Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Derringers...How do we Choose?

There is a huge debate going on in the Short Mystery Fiction Society about self-published stories and how they should be included in the Derringer Awards. I've remained silent on the subject because I have a foot on both sides of the argument. There is a lot of crap being put out by writers who would not be considered in a professional market. There are also a lot of great stories being published by authors who want to have control of their work.

In my opinion, this is the same argument that rages in the publishing world over the flood of books released each year, often given away free, on Amazon. Anyone can throw a book together, post it to Amazon, and presto...a new published author. Some of those books are so bad, they can't be given away. Some of them give independent authors a bad name. Should judges for important awards be subjected to reading all those stories? If so, nobody would be willing to judge those stories.

In past years, I have both judged Derringer submissions and been the coordinator of the judging. The number of short stories sent to the competition grows each year. How do we balance the number of stories with the ability of judges to give a fair evaluation? I hope the Short Mystery group figures out a way to keep the door open to self published stories. There are some great ones out there.

Personal short stories I've written have been published by traditional publishers, e-publishers, small presses, and self-published. Sarah and I run a small press. We occasionally include one of our own stories in an anthology. We are writers who believe in the craft of writing, and the need have venues where new and different voices are published. When we select a story to go to the Derringers, it is a story that should be considered.

The crisis at the Derringers is the crisis fueled by Amazon. Before Amazon, publishers were the gatekeepers of the industry. Crap was still cranked out, but it was mostly crap that fed the pop culture of "celebrity." Before Amazon, the industry blocked a lot of unique, marginalized, and minority or controversial voices from being heard.

Among the pile of stories not ready for publication, there are gems that should and sometimes do get the accolades they deserve.I am not sure how the argument about Derringers will play out. I hope that whatever method gets used keeps the gate for independent stories open.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers: GUEST AUTHOR AND HISTORY JUNKIE GWEN MAYO: Civil War Army Field Surgery Kit Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending the colorful history of her native Kentucky with her love fo...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Republican Platform One Hundred Years Ago

The 1916 Republican Platform was written by conservatives.

The statement above is fact not wishful thinking. The party's liberals had been lost in the previous presidential election cycle when Teddy Roosevelt split the party. These conservatives emerged from their convention with the following plank in the party platform.

Right of Expatriation

We reiterate the unqualified approval of the action taken in December, 1911, by the President and Congress to secure with Russia, as with other countries, a treaty that will recognize the absolute right of expatriation and prevent all discrimination of whatever kind between American citizens whether native-born or alien, and regardless of race, religion or previous political allegiance. We renew the pledge to observe this principle and to maintain the right of asylum, which is neither to be surrendered nor restricted, and we unite in the cherished hope that the war which is now desolating the world may speedily end, with a complete and lasting restoration of brotherhood among the nations of the earth and the assurance of full equal rights, civil and religious, to all men in every land.
How much brotherhood among the nations of the earth will the current party build?

Can we look at today's convention and think about "assuring full equal rights, civil and religious, to all men of every land?"

It is foolish for us to think we can make "America Great Again" by building walls instead of bridges. Greatness cannot be achieved through bullying, belittling, and bashing our neighbors.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Amazon Kindle Policies: Are They Injuring Writers?

Amazon's seven day return policy on ebooks is getting a lot of negative press, with good reason. It is very easy to finish a novel and return it after you've read the book. Avid readers can finish a book or more a day. So why is Amazon being so generous with readers, at the expense of writers?

I could easily make a case that Amazon's return policy is designed to force writers to give them exclusive access to their books. The policy works very well to make Kindle Unlimited a necessity for writers and small publishing houses. Being paid for pages read is far better than having readers download your book, read it, and return it to Amazon. No matter what price point a book has, Amazon's policy makes it free to anyone who wants to game the system.

Let's face it. Lots of people want to take advantage of any loophole they find. So, for honest readers and writers out there, the online petition to end Amazon's seven day return policy seems like a no-brainer. The policy allows for legal piracy of an author's intellectual property. Nearly seven thousand people signed a petition against it.

Amazon considered the number insignificant. They have no plans to change their policy. So what else can be done?

So, what do we do? As a writer and publisher, it is impossible for me to ignore Amazon. Selling ebooks without having them available on Amazon is akin to living without oxygen in your blood. Sure there are other gasses out there, but your body won't survive without oxygen. Kindle sales are the oxygen supply that keeps independent presses and self-published authors alive.

I personally think that Amazon tried to cover the piracy in Part B of their policy. This is the part I don't think most writers are familiar with. Amazon monitors the number of returns by individual readers and if they exceed 30 returns, they are prevented from returning any more books.

