Jan 12, 2016

Welcome to the Internet, leave your Total Dick hat at the door.

I am an online Methuselah. I've been here since there really was an online to be logged into. I've seen the rise and fall of the Prodigy empire, was a citizen of the city-state of Earthlink, explored the mysteries of the universe with Alta Vista. Yet for all of that, I begin to realize I've somehow managed to lead a blissfully sheltered online existence.

Recently, a few author friends of mine of the female persuasion have been sharing some of the extreme, but apparently all too common, posts they've received via social media. Sure, I've gotten the occasional dodgy message too - something that might cause me to roll my eyes. However, despite the fact that I've been on the net as long or longer than many of them, I've never ever received shit even remotely like what they've gotten. For example, unlike them, I can honestly say I have yet to get any introductory messages from casual followers describing in detail the many ways they'd like to fuck me.

That they've been able to talk about this crap with a sense of humor speaks volumes about them because, seriously, some of what they've gotten is stuff I'd only write if it were maybe being said by the villains (or their scumbag minions) in my novels ... the type that you know are going to get blown to shit at the end and deserve every second of it.

Hey baby, I want to Shockwave your Dinobot
In at least one case, the author in question is an erotica writer. Your first reaction to this might be to excuse the occasional message along the lines of "If I ever meet you, I'm going to tie you up and lick your pussy for hours," as just one of the hazards of the job. Bullshit, I say. What someone writes isn't necessarily an extension of who they are or what they want to do to every stranger they meet. Its like assuming every horror writer is a closet serial killer.

It's not just writers of risqué fare, though. Yet another who comes to mind is a fantasy writer geared more toward a YA audience. She's gotten the same or worse. That's not even counting the scores of female celebrities who deal with this, the unlucky persons who happened to get in the way of the crazed Gamergate juggernaut, or many a random woman who's made an account on Twitter just to share innocuous tidbits from her day.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not standing on some moral high horse here. As I said, I've been online for a long time and it's kind of hard to do that without succumbing to being an asshat at times. My friends and I used to take great amusement at trolling MUD admins until we got banned. I've played in some deathmatches where I've used language better suited to a half-witted 12 year old (meaning I probably sounded a full year older than I normally do). Even so, I've always drawn lines in the sand. I've never threatened to hunt someone down in real life, and I can't even conceive of what might drive me to send a virtual stranger a message letting them know "I want to bend you over and cum in your ass."

Freedom of speech is an awesome thing and one of the aspects I love best about being online. But there's definitely a fine line between exercising your rights and being a fucking creep. Does someone dissing your favorite sports team really warrant a rape threat? Do you think a random woman posting pictures of her and her cats on Facebook really needs to know how much you'd like to fuck her? Are you that pathetic that you think every minor disagreement to your narrow way of thinking should be met with digging up someone's actual home address and threatening to show up?

Sorry, but this isn't a Roman orgy and you're not Caligula.

Now, I would never push for a "clean" web or advise people with idiotic claptrap like "You shouldn't post anything online you'd be ashamed to say in front of your mother," Heck, if that were the case, I might as well cut my internet connection and burn my PC on a righteous bonfire of holy indignity.

A very special message to you if you are
I have no issue with people debating, arguing, or even ranting online. At the same time, though, there's a vast difference between a zinger - telling someone how you wished their mama had chosen that day to swallow - versus posting about how you have their mom's real world address and are debating actually going over there and killing her. Personally, if I ever feel the need to reach out to a random someone just to say something that would be potentially terrifying were I to get it myself, well, I'd like to hope I would step back and rethink things. Just something to consider.

I'm sure a few folks out there will read this and label me a Social Justice Warrior (whatever the hell that is) or some other such stupidity. But the truth is, it's not about being a SJW, a feminist, or any other label. It's about not being a complete and total dick. Believe me, there's a difference and if you don't understand that, well, then you might just be one.

Dec 31, 2015

The best Movies and Video Games of 2015 ... aka the time waster year in review

All work and no play make Rick not only a dull boy, but a highly irritable one as well. As much as I'd love to claim that I lock myself in my cave 24 hours a day so as to crank out words, the reality is I need my downtime just like everyone else, lest I burn out and have a psychotic episode.

No, that wouldn't be pretty.

So that said, I thought I'd give some highlights as to the ways I wasted my time in 2015.

