My newsletter may improve your memory

UPDATE: I’m reposting this because I had problems with connecting to the various social media outlets.

The Scoop, my newsletter, is now open to subscribers. The link should be right over on the right-hand side. It will include the news about all things having to with my writing projects. This is stuff for true fans:

  • discounts and special offers
  • inside info on what I’m writing and where things are at
  • recommendations for related or similar fiction and nonfiction
  • behind the scenes
  • cutting edge productivity and life hacks that feed into my fiction at some point but may be of use to people. Hint:

There’s three hitches I must warn you about:

  1. You will peer into my brain; you have been warned
  2. I may screw up this newsletter, or the subscriber list, since I haven’t done this before
  3. If I don’t get at least 10 subscribers, no newsletter. Because it won’t be worth my time to do it.

Amazon vs. Hachette: Amazon leads by 3 points


There’s an epic battle in the publishing world between Amazon and Hachette. Amazon has delayed its shipment date for Hachette books, pulled pre-order buttons and delayed shipment of existing Hachette books. Hachette and its authors and its literary agents and publishing industry consultants have cried foul, and Amazon has responded.

Why are people upset?

It kills the sales of Hachette authors, which not only costs them money, but can end the careers of debut authors. This is a full-on house fire for them and my heart goes out to them. They contracted with Hachette to get their books into bookstores with the kind of power one expects from a legacy publisher.

Also, there is a visceral hatred of Amazon among some in the legacy publishing industry and its authors. Some have called this Amazon Derangement Syndrome. It boils down to Amazon being big, successful enough to knock out other bookstores, pushing for lower prices, allowing indie publishers in without a gatekeeper, and not treating publishing like a ‘special snowflake’ industry that is not held to typical business standards.

Why is Amazon playing hardball?

Amazon and Hachette are negotiating a new contract for distributing Hachette Books. You know how sometimes you lose a cable channel because the cable company and the channel are negotiating a new contract and one or the other plays hardball? It’s probably that (or it could be something else – no one knows anything about internal business negotiations). Except, Amazon isn’t blocking purchase of Hachette books like the cable company may block The Weather Channel.

Isn’t Amazon being a bully/monopolist/Vladmir Putin for strong-arming Hachette?

Amazon is a business. It doesn’t have to carry products it doesn’t want to, or when the producer doesn’t agree to its terms (to some extent).

Hachette is also a business. It doesn’t have to sell through Amazon or deliver its books quickly to them.

It’s not clear who is strong-arming who, on net. It appears that they are both trying to strong arm each other simultaneously. Both are multi-billion dollar corporations with banks of lawyers and negotiators. Barnes & Noble did this last year to Simon & Schuster, Apple did this to Random House; it’s business.

But Amazon is bigger than Hachette, right? It must have more leverage.

Comparing the market caps of multinational corporations who have business units deadlocked on contract negotiation is meaningless. Neither company is throwing every dollar of shareholder value into this fight. Amazon’s book unit is not the entire company (they make video game machines, stream TV shows, sell bedsheets and lawn mowers). Neither is Hachette its parent company’s only concern.

If anything, these units are making both congloms look bad and they may get internal pressure to wrap this up before the costs of this spill over to the other operating divisions. If that happens, Amazon’s larger market cap gives Hachette the upper hand, because misguided Amazon boycotts (sorry Ron) are a much bigger deal to Amazon, which makes 80% of its money on non-book sales.

Why are people all up in arms? Scott Turow, James Patterson, the New York Times?

Legacy publishing hates Amazon because it’s disrupting its sloppy but profitable business model. The old line publishing houses have been making big profits off of the lower royalties they pay authors for e-books. Amazon may want a piece of that margin, or more likely lower e-book prices for its customers.

Also, there’s Amazon Derangement Syndrome. Which could be fueling a lot of angry outbursts that are all uninformed because no one but Amazon and Hachette knows what’s really happening. But that doesn’t stop the New York Times from ‘reporting’ on it in a mix of poorly-sourced hearsay and outright opinion.

Who is the bad guy?

No one knows except for the two companies, who are the only ones who know what’s really happening.

What? That’s not good enough for you, is it? You insist on knowing who the good guys and bad guys are based on no actual knowledge? FINE. Here is my tentative score (most points is the good guy). It can change as new shit comes to light:

  • Amazon removed the pre-order buttons for Hachette books and existing books are now shipping much, much later than usual. Hachette: 1 point
  • The government found that Hachette colluded with other big publishers and Apple on price-fixing e-books and forced Hachette (and the other publishers) to renegotiate with Amazon. Amazon: 1 point
  • When Amazon got into a contract fight with another publisher (Macmillan) a few years ago and removed the buy buttons for Macmillan books, they created a fund to compensate the screwed authors, and the authors did get paid from it. So far, Amazon has offered the same to Hachette, but the latter has refused, leaving its authors to twist in the wind. Amazon: 1 point
  • Hachette apparently laid out the strategy of making Amazon look bad publicly in its consent decree, and announced an astroturf campaign to shame Amazon into a better deal using its authors and the publishing industry. Amazon: 1 point
  • Amazon continues to offer customers other places to buy books by Hachette authors, and the Hachette e-books are available immediately, as usual. Also, this is limited to books sold in the US Amazon site. Amazon: 1 point
  • Tentative score: Amazon: 4, Hachette: 1

Email newsletter coming soon

Why send a newsletter? Is this just a desperate grab for my email address?

Not at all. I want to develop a relationship with my readers and give them something that provides as much use to them as it does to me.

What will it be called?

You thought I would say ‘the newsletter’ but that’s kind of lame. It’s called Scoop, after the fictional journalism platform in Crashpoint. Part of the reason is because I’m using MailChimp, and I want to use one of their templates.

How often will you send it?

I’ll start with once a quarter (4 per year), unless there’s time-sensitive news (new release, etc.) that requires something more than that. It won’t ever be something you see and think “oh, this again?”

What will be in it?

  1. News about my books, stories, and other publishing
  2. Savings for subscribers (free stuff, reduced prices, and other treasure)
  3. Behind the scenes looks at works in progress
  4. Recommendations (if you like X that I did, you’ll like Y)
  5. Writing project progress (word counts, milestones, etc.)


5 Things I Learned Writing Crashpoint

1. Figure it out later

Get the story down. Some of it may not be fully explained in your head, but the reasons will emerge from the mist later. At first I see bits and pieces of scenes, teaser trailers, and then full trailers and then the rest appears as I go over it. I had to learn not to fight that, to actually roll with it. Go back and fill in the details, names, settings, dialogue, whatever is missing. Inevitably, like an archeologist, I would end up sweeping away more dirt and discovering more of what lays underneath (to paraphrase Stephen King).

2. All good things take time to become good

Any project of a certain size takes time. It can’t be rushed, and you can’t be rushed in producing it. Haste makes crap. This isn’t the same thing as being efficient and highly productive. Some trees take decades to grow as much as bamboo does in a year. But my point is that even ten feet of bamboo doesn’t sprout in two seconds. (What, you don’t like bamboo? Who doesn’t like bamboo?)

3. Write what you fear (Stephen King said once). I fear:

  • a world of balkanized micro-states left to their own devices
  • a workaholic culture
  • imposing your way of life on others
  • Big Data used by stalkers and extortionists, unhindered by authorities
  • Big Data not used to understand and improve the world
  • political terrorism based on the latest social science
  • fear of the future

4. Stomp your writerly emotions

It’s great, it’s garbage, I suck, I can do this, shiny object, I’m awesome, no one is dumber than me. So much wasted time on stupid emotional, lizard brain crap. Beating back this mental sewage could very well be the key to success.

5. Writing a novel is difficult.

It’s like filming a movie about a wedding reception starring only toddlers who have skipped their naps. And then you realize that it’s just because you suck and you get better with practice. Most people toss out their first through fifth novels. I did that too, but kept writing the same novel. The problem/benefit was that the story was too good. I’ve since written (counts on fingers) more than four more novels, plus a stack of short stories. Practice, process, and persistence are the keys. Also, this is art, and quality is in the eye of the beholder when you reach a certain point.

Crashpoint (Kagent Series: #1)


You can now order the e-book or paper edition of this fine science fiction novel from these stores (more are coming soon):

The synopsis:

In the 24th century, the solar system is bustling with advanced human societies. But on poorer, balkanized Earth, towns struggle against depopulation and refugees flee from ethnic, economic, and education cleansing.

The home planet’s only bright spots are the cosmopolitan cities that trade offworld. But nonviolent terrorists called Stabilizers despise offworld influences and want to impose a slower-paced, low-stress lifestyle. They make prosperity appear suicidal by stealthily destroying a city’s economy and government with weaponized social epidemics.

Offworld Kagents project a future where the Stabilizers crash Hamilton, Illinois, and all civilization follows. With time running out, they recruit bounty hunter Nick Lincoln and his uncanny analytical abilities to find a future where Hamilton survives. But when Nick discovers how to stop the Stabilizers, he learns a secret about them, the Kagents, the projections, and himself which will change everything.

If you like the sample, buy the book. If you like the book, tell others who you think may like it.

What I’m doing in 2014

My plan for 2014 includes:

  1. Writing 300,000 words of new fiction
  2. Continue my streak of over 365 days of new writing
  3. Editing over 400,000 words of fiction
  4. Publishing the Kagent trilogy
  5. Submitting short stories to some sci-fi publications

Can I write, edit, and publish three books a year? That is the challenge. This year will be a little easy because I should have one book published fairly shortly.

Note the addition of tracking my editing as well. Tracking new fiction is nice, but now that I have a production schedule, I am tracking words edited, because words written are not words publishable. Quantifying the editing will make me stick to the production schedule.

I should probably have some goals about studying craft, reading, learning business, etc. There’s a point at which this can get out of hand. <cough>

Going to cons? I don’t think so. Free time will be minimal for things like that. And movies, books, Legos and video games. Priorities, people.

Stephanie Dray’s latest Nile book is out

Mark: Stephanie Dray is a good friend going way, way back. She’s the author of several historical fiction and historical fantasy novels and has provided a ton of encouragement, edits, connections, and advice to me on writing for many years.

She also writes darn good books. So I’m devoting some blog space here to celebrate the release of her third Cleopatra Selene novel, Daughters of the Nile.

Daughters of the Nile slide

From critically acclaimed historical fantasy author, Stephanie Dray comes the long-awaited new tale based on the true story of Cleopatra’s daughter.

After years of abuse as the emperor’s captive in Rome, Cleopatra Selene has found a safe harbor. No longer the pitiful orphaned daughter of the despised Egyptian Whore, the twenty year old is now the most powerful queen in the empire, ruling over the kingdom of Mauretania—an exotic land of enchanting possibility where she intends to revive her dynasty. With her husband, King Juba II and the magic of Isis that is her birthright, Selene brings prosperity and peace to a kingdom thirsty for both. But when Augustus Caesar jealously demands that Selene’s children be given over to him to be fostered in Rome, she’s drawn back into the web of imperial plots and intrigues that she vowed to leave behind. Determined and resourceful, Selene must shield her loved ones from the emperor’s wrath, all while vying with ruthless rivals like King Herod. Can she find a way to overcome the threat to her marriage, her kingdom, her family, and her faith? Or will she be the last of her line?

Read the Reviews

“A stirring story of a proud, beautiful, intelligent woman whom a 21st century reader can empathize with. Dray’s crisp, lush prose brings Selene and her world to life.” ~RT Book Reviews

“The boldest, and most brilliant story arc Dray has penned…” ~Modge Podge Reviews

“If you love historical fiction and magical realism, these books are for you.” ~A Bookish Affair

Read an Excerpt

Below me, six black Egyptian cobras dance on their tails, swaying. I watch their scaled hoods spread wide like the uraeus on the crown of Egypt. Even from this height, I’m paralyzed by the sight of the asps, their forked tongues flickering out between deadly fangs. I don’t notice that I’m gripping the balustrade until my knuckles have gone white, all my effort concentrated upon not swooning and falling to my death.

And I would swoon if I were not so filled with rage. Someone has arranged for this. Someone who knows what haunts me. Someone who wants to send me a message and make this occasion a moment of dread. My husband, the king must know it, for he calls down, “That’s enough. We’ve seen enough of the snake charmer!”

There is commotion below, some upset at having displeased us. Then Chryssa hisses, “Who could think it a good idea to honor the daughter of Cleopatra by coaxing asps from baskets of figs?”

The story the world tells of my mother’s suicide is that she cheated the emperor of his conquest by plunging her hand into a basket where a venomous serpent lay in wait. A legend only, some say, for the serpent was never found. But I was there. I brought her that basket. She was the one bitten but the poison lingers in my blood to this day. I can still remember the scent of figs in my nostrils, lush and sweet. The dark god Anubis was embroidered into the woven reeds of the basket, the weight of death heavy in my arms. I can still see my mother reach her hand into that basket, surrendering her life so that her children might go on without her. And I have gone on without her.

I have survived too much to be terrorized by the emperor’s agents or whoever else is responsible for this.

If it is a message, a warning from my enemies, I have already allowed them too much of a victory by showing any reaction at all. So I adopt as serene a mask as possible. My daughter blinks her big blue eyes, seeing past my facade. “Are you frightened, Mother? They cannot bite us from there. The snakes are very far away.”

I get my legs under me, bitterness on my tongue. “Oh, but they’re never far enough away.”


Daughters of the Nile cover


Available now in print and e-book!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads


Available now in print and e-book!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads



Stephanie Dray Headshot

STEPHANIE DRAY is a bestselling, multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has-to the consternation of her devoted husband-collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.