When small presses go bad

I’ve been debating whether to write this post or not. On the one hand, this issue affects some fellow authors who are very dear to me. On the other hand, there’s a lot of anger out there — mostly being very politely handled, at least in public, to folks’ credit — and I didn’t want to be seen as adding to the noise or trying to drum up a lynch mob.

But then I thought, I’ve written posts explaining why I chose to sign with a small press rather than self-publish. And the issue I’m referring to relates to the small press that offered on Isla’s Inheritance at the same time Turquoise Morning Press did…so this one would cut a little close to home even if I didn’t know others who’d been affected.

What I’m talking about, if you hadn’t guessed, is a small press that went belly up this week.

Fortunately the authors in this instance are all getting their rights back, but will they get royalties owed? Nope. Will the cover artists and editors ever get paid? Nope.

There’s nothing about this situation that doesn’t suck.

I don’t know whether the owner of the press set out to scam people or just went into creating a company with blinkers on and not enough startup capital to pay the bills till the royalties came in. I gather from reading this post at Absolute Write (which I found the day before yesterday) that lack of starting capital and a failure to do the proper paperwork are the two biggest reasons small presses collapse.

One thing I took into consideration when choosing which small press to sign with, out of TMP and the other one, was how long they’d each been around. I read somewhere that most small presses collapse within the first two years of being established.

When they offered on Isla, the press that collapsed was about four months old.

There were other reasons, obviously, that I chose TMP. But both had lovely editors who were really enthused about the book. Both were willing to negotiate parts of the contract I didn’t love. I really could have gone either way.

Collapses like this one are likely to be enough to scare writers off small presses altogether. I’ve got to say, if I’d been with this other press, I’d be self-publishing Isla rather than risking going through the same heartache again. And I don’t blame anyone that does a bit. (In fact, given there were three separate books from this press that I loved and was waiting for the sequel to, I kind of hope they do!)

Anyway, in the interests of trying to come up with something useful to drag out of this mess, here are the things I suggest you look at when considering a small press:

  1. How long has the press been around?
  2. Look for them on a site like Absolute Write. What does the thread about them say? If there’s not a board for that press, start one. (This is a great place to research agents too.)
  3. Does the press have a decent sales record on sites like Amazon? They don’t need to have a list of bestsellers, but if their books all rank in the billions, that’s a bad sign.
  4. If there are free book samples available online, what is the editing like?
  5. What do other authors signed with the press say about what it is like to work with? Find one that’s been with them for a year or more, ask about the royalties and statements. Are they prompt?
  6. Do they offer any kind of marketing? (Most small presses rely on you to do the gruntwork, but obviously more is better.)

Are there other things you’d want to know before you signed with a small press? Please leave a comment and I’ll edit them in.

And to everyone who’s feeling down this week after what happened, I LOVE YOU!

Kitten hug

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Research: the geography and climate of Egypt

Today’s guest post is by Katie Hamstead, whose book KIYA: Rise of a New Dynasty (the third in the Kiya trilogy) came out last month. I love these books like a crazy person, if you hadn’t already guessed! She’s here today to talk about the setting of her series, ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt

I know, how boring! But not really. Like any story, the environment plays its part in shaping and molding events.

The Egyptian Empire was built around the Nile. At the time of the 18th Dynasty—in which the Kiya trilogy is set—it stretched from Abu Simbel (which was constantly disputed with the Nubians) up to the delta and into parts of the Saudi Arabian peninsula.

In general, the area is arid, but along the Nile, it is extremely fertile. The silt which flooded the plains annually comes from the White Nile, which starts at the Great Lakes region of central Africa (Rwanda), and also the Blue Nile, which begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. They meet in Sudan and form the Nile. Most of the fertile soil which is flushed through is brought up from the the Blue Nile.

If you look at the map, you will see the major cities of Ancient Egypt. Note the  location of Thebes in the south (Upper Egypt) and Memphis in the north (Lower Egypt). You will then notice Akhetaten’s (Tel El Amarna, which is where Kiya 1 is set) location approximately halfway between. It is not known whether this was deliberate on Akhenaten’s account, but it’s definitely an interesting theory that he chose the halfway point between the two royal capitals deliberately. It could also have been because the land had not been dedicated to any other god up until then. The legend is that while he was traveling along the Nile, he awoke and saw the sun rising over the cliffs and claimed to have a vision from Aten, telling him it was the place he needed to build his city. Whatever his intentions were, the Egyptian populous moved into the city on his orders.

