we get, the more some of us want low-fat things like fruit salad, but that’s life. Christmas dinner has alternated between my or my sister’s house, but this year I’m cooking here. My son is more than willing to help. Hubby likes the clean up part, so I’m doubly blessed.

I remember the first Christmas here with our eldest child. She was three months old at the time and took great delight in crumpling the crinkly red cellophane wrapped around the Christmas cake. Two days before that particular Christmas day, my father was nearly killed in a hit-and-run accident while delivery newspapers in the early morning hours. I spent part of Christmas Day in the intensive care ward, looking at a person I barely recognized through the swelling and bruising. We placed our daughter in the arms of relatives who were waiting their turn to see my father so I could go in. She brought them a bit of happiness to an otherwise grim situation. Time passed, and my father recovered and lived a few more years before passing away.

We’ve been incredibly lucky since then. No major Christmas illnesses or accidents, and I count my blessings every year. I wish you and yours a very peaceful and joyous holiday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Amazon's new carrot: KDP Select

Today someone asked me what I thought about Amazon's new KDP Select program, a program that has an exclusivity clause that prohibits participating authors from selling their ebooks anywhere else. After sending him my thoughts on the matter, I realized something: I had enough for a blog post. So here is my answer to his question of whether I was tempted to enroll and what I thought about the program...

I’m happy to share my thoughts on KDP Select, though I’ll warn you, they’re very “strong”. 

First, I think this is a ballsy move on Amazon’s part to try to monopolize the industry. From a business perspective, it’s not necessarily wrong, but they won’t make a lot of people happy.

I am definitely against this new “program” of Amazon’s. I think they’re using much higher numbers and authors won’t be too pleased when they realize how little they’ll actually make from it. That’s my prediction anyhow. It sounds good at first glance, sharing a pool of money, but at what cost?

The exclusivity clause is a big red flag for me. Amazon is asking authors to put all their “eggs into one basket.” It’s obvious they’re hoping to weed out other ebook retailers like Smashwords. They want the monopoly. But this is a huge risk for authors who blindly follow Amazon. Once they’re “in” and bound by exclusivity contracts, Amazon can basically do what they want and those authors won’t have any choices. They could raise ebook prices, put ebooks on sale etc.

The automatic renewal poses a serious problem as well. If it isn’t timed properly, authors who do want out will find themselves locked into another term.

I think new authors, especially the very young or very old, may be drawn into this “program” without realizing the full effects and risks. That bothers me. I’ve already seen on forums where authors have blindly signed up, not realizing until it’s too late that they won’t be able to sell anywhere else. It’s amazing how many writers don’t read the fine print—or understand it—or question it.

I don’t think the increased numbers came necessarily from Smashwords. Many writers who dealt with Smashwords and KDP probably thought it was a good idea. Some probably thought it worth checking out or experimenting with. Then again, who’s to say the increase came from authors in this program? Amazon often makes “deals” with publishers and it wouldn’t surprise me if they held back a large number of titles so it would appear that authors are “jumping ship.” Nothing Amazon may do would surprise me.

Amazon is a huge company. There’s no way around that. I have a Kindle and love it. I also have a Kobo. I have friends who have Sony ereaders. With KDP Select in place, readers with Kobo, Nook or Sony ereaders won’t be able to get the same content, unless these ereaders can download a Kindle app, which some don’t.

As for the free ebook option, it’s a short one-time promotion opportunity that won’t do much good for the average KDP author. If Amazon allowed unlimited free ebooks, that may draw in more authors. Many would like to offer a free ebook, just to get people interested. But even if they had that as an incentive, it wouldn’t be enough to entice me to cross over to the “dark side”.

What would entice me? If Amazon stopped their greed campaign long enough to remember that authors deserve respect. And KDP Select shows zero respect for authors and their rights by making us sign any kind of exclusivity contract. Amazon needs to learn to play fair. They don’t have to have it all. There’s room for Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, B&N and more. And readers deserve the choice.

Getaway Giveaway

The managers of Mermaid Cottages Vacation Rentals on Tybee Island, Georgia, are giving away week-long retreats for writers. All they ask in return is a story. How cool is that?

Here's a picture I took of the beach at the end of the road our cottage was on. 

Applications for this year are closed, but they'll be taking applications for 2012.

Two other members of the Southern Indiana Writers Group and I just got back from ours. It was wonderful, beautiful and inspiring. All three of us came home with our stories mostly written and hope in our hearts that we can go again.

If you haven't deliberately set a story in a place and walked around in that place to gather specifics, I recommend the exercise. Every place has its own flavor and denizens and little shops and oddities that can give a story direction and meaning.

