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Kindle Unlimited, Amazon-Hachette, and “Fairness”

I am so outraged! Yes. And you know what? No one gives a damn.

ShitDoesntJustHappen_TNActually, I’m not outraged. I’m kind of sick of outrage.  I think you can get an idea of part of my philosophy from one of the covers of a trifecta of similar books I’ve written coming out in September.

Somehow, this notion of ‘fair’ has crept into publishing. Which is really funny because it’s never been fair, and isn’t going to become fair.

Plus ‘fair’ means different things. For a bestselling trad author who gets 7 or 8 figure advances, fair is they made it and doggone, they want everything to stay the same. Because it works pretty well for them. Completely understandable.

Big name authors have agents that negotiate better terms for them than the average authors gets. Better royalty rates, kickers, marketing built into the contracts, etc. As I was told by my publicist at Random House: we put our marketing money behind our bestsellers. Yet these authors wrap themselves in the Emperor’s cloak of ‘we represent literature’ and ‘freedom of speech’. Seriously, dudes? A little honesty will be nice as you cash your checks.

Now we have Kindle Unlimited and how writers are being divided into classes? Duh. Always been. Simple answer if one doesn’t like Unlimited. Pull books from Select. Just as the authors putting an ad in the NY Times should focus their energies on something they might actually be able to do: get their publishers to pull their books from Amazon. Does anyone else find it strange that they’re ‘fighting’ Amazon while still working with Amazon? That’s called collusion. Amazon’s a corporation that doesn’t owe them squat. There is no right to have Amazon grant a pre-order button (ask indies who have fought this battle for years) or even stock your book. The contract these trad authors signed was with their publisher not Amazon. Focus on the real deal you signed.

And top indie authors are getting a different deal regarding Unlimited, pre-order buttons and other perks. Hmm. Class system? Or the reality that sales have clout? We’re seeing the indie world go the way of the trad world, where the better sellers get better deals, more merchandizing, etc. Fair? I served in Special Operations.  I don’t know what fair is.  I live in the real world.

Bottom line– this is capitalism, not a democracy where everyone gets treated the same (and if anyone can find a real democracy anywhere in the world, send me a note). We get treated according to our success and also by the business decisions we make. My not being happy with something isn’t going to change the reality of it. However, it does factor into the decisions I make.

Watch out NY, Cool Gus is heading your way!

This week is Thrillerfest. The conference kicked off yesterday with the Master CraftFest, which is a one-day intensive workshop focused on the craft of writing. Then Wednesday and Thursday is CraftFest, which is more craft and its good to see this conference focus so intently on the craft of writing. The most important part of an authors marketing plan is a good solid cleanly crafted story. We tend to focus so much on the business, especially when things like the Hachette/Amazon negotiation seems to be the center of attention. The business part is important, but you don’t have the business part until you put your butt in the chair and write a damn good book.

There is also PitchFest. I actually attended the very first Pitchfest and pitched to a lot of agents. Bob was there too, but this was about a six months before we put our business into action. I remember Bob strolling in and out of the room, observing. He had given the keynote on how to pitch and made himself available to authors to work pitches. I have mixed feelings about PitchFest, but it is a great networking experience and you do meet a wide variety of agents and other authors. But it’s exhausting, so anyone reading this and attending Pitchfest my suggestion to you is drink water and take small breaks and don’t stress. The most important thing isn’t so much pitching your story, but making a business contact. We also recommend not spending your entire time at the conference focused on these pitches, practicing the pitches, making last minute adjustments to your pitch. Do it before you go to the conference, and then don’t think about it until its time. I know, that’s hard, but really, from someone who did the whole pitch thing for YEARS, its better that way.

ThrillerFest is then Friday and Saturday and filled with panels and workshops and lectures all ranging from writing topics to business topics to panels given from experts in various fields that might interest writers. Bob and I always recommend when picking which panel to attend base it on who the presenter is and not the topic.

East IndiaThis will be the first summer Bob and I are not attending either RWA or Thrillerfest. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. I WILL be at Thrillerfest on Friday, lurking in the lobby, but I’m not actually attending the conference. I’m heading into the city and will be meeting with someone from Amazon and also meet with our author, Amy Shojai and then having dinner with some really cool authors Friday night. But for a few hours, I’ll be hanging in the lobby checking out all the happenings, talking writing and publishing so please, come on over and say hello, cuz you know, its all about networking.

Oh, and before I forget, today is release day for East India by Colin Falconer! Very excited about this book. One of Colin’s best works yet!

Nothing but good times!

A 25 Year Series Arc: The Green Berets re-launched (discounted & free)

patch-500x500Write what you know is a maxim often preached to writers. When I began writing over 25 years ago, I followed it, writing novels based on my continuing experience as a soldier, particularly as a Special Forces soldier. Thus, I believe on key to my Green Beret series is insight into a mindset less than 1% of American have experienced (much less than that if you consider just Special Operations).

