Monday, February 06, 2017

Good News

First, this will be the last blog for at least two or three weeks. I'm afraid I missed last week owing to ill health and the days ahead are busier than usual...for an excellent reason. When I return it will be from a new address.

Yes, I'm moving...again! Seems to be all I do in recent years, but after several stressful weeks/months/years even, I'm able to say we're making a significant move, a life-changing relocation. Providing all goes well, I can even look forward to finally having a study. There's much to arrange and so I'll be taking a hoped-for 'only short' break, though I'm still trying to finish the Work in Progress, and edits for another release in the 'Snow Angel' planned trilogy.

In the meantime, I'm happy to announce I've been notified that I have a novel accepted for the Lethbridge-Stewart series. No specifics as yet regarding title or release, though it will be later this year. And meanwhile I've a short story out in a few weeks--the 'sleepless nights' the write-up for Night to Dawn Issue 31 refers to. More news when I have it...and when I'm able to post.

Monday, January 16, 2017

To the person who left me a comment...

(Note: this is a repost).

To the person who left me a comment saying they may look like spam but assuring me otherwise, your site looks like...well, spam. You say you're not a publisher and yet you're making money selling free ebooks. This is an oxymoron. If you are selling books they're not 'free'. Secondly, you say you're not a writer so from where are you getting these books? Are you selling other people's free ebooks? If you're doing so without their permission you are in violation of copyright law. If you are buying ebooks and selling them on, you are in violation of copyright law. On both counts, I advise you to read the statement re copyright on this site. If you are doing something else that I don't understand, my apologies, but no, I'm not going to download your report file from a site that says little. For all I know, it could be a virus. I'd advise everyone else not to do so either. This isn't personal. I'm just being sensibly cautious. Sorry.

Look, copyright law on ebooks is simple. It prohibits the copy, distribute, resale or loan of an ebook. Saying that, most of us wouldn't object if we heard readers have made a backup copy purely for personal use. We live in a wonderful age of technology but technology fails us from time to time. We hear of someone selling our work and we'd like to come down on them like the proverbial tonnage. Writers and publishers are getting better at locating piracy sites and law enforcement are finally taking it seriously.

A common question is "If I can resell or loan a printed book, why can't I, as a reader, resell or loan ebooks?" To be honest, even the reselling or lending of some printed books is a grey area. However, it tends to be overlooked because of several reasons.
  1. Most people hate the idea of printed books being destroyed. If you're finished with them and cannot pass them on in some way they are only good for recycling.
  2. When a printed book is passed on, someone may find an author they like and start buying new books by that author on a regular basis. It's sort of free advertising and yes, one could argue this would apply to ebooks but a major difference and reason exists why this doesn't work so read on.
  3. Many second-hand books are sold for charitable purposes.
  4. The reader gives up the physical edition of the book and will no longer own it.
Point 4 is the major one. When you give, sell, or loan a printed book you give away the item you purchased. Even when lending it, you risk not getting it back. You are not making a 'physical copy' of that book to pass it on.

When you pass on an ebook (and some people do this in innocence not piracy but they are still in the wrong) the reader tends to 'keep' their version and simply send the file on, thereby making a 'copy'. This is as illegal in both electronic and printed works.

Imagine taking one of Stephen King's novels, dissecting it, scanning it in, printing it up either by POD, or via the printer at home, and trying to give it away, sell it, or hand to a friend. Should SK find out, do you think he wouldn't sue? Do you think he'd be flattered?

The point is no one is allowed to make a 'copy' of any written work be it printed or electronic. You may (usually) print off an electronic book for the purpose of reading it in that form should you not wish to read on screen, but that printed form is subject to the same laws. You may not sell it, or pass it on. If you wish to pass on an ebook the only viable way is to buy an extra copy, and what's so wrong with that? We all have people to buy presents for.

Oh...and to those who think they can file share their ebook library, has nothing I've stated sunk in? An individual's collection is NOT a library and even if it could be there is such a thing as the 'public lending right'. This means an author can if they wish, claim a small payment every time a library lends one of their books.
  • You are not a publisher and the author has not signed a contract with you. You do not have the right to sell.
  • You are not an official state library. You do not have the right to loan (and let's be honest -- loan in electronic format means copy and give away).
  • You are not friends with thousands of strangers online that you simply 'must' lend your books to (and we've already established that you are not lending but copying) and authors and publishers will not turn their back on you 'giving' their work away.
I'm not speaking to those who are deliberately committing an act of piracy. They know they are breaking the law, damaging authors and the publishing industry, and they don't care. The most we can do is assure them that while there will always be crooks there will always be those willing to fight criminal activity. I'm speaking mainly to those that do this in innocence, not understanding they do anything wrong. Readers claim to love writers. They claim to love our work. We do work -- hard -- at this. Most of us have day jobs, families, lives just like everyone. We have to find time to write on top of all that. We often forsake sleep. Many don't make as much money as people think and even if we did, haven't we 'earned' it? Readers say they love our characters, our worlds, our stories. They claim to love our work and even to love us. Why do something fundamentally harmful to someone or something you love?