People are really nice to you when you tell them you're researching a story. They share details about their work and lives that, even if you don't use them for that particular story, enrich your understanding of people and the world around you.

Whether you go away to find a setting to explore or look at your own neighborhood with fresh discernment, don't forget that Place can be as intriguing as Plot and Character.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Learning from Other Blogs

I discovered an interesting blog shared by eleven thriller and mystery writers, here on . Many of the contributors are familiar to me, and they’re writing about timely issues, which of course includes the traditional versus self-publishing debate.

One of these writers, James Scott Bell, posted a blog last Sunday about why he decided to self-publish. Since Bell is another traditionally published author with several books to his credit and who has earned his share of readers, I was curious about what he to say. Among the things he likes about self-publishing is that “it’s real money” and he’s paid every month which, as you probably know, traditional publishers don’t do. Secondly—and I agree with this point—it’s not about either/or. Why can’t authors embrace both, given the opportunity? If you want to read more of what he has to say, visit his blog and scroll down to older posts. A number of the bloggers at Kill Zone are worth reading, and you can find them at

While I’m at it, here are a few more of my favorite blogs: Whether you agree or disagree with Joe Konrath’s views, he’s always interesting and thought provoking. is a shared blog by six women mystery and thriller authors. They feature a number of guest bloggers and share poignant opinions on a variety of topics. is a great site updated nearly everyday and is filled with tons of info about writers, stats, libraries, and the publishing world.

There are more, but I don’t want to overload you, but if you have favorite sites filled with great info about writing and publishing, I’d love to hear about them.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Friday, December 16, 2011

Excerpt from “Deadly Traffic” by Mickey Hoffman

Girls are disappearing from Standard High while the local sex trade flourishes. Their absences are barely noticed in the worst school in Arbor City, CA, where turnover and truancy are facts of life. Kendra Desola, the only faculty member likely to care, is on a leave of absence.

After a student’s lifeless body turns up in a seedy part of town, an immigrant community leader contacts Kendra. What does she know about her missing students’ activities, their families’ illegal status?

Searching for the missing girls, Kendra enters a dark world where passports and flesh are currency. When a second murder puts her in the police spotlight, she is unaware a trap is about to close around her.


Sandi found Win leaning on the bar counter, waiting for her when she came out of the Ladies’ room. A greenish glow from the wine bottles above the bar accented the planes of his handsome face. The young bartender smiled as she returned his change. A hostess led a party of three toward a table along the wall. He frowned at the receipt in his hand and stored it in his wallet. She couldn’t see him turning it in to his boss; since when did petty criminals ask for meal allowances? More likely, it would be kept to demonstrate how well he treated her, right after he told her she didn’t deserve dinner at such an expensive restaurant.

He plucked a toothpick from a shot glass near the cash register and used it like a wand to direct her toward the door. Sandi winced as a punishing blast of hot air struck her face, giving a longing look back at the cool interior of the restaurant. Win slid a stiffened palm to the small of her back to make sure they stayed hip to hip as he chose a pace that suited his long legs.

As they walked, Sandi kept her eyes fixed straight ahead, on a distant point that existed only in her mind, so she could pretend not to see the shock on people’s faces when their eyes landed on her, the ungainly girl at his side. He, as usual, basked in the attention he drew from passersby. Impervious to the heat, he wore all black, chosen, she knew, to complement his hair and highlight the three diamond studs that sparkled in his left ear. A manicurist, outside for a smoke, paused mid-puff and stared in admiration, as if Sandi’s companion had stepped straight off the glossy cover of one of the People magazines in her salon. Sandi wished she could hold that fantasy cover in her hands and shred him to bits, starting with his complacent smile. Why didn’t anyone ever see him for what he really was?


mickeypic_1_-124x149Mickey Hoffman was born in Chicago, and attended public schools where she acquired the strong suspicion that some of her teachers might be human. She wasn’t able to prove this fanciful thinking until much later, when she became a high school teacher herself.

Before landing in the halls of academia, she worked in a variety of jobs, including computer typesetting and wholesale frozen fish sales.

The author is also a printmaker and painter and resides on the West Coast with her long suffering mate, eight marine aquariums and a very large cat. Mickey is also the author of School of Lies, the first Kendra Desola mystery.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Deadly Traffic

Click here to read an interview with: Mickey Hoffman, author of Deadly Traffic

Monday, December 12, 2011

"A Spark of Heavenly Fire" Embodies the Essence of Christmas

Washington Irving wrote: “There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” As I read these words several years ago, I could see her, a drab woman, defeated by life, dragging herself through her days in the normal world, but in an abnormal world of strife and danger, she would come alive and inspire others. And so Kate Cummings, the hero of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire was born. But born into what world?

