Archive for the ‘News and Notices from the Writing Trenches’ Category

News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #139…

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Are you a public library patron? My local public library helped turned me into an avid reader when I was a kid. I’ve given many print versions of my books (I don’t have many—I’m working on that) to public libraries around the country. Public libraries seem as popular as ever. They offer valuable services to the community too—beyond books, internet access for those who can’t afford it, reading programs for kids, opportunities for the public to meet writers, editors, and other people in the publishing industry, and community meeting spots, to name a few.

I’m obviously a cheerleader and lament that public libraries are often among the first victims of budget axes when communities find themselves in a bind. Like public schools, these budget axes are often sharpened when fat cats in town governments feel they need more salary (why a mayor of a small town makes more than a scientist is beyond me)—of course, some of those fat cats are school administrators!

One of the reasons I’m ending exclusivity for my ebooks on Amazon and adding them to Smashwords is because Smashwords has many more affiliates that service public libraries or act like one so readers can borrow ebooks and not have to pay for them. I’m not sure how much this benefits me financially—it might not at all—but I feel it at least brings me some good karma like reviewing (see below). Anything I can do to increase reading and literacy is worthwhile.

A new affiliate was just added to Smashwords; it’s called Bibliotheca CloudLibrary. This service offers the entire Smashwords Prime Catalog to subscribing public libraries. Library patrons can also survey the catalog and ask that ebooks they find interesting be available to borrowers, if their public library allows that. Of course, if your public library doesn’t lend ebooks, you’re missing out on a lot of good books. Your public library should welcome ebooks, by the way—their shelves are probably sagging too, something that convinced me to switch to ebooks as much as possible.


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #137…

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

More books and authors, fewer readers? Peruse my blog post tomorrow and see if you agree. Comments are always welcome. You can do so directly in the blog; that’s public, so if you want to keep them private, use my contact page. In any case, please remove foul language, whether you agree or disagree. Let’s keep internet discussions civil.

New review for More than Human: The Mensa Contagion. Ramon Somoza has written a nice review of this sci-fi saga, illustrating that sci-fi is international. He is also a sci-fi author, so I am humbled and appreciative of his opinions. I have very few reviewers, so I thank each and every person who has taken the time to review one of my books. You can read any ebook for free in return for an honest review. Query me using my contact page.

Books added to Smashwords. Have you been keeping track of them? The advantage of Smashwords, of course, is that they not only retail my ebooks in all popular formats, they distribute to other retailers like Apple, B&N, and Kobo, along with various lending services. Next up are The Collector and Family Affairs, #5 and #6 from the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series.” BTW, all future ebooks from Carrick Publishing will be published on Smashwords as well as Amazon.

New PDF free for the asking. Speaking of detectives Chen and Castilblanco, they are featured in a new novella, “Dreams of Revenge.” Both cops’ new families are threatened. This and any other PDF in my list—see the webpage “Free Stuff & Contests”—are free for the asking. Query me using my contact page.

New books are coming! Gaia and the Goliaths, #7 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” will be published soon by Carrick Publishing. Rembrandt’s Angel will be published by Penmore Press this spring. I also have a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, Qasis Redux, waiting off-stage left, and I hope to publish it by this fall. My goal is to entertain my readers, so I’m still writing a lot and have a lot more ideas for new books.

Silicon Slummin’…and Just Getting’ By. The Silicon Valley hasn’t seen anyone like Mary Jo Melendez, ex-USN Master-at-Arms, and she’s not sure she wants to stay there either. Readers met the MECHs (Mechanically Enhanced Cybernetic Humans) in Muddlin’ Through. Russia and the U.S. still want them and think Mary Jo knows where they are. But they have to compete with Mary Jo’s stalker. Unlike the first book in the series, this one doesn’t travel around the world, but the dangers for her might be worse. This mystery/suspense/thriller novel is available in all ebook formats.

In libris libertas!

News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #136…

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

What do you like to read? Reading tastes vary, but my stories are in the popular genres of mystery, thrillers, crime, suspense, and sci-fi—I might write a “crossover story,” but it will have things in common with those genres (a genre is just a keyword these days, after all). I don’t do romance, erotica, fantasy, or horror. Sure, my stories can contain romance and horror—the first is a positive aspect of the human condition, the second is often a negative. I know a few authors who write that stuff (cozy mysteries and dark fantasy too), and they’re so good I can understand why their books are read, but I can’t write them, so I have to be a sometimes reader and admirer of their writing skills. That said, my mantra for what I write is simple: if each story entertains just one reader, I consider it a success.