Monday, January 09, 2017

Why ARe's Closure Matters to All

Some stopping by may have heard the shocking news of the closure of All Romance Ebooks, otherwise known as ARe. Others may not and that’s why I’m rehashing some of the details before moving on to explaining why situations like this and the outcome is important to all. The shock comes because of the way the owner, Lori James, chose to deal with the closure and treat the people who have supported this book distributor and publisher for so long.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t simply another case of a publisher letting down its writers -- a situation that is always a blow resonating through and carrying consequences for the industry. This closure affected publishers, writers AND readers. The publishers and writers were incensed and disgusted to be ‘offered’ a fraction of all monies owed, but they were as much if not more concerned for the readers who had extensive libraries stored on ARe, libraries that short notice would never give them the chance to download.

Let’s deal with the closure first. Lawsuit documents reveal Lori James (and I quote from sources) ‘screwed’ her business partner Barbara Perfetti who sued James in early 2015, stating claims to which James never responded. In addition, there are only vague references to a decline in business and ‘poor financial forecasts’ to explain the closure, unsupported ‘mutterings’ from a company who reported sales running into the millions in recent years, worked with both publishers and writers, began to publish its own titles, and who claimed more than a million books listed.

But what raises the level of suspicion is the abruptness, the indifference and the blackmailing tactic of the company’s closing ‘offer’, and the fact that, mere days before the closure, James distributed ARe’s advertising rates for 2017. Publishers and writers took out and paid for advertising for 2017, and James ‘accepted’ those payments knowing full well the announcement to close was to follow. I know because I received the same offer and was one of the fortunate few who did not take out advertising...but my publishers did. To my knowledge, there has been no offer to repay any of those advertising spots. That screams of nothing less than fraud.

ARe wanted to pay 10 cents on the dollar to publishers, a real blow to those owed thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars. Those publishers need to pay their own salaries, pay their writers, pay their editors, pay their cover artists and more. It’s been documented and I can personally confirm, some publishers have contemplated trying to withstand the loss themselves in an effort to pay those they owe, but such decisions could put their own companies at risk. James proposed a payment in order to avoid filing for bankruptcy. Sorry to sound flippant, but boohoo. Even if the company is in as large a financial mess as it claims (though it really hasn’t stated specifics) the situation did not arise overnight. And as part of accepting the 10 cent payoff, James stipulated that those who accepted must waver their legal rights to take further action. In short, James was stating that the payment may be the only one anyone would see, take it or risk receiving nothing, and in so doing no one would be able to chase her no matter what happens to the rest of the takings.

Lori James also hurt the readers. Even after the announcement, books were still up for sale spurring publishers to remove their books from the sites as swiftly as possible. Some succeeded; some did not. James then blocked access so readers could download their libraries and finally stopped selling more books (as far as I know only after complaints). Readers lost books removed by publishers, but it mattered not as they had insufficient time to download their libraries in just ‘four days’, and may not have even received their notice to do so in time, being that this took place over the Christmas period with the site shutting down on 31st December.

Four days. Everyone got ‘four days’ to download libraries, or to make informed and difficult decisions regarding payment, and this does not even address the issue of worthless gift vouchers unlikely to ever receive a refund. Readers, you should be angry, too.

To those who have contacted some authors saying it’s not a blow to the industry (yes, unbelievably, some have written to authors directly, which is my reason for writing this post as I feel incensed on behalf of others), how many times do writers have to say that what they do is work and it comes with a cost? What part of cover artists want paying does not compute? What part of editors want paying does not sink in? Why are writers not entitled to receive payment for every word they put on the page? The writer only gets a fraction of the cover cost and a fraction of a fraction is nothing. Why is a writer’s time worth nothing to so many?

Publishing at any level is an ‘industry’. It is BUSINESS. The same way the public purchases a cinema ticket, those who wish to read a story need to lay down money at the door. And where do those blockbusters we love to sit in darkened cinemas spring from? It's born from the imagination and talent of a writer and many people helping that spark along the way. There are many behind the scenes whose name and craft the viewer or reader will never know of. They all want, and NEED, their cut. So do not come out in defence of people like Lori James who treat those they owe with such disregard. Do not claim it doesn’t matter. It very much does. It’s why writers go it alone. It’s why the good works are entangled with the bad and why Indie publishing is a growing threat to traditional publishing. Writers often ‘go it alone’ simply because they feel safer doing so, believe they have more control. In the case of ARe even Indie writers got stung.