Note: just to be on the safe side Here Be Possible Spoilers...


Avengers Age of Ultron
Pros: It's awesome to see some of my favorite comic book heroes brought to life and the original Avengers kicked so much ass that I'm still trying to wash its boot prints out of my jeans. Lots of cool comic cameos hinting at future movies, and some fun new faces to the franchise. Also, tons of bad guys getting blown to pieces. And let's not forget that awesome three way make-out session with Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Agent Hill.  Oh wait, maybe that last one was just a dream.

Cons: Definitely not as good as the original. The Hulk / Black Widow romance is out of the blue and feels tacked on. There's a lot that happens for the sake of it happening.  Scarlet Witch's power on paper is apparently "can do anything the plot requires." Ultron, while having moments, is mostly another wasted Marvel villain.

Jurassic World
Pros: If you don't love seeing dinosaurs on the big screen then you're dead to me.  An overall fun movie to watch.  Chris Pratt is so likeable that he could have spent the last half of the movie disemboweling kittens and I would have still cheered for him. Also breathed some needed new life into the franchise meaning we get to see more dinosaurs on the big screen in the future. I is happy.

Cons: This is a movie that one shouldn't think in ever.  Once you do, you realize that everything that happens here can only happen if the majority of the characters in the movie are cataclysmically stupid.  Also, what's up with those brothers: the younger one feels like they plucked him from 1980 and the older one is on the fast track to get onto the sexual predator watch list. They should have saved the assistant and fed both of them to the mosasaurus.

I is Doom...Derp!
Terminator Genisys and Fantastic Four
Didn't see them. They were on my list, but bad reviews turned both into "Meh, I think I'll save my hard-earned sheckels.  From the sound of things Terminator was okay at best, confusing at worst. As for Fantastic Four...*sigh* will we never get a good Doctor Doom on the big screen?  Fox, do yourselves (and us fans) a favor and sell the franchise back to Marvel!

Oh and put some fucking pants on the Thing.

Ant Man
Pros: Paul Rudd and Michael Pena own this movie.  It's like everyone here was aware that Ant Man is kind of a joke among heroes and they ran with it anyway.  End result is a thoroughly enjoyable movie from end to end.  Also, much like Captain America Civil War, spawned some awesome memes. Heh, he kicked Falcon's ass too.

Cons: Another forgettable bad guy.  His madness is explained, but he still comes across as little more than evil for the sake of evil.

Star Wars The Force Awakens
Pros: Felt like a Star Wars movie.  Lots of action and a good story set in a universe we all desperately want to be awesome again...and now is!  Rey kicks ass!  Was also cool seeing many of the classic characters again even if a few of them were little more than cameos.

Cons: Kylo Ren is kind of weak sauce as a bad guy.  The entire movie seems to revolve around coincidence.  Oh, I'm sorry, I mean "The Force".  Sorry, some of it still feels like lazy writing to me.  Han Solo felt like a doddering old man rather than the experienced rogue he should have been. Mark Hamill got paid a lot of money to turn around and look pensive.  Where can I sign up for that gig?

2015 Winner: Ant Man
Sorry, Star Wars fans, but as awesome as it was, I enjoyed Ant Man ever so slightly more.  Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you are.

Video Games

Alien Isolation
Pros: A non-sucking Aliens game.  Brings back the paranoia and fear of the original movie quite effectively.

Cons: Have I mentioned how much I suck at sneaking games?  Yeah, well the second the Alien made its appearance, my death rate shot up to the point where after a while I just walked up to the stupid thing and let it gut me.  You're given way too many weapons for the bad guy to be this unkillable.  Seriously, why does the shotgun do jack-shit against the Alien when it's already been established in Aliens that you can blow one's head off with it???  Never finished it, probably never will.

This rabbit is making better game choices than me
Shadow Warrior
Pros: I picked this up off the Playstation Network after getting sick of being continually disemboweled in Alien Isolation, Was the perfect counter to it.  An old school shooter that revels in blowing the shit out of bad guys and then spouting one-liners.  This game shouldn't have been this much fun in 2015.

Cons: Dated game play. Not a con as long as you accept its retro nature, but could be a turnoff for some.  I consider this a pro, but for others the non-politically correct nature could be a turnoff. Now, who wants some Wang?

