Review of “With Mercy,” the latest in “The Nephilim Chronicles” by Jeremy Lee James

A taut, superbly crafted thrill ride. (Five Stars!)

“With Mercy” is the second installment of Jeremy James’ urban fantasy thriller series “The Nephilim Chronicles.” Half-angel Jequon struggles to survive and to discover the identities of his mortal enemies, the Sons of Jared. He’s accompanied by Mercy, a woman raised from an early age specifically to kill him, but who has incentive to cooperate instead since she views his aid as vital for rescuing her best friend. The action takes place in the context of an ambitious and fascinating back story that integrates vampires, the Dead Sea scrolls and the seven signs of the apocalypse. I was sucked in from page one. The pace is relentless, the characters compelling, the writing bold and gritty, and the craftsmanship, superb. Can’t wait for the next installment. Highly, highly recommend!

Blog Hop: Importance

Many thanks to Mary Vensel White, author of The Qualities of Woodfor tagging me in this Blog Hop and thereby forcing me to consider my work in a more societal context. Always appreciate a nudge to view things from a fresh perspective. Mary’s been a guiding light through many aspects of the publishing process, not to mention an incredibly gifted storyteller. You can find evidence of her latest exploits here.

THE QUESTION:

Why are you working on the project you are writing now? Why is it important? (to you, or to the world, or…)

My next project, tentatively titled Practical Phrendonics continues The Dreamweaver Chronicles, begun in The Demon of Histlewick Downs. These stories loosely follow the ripple effects through history of a brilliant but controversial woman on a pseudo-Victorian society—a refined culture only belatedly realizing that magic is a force to be reckoned with. Their responses reflect some of the usual reactions that accompany the emergence of a disruptive force on an otherwise comfortable status quo. The folks who get caught in the crosshairs learn lessons that will no doubt resonate with anyone living in times of rapid technological advancement.

The work is also important on a more personal level: my characters are holding me hostage in a small windowless room at knifepoint, demanding to be published.

And now, I’m delighted to pass the torch to two captivating and accomplished novelists who will be answering the same question with respect to their own works-in-progress:

Claudia Whitsitt is the author of The Samantha Series (Identity Issues, Intimacy Issues and Internal Issues) and The Wrong Guy. Samantha, Claudia’s amateur sleuth, is a school teacher unwittingly caught up in a fascinating case of stolen identity. Identity Issues was one of my first kindle app downloads, and despite having to sit at a computer desk to do it, I devoured it in no time. Her take on the importance of her current work-in-progress should be appearing here shortly.

Matthew Pallamary, an inspirational publishing powerhouse, whose accomplishments include historical fiction-turned Cirque-du-Soleil-style performance (Land Without Evil), to memoir (Spirit Matters), to Science Fiction (Dreamland) to self-help (The Infinity Zone) and several short story collections. He still somehow finds time to mentor new authors at numerous writers’ conferences (Including the upcoming Southern California Writers’ Conference) where his late-night Rogue Read-and-Critique sessions are always a special treat. How do you do it, Matt? I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a word or two about your upcoming novel, Eye of the Predator in your reply.

CreateSpace for the win!

So far mad props to CreateSpace for making the process of generating a print edition of The Demon of Histlewick Downs efficient and relatively painless. Learned enough InDesign to format the interior with styles, drop caps, running headers and an auto-generated TOC (using some gorgeous free-for-commercial-use fonts). Submitted proof PDFs two nights ago, and passed their review process yesterday. After inspecting their online proofs, I ordered the hard copy proof late last night. I received an email that my proof was in the mail early this morning. Do they not sleep? One glitch so far, and it wasn’t their fault: I also initially designed the cover in InDesign, but the pdf output dulled the eye’s iris color from brilliant blue to cornflower. Redesigned the cover using Photoshop, and digitally, at least, all the colors looked great. The 3D online rotating proof gave me goosebumps. Here’s hoping the print version measures up!

Two other things I learned. One site I happened across complained that once you enter a title and an ISBN, you can’t change them, even if the book hasn’t been printed yet. I didn’t try, so I can’t confirm. The other is that if you use your own ISBN instead of theirs, CreateSpace won’t distribute your book to academic institutions or libraries as part of their expanded distribution program, so be careful if that’s important to you.

Flinch Lives!