Lori James writes under a pen name and no doubt in future will write under more. I’ll have to be on the lookout in the hope I never put another dime into this woman’s hands. I can’t tell anyone who to read, but I hope their conscience will.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Reads of 2016

I usually finish off the year with a blog looking back over the books I've read during the last twelve months. Unfortunately, I didn't blog last week because I was away without Internet access and so this particular blog is a few days late and, owing to a tight schedule during 2016, liable to be even more pitiful in number of books read than the last couple of years. Still, I can't let the year pass completely without mentioning a few titles.

I read a few light novels at the start of 2016 that aren't worth listing. In May I opened up Sunfail, by Steven Saville, an espionage tale that's decidedly plot-driven but which I enjoyed. I've seen one review calling it slick, and I agree. I also discovered Nigel Williams, my first read of his being R.I.P. I knew I was going to enjoy this the moment I read the opening line of the blurb: 'Retired bank manager George Pearmain is, apparently, dead.' This is a nicely humorous, sardonic read.

Joyland and a few of the Gunslinger Graphic novels was a visit by me to a longstanding and constant writer, Stephen King, followed by a Heart-Shaped Box by his son, Joe Hill. The title caught my attention and for the most part, I enjoyed the book, but not as much as my 2014 read of Horns. To me, a Heart-Shaped Box started out well but didn't go dark enough. What started out as a promising scare didn't quite hold its momentum or its thrills but it still earns a place on my bookshelves.

I started The Enchantment Emporium, by Tanya Huff while on holiday and was immediately captivated and added this writer to my list, purchasing the following two books to add to my to-be-read mountain. The stories are definitely aimed at women but contain enough various elements to hold my interest -- a blend of family issues, romance, and magic. The series had me at 'Dragons', of course.

Winter Tales is an anthology I had to check out because it features several writers including me. I found I was more taken with the stories in the beginning of the book and, therefore, exceedingly happy where mine was placed, but like with every anthology, each reader will have their own preferences. I still like a short story and a selection is always a good way to check out new talent.
The Unquiet  was my latest read by John Connolly. Unfortunately, I am behind on his books simply because of that mountain awaiting my attention. I readily admit that. I've the next two in said pile.

The Wine of Angels was my first foray into the world of Phil Rickman and his character of Merrily Watkins. I liked the concept of a female priest thrown into small village intrigue and investigation and thoroughly enjoyed this book, the characters in the village and the writing. Alas, I didn't take to Merrily. I'm sure to read more of these titles but it's a bit like watching an episode of a favourite show where the supporting cast are stronger and more interesting than the lead. I hope this improves as the series continues.

Bleu/Blaque by Belinda McBride is worth mentioning for anyone looking for a m/m romance title. I'm ashamed to say I've had this one lingering for far too long but going on the better late than never concept it's one I'm happy to recommend. Bleu and Blaque prove to be interesting contrasts and not solely owing to their being vampire and werewolf. They are two characters I would happily revisit.

An American friend has been reading Notes from a Small Island, and The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson. Again, the first has been sitting in 'the pile' for far too long so I've read one and have just purchased and started the second. My American friend's take is that it was that, though enjoyable, it was difficult at times to decipher between the humour and straightforward complaining and there were a few moments when I took this point on board. I was surprised by how far Bill Bryson walked, and have to admit his way of touring wouldn't be my preference having read even a portion of these books. I'm sure I'd want to spend longer in some areas, less in others, and some I wouldn't want to visit at all, and while 'wandering at will' seems enticing I'd do more research into my intended stops. The books, though, remain a delightful look into the British way of life particularly for those who don't know the UK so well…with one word of warning. The politeness and attitudes Bryson encountered in the first book have flagged somewhat. I've only just begun the second book and it will be interesting to see if Bryson has also noted any such changes since he first perambulated the UK.

Overall, the year has been pretty disappointing reading-wise so I'm happy to finish with two highlights both picked up for intended Christmas reading. My first is The Martian, by Andy Weir. Having seen the film three times, I was interested in reading the book and would recommend anyone who liked the film to do the same. I've seen both have had their usual share of mixed reviews, but I'm amazed how anyone can fail to appreciate the research and science-made-interesting portions of the book, the added details of which exceed those in the film, is beyond me. Sure, the ending in both the book but especially the film is far-fetched. It's FICTION. I'm one of many who does not understand this current inclination to dismiss fiction that is implausible. Many occurrences in life are implausible and fiction by its very nature can achieve the impossible. I'm quite happy to suspend belief and to be entertained and maybe even learn a little in the process, or, if not, that's good, too. There is nothing wrong with sheer entertainment. For the writer that I am, it's interesting to note that I read Andy Weir first published the book as snippets on the web. To get the whole story without waiting, people had to buy the book…and then a publisher took it up, there's been a film and one hell of a success story about a man stranded on Mars -- the very definition of good fiction. The film…it's a good adaptation of a book given a Hollywood treatment that's not at all painful. Mild spoiler: It does have a more exciting and implausible ending, but this is only to be expected when a book is taken to film, as is the trimmed-down science behind the writing.