Witcher 3
Pros: An absolutely stunning game in terms of depth, story telling, characters, and action.  A game you can easily get lost in for weeks. Hell, this is one of those games that can make people think you up and died because you'll be playing it so much.

Cons: I seem to have a singular talent for picking exactly the wrong combinations for Geralt when it comes to his would-be sexual conquests. If I were the Witcher in real life, I would end up - well, probably playing a video game about one...alone.  The fighting controls could be a bit wonky at times. I reached level 30 and town guards were still able to kick my ass.  Why the hell weren't they out there saving the world???

Okay, time to load that save and try again.
Come on, Triss, give me another chance. I swear I'll pick the right button combo this time.

Batman Arkham Knight
Pros: Improves upon an already tried and true Batman video game formula.  The Batman / Joker interactions are perhaps the best that there's been in this series. The different Batman costumes are lots of fun. Sorry to say, but I had way too much fun kicking everyone's ass as the Adam West Batman, Holy Commissioner Gordon is an incompetent douche, Batman!

Cons: The driving sequences could be frustrating.  I don't play many driving games and had to have my kids help me with those parts. Talk about embarrassing.   So far the DLC has kinda sucked.  Oh, and that ending.  Seriously, could they have given a more frustrating ending to the franchise?  BTW, how much fucking money does the Scarecrow, Two Face, Penguin etc have?  I mean, there's an entire city full of their minions. With that much cash at their disposal, you'd think they'd just buy out Google and call it a day.

Transformers Devastation
Pros: An awesome filler game for those times when you have only a half an hour to kill.  There are few things as satisfying as playing as Grimlock and smacking the shit out of Decepticons with a big-ass hammer. Oh, did I mention you can play as Grimlock?  Yeah, well you can, and that pretty much sums up my goals in life. 

Cons: A pretty useless item-customization system. As fun as the game is in small doses, it's ultimately about as shallow as an empty kiddie pool.  Button mashing fun, but not much more.

Fallout 4
Pros: It's Fallout, there's a lot to do, a lot to see, and a lot of heads to smash. The open world is huge and it's fun to wander the ruins of Boston going, "Hey, I know that place. Everyone who worked there was an assshole. I'm glad they got blown up in a nuclear apocalyse."

Cons: Missions can be repetitive.  Some odd bugs. Companions are cool, but once you reach a certain point they cease being "people" and become your mindless minions.  Seriously, Piper, I just banged that singer, traveled with Cait until she fell in love with me, and butchered my son in front of you with a chainsaw. Yet you're still all like, "There's nobody I'd rather be with." Damn, that's some commitment, woman.

2015 Winner:  Witcher 3 
Although Fallout comes close (especially since I can make some headway with the honeys in the wasteland).

I will just add, though, my kingdom for an open world game that combines Fallout and the Transformers. I'd sacrifice everyone I know to the dark gods for that...err...except maybe you people reading this post that is.  :)

I, for one, can't wait to see how I waste my time in 2016!

Dec 17, 2015

Only a moron would do otherwise...

As some of you may know, I have a series of YouTube videos aimed at helping my fellow authors - primarily focused on those just starting out in this business.

As such, I get the occasional questions about it - clarifications, things I may or may not have explained to their fullest etc.  One such recent question stood out, though.

"Hey Rick,

I'm enjoying your videos, but wanted to know what your thoughts were on mixing and matching some of your strategies. I've been reading different books on publishing and am trying to come up with my own mix of ideas to try.  For example, in video (redacted), you advise a person to (redacted) and (redacted).  So what if I only did the first, but not the second?  Would it still work?

- Newb Writer"

Thanks for reaching out, Newb. Glad to hear you like my videos. However, that happiness is greatly overshadowed by the despair of learning that my wisdom has apparently fallen upon deaf ears. The advice I give is to be followed to the letter. To do otherwise is to court disaster. In such case, all I can do is wish you good luck in striving for the mediocrity you are sure to fall short of.

ps: It's Mr. Gualtieri if you don't mind.

Okay, so maybe that sounds just ever so slightly egomaniacally assholish  Not to mention just a wee bit arrogant, too, eh?

Well, the sad truth is it's not too far from some stuff I've been seeing out there lately. Maybe most aren't quite as obnoxiously direct about it, but I've been seeing an awful lot of advice posts lately, some from really big sellers, that essentially boil down to "Here's the way I do it, only an idiot would do otherwise."