Readers wanting freebies. I can’t seem to give it away—PDFs free for the asking, that is. No cost to me (OK, fun time I spend), so no cost to you. You might not be interested in my little course about writing fiction—that’s really for writers—but why not the short story collections and novellas? Send me an email and say what you’d like to receive. I’ll never divulge that email, and will delete it in fact unless you want to subscribe to the email version of this newsletter (it’s less frequent and more oriented to readers).

Speaking like a native. My new mystery/suspense/thriller novel Rembrandt’s Angel (coming this spring from Penmore Press) features Scotland Yard Inspector Esther Brookstone, so I had to review some differences between American and British English (Ms. Brookstone has a lively way with words). There are variations within American English and British English too. In Speaking American (I suppose the title is a nod to the UK because we Yanks don’t speak the Queen’s English by any stretch of the imagination), Josh Katz notes a few differences that go beyond regional dialects like Bostonian v. Texan. Here’s a short list of how different words are used on the East Coast v. West Coast for the same concept:

East                                                                                       West

sneakers                                                                              tennis shoes

yard sale                                                                              garage sale

skillet                                                                                    frying pan

scallions                                                                               green onions

lightning bug                                                                      firefly

turnpike                                                                               toll road

highway                                                                               freeway

middle school                                                                    junior high


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #135…

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Happy Holidays. Let me take the opportunity to wish you and yours a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year. Make a few resolutions that are easy to keep: support and use your local public libraries, support your local bookstores, and read a lot of books. Reading is fast becoming a lost art. I appreciate that you and yours are readers and feel especially honored if you read my books.

Where do you buy books? First, many people use public libraries and buy few books. There are online lenders too (Smashwords—see below—has online library affiliates.) Do I have a problem with that? No! It just increases the number of readers and is a lot better than pirating my ebooks.

Second, while your big book-barns are hurting, mom & pops seem to be surviving, offering a personalized service that many readers enjoy. (My favorite bookstores are those old musty ones specializing in used books—I make cameo appearances as an owner of one of those in Silicon Slummin’…and Just Gettin’ By and Rembrandt’s Angel.)

And then there are all the online retailers who have a huge and often overwhelming inventory. It’s a reader’s world.

Newsletter via email? You can sign up for that. Just send me an email via my contact page with the subject “Subscribe,” and I’ll add you to the list (I’ll never divulge your email to third parties). I won’t deny there will be duplicate information between this newsletter and the email one, but you’ll often get the news first via email. The email newsletter probably won’t contain as much industry news, though, so it will probably be more sporadic. Think about it. You can always unsubscribe.

Coming soon to Smashwords. Carrick Publishing and I’ll soon be adding Teeter-Totter between Lust and Murder and Aristocrats and Assassins to Smashwords, continuing the program to add all my ebooks there. We’re emphasizing the popular “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” in the immediate future, but many of my sci-fi books were already there for your perusal.


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches # 134…

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

[Aren’t you lucky! Double feature today…]

Holly Berry Arts and Crafts Show success. I want to thank everyone who stopped by my booth. If you also purchased a book or books, all the more thanks—I hope you enjoy the stories and come back for more. That show was a great success for the Upper Montclair Woman’s Club in general—all for a very the good cause of supporting their community actions—and for me in particular. It was a very different experience compared to a book fair. You can see a pic of me at the show on my Facebook author’s page (“Liking” the photo and/or the author page in general would be greatly appreciated).

Book clubs. While I signed all the books I sold at the Holly Berry Show (there were many!), my participation there seemed less like a book signing or book fair and more like the experience I have with book clubs—lots of discussions with people about the writing life, books and authors, genres, and so forth. In spite of being a bit of an old-fashioned, introverted, and reclusive author, I enjoy that kind of interaction. I’ve always been a people-watcher and enjoy talking with people (although I probably listen more than talk). If you belong to a book club in the Montclair, NJ area, query me to discuss details about an appearance. Depending on the size of your club, I can provide complimentary ebooks or print books (if available) for the club members.

Email newsletter. At the Holly Berry Show people signed up for an email newsletter, so I decided to offer it in general (new policy!). This will be a shortened and more sporadic version of this newsletter about newsy items in my writing life you, the reader, might be interested in—new books, freebies, other events like the Holly Berry show, and news and info about the world of publishing in general that might affect you as a reader. I will NOT bombard you with zero-content newsletters or ads. And I will never divulge your email to third parties—I don’t like spam, and I imagine you don’t either.

