to isbn or not to isbn

Okay, so I’m struggling with this question myself right now, and I thought it might help to talk it out, hopefully inform everyone else out there still trying to figure it all out.

The ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, can be found on every published book. It’s the identifier that lists the title and the publisher to the rest of the world. The numbers are actually assigned to the publisher, not the author, and are owned by the publisher, not the author. After writing a novel, and selling said novel to a publisher, the author retains copyright (typically) but sells the publishing rights – foreign, domestic, electronic, audio – to the publisher they’ve signed a contract with. The Publisher of Record owns the ISBN number that will be used to identify the book(s) and track them as they pass through the Retailer (bookstore).

When you go the “traditional” route of agent/publisher/bookstore shelves, the ISBN is just part of the deal. You don’t have to give it a second thought.

When you go it alone, it’s something you need to consider.

Your first consideration is: Do I need one? Answer: No. You don’t need an ISBN in order to produce a book at, say, Lulu and put it up for sale. Your book isn’t being listed in the Books in Print database, it’s not being displayed on the shelves of any brick-and-mortar bookstore, and no one’s gonna wander in to Barnes & Noble and ask the nice clerk behind the counter to order it for them. So you can, going this route, publish your book absolutely free, at no expense to you, and be offered up for sale, and you don’t have to fuss about any of the added extras Lulu and other sites offer.

Your second consideration is: Do I want one? Answer: Maybe. You will need an ISBN if you want your book listed in the Books in Print database. You’ll need an ISBN if you want someone to wander in to Barnes & Noble and ask the nice clerk behind the counter to order a copy for them. And you’ll need an ISBN if you, somehow, manage to talk a bookstore into carrying a few copies for sale (it can happen, but it’s another blog post). You’ll also need an ISBN if you want people to search Amazon and buy your novel. Right now, Lulu’s titles are searchable at Amazon, and folk can buy them there – but they’re technically still buying them FROM Lulu, not Amazon.

If you’ve decided your answer is Yes, there are more things to consider, and this is where the waters muddy up for me, so let’s talk it out.

If, for example because it’s the example I’m familiar with, you are using Lulu, and you decide you’d love to get an ISBN for your shiny new novel – you can buy one for $99.00. It’s real, and official, and will list Lulu as your publisher in every book database on God’s greenish blue earth. People can order you from Barnes & Noble, or go to Amazon and look you up. Your book will look and be official and all that hullabaloo, and where other books might show ACE or Tor, yours will say Lulu. While you retain all rights and ownership at Lulu, they will actually own that number.

Now, if I don’t want that — if I truly want to be an Indie artist — I have to own and control everything. And that means, I have to own my ISBN’s. And I can, so can you, by purchasing them directly in blocks of 10, 100 or 1,000. To do that, you fill out a form that lists YOU as the publisher, you pay them, and they send you a block of numbers that are uniquely your own, registered to you, listing you as the Publisher of Record. Then when you produce a title and assign one of your numbers, they list your book, your number, and you the publisher in the Books in Print database, and you become available to the whole wide world. Bookstores can order your title for a customer, or even for their shelves (don’t hold your breath, seriously, we’ll discuss that later).

And let’s not fool ourselves, there’s also a slight component of ego involved. Having an ISBN makes your book “complete”, and might even be a source of status in your mind.

So what’s the catch? Why haven’t I purchased the numbers already and what am I still debating?

Well, they’re not cheap. A block of ten will set you back $275.00, a block of 100 will cost you $995.00 and if you’re feeling ambitious, 1,000 come to a whopping $1,750.00. Now you can, officially, buy them one at a time for $110.00, but you’re directed away from the official site and sent to a broker who requires you “enroll” in a service in order to purchase the ISBN, and you must remain enrolled in their program, at a cost.

So a block of 10 it is. And when you think of it logically, it makes sense. Buying 10 ISBN’s brings the individual cost down to $27.50 each. Now you’ll need a number for your print novel, and a number for your eBook. You can’t use the same number, even on the same novel. Each variant – eBook, print, Audio, etc – requires it’s own number. And if you ever revise or alter that novel, you’ll need a whole new number. So they’re not to be used lightly.

Let’s say you have a novel, and it’ll be available in print and as an eBook. You’ll need two ISBN’s for that title. If you bought a block of 10, you’ll use 2 for this one novel, at a cost to you of $55.00 out of your $275.00. That’ll leave you 6 numbers, and if you keep this up – eBook and print – you’ll have enough for 4 more titles.

It’s not hard at all to fill out the paperwork and order a block of 10 ISBN’s as a publisher. The paperwork is pretty minimal. Your name and address, the company name you’re using as Publisher, a contact name and phone number for Rights & Permissions and a few other very simple, minor details. You’ll also have the opportunity to purchase an EAN Bar Code at the same time – what a Bar Code does for you is allows a bookstore to carry your title on their shelves, and sell/track it. We know the chances of that happening, and they cost $25.00 EACH, so we don’t bother (well, I don’t bother, your mileage may vary).