We're talking topics such as whether or not to join Kindle Select / Kindle Unlimited, formatting, all the way down to whether or not you should *gasp* dare to write a prologue.

Forget my videos. If I have even one bit of advice to give it would be run, don't walk, whenever anyone veers onto any topic (outside of maybe professional editing, good blurbs, or covers) where they offer opinions such as "Anyone who takes this business seriously would never...", "No true professional would ever...", or just outright telling you you'll fail if you do otherwise.

There is no one true path to success in this industry. Heck, even repeating someone else's process to the letter doesn't offer any guarantees that you'll ever sell a single book. The reality is that perhaps the only universal factor that successful authors have in common are compelling stories that have found their audience. How they may have found that audience, however, differs as much as New Jersey weather from day to day.

That's not to say you shouldn't seek help. Far from it. I've found the Indie author community to be full of generous people willing to share their strategies and advice. And the truth is some of that advice can go a long way toward tipping the odds in your favor.  For example, Mark Dawson's, excellent videos on Facebook marketing have paid off for a lot of authors (myself included).

The thing is, in the above example, while he does caution against some strategies that haven't worked for him, he never insinuates that success is impossible if you go against the grain.

That's the stickler for me. Some find their path and then conclude that all other paths lead straight off cliffs into a lagoon full of crocodiles.  That is simply not the case.  We each have to find our own path to success in this industry. And often times that means following many different maps, lots of them leading to dead ends, until we hopefully blaze a trail to a better place.

Once there, though, we should have the hindsight to realize that others can't or won't follow in our exact footsteps - or that sometimes it doesn't even make sense for them to try. However, that doesn't mean they won't eventually find their own way.

Success is a dessert with many different recipes and all of them taste just as sweet.

Dec 11, 2015

Make Your Weekend a Wicked One!

I am pleased to announce that...

THE WICKED DEAD (The Tome of Bill 7) has been released in all of the major ebook markets.

Paperback and Audiobook versions will follow shortly.

There are reasons we fear the night. Now he must become one of them.

Bill Ryder has a powerful destiny. He just never expected it to involve an amnesiac bloodsucker, a bunch of D&D dorks, and a hormonal witch. It's time for the gamer, geek, and legendary vampire to embrace his fate. Ordered to storm the vampire stronghold in Boston, Bill must approach the doorstep of the invincible undead warlord he's destined to face. It's his only chance of stopping Armageddon.

As his enemies stand in his way and his allies falter, the vicious beast inside of him wants out. If he stands tall and faces his fate, the world might just have a chance of surviving. If he fails, an unquenchable evil will destroy everything Bill knows and loves.

Why can't the end of the world ever be easy?

The Wicked Dead is the seventh book in the Tome of Bill saga, a series of foul-mouthed horror comedies with a nasty overbite. If you like bloody fight scenes, geeky in-jokes, and breakneck-paced action, then you're gonna love the penultimate chapter in The Tome of Bill series.

Available Now For:
Amazon Kindle
Amazon UK
Apple iBooks
Google Play

Help spread the word and enter for a chance to win autographed paperbacks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Wicked Dead - make sure your weekend is a wickedly good time!

Nov 30, 2015

Dec 11th is going to be a Wickedly Good Day!

I am pleased to announce that...

THE WICKED DEAD (The Tome of Bill 7) will be released on Friday, December 11th, on all the major ebook outlets.

Paperback and Audiobook versions will follow shortly after.

There are reasons we fear the night. Now he must become one of them.

Bill Ryder has a powerful destiny. He just never expected it to involve an amnesiac bloodsucker, a bunch of D&D dorks, and a hormonal witch. It's time for the gamer, geek, and legendary vampire to embrace his fate. Ordered to storm the vampire stronghold in Boston, Bill must approach the doorstep of the invincible undead warlord he's destined to face. It's his only chance of stopping Armageddon.

As his enemies stand in his way and his allies falter, the vicious beast inside of him wants out. If he stands tall and faces his fate, the world might just have a chance of surviving. If he fails, an unquenchable evil will destroy everything Bill knows and loves.

Why can't the end of the world ever be easy?

The Wicked Dead is the seventh book in the Tome of Bill saga, a series of foul-mouthed horror comedies with a nasty overbite. If you like bloody fight scenes, geeky in-jokes, and breakneck-paced action, then you're gonna love the penultimate chapter in The Tome of Bill series.