I didn’t want to write a book about war, which is a common setting for such a character-driven story, so I created the red death, an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease that ravages Colorado. Martial law is declared, rationing is put into effect, and the entire state is quarantined. During this time when so many are dying, Kate comes alive and gradually pulls others into her sphere of kindness and generosity. First enters Dee Allenby, another woman defeated by normal life, then enter the homeless --- the group hardest hit by the militated restrictions. Finally, enters Greg Pullman, a movie-star-handsome reporter who is determined to find out who created the red death and why they did it.

Kate and her friends build a new world, a new normal, to help one another survive, but other characters, such as Jeremy King, a world-class actor who gets caught in the quarantine, and Pippi O’Brien, a local weather girl, think of only of their own survival, and they are determined to leave the state even if it kills them.

The world of the red death brings out the worst in some characters while bringing out the best in others. Most of all, the prism of death and survival reflects what each values most. Kate values love. Dee values purpose. Greg values truth. Jeremy values freedom. Pippi, who values nothing, learns to value herself.

Though this book has been classified by some readers as a thriller --- and there are plenty of thrills and lots of danger --- A Spark of Heavenly Fire is fundamentally a Christmas book. The story begins on December 2, builds to a climax on Christmas, and ends with renewal in the Spring. There are no Santas, no elves, no shopping malls or presents, nothing that resembles a Christmas card holiday, but the story --- especially Kate’s story --- embodies the essence of Christmas: generosity of spirit.

(Why does A Spark of Heavenly Fire begin on December 2 instead of December 1? Glad you asked that. All through the writing of the book, I kept thinking: if only people could get through the first fifty pages, I know they will like this book. So finally came my duh moment. Get rid of the first fifty pages!! With all the deletions and rewriting, I couldn’t make the story start on December 1 as I’d originally intended, but that’s okay since it didn’t end on December 25 as I had hoped. The story overgrew it’s bounds, but the symbolism still held since it ends around Easter.)


Smashwords: (You can download the book in any ebook format, including a format for palm held reading devices!! Even better, you can download 30% absolutely free to see if you like the story.)

Barnes and Noble:

Book trailer:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Confusion about KDP Select’s Program

Have you seen the email that’s been circulating from Amazon regarding its KDP Select program? Here’s an excerpt:

"We’re excited to introduce KDP Select – a new option dedicated to KDP authors and publishers worldwide, featuring a fund of $500,000 in December 2011 and at least $6 million in total for 2012! KDP Select gives you a new way to earn royalties, reach a broader audience, and use a new set of promotional tools.

Here’s how KDP Select works:

When you make any of your titles exclusive to the Kindle Store for at least 90 days, those with US rights will automatically be included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and can earn a share of a monthly fund. The monthly fund for December 2011 is $500,000 and will total at least $6 million in 2012. If you haven’t checked it out already, the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that eligible US Amazon Prime members can borrow for free once a month with no due dates.

You’ll also now have access to a new set of promotional tools, starting with the option to promote your KDP Select-enrolled titles for FREE for up to 5 days every 90 days.

How your share of the monthly fund is calculated:

Your share of the monthly fund is based on your enrolled titles’ share of the total number of borrows across all participating KDP titles in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. For example, if total borrows of all participating KDP titles are 100,000 in December and your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn $7,500 in additional royalties from KDP Select in December. Enrolled titles will remain available for sale to any customer in the Kindle Store and you will continue to earn your regular royalties on those sales.

What this means to you:

KDP Select gives you access to a whole new source of royalties and readers- you not only benefit from a new way of making money, but you also get the chance to reach even more readers by getting your book in front of a growing number of US Amazon Prime customers: readers and future fans of your books that you may have not had a chance to reach before! Additionally, the ability to offer your book for free will help expand your worldwide reader base."

I’ve been following several threads from authors on who’ve tried the program, and the feedback is interesting. In fact, some cautionary tales are cropping up. First and foremost, by opting into KDP Select, you’re putting all your eggs in one basket because you’re giving Amazon exclusive rights to sell your books. In other words, they can’t be sold on Smashwords, or through other venues while you’re in the Select program. Secondly, authors are noticing that the sales rankings are becoming increasingly skewed because rented books count as sales in Amazon’s world. Therefore, those who don’t use this program might see (and some have) a significant drop in their rankings because their books aren’t in the program. It’s confusing and uncertain situation that seems to making a number of authors unhappy. Keep in mind that this is simply anecdotal information from a handful of authors. Since I’m not in this program, I really don’t know if it’s worthwhile. I want to stress, however, that if you are considering this option, research it before you commit. Talk to others who are in the program. You’ll find several of them at in the Writer’s Cafe forum, and a few have been sharing stats from their experiences.

