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Let me start out by once again thanking everyone who submitted either short stories or novels to us in November.  We received quite a few submissions and it was difficult to choose exactly which ones to sign.  However, our editorial board was up to the task and contracts have been sent out and returned.  Now I have the pleasure of announcing the schedule for the first quarter of 2011 as well as some of the titles we will be publishing later this year.

January

The e-arc for Dave Freer’s YA novella, Without A Trace, is already available for purchase.

A Deeper Silence, a collection of short stories by Charles Edgar Quinn.

Legion, a short story by Dave Freer and Kate Paulk.

February

Lawyers of Mars by Pam Uphoff.

Short story collection by Dan Hoyt, title to be announced later.

Death of a Musketeer by Sarah D’Almeida.  This is the first of the Musketeer Mysteries and has never appeared in digital format.  We are very pleased to be able to add this title to our catalog and to announce that we will be offering later this year The Musketeer’s Confessor, a new book in the series.

We will also offer an as yet to be determined short story or two this month.

March

Impaler by Kate Paulk.  A mix of alternate history, historical mystery and a new take on the Dracula myth.  This is the follow-up novel to Kate’s novella, Born in Blood.

Hunter’s Moon by Ellie Ferguson is a mix of urban fantasy and romance.

Blood Ransom, a short story collection by Sarah A. Hoyt.

Last, but certainly not least, we will be offering our own irreverent take on St. Patrick’s Day, much in the vein of Robert Hoyt’s Christmas Campaign.

April

The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy by Tom Easton.  Tom will be doing a guest blog for us later this month complete with information about the book and a giveaway.

An as yet to be titled short story collection by Dave Freer.

Want, a short story by Jay Caselberg that came to us during our November submission period.

Skipping Stones, a short story by Darwin Garrison that also came to us during the November submission period.

May

Revocare, a short story by Leslie Fish that was submitted to us during November.

Here There Be Faeries, a short story by Stephen Simmons that came to us also during the November submission period.

There will be at least one novel added to the lineup.  We’ll announce which title as soon as possible.

Summer/Fall/Winter

Among the titles we’ll be offering the second half of the year are the following:

The Musketeer’s Confessor by Sarah D’Almeida.  This is a new title in the Musketeers Mysteries and we are very excited to be able to offer it to you.

Firefight by Tom Easton will be published in August.

Tiltamouse is Hunger, a YA novella by Sarah A. Hoyt.

Vengeance Mine, a mystery by Jenny Schall that is also a product of the November submission period.

ConVent by Kate Paulk.

Robert A. Hoyt’s holiday collection which includes Christmas Campaign.

These are just a few of the titles we’ll be bringing you over the next year.  As new titles are added, we’ll let you know.

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The e-arc for Dave Freer’s new YA fantasy adventure, Without a Trace, is now available.  This is your chance to be the first on your block to have Dave’s newest work.

For those who aren’t familiar with what an e-arc is, it’s an advanced reader copy of the novella.  In other words, this is not the final product.  There may be spelling and punctuation errors present.  It’s possible there will be some text changes made as well before the final product is published Feb. 15th.  While you may find some errors in this product, those who purchase the e-arc will get to read it before anyone else.

In this YA offering, a boy’s search for his grandfather’s downed plane leads to a parallel South Africa with pirates and worse.  His quest to clear his grandfather’s name turns into a desperate race against time to return to his own reality before it’s too late.

CHAPTER 1

HISTORY
“Universes, endless parallel universes, may lie right next to next to ours. They are as unreachable as the stars. Or are they?”

You’ve heard of the Bermuda triangle? You know, where compasses suddenly start to spin wildly, with a sudden darkness at noon, where ships and planes sometimes just disappear. When they’re gone, they’re just… gone, and nothing ever comes back. There are other places where this is supposed to happen too. There’s a spot deep in the Gobi, and another above the Java Trench. And then… there’s the Wild Coast…. some very strange things have happened there. Over the years Portugese Carracks, British East Indiamen, and, in 1908, the Wahratah have disappeared off that coast.

On the 27th of July in 1981 my Grandad flew his Piper Cherokee out from the little bumpy airstrip on our farm, in the direction of Port St. Johns. He flew off to go and take a swarm of bees out of a friend’s holiday cottage. He flew out of our lives, and for all anyone knew out of this world. He, and his plane were “missing”. They’d just disappeared, disappeared without a trace. No wreckage was ever found. Then the problems started.