Until then, here's another small taste of things to come...

Christy convened a closed session upstairs with her sisters to bring them up to speed on our findings from the Jahabich lair. With the Templar keeping guard outside and the Defilers off ... well, supposedly defiling barnyard animals, it seemed like the perfect time for the mages to do so without interruption and with minimal people overhearing.

Mind you, minimal didn’t mean nobody.

With the magical freakiness over for now, my roommates and I moved the furniture back into the living room so as to relax a bit. The large living space just so happened to be conveniently located right beneath where Christy and her coven were talking, allowing me to pick up everything being said above a whisper while pretending to engage my friends in some idle chitchat regarding who would win in a fight: a platoon of Sith warriors or the X-men.

Sheila joined us soon after, having gone to check in with Sister Bernadette, who’d set up a Templar command center in – where else – the kitchen.

“How’s it going with the holy rollers?” I asked, having just crushed Tom’s argument by pointing out that Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force could fuck up Emperor Palpatine six ways to Sunday.

“Not bad. They’re a bit on edge, but putting them on guard duty is helping to distract them from the distaste most of them are still feeling.”

“Teaming up with me?”

“It’s not just you, but yeah.”

“Maybe we should pass the collection plate around,” Ed suggested. “That always seemed to work when I went to Sunday mass as a kid.”

“I draw the line at confession,” Tom joked.

“Believe me, nobody wants to hear that,” I said idly, focusing on the conversation at hand since all Christy seemed to be doing upstairs at the moment was passing around the photos I’d taken of the Jahabich-be-good spell. “Although I’m sure Sally would have some snide comment. Speaking of which, where is she?”

“Still outside, I think,” Sheila said. “She drove Bernadette and me up. When we got here, she said she wanted to take a walk, scope out our perimeter.”

“I bet that was a fun ride.”

“It was ... uncomfortably quiet.”

“Sally? Quiet?” I asked. “I can see Sister Dumpling not wanting to lower herself to speaking to garbage such as us, but I’m having a hard time picturing Sally not getting in every dig she could.”

“Yeah,” Ed agreed. “She’s never been shy about her opinions.”

We shared a glance, which I broke off quickly. He and I still had one hell of an uncomfortable discussion ahead of us. I couldn’t pretend forever that he hadn’t noticed my feelings for Sally had changed ever so slightly. As one of the few folks in this world I considered a true friend, I’d need to come clean at some point, albeit that could certainly wait until after we discovered whether we’d live or die in Boston. Death was potentially the best plausible deniability excuse of them all.

Thankfully, the awkward moment was shattered just then as Blasphemy! psychically reverberated throughout the house.

I refocused my attention back upstairs. Yep, Christy had gotten to the White Mother and what a bitch she really was. Things were finally getting interesting.

“What are they talking about?” Sheila asked.


“You’re eavesdropping, aren’t you?”


“Every few seconds, your eyes lose focus. Also, you tilt your head so your right ear is facing upward.”

“I do?”

“He does?” Tom echoed.

“Yes. Don’t you guys ever play poker? Bill’s tells are obvious from across the room.”

“Yep,” Ed replied. “Hence why I always win.”

I pointed at him. “You said it was just luck.”

“I lied.”


“Don’t change the subject,” Sheila chided. “Are you listening or not?” My silence was apparently a confession of guilt because she added, “So spill.”

“Dude, are you listening in on my girlfriend?” Tom asked.

“Fine. Yes, I’m listening.”

“Have you ever done that before?”

“On occasion,” I admitted.

“Like what about when we’re doing it in my room?”

“Oh, fuck no!” I lied. Truth was, it was kinda hard to tune out. Tom liked to pant “oh yeah, baby” over and over again like he was in a bad seventies porno. Try sleeping through that shit.

“And no,” I said, turning to Sheila, “I don’t listen to you guys either when you’re downstairs in the shower.”

She blinked a few times, her expression blank. “I didn’t ask.”

“Yeah ... well ... in case you were wondering.”

The Wicked Dead - coming December 11th, 2015.

Nov 15, 2015

Masks & Mysteries - a chat with EM Kaplan

I recently had the privilege to sit down with the awesome EM Kaplan. For those of you not in the know (for shame!) she's an award winning Fantasy and Mystery author and an all around epic Tweeter.  Seriously, if you're on that social media platform, you should be following her. Anyway, I asked her to discuss her newest release, her mystery series, and what we can expect from her next and she was good enough to not immediately file a restraining order ... yet anyway.

Take it away, EM...

You recently released Unbroken, the 2nd novel in your Rise of the Masks series. Tell us a little bit about it and why you think people will enjoy it.

As the story begins, we see Mel and Ott (the main characters from the first book) setting sail with a rag-tag band of misfits to try to help a young woman find her younger sister. The two sisters have been separated by events out of their control (which happens in the first book). The cultural climate of their world is evolving—it’s on the brink of industrialization—but an array of throw-back, old-world gods and monsters explode on the scene, disrupting the course of change.

Unbroken has the same cast of lovable, fascinating, and occasionally deadly characters as Unmasked, plus a couple of new ones. If you haven’t read book one, the second book has a little prologue that will help you get some context. I don’t think you’d be lost if you haven’t read the first one, but I admit I’m the kind of reader who likes to start at the beginning.

What sets Unbroken apart from other books in the fantasy genre?

I call this series epic fantasy because it has all of the markers of that sub-genre of fantasy—magic, swords (or axes, daggers, and spears, as the case may be, because I’m not all that swordy…I’d rather be a mage or a rogue), it’s set in an unrecognizable world, and it has the potential to be long. But the truth of the matter is all the world-building and plot mechanics are secondary. Characters are most important to me.

Ott, the berserker, isn’t just the muscle of the group. He also has a sense of humor, a checkered past, and a few self-esteem issues. Readers should have a good idea of how he’s going to react when a buxom barmaid, Daisy, tries to jump him—but also be surprised when he acts in an unexpected way that still makes perfect sense.

Mel is a strong person with powerful abilities—but also with a major social disability. She’s a failed Mask—Masks don’t show their emotions—so she hasn’t interacted much with normal people. Yet, she’s making her way in their world…finding friends and her own kind of fantasy Cheers-level acceptance. Go ahead, I know you want to sing the Cheers theme song now.

Well, yeah. Who doesn't want to be in a place where everybody knows your name? You’re also known for your Josie Tucker Mysteries. As someone who can neither write nor solve mysteries, I envy you greatly. Tell me a little bit about your mindset and process for setting up the plot and the clues for readers to follow.

I’m interested in the dumb things people do for smart reasons. And the smart things people do for dumb reasons. Although I’m fascinated by forensics shows on TV, I don’t really want that level of scientific detail in my books—there are plenty of good puzzles lying around caused by personal motive and opportunity.

On the other hand, I’m a terrible liar. My face is like glass, and the same goes for my writing. So if I’m trying too hard to manipulate plot kinks and red herrings, it’s going to crumble apart. Sometimes the most ridiculous situations are caused by the simplest things.

I didn’t answer any of your questions, did I?

Not really, but I'll just assume that's another mystery I wasn't meant to solve. :)  Do you ever wonder if you’re giving away too many or too few clues for someone to figure out whodunit?

Yes. All the time on the “too much” side. Sometimes the clues aren’t even in the body of the book. Shhhh. I’ll say no more.

You're killing me here. Okay, moving on ... Mystery or Fantasy?  Is there one you enjoy more?  Is there a genre you’d like to write in, but haven’t yet?

I like both mystery and fantasy—but my mysteries have found an audience quicker than my fantasies. Sadly, fewer sales might mean a longer wait before I wrap up the Rise of the Masks series. I write two books a year, and 2016 might be the Year of Two Josies. We’ll see… I have some other books half-written, but any more genre-switching might require a pseudonym. Marketing books in different genres is exhausting and sometimes confusing for readers. It’s probably better to stick with one genre. Then again, I’m an indie writer. I make the rules. Kind of.

Tis the blessing and curse of being an Indie Author.  Speaking of, which authors do you enjoy / have inspired you. Favorite book from each?

I really dug Neal Stephenson’s Interface. A lot of people didn’t like that book because it’s a social rant, a political farce. It was West Wingish before West Wing was around. I’ve read Interface a few times, but not in the last decade. Yet, it still comes to mind first.

Then there’s Agatha Christie’s The Man In the Brown Suit—a quieter, more romantic one of her mysteries, atypical because it doesn’t star either of her famous detectives.

And Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which features an older, more mature heroine…also atypical of the author. Are you sensing a pattern here? I never noticed that before.

My friends tease me because I rant about how I read A Game of Thrones not long after it came out. (I was working in a book store.) And I brought it to them to read. It’s a modest claim to fame in my small circle of nerds.

When did you begin writing?  If you could contact your fledgling author self, is there any advice you’d give her?

I used to write in the middle of the night when I was a kid—maybe nine or ten. I’d use a flashlight and a pen and notebook. If I met little Emily, I’d say, “Good job, Pem. But could you stop training yourself to be an insomniac?”

Wait ... Pem?  Okay, maybe we'll save that for next time. Gotta leave a mystery author a little mystery in their life. What’s next for you?

I’m writing a Josie Tucker Christmas story—I have a free Halloween story about her on my blog. I agreed to write Valentine’s Day and Easter/Spring stories with her, too. Maybe I’ll collect them in a book eventually. When my day job quiets down over Christmas break as it always does, I’m diving into the next full-length Josie Tucker novel, tentatively titled, The Cut-Throat Coed.

Do you base your characters on people you know?  If you woke up tomorrow in the world of Rise of the Masks, do you think you’d get along with Ott and Mel?

For the most part, I try to create characters I wouldn’t mind knowing. But if I woke up in Mel and Ott’s world, I’m not sure if I’d approach them. They’re a center-stage kind of people. I’m definitely a behind-the-scenes person. However, Ott has an older sister named Jenny, who I think would totally be BFFs with me.

And now for a little fun. You wake up tomorrow with the power of a Mask.  Tell us a little bit about your new powers and how you would use them in your day to day life. PS: It’s okay if some of the things you’d use them for aren’t exactly legal.  We don’t judge. 

I’d like to think I’d use my powers for good and not evil—I’m mostly good with a side of chaotic. So I might have a Gandalf-caliber light show over my house during the holidays. I’d get a lot of enjoyment out of doing good things for the people around me…I know what you’re thinking, with this level of ambition, I should probably go live in the Shire with the hobbitses.

Nah, not at all.  Like I said, I don't judge ... even if I'd probably use that power to immediately set up a secret lair and rename myself Doctor Doom.

Thank you so much, EM! It was a pleasure having you here.

Award-winning author, EM Kaplan, was an 80s kid, spoonfed on six channels of a VHF dial TV. She grew up reading Agatha Christie and Edgar Rice Burroughs in rural Arizona where there were no sidewalks but plenty of tumbleweeds. A former wannabe spy, trombonist, toilet-cleaner, beginner ninja, and subversive marketeer, she currently lives in the frozen north with her husband, author JD Kaplan, kids, and dog.

Learn more about EM Kaplan at:
Her Webpage

Oct 13, 2015

Rating the Publishing Platforms - part 2

In Part 1 we took a look at the major ebook stores that authors have options to load direct to when / if they decide to go wide. It's not exhaustive by any means and I apologize if I missed any that you might have interest in. However, the list presented is typically considered the major players in the field.

Now, though, let's expand upon that and take a look at some other popular options for authors looking to branch out.

Smashwords (Smashwords & Aggregator)
Pluses: Lots of options offered for categories, formats, and keywords. Accepts many different formats for upload. Friendly for those who know Word, but not how to create an ebook.
Minuses: Their meatgrinder tool can sometimes produce odd formatting. Feedback for their premium catalog can be difficult to understand. Timing to reach their other channels can be highly variable. Ugly, not particularly user-friendly interface.

Pluses: Quick updates to the Smashwords store.
Minuses: Updates to their aggregated stores aren't always quick. Some of the stores themselves are frustrating to update or remove. Confusing interface between the various dashboards.

Marketing Resources
Pluses: Coupons and permafree allowed. Affiliate program is offered.
Minuses: Smallest of the stores. Difficult to market in. Sales and payment reports can be confusing.

Overall Grade: B-
For a time Smashwords was the go-to ebook aggregator for many. These days, it feels eclipsed both as a storefront and an aggregator due to its dated look and feel.

Draft2Digital (Aggregator)
Pluses: Lots of options offered for categories, formats, and keywords. Accepts many different formats for upload. Friendly, easy to follow interface. New options for adding introductory, promotional, and biographical pages to your books. Tooltips offered to guide the user through the experience. Allows access to some ebook stores that are difficult to get into otherwise.
Minuses: Time to publish at the various other stores can be variable, but is generally pretty quick.

