Authors Beware of deals that seem too good to be true – they are just that!

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There’s been a number of articles on various sites about publishers who hook unwary authors into contracts that give nothing in return. Many indie authors have fallen into this trap—I include myself, unfortunately, in that number.

 

When I was working on my first book length manuscript, a book on leadership that I was encouraged to write by a young man who worked for me as my speech writer when I was U.S. ambassador to Cambodia (2002-2005). After slaving over the manuscript for nearly three years, I went searching for a publisher.

 

I encountered an ad from PublishAmerica, a Maryland-based small imprint that, unlike the many vanity publishers advertising at the time, touted the fact that they PAID authors for their work instead of asking for payment. Knowing, or at least suspecting, that the book I’d written would have limited appeal, it didn’t sound like a bad deal, so I submitted it.

 

A few weeks later I received an email advising me that my book was accepted for publication. Attached to the email was a contract. Naïve in the ways of publishing, I unwisely didn’t have that contract read by a lawyer before signing it. From what I’d read, it didn’t seem to bad – the advance was paltry (a mere $1.00), and I was locked into an 8-year commitment. But, the book would be published, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

 

It was published, but from that point on, it was a nightmare. The cover was somewhat amateurish—even then, just learning the art of designing book covers, I could’ve done a better job. The price was a bit high, I thought, but again, I was new to all this and didn’t know any better. I was encouraged to buy copies for myself at a measly discount from the inflated cover price. The royalties were also small; something like 8% of the cover price (compare that to the 75% you can get publishing it yourself through the Kindle Direct Program, or even the rather generous percentage you get when you publish a paperback through CreateSpace). They did, at least, list it on all the major book-seller sites; Amazon, etc.

 

Surprisingly, there were a few early sales, and I even got it included in a couple of libraries (The U.S. State Department Library, and my college library, to name two). A few people I met at conferences, who had read it, also informed me that they’d purchased copies to use in their management training programs. Despite this, my royalty checks over the past eight-plus years have yet to exceed $50. Looking back, when I compare this to the $100 per month I get through KDP, and an average of $30 per month through CreateSpace and other sales of paperbacks, I can see that what seemed at the time to be ‘too good to be true,’ in fact was just that.

 

The eight years in the contract are up now, and you would assume, as implied in the contract, my book rights belong to me. Guess again.

 

PublishAmerica changed its name to AmericaStar, in an effort, I believe, to attract foreign indie authors, but its practices remain the same. It does nothing to promote the books it accepts, beyond importuning the author regularly to buy copies, and lately it has done something that seals its fate as far as I’m concerned.

 

Over the past 60 days, I’ve been getting emails from AmericaStar nee PublishAmerica, informing me that the company is getting out of the publishing business and going full time to book promotion. In doing so, it plans to sell the rights to the books it holds to another ‘Indie’ publisher, but I can get them assigned to me for a modest fee of $199—it said in the initial emails that this was to cover the cost of removing it from selling platforms, etc.

 

At first, I couldn’t believe they would have the gall to do something like this, so I just ignored the first four or five emails. Then, they said, if I couldn’t afford $199, for a few days I could get my rights back for a mere $149. Again, I ignored them. A week later, another email, informing me that I had only two days to BUY my rights back, and they were doing me a big favor by reducing the cost to $99.  Thoroughly steamed by now, I just filed the emails away and went on to other projects.

 

The latest are . . . funny, pathetic, I’m not sure how to characterize them. I now have 24 hours to obtain the rights to my own work for $79. If I fail to do this, someone else (as yet unknown) will own the rights to my book, and they can’t promise what the buyer will do with these rights.

 

Thankfully, I’ve self-published scores of books since my first mistake, and while I’m not on any best-seller lists, and not getting rich from it, I’m enjoying fairly regular sales, and getting some pretty solid reviews. As for buying the rights back to my own work—I’m in wait-and-see mode. If the last email is correct, I will probably be hearing from the mysterious new publisher someday soon with a request that I buy my book, or something equally ridiculous.

 

I’ve written that book off as a lost cause, and a lesson learned. Never were the words caveat emptor more appropriate.

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Review of ‘Eden’

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Those who have power don’t want to give it up and are often reluctant to share it. Those who don’t have power want it and will often go to extremes to acquire it. When the balance of power begins to shift against those who hold power, bad things can happen.

 

When the male-female balance begins to shift drastically in favor of females, the men in power begin taking drastic and deadly steps to redress the situation. Eden by G.C. Julien and Ash S-J is a different kind of post-apocalyptic novel. The cataclysmic event is not a meteor strike, rising ocean levels, or a nuclear war, but a shift in the birth rate giving women a vast numerical advantage. This leads to all-out gender warfare and the creation of single-gender enclaves at war with each other for survival. Through character shifts and flashbacks the authors show us a dark world that, given the current state of affairs globally, is not an impossible scenario to imagine.

