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Monday, April 29, 2013

Authors Beware!!!!!!

I want to share something with you. This is the story and results of how I got abused by a publisher.

To everyone reading who is not an author, you may not realize how special and important a moment it is to be accepted. Not just accepted by a publishing house or a literary agent, but accepted by the literary community. To be accepted by a single reader who likes your work. To be accepted by other authors who delve into the same genre as you. We writers are solitary folk, and as such contact with the real world is limited. But, that does not mean that we don't want friends and family. We want fellowship, we want companionship, and we want to know that we are not alone.

The most anticipated and longed for acceptance is that of a publisher. For, being accepted by a publisher gives you a feel of legitimacy. All of your work has not been in vain, and you may just achieve a modicum of success that you have worked so diligently for. Not only general success, but specific success. You have worked for a long time, through many different levels, to create your masterpiece. It is your child, your baby, your product. No one else created it, no one else gave birth to it, it is as much a part of you as your own personality. When a publisher accepts that work and says they will produce it, you have achieved a great thing.

That all said, this is my story:

A number of years ago I began writing. Well, okay, I started writing in 4th grade but this is much later. I love to write Star Trek stories and other specific things that cannot be published without consent of the owners of the original storylines. I just liked to write. Then my mother asked me why I didn't write something completely mine and independent. I was afraid of branching out, but I had to try. So, I sat down on the deck of my house and just started typing. I wrote notes and crafted a story. I didn't know how it was going to turn out, but all I could do was fail. I had little to loose other than time. So I did it. With the help and constant encouragement of my mother I wrote, edited, and re-edited a fantasy novel. It took me a total of three months to write it, and another three to edit it. When the six months were done I had mom edit it through, as I couldn't afford a traditional editor and mom is pretty good. Come a year or so later I had a final product. I wrote The Jalan Chronicles: The Eyes of Amaterasu.

I knew it was still rough and could probably use some work, but I felt that a publisher would do that for me. So, I began to search the internet for a publisher. Understand that by this point in my life I had little to no understanding of the publishing world and was alone in this venture. I didn't know the pitfalls, and I certainly didn't know the wolves out there seeking to take advantage of new authors. I got turned down a half dozen times until I sent that letter to a publisher in Maryland.

PublishAmerica seemed so legit, so real, I sent that letter and my manuscript and they did something that I didn't think I would ever have done for me. They accepted and offered a contract. Knowing what I have written above about the need of acceptance, you might understand the thrill and blind happiness I had in my heart at that acceptance letter. I had done it.

At first it was going smoothly. They sent me an email telling me the process by which they work. I agreed and they sent the book to their editors. They read it and miraculously sent me another email telling me that my work was good enough to publish directly. WOW, I was thrilled beyond thrilled, especially considering how long they first told me editing would take if it wasn't good enough. I agreed to them speeding up the process, having faith that they knew the book was good and fit. Then the cover artist came to me and gave me some examples of what they were going to go with. I liked their cover, but I didn't like that they put a little kitten in the center of it. I asked to change that and they did, to a dragon. Let me state right here that the cover is still one of my favorite parts of this, I have never had a problem with it and still love it.

Then publication came. In less than two months, my book went from submission to being on the market. I was happy, I was in heaven. They told me the pretty stories of how they were the number one publisher selling to Barns and Noble, and that Amazon sold millions of their books. I had made it, the world would know my work. When was Hollywood going to call me?

Then reality sunk in. They had priced my book, a simple new author fantasy, at $25 which I knew no one would read. Then I got my first email about the book. Were they going to tell me about how well it was selling? No. Were they going to inform me of their desire for a sequel? No. The email was an ad......to me. They were selling me my own book, telling me that it was my job to market it and sell it. They would have nothing to do with that. When I asked them about that, wondering why a publisher wouldn't want to market their own products, they gave me a cock-and-bull story about how in the publishing world it is ENTIRELY on the heads of the authors to sell the books, that selling it to friends and family is the best route to go. Seriously?! I am responsible for every detail about marketing? The stink of this company was beginning to seep into my nose and I smelled a rotten skunk. I went to Barns and Noble to ask them about putting my book on their shelves and they gave me the funniest look. They informed me that my book was too expensive and they never, get this NEVER, put PublishAmerica on their shelves. I have been lied to, or really deliberately misled.

Not only that, but when my book was read by a few friends and family, they informed me of the glaring flaws in the grammar and sentences. The book needs serious work with a real editor. Again, they misled me so they could get to selling me my own book quicker. And to rub salt in the wound, a few months later, they sent out blanket emails to their authors offering editing services for an enormous fee.