The Climate—hot, as it’s the desert. The areas Kiya is focused on are very hot and dry during the day and it rarely rains, and cools down during the night. Winter is very mild, but the nights can get close to freezing.

Plants are basically reeds and other grasses along the Nile banks, some palms, then desert, desert and more desert!

Being in northern Africa, the animals in the area include lions and crocodiles, both of which are mentioned in the books, along with water fowl, cats, dogs, jackals and anything else you can see on traditional Egyptian art.

Kiya: Rise of a New Dynasty is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

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Tut has grown into his position as Pharaoh, but he is a wild young man. Naomi fears for him, not only because of his recklessness, but because he has put his trust in Ay–the man determined to destroy Naomi—despite her and Horemheb advising against it.

Meanwhile, death and slavery hang over Naomi and her family. With fear of the booming Hebrew numbers causing talk of enslaving them, conscription is reinstated and Naomi fears for the lives of her other children. Especially since Ay’s children are now adults, and just as dangerous as their father. They threaten to take Itani, conspire against Tut, and push for power.

But Tut is in trouble. While Ay’s daughter draws Horemheb’s attention, and Naomi deals with the struggles of her family, everyone’s distraction could spell death for the young Pharaoh.

Katie-Teller-Author-Photo-2Born and raised in Australia, Katie’s early years of day dreaming in the “bush”, and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing. After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog. She has a diploma in travel and tourism, which helps inspire her writing. She is currently at school studying English and Creative Writing.

Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports and be a good wife and mother. She now works as a Clerk with a lien company in Arizona to help support her family and her schooling. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

You can find Katie on her blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.


Character Interview: Anamae Gilbert from ‘Forget Me Not’

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Today I’m interviewing Anamae Gilbert, the main character from FORGET ME NOT by Stacey Nash. Welcome to the blog, Anamae!

Image by Lindsey Sprague

Image by Lindsey Sprague

1. Anamae’s an unusual name. What are its origins?

The Ana part of my name is a bit of family tradition. My mom’s name was Anabelle and her mother was Analeise. Then my parents tacked Mae on the end. It’s for my birthday, which is May 5th. I guess they just liked the sound of it.

2. Tell us about your friends. Is there anyone special in your life?

I’m a bit quiet, and don’t make friends easily, or maybe it’s more that I don’t keep them. Who knows? I sure as heck can’t figure it out. It’s really just me and Will. It’s always been that way, I mean other friends have come and gone, but he’s my rock.

Anyone special? Do you mean like a boyfriend? Not right now there’s not.

3. What do you want to do when you finish school?

I’d love to be a professional photographer, but money is tight and that’s a dream that will never pay the bills. For now I work part-time in the diner on weekends and after school. I haven’t really decided on a career yet though. There’s plenty of time for that, right?

4. I understand your mother vanished when you were nine. That must have been hard. Did they ever discover what happened to her?

That’s, ah, kind of difficult for me talk about. She, umm…look, I was young. I’m not certain I was ever told the full story, but technically the police classified her as a missing person. No leads.

5. What has it been like, being raised by your father?

He’s a good father and I love him more than anyone else in my life, but he was a little absent emotionally. The birds and the bees…yeah, he didn’t go there. Thank god. My best friend, Will lives next door and in many ways, his mom and I are close. Then there was the housework, the garden… and don’t get me started on the dishes that are forever piled in the sink.

6. Let’s finish up with a fun question: if you could have one superpower, what would it be?

You know, that question is kind of irrelevant considering all the cool tech around. Anyone can be a superhero if you know where and how to find it. Just don’t let the Collective catch you. Yeah, that wouldn’t be very good. All of that aside though, I wouldn’t mind being able to travel through time. There sure are some things I’d do differently.

Buy Forget Me Not on Amazon or Barnes & Noble today!

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Blurb for FORGET ME NOT:

Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. When the brooch and the pendant are worn together they’re no longer pretty pieces of jewelry — they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewelry’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device — and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One.

She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

Fiction is Fact. Know the Truth.

Stacey Nash (3)Stacey grew up in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. It is an area nestled between mountains and vineyards. Full of history and culture, it provides wonderful writing inspiration. After dabbling with poetry during her teen years, Stacey stopped writing until after university when she was married with young children. Now she loves nothing more than spending her days with her children and writing when inspiration strikes.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


Book launch, giveaway and excerpt: ‘Forget Me Not’ by Stacey Nash

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So, continuing with the Forget Me Not love — yay, book launch! The book was supposed to launch on 17 February, but it has just gone live RIGHT NOW. I’m assuming this has to do with a chain of events involving a stolen USB, a car chase and a gun fight involving Amazon blackops and a chimpanzee disguised as a mailman. Is that just me?