 

In the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation, the actions of a few free-thinking and courageous individuals offer the only glimmer of hope. It is on that hope that the fate of the world rests. A chillingly realistic look at a world that one prays will never come to be. It sucks you in to a whirlpool of action, human angst, violence, and hope, and spits you out at the end breathless.

 

I  received a complimentary copy of this book for review. Without hesitation, I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Read Better Faster’

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If you’re like most people, you were taught to read every word in a sentence or paragraph. While this might be useful when reading instructions, for most other written material, it makes reading a chore. Buck up, though, because Debbie Drum’s Read Better Faster will help you learn techniques to boost your reading speed, and your retention of what you read as well.

This insightful little book takes you step by step through methods for learning a new way to take in the written word. You’re likely to find that as you read it, your reading speed is increasing—provided you take her advice.

A must-have book for anyone who is required to read a lot, and a really nice literary acquisition for anyone who loves to read.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Origin of Legends and the Secrets of the North’

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Brothers Baldr and Thor lived relatively happy lives as orphans after their parents drowned in a frozen lake. But, their world was torn asunder when they noticed strange green lights flashing on a mountain top near their sleepy little town. With their friends, they set out to solve the mystery of the flashing lights but are soon in too deep as they must contend with the freezing arctic weather and an ancient power. In order to survive, they must solve the secret of what lives within the mountain.

Origins of Legends and the Secrets of the North by Adison Runberg is a thrilling tale of adventure, mystery, and magic, that follows the brothers, their friends, Sophia and Nala, and a loyal canine they encounter along the way, as they penetrate ancient secrets and uncover the basis of legends that had been, until that time, only stories.

An interesting story that offers an unusual take on the Nordic legends, and a worthwhile read for a cold spring day.

I received a free copy of this book.  I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Lost Hope’

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After concluding a messy battle with a slimy beast, and completing the assigned retrieval, Arthur ‘The Hat’ Salzman, and his sidekick, the homicidal housewife, Vicky, go to get their payment. But, their client, ‘Juice’, has decided that he wants some ‘excitement’ in his life. After summoning the Hangman, and ordering him to kill his mother, Martha, Juice hooks up with Arthur and Vicky, and gets them started on a dangerous escapade that threatens not only their lives, but the lives of their loved ones.

Lost Hope by Al K. Line is book number six in the Wildcat Wizard series, and, just like the first five, has a generous helping of matricide, monstercide, and just about every other form of offing bad guys. Whipped back and forth between his normal plane of existence and a few unimaginable other worlds, Arthur decides that his only way out is to send Juice and his minions to their final rest. But, his plans are complicated by the appearance of an old nemesis with an agenda of his own.

If this book doesn’t get your juices flowing, you, my friend, are juiceless. This is without a doubt, the best book of this series, and I can’t wait to see what The Hat gets up to next.

I received a free copy of this book, and I give it five stars. It shines in the universe of paranormal adventure books.

Review of ‘Murder in Notting Hill’

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Two women are murdered, in the same manner, within an hour of each other. One, a wealthy white socialite in upscale Holland Park, the other, a black cleaning woman in the crime-riddled, working class neighborhood of Notting Hill. DCI Isaac Cook knows the two crimes are connected, but is pressed to determine how. He and his team have to deal with the area’s street gangs, the bizarre secrets of the upper crust, and the byzantine maneuvering of London’s police hierarchy, as bodies begin to accumulate.

Murder in Notting Hill by Phillip Strang brings DCI Cook and his team back with a vengeance, as the erstwhile homicide investigator navigates the murky waters of gang warfare, class conflict, and the intrigues within the police bureaucracy. The action moves at a frenetic pace, as Cook and his crew engage in a multi-front struggle to bring the guilty to justice—regardless of their station or class.

This book is, like the first five in this series, a real page-turner, mixing police procedure with insightful looks into the personal lives of the protagonists. I received a free copy of this book, and I give it a solid four stars.

Review of ‘Soul of Stone’

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Gabriel Stone, the lost angel and gambler supreme, is back, and badder than ever. Draxil, the ex-Prince of Hell, has been reawakened, restarting an old feud with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They demand that he be turned over to them, or they will destroy Earth. Gabriel, though, has a problem. Draxil is linked to Aurora, for whom Gabriel is guardian, and if he dies, so does she. In order to prevent destruction, Gabriel must reunite Draxil with his team of demons, who, unfortunately, are either caged in Hell or scattered across the many planes of existence.

Gabriel’s challenge; break the demons out of Hell. Quite a gamble, and one he can’t afford to lose.

Soul of Stone by Leo Romero is the third of the Fallen Angel books, and it takes the reader deeper into the depths of perdition than the mortal mind can fathom. Action and humor war with each other on every page. This one’s a don’t miss for fans of the series.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Taemane – Daimonds’

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When the owner of a South African diamond mine dies, his two daughters, Kate and Claire, vie for control. The tension between the two women is ratcheted up, because of their personality differences, complicated by the racial tensions of the time.