Pluses: Quick updates to books, as well as updates for the various specialty pages they offer.  Email support is generally considered pretty good.
Minuses: Updating requires republishing to external stores, which again can be variable for timing.

Marketing Resources
Pluses: Not a store in of itself, but allows for customization via search keywords and bisac categories
Minuses: N/A.

Overall Grade: A+
As picky as I can be, I find very little to dislike about Draft2Digital as a platform.

Createspace (Paperbacks)
Pluses: Offers both a guided step-by-step setup, as well as a streamlined "expert" setup for CS veterans. Once setup is complete and everything is approved, can be easily linked up with your ebook on the Amazon store.  Formatting, cover, and other additional services are available for a fee. Multiple options available for ISBNs for all budgets. Downloadable templates and guides are available.
Minuses: Mandatory wait times for files and covers to be checked for print-worthiness. Make a mistake, and you could be waiting up to 24 hours to fix it. Their additional services tend to be pricey for what you get. Can often do better shopping around for freelancers.

Pluses: Relatively easy to update. Digital proofer works as a pretty good substitute for actual print proofs for minor updates. Owned by Amazon, so shares their good customer service.
Minuses: Several options are locked once you publish. Need to change trim size, paper type, or ISBN then you'll need to retire your old book and start from scratch.  Subject to the same time-out period as initial setup.

Marketing Resources
Pluses: Options for creating a Kindle version directly from CS.  Expanded distribution options for other storefronts and libraries.
Minuses: Expanded distribution often requires in a price increase, making long books expensive for consumers. Creating a kindle edition from CS can result in an ebook of iffy quality. Typically not considered a viable outlet for true wide distribution as CS does not work like other print wholesalers. Questionable value of expanded distribution.

Overall Grade: B
The go-to place for indies when it comes to paperback options. Expanded distribution is iffy, so might be best to utilize CS for the Amazon marketplace and Ingram Spark for expanded distro as a long-term strategy.

Ingram Spark (Paperbacks)
Pluses: Offers a guided step-by-step setup. Industrial, but functional design. Tooltips offered for ease of setup. Hardcover options offered as well as lots of trim sizes.
Minuses: Pricey if setting up multiple books. However, they do run sales throughout the year, so it's recommended to keep an eye open for those. Not nearly as user friendly as Createspace.  Considered an advanced took for paperback distribution, so best to do one's research before diving in to set up books.

Pluses: Minor updates such as pricing and meta-data allowed from their tool.  Revisions can be made as well, but are not free..
Minuses: Revisions are not free. Can get pricey with multiple books.

Marketing Resources
Pluses: Options for selling to book sellers who otherwise will not do business with Createspace.
Minuses: You are treated as a publisher, which means you assume risk and responsibility for returns (not really a minus for someone pursuing this business seriously, but more a word of caution).

Overall Grade: B-
A great service, but probably better for those who are more advanced in their indie author career. For those just starting out, Createspace is recommended.

ACX (Audiobooks)
Pluses: User friendly setup. Multiple options for finding narrators. Multiple pricing options for paying for narrators. Different options for distribution offered. Exclusive distribution offers access to Audible, iTunes, and Amazon storefront.
Minuses: Stipend system is a crapshoot. Graduated royalty system abolished in favor of set 40% royalty scheme.  No control over pricing. Can be pricey depending on quality of narrator. ACX has a long review period, sometimes several weeks, between your approval of a book and it actually being put on sale. Audible distribution term lasts for 7 years.

Pluses: Fairly quick customer service.
Minuses: Once an audiobook is approved, you're pretty much done. Cover changes can be made, but must be done via contacting their customer service.

Marketing Resources
Pluses: Some tips are offered. A fairly robust market if one can tap into it. Audiobooks are linked to ebooks and print on Amazon, offering expanded visibility.
Minuses: ACX offered very little in the way of marketing services. Their financial reporting is fairly obtuse. Often difficult to calculate what royalty one is receiving until such time as one is paid.

Overall Grade: B
If more competitors enter this field, this grade could easily be lowered. For now, though, they're the go-to outfit with regards to cracking the quite-large audiobook market.