If anyone is using KDP Select, I’d love to hear if you think it’s a good option for authors.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Introducing Joylene Nowell Butler, author of “Dead Witness” and “Broken But Not Dead”

I met Joylene Nowell Butler through my blogs, and she has now become a friend. We have never met, might never meet (though I would like to), but the connection is very real. She eased a terrible time in my life with her wisdom and sympathy, with her steadfast presence. I’m ashamed to admit, I am remiss about returning the favor and visiting her blog, A Moment At A Time On Cluculz Lake, though I intend to get over there more frequently. She has insightful posts, wonderful guests, and gorgeous photos of Cluculz Lake in Canada.

Joylene is the author of suspense thrillers Dead Witness and Broken But Not Dead. In honor of our friendship and the publication of her second book, I am gifting her with a mini blog tour.

I am interviewing her today on another of my blogs. Click here to find the interview: Pat Bertram Introduces . . . Joylene Nowell Butler, Author of “Broken but not Dead.” I always enjoy hearing (seeing) how other authors view writing and the writing life. Don’t you?

Click here to read an excerpt from: “Broken but not Dead” by Joylene Nowell Butler

More than three years ago, I posted an invitation to interview characters, and she was one of the few who took me up on my offer. It impressed the heck out of me! (That was how and where we met.) Here is that interview: Pat Bertram Introduces . . . Valerie McCormick, Hero of “Dead Witness” by Joylene Nowell Butler

Click here to read an excerpt from: “Dead Witness” by Joylene Nowell Butler

Thank you for everything, Joylene. I hope you have a fantastic New Year, filled with hope and peace and many wonders.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

New Stats and Predictions in the Ebook World

According to the Association of American Publishers, net sales revenue for adult mass market paperbacks dropped by 54% in September 2011 compared with sales in September 2010. Wow! Also, adult hardcover sales dropped by 18% while ebook sales doubled over the same period last year. The only print category listed that showed a small increase was children’s and young adult hardcovers, however their paperback counterparts were down by 14.6%. It’s quite likely that the poor economy has a lot to do with lower sales, aside from the growing popularity of ebooks.

I’ve sold books at four craft fairs over the past month, which has been a new and enlightening experience. Veteran craft fair sellers claimed that sales overall are down by about 30% this year. Still, there are plenty of people buying print books, especially as gifts. Only two people out of the many dozens I’ve chatted with asked if my books were available on Kindle. Ebooks are growing, but they haven’t taken over the world yet. I still believe that print will always have its place, albeit a more modest one. To see more of the chart provided go to

Based on a study conducted by UK-based Juniper Research, this year’s $3.2 billion in worldwide ebook revenue will triple to about $10 billion by 2016. The study suggests that bookstores which don’t move with the times and learn to combine digital and physical bookselling, won’t be around much longer. The study predicted that 30% of ebooks will be purchased on tablets, 15% on Smartphones, and 55% on ereaders. Pricing will be problematic for traditional publishers, the report states. Actually, it already is, as traditional publishers attempt to compete with self-published work offered for free and very low prices. To read more, go to

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Short Story Contest. No Entry Fee!

Now that you’ve blogged about what you are thankful for and stuffed yourself with Thanksgiving goodies, now that you have finished your NaNoWriMo entry and celebrated your success, now that you have survived your Black Friday shopping and have not yet gotten into the Christmas mood (or have already gotten out of it)...

Think Spring!!

Second Wind Publishing is sponsoring a short story contest. The theme is . . . you guessed it! Spring. Spring and renewal to be exact. Your stories do not have to be light and uplifting (which should be welcome news for all of you writers who pen dark fiction), but they do have to fit the theme. The story should be your own work, no more than 5,000 words, and must not have been published anywhere, not even on your own blog.

There is no entry fee.

The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. The deadline is December 31, 2011. The best entries will be posted on the Second Wind Contest Blog for everyone to read and comment.

The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Change is in the Wind. This anthology is a collection of stories by the authors of Second Wind, so you will be in good company. The winner will also receive a coupon from for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will also be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs. And the winner will receive a one year free VIP account from Angie’s Diary, the online writing magazine to help you get even more exposure for your writing. ($99.95 value).

So what are you waiting for? Encouragement? Then here it is: you can write a wonderful short story! Please send your story as a Word .doc or .docx to We are looking forward to reading it!

For more information, click here: Second Wind Contest Blog.