 

So proud to report that my debut novel, The Demon of Histlewick Downs, first volume in The Dreamweaver Chronicles is now available as an ebook on Amazon.com. ISBN 978-0-9906281-0-1. ASIN B00M1J2U8I. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22888765-the-demon-of-histlewick-downsDoHD cover

For newer visitors, here’s the premise:

When the Church declared all spell-casting to be heresy, young Thoren Theratigan wasn’t worried. After all, despite a deep academic knowledge of magic theory, his father couldn’t work an actual spell if his life depended on it. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the Inquisitors from breaking down their door and dragging his parents away as heretics. When Thoren learns the Inquisitor General is staying in Histlewick Downs, he resolves to travel there to rescue his parents and set the record straight. Little does he know the Inquisitor General has powerful enemies—genuine magic-wielding heretics who will stop at nothing to oppose him. Armed only with his determination, a relative’s peculiar pocket watch, and a fraction of his father’s useless knowledge, can Thoren stave off the Inquisitor General’s enemies long enough to convince him he’s made a mistake?

Up next–the paperback edition of DoHD through CreateSpace, and work on the next three volumes in The Dreamweaver Chronicles, a trilogy with the working title Practical Phrendonics.The trilogy is already written, and I’ll now be turning my attention to editing. I’ll keep you posted on any new developments.

Enjoy!

Amazon vs. Hachette: Where’s the Beef?

The Battle.

To hear the pundits tell it, a battle between good and evil is raging across cyberspace as Hachette faces off against Amazon in a crusade to protect all things literary from the evils of market-driven pricing. Since I’m not an industry insider, I initially found it difficult to comprehend how something as pedestrian as a pricing structure could evoke such passion. As I understand it, Hachette wants Amazon to agree to an agency pricing scheme. Under this scheme, Hachette would set the prices the consumer pays Amazon for Hachette books sold through the Amazon site.  Amazon, by contrast, would prefer to buy those books wholesale and set the retail prices themselves. Big yawn, right? So why do they really care? In general, when it looks like a corporation is motivated to take a controversial stand out of altruism for anyone other than its shareholders, two things are probably true. First, the propaganda is working, and, second, if you want the truth, you’ll need to dig deeper.

Where’s the Beef?

Amazon supporters argue that if Amazon loses, Hachette would keep ebook prices abnormally high.  But that contravenes common sense, right?  Ebooks are cheaper to produce than paperbacks, and therefore bring higher profit per unit. If Hachette makes more profit on ebooks, why make them sell less well?

Long-Term Repercussions of an Amazon Win.

Looking deeper, if Amazon wins, like any retailer, they’ll want to optimize their profits by taking costs and sales volume into account.  For example, if Amazon buys a paperback book wholesale from Hachette for $3.00 and it costs a $1.00 for Amazon to ship it, Amazon may decide to sell it for $5.00. That leaves them $1.00 profit.  What about an ebook? If Hachette wholesales the ebook to Amazon for the same price ($3.00), Hachette gets a windfall compared to the print book, since it was cheaper to produce and required no warehousing. From Amazon’s perspective, they can make the exact same profit as the print book ($1.00) by selling that ebook for $4.00 instead of $5.00. They can do even better by selling the ebook for $4.25. The ebook costs them less to deliver so they can afford to pass at least a fraction of that savings along to the consumer, thereby driving increased sales volume and thereby earning potentially greater profits.

The net effect: Under the Amazon model, ebook editions are likely to sell for substantially less than the paperback version, though they may also earn greater net profits from increased volume.  Why would Hachette oppose that?

The Current Hachette System: Lower Production Costs, Higher Prices—Huh?

And yet, oppose it they do! For example, check out this Hachette listing from Amazon (on which Douglas Preston is an author).

http://www.amazon.com/Two-Graves-Pendergast-Douglas-Preston/dp/0446555002

At the time of this writing, the Kindle edition is actually selling for $8.99 while the paperback goes for $8.50. That doesn’t seem to make sense under either model—until one considers what else happens to consumer behavior if the Amazon model prevails. Judging by my own buying habits, if I get free shipping (e.g. Amazon Prime) and if the ebook costs the same or nearly the same as the paperback, I’ll opt to buy the paperback almost every time. For the same price, it feels like a better deal to get paper over pixels.  If, on the other hand, the ebook is always substantially cheaper, even if I tend to prefer paperbacks, eventually I’d probably give in and get a Kindle to start taking advantage of all those savings.  And that, I suspect, is the disaster Hachette is scrambling to avoid.

Trickledown Distribution?

Traditional publishers have been able to negotiate such favorable terms from authors for one simple reason—they have a stranglehold on brick-and-mortar print distribution. Even Amazon can’t compete with them there. However, as sales of Hachette’s print books dwindle in favor of cheaper ebooks, so does their leverage over authors.  Once ebook sales substantially exceed print sales, what author wouldn’t wonder whether the value Hachette was providing was truly worth 85 percent of the take? So when Hachette supporters say they are defending literature, what I think they really mean is they are protecting what’s left of the big five’s print distribution monopoly power, and by extension, their leverage over authors.