Let’s just say, 10 ISBN’s and 10 Bar Codes will come to $525.00

But wait, there’s more ! You can buy your SAN (Standard Address Number) at the same time. This number is an ANSI standard (American National Standards Institute) and assigns each address a unique number used to positively identify all buying and selling transactions within the book industry. A fingerprint, if you will, that is shared between you and your vendors (assuming the fairy dust worked and you’re shipping to bookstores). They’re $150.00 and we say “No thank you kind sir.”

Now that your eyes have glazed over, let’s ask the questions again. Do you need an ISBN? No. Do you want an ISBN?

Still unsure? So am I.

Holding me back is practicality. I’m not going to make my fortune being an Independent publisher of my own work. I’m not going to “be discovered” and offered a huge contract with a big name publishing company. I’m just happily writing away, entertaining readers and having a good time. Would I like to have ISBN’s on my titles? Yes, I would. I think I could reach more readers if the titles were purchasable through Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Not everyone knows who or what Lulu is, and they might hesitate using a credit card with an online company they’re unfamiliar with, where they’ll sell their soul to Amazon in a flash. Your books are not going to sit on a shelf in any bookstore, but someone could walk in to their local B&N and ask the nice lady behind the counter to order it for them. Or they could surf B&N’s website and find it, then order it. And let’s face it, all the other “grown up” novels have a number.

But is it worth shelling out $275.00 ? Yeah, it boils down to $27.50/ea, but you have to buy them all at once.

My roommate/sister is unemployed, so I’m supporting us both. I have a tooth that’s chipped and needs work. I CAN continue to do this without ISBN’s and be none the worse for wear. Times like this, the Lulu option of just $99.00 seems really tempting, until I’m reminded that Lulu would be listed as my Publisher of Record, and that after doing that three times, I could have bought a block of 10 and been completely Independent. When I sit and contemplate the real cost per number is only $27.50 after buying a block of 10, I think it’s a no-brainer, until I have to shell out $275.00.

That’s when my financial responsibility powers activate, and I talk myself down again.

I have the money, easily, but is it truly and honestly wise to SPEND the money?

My real desire is to be my own Indie Publisher – Midnight Reading, and be the Publisher of Record for all of my titles. And in order to do that, I’ll have to go for it. But my wallet is padlocked, and I swallowed the key !

I’ve considered “going in” with others. Find 2 or 3, maybe 4 people who want to share the numbers. Spread the cost out. The only issue is that their titles, anything they wrote that they used a number on, would require showing Midnight Reading as their Publisher of Record. Maybe not an issue to some, but if the roles were reversed – if someone offered to share with me and use their Publishing company name – I wouldn’t do it. ISBN’s can’t be sold by anyone other than Bowker’s and the few brokers approved through them by the government. So the block of 10 you purchase will always be identified as yours, whether you use them on your own titles, or someone else’s.

Now you might wander over to Create Space and find out they’ll give you an ISBN at no charge to you. But not only will they be the Publisher of Record, their contract is pretty friggin’ strange and their formatting is a much more involved, rather annoying venture. Add to that the facts: Createspace = Amazon = The Devil ! ;}

And there we are. ISBN’s in a nutshell. My friends tell me to Just Do It, and I’m sure I will – eventually. In the meantime, my next post will be another issue I’ve been researching more and more lately: Advertising.

Power to the People!

Make Love, not War!

Excuse me, I asked for Sprinkles.

adventures in eBooks

Or How I Stopped Worrying, and Learned To Love The Byte.

When I first made the decision to become an Independent, I knew I’d be posting my novels on the web, for people to read for free, and I knew I’d be making them available to purchase as a paperback – but I hadn’t yet fallen in love with the notion of the eBook. People talk about reading books on their PDA’s and their cell phones, I’ve never known anyone who owns a Kindle, but I kept thinking “Good lord, who in their right mind would read a NOVEL on their cellphone?”

But they do. Apparently quite a few of them do, it’s just ME who can’t see text that small.

So while building a paperback at Lulu, I realized the option for also building the eBook version is easy – no more complicated than checking a box and setting a price. So I did, and the print and eBook versions became available side by side.

And much to my surprise, it’s the eBooks I sell the most of.

Now, on Lulu, the eBook is a pdf, and while I’m not exactly tech ignorant, I’m not completely up on all the tricks, so I wasn’t sure if the pdf could be read on readers and phones. As I believe I’ve learned, it depends on the device. But still, in the interests of making the books more widely available, I started to look around. I found an article about a writer who’d put his novel on the Kindle, priced at $1.00 as an experiment, and it had sold in droves because of the small price tag. Who’s going to flip out over trying a new author for a mere buck, right?

So I looked in to the Kindle. I’d had no idea previously that Indies like me could publish to the Kindle store, and as it turns out, we can. Only there’s a catch that I wasn’t willing to wrap my mind around. You might feel differently, but in order to publish your novel to the Kindle, you’ll have to sign Amazon’s digital rights contract.

It’s not too bad, until you hit the line where they require, in no uncertain terms, full access into your US bank account. Oh, and they’ll take your SS# while you’re at it.