But my recommendation this year also happens to be my final read. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman breaks the rule of 'show don't tell' yet is an easy read that is thoroughly entertaining, truthful, poignant, funny, moving, uplifting, and sad. It's painful and beautiful, which is the best type of storytelling.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A little freebie for Christmas

A new series set after the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Web of Fear follows the adventures of Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart spanning the four years from when he was a colonel in the Scots Guards to his promotion to brigadier and head of the UK branch of UNIT. Candy Jar Books brings additional life to Lethbridge-Stewart, fully licensed by the executor of the Haisman Literary Estate, Hannah Haisman, and endorsed by Henry Lincoln. Whilst the series is not Young Adult fiction its intention is to maintain that family-friendly feel balancing the classic with a sense of modernity.

To get a feel for the series, visit Candy Jar Books offers and drop down to the bottom of the page for this year’s Christmas free download. Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Art of Compassion

We’ve forgotten the art of compassion.

When considering what to write for this week’s blog the subject of compassion seemed appropriate for this time of year. To begin, I want to transport you to an incident that to me remains vibrant.

This took place in 2008. We were off on holiday and making our way to East Anglia. It was a beautiful day in May. The sky was blue, the breeze was blowing into the car’s open windows, the birds were singing. We were relaxed and happy. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say I felt blessed and even the traffic crawling to a stop wasn’t enough to upset my good mood. The hold-up was short lived...as was my happy feeling.

A small black shape landed on the road in front, exhibiting every indication of happiness, hopping about excitedly and fluttering its wings. Before I could even gasp the car ahead rolled forward over the bird’s wing, squashing the bones, feathers and flesh into the tarmac leaving the bird both damaged and trapped.

Put yourself in this bird’s place. You’re going about your day-to-day business and something mashes a limb into the road so that you’re pinned, in pain, and cannot break free. The best you can hope for is another car to roll over you bringing about a quick death.

I flinched and was left feeling helpless and sick at heart. I could do nothing to help this creature. The only way to release it from the tarmac would have been to amputate its wing, something I was not capable of doing, and even then the poor thing was likely a short time from dying of shock.

All this because it landed in the wrong place at the wrong time. That could happen to anyone and any thing.

The husband patted my arm as though I was six years old, and while I didn’t need the comfort, he wasn't going to hear any complaints.

My reaction, my feelings for another creature even though its pain and demise had no impact on me or my life is the very definition of compassion.

The dictionary definition is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Why are we not taught this in schools? Is it something parents no longer discuss? One of my favourite books as a child was The Water Babies because I loved the concepts of Mrsdoasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrsbedonebyasyoudid. Why is all this so absent from the world?

The driver of the car that ran over that bird could not have known the creature was on the road. The driver was not at fault. It was a mere accident. No one was to blame. These facts made what happened no less painful to witness, but here’s the thing. I can’t quote statistics but it would be eye-opening to know how many drivers would have run over the bird had they known it was under their wheels. I’ve also been witness to other instances where I’ve been directly involved; beeped because we’ve stopped for a rabbit in the road; seen a woman who had to turn her car to stop cars driving over a dog who had run out and been injured (in that particular incident we and one other driver ended up taking the dog to a vet even though we were no part of the accident). We see road-kill all the time, but when did we decide it’s okay to run over things even if they can be avoided? Indeed, why are there people in this world who would gladly aim the car and shout ‘score’ for a hit? Who is raising these despicable souls?

Of course, I’m not just talking about animals here or creatures on the road. We treat each other the same way. What kind of being does it take to knowingly run over a living creature when they don’t have to? To abuse a dog, a cat, a horse, or anything that breathes? When did society start to think it doesn't matter and so many to believe we can all do what we like without considering the impact on our friends, our families, our neighbours, society itself? Or to think it’s acceptable to walk by a woman on the road when she’s pleading for help having been hit by a car because ‘someone else will call the ambulance’ so there’s no reason to get involved (an actual story a temp apparently once confessed to a colleague in an office I worked in many years ago).

When I was growing up I was taught not to cause harm, to do unto others only as I wanted them to do unto me. That’s not to say be a pushover and accept abuse, but why be the cause? Why are so many so oblivious to the pain of others, and why do so many behave as if it’s perfectly acceptable for behaviour to be so reprehensible that we even have a modern reference to it, that of ‘Troll’?

Compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Take it on board.