A Bestseller in Australia

It’s been a while since I hit an Amazon category bestseller list, especially since the introduction of Kindle Unlimited messed up the rankings and also caused them to lag behind the sales reports.

However now Flights of Madness has hit two category bestseller lists at Amazon Australia:

 

 

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Yet more Amazon bashing from Germany

I’ve been planning this post for a few days now, gathering links, when Amazon decided to escalate its battle with Hachette by sending a rather strange e-mail to everybody with a KDP account. At first, I actually thought this was yet another petition started by indie authors and that someone had put me on the mailing list without my consent, but then it turned out the mail was genuine. I still find it a strange move, especially since I don’t want to be enlisted into a fight that isn’t mine. I didn’t sign any of the other petitions that have been making the rounds and I’m not going to sign this one. And I’m very definitely not going to e-mail bomb the Hachette CEO about this.

The Passive Voice, The New York Times, Re/Code, Jake Kerr, Damien Walter, John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig (with bonus Grosse Pointe Blank clip – must rewatch that movie) and Deirdre Saoirse Moen have more. The last post also quotes some tweets by me, pointing out that Amazon’s whole analogy is somewhat faulty when viewed from a non-US perspective.

Here in Germany, Amazon is currently caught up in a mini-version of the dispute with Hachette, namely a contract dispute with the publisher Bonnier. Now Amazon’s battle with Bonnier is no more my fight than Amazon’s battle with Hachette is. Actually, I’m more affected by the latter, since I own a lot more Hachette than Bonnier books. In both cases, I feel sorry for the affected authors.

Like in the US, both sides are rallying their troops and authors are joining one side or the other. I already posted about the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit asking several well known international author about their opinion about Amazon. The result was overwhelmingly negative. Now the actual responses are finally available on the Zeit website. What is more, Die Self-Publisher Bibel, which – as the name suggests – is a German self-publisher site, responded to the Zeit feature by asking several indie authors about their views on Amazon.

As in the US, the dispute between Amazon and Bonnier has brought a lot of anti-Amazon sentiments out of the woodwork, mostly courtesy of the German cultural establishment. And while I can understand disagreeing with Amazon’s negotiation tactics (I’m not a fan of those tactics myself), a lot of the debate here in Germany tips over into blanket Amazon bashing, laced with a liberal dose of xenophobia.

Believe it or not, this report yesterday in the cultural TV program aspekte (starts around the 20 minute mark) is one of the more balanced entries into the debate. As expected, the head of the German booksellers and publishers association Börsenverein (remember them?) laments Amazon’s blackmail tactics and claims that Franz Kafka would never had been given a chance in a world dominated by Amazon (which frankly we have no way of knowing). There is a longer version of the interview here. However, the report also quotes a pro-Amazon view expressed by Andrea Hanna Hünninger, author of this (trad-pubbed) memoir about her youth in post-1989 East Germany (longer interview here). She’s also planning to self-publish an essay. Even Tanja Dückers, the other author interviewed, mostly points out that traditional publishing is a choice she prefers for herself, though she also calls people who order books at Amazon lazy (longer interview here). Even the Berlin based indie bookseller (this is his store BTW) doesn’t see his own business endangered (longer interview here). And BTW, aspekte, it’s totally not cool that I have to hunt down all of those links myself (the bookseller was particularly problematic, because he happens to share a name with a WWII general).

Finally, aspekte also interviewed Jo Lendle, head of the Carl Hanser Verlag, who claims not to hate Amazon, though he believes they don’t know very much about books, at least no more than about washing machines (Uhm, has he ever seen the rather poor range of washing machines on offer at Amazon.de?). Hanser is also founding their own digital first imprint. Furthermore, Mr Lendle believes that German publishers are very good at developing and nurturing authors. Which might be so, though I couldn’t help but notice how many traditionally published German authors, including the two ladies interviewed by aspekte, don’t even have an Author Central page at Amazon. And if publishers can’t even manage something as basic as setting up an Author Central page or at least telling their authors how to do it, I’m not really convinced by the whole nurturing aspect. On Twitter, I dared to disagree with Mr. Lendle’s statement by pointing out that I don’t need my hand held by Mr Lendle and that I can write just fine on my own (and set up my own Author Central page), whereupon somebody told me I wasn’t a real writer anyway. Mr Lendle himself also favourited my tweet pointing out that I don’t need my hand held, which I will take as a statement that he is not interested in nurturing the likes of me either. But then, I don’t really write the sort of thing Hanser publishes anyway.

Meanwhile, Deutschlandradio Kultur, a nation-wide cultural radio program, also decided to offer its take on the Amazon debate. First of all, German writer Jan Brandt (who doesn’t have an Author Central page either, but here is his novel) fears that Amazon in general and the new Kindle Unlimited subscription program in particular will cause the superficialisation of literature, since Amazon bestseller lists are dominated by genre fiction. He also dislikes self-published books, because they’re supposedly not even proofread.