Amazon is annoying. I was writing an article for next week on whether short story collections are doomed to extinction (please, no comments until you’ve read the article) and happened to look up details about Fire Upon the Deep, a Vinge sci-fi novel. In their defense, Amazon’s computer algorithms have no way of knowing what I intended to do with that information, but I was immediately blitzed on Facebook with an ad for that novel.

First, why blitz me with an ad? Presumably, if I were interested in buying the book, I would have bought it when I was on Amazon! Second, there is the stupid assumption that I was interested in the book, which is not true–I hate it as an example of a case where a sci-fi writer goes against KNOWN science. Vinge postulates that the speed of light changes as one moves away from galaxy center.

You can extrapolate known science in sci-fi; negating known science is a sin. That’s why I’m not into zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and so forth, but you could call that fantasy. Vinge received the 1991 Hugo for his book, a prize generally reserved for true sci-fi, and that’s how his book was marketed. In such cases, I can’t get beyond the pseudo-scientific crap to enjoy the story–sorry Vernor!

New PDF free for the asking. I just finished the novella “The Whistleblower” last week, a story set in the future about two presidential candidates and their backers. It’s a pessimistic portrayal about how American democracy might evolve, so we’ll say it’s post-apocalyptic considering the current election results. It’s completely bipartisan, though, because I don’t say which party each candidate belongs too, and they’re both sleazy. This has joined the list of other PDFs free for the asking—see the “Free Stuff & Contests” page. Query me via the contact page.

More info for readers. In addition to the online and email newsletters, I write book and movie reviews and author interviews. is where I do my “official reviewing” of books, but I’ll often post reviews of books I read for R&R here. Also, any reader with comments, questions, or concerns about one of my books can use my contact page—I’ll respond as soon as possible. (Those email threads can be a lot of fun.)

Info for writers. About half my posts in recent months have been about writing and the writing business, 309 in total over the lifetime of this blog—yeah, I’ve been writing for a long time! Here are some recent titles of posts you can find in the “Writing” archive that might interest you: Crime, Mystery, and Thriller Stories; NaNoWriMo and Writing Distractions; Action Scenes; The Cart and the Horse; “Cultural Appropriation” in Writing; Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction; Short Story, Novella, or Novel?; Books by Celebrities; and Are Traditional Crime Stories Passé? Maybe it’s time to add to my little course on fiction writing? (That’s in the archive too, but it’s also compiled into a PDF, free for the asking.)


Action on the southern border! No, it’s not Trump beginning the construction of The Wall. It’s Chen and Castilblanco fighting terrorists, a cartel, and neo-Nazi militias. In Angels Need Not Apply, the deadly duo from the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” go undercover to fight crime as part of a national task force. This novel is available in all ebook formats.

In libris libertas!



News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #133…

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Winter’s coming! We’ve been through our few days of Indian Summer (should we call it Native American Summer to be PC?) and some weather a few weeks ago already seemed like late November. In lieu of hibernating, you might want to consider stretching out in your recliner with a good book and a glass of wine or something stronger. A fireplace also helps chase away the winter doldrums. While streaming video series or computer games are an alternative, books are less passive and stimulate your mind more. And you can multitask a lot easier: Books, drinks, and music are hard to beat.

Something new to read? There are many books out there just waiting for your perusal, but I would be very honored and pleased if you chose one of mine! There are twenty-two to choose from—all written to entertain you; all with current themes to stimulate your mind. (See the list on the “Books & Short Stories” webpage.) Every book can be read independently, even books in a series. I refuse to be formulaic. I might repeat some characters—they’re always clamoring for their stories to be told—but each story is fresh and new. There’s a reason Blarney Castle is on my “About the Author” webpage—my muses are really banshees with tasers, and they know all about the stories I’ve told and the stories I have yet to tell. Choose one story already told from my catalog and relax in that recliner to enjoy an entertaining read.

Facebook Redux. I got tired of posting “normally” on FB because (1) way back they stopped letting me share my blog posts (Google+ allows me to do that, and I RSS to both my Amazon page and Goodreads); (2) since then, they have censored me on numerous occasions (over-compensation for conservatives’ complaints?); and (3) many times I would make an innocent comment and some jerk would climb on her or his soapbox and skewer me (why I never use Twitter, not even at 3 a.m.).  (Apologies to all my FB friends—it’s not your fault.) I have increased the number of mini-posts on my author page. These posts contain short reviews of classics, quotes, some wacky definitions, and newsy items to complement the longer ones in this blog. Check it out. (That’s one reason these “News and Notices…” have diminished in number. Another is that I’m spending more time writing!)