Over time I  got emails about buying my own book, about paying them to edit it, about paying them to send copies to celebrities randomly (as if they would make it a Hollywood smash), about paying them to promote the book at book fairs around the world. They were in it to take me for every last dime. I felt like I was being held up by my ankles and someone was shaking for pennies.

When I looked at the contract I blindly signed, I saw that they have my book for six years. It is firm. When I ask about backing out because I refuse to sell the book and their non-existent marketing techniques are certainly not selling any books, they agree and then tell me I can for a huge sum of money.

So, if you have wondered why my book The Jalan Chronicles is attached to my name on Amazon and Goodreads and other places, yet I have not even been talking about it. There is a reason. I refuse to make PublishAmerica on red cent. They are crooks and currently are facing a class action suit started by some other authors they gypped. When my contract ends and I finally get my book back, I am going to put it through an editor, rework it to better standards, and make it worth reading. Then, I will publish it so that readers can finally see what I wanted them to see, not the crud that PA has left me with.

As a side note: To really rub acid in the wound, during this time I had an individual that began to bully me on the internet and followed me everywhere I went. They tried to get me kicked out of a CCG game I love to play, and he used this book to go all out to hurt me. He even tried to get other companies to sue me for plagiarism making false claims about me. He attacked my mother, he attacked my friends, it was an all out assault that left me scared to do anything. When I decided to move forward and write again, I finished a book and then spent a year fighting with myself about publishing it for fear of him finding me and starting it up again. I still have a deep seated fear in my belly each time I see a review pop up for one of my books, sure that he has found me. So, if you find The Jalan Chronicles and look at the reviews, know that most of them are him under different guises, bent on my destruction. Even writing this here has me sick to my stomach, but I really want you to know.

Thank you for reading. You continued support through comments and being friendly has helped me so much.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Flaws and Symptoms

Today I am going to put my writer hat back on and talk a little about how I design characters. I have seen other blogs/authors speak about the same thing I came up with on my own a long time ago. Good guys must have bad parts.

Okay, what do I mean by bad parts? I mean flaws. No one is perfect. If a perfect character is written into a book, readers will not be able to relate to them. They will seem too perfect. Sometimes readers like that, but I believe that overall it is a downfall. How I apply this to my writing is that as I come up with a character, I consider what one particular flaw he or she has. (sometimes they have more than one, but often it is the badguys who have extra flaws.)

For example: When I created the Joseph character for The Crystal Needle I decided that he would have the flaw of ego. In the book he is working to combat that and look within a person to see the inner beauty. But, I bring out that his ego is still a part of him in the way he acts sometimes and how he flirts a bit too much at first. But, his struggle and victory over that ego is what brings him and Allison together.

In my Bark stories I went with a few extra flaws. First, externally, a flaw for Bark is that he cannot speak. His voice was destroyed in the mutation process that turned him into a dog-man. This is a guiding feature of his person, but it is a flaw. Second, he is naive, he was thrust into the hero world and does not understand everything at first. He views the world through normal person eyes, not superhero eyes. Through three books, I allowed him to grow out of that naivety through meeting new people
and experiencing life as a superhero. But, in the end, he still has it in his heart.

So, you can understand that flaws not only humanize a character, they can guide their story along. More readers can connect with a superhero who has the same thoughts and concerns as them.

Next:: Flaws come with added effects, symptoms. A symptom is what tells the story better.  Allison in The Crystal Needle has the flaw of being extremely shy, the symptoms of that shyness come out as her being irritable, a little mean at first, naive about the real world, and over protective of her brothers. All of these symptoms are created and affected by her extreme shyness. As she comes closer to Joseph and loses her shyness, the symptoms fade. But, those symptoms told her story better. When you have a flaw in a character, you know how they will respond differently to a situation than someone else. Also, the reader understands why they respond in such a way. Allison's immediate rudeness toward Joseph when they first meet was a result of her shyness, and the reader understood.

One last example. How this can be fun. In my current work in progress, I have a character named Donna who is a potion master and a semi-main character. She is smart, a touch sassy, funny, good hearted, and very outgoing. But her flaw is that she is tragically single. I actually mention this outright when I first describe her.  This helps define her personality. She has an eye for any handsome man and even goes so far as to flirt with a bad guy in the story because he is the type who is handsome-and-knows-it. This flaw in her leads to a highly comical scene between her and one of the main characters. It also gives the reader the notion that not all good guys have the perfect life, some are still searching for that special someone without any prospects.