However, this article by Michael Schikowski at Deutschlandradio Kultur really takes the cake, because according to him, Amazon is not just attempting to destroy literature and the German bookselling and publishing world, no it’s actually part of a capitalist conspiracy to destabilise the German state and take over the German middle class like big international oil companies destabilised Nigeria. Apparently, the growth of private schools and private tutoring franchises (neither of which has anything to do with Amazon) is another symptom. Now one can certainly criticise the privatisation of education (I’m not a fan myself) and one can criticise neoliberal economic policies and even the capitalist system in general. But why on Earth all this needs to be folded into an article about Amazon I have no idea. Never mind that the early adapters of Amazon, the people who were already ordering their books online ten or more years ago, were precisely the supposedly endangered middle class knowledge workers, students, teachers, professors, because they were happy to be finally able to easily order any book they wanted or needed without having to wait for weeks, while paying the grossly inflated prices charged by the distributors particularly for foreign language books.

I also vehemently reject the whole “only lazy people order at Amazon” vibe that runs through most of those articles and interviews. I don’t order my books at Amazon, because I’m lazy (and for the record, I still buy a lot of books in brick and mortar stores as well), but because for me Amazon is the best and for a long time the only way to get the books I want to read. As I’ve pointed out before, Germany’s rich bookselling landscape (which was only ever rich in the big cities) never really served my needs very well as a reader who prefers reading English language books and genre fiction at that and not the really big bestsellers either. Amazon was a godsend for me. What is more, I am highly resistant to handselling of any kind (I’ve had a book handsold to me once in my life and actually complimented the bookseller on her skills) and mostly prefer salespeople to keep well out of my way, unless I have a question or a purchase to ring up. And once I do take my purchases to the cash register, please don’t give me that “What kind of crap is she reading?” look. Oh yes, and buying a stack of paranormal romances is not an invitation to hit on me, male booksellers.

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Kobo Next in German – with Pegasus Pulp e-book/Kobo Next jetzt auch auf Deutsch – mit einem Pegasus Pulp Buch

Kobo Next, Kobo’s own indie e-book discovery platform, is now also available in German.

And one of the books featured is none other than Die Liebe in den Zeiten des Frischkornmüslis, i.e. the German edition of Love in the Times of the Macrobiotic Müsli. I’ve been noticing an unusual flurry of Kobo sales this weekend, two thirds of them for Die Liebe in den Zeiten des Frischkornmüslis, so here is the explanation.

There are lots of other intriguing German indie books as well, e.g. Shanghai Meltworld, a YA fantasy by Matthias Matting, and this collection of retro pulp style SF by Myra Çakan.

Talking of Myra Çakan, she has also been interviewed at SF Signal about her contribution to the latest volume of the Apex Book of World SF, edited by Lavie Tidhar. Alas, SF Signal misspelled her name.

***

Kobo Next, Kobos eigene Plattform zum Entdecken neuer Indie e-Books, gibt es jetzt auch auf Deutsch.

Eines der vorgestellten Bücher ist ein Pegasus Pulp Titel, nämlich Die Liebe in den Zeiten des Frischkornmüslis. Mir war über’s Wochenende eine ungewöhnliche Ansammlung von Kobo Verkäufen aufgefallen, zwei Drittel davon für Die Liebe in den Zeiten des Frischkornmüslis. Dies ist also die Erklärung.

Es gibt da noch etliche andere interesssante deutschsprachige Indie e-Books wie z.B. Shanghai Meltworld, ein Fantasy Jugenroman von Matthias Matting, und diese Sammlung von Retro Science Fiction Geschichten von Myra Çakan.

Wo wir gerade bei Myra Çakan sind, sie wurde auch gerade auf SF Signal interviewt über ihre Geschichte in der neuesten Ausgabe des Apex Book of World SF, herausgegeben von Lavie Tidhar. Allerdings hat SF Signal ihren Namen leider falsch geschrieben.

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The July Eight Hour Fiction Challenge Revisited

A few days ago, I posted about taking the eight hour e-book challenge and presented the result, Seeing Red.

Now Donald Rump a.k.a. S.E. Gordon, instigator of the challenge, has posted information about and links to all the July challenge books. Quite a variety of works there.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month: July 2014

Indie Speculative Fiction of the MonthIt’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some June books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have a broad spectrum of titles, featuring science fiction, space opera, grimdark fantasy, Steampunk, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, urban fantasy, Asian based fantasy, fairytale retellings, the ever popular vampires, the ever popular zombies, the not quite so popular selkies, dinosaurs, gladiators, superpowers, soul thieves, funeral gatecrashers, the afterlife and much more. We even have a non-fiction essay collection

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

The Heretic by Lucas BaleThe Heretic by Lucas Bale

Earth is gone.

Centuries have passed since the First Cataclysm ended life on the blue planet. Humanity’s survivors are now dispersed among distant colonies, thousands of light years from the barren, frozen rock that was once their home.

A new Republic has formed – one in which freedom no longer exists. In return for the protection of the Consulate Magistratus, citizens must concede their rights. The Magistratus controls interstellar travel, access to technology – even procreation. Organised religion is forbidden. All crime is punished by banishment or a lifetime of penal servitude on the Kolyma prison fleet.

And humanity’s true history survives only in whispers of a secret archive.

Yet there are those who preach a new religion and who want to be free.

A revolution is coming…

Wrathlight by Christopher BarrieuWrathlight by Christopher Barrieu

The Bathel: A race of psychopaths and murderers, consuming worlds and cultures with terrible sadistic joy. They have conquered every race they have found.

Now they have found mankind.

Scott Shaw, soldier, widower, and father, is the best warrior humanity has. He is trained in the alien combat of humanity’s new universe. But compared to the Bathel, he is a mere novice.

The Bathel demand a ritual combat: should Scott win, the Bathel will leave the small colony of mankind alone. Should he lose, everything and everyone he knows will suffer beyond the imaginations of humanity.

But no one has ever won, and Scott knows he heads to certain death on a foreign world.

Yet the natives speak of Wrathlight, the ultimate power, the power of judgement, wielded by powerful spirits with sky-blue eyes. An old myth, but can a mere man perhaps embody such a thing? Can he strike back for all the suffering races and save his own?

Scott is about to find out.

Steel and Song by Ani BoltonSteel and Song by Ani Bolton

Airwitch Tova Vanaskaya’s choices are few: use her magic to fly an elite aircraft in the Grand Duchy’s army or be shipped to the trenches. But invoking too much magic can kill the wielder, and her Cossack captain has a hell-bent-for-leather streak that pushes her to the brink. It’s a good thing she’s not afraid to push back.

Airship captain Piers Dashkov lost his friends, family ties and self-respect in a rash act years ago, so it’s fine by him if the odds of surviving a dogfight are slim to none. His goal is simple: find redemption through valor and regain his lost honor in death if not life. He needs the smart-mouthed airwitch to achieve that impossible goal, but he never thought she would prove to be his salvation.

While the enemy is on the move, and whispers of revolution echo from the salons of the noble Cossack Houses to the tenement slums of Muscovy, one reckless night of passion creates a connection that will reverberate fatally for nations as well as for Tova and Piers.

Degenerated by S. Elliot BrandisDegenerated by S. Elliot Brandis

Humanity is divided.

In the tunnels, beneath the city…

Flynn was imprisoned at birth, spurned by society because of his differences. By age thirteen he was ready to die. By all accounts he should have.

Now he lives amongst those who’d wish him dead, struggling to understand the affliction that saved his life. Life in the tunnels is dark and twisted. He must find a way to make things right.

On the surface, in a sun-scorched wasteland…

Pearl lives in a camp of survivors, learning to adapt to the hostile climate. The mood has begun to darken. Bad habits and dangerous ideas are infiltrating her people.

When the camp decides to attack the tunnels, she faces a choice: will she do as she’s told and stay safe, or risk her life to save a society of people she doesn’t understand.

DEGENERATED is the second novel in The Tunnel Trilogy, following Irradiated.

Zombie Town by Griffin CarmichaelZombie Town by Griffin Carmichael

From city to suburbia, zombies are all the rage as they rampage on their quest for sustenance, taking down strangers, friends and neighbors alike, without pity or remorse.

Here are nine short stories about the times when the dead walk and the living fear.

MY BIG FAT ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: What better place to be when the dead rise than the local fitness center.

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT CAROL: Suburban life can be deadly dull. Or maybe just deadly.

FIGGY PUDDING: Holidays are known for feasting and jubilation, but one restaurant manager comes to regret keeping the doors open one Christmas eve.

NEITHER RAIN NOR: Public servants are said to be a dedicated lot, but carrying on with business as usual after the zombie apocalypse is taking it a bit too far.

SILENT: Little children look forward to a visit from Santa with great anticipation, but there’s nothing good coming down the chimney this year.

DARKNESS FALLS: Even a sturdy fallout shelter isn’t any protection when the super flu everybody’s been predicting lays waste to the world.

FLASHLIGHT: All she wanted was a flashlight so she could see what all the ruckus outside was about. Sometimes it’s better to remain in the dark.

IN THE MEADOW: Winter has come to a small Nebraskan town, bringing huge snowfalls. But nobody is in the mood to build a snowman.

RITUALS FOR THE LIVING: Long after the dead have risen, the survivors learn to cope with new ways of living and dying.

Selkie by Claire ChiltonSelkie by Claire Chilton

She just lost her heart to the ocean…
Ex-hacker, Cassie Easton, has just made out with her boss—mistake #1. And he’s just told her he’s engaged—mistake #2. She thinks her heart might have just been shredded for good.

The idea of going back to work with him after that is humiliating enough, but things just keep getting worse. Sean’s not acting like the man she knows and loves. She barely recognizes him anymore. Something fishy is going on, and Cassie reverts to her criminal ways to find out why sexy Sean O’Callaghan is dating an old trout and running scared.

When it turns out to be the mystic forces of the ocean that’s screwing up her love life, she wonders if she’s finally lost her mind. If she can just survive a wasted wizard, a jealous sea witch and Selkie lore, maybe she’ll get to fall in love, assuming she doesn’t get arrested first.

Selkie is the first book in The Celtic Witches series.

Hidden Intentions by Stacy ClaflinHidden Intentions by Stacy Claflin

Fun-loving Clara is keeping a dark and deadly secret from William, the love of her life.

Not because she wants to hide things from him, but because her story is so unbelievable he will probably think she’s crazy.

If she tells him, she could lose him. If she doesn’t tell him, she will.

This is a standalone novel loosely connected to The Transformed series. And yes, it’s speculative fiction.

Hunted by A.J. ColbyHunted by A.J. Colby

Vampires, werewolves, and serial killers, OH MY!

Eight years after the attack that changed her life forever, Riley Cray is confronted with something she never thought she’d have to face again: Samson Reed, the werewolf who nearly killed her, has escaped from prison. With the help of Special Agent Darius Holbrook, Riley is racing against time to stay one step ahead of the crazed werewolf. But Reed isn’t the only monster with his eyes on Riley and as the bodies are piling up she’s beginning to wonder how long it will be before she’s one of them.

Fight or Flight by Chele CookeFight or Flight by Chele Cooke

A single secret might change a war, but a lie can destroy those fighting it.

Georgianna Lennox’s biggest fear has become reality: she has been sold as a slave. Caught in the middle of the brewing war between the Adveni oppressors and Belsa rebels, she is recruited to be the rebels’ eyes behind enemy lines.

As the Belsa make bolder attacks against the cruel Adveni, Georgianna finds that the lies she is tasked to tell her owner are nothing compared to the secrets she must keep from her friends – secrets that could change the war in their favour, and lies that might destroy them all.

Part 2 in the Out of Orbit series, following Dead and Buryd, which is free right now.

The Girl who believed in fairy tales by Heidi GarrettThe Girl Who Believed in Fairy Tales by Heidi Garrett

Heidi Garrett has written a lyrical collection of short stories woven with the threads of three very poignant fairy tales that pull this literary tapestry together to create a shimmering picture of love and acceptance.

THE GIRL WHO WATCHED FOR ELVES desperately needs to find her elf–it’s her only hope for happiness and, ultimately, survival.

THE GIRL WHO DREAMED OF RED SHOES is slowly dying inside until she learns that nothing is right until it’s the right fit–and in vivid, living color.

Lastly, THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SING has to step out into her dream or she’s going to die with her song hidden inside her heart.

Anyone who misses these tales, will miss the experience–no, transformation of a lifetime. It’s time for everyone to get their real on!

The Wish by Judy GoodwinThe Wish by Judy Goodwin

Jodi is in love. The problem is that she’s in love with her best friend, Tanya. And her best friend is in love with Roger. Even worse, they’re getting married. As her friend prepares for a big wedding combining her Japanese and American traditions, Jodi finds herself praying to a long lost Japanese goddess for help.

When the goddess answers, Jodi is faced with a terrible choice. She can either have passion and heartache, or she can have friendship and loneliness.

Wishes always come with strings attached.

Bonus short story: Reflections of Chi

Geneva Lin runs a respectable interior decorating business. Her orderly world turns to chaos when a woman barges in, insisting that her house is rearranging itself. Geneva only hopes a little Feng Shui will solve the problem.

The question is, what do you do with a house that may want to kill you?

Warbound by C.P.D. HarrisWarbound: The Shield Maiden by C.P.D. Harris

A LOST CONTINENT. A LEGION IN PERIL. THE FATE OF TWO EMPIRES.

In the Domains of the Chosen magic is power.

The Grand Championships are over. Two Gladiators have joined the ranks of the immortal rulers of the Domains. As Gavin and Sadira learn their way as Chosen, their friend, Vintia sets sail with an expedition that will reshape the future of the empire. Chosen Brightloch has found the way to Ithal’duin, a continent lost since The Reckoning. New allies, and new dangers await. Fortunes will be made and the balance of power will shift. It is up to Vintia and the Ninth Legion to safeguard this expedition. Yet, while the Legions faces strange foes, the politics of the Chosen might present an even greater danger.

This is the third book in the Domains of the Chosen series, following Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale and Bloodlust: Will to Power.

The abnorms by Gregory HoffmanThe Abnorms by Gregory Hoffman

The world thinks they are useless.

Society thinks they are freaks.

They are Abnorms.

People born with special powers that set them apart from normal humans. Abnorms with useful or dangerous powers are snatched up by the government and never seen again, those with powers deemed useless are set free, back into a population that hates and shuns them. This is a story about a group of so-called useless Abnorms but these teens must do their best to make their useless powers useful as they try to rescue one of their own from the clutches of the government, and maybe fall in love along the way.

Heir's Revenge by Patty JansenHeir’s Revenge by Patty Jansen

If Miran had princesses, Ellisandra Takumar would be one. Smart, pretty, engaged to a high-profile man, everything a high-class Mirani woman should be. But things are not well in Miran. Many years of boycotts have taken their toll on society, and the regime becomes more desperate to keep its citizens under control. Revolt is brewing. As director of the state theatre, Ellisandra has been asked to stage a violent traditional play which stands stiff with threatening political messages for the populace. She hates it, but speaking out would risk that she’d be cast out from the only world she’s ever known.

Next to her house is the burnt ruin of the house of another high-class family, the Andrahar family. They fled Miran for political reasons when Ellisandra was a little girl and the house has lain untouched ever since. One night, she spots a mysterious young man walking around the yard, putting out pegs and pieces of string. He’s re-building the house. That makes no sense, because the family is no longer welcome in Miran, and who is he anyway?

She is curious and investigates. He seems too good-natured and naïve for his own good, so rather than telling her brothers, she tries to shield him from her own society. And so starts the slide that leads to her being cast out from the only life she’s ever known.

This is the final book in the Return of the Aghyrians series, following Watcher’s Web, Trader’s Honour and Soldier’s Duty.

Mission: Flight to Mars by V.A. JeffreyMission: Flight to Mars by V.A. Jeffrey

Bob Astor is a Quality Assurance agent working at Vartan Inc. Lately his days have been stressful, to say the least. Butting heads with upper management has put his career on life support. A surprising change in circumstance has Bob going on a business mission to the moon city, Langrenus. On the way, he meets one of the delegates on board the Starbird, a desperate man with a dark past and a very dangerous secret. Through a mysterious series of events Bob finds himself in the middle of an interplanetary crises that no one knows about. These secrets could change – or destroy – all human life on Earth. The key to the answer of the crises is on the Red Planet, Mars. It’s up to Bob, the burnt-out Q. A. agent to rise to the occasion and stem the dangerous tide coming from beyond the solar system.

The Dinosaur Four by Geoff JonesThe Dinosaur Four by Geoff Jones

They came for the coffee and wound up in the Cretaceous.

A ticking sound fills the air as Tim MacGregor enters The Daily Edition Café, hoping to meet his new girlfriend for coffee. Moments later, the café is transported 67 million years back in time, along with everyone inside.

As Tim and the others try to find out what caused the disaster and how to get home, one survivor plots to keep the group trapped in the past, in a world filled with prehistoric monsters.

Dark Legion by Paul KleynhansDark Legion by Paul Kleynhans

Once a Prince, now a slave. Once a torturer, now a liberator. But still his transformation is nowhere near complete…

Saul Baz Sharmoun has been holding onto something lost to many of his fellow slaves: hope and a desire for justice. A fire was set ablaze within him, growing brighter with each of the twelve years since the Emperor slaughtered his family, and he knows the time to escape his shackles – and to free his people – is now. With his hunger for retribution fueling him, Saul begins an epic journey, searching for his brother and looking to rebuild a world that would allow the crown in his family’s name to rise from the ashes.

But the road to justice is never a straight one. Saul and the uncertain allies fighting alongside him find themselves up against a much greater enemy than they could have imagined. If he is to emerge victorious, he must fan the flames in his heart, and never allow himself to forget that he will stop at nothing to see this done…no matter how much blood must be spilled along the way.

She Who Fights Monsters by Kyoko M.She Who Fights Monsters by Kyoko M.

Jordan Amador. 23. New Yorker. Waitress. Investigator for souls with unfinished business, also known as a Seer. Michael O’Brien. 25. New Yorker. Lead guitarist. Commander of Heaven’s Army. The dynamic supernatural duo is in the middle of trying to solve a deadly case. Someone is methodically hunting down and murdering Seers one by one. After six months with no leads on the killer, Jordan and Michael are forced to work with their worst enemy—the archdemon Belial: a self-professed Prince of Hell who is dead set on stealing Jordan for himself. However, with the archdemon’s help, they pick up on the trail of the serial killer and plan to stop him no matter what the cost. When the shocking truth behind the murderer’s identity is revealed, Jordan begins asking herself if she is still fighting for the good guys or has she become one of the monsters she is desperately trying to stop?

This is the third part in a series, following The Black Parade and The Deadly Seven.

Masque of Shadow by T.A. MilesMasque of Shadow by T.A. Miles

Heartbroken over the premature death of her young sister, Estelle conceives a dark plan to recover Lunette’s innocent soul from the thief she witnessed taking it. The price is higher than she anticipated, reaching far beyond the loss of her own innocence when she enters voluntarily into the realm of the Lord of Shadows, into a theater of madness constructed by the souls of the dead.

This is a short story. Contains violence, mild gore, sexuality, and thematic elements

 

A Brief History of the Future by Sunny MoraineA Brief History of the Future – Collected Essays by Sunny Moraine

As an author, scholar, and essayist, Sunny Moraine has mused on a variety of things in a variety of ways. In this collection, spanning over two years of work, they make their way through thoughts on the form and business of writing, the nature and meaning of games, the interweaving of society and technology, and the anxieties, awkwardnesses, and hopes of the everyday.

Gently humorous, self-deprecating, and occasionally painfully honest, these essays offer a journey through a process of body, heart, and mind, and hints of what waits beyond.

The Commons by Michael Alan PeckThe Commons: Book 1: The Journeyman by Michael Alan Peck

“Paul Reid died in the snow at seventeen. The day of his death, he told a lie—and for the rest of his life, he wondered if that was what killed him.”

And so begins the battle for the afterlife, known as The Commons. It’s been taken over by a corporate raider who uses the energy of its souls to maintain his brutal control. The result is an imaginary landscape of a broken America—stuck in time and overrun by the heroes, monsters, dreams, and nightmares of the imprisoned dead.

Three people board a bus to nowhere: a New York street kid, an Iraq War veteran, and her five-year-old special-needs son. After a horrific accident, they are the last, best hope for The Commons to free itself. Along for the ride are a shotgun-toting goth girl, a six-foot-six mummy, a mute Shaolin monk with anger-management issues, and the only guide left to lead them.

Three Journeys: separate but joined. One mission: to save forever.

But first they have to save themselves.

Strangers at a Funeral by PhronkStrangers at a Funeral by Phronk

Brandon notices them at his grandpa’s funeral first: a pair of men in sunglasses who nobody seems to know. They’re not family, they’re not friends, they’re just … there. No big deal, until they show up again at the next funeral. Drawn into a world of funeral selfies and burial crashers, Brandon needs to know what these strangers want from the dead.

Only problem is, nobody gives a crap except him, and his school frowns upon skipping classes to watch people get buried. His sanity can’t take many more funerals, and those bulges under the strangers’ coats probably aren’t concealing anything pleasant.

Strangers at a Funeral is a 5500 word (22 page) short story.

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The Eight Hour E-Book Challenge No. 3 and Seeing Red

You may remember the eight hour e-book challenge, a semi-regular event instigated by Joe Konrath last year and since continued by Donald Rump.

I took part twice so far, once in the original challenge and once in January.

I wasn’t actually planning to take part this month, because I’m up to my neck in translation work (specifications specifying the bleeding obvious in great and extensive detail) and the theme “politically incorrect” didn’t appeal to me at all, because I interpreted it as “write something horribly offensive” and I don’t want to do that.

However, then inspiration struck in the form of this TV commercial for Heinz Ketchup. Now I like Heinz Ketchup, I really do. Heinz is my brand of choice for ketchup and for baked beans. Nonetheless, the commercial infuriated me, particularly the scene near the end where a man distracts his girlfriend with a kiss, so he can sneak some ketchup into her pasta sauce. First of all, because ketchup does not belong in pasta sauce, unless you’re having Japanese style Spaghetti Napolitan. Secondly, I hated the boyfriend’s patronizing behaviour. He doesn’t ask her if they can add ketchup to the sauce nor does he add ketchup to his own serving after the fact, no he distracts her and just dumps it in. The fact that the song playing over the commercial is “One way or another”, originally by Blondie, which must be one of the most irritating tunes known to mankind, doesn’t help either. I even managed to sneak the song into the story BTW.

As I watched the commercial, I jokingly said, “If that was my boyfriend, I’d brain him with the ketchup bottle.” And then I thought, what if she really did brain him with the ketchup bottle? What if she actually killed him? What else would have to go wrong in a relationship that an argument over pasta sauce would escalate to murder?

So I began writing and wrote all 3600 words of Seeing Red straight through with a break for dinner. Again, I did very little research, because research-intensive stories don’t really work for the very limited timeframe of an eight hour challenge. I did look up the NFL playoffs of the 2013/14 season to coincide with the publication of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, the book Maggie is reading. Now I don’t care about American football at all and initially I just picked the names of two teams I’d heard of. But it occurred to me that other people would care and so I picked a real match, the playoff match between the New Orleans Saints (who are one of the very few teams I’ve heard of and the only one I ever saw in action more than 30 years ago) and the Seattle Seahawks. And while I was at it, I also had to look up the average length of a match of American football.

An unexpected difficulty was posed by Dan’s preference for inauthentic overly sweet pasta sauce. Initially I wanted to have Dan say that he liked Mirácoli, which is dry spaghetti sold in a all-in-one package with some kind of tomato sauce concentrate, a spice sachet and a sachet of faux Parmesan cheese flakes. Here in Germany, Mirácoli is a very well known brand and pretty much synonymous with faux Italian pasta. It’s something that kids like (plus, it’s easy to make for yourself, even if you’re a kid) and adults usually don’t. And yes, the sauce – at least as I remember it, since I haven’t actually eaten it in more than twenty years – tastes more like ketchup than like normal tomato sauce.

So I had Dan proclaim his love for Mirácoli and then decided to do a quick check to confirm that Mirácoli was also available in the US. Since it was a brand of Kraft Foods, I assumed that it was, I just wanted to go sure. And that’s where the trouble started, for it turned out that even though Mirácoli was produced by Kraft Foods, it was only ever sold in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands and entirely unknown in the US.

“Okay”, I thought, “They may not have Mirácoli, but they surely have something similar under another name.” So I checked some online groceries, but nothing remotely similar popped up. Next, I read taste test reports for tomato sauce in a jar. Again nothing. Finally, I came across Chef Boyardee, purveyors of canned pasta products. The brand is as ubiquitous in the US as Mirácoli is in Germany and it has a reputation as the sort of thing kids like, but that people usually grow out of once they become adults. And check out that ingredient list.

In the end, the good chef did not make it into the story after all, partly because I didn’t want to slander a real brand by having Maggie call it disgusting. Instead, Dan professes his preference for generic canned spaghetti.

Once I finished Seeing Red, it went through two editing/proofing passes. In the meantime, I found myself ambushed by another idea for a crime short, namely the story of an elderly woman who – when her husband experiences his third heart attack – makes very sure not to call 911 until he has safely expired. So I wrote a nice little 1000 word story named Third Time Lucky. Since 1000 words are too short for a standalone, I packaged the Third Time Lucky together with Seeing Red, a good match, since both stories have a similar theme.

I checked my favourite free stockphoto site, found a suitable photo and created a cover. Again, the upload process took a couple of days, since Apple and the Tolino stores are rather slow.

So what did I learn from taking the eight hour e-book challenge for the third time? Nothing really new. Mostly it just confirmed what I had already learned from the first two go-arounds: Yes, it is possible to write a complete short story (or two in this case) from initial idea to publication ready e-book in approx. eight hours. It’s not for every story, since some of them need more marinating time. It also works best with shorts – and shorts that a fairly straight forward and not research intensive at that – since I doubt I could write and publish a novelette in eight hours.

Nonetheless, if you have some time, it’s a fun thing to do. And now to the result:

Seeing Red
Seeing Red by Cora BuhlertTwo tales of bad relationships, angry women and murder

Seeing Red

It was supposed to be just sex. But then Dan gradually wormed his way into Maggie’s life and into her apartment. And though Dan insists that he loves her, Maggie suspects he is far more interested in her sixty inch plasma screen.
Living together brings out the vast differences between Maggie and Dan. And so Maggie’s patience is stretched to a breaking point to a breaking point, until an argument about pasta sauce and Dan’s addiction to ketchup lead to murder…

Third Time Lucky

Hilda’s abusive husband Walter has already survived two massive heart attacks. But the third time’s a charm… or is it?

For more information, visit the Seeing Red page.
Buy it for the low price of 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Casa del Libro, Scribd, Inktera, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Der Club, Libiro, Nook UK, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Flipkart, e-Sentral, You Heart Books and XinXii.

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A Bestseller in India

Pegasus Pulp has finally conquered the Indian market, cause yesterday we made our first sale at Amazon India.

What is more, the book in question, Seraglio, also promptly hit a couple of category bestseller lists:

 

 

 

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Another Interview

One more post for today, cause I’ve been interviewed by fantasy writer K.J. Bryen at Take the Plunge. We talk about writing, UFOs and pirates – the seafaring kind, not the kind that illegally shares digital media.

As always, the links to all interviews I’ve done over the years may be found on the Interviews page.

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Reactions to Kindle Unlimited from around the Web and a look at subscription services in general

Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited subscription program continues to dominate the debate in the online indie publishing community. I already explained why Pegasus Pulp e-books won’t be available via the program. Now let’s hear what some other authors, indie, trad and hybrid, have to say:

David Gaughran offers a fairly comprehensive overview of Kindle Unlimited on his blog.

Futurebook compares the various e-book subscription services available and points out that we don’t yet know what – if any – impact the subscription services will have.

The Börsenblatt, the newsletter of the German booksellers’ and publishers’ association, is mostly worried, even though Kindle Unlimited isn’t even available in Germany so far.

At Digital Book World, Michael R. Sullivan points out that Kindle Unlimited divides authors into a two-tier system, whereby the exclusivity requirement does not apply to books by trad published authors included in the program as well as some high-profile indie authors. What is more, trad pubbed books receive the regular royalty rate for a borrow via Kindle Unlimited, while indies, both exclusive and not, are paid from the KDP Select pot.

At Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig shares his thoughts on Kindle Unlimited and also responds to Michael Sullivan.

Hugh Howey offers his thoughts and points out that indie authors have never been treated as equals by Amazon and that a lot of indie authors made a lot of money with the original KDP Select back between November 2011 and March 2012, largely because Amazon artificially pushed KDP Select books which had gotten a lot of free downloads up the charts.

Now I remember those times well, largely because KDP Select and the advantage given to authors who joined the system and used the free promo days killed off my budding sales just as they were beginning to grow. Interestingly, once Amazon stopped rewarding books so much for free downloads (because it was unsustainable and because it had achieved its goal), a lot of people who had relied mainly on Select free downloads started whining that their sales were crashing. Meanwhile, mine were growing slowly but steadily. We’ll probably see a similar effect this time around. A brief goldrush followed by a lot of wailing.

I’m also wondering why so many people (and Hugh Howey isn’t the only person saying this, I’ve heard it from several indie authors) are so eager to declare rival subscription services Scribd and Oyster unsustainable, because their author royalties are allegedly too high. Now I don’t mind if an author wants to go exclusive with Amazon, even though it’s not my path. But why this desire for competitors to fail? Even if you never intend to sell your books outside Amazon, healthy competition is in every indie author’s best interest.

Mark Coker of Smashwords unsurprisingly believes that Kindle Unlimited is bad for indie authors because of the exclusivity requirement. More interesting, especially in the light of the unsustainability claims above, is that Mark Coker reports that Oyster and Scribd are the fastest growing channels at Smashwords.

And though it’s only anecdotal data, I just got my June sales report from Scribd yesterday and noticed that I already had several Scribd sales in June, even though Pegasus Pulp e-books weren’t even available there before June 18.

Finally, Damien Walter wonders what the future and particular the next wave of e-reading technology will bring.

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Some prime Amazon bashing from Germany

Amazon currently isn’t too popular because of its negotiations tactics with the publishers Hachette in the US and Bonnier in Germany.

Now a lot of pixels have already been wasted on discussing the conflict between Amazon on the one side and Hachette or respectively Bonnier on the other. So far, I have largely kept out of the debate. Nor did I sign any of the petitions floating around in support of one side or the other.

However, I just came across some German articles on the Amazon vs. Bonnier (and soon apparently Bastei-Lübbe, dtv and Ganske as well) conflict, which were too amusing not to share. Most of those articles are courtesy of the Börsenblatt, the newsletter/magazines of the German publishers and booksellers’ association Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels. It’s kind of obvious that the Börsenverein is not exactly a big fan of Amazon. Nonetheless, those articles are something else:

First of all, here is an article from the Börsenblatt which attempts to calculate the true costs of e-books. Never mind that the prices for both print and e-book are far higher than the norm (apparently, the print price is a hardcover price – but who even reads those?), the article claims that excluding printing and some logistics, producing an e-book incurs the same costs as producing a print book (which isn’t entirely wrong, editors have to be paid regardless of format). Even the delivery of e-books has costs, the article reminds us. Yes, a few cents at most.

However, the article goes on to point out that e-books incur additional costs that print books do not have. And what are those costs? You’d expect formatting, which interestingly the article doesn’t mention at all (unless formatting is included in those nebulous “higher personnel costs”). One thing they do mention is that e-books apparently require additional marketing expenses to icnrease visibility. What, German publishers are paying for Bookbub ads now? Even though Bookbub is largely unknown in Germany and doesn’t offer German language books. However, the biggest kicker is that author royalties are higher for e-books, up to a shocking 25% of the net proceeds. Oh, the gall of those authors to actually want to get paid!

But what do the authors themselves have to say? Lucky for us, the German weekly Die Zeit asked several well-known international authors, big names like Jonathan Franzen, Sibylle Lewitscharoff, Daniel Kehlmann, A. L. Kennedy, Roger Willemsen, Navid Kermani, Ingo Schulze, Kathrin Passig, Rüdiger Safranski and Günter Wallraff how they felt about Amazon. Unfortunately, the article in question isn’t available at the Zeit site yet. However, the Börsenblatt as well as Die Presse were kind enough to sum up the responses: In short, most of those authors with the notable exception of Kathrin Passig dislike Amazon, rarely buy there and feel bad if they do, think that Amazon is a necessary evil at best (Jonathan Franzen and Rüdiger Safranski) and a disgusting monopolist that must be destroyed (Günther Wallraff, Sibylle Lewitscharoff) at worst, though they can’t really do without Amazon either. In short, nothing really surprising, especially since Günther Wallraff and Sibylle Lewitscharoff have sung the anti-Amazon tune before. For those following along at home, Sibylle Lewitscharoff is the German writer who recently made headlines for saying that children conceived via in-vitro fertilization weren’t real humans, but disgusting half-beings. Apparently, lots of things are disgusting in the eyes of Ms. Lewitscharoff, most of them connected to the modern world. Methinks someone should get the lady a time machine.

Meanwhile, at Spiegel Online another Sibylle, German writer Sibylle Berg, points out that the publishing industry has only itself to blame for ignoring the challenges posed by online booksellers and e-publishing instead of meeting it head on. The headline says it all really: “The future is here – the publishing industry somewhere else.”

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