Kate’s childhood sweetheart, Alex, is son of the native cook, and is determined to rid the mine of diamond thieves who have infiltrated the work crew. He is led to an inevitable confrontation with the leader of the gang, who has insinuated himself into Claire’s life. Bit by bit, with mounting tension, Kevin Farran introduces the reader to the reality and brutality of life in a society built on caste and race differences, and the power of love to persevere against almost insurmountable odds, in Taemane: Diamond, an uncompromising story of love, greed, and violence.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

What Seeds Are You Sowing This Season?

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THE LOVELY PHOTOG

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Spring is finally here! Well, it has arrived in some parts of the U.S., it has certainly been missed here in Arkansas.

To sow a seed, in gardening terms is to get a seed ready to plant for something to grow. In spiritual terms, to sow a seed, means to give or do something for the purpose of growth.

There are 3 Ways I plan to Sow a Seed This Season:

Stewardship for my community, family and friends.

Self Care for me and my mental and physical wellness.

Surround myself with positive people and things.

If you’d like to see me chat more about sowing a seed, check out my video below:

What Seeds Are You Sowing This Season?

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Review of ‘Bodacious Creed’

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After his wife and daughter are killed in a fire, U.S. Marshall James ‘Bodacious’ Creed has only his profession—catching criminals—to fall back on. One day, outlaw killer, Corwin Blake, catches Creed by surprise and kills him. Creed awakens in an underground laboratory, resurrected by a mysterious young woman who, in addition to running the town brothel, is an accomplished robotics engineer. Now faster and tougher and before, Creed is conflicted. On the one hand, he is still driven to catch bad guys, but, on the other, he misses the peace of death. When he discovers a secret society bent upon using the techniques of resurrection for illicit purposed, though, he decides that his death can wait.

Bodacious Creed by Jonathan Fesmire is a rip-roaring steam punk zombie western story that will captivate you from beginning to end. Outlandish technology, walking dead, and plenty of black-hat villains, facing off with an undead, and conflicted hero, this story has all the elements of each genre that it represents, all coming together in an unforgettable adventure.

This is the first book in a series that is just begging to be made into a TV series. I received a free copy of this book.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Joshua and the Magical Forest’

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For a long time, Joshua has searched for his missing father. With the aid of the Oracle, he travels through mystical lands and battles strange creatures, until he’s faced with a final choice, save the world, or give up his one true love. With his friend, Andrew, and one of the last remaining imps in the world, Galleon, this young woodsman must prove himself again and again.

Joshua and the Magical Forest by Christopher D. Morgan is book one in the Portallas series which takes the reader to strange worlds filled with even stranger creatures. While mainly escapist reading, this story does have its magical moments. A nice read on a chilly day.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘A World Unimagined’

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When well written, fiction stirs the imagination, and often contains more truth than the most assiduously researched piece of nonfiction. Science fiction asks the reader to suspend disbelief and believe in worlds that exist only in the imagination. A World Unimagined, edited by Karen T. Newman goes a giant step beyond, and asks the reader to believe in worlds that lie beyond the realm of every-day imagining. An anthology of science fiction and speculative fiction by a bevy of talented international authors, this volume sucks the reader in with the inexorable force of a black hole, but, unlike a black hole, it emits light—the light of better understanding of the mundane world we currently inhabit.

Imagine, if you will, a prison located in the depths of the ocean. Now, imagine a prison transport submarine with a special prisoner on board. It runs into trouble, and the guards discover that their special prisoner possesses abilities that could not have been foreseen; with deadly consequences. This is just a snippet of the tales that await you in A World Unimagined. You don’t have to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy this book, just someone who loves a well-told tale.

 

I received an advanced review copy of this book. I took a look at the first story, and was so impressed, I decided to forego my rule of only one book review per week, and kept reading. Well-written, nay, brilliantly written. This one is a ‘don’t-miss-it’ addition to your summer reading list.

I give it four and a half stars.

Review of ‘Glamorous’

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An auto accident killed her brother, Danny, and brought Grace Bishop’s police career to an end. But, it left her with the ability to communicate with the dead, and to rematerialize Danny, who now assists her in her job as a PI determined to bring evil-doers to justice.

When a friend comes to her for help in determining the fate of missing homeless girls and prostitutes, Grace and Danny, with the assistance of her cop friend, Billy, who is aware of her paranormal ability, dig deep into the case. She discovers a paranormal ‘family’ that conceals great powers, and great evil, and is determined to put an end to it, even if it means risking her own life.

Glamorous by Denise Bossarte is a combination of mystery and magic that follows Grace as she employs her ‘ability’ to get to the truth of a serial killer who lacks remorse or any other human feelings. This is a story that will appeal to both mystery and paranormal fiction fans, with a strong, determined female heroine who takes no prisoners.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Behold Darkness’

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Businessman Nathan Serebus and his friend and attorney, Albin Conrad, while on a business trip to San Francisco, find themselves in the middle of a terrorist attack. But, this is no ordinary, garden variety terrorist attack; in this attack a contagion has been released that turns people into cannibals. In order to survive, and help humanity survive, Nathan must surrender part of his own humanity.

Behold Darkness by L.C. Champlin is not just another zombie apocalypse story, it’s more like a zombie apocalypse story on steroids. Filled with danger, dirty language, and dire situations, it has no heroes, just people doing what they have to do to survive. If you’re offended by off-color language and uncensored violence, you might want to give this book a pass. It’s definitely not for anyone with a weak constitution.

The characters, as unlovable as they are, are interesting, and the situations are intense. A good book for action junkies.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it three and a half stars for concept.

Washington DC Area – Second Day of Spring, 2018

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March 21, 2018, the second official day of spring, and here’s the view I have from my kitchen and family rooms in North Potomac, must outside Washington, DC. And, while it doesn’t show in the photos, the snow is still falling, and is forecast to continue to fall until late at night, putting most of the area on snow emergency lock-down.

Review of ‘Feasible Planet’

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Have you ever wondered what one person can do to address the serious issue of climate change, and the danger that human-generated activities threaten life on this planet? If that sounds like too ponderous subject for you, then stop reading, because you will not be interested in what follows, or in the book, Feasible Planet by Ken Kroes.

An ambitious book that gives guidelines for more sustainable living, it cannot be read in a single sitting, and has many sections that those who just want it straight forward and unvarnished—or laden with too many complicated charts and formulae. If, however, you make it through, you will be better armed to help Earth survive.

At times, this book can be a bit overpowering, and it could have, I believe, gotten the message across with fifty percent fewer charts and graphs. Having said that, I still believe it is worth reading, and actually, strongly suggest that you do just that.

I received a free copy of this book, and give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Bench’

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Jenny is the office mouse, closeted in her cubicle in a large publishing house, she lives in a world only of her literary aspirations. Then, she stumbles across a love poem by an unknown author that changes her world—not necessarily for the better.

The Bench by Kevin Farran is an enigmatic romantic novel that explores the delusions that can engulf a life, fanning flames of hope and desire in ways beyond imagining. The story follows a measured journey through one woman’s tortured mind in a way that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end.

I received a free copy of this book. I give the author four stars for a good effort to entertain and enlighten.

Review of ‘The Deepest Grave’

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DS Fiona Griffiths hasn’t had a murder case in over a year. Then, a local archaeologist is killed, beheaded, and the head is staged so that it’s staring at a fragment of Latin text. Fiona finds herself involved in a case that, in order to solve, she has to delve in battles that are centuries old, and grapple with the legend of Arthur and Camelot.

The Deepest Grave by Harry Bingham is an entertaining British crime thriller with elements of the supernatural and ancient history entwined most effectively with a contemporary crime story. Bingham presents us with a strong, yet flawed, female character who will attract and hold your interest page after page.

I give Bingham five stars for this one.

Review of ‘Open Primary: Ameritocracy’

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Disillusioned with the state of the American political process, and somewhat traumatized by her estranged father’s failed attempt to run for president, Mia Rhodes decides to upend the system. She creates a presidential primary process that is truly open—a social media engine that allows any qualified person to declare candidacy, and then lets the People decide. Her project founders until she attracts the attention of eccentric tech billionaire, Peter Colton, who bankrolls her. Once her system is up and running, though, Mia discovers that in order to change the American political quagmire, she had to undergo significant personal change.

Open Primary: Ameritocracy by A. C. Fuller takes the political system that causes all of us so much anguish head on. Humor and pathos, hope and despair, exist side by side as Mia learns that changing a dirty system often requires getting down into the mud.

If you’re still reeling from the outcome of the 2016 joke that was the presidential election, you’ll find a lot in this book to relate to, cheer for, and gnash your teeth over. This is the first book in a series that will change your view of politics forever.

This book is the Primary Colors of the 2016 election. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Stop the Slip’

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Interesting facts: falls are the number one cause of ER visits in the US, and you’re three times more likely to die from a fall injury than a firearm injury. While this doesn’t mean that we should stop our efforts to prevent firearm injuries, it does call for more attention to preventing needless injury and death from falls—mostly in the home.

Stop the Slip: Reducing Slips, Trips and Falls by Thom Disch addresses this pervasive, but little discussed, problem, with statistics and preventive measures that anyone can understand and apply. Everything from addressing clutter around your home to more intelligent selection of footwear is covered in this chilling book. Fall-proof yourself today with this handy guide.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.