Publishing Vanity, How different is self-publishing from vanity-publishing

Recently I tried a foray into self publishing. I have had some items of non-fiction published in the past, but my current work is a somewhat dark fantasy and it’s a struggle to get read. On the other hand, I have seen some success stories in self publishing. So I thought I’d try testing the waters.

In the past I’ve viewed self publishing as vanity publishing, POD as an expensive version, and dedicated mainstream publishers as a necessity. But In my search for the right agent and/or publisher to love my work and put the effort into helping me refine and market my manuscripts as published works, I stumbled onto a couple of individuals who were committed to self publishing. Prolific writers (I’m the slow plodding sort) who work hard to make a presence that is bigger than their work and who have gradually moved from self publishing to minor indie publishers.

This inspired me to at least dip my toe in the waters and see what the process might bring. ePublishing got me some small response, so I thought I’d try printing with POD. Just as I made this decision a major POD changed their prices and fee schedule. I was amazed at how easily one could simply publish and be available for bricks and mortar as well as libraries and ed. institutions. So once more I got to editing and soon I was evaluating proofs and preparing to launch.

One thing I tried was contacting a major indie book store. Ironically, this store has as one of it’s facilities a POD of no small skill and no small fee. If purchasing their services, then you are given space in the storefront, however I had already published. I had my LCC and my very own ISBN-13 and a beautiful trades paperback to call my own.

It took a couple of weeks to hear back, and this is the core of what I was told”

We do not carry self-published books, those printed by vanity presses or print on demand titles. Previous sales tests have shown that, while our customers are interested in all subjects, they are much more likely to browse and purchase titles like this at their local bookstore or on-line rather than carrying them with them on their travels.

Now I didn’t understand the point about carrying them on their travels. Yes people buy books to read on flights and trains and ships. But a bookstore is about books. Also I immediately saw the way they lumped vanity, self-published, and POD into a single entity. That rankled. It hit my pride. I wasn’t a vanity published author. I was a real writer with a good book and it was real. How dare they make that comparison.

And then– it hit me.

Life, what a concept.


If you like a good story with some thought provoking undercurrents or you just like real old fashioned fairy tales, get Neverwas.

Neverwas In Print, New this month!

New Print Release coming in January. We’ve taken the plunge and Neverwas is going to print this month. It will be available on Amazon, but we’re hoping to get exposure in brick and mortar. If you want a print copy and don’t want to pay shipping you should be able to order it through your local bookseller. That’s assuming it’s not on shelves. . . . Well that is a fair assumption. But help us bring it to those who don’t eBook, tell a friend or buy it for a friend!

Big Publishers DRMing us to death

As a writer, rights to my work are important. Anyone who copies my work and doesn’t pay me for it literally takes away from my ability to care for elderly parents as well as myself. Writing is hard work. So is practicing long hours with musical instruments, or painting, drawing singing, etc. Hard work, harder in some cases than selling rainforest kitch, flipping burgers or building electronics.

On the other hand the spread of facisim in the west has brought about an unholy union between big content producers and government that is choking the life out of the freedom of the consumer. DRM and digital media restrictions are making it criminal to own and use your own copy of an artist’s work. With paper, canvas and vinyl, we allowed artists and producers to create “licenses” to content, but the media was property. If I bought a book, the words belonged to the author or his assigns (publishers heirs etc.); the paper, ink and binding was mine. I owned the book, the copy. If I wanted to share it with a friend I handed it to him and he read it. Libraries exist for the sole purpose of collecting books and lending them for the use of patrons, whether on site or off.

With digital, paperless, initiatives we have a problem. Can I own the electrons on a flash card? Is it possible? And if I send it to a friend he has it, but I still have it too. I’ve been accused of an intense grasp of the obvious. But the obvious seems to have escaped the legislators, producers and consumer public. The obvious is that DRM or Cloud storage infringe on the consumers rights as they have existed for just as long a tradition as those of the copyholder. DRM cannot be allowed to be a means of simply removing the ability of the consumer to loan or sell his media. This is a one-sided draconian approach that infringes on the majority rights in order to protect the minority. Unequal protection. For Americans at least, a huge no-no.

This case, a conflict between a programmer and Silicon Valley powerhouse Facebook ®, is a clear case of big business content producers attempting to circumvent the like a book doctrine and force the consumer to relinquish traditional rights to control, manipulate and warehouse their privately owned media. A quick review will probably leave most readers ambivalent at best.

The issue will continue to be a matter of struggle as we try to figure out how to insure media control “like a book” while preventing piracy. A start, would be for consumers to have the good grace to “just say no” to Pirate Bay.

Neverwas 2nd Ed. Now on Sale!

It’s finally here! Neverwas: Forgotten tales of Albion is now in it’s second edition with expanded content. New fairy tales of Teira to entertain and delight kids of all ages six to six-hundred! These are earthy tales with unearthly characters told in the prosaic style of traditional folk tales. And if you’ve already purchased the first edition, never fear, the expanded content is available free of charge from the author.

If you’ve never read these timeless tales of worlds and imagination, get them from one of the many major eBook vendors. Or you can download it from Smashwords.

Go to the author’s contact page and provide purchase information and a current email address  for the first edition and you will receive the updated edition as an email attachment. Did I mention it was free of charge? Well it is! So act now.


Choo choo!

Siemens Steam Engine
Steam Power

This little Item from Professor Elemental’s FB fanpage caught my attention and held it. See the words are a bit ironic to me. It reminds me of an a somewhat dim acquaintance of mine that I spent a lot of time battling with over the last decade and a half. That is of course the subject for a different venue, let’s just say in a battle of wits his kit of choice is the Shield of Evil Banality and the Club of Low Cunning. He can always quote someone else’s witticism that will at least have some of the same words as the topic at hand.

But enough about that. The real issue is that the conversation in question started with him mocking Jay Leno for his avid interest in steam power. He finally fell to the question, why is it that you can only every find kits for low horsepower steam engines, none of which are organized as motors? That’s a paraphrase. He was never so articulate. I’m sure that ultimately he was trying to use his degenerate version of Scientology Lingo to seem witty. But he quite unwittingly tumbled onto a fine oddity.

He, like so many, believes that the internal combustion engine has supplanted and obsoleted steam power. Professor Elemental touches on that in the song linked above. He also points out wind power as an obsolete tech. I believe t he point of the song is that we had our hay-day mowing with gasoline and now we’ll have to buckle down and settle for steam. The implication is that it’s some sort pennence for the excesses of the 20’th century. But nothing could be more erroneous.

After World War I many ships were being converted to Diesel engine and this was a short lived detour that seemed like the big thing for the future. Mr. Diesel’s design for internal combustion is neat and “for a petroleum engine” marginally efficient. It doesn’t approach the the power and efficiency of a top fuel dragster or formula racer, but it does all right. And really, who wants a nitro-methane supercharged drag cruise-liner?

But the point here is that the foray into diesel was mostly a non-starter for really big vessels. Those that retain diesel today are mostly hybrid, using diesel to charge batteries that then run electric motorized screws. Even that design was scrapped on Naval vessels where, the big cruisers, carriers and subs use a nuke. Now my “friend” above was only too avid to concede that Nuclear (for texans: Nukular) power was the bomb. It’s latest and greatest, why it’s New Technology! Hmmm.

Reactors were invented in the 1930’s and used in the development of atomic weapons. Very new. Internal combustion dates from the late 19’th century, why that’s at least 40 years earlier. But there’s a problem with nuclear power.

Contrary to the Stark Trek ™ and Sci Fi vision, reactors are just giant furnaces where (in a terribly crude, even primitive way) zirconium plated metal rods are piled up till they get hot enough to spontaneously boil water. Said water “coolant” is driven through of all things a steam turbine which rapidly cools it. Then it is condensed in a coil and recirculated. This massively “high tech” generator is our old friend the steam engine.

Given the intense heat and radiation of a nuclear furnace, it’s probable that other means of gaining power from it are possible. But let’s face it, we’ve been living the steam punk fantasy for the last two hundred years. By burning hydrogen, oxygen and catalysts in various compounds, our wonderful liquid fueled rockets the main engines on the Space Shuttle are ultimately a form of–yes–steam power.