Also, I feel kinda weird launching a book today that I reviewed already. But weird in a smug sort of way, you understand. 😉 Anyway, here it is. With an excerpt to get you hooked like I was hooked.

Title: Forget Me Not (Book I in the Collective series)
Author: Stacey Nash
Release Date: February 17, 2014 February 21, 2014
Publisher: Entranced Publishing, Rush
Genre: YA speculative fiction

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Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. When the brooch and the pendant are worn together they’re no longer pretty pieces of jewelry — they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewelry’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device — and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One.

She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

Buy Forget Me Not on Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

Add Forget Me Not on Goodreads!

Enter the book launch giveaway!

“I certainly won’t be forgetting Nash’s debut, FORGET ME NOT! A vividly fast-paced tale with adventure, secrets, and kissing!” — Kimberly P. Chase, Author of THE APOLLO ACADEMY.

“I highly recommend “Forget Me Not” for people who love story-driven YA. Five stars!” — Me 🙂

Excerpt:

Easing the door closed, I climb out of the attic and head to the bathroom to clean my dust-covered hands. Water rushes from the spout and splashes against the sides as the basin fills. A reflection of me stares back from the mirror, my dirty hand clutching my aching chest. Today everything feels so raw, open, and fresh, like it only just happened. Why isn’t she still here?

Rubbing my hands clean, I delve into my pocket for the jewelry. Bringing it to my collar, I pin it into my blouse and the hard edges of the brooch prick my skin. My thumb brushes over the smooth, round sides of the pendant and when I pull it over my head, the chain catches on my hair. After I twist it through the tangle so it finally falls cool against my skin, it nestles in the hollow of my throat. I pick it up between my fingers and with reverent slow strokes, rub my thumb over the shiny yellow center—the pendant Mom never took off.

A shiver shoots up my spine and out through my limbs like an electric current, zapping every cell, every fiber, every part of my being. Walking on graves, that’s what Mom would have said. Maybe it’s an omen about her.

I plant my palms on either side of the full basin and peer into the still water taking a moment to collect my thoughts. The water reflects only the cream ceiling. That can’t be right. I do a double take and look again.

My chest tightens. I hold my hand up, but I can’t see it—not my arm, not my chewed fingernails, not my leather watch on my wrist. Where am I? Mouth gaping, I look into the mirror again, but I see nothing.

Not even my face.

I dip my finger into the warm, reflection-free water. Circles ripple in ever growing rings, but there’s no image. My gaze flits to the mirror, but I see only the open door. I have no reflection.

Stacey Nash (3)Stacey grew up in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. It is an area nestled between mountains and vineyards. Full of history and culture, it provides wonderful writing inspiration. After dabbling with poetry during her teen years, Stacey stopped writing until after university when she was married with young children. Now she loves nothing more than spending her days with her children and writing when inspiration strikes.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


Cover reveal: ‘Kiya: Rise of a New Dynasty’ by Katie Hamstead

Title: Kiya: Rise of a New Dynasty (Kiya Trilogy Book #3)
Author: Katie Hamstead
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Genre: New Adult Historical Romance
Release Date: February 25th 2014

Tut has grown into his position as Pharaoh, but he is a wild young man. Naomi fears for him, not only because of his recklessness, but because he has put his trust in Ay–the man determined to destroy Naomi—despite her and Horemheb advising against it.

Meanwhile, death and slavery hang over Naomi and her family. With fear of the booming Hebrew numbers causing talk of enslaving them, conscription is reinstated and Naomi fears for the lives of her other children. Especially since Ay’s children are now adults, and just as dangerous as their father. They threaten to take Itani, conspire against Tut, and push for power.

But Tut is in trouble. While Ay’s daughter draws Horemheb’s attention, and Naomi deals with the struggles of her family, everyone’s distraction could spell death for the young Pharaoh.

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Add Kiya: Rise of a New Dynasty to your Goodreads shelf today!

Katie-Teller-Author-Photo-2Born and raised in Australia, Katie’s early years of day dreaming in the “bush”, and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing. After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog.She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing. She is currently at school studying English and Creative Writing.

Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports and be a good wife and mother. She now works as a Clerk with a lien company in Arizona to help support her family and her schooling. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

You can find Katie on her blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.


Review: ‘Forget Me Not’ by Stacey Nash

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Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. When the brooch and the pendant are worn together they’re no longer pretty pieces of jewelry — they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewelry’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device — and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One.

She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

I was given an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. In the interests of full disclosure, though, I confess I requested the ARC because I’ve read one of Stacey’s other, unpublished manuscripts and really love her writing. Also, as I’m sure you’ve figured out from my participation in the blog tour, I’m a bit of a fan. 😉

But trust me when I say “Forget Me Not” didn’t disappoint. I intend to buy a paperback copy once it becomes available, which is a sign of how much I loved it.

Most of the young adult fiction I read is urban fantasy, so the science-fiction angle was somewhat new to me – but, like all good sci-fi (and fiction in general), this book was character-driven. I didn’t feel like I needed a physics degree to know what was going on, which is the main thing that puts me off sci-fi reads.

“Forget Me Not” is set somewhere in Big City America — it’s never stated conclusively (or if it is I missed it), but it’s somewhere with a president. At first I assumed because Stacey is an Aussie author that it might be set here but, given the scale of events in the story, it makes sense that it be set in the global powerhouse that is the US. (Sorry, Australia, but it’s true. I still love you, though.)

The romance between Mae and Jax is well-developed and, even though I’m firmly Team Will (Mae’s best friend), by the end I thought Mae and Jax were a cute and above all realistic couple. Unfortunately for Team Will, the poor guy never had a hope — he’s so firmly in the friendzone that Mae can’t see his attraction to her, not even when it’s spelled out in so many words by a third party.

Despite the romance subplot, the story is action- and character-driven, whisking you along. I did see the plot twist coming, but only by about a chapter, so I didn’t get frustrated that Mae and the others didn’t see it coming. (It always annoys me when I as a reader figure something out ages before the characters do. I’m all, COME ON! IT’S RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU!)

The only tiny niggle I had with “Forget Me Not” was that, after Mae and Will flee the baddies and take refuge with the resistance, she spends a lot of time worrying about her dad, but almost no attention is given to Will’s family — seemingly including by him. It may just be that, because the story is from her perspective and Will is determined to be stoic, he never talks to her much about his worries — but I felt like his parents and sister were kinda forgotten. But this is only a minor observation and didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book.

I highly recommend “Forget Me Not” for people who love story-driven YA. Five stars!

Five stars


Review: ‘Sleeper’ by S. M. Johnston

"Sleeper" by S. M. Johnston

“Sleeper” by S. M. Johnston

A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.

Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.

Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca so that she can be the weapon she was always intended to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance

I don’t know why I never used to read independent fiction by small presses. Actually, I do—because I was mostly hearing about books by seeing them on the shelves at my local chain bookstore. But I was missing out on a lot of good Australian fiction.

Sleeper is one of those books. By Queensland author S. M. Johnston, it sits somewhere between YA and NA; the main character, Mischa, is eighteen and about to start university, but the themes sit closer to the more-typical YA fare of self-discovery. And while there’s a lot of kissing there’s no graphic detail in here that might make some teens (or parents of teens) uncomfortable.

After her heart transplant, Mischa finds that she’s traded being a “freak” with an illness that means she can’t do the things her peers can to being a freak in the truer sense. Although the doctors warned her she’d feel different, she’s pretty sure superhuman speed and strength weren’t want they meant. (Watch out for the scene on the beach where Mischa explores the full extent of her powers—it made me giggle. Poor girl!) She’s determined to fit in, though, and just wants to enjoy her new lease of life and being able to do things without worrying her heart may give out.

Mischa is easy to relate to and the romance between her and Ryder develops in a natural and realistic way that I enjoyed. He’s a likeable character, and when Mischa starts having eyes for another man, Colin, I got a bit grumpy with her—because Ryder. But it was obvious from the start that there was something weird going on in Mischa’s attraction to Colin, so her love at first sight didn’t irritate me the way it usually does in fiction. In fact, the attraction kept me guessing and made the plot more interesting. (For the record, I didn’t guess correctly either. The plot twist is a good one.)

Another thing I liked about Sleeper that you often don’t see in YA fiction is that her parents are not only present in her life but are responsible adults who actually take an active interest in their daughter’s behaviour and activities. I think it’s easier for Johnston in this case because, at eighteen, Mischa is an adult with her own drivers license—if she was fifteen it would be harder for her to get away with the things she does, which is often why YA writers have their characters’ parents either dead or chronically negligent.

My absolute favourite part of the book was the epilogue. Beautiful stuff.

The only thing I found a bit jarring about the story was that the book is set over the course of a full year. I found a couple of the time jumps a little surprising. But this was only a tiny niggle, especially as it would’ve been unrealistic if the story had played out over a shorter timeframe.

I’m giving Sleeper four and a half stars.

Four-and-a-half stars