I still don't like the policy. I don't believe readers should be able to return ebooks.


Amazon allows readers to sample the book before making a purchase. This is more than sufficient to let a reader decide if they like the writer enough to buy their book. If a book doesn't live up to the sample, they can write a review and let others know what they didn't like.

Also, 30 returns is too many. A reader who returns that many books isn't much of a reader. The high number of returns allowed means that book pirates could simply team up and each keep the number of returns below the cut off point. Maybe, instead of asking them to end the policy, we should try to get that number reduced or limited by frequency. I don't know if that would work. Perhaps what we really need is for Amazon to be broken up. As things stand, they have a virtual monopoly in the ebook market.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Podcast: Historical Kentucky Mysteries and a Famous Madam with Gwen Mayo

Courtesy of Alexandra Amor, Gwen has a new interview that Nessa Donnelly fans are sure to enjoy.
Tune in to learn more about Nessa's background, where she will be headed in future novels, and why Kentucky is such a great location to set murder mysteries.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Hats We Wear

It’s Thursday afternoon, and I’m thinking of all the things that are on my plate, and what to do next. I stop, lean back in my chair, and try to focus. The stack of scribbled notes beside my computer grows daily. My calendar takes up my computer screen and reminds me that I am missing many of the writing events that I would love to attend.

I close my eyes for just a minute. I think about my work and, for some reason, hats. Maybe it’s because the autographed baseball cap given to me by GW Pomichter is on my desk. I think, how many hats do we wear in a day? Like a lot of writers, I write full time but also have to work a regular job full time. There is a fine balance between the work that I do for income/insurance, and the work I do for me in writing/publishing. 

There is an old adage that people who wear too many hats are “jacks of all trades,” masters of none. It’s hard work to be a master writer, but it is what I want to accomplish. 

Is wearing too many hats bad for becoming a master writer? I don't think so. Sure I have to juggle marriage, home, work, family etc. Sure I have to sacrifice some writing time to promote both our press and my personal writing. But the fact is, I don't do it alone. I have a great team of creative people all “wearing multiple hats.”

I believe creative people do well wearing many hats. Those of us who take this journey of being an independent writer or small press often share valuable insights with others. We need those creative contacts that make the story in our head a book we can be proud to put our names on. Sure writing is something we do alone. The craft of writing is not. Sit down and really think about the number of people who mentor, advise, teach, and sometimes give us a kick in the butt to keep us writing. 

No one person can figure out business management, bookkeeping, book covers, layout, editing, formatting, advertising and promotion, blogging, and social media, marketing and  the countless other jobs that fall to a small business person. Yes, "Business" unless you are writing to fill up space on your hard drive, writing is a business. That's a lot of hats. Signing with a traditional publisher can cut down the number of hats you wear, but you still have to attend to the business side of writing.

It can be a struggle at times, wearing all of these hats. You have to shift your balance and re-arrange, and sometimes even topple under the weight. The important thing about wearing a hat is that it isn’t too tight, because that will just give you a headache and bad hair. The ones that don't fit need to be handed off to someone who looks smashing in them. If bookkeeping isn't for you, hire an accountant. Not good with covers, there are lots of people who would be happy to do one for a reasonable price.

Your hats have to fit perfectly, be bold and soft, in order to sit there and work. They have to make you look good.

Do we ever stop wearing too many hats in our life? I hope not! I love the energy, and he feeling of a job well done. When I look at one of my books and see how well they turn out it makes me very proud. So put your hats on, and be grateful that you have so many. 

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Today is the 100th anniversary of a real life historical mystery that remains unsolved. It has all the makings of a great historical novel, an unsavory American businessman sends a message a Canadian reporter that the Germans were planning to blow up Ottawa government buildings. United States authorities also received the tip. The message, for unknown reasons, reaches the authorities seven days later. Too late to save a building that was a national treasure.

It is all too easy in this age of terrorist bombings to imagine the anxiety and war fears 100 years ago. The US had not yet entered WWI, but the shock and anger spread across the border. By dawn on Feb. 4, seven people were dead, and the old tower of the Ottawa Capitol building came crashing down.

One of the witnesses described the golden flames shooting and twisting into the winter sky. The grand old tower stood while its support system crumbled and fell around it. Finally, it crashed onto the concourse, taking with it the old clock still glowing and chiming as it fell.

There are a number of theories about what happened. The official inquiry came to no firm conclusions. All we can do is look at the facts and speculate about the parts we don’t know. I tend to lean toward the bombing side of the argument, others think arson, but whatever the cause it makes for a great story just waiting to be told.