Incentive Management

Assuming this is the real reason for promoting the Agency model, it suddenly makes sense that publishers don’t share the production and distribution savings from ebooks with their authors. First, legacy authors are now expected to do quite a bit of their own marketing. If you’re Hachette, and monopoly protection is your real goal, you’ll be very careful to eliminate any incentives for authors to favor selling ebooks over print. Also, because Hachette’s authors aren’t currently making more from ebooks, they’re unlikely to expect much difference in the bottom line regardless of who wins this fight. Think of it this way—if higher-volume ebook sales meant more money for authors than higher-volume print sales, Hachette authors probably wouldn’t be lining up to express their preference for an Agency model that artificially suppresses ebook sales.

Higher ebook Wholesale Prices?

But wait, couldn’t Hachette fix the whole problem simply by adopting Amazon’s model and charging considerably more for the ebook?  Maybe, but most consumers are aware ebooks are cheaper to produce than paperbacks, and they expect cheaper prices as a result. Keeping them the same price is already deeply unpopular with many readers. Authors might take issue with that as well. Assigning a substantially higher wholesale price would likely be a public relations nightmare.

The Color of Amazon’s Hat…

Before deciding whether Amazon is hero, villain, or merely a corporation seeking to maximize value to shareholders, consider this: with respect to market share, Hachette’s loss is likely Amazon’s gain. One need invoke neither a burning desire protect hapless consumers from overinflated prices nor a crusade to defend literature from the perils of unmitigated slush to explain why these corporations can’t come to terms. Just follow the money.

The End of Flinch

Yep, that’s right.  I reached the end of DoHD at 6:05 tonight at 91,000 words, ending at book 4, chapter 7.  Very satisfied with how it turned out. All those pesky loose ends are now tucked securely in place.

That means now the editing begins.  Woohoo!

A reminder, the story portion on the website will be coming down soon.

Flinch grows up.

Where does the time go?  A little over a year ago, I began writing a little serial piece called The Demon of Histlewick Downs as a way to keep myself writing while I worked on getting Practical Phrendonics publication-ready. Almost 6 months ago, I decided on an editor, but there was a catch–she was booked 6 months in advance. In the meantime, I continued typing merrily away on DoHD. Then September came along, and we attended the Southern California Writers’ Conference. There, we got to meet in-person the editor I’d chosen, who reviewed the first few pages of DoHD as part a workshop she was hosting. Based on her recommendation at the workshop, I’ve decided to have DoHD edited for publication, even before PP (in part because it’s a stand-alone effort, while PP is a series). That gives me about three weeks to finish and polish Flinch’s story before the editor gets a stab at him.

Since some agents are leery of representing pre-published works, I’ve decided to stop posting the final installments of DoHD online. Not to worry though–if you’ve been a loyal reader, leave me a message here by mid November and an email address and I’ll see to it that you get copies of the final installments.  I don’t think agents object to beta-readers!

Oh, and that means that over the next few weeks, the rest of the Flinch story will be coming down off the site as he gets ready to transition to this new phase in the process.

Proceed to Chapter 12

Time’s up!

Cover Stories: the Design Observer’s 2012 top 50 picks for Cover Design

The Design Observer has announced the 2012 winners for Cover Design:

design observerAs someone who’s considering self-publishing a paranormal-fantasy series, I’d be interested in seeing the rubric the judges used to decide how to separate the wheat from the chaff. In the past I’ve been given all sorts of advice (solicited and unsolicited) about what makes a good cover, but if the results of this contest are any indication, the judges weren’t privy to any of it.

Apparently, simple monochromatic font covers are in vogue (How Music Works, Shoplifting From American Apparel, The Sniper’s Log, the David Foster Wallace book, Paris I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down, etc.)  as are covers that contain some sort of note (Girlchild, At Last, What to Look for in Winter, Oblivion, The Flame Alphabet, etc.). The judges also seem inordinately fond of non-head items forming heads (The Investigation, The Bug, Cascade). In most cases, the genre or subject matter of the book are not discernible from either the cover or from the title. In many instances, obscured text or tiny fonts require the reader to use a magnifying glass to deduce the title or author (Cascade, Oblivion, The Flame Alphabet, The Vanishers, Stripped, Girlchild). Courier as a font makes a surprise resurgence as a cover-design element, clearly though, like nudity, only when it’s integral to the plot (Girlchild, Butterfly in the Typewriter).

My favorite?  Far and away, its the attractive cover for The Teleportation Accident. To me, the title and the cover conspire to give an intriguing suggestion about what the book might be about that makes me want to investigate further.

The takeaway message for the self-published author is that award-winning covers can be produced using simple graphic elements and a good aesthetic sense.  Many of these winners used little or no artwork. Of course, the elements that win a design contest may not translate well to selling books. It will be interesting to see whether any also become best-sellers.