We are building windmills more often now. And I’m very happy to see it. As for some good old medieval tech, how about the hoover water-wheel. But it’s makes us feel more sophisticated to use terms like hydro-electric, harassing thermal energy, or reaction engines. So be it. All hail the heat expansion of aqueous fluid to provide mechanical energy!

Novel Graphics for Speculative Fiction

Royal Arms of Albion

I like to draw. Doodling is not really satisfying but there was a time I couldn’t leave the house without a sketch pad and pencil. I don’t do caricatures but sketching and painting are another way to present the worlds of imagination that I live in.

For Redmantle I’ve started putting together a collection of heraldic devices and ensigns to represent the fictional nations (and some that are real) that populate my little Terra Firma. It’s been great fun and of course facilitates research, because for every device there is a why and a history that departs from the world that we live in.

Flags like the Union Flag of England or the Burgundian Cross of New Spain tell a story just by flying and that story is seldom as linear and neat as the historians would have us believe. The flag is a form of national identity and more than just a symbol it is generally a testimony about the composition and allegiance of a people more than a state.

At best these arms and ensigns will be a bit of cover art and components of trademarks relating to the book. They’ll add a bit of color (I prefer to think of it as a double entendre’ rather than a pun) to the pagentry and battles found in the books and probably be forgotten as soon as the page is turned. But I’ve had some fun and the tidbits of alternative historiography are more than useful.

Treat yourself to a bit of historical trivia and look into the origins and applications of armorial bearing and flags in Europe and the Americas. At worst you’ll see some pretty pictures, but maybe you’ll find an intriguing nugget that leads you to your own speculations and a story is born.

Period or Coma?

I wonder if the following really reads right. Is it too pedantic and does it really hint at what it’s like traveling by horse through Essex in the 17th century. Comments would be welcome.

The Ladies were soon packed into the coach and the last of the luggage bound in place before the sun had begun to peak over the roofs and gables on the town. They moved out at a brisk pace, letting the horses burn some of the restlessness that had them whickering and stamping while loading. Even the normally placid team of four pulling the wagon were frisking a bit and nipping the air. As the day wore on they cleared the outskirt of the Tilbury and were soon wending their way through the cots and pastures. Once out of the village they made good time and before the hour they were just pulling into Laindon.

The Suggested Audience

My most memorable Thanksgiving really only be came memorable the following spring. That may seem a bit exaggerated, but let me give you some background. I don’t know about every nook and cranny of the US but most places I’ve lived, turkeys have been a premium used to lure buyers of more costly products. Turkey is everywhere. There’s turkey loaf, and roast turkey, hot hat sandwiches, turkey ham (a personal favorite), turkey bacon (something the inconceivable Evers may appreciate), and turkey even finds its way into hotdogs and luncheon meats that have no business being poultry products. But none of those uses of turkey involve the anatomically intact bird.

Real intact turkey roasted for hours –with or without a stuffing– gets relegated to the the Thanksgiving and possibly Christmas holiday. The birds are slaughtered as much as two years prior and with the magic of cryonics kept below 0 deg. F until needed for the various meat-bird products aforementioned. That’s fine except that these turkeys really can’t take much longer in the vault of Mr. Freeze so they are raised a much more toasty 40 deg and put out there for shoppers to boggle over at under $2 per pound, “with a purchase of $25 or more, not combinable with other offers, and please remove it from our store before it begins to leak the rosy red effluvium of decay.”

In our family we love to take advantage of these cheap (ahem) birds. We buy large ones in excess of 20 pounds and serve turkey casserole, turkey sandwiches and “was there turkey in that surprise?” for the next week. My father loved his turkey so it was welcome. When I left the area to attend residential college it occurred to me that this wealth of bird-like substance could help with the plight of the poor student.

A friend of mine, I’ll call Chet, was renting a cottage just across the street from the school. It made life easy for him. He could roll out of bed and into class and be back to sleep before the warmth of his sheets had faded. Despite his habit of sleeping through lectures, Chet was an honor student. Some might even suggest he was Idiot Savant if it weren’t for his broad base of interests. But, while Chet was an avid fan of … well … eating, he was largely useless in the kitchen. His mother was a fan of fringe diets and fads, like using wheat gluten in place of meat. Chet had never learned how to cook anything more challenging than an MRE. For this reason he was feared and dreaded in the local Chinese buffets, a major feature of a town of 40k permanent residents with 4 universities, a tech school, a Bible school and a junior college.

I felt sorry for Chet. The buffets mostly barred him, his money was short and he’d exhausted the uses of macaroni and freeze-dried ramen. So I made The Suggestion. Remember, I was thinking what a great idea it would be to use the wealth of Thanksgiving Poultry for the betterment of Student-kind. So I called up Chet and while he was bemoaning a particularly unsatisfying meal of spaghetti and popcorn with not marinara, I said, “Why don’t you get a turkey.” It was rapidly approaching the season and they were there to be had.

“How can I afford a turkey? Their so big!” he replied.

“Yes,” I said smugly. “But they’re offered as premiums. Buy ‘X’ number of dollars worth of groceries and they give you a turkey for cheap. Sometimes free, or only five dollars.”

“But I can’t eat much turkey by myself.”

“No. But you can cut it up!”

Bear in mind, Chet was a fan of the Medieval RPGS. More than that he was involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Now this lot were serious about their dress up and role play, but they didn’t have even a moderator with polyhedral dice to limit their fantasies. They carried live steel reproductions of weapons, though somehow an awful lot of the falchions seemed to come from the lawn and garden center. Machetes are not just for breakfast anymore.

So while a bone saw and joint knives were not likely to be available to him, axes and large hacking weapons were. I was confident he would manage to defeat the fowl beast and rescue his cavitating belly. In a series of calls, I explained that he needed to cut the beast into quarters like a chicken. He could then place each quarter into a freezer bag and refreeze them before the carcass had warmed. He would then be able to thaw and roast one quarter each month. The plentiful left overs would carry him through until he could eat no more turkey, then he could repeat the process the following month.

Self satisfied I went back to analyzing the relative merits of Hawthorne and Mather. I visited Chet often that winter. We played cards, talked endlessly about fiction and music. Even compared plans for the future, (he is in avionic software design while I am hawking a book that hasn’t sold yet). But through it all there was a sort of funk that settled over his house. And by Funk I mean the horrible odor of an open grave.

Now I have a sensitive nose. When I was young and had all my taste buds, I could often unravel a recipe’ or guess what was being cooked, from odor alone. I would walk through the front door and rattle off the ingredients before sitting. But Chet had a less sensitive nose. Chet also did not bathe in winter. And I have to admit, it took a while before I was certain the odor was not him. It took a while longer to be certain what I was sensing wasn’t simply a strong sense of foreboding. When I assured myself it was rotting flesh, it took a while to broach the subject. (Daumer had been a news item not long prior)

Finally, I slipped and just blurted out that the house stank. Chet was dumb-struck. He wasn’t used to such blunt language and it shamed him (sorry). I soon realized that, he was NOT going to pull a cleaver from his back pocket and chase me about, wearing a hockey mask. But the question remained, “What was the odor? How had this happened?” Then, as he was stumbling through a half mumbled explanation, it finally dawned on me. I told Chet how to quarter a bird. I told him how to freeze it. I’d even given him cooking tips and he’d been eating it. What I hadn’t done was pedantically spell out what to do with the organs and neck.

Chet had been at a loss. I hadn’t told him to freeze them and he didn’t know if they were food, so he’d left them in the sink. When the odor got too bad, he’d put them in the garbage can under the sink, the one he never emptied. Finally, when the centimeter long maggots and other undesirables got to be too much for him, Chet cleaned house — by packing the garbage, maggots and other sundries into 10 gal. trash bags, which he then deposited on the rear porch of his house, having never hired a contractor to take his garbage away.

Coming from Long Island, NY where trash pickup was a city utility that was bundled into the water bill, he’d tried leaving the cans out a few weeks and finally gotten tired of having the dogs turn them over. Used to being ignored, he simply hauled the garbage back to his porch, intending to let his landlord take care of it when he vacated in the summer.

In the end, we were still remembering the leftovers of his Thanksgiving the following May. And hayfever was a blessing to all concerned. It all goes to show, you have to know your audience and remember to include the details they won’t get on their own.