For starters he was in trouble with the security police. Politics, guns. They reckoned Grandad was a gun-runner. My Old Man says it was quite possible. He says his Dad was up to anything, provided it was totally lunatic. Everyone had thought he was a rich man, but it seemed he owed a lot of money. There was very little money in his bank account.

Then the story came out. He’d drawn out twenty thousand Rand the day before he flew, and bought Krugerrands with it. He’d been buying gold for years, it seemed. Suddenly, nobody believed he’d crashed anymore. Everyone said he’d cut and run. Everyone but my Dad.

“My father never ran away from anything in his life!” That’s what he said to the papers then. That’s what he said to me maybe a thousand times since. My Dad was twenty three then, not even married a year, and still having a grand old time at University. Me, I was three months old.

Suddenly he wasn’t a rich man’s son anymore. Suddenly he didn’t have any friends. Three days later he didn’t have a wife either. She left him with a baby boy, a stack of debts and no future.

He’d lost everything but the farm. Fortunately my grandmother had left that to Dad. Grandad couldn’t be proved to be dead, so my father never got to see Grandad’s will. Grandad was well insured, but Dad couldn’t claim anything because Grandad wasn’t legally dead. The plane was insured too, but it was just “missing”.

Dad had to sell what the creditors hadn’t taken. Most of the livestock, almost all of the farm implements, Grandad’s cars, radios, TV, and antique furniture went. Dad had no money to replace anything that broke down. While there was still money owing there was no chance of credit from anyone.

Grandad had built quite nice staff houses, with electricity and running water, and paid his employees far more than anyone else in the district. This had made all the local farmers mad with him. Apparently one of them had come around to the farm and had a shouting match with him, about how he was “spoiling the Kaffirs”. Grandad had picked him up, and tossed him into a rose bush.

The old man had also never been scared to speak his mind about anything, and it seemed he’d trod on a lot of toes talking about the way the farmers treated their labourers. The result was, now that Dad needed help, he found that even those people whom Grandad didn’t owe money to, treated him as if he was a scorpion on a picnic blanket.

Dad couldn’t possibly afford to pay the all the farm workers. Eventually only one family stayed, but some months Dad couldn’t find the money to pay them either. Still, because of the way Grandad had treated them, they stayed with us. They had a few cows and goats and patch of mielies, so nobody starved. They were more like friends than labourers though.

Often the only customers Dad could find for the farm produce were the local black people, because no one in town would buy from him at a fair price, and he had no transport to take our stuff to anywhere else. Fortunately, virtually everyone who had ever worked for Grandad came to the farm buy from Dad. Dad spoke Zulu and even Xhosa — because we were pretty near the borderland between the two languages — and people liked that. “Respect begets respect,” he always said. I was never too sure what ‘begets’ meant. I think it had something to do with the way people greeted him.

Dad just kept trying. Somehow he made enough money to pay cash for everything. Somehow we made it through the droughts. Nothing was going to stop my Dad from paying off the debts, proving he was an honest man, and making that farm rich again. He loved the place and he was going to keep it. If I’d known it was something special, I’d have been really proud of him. I suppose I didn’t. I just thought that was the way grown-ups (especially my Dad) behaved, when I was a little kid. I guess my Old Man was the centre of my universe. He told wonderful stories. About Granda’Al, about the San, about the Zulu wars. He was interested in that kind of thing.

So I grew up on the farm. We were dirt poor, but nobody told me about it, so I didn’t know. The farm was a bit wild, and run down, but we had electricity from the Pelton wheel, plenty of milk, fruit, mielie meal and eggs. Occasionally we’d eat a chicken. My milk brother, Amos, and I ran after the chickens, rode the pig and generally got chased out of every kind of trouble. He was the best friend you could ever have to grow up with.

Fat Mamma Lena, who’d raised us both, looked after us in a cheerful lazy fashion, usually just telling one of her older daughters to make sure we didn’t kill ourselves. The big old house was bare, as most of the furniture had been sold, but the kitchen with its smokey woodburning stove was always warm.