They refuse to pay you to your Paypal account, you MUST give them access into your checking account, and your Social Security Number, to boot.

Well that was it for me. I refused, and decided publishing to the Kindle, along with Godzillazon, wasn’t for me. That’s when a commenter mentioned Mobipocket and I started researching. It took a little doing, reading the contract and fully understanding it, but what it boiled down to was something a little easier to swallow.

All you need to do is download their free publishing program, very easy to use, and sign their contract which gives them some money making rights, but YOU keep all copy rights, digital rights and full ownership of your work. And you can terminate the contract at any time, for no reason at all, and your book will vanish from their site, no hard feelings. They’re not demanding access to your checking account, either. They’ll happily pay you using your Paypal account, or a credit card that accepts payments, or they’ll send you a check or wire transfer you money. You format your eBook using their program, you can even test run it on your computer or your smartphone or PDA to make sure it all looks the way you want it, then upload it to their server (after signing up with them) and suddenly your eBook is available for sale in the Mobipocket store, and loads of others.

Keep in mind, if you’ve decided you don’t like Amazon’s digital rights agreement like I did, you’ll have to remove them from the list of Mobipocket’s available retailers. Otherwise, like me, you’ll get an email from Amazon telling you they need your SS# and access to your bank account and while you’re at it, they’d like your first born and then give you a proctology exam. Then, like me, you’ll burst a blood vessel before realizing you can remove them from your approved list.

Now, there’s a slight hitch that may or may not get in your way.

Mobipocket, French company that it is, won’t pay YOU until you’ve made $150.00. If you cancel, you’ll be paid what they owe you. But if you’re in this for the long haul, you won’t mind – and if you’re good, and lucky, it won’t take long to earn that. If that seriously pisses you off, then don’t do it.

As for earnings – yeah, they keep a cut, and for some of you it might be too big a cut, but in the book business it’s pretty average. Only you can decide if this is okay with you or not, but in a nutshell YOU set the price of your book, and you earn 35% of net, regardless of retailer markup.

Example: Set the price of your novel at $1.00, and for every novel Mobipocket sells for you, you earn .35 cents. If a retailer sells your eBook for $12.00, you still earn only that .35 cents. If a retailer sells your book for .50 cents, you earn that .35 cents. If you have a webpage, and use an Affiliate link to your book, any time someone clicks that link and purchases you book, you earn another .10 cents. Be honest with yourself – who’s gonna buy your eBook for $12.00 ?

Sound pathetic? Kindle’s agreement is the same. Such is the life of a writer, which is why even traditionally published writers, 98% of them anyway, keep their day jobs.

I haven’t actually figured out the percentage that Lulu pays the author, mostly because math makes my brain go fuzzy, but at Lulu you do set your own price. When you’re building your novel, you’ll reach a point where they tell you the base cost of printing/creating and you’ll add your cut, then they’ll show you the final cost to the public. You can mess with this as much or as little as you like, and change it at any time – allowing for “sales” and the like. It’s best to keep your profit pretty damn low, so as to make your purchase price really attractive.

Mobipocket works much the same. You set the price, and at any time you can change it. Just keep in mind, you’re not going to make a fortune writing – and people aren’t going to pay you $14.95 for an eBook, or even $9.99. If you want readers, and you want to make serious sales numbers, you’ll keep pricing in mind. Folks will risk a new author for $1.00 or $2.00, not much more.

My fantasy novel Ether has been up in the mobipocket store for 4 days now, and it’s selling for $2.00. I’m earning .35 cents for every sale, unless the buyer followed a link from my web page, which then earns me .45 cents per book. I used Ether as my test-run because it’s been for sale for a while now, and I wasn’t ready to risk my latest novel by debuting it in a format I didn’t have at least a little experience with.

Which brings us to a topic I’ll talk about Wednesday – buying your own block of ISBN’s. The pros and cons of being your own Publisher.

Power to the People!

Make Love, not War!

These pretzels are making me thirsty.

it’s dark in here

The big scary world of Going It Alone — or as I and many others prefer: Indie publishing — is huge, dark, a tad chilly and often intimidating.

And if you’re a reader of “those” blogs who enjoy nothing more than mocking a self publishing writer who prefers the term Indie I have just one thing to say: Pphhfftttt!

What do you care if I call myself Self Pub, Indie, or Bababloo? Go worry about something that matters, for the love of dirt. I’m an Indie artist because 1) I own all rights to my work, print, electronic, audio and brain waves from Venus. 2) I am my own Publisher – Midnight Reading Publications. And 3) a subject for a blog post next week – I own my ISBN’s.

So shove that up your pie hole and stop complaining about me calling myself an Indie writer.

Now, as for this blog post today, it occurred to me that — while I’ve entered the fray fully and completely, and am learning a lot along the way — it might benefit others to see how it’s done. Or at least how I’m managing it. Maybe I can be of service to others, maybe I can offer other Indie’s hope, inspiration, education. Maybe my ruins can merely serve as a warning to others. I will say I’m more and more pleased every day as I find the ranks of us Independents growing in leaps and bounds. High quality writing, great stories, interesting people with various backgrounds, all entering the world of Going It Alone for different reasons.

Whatever your reasons are, you’ve come to the point where the rest of us began, and that is: Finding the right venue.

You’ve heard of Create Space, and iUniverse, Lulu and some others. I chose Lulu myself because of all of the available avenues I investigated, Lulu costs nothing. Zip. Zero. I can build a book there in paperback, or hardback, or electronic, even audio on a CD, and unless I want to buy a copy myself, I’ve put out exactly $0.00. All it took was a little formatting, a bit of time, some artwork, and voila, a Trade Paperback exists with my work, my name, and it’s available for sale at Lulu and Amazon (does that surprise you? it did me). Amazon lists your work in their search engine, and manages the sale, but buyers are still paying Lulu (and you) not Amazon. It’s an interesting tape worm sorta symbiosis that just started and I’ll be keeping an eye on for talk later.

Paying someone, even paying a place like Create Space, would remove me from Indie and put me square into the Vanity category, or Pay to Play. I’m adverse to that, but you might not be. I won’t look down on you, turn my nose or flick a booger if you decided to pay to make your book available. We all do what we do for our own reasons. So long as you’re fully educated in the choices, reasons, and expectations of whatever you’ve decided. If you’re under false assumptions, and think the Independent writer is going to get on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, you’re still in the learning stage. There are people who can help you understand the differences, and I can point you in their direction. Just ask.

The biggest hurdle of an Indie after writing a great book with proper grammar, pacing and story-telling, editing, polishing, then creating and making available said novel – is sales. And the greatest tool for sales is advertising. Word of mouth, banner ads, blogs, Twitter, a web page people can easily find, even carrying around business cards in your purse to hand out here and there or tack up (with permission) onto public boards. Advertising is a black hole of its own, and one that I’m starting to get more serious about, and learning loads, so I’ll have more to say about it soon.

Another hurdle is impatience, of which I am Queen. But here’s where we can actually dominate our “Traditionally Published” brethren. They’re going to wait years to see a new title hit the shelves, where it will be given an average of two weeks to fly out the door, after which returns and remainders can kill their fledgling career. Low sales can keep them from ever getting that second novel published. But as an Independent, YOU control when that book hits the great big world, and it can STAY out there – available to purchase, until the Internet goes the way of the Dodo. You might not make any sales the first week, or the first month – but as your advertising avenues grow, your web site or blog become more popular, your Tweets gain followers and you write more novels – you’ll start to see sales. Then as word of mouth spreads, maybe you’ll get a review or listing somewhere, and you can see sales take off.

My website, enjoys a modest average of 1,500 hits per month, and growing. While I’m a little different than some Indies in that I also offer my novels for free, to be read online, the eBook versions are very popular. And thanks to a comment on this blog by Elisa I researched Mobipocket, and learned how to create eBooks that are available for the Smartphones, PDA’s, the Kindle, your Blackberry and many more. After less than 24 hours in this new market, Ether is already selling. I’ll blog on this topic soon, and hopefully others can learn from my success and my mistakes !

So next week, Monday if I can get it together, I’ll start talking about Mobipocket, how to use their service, create an eBook, and get it listed for sale all across the globe. As we go, I’ll blog about using Lulu, some tricks and tweaks I’ve picked up over the months. About advertising, looking for “outside the box” ways to promote your book, about buying your own ISBN’s so that they’re fully and wholly YOUR own. I’ll talk about creating a web page, a blog, and Tweeting in the Independent writer world. We’ll look for sites that will review Indie writers, places to list your work, and cover art lessons I’ve learned along the way.

I’m still learning, and finding new information every day. You’ll read about my discoveries, and my blunders, and maybe it’ll help you drive around the pothole I might have crashed nose-first into. And please, use the comments to tell me your own tales of woe, give us advise, ideas and let us hear your success stories!

Power to the People!

Make Love, not War!

Ooh, does that come in red?

did you know?

That the website has been redesigned?

That you can purchase my novels in Trade Paperback, or eBook? They make great gifts, and summer beach reads.

That you can now purchase Ether, my fantasy title, as an eBook for your iPhone, smartphone, PDA, Kindle and other e-reading devices at Mobipocket?

That the Fourth and final book in the Keeper series will be out in September?

Or that my newest title In The Time Of Dying, a Miltary SF, is coming out by the end of the year?

Well, now you do!

not for the faint of heart

In January of this year, I made the decision to go back to what I truly loved about writing. After years of learning, researching, and discovery, I stopped trying to find an agent and get that “big publishing contract.”  I learned a lot in those years, and contrary to what some might think, I’ve made a logical, careful choice.

But this route is not for everyone, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

When you make the decision to become an Indie artist, and forgo the “traditional” publishing world, what you’re really doing is accepting certain injustices as an accepted fact.