I hope that all made sense and that you gleamed a bit of wisdom from it. None of us is perfect, if we were, editors would go hungry. But those imperfections are part of us and the journey to fix our flaws refines our own story. The challenge in real life and in the development of a character is to not allow the flaw to be the absolute definition of who he or she is.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Colin Wayne

A few months back one of my friends and an avid reader of mine showed a pic of a handsome male model. I like to draw, as you should know by now, and I am always on the lookout for a good pose/model. I liked the picture she posted and went to his web page. His name is Colin Wayne, and he has a very nice face, particularly his eyes. The picture I originally saw I wanted to draw up as one of my lion people. It was just to keep my fingers from getting rusty and I thought, hey, if he likes it then all the better. So, I sat down for a couple evenings and created a pencil drawing of him as a lion.
The drawing.                                          

This is the picture of him.



















As you should know, I hope, I already posted these pics before in one of my updates a few months back. When I sent him the final product he seemed pleased. I decided to like his facebook page, to get to know more about him. Colin is a cool guy who has, what I consider, a great life. He has a lovely wife, a cute little boy, and gets to go all over the place to be photographed. Not to mention all the drooling fans on his facebook page. (Note: I am not one of the drooling fans. He's good looking, just not quite the right gender.)

The hotel room shot.
After a while I started the process to publish my Bark books as ebooks. As such, they needed covers. Since I do not have that much money and the books are free, I decided to draw the cover myself. Easier said than done. I couldn't find that right pose or the right pictures to make it work. Hunting through the public-domain image sites provided me very little to work with. Then I saw a snapshot of Mr. Wayne on his Facebook page that wasn't even one of the normal session pictures. It was just a picture of him in his hotel room. I liked it, it fit the idea of the mood I needed for the cover. I contacted him and kindly asked if he wouldn't mind me using it and he said yes.

This was the body drawing.

Here is the cover image with detail.    












Final product
At first I was worried that the drawing did not capture the moment well enough. In the picture he is leaning a bit and that made the drawing look like the legs were too short. I almost gave up. Then I had an idea; why not use the scenery around him to help make it look right? So, I added the cave from the book and there you have it. The cover was just a little photo manipulation away from a cover. It isn't HarperCollins, but I think it's okay for a free ebook. Colin seemed pleased with the final product too, which was important to me.



The book is available on Kobo and Smashwords


This was the picture I used.
After a while, it happened again. I was just checking my Facebook newsfeed and he had posted yet another picture of himself that I thought would work perfectly for a picture in the book. I shot him another pm request and he said yes. This picture is going in a later book that has yet to be published about Bark and I have time, so I sat and worked on the image. I used his picture, and the one I drew of him for the cover as reference. Unlike the first image I drew of him, the Bark images had to be within the character, so some of his face would need to change to match the other images of Bark. And, not just the obvious features. His jawline is different, and his chin is different.

Here is the final product.
I like it, but I don't believe it is
my best work. I didn't quite capture
the eyes well enough.








I am glad to have met Mr. Wayne, at least in the cyber world. He is a nice guy and I will probably do some more drawings of him. Of course, I will always ask permission, as we should all be courteous about using images that do not belong to us.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Free???

Recently I published a book that I made permanently free. If you have been following this blog, my facebook page, or know me personally, you should have caught onto that by now. If not....my promotion is really terrible.

Check it out on Kobo
The question that has come up over and over from my author/publisher friends is the obvious. Why make it free? Well, there are several reasons. The one that I have stated is the truth, but not the whole truth. This book, Bark:Origins of a Superhero, was written for the Clash: Rise of Heroes game. It is fan fiction, though the game itself had no real solid fiction yet, so the creators and other administrative people considered it game lore. But, the game is not mine, I do not own the rights to the background story. Thus, if I make money off the book without their permission, I would be infringing on some of their copywrites. For you who are not in the publishing world, copywrite infringement is a giant no-no. So, I made a deal with them, if I don't "sell" it, but give it away, could I publish it? They said yes.

Now, I said that isn't the whole truth. The truth is, I would have given this away regardless of if they said I needed to or not. If they had told me to go ahead and sell it, then I would still be giving it away. Why? Because I love to write and I love to entertain. I do like money, don't get me wrong, but I want to charge for my best work. This is a good story and a fun read, but it wasn't professionally edited, the cover is my own art drawn in a single night, and the formatting of the ebook probably isn't the best. It is also a rather short story for a "novel". Does all that detract from the story itself? I do not believe so. I did edit it, and let my mother take a stab at it. And I have worked on it over and over to try my best to make it as polished as I can get it. I spent time working through the frustration that is formatting. But, when it comes down to comparison against a real pro book, mine fades.

A never before seen drawing of Bark
Why am I slamming my own book? I am not. I am just explaining that the technical side that makes a book look its best was not applied as expensively to this book. I trust the story is good, and I trust that people will enjoy it. Otherwise I would have never published it in the first place.

That said; I also love giving it away. There is a thrill in me at letting people enjoy what I do. I gives me purpose, it gives me unending joy to provide a little entertainment to someone else. Especially someone I do not know. In most of my writing, I strive for the sheer enjoyment factor. I don't write to change the social
political air of a nation, or to alter someones walk with God. In the future, I might work on some Christian novels that could do that, but even then I will work to make them as entertaining as possible. I write because I want to give readers fuel. I write because I was born to write.

I do sell my books. I do want to make money. I do want this to become a profession some day...however far-fetched that notion may seem at this time. But, I feel that as an artist, sometimes it is okay to give a bit of my work away. Just for the fun of it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Be sure you know!!

Hello everyone. I have had an interesting experience this Easter. My book was stolen and sold by someone else. Okay, not The Crystal Needle, but my Bark book. As I have mentioned, I decided to publish my Bark books as ebooks so that readers would have an easier time reading them. It would also reach out to a new audience for my work. The Bark stories are based on the Clash: Rise of Heroes online game and so I don't completely own the copywrite to the stories. As such, I promised not to make money on them if they allowed me to publish them. It was a simple agreement that I am okay with. What happened next was unexpected. First I published the book through Amazon with the hopes of making it free there, but they wouldn't allow it. So, I published it through Smashwords with the intention of telling Amazon that it was cheaper on Smashwords. They still wouldn't make it free. I gave up and decided to simply leave it on. Smashwords. I sent the basic letter to Kindle and they took the book down.

This is where it got interesting. I looked to see that my Bark story was gone from my dashboard, it was. For some reason I went and looked on Amazon through the basic search to see if it was truly gone. And, behold, it wasn't. There it was, still published and it was at a new price. This made me more curious than worried, I thought it was just a mistake in their system. It still had my name as the author, my book was certainly what was being sold, and yet it wasn't by me. I sent them another email asking them what the heck was going on. They responded that the book was published on another persons account with a different email address than mine. Oh, now it was time to get mad. Someone had stolen my book and published it for themselves. I contacted Amazon and they sent me a form to fill out to report a copywrite infringement. In less than a day it was taken care of. They acted swiftly and efficiently on this matter, and I am very thankful for that. I pray that that is the end of it.

During the whole thing I was so upset that I simply removed my book from publication everywhere. I was hurt, I felt violated. But, when the hurt faded and the smoke settled, I realized that I was just hurting readers by taking it down, and it was still going to be free. So, I republished it on Smashwords and there it is, eternally free for any who wish to read it.

I wrote that to tell you this: Book piracy comes in many shapes and forms. Sometimes it comes when people take an authors work and give it away through sharing sites that are illegal. Other times they are stolen and sold, giving the author no money for the exchange. Either way it is a harmful practice that destroys authors and takes the Publishing industry down yet another notch.

You might say, "But authors make millions, who does it hurt?"

First: Very few authors make enough money off their books to put gas in their car.
Second: Stealing is stealing.

To illustrate to you what this really means, you must understand that this is much more hurtful that simply taking my money. That is my work, that is my time and effort spent creating that work. I pour hours of time in writing, editing, refining, defining, and creating. Writing isn't just something that we authors slam out in a couple hours and then go have tea. It takes hours, days, years to create the work we create. Every character has their own voice, their own personality that took months of thought to define. These books grow to be a part of our soul, our very being. Stealing my work and selling it isn't just like taking my wallet, its like taking my right arm. I will never be the same without it.

Do I think you, my wonderful readers, would do such a disgusting act? No. Do I have an answer to how you can help? Yes. I dare say that the authors hit the hardest by such crimes are independent authors, or even just new unknowns. If you are looking to purchase a book by a new author, don't just click the page where you first see it for sale. Go to the authors website/facebook page and look for the link. I can almost promise you that every author will have a link to each of their books present on their pages. Those links are sure to be official and direct you to that authors body of work. Also, when you do find a site that seems seedy, report it to the authors. A good indicator are sites that like to sell you memberships to get tons of free books, some are legit, but most are not.

Readers, authors, everyone, I want you to understand that this is a new world we live in. A world where information flows faster that air and thieves do not have to leave the comfort of their own home to do terrible damage to another person. Do not live in distrust and anxiety, but be cautious and critical when seeing something that seems too good to be true.

As for me, here are the official links to my books.
ebook: The Crystal Needle
Paperback: The Crystal Needle
ebook: The Crystal Needle: A Christmas to Remember
Paperback: The Crystal Needle: A Christmas to Remember 
ebook: Bark: Origins of a Superhero

P.S.: A few people tried to comfort me with the old idea "be flattered, they must think your good enough to steal" Sorry, that tired old adage doesn't help. That would be like a cop telling a car theft victim "be flattered, they picked your car over the others."