I started my first novel in 1988. It ended up being the second book in my Green Beret series: Dragon Sim-13. I wrote the most recent book in the Green Beret series: Chasing the Lost in 2013 and am writing the ninth book in the series now, Chasing the Son. We’re re-launching the updated entire series discounted or free on Nook (.99), iBooks, Kobo, and Google (Free) this week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the introduction of my main character in the series, Dave Riley. Much like me, Riley has been through a lot of over the year.  Here are all the links to the books on all platforms on one page including audiobook excerpts.

What a long strange trip it’s been.

Dave went from an NCO to a Warrant Officer to a private contractor to retired and living on Dafuskie Island. Along the way, he lost a love, fought many battles, and met Horace Chase to launch a new part of his life in the Low Country.

HelicoptersThat first book back in 1988 was initially titled Payback. It was set in Russia, not China. Of course, the Cold War ending put the end to that. I had to rewrite it and thus Eyes of the Hammer became the first book published.

I went into Special Forces when it wasn’t sheik. When my Infantry Battalion executive officer flat out told me I was destroying my ‘career’ by applying to the Special Forces Qualification Course. I pinned on the crossed arrows of the newly minted Special Forces branch at Ft. Benning while attending the Infantry Officer Advanced Course. That didn’t go over well there.

I was part of the committee at Ft. Bragg that completely revamped the Q-Course to update it. That helped design the new Special Forces branch. That wrote manuals focused on fighting Low Intensity Conflict, as it was called then, that led into the War On Terror. And, once off active duty and in the reserves, was constantly called to active duty for various tours of duty in various places around the globe, usually not tourist attractions.

I incorporated all this experience into my books. While I took a bit of turn toward science fiction in Synbat (which foreshadowed my career as a scifi writer with 3 #1 bestselling series), I stayed true to Dave Riley. He disappeared for a while after Z (terrible title!), but then I wrote Chasing the Ghost about another ex Spec-Ops guy, set in Boulder, Colorado, where I lived for a time. And I realized Riley and Chase has to meet and they did in Chasing the Lost, which I consider one of my best books. And that book flows naturally into the next book which will be out later this year. I love my cast of misfits and veterans in the low country; sort of my version of Deadwood. A lawless place where there’s a lot of violence in the shadows.

Sneak PeakSo this week, we’re celebrating Riley’s return to these platforms and the partnership of Riley & Chase.

Nothing but good times ahead.

With lots of shooting.

And, if you haven’t yet, download my free Sneak Peeks which has excerpts from all the Green Beret books (and many authors).


The Story Grid: A Writer’s Tool

Every book is an adventure in writing, but there is one tool I have consistently used from my very first book and with every single one of the next 60 some odd that followed: The Story Grid.

After a couple of decades together, my wife has learned my few and far between foibles. One of them is a lack of attention to detail. I’m a big picture guy. If my wife wants to hide something from me in the fridge all she has to do is put it behind something. If she needs me to get something for her, she knows to give me very detailed instructions down to exactly what drawer, where in the drawer it is, and exactly what it is. Or I’m like Cool Gus: I’ll come back with the first ball I find.

I have the same problem writing. I can “see” the big picture of the book in my brain. But once I start writing, I tend to forget what I’ve written. So I use a physical, external device, to help me: the Story Grid.

It goes to the left of my keyboard (I’m left-handed) for every book as I’m writing. I fill it in as I’m writing. I use a red ink pen. Then I update the Excel sheet and print it out every day.

Every row is a scene in the book.

The columns depend on the type of story (do I need a countdown? Greenwich Mean Time?) but generally go thusly:

Chapter #; start page; end page; time/date; location; a brief summary of the action.

Here is an example from a work in progress, Nightstalkers: The Time Patrol which will be published on 25 Nov this year. In this case, instead of time/date, I use a 48 hour countdown because a clock is started leading to the end of the world as we know it in 48 hours.  Most of it makes no sense to you, but since I’ve written the scenes, it reminds me immediately of what’s been done.  It’s also a good way to see the flow of the book.


Note that what has been written ends at the beginning of Chapter 8. Everything below that is notes and future scenes that I put there as they occur to me. At the bottom are some notes from previous books in the series with terms I need, but can’t remember. Some of the terms near the bottom in bold are story loops I need to close out for various characters.  I also can add in a word count each day, to keep me on task.

Being able to put everything on one page makes it much easier for me to keep track. So if you’re not a good detail person, consider something like this. If you are a good detail person, but not a good big picture person, consider something like Jennifer Crusie’s collages, where she puts together a diorama that physically represents the entire story and can have it in her office where she can see it all the time.

On entirely different matter, we’d like feedback on these covers. We’re putting together a library sampler of all my books, consisting of one downloadable book that has every cover, author note on every book, brief description and opening chapter. We think this is a way readers can ‘browse’ my books for free. We’ll announce the launch of the sampler with links for download in a week or so here at Write It Forward. If you sign up for my newsletter (only sent out a couple times a year) you’ll have access to exclusive content from works in project I’ll be posting on-line soon, looking for reader feedback. Parts of the book from the story grid above will be the first to be posted. Sign up is to the left.

Just number them 1 thru 5, left to write, for your comments.



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