For instance, when a certain very popular website has strict rules against reviewing or recommending any self published author — unless it’s a pal of theirs — does just that – garnering massive free publicity for said self publishing author – it brings to light the uphill battle we Indie artists have.  When we take on the life of an Indie artist, what we’re really doing is acknowledging that we will never be respected, that we will be actively mocked and misunderstood, and that no matter how good our art is – it will never be accepted — and that we do so with this full understanding.

And that it won’t matter that often times, the Indie artist will outsell the newbie traditional author, the latter will have immediate and unquestioned respect while the former never will.

By finding going the agent/publisher route and having a paper or hardback hit the bookstore shelves, the traditional artist wins automatic respect. No matter if their work is well written, or even sells. No matter if they earn out their advance (the majority won’t) and no matter if their publisher never buys another title from them – they are crowned with the name “Writer” and can enter into any conversation at any writing forum and be hailed the conquering hero.

An Independent, self publishing author who goes it alone, spends not one dime of his/her own money and yet earns back thousands from sales, then repeats this again and again with future novels, will never earn even a portion of that same respect.

Genre sites will not discuss your work.  Popular web sites that review other works will not touch yours with a ten foot pole.  And yet, now and again, you’ll see them do just that for a friend with no explanation or apologies.

These are the challenges the Indie artist faces.  You may be popular beyond your dreams. Your work might garner cult followings, devoted fans who devour your every novel and happily purchase copies for their friends.

But having said that, those of us who accept this decision – while we may rage against the machine of inequality and injustice – must do so carefully in public, so as to avoid the labels “Sour grapes” or “Jealousy”.

We are the monks who worship in seclusion, versus those who take the public pulpit.

You will be mocked by other writers. You’ll be scoffed at by writer advocate sites, ignored by traditional reviewers and shunned by genre web masters you’re not sleeping with at the time. Then one day you may turn around and realize you have a cult following. People are reading your work, they’re buying your novels, they’re asking when your next piece will be available and they’re spreading the word.

And when it’s all said and done, it just might be worth it.


So there I was, sitting at home watching a baseball game, and I get this email from Lulu telling me the books I have there are now also available through Amazon. Just right outta the blue, no asking or nothin’ – as of now, readers can find me on Amazon and purchase my books through that megolythic supplier.

Oh, by the way, Amazon takes a cut, so in order to do that they’ve raised the price of my books.

Yeah. So while readers CAN buy my titles from Amazon, I’m still suggesting they purchase through Lulu – they’ll pay less. My revenue remains the same, but why should my readers pay an extra couple of bucks just to purchase from a giant megacorp and slap a few dollars into their pockets? They had nothing to do with writing or publishing my work.  Sure, it’s cool to see my titles there, and sure – I’ll take any access to more readership that I can get. But I never agreed to hand Amazon any profit. They simply saw something that was popular and decided they wanted a piece.

Whatever, Amazon.

Regardless, I’d been toying for a while with putting the titles out in ebook form for the Kindle. I already produce ebooks of my novels in DRM-Free pdf versions, but figured I could reach a wider audience if I produced them for the Kindle. As they’re priced at $2.00 average, they’re more likely to garner some interest over the $9.99+ titles Amazon likes to supply. Kindle owners tend to flock to any title that’s only a couple of bucks – it’s a cheap way to try a new author.

(for the uninitiated: if you’re a book publisher, and you want owners of a Kindle to be able to purchase, download and read your book, you have to “publish to the Kindle.” Basically that means using Amazon’s special voodoo to upload your manuscript, which they’ll turn into an ebook filled with spikes and razor wire that can be purchased and downloaded by Kindle owners, but filled with the same codes and crap that prevent them from sharing, storing or really even owning what they’ve just bought. Like all their other Kindle titles, they can buy it and read it, but not share it – and Amazon, as they can and have, can reach right into that Kindle and remove anything you’ve got on it whenever they feel the urge. Stuff you’ve paid for, they can arbitrarily take away.)

So I researched, and I read up, and I was “this” close to it when all of a sudden, as I’m preparing to go ahead and sign up, I ran into the brick wall of all brick walls.

You all know how I feel about protecting my (and your) finances. How militant I am against credit cards, credit use (outside the realm of home and auto buying) and how bat-shit crazy I get at the thought of someone reaching in to steal identities and money . . . Well Amazon has this little caveat that you don’t really notice until you’re three minutes from committing, finger eagerly hovering over the Submit button, thoughts of your novels being downloaded onto Kindles around the world (even though I have yet to meet someone who even knows what they are, let alone see one being used). . . when suddenly you realize there’s one requirement that has you swallowing your gum.

Amazon requires – absolutely demands – full and complete access into your checking account.

And it MUST be a United States bank account – which thanks to 9-11 can only be obtained by United States Citizens (which I am, but that’s not the point).

Amazon will NOT allow you to use a Paypal account – they claim it’s for tax reporting purposes, etc etc, bla bla bla, but I call Bullshit on that. The I-fucking-RS doesn’t have direct access to my checking account! Amazon has only to fill out tax paperwork and submit it to the I-fucking-RS, let them worry about whether or not I claim it properly. And let’s be honest, I’m not earning enough on this to claim anything other than a hobby venture. I have a business license for another aspect of my art, and even THAT doesn’t bring in enough to claim business tax on. It simply goes into the heading “other income” and you pay tax on what you made.

So, if you’re an Indie, and don’t have a business bank account you’re used to opening up to every teenager with a PC and a grudge, then you have to give them access to your personal checking account. Do that, and Amazon will gladly make your title available for download to the Kindle. And your paycheck, savings, and identity available to said teenagers with said grudge and that old PC.

Not only does this requirement suck eggs through a nostril, it prevents our friends in Canada, Australian, Europe – wherever – to produce for the Kindle. Publishing companies can, sure, they all have accounts in other countries – partners – they sell foreign rights all the time. But Joe Writer who wants to protect his/her money/identity from thieves?

Amazon says Fuck you, Joe Writer.

Not satisfied with their quest to eliminate Independent bookstores, and swallow whole any and all they can get their grubby little mitts on, they’re kicking Joe Writer to the curb. ISBN or no, if you wanna play their game, you gotta open your doors wide, bend right over, and smile, so Amazon, and ten thousand hackers with itchy code fingers can waddle right through your privates.

I’ll stick with my own ebooks, thank you very much. My pdf, completely DRM-free ebooks. You can buy one, share it with friends, pass it around, keep it forever, read it a hundred times, you can even READ IT OUT LOUD and I won’t sue you for audio book violation !

In fact, later this summer, you’ll be able to download audio versions of my novels from the Midnight Reading website. Listen to them in the car, stuff ‘em into your iPod, take a walk with them, let your kids fall asleep to the sound of my voice, reading chapter after chapter.

I’ll try to sound intelligent !

girls just wanna have fun

I was going to write a ranting post about an article on Yahoo yesterday, wherein a family earning $250,000/year claimed they were really “poor” with that income – then I thought I’d just write a ranting post about the lack of respect given to Science Fiction fans by network television . . . But then I realized all this ranting might make me seem a bit “lunatic”.

Then last night, as I had to stop what I was doing and get dinner made, I wanted to talk at length to someone about what I’d just been doing — only no one was around. And that brings me to: Uncharted; Drake’s Fortune.

Yes, I’m a gamer. After years (and years) of avid PC gaming, I got tired of being told I’d have to buy a new $2,000 computer every time the next game came out, so a friend of mine told me I should try the Playstation 3. They’re making great games for these things, often the same as the PC games, and you don’t have to buy a new one every year. So I took the plunge ‘round about Christmas of ‘08, picked up Far Cry 2 (since Far Cry 1 had been a favorite on the PC) and played to my heart’s content.

And saw that it was good.

But then that game came to an end, and I bought the next one on my Must Try list: Bioshock.

And saw that it was not so good.

And I was frustrated. My game-of-choice is the First Person, and I’ve always looked down on Third Person in disdain, but the same guy who talked me in to buying the Playstation (who also looks down on me now for not liking Bioshock) kept talking about Uncharted; Drake’s Fortune. At first, I ignored him because it’s a Third Person perspective – something I hate and can’t manage with any skill at all. But I was desperate for something to do (read: needed a tool that would allow me to procrastinate writing my current novel), so I tried the demo.

And saw that it was GREAT! Had to buy the game right away, and I’m hooked.

This game is incredibly well put together, with stunning graphics that are almost distractingly beautiful at times, realistic movement and action, cut scenes that rival a lot of movies today. One minute you’re enthralled with the movie on your screen, admiring the visuals and calling on memories of Indiana Jones — the next instant you’re in control, fighting to survive an attack or swinging wildly from vines to find a precarious finger-hold in a sheer cliff face or fortress wall, while a 100-foot drop into raging seas await should you slip up.

You play Nathan Drake, descendant of famed explorer Sir Francis Drake. Having found a diary inside your ancestor’s empty coffin — which you’ve just recovered from the bottom of the ocean — you’re on a quest to find some lost treasure (‘natch) but your buddy had some bad debts, and brought along a bit of baggage in the form of loads of baddies who’ve taken the diary (but didn’t find the secret map you discovered while exploring the U-boat stuck in the river). After you escape that little encounter, and reconnect with the reporter you ditched earlier, your plane crashes, leaving you in the jungle without your map, the reporter, or a way off the island.

Your character has some smooth moves when it comes to ducking for cover, and impressive hand-to-hand combat skills for when your ammo runs out. He can climb, and has to quite a lot, using rocks, finger-holds, even vines. His movements are incredibly realistic for a game, covering his head when he ducts bullets, turning slightly sideways if he’s running down stairs, flailing for balance if you get him too close to an edge.

Being a solid First Person shooter fanatic, I didn’t think I could ever get the hang of controlling a character from “outside”. I’d tried one of the Tomb Raider games on the PC years back, and hated it. But the controls and motions and camera angles available in Uncharted are uncanny, and incredibly intuitive. After playing the short demo for just a few minutes, I’d already gotten the hang of movement and shooting. Then when the game arrived, and I had the chance to start from the beginning, I learned Nate can do so much more. The game teaches you special moves and controls gradually, until one minute you realize you’re doing all of this without a second thought. Taking anything new you learned in one scene and applying it in the next.

I can’t even describe the visuals. If you’re a gamer, and have been for a long while, then you’ll remember how amazed you were when games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein came out and impressed you with realistic looking castles, flickering flames, enemies that looked like humans (except of course the zombie-fied ones). Or Duke Nukem, and his plethora of pole dancers, who would give you a peek if you gave them a dollar, or you could make Duke use the toilet. (this does make me sound less like a loon, right?) Then Far Cry hit the shelves, putting every game before it to shame with jungles that rendered distance, enemies that behaved realistically — even ducking for cover and circling around you. If you killed a guy at the top of a staircase, his body would thump and roll down the steps. If you gave away your position, the enemy would circle around, flush you out and trap you in cross-fire. You could run, crawl, jump, swim, dive, even use a hang glider.

Uncharted; Drake’s Fortune puts them all to shame with visuals alone. (well, okay, Far Cry 1 and Far Cry 2 are still amazing. Seriously amazing)

Last week, I stood on a cliff and looked down at THE most breath-taking waterfall, with moss-covered rocks and swirling, deep blue waters. Then I had to cross those raging waters by leaping from rock to crumbling rock. Yesterday, I stood on an ancient fortress wall and looked out over the ocean. There were waves moving in the distance, while the surf crashed against the rocks below me. The sun was low over the horizon, casting an orange and yellow glow over the water. Seagulls flew by, calling out as they swooped down toward the waves. Even the sounds were soothing. Moving surf, calling gulls, a pigeon that landed near my feet.

Then gunfire rang out and I had to take care of business.

I don’t know how far into this game I am, but I suspect (and fervently hope) I still have loads of game play left to go before I reach the end. Uncharted; Drake’s Fortune is definitely a game I’ll replay, because there are many ways to change up the action with your ever-growing abilities. Hopefully it’ll carry me through till Uncharted; Among Thieves comes out in the fourth quarter.

There’s just something incredibly satisfying about using a moss-covered pillar for cover, then taking careful aim, and blasting one of those bubble-gum bloggin’ literary agents in the head, then taking out each of their sycophantic ass-kissin’ followers one by one.


the more people I meet, the more I like my dog

I’ve been pondering this, off and on, for some time now. A short while back, some literary agents got together and started to Twitter something called QueryFail, wherein they openly – if anonymously – mocked the queries they’ve received from hopeful, inexperienced, probably completely virgin writers. I don’t know what they were intending, beyond the High School cheerleader tactic that keeps any new students from sitting at their table.

I won’t lie, it pissed me off. To each their own moral convictions, but it made me sick to think these professionals in the publishing industry act like this.

Following that, I stumbled into something of a “get back at ‘em” called AgentFail. There’s no getting back at anyone, of course, it’s just apparently a spot for writers to — mostly anonymously — vent off some steam. I skimmed through some of the posts, just like I skimmed through some of the QueryFail talk. While I did feel some solidarity with a few of the complaints, I can’t really go along with that any more than I could go along with QueryFail.

Valid or not, it’s as effective as shouting into a canyon. The canyon doesn’t hear you, or care what you’ve just said, it merely echoes back until all the words fade into oblivion. The most you’ve done is frighten a few rabbits and pissed off a raven or two.

Then, because I’m writing a novel right now and that tends to make me procrastinate by surfing around, I found a group of writers agreeing with an agent who’d shaken his head in sad disappointment at AgentFail. All of his followers are agreeing, waggling fingers here and there with the odd tsk tsk.

And it occurs to me, as it has many times before and does with more frequency these days — The more time I spend in the pursuit of that elusive dream of Traditional Publication, the less I give a flying shit about it. These are people — hundreds, if not thousands of them — who have reached a point in their lives where this is ALL they can see. It’s no longer about writing a novel, or telling a story that’s burning through your fingers. It’s no longer about the passion of conveying an idea through fictional characters and fantastic or dramatic settings.

It’s the cult of personality, fueled by the information age, igniting overblown egos who proselytize their own brand of publishing religion to fawning worshippers willing to sell their souls and nod their bobble heads for a chance to be rejected.

And it reminds me of the time I learned there were people born and raised in large cities, who spent their lives in their own neighborhoods — living, breathing, vacationing and dying without ever experiencing anything outside their city streets. People who had a world view that encompassed a twelve-square city block. I was stunned, and couldn’t imagine anyone with that narrow experience.

It’s even more shocking to realize some people are perfectly willing — happy even — to create their own twelve-square mentality block and never leave. Never venture outward, never ask themselves what might be going on where other people live. Never considering there could be another avenue, a different path. People who are convinced by others, and themselves, that to venture out of the city is to fall off the ends of the earth. Peer pressure keeps them bobbling their heads, and they comfort themselves in the blanket of that twelve block square. They let tradition keep them on the main streets, they elevate others in order to have someone to follow. They’ve stopped looking up to the sky, stopped striving for change, and live in fear of falling off the edge.

I guess that’s why Valhalla is only for the brave.

my 2 pack-a-day habit

Would be a ridiculous title for this blog post about writing, but I was a little stumped for a better one.

So today, I was going to do a real Debbie Downer post about how greed has brought our country to its knees – but a friend suggested I write instead about how I manage to put forth 2 novels a year. And I realized that, while no one’s going to care much, it’s at least nicer than what I was planning to say 😀

How to Write Two Novels Per Month:

Step 1: Sit down.

Step 2: Write

Step 3: Finish

Step 4: Repeat.

More clarity, you say? Well, what the hell, I have time.

Before you can write TWO novels in a year, you have to write ONE. Typically, for me, that means I’ll come up with a character I’m really curious about or interested in, then spend a few days thinking about him/her and what’s so interesting about him/her that I want to explore. And who are we kidding – I don’t like to write lead females, so for the sake of all that him/her, I’ll just tell it how it is. I find a character I really want to explore, and I’ll start to ask myself what is it he does – what makes him so interesting, and what do I want to know about him? What made him who he is, how will he change in the course of my story, and what will it take to change him?

More often than not, I’ll find myself doing something utterly unrelated, like washing the dishes, driving home from work, or working in the garage, and a scene will suddenly appear in my head. Then I have my starting point. Now I just have to explore that scene and build it up, and ask IT questions. What’s going on? Why is it happening? Who started it, how can it be stopped/altered/prevented? How does this scene relate to my new character? How is he affected?

And the novel starts to take shape. Then it’s a few more days of pondering the scene, the scene before and after it, the character, all the other characters he’s going to meet/interact with along the way – what exactly IS the way. If I can see the scenes playing out, adding up and shaping into something interesting, then I’ll declare (unto myself) that I have a new novel idea.

Immediately following that, I’ll spend a day or two contemplating titles, mostly because I’m OCD about having a great title before I start writing. I don’t recommend this, it’ll drive you bonkers. After I finally get one, though, I go through a brief period I like to call SHEER AND UTTER PANIC, wherein I realize I can’t possible write this novel, I don’t have the skill required.

That’ll last a day, sometimes a week if I’m out of rum and my friends aren’t around to smack me.

At this point, if the novel really is a bit complex, I’ll go ahead and take notes. Jotting down some character traits, background for the leads at least, get to know them really well. Most of what I make notes about doesn’t come out in the story, but by knowing all these intimate details about the characters, I’m able to write them in a way that suggest I really do know these people. If a writer isn’t familiar with the minutia of each character’s lives, he or she won’t be familiar enough to write them well.

When it comes to notes – I suk. I’ll start off with grand intentions. I’ll even get a little notebook devoted to this particular novel, and start out with page 1 really neatly hand written, starting off with names and places and events and dates . . . after a couple of days, I couldn’t even tell you where the little notebook is. But if you could find it, you’d probably find scene details scribbled out of order, suggestions for stuff I really don’t want to forget to include, important facts and more than one quote I’m desperately determined to use IN the novel.

Some day, after I’m dead and buried and strangers are going through my belongings looking for loose change, they’ll find these notebooks.

Anyway, now I’m ready to start writing, and the OCD comes back into play. I have to start from page 1, scene 1, and can only write in linear progression until I’ve reached The End. Loads of writers can do scenes here and there, then stitch them together. Some write an ending first, to make sure they have one, others like to pop about as the “mood” strikes. I say moods are why God made Midol, and you can only strike a match.

But that’s just me.

Once I’ve started a novel, I’m right into my writing routine – which is Monday through Friday, during the day, and weekends off. It’s just a quirk of mine, but it produces anywhere from 2-5 thousand words a day, five days a week (sometimes four days, if I’m feeling those mood things). Occasionally – and I have to admit I really enjoy this – I’ll get into a “writing contest” for a month at a time with two friends of mine, Lori Basiewicz  and Pete Tzinski. We’ll challenge each other to a word duel for a month long period, then try to outdo each other daily. It keeps me working every day, and keeps me from sitting here staring at the screen or jetting off to play solitaire for “just a few hands” that seem to take eight hours. It also keeps me from wasting time wandering around the internet when I really need to be writing.

After that, I just keep going, and going, and going on until I’ve reached the end of the novel. A process that typically takes 3 – 4 months, start to finish. I write a clean first draft, not a rough, write-crap-then-fix-it style. After that, a month or two go by where I’m planning that novel’s future, dreaming of making the big time, realizing I won’t, then thinking about another character to take my mind off it all, and it all spirals into a second novel that will be thought of, started, worked on, and finished well before the end of the year.

And then I do it all over again.

That may sound a little pathetic, but if you’re thinking I’m a mushroom growing on a keyboard in front of a computer screen, I actually do have a day job. And hobbies. And a house, and pets, and a yard that needs working in, a lapidary business, and a habit of walking on beaches for hours at a time. I also create and sell a line of shirts, and run my own little indie publishing world.

And I don’t like mushrooms.

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