In Silence Waiting and Working

I'm excited to announce that my short story, In Silence Waiting, is now available through This story was a semi-finalist in the Writers of the Future 2nd Quarter 2009 contest and came close to publication in Jim Baen's Universe right before they closed up shop.

In Silence Waiting

silence_frontThe New Gobi desert is a dangerous place. The only way to cross with relative safety is with guided caravans using genetically engineered slaves, the cynta, creatures designed to sense the dangers of the desert.

When the guide is killed in a tragic incident partway through the crossing, his shackled cynta finds an unlikely ally among the people in the caravan. This ally bring the cynta hope for greater freedoms, but there are still the dangers of the New Gobi to face and many others in the caravan who would keep the cynta a slave.

The cynta can face the threat of the desert alone. The threat of continued slavery, however, is one it cannot conquer without help. Without the ability to speak, can the cynta build a strong enough bond with its new ally to weather the challenges lying ahead?

In other news, the sequel to The Girl and the Clockwork Cat is out with beta readers and I'm now working madly on an unrelated project for NaNoWriMo. Any other crazy NaNo addicts out there? I imagine you're to busy writing to read this right now, but ganbatte!

I'm currently a few thousand words behind because I started the month sick and now...


Yep. Curse you EA.

Happy writing and reading (and gaming)!

Are Authors Killing Each Other with Kindness? - To Do List: 1) Buy a sword. 2) Name it Kindness. 3) Kill people with Kindness. It’s hard to succeed as an author. It always has been, but in today’s environment, we can find communities of authors under every virtual rock supporting and encouraging one another. It’s a beautiful thing. We don’t have to struggle through the grind of writing, editing, and publishing alone. We can share our struggles, doubts, and successes with each other on our blogs, Twitter, Facebook groups, and so many other places. I could wax poetic for hours about how awesome my fellow authors are and it would be true.


Yes, you knew there was a shoe about to be dropped.

I’ve seen many cases where this mutual support has gone too far. I see people casually handing out five-star ratings and reviews for fellow authors in the name of supporting them and, in some cases, expecting the same in return. A lot of the time, this is done without reading the books being rated. Though innocent enough from the point of view of the struggling author, there can be dire and potentially career ending repercussions to consider.

Let’s take this from the top.

What Do Those Five Stars Really Mean?

When we hand out a five-star rating or review, we are essentially telling the world that this book or story is virtually flawless. The writing shines. The plot and subplots are solid and free of holes or contradictions. The characters come alive. The book is well-edited, not riddled with spelling or grammatical errors. The list goes on.

How many books have you actually read that truly reach that lofty status?

I’m willing to guess not many. I can’t think of a single book that is perfect and I’ve only ever five starred books I thought were so exceptional in most ways that the few flaws didn’t matter. These books are so captivating I could forego food and sleep to keep reading.

If I give a five-star rating or review to someone because I want to support them even though I haven’t read the book or have read the book and it isn’t really as good as all that, I am lying.


Who are we lying to when we give a dishonest review?

The reader. We are lying to the very people we want to draw in and convince to buy our books. The people whose trust we most need to gain.

Supporting Our Customers.

As authors, we need our readers. They are the ones who will ultimately determine our success. When we give a five-star rating or review as a favor to another author, we are lying to their readers. When we accept the same from another author, we are letting them lie to our readers (unless, of course, the book actually is perfect).

This is also true if we pay someone to give us five stars (see Mike Cooper’s post on Why Amazon Reviews Are Not Helpful or this New York Times article In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5). We are paying someone to lie to our customers for us. Tell me how that can possibly be a good thing.

Who does this hurt?

In the end, it hurts the author. When a reader picks up a book and gives up their valuable time to read it because it has a five-star rating or review then discovers that the editing was atrocious or the plot was full of holes or the writing was simply immature and in need of polish, they feel betrayed. That reader isn’t going to recommend the author to friends and family or read other books by that author. Worse yet, they may leave a scathing review in response because they are rightfully pissed off. Get too many of those and your dreams of being a successful author may go down in flames.

One of the most avid readers I know recently told me that she doesn’t trust book reviews on Amazon anymore for this very reason. When readers stop trusting reviews, reviews become meaningless. Readers will turn to safer options such as familiar authors and publishers or recommendations from trusted friends. Folks, our customers are starting not to trust us already and it hurts all of us.

What can we do?

We have to put our best work out there.

Nobody forced you to write a book. You started with a vision. You put in the time and effort to write it. Why would you sell that work or yourself short? Make that book the best damned book it can be. Invest in an editor. Find a critique group or other people around you who are willing to read it and give real feedback. Then polish, polish, polish until it’s a book you would put in front of a real reviewer without fear.

If you aren’t confident that your book can earn good reviews, then it isn’t ready for publication yet. Your gut is telling you that something still needs work. Figure out what that is and fix it. Then, when the book is really ready…

There are book bloggers and reviewers coming out of the woodwork like termites. Book reviewers are all over the blogosphere and Twitter. There are even blogs dedicated to listing book blogs like the Book Blogger Directory. Put out the effort to contact these people. Find reviewers and even fellow authors who will actually read the book and give you honest reviews. Give them free copies to work with. It’s an investment in your career.

Those reviews might not be five stars and they will probably have some criticisms. That’s okay. It’s part of the job. Not everyone is going to love your work. Nothing will ever change that. If you’re afraid your gentle soul can’t handle criticism, you’re in the wrong line of work. I've gotten some brutal feedback from editors in the past and I know how criticism hurts. I've also gotten fan mail from people who really loved something I wrote. It's worth the pain. Put a stick between your teeth, bite down, and take it. If you learn to move past the initial sting, you can find gems of wisdom in the less positive reviews that will help you grow as an author and make the next book even better (which is another powerful benefit we rob each other of when we don’t give each other honest reviews).

If this is your passion, your dream, then there will be a next book and you don’t want jaded readers immediately snubbing your work because they don’t trust you.

Bottom line:

What seems like an innocent favor can turn into the equivalent of a gunshot to the head for an author’s long-term career. False reviews hurt all authors. If it was worth your time and effort to write a book, it is also worth your time and effort to cultivate an audience for that book that will trust you and look forward to reading more. Seek out honest opinions and strong feedback and your work will always be better for it.

funny pictures - Follow  your  dreams !

For the Readers: Coming Home by April Plummer

I was going to write a different blog post today, but thanks to the evil people of the world who seized my desktop with a tricksy virus, I opted not to risk cussing up a storm on my blog. Instead, I am pleased to introduce a fellow author, April Plummer whose novel, Coming Home, is now available on Amazon.

For years, eighteen-year old Isabela Fuentes worked two jobs to support her promiscuous, alcoholic mother.

After the latest boyfriend rapes her at knifepoint, Isabela throws her few possessions into her car and drives until she reaches Lakeside, Montana, twenty-five hundred miles from New York City’s suffocating smog.

As her bodily scars fade, she takes solace in the nature around her and records it in her sketchpad. It isn't until she begins sketching scenes from her rape that she learns to cope with what happened.

But leaving her mother behind to fend for herself might have been a mistake; and when two strangers appear on her doorstep claiming to be her dead grandparents, they threaten the fragile childhood memories.  Before she can rebuild her life, Isabela must decide to either let her past go or unite it with the woman she’s become.

For the next three days, you can pick up Coming Home by April Plummer free on Amazon.

If you aren’t convinced yet, here is a scene from the book with a brief intro by April.

April: "Here's a great scene and one of my favorites. Isabela is in Montana, and out in a canoe for the first time with her newfound best friend Bethany. The reason it's one of my favorite scenes is because it's just the beginning for Isabela - she's learning to stretch her wings and discovering a purity in nature and her own independence."

 “Okay, so take your oars, and on the count of three, we’ll both start rowing. We have to go at the same pace or else we won’t be able to stay straight. Just go slow and steady.”

“I’m pretty sure I can figure it out.” Isabela watched the oars slip smoothly into the water. The canoe inched forward, barely disturbing the water. At first, it wasn’t as easy as she thought it’d be. The oars were heavy, and she didn’t have much upper arm strength. It was an effort bringing the long, thick pieces of wood up out of the water and pushing them back down, at the same time keeping in sync with Bethany’s movements.

With each row, however, the oars slipped into the water with less effort. Their speed gradually increased as the canoe split the water, splintering the mirrored image of the sky and mountains. Isabela felt her arm muscles getting stronger.

The mountains above were tall yet welcoming. Their curves swept along the edge of the sky in majestic waves, graceful despite their rigid peaks. The rocky ledges overlooked the lake, and fields of evergreens stacked high, their dark green needles stark against the purest blue sky.

“This is peaceful.” Isabela’s voice broke through the rhythmic sounds of the water rushing beneath the canoe and the birds singing their evening melodies as they flew in vague patterns through the air.

“Yeah, it is. It’s a pretty good workout too. Wait till tomorrow. You’ll be so sore you’ll be sorry you did this.”

Isabela shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. This is exactly what I needed."

I asked April to share a little about herself to give readers a little insight into the mind behind the book. Here are some fun facts she gave me.

  • From the time I was 19 until I met my current (and final!) husband at age 28, I moved at least once a year, sometimes twice.
  • I finished my first, horrible, full-length novel when I was 25, and if there is a God (and I believe there is) NO one will EVER read that. (Unfortunately, it's too late for a few sad souls...)
  • I'm a fitness freak and health nut, but secretly I binge sometimes in the evenings on HUGE bowls of air-popped popcorn. No butter, just olive oil, salt, and Splenda. But I'm talking Movie Theater Extra Large, huge. I guess my binges won't be so secret now. :)
  • I danced competitively throughout my entire childhood, but now I've got the flexibility of a rock.
  • I'm a pretty decent cook, but I never cook. My husband is the chef in this family.
  • My greatest joy is my daughter's smile. I may not be her bio-mom, but I couldn't love her any more if I were.
  • The best way to spend an evening is outside on a beautiful Friday evening. Picture a glass of wine, my husband and daughter, and chicken slow-cooking over a wood-burning fire. That is my heaven.

Sounds like my kind of evening. Hurry now and pick up Coming Home by April Plummer. I'll be out there downloading it with you.

Happy reading!

Crossing the Picket Lines (with kittehs)

I've seen many blogs lately talking about the state of the publishing industry. Probably the best and most constructive I’ve come across was this post, Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm by the amazing Kristen Lamb. The subject has probably been talked to death at this point, but I need to get a few things off my chest, so bear with me. There are many things I am concerned with in the current publishing world:

1) Authors who would like to try making a living with their writing have to compete against people for whom this is little more than a hobby. People who don’t need or want to make money off their books can afford to give them away free or at next to nothing. We don’t have to worry about Amazon driving our prices down when we are doing it ourselves.

2) I’m not saying self-published authors aren’t good writers, but easy self-publishing opens the door to bad writing. When you are so close to your book, it is hard to judge when it is ready to publish. I wrote a book over 10 years ago and sent it out to publishers and agents because I really believed it was ready. I stopped sending it because I turned my focus to building a ‘real’ career. When I go back and look at that book now, I still think the story and characters are great.  The writing? Not so good. I’ve learned a lot about the craft since then and even now, I like the idea of having an editor or agent to help me decide when a book is good enough. cat

3) Point 2 puts the reader at a disadvantage of sorts because they now have so many books to slog through, some of which may not be properly edited and may have plot holes or other major issues. For a reader, that can be a real turn off and too many disappointments might make people hesitant to try out the work of self-published or indie authors. You can say that the good stuff will rise to the top, but someone has to read it for it to do so. Forcing the reader to be the one who slogs through this process is not the way to attract new readers.

4) The negativity I see toward agents. A good author agent relationship is a partnership. The agent doesn't make money unless you do. Is all this hate just coming from people who were turned down and are sore about it? If so, consider two things:

1) There are a lot fewer agents than authors, so they have to make hard decisions about what to accept. Maybe your work was good, but it wasn’t what they were looking for. That is no reason to hate them.

2) If you were turned down a lot, it is also possible that, instead of blaming the agents for locking you out and self-publishing your work the way it is, maybe you should take the time to look and see if your novel needs more polishing. Perhaps hire an editor or find a good critique group that will give you honest feedback. Then, when you know it is ready, self-publish or otherwise as you see fit.

4) I don't understand the rampant Amazon love. People making Amazon out to be some benevolent god for improving the life of authors aren't looking at reality very clearly. Let’s put aside problems like the theft of work and the lack of quality control and look at one simple fact. Amazon, just like any business, is out for one thing, their bottom line. As long as they see an opportunity for profit in this model, they will be your friend. If they start to see a better opportunity elsewhere, don't believe for a second that they won’t steamroll you into their new model. Remember your mythology. Gods are fickle. Horrorcat-meme-generator-oh-my-god-u-haz-eaten-my-cheezburger-bf58e9

I am extremely nervous in this environment. There are blogs I go to where I am uncomfortable saying these things because I feel like the person crossing the picket lines when I do it. I am also sad because the dream I once had doesn't seem possible anymore and I don't know how to re-envision it while things are in such turmoil. At the same time, I feel like I might miss the boat if I stay my current course.

Screenwriter Kitteh   crosses da picket line

I know there are others out there who share these concerns and frustrations. I've seen you in the comments of some of these blogs and on Twitter and even writing blogs of your own. Someone told me the other night to focus on writing the story I love and write it well. It’s good advice. Just remember that, in all of human history, there have always been storytellers. I don't think that will ever change.

Comments are welcome (encouraged even).