When I was six I started going across the river to Mevrou Cronje to learn my letters. She was a kind, gruff old lady, a widowed ex schoolmistress, who thought everyone ought to be able to read. On her stoep she taught me and a few of the other farm workers’ kids to read, write and count. She never said a word about me being the odd one out with straight black hair and a sunburned nose, when the other kids were lucky enough not to get sunburned. Dad said I look black Irish, but I wouldn’t have minded just being sunburn-proof dark brown back then.

Then I turned eight and I had to go to town to school. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just go to the local farm school with Amos, but that was the law back in 1988. One law whites and one for black people. Pretty dumb, but that was the way it was.

School was the worst thing that ever happened to me. All the other kids knew each other. Their clothes were new. All of them had shoes. I had horny bare feet, threadbare shorts and a kahki shirt one size too small. Even the teachers sort of steered away from me.

It must have been a week before any of the other kids even spoke to me. It was the class bully, a brute called Butch Visser. He was nearly a head taller than me, and maybe five kilos heavier. He said “Hey thief! Why aren’t you in jail?”

I didn’t answer straight away. I was still translating everything anyone said into Zulu, and I couldn’t believe what he was saying. He must have thought I was scared.

“Why do you stink, thief!” he closed in on me, standing too close.

“I’m not a thief!” I blurted, scared and hurt.

“Well your Grandad was, so you must be. He was a thief and he ran away! He owed my Dad money.” He leaned over me and I had to look up to see his face.

My best goodnight stories ever since I could remember had been about my crazy Granda Al. Stories about places with wonderful names like Casablanca and Tangiers. About small boats and misty nights. I could recite some of them, word for word. Dad always finished every story with these words “He was a real man, son. He never ran away from anything in his life!” I didn’t have to think about what to say. I just yelled “My Grandad never ran away from anything in his life!”

***

One final note, our home page will be undergoing some redesign tomorrow, so I’m not going to risk mucking it up and bringing down the wrath of our tech gurus by trying to add links and images myself.  So just follow this link or click on the “new novelettes” link on the right side of the homepage for Without a Trace.

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I should be repairing the ceiling in the garage.  But, as you can see, I’m not.  Instead, I’ve been reviewing a couple of contracts — announcements soon — and reading slush — more announcements soon — and pondering the holiday season.

Like a lot of folks, I hate to shop.  It isn’t that I don’t like to give.  I do.  But I don’t like crowds.  So I do my best to avoid malls, especially this time of year.  This is when the internet can be my friend.  I say “can” because a lot of it depends on how reliable the product information and shipping times happen to be when you purchase online.   Then there’s the whole thing of making sure someone is home to accept the packages when they’re delivered, etc.  Now, if only I could find a way to have everything gift wrapped, without having to pay more for it….oh well, that, too, will happen one day.

Over at Mad Genius Club today, I posted links and cover images to some of the books and short story collections the other mad ones have for sale.   Three of them — Dave Freer, Sarah A. Hoyt and Kate Paulk — already have titles out with NRP.  A fourth, Chris McMahon — a wonderful Australian author — will have a short story in our upcoming Angels and Demons themed anthology, due out later this month.  Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we’ll have something to offer from Rowena Cory Daniells as well.

What I’d like you to consider, if you have books — or e-books — to purchase for friends or loved ones this holiday season, is buying something from one of these wonderful authors.  Dragon’s Ring by Dave Freer is probably the best fantasy I read this year, and that’s saying a lot.  Darkship Thieves is the best space opera I’ve read in a long time.  Both definitely make my top ten list in books I’ve read this year.  Rowena’s King Rolen’s Kin trilogy is in my tbr pile as are Chris’ books.  (See the MGC post for links to all their books I mentioned today.)

Give the gift of a book, or an e-book, to someone you care about.  Share an author you love.

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Thanksgiving is almost here and, like so many folks, I'm facing -- and dreading -- that last minute run to the grocery store later today to make sure I have everything needed for the big Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course, because of family scheduling conflicts, dinner will actually be lunch on Friday.  Not that it means I can postpone the trip to the store... Oh no.  Have to brave the crowds today to do food shopping in case I have to brave the crowds Friday for Black Friday sales.

And, yes, that scream you heard was me.  I hate, absolutely HATE, shopping of any sort.  Add crowds to the equation and, well, I'm sure you get the picture.  Thank goodness most of the sales also have online equivalents.  Still, you know there will be that one item my retired mother will want me to go out to get for her and, dutiful daughter -- okay, quit laughing -- that I am, I'll go, grumbling and clutching my mug of coffee like a lifeline.