Blog slant. Besides this newsletter, this blog also features op-ed posts, among many others. While I never worry about an author’s political opinions when deciding to read her or his book (otherwise I wouldn’t have read Card, Clancy, Crichton, Heinlein, Hogan, and many others), I often fear that my political opinions irk some readers and cause them NOT to read my books. I was pleased to learn that Hugh Howey, who became famous for the post-apocalyptic Wool tales, has included op-ed posts at his website—his “The Greatest Threat” is a recent example, found on his blog “The Wayfinder” (named after his Wayfinding series, I guess?). His website can be found here . Thanks to author-friend Scott Dyson for bringing this to my attention—Scott is a regular commenter to this blog (news flash! we don’t always agree—reasoned comments are always welcome whether I agree with their content or not).

New Smashwords addition. The ebook Angels Need Not Apply has been added to Smashwords. That means that this title is available there as well as retailers where Smashwords distributes (Apple, B&N, Kobo, etc) and its associated book lenders—these offer other ebook formats preferred by those who don’t have Kindle readers or don’t use the free Kindle app. Smashwords even offers the Kindle format (.mobi). Of course, you can still find this ebook on Amazon. It contains several themes which are still current; it also has a new cover. (more…)

News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #132…

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Mom-and-pop bookstores. There was an interesting little article in the NY Times about how mom-and-pop bookstores are surviving through online sales. I have no idea where the Times reporters got their information (another mysterious person slipping them a brown envelope like the one containing Trump’s tax report?), but it just sounds wrong. Why would customers order online from a mom-and-pop when they have a greater inventory elsewhere? I’m guessing that the owners of the mom-and-pop are offering some services the big retailers like Amazon can’t and won’t offer, if only personalized reading recommendations (actually, Amazon offers those).  Readers, please enlighten me: how is online business saving the mom-and-pop bookstores?

Print versions. They seem hardly worth it! I had enough people tell me they preferred print over ebooks that I thought it would be a good idea to start adding print versions. The second edition of The Midas Bomb and Rogue Planet have print versions as a consequence. No one’s buying them. One reason is clear: bookstores (especially the big book barns) won’t stock them or order them until customers request them. When readers peruse Amazon, most probably ignore that a print version is available, or are turned away by the price (my print version prices are less than traditional publishers’, though). I’m thinking they are only useful to me for book clubs, book fairs, book signings, and the like, where the print version is a lot more tangible than a postcard that features the ebook cover. Readers, let me know what you think.

PDF policy. The “Steve’s Shorts” category of my blog will be solely for short stories from now on. I will offer free PDFs of novellas, but they will no longer be posted to the blog. To get a free copy, shoot me off an email query using this website’s “Contact Page.” (I respect your privacy. I will never divulge your email and will delete it in fact once I respond to your request.) BTW, you can freely copy these and pass them around—just don’t sell them or steal the content (copyright laws still apply). The PDFs offer a simple, cost-effective way to try out my storytelling.  “The Portal in the Pines” will be the next free PDF. This novella is a tale about first contact. I’m accepting queries for a copy now. Available PDFs will always be listed on my webpage “Free Stuff & Contests.”

Review requests. Authors, please don’t waste your time querying me directly. (1) I do my “official reviewing” with Bookpleasures, so query that website—we have a large staff of reviewers. (2) Even for books I read for R&R and like enough to review on Amazon, I won’t write an Amazon review if the book has more than 50 reviews. While most of them might only say “great!” or “this is terrible!”, I won’t play Amazon’s game where reviews are fed into a meat grinder to spit out a useless ranking—said ranking isn’t believable even if the book has 1000 reviews!

Pricing. J. C. Penney proved the fallacy in trying to say all their merchandise is already on sale. Human psychology says people want high prices and then to receive discounts. Your department store will set astronomical prices and then offer sales where the consumer more likely than not just ends up paying a price the store should have posted to begin with.

Given this psychology, I’m planning a price increase on ALL my books in January 2017. They won’t be astronomical prices, but they will be higher. And then, occasionally, I’ll put a book on sale on Smashwords (I have to be exclusive on Amazon to do that, bless their greedy little souls, so I won’t do sales via Amazon anymore). FYI: you can buy .mobi (Kindle) formatted ebooks on Smashwords—take that, Amazon! (Print versions will never be on sale—they’re expensive because it costs more to produce and sell them, but you might be able to get a discount if you see me in a book fair or for a local book club.)

Hooray! You’re a Reader! We’re an endangered species, but if you’re perusing this newsletter and/or this blog, you must be a reader, so I thank you. I do have to wonder why you don’t buy my books, though. They cover a broad spectrum of genres and themes. I always write them to entertain you—that’s my first priority. Otherwise, why bother? I have no narcissistic need to be a famous writer. I just want to entertain some readers like you with my yarns. Check out my catalog—there’s something for everyone.

Rogue Planet. What a disappointment! I had so much fun writing this, and no one is reading it. I guess readers just don’t like the mix of hard sci-fi and fantasy elements. Too bad. Prince Kaushal is one of my best characters, and the story continues the saga started in the “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy.” It also is a warning about what can happen when a despotic theocracy rules the world. Maybe that’s a problem too—is that setting is too close to home considering ISIS and Iran? Give it another look. You might like it.

In libris libertas!



News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #131…

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Calling all readers. (This is a reaction to a short and probably inaccurate NY Times article.)  Nielsen and publishers’ reports indicate a declining American readership.  Only about 50% of those polled plan to read at least one book in the next year.  That’s a bit nebulous, but it confirms my suspicions: Americans are not reading much for pleasure anymore.

I don’t have accurate stats, but the reasons seem obvious: people are entertained or distracted by many other things now.  Reading a novel takes a bit more time than reading the latest tweet by Mr. Trump or a Hollywood celebrity, for example.  And a video game compensates for its lack of plot and creativity by offering striking visuals, visceral emotions, and even lewd experiences for many (all females in these games, whether good or bad, are so endowed that they set the fem lib movement back at least one hundred years).

Publishers are also reporting that ebook sales are declining.  That’s a lot easier to understand.  When a publisher charges almost as much for the ebook as the print version, readers feel a bit like those parents faced with that $ 600 bill for an Epipen pack—in other words, they feel like victims to price gouging.  An ebook doesn’t cost as much to produce and shipping and storage costs are close to zero, so that feeling is justified.  A reader who prefers ebooks will turn to indies and small presses that offer more reasonable prices.


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #130…

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Busy summer. When I announced the reorg of this blog, my excuse was that I needed to dedicate more time to my writing. I’ve done that, but that’s only partly the reason that there hasn’t been much news about the writing business to comment on. That’s more due to things slowing down in the lazy summertime (for some folks, anyway, but not me)—readers might buy books or load up their e-readers for vacations and beach trips, but publishers take a hiatus too, if we discount media blasts about politics. Things will start turning around as we get into the fall. So, here we go!

A coup for Big Five’s Penguin/Random House? I’m talking about the reading program “Subway Reads” where NYC’s subway straphangers will have access to free reads by “major authors,” short stories and novella and novel excerpts, all blessed (and owned) by this publisher. Because NYC is the mecca of too-big-to-fail publishing conglomerates, I’m guessing the MTA only accepted bids from the Big Five. Heaven forbid they feature indies or small imprints!

Of course, why they chose Penguin/Random House (that’s what was reported—others in the Big Five might be involved) and didn’t contract with ebook distributors (Amazon and Smashwords) that often have free ebooks available is easily explained: the city doesn’t like indies or small imprints and they don’t like Amazon or Smashwords. But let’s consider the good, the bad, and the ugly of all this in more detail.


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #129…

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Wild about Harry? Not so fast! First, what’s hit the bookstores and brought out wizards, muggles, and so forth wasn’t written by Rowling—her name is prominently featured on the cover in a blatant show of brand borrowing designed to entrap the naïve. Second, it’s a play, not a novel, the written version of a drama that has already opened in London. Third, Harry is all grownup and sending his own kids to magic school. This exploitation of a brand name is as flagrant as when the Chines bought Lenovo from IBM and still called it Lenovo (although “Rowling” and “Harry Potter” generally offer more quality than anything manufactured in China).  I wonder how much the play’s authors paid J. K. Rowling.

Short is the new long? I never start a story thinking, “This is going to be a novel.” Or, short story or novella. Some zines have limits for short stories, lower and upper bound; so do some traditional publishers for novels they publish. The author has to respect that, of course. But let me quote marketing guru Penny Sansevieri:

“Shorter books rock. I’ve said before that short is the new long, but that applies even more with your avid reader groups.”

Is she right? Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy books, for example, are long novels; most of his books are long (The Ambler Warning, one of his books I found handy on my bookshelf, is 489 pages). (The Bourne movies only shared their titles with the Bourne books—the new movie is simply called Jason Bourne.) Clancy’s A Clear and Present Danger is 688 pages long. OK, these books were all written long before the ebook revolution, but the question still is important: how long should a genre X be, where X = short story, novella, or novel. Clearly, the answer is genre-dependent, and a wide variation can be found.