Any way, if you check out the site today, you'll see that Darwin Garrison's latest Animanga Viewpoint is up.  You can see what he has to say about Raiders by JinJun Park here.  Go take a look and let him know what your thoughts are.

Also, don't forget that Dave Freer's collection of short stories, A Goth Sex-Kitten & Other Stories, is now available for sale.  You can find it  on our site or at Barnes & Noble.  As soon as it goes live on Amazon and smashwords, we'll let you know.

Enjoy your holiday.  Be safe and have fun.  Oh, and check back on Friday.  I have a feeling you might find a few "Black Friday" sales here as well.

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As you can see, we have a new logo.  We’ve got a new banner to go along with it.  Just visit our homepage to see the full-sized image.

To go along with the new logo, we’ve re-opened the web-store.  As promised yesterday, we’re proud to announce that the first of several short story collections by Dave Freer — The Goth Sex-Kitten & Other Stories – is now available for purchase.  It will also be available shortly at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.  Of course, as with all our titles, it is DRM-free.

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday, and remember to check back tomorrow for Darwin Garrison’s next Animanga Viewpoint.

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This past week has been the week from Hell in a lot of ways.  As my last post noted, a dear cousin passed away.  Add to that my son having his first wreck — and totaling his truck — and, well, you get an idea of what my life’s been like.  Add in the 350 mile drive each way to attend my cousin’s funeral (which was held on the anniversary of my dad’s death — not that her family realized it when they planned the service).  So today I’m trying to play catch up, at least some, even as my brain and body are begging to go back to bed.

First off, for some business matters.  The website store will be back up either tomorrow or Tuesday.  Probably Tuesday.  I’ll announce it as soon as it’s live again.

Also, Dave Freer’s collection of short stories — The Goth Sex Kitten and Other Stories — will be available for purchase when the store goes live.  It will take a couple of days for it to show up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  We are now publishing directly through BN, just as we are Amazon.  Of course, you can still find us on Smashwords and through their affiliates as well.  Naturally, all our books and short stories are available through our site as well.

Okay, a couple of items of interest.  The review process for Amazon has come under fire again, specifically because people can rate books — and ebooks — without reading them and that their ratings can be based on anything.  The issue has been around for a long time but has been gaining notoriety after the agency model pricing of e-books came into being.  What is happening now is that a number of folks are giving 1-star reviews to e-books when they cost as much, or more, than the hard cover books.  This happens almost exclusively to e-books published by those houses under the agency model.  The hard cover prices can still be discounted by Amazon and are.  However, the publisher sets the price for the e-book.  This often means there is little or no difference between the cost of the digital copy and the cost of the hard copy.

What some people see as the crux of the matter is that Amazon allows customers to post reviews whether they’ve read the book or not.  As with other on-line retailers, all you have to do to post a review on Amazon is have an account with them.

I understand the concern over these negative reviews.  But to require Amazon to police the reviews so that only someone who has read a book can post would mean they would have to buy the book from Amazon.  That would prevent someone who borrowed it from the library, or who purchased it elsewhere, or who received it as a gift from ever posting a review.  That’s not the way to do it.

In my opinion, what Amazon needs to do is simply add another section to their reviews.  Rate the book for content and quality and then rate the book for pricing.  Most folks who give negative reviews for books due to their cost, say so in the body of the review.  That leads me to believe they would be honest and simply mark the cost/value portion of the review if they were offered that option.

But let’s face it, these reviews are anything but reliable.  If you follow any of the e-book boards, you will have seen instance after instance where authors (or their friends or family) have created multiple accounts to post glowing reviews for their loved one’s book.  This isn’t something unique to just Amazon.  So, if you are relying on the reviews by customers, you need to take them with a grain of salt.  Or at least you need to look at what else that reviewer has rated.  Often, you will find that they have never reviewed anything else.

In the meantime, remember that the review you give can and will impact an author’s sales.  So, until there is a way to show up front that you are marking the book down because of price, limit your review to what you liked or didn’t like about the contents of the book, not just the price.  Oh, and let the publishers know if you think the price is out of line.

Going hand-in-hand with the above is this article from the NY Times.  With the availability to look at, touch and play with e-book readers in such places as Walmart and Target this holiday season, there is the potential for the e-book market to really soar.  Will this be the tipping point?  I don’t know.  But it will be one giant step toward it, in my opinion.  With the explosive growth of e-books sales over the last couple of years, the lower prices for e-book readers, the wide availability of PC/Mac versions of the kindle/nook/sony/kobo, etc., programs so you can read on your computer, laptop or cellphone, e-books are no longer only for the technically inclined.  It is going to be interesting to see how the figures pan out over the next few months.

Finally, for the writers out there.  I recommend you take a look at this entry from Lucienne Diver’s blog.  Not only is she an agent with the Knight Agency, but she’s a wonderful author in her own right.  (Vamped and ReVamped)  Earlier this month, she had a post that really hit home with the writer side of me:

I suppose that the long and short of what I took away from this is that publication has never been easy…not the path to it or the continuation of the journey.  It’s never been painless.  No artist of any stripe has ever been universally loved or acclaimed.  In order to reach out and grab readers by the throat, authors have to be able to throw open the doors and windows to the soul.  Unfortunately, in letting their creativity out, those open doors allow for stiff, bracing and sometimes stormy winds to sweep through as well.  To me it’s a comfort that the literary greats went through the same vicissitudes we do today.  They survived.  Their names have gone down in history and, perhaps more importantly to them as writers, their works have remained in print.  We read them today, often thinking that they must have been aware of their own genius and been gratified by their success, while the truth is that authors do not sit back content with the accomplishment of their last release, but are constantly struggling with the new and wondering whether they’ll be able to live up to or exceed expectations.  I’m not sure whether there’s an actual saying that you’re only as good as your latest novel, but I do know that that’s how all writers feel.

So, for those of you battling toward attainment of your dreams, whether they be of initial or continued publication, take comfort in the shared pain and find compatriots with whom to celebrate your triumphs.  Appreciate them when they come and pull out the memories of them to get you through the hard times.

And, with that in mind, I leave you to the rest of the weekend.

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First of all, apologies for the delay between posts.  Real life kicked several of us in the teeth this past week and we’re just now digging out.  However, beginning this week, there will be at least four posts every week — God willing and the creek don’t rise.

Since my last post, we’ve published two more short stories and the Halloween collection.  The first short story is Hell of a Job by Kate Paulk.  It should appear on Amazon, B&N and other “store” sites in the next few days.  Here’s a short excerpt:

Elizabeth Antonia Harrisfield snuggled into the cushions on the obsidian throne and sighed. Being a Dark Lord, Supreme Ruler of the Southwestern Corner of the Mappe and loyal minion of the Dread Lord of Hell Himself wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

There was the throne, for a start. Carved from a single block of flawless obsidian, massive and foreboding, emphasising the Dark Lord’s power to all who saw it, it was also hellishly uncomfortable and froze the Dark Lord’s backside. Which helped to explain the previous incumbent’s fondness for incinerating his underlings.

That latter was also partially explained by the Dread Lord’s habit of watching the Dark Lords and occasionally popping in to offer advice. Her predecessor’s predecessor had resigned after one such visit. It wasn’t that unlike board meetings back home, except that forced resignations usually didn’t involve the luckless victim devolving into a screaming lump. Elizabeth hadn’t been graced with any such visits yet, but once she’d learned they happened she’d set about finding out what they involved.

It seemed that being a Dark Lord and Loyal Minion was a high risk, high turnover position. . . .

In the next short story, Zebbie by Sarah A. Hoyt, a young cat’s antics leads his family into a dangerous world where reality and fable merge.  Here’s an excerpt:

. . .Zebbie froze by my side, his paw raised like a pointer dog in an English hunting print. I looked down, surprised at this unnatural pose, then froze in my turn. My heart hammered somewhere between my mouth and my ears. Above and in front of Zebbie’s paw, floated something that looked like a giant, shimmering soap bubble. Only it wasn’t a bubble, just a shimmering of the air and a faint suggestion of rainbow color. Inside this, suspended, flew… I can only describe it as a human, if a human were about a palm long, with a golden exoskeleton and dragon-fly wings.

I don’t remember screaming. I didn’t even throw the flowers over my head, nor let go of the sharp knife. Funny how, when the impossible happens, one acts in a perfectly reasonable way. Instead, I turned my back. “Come on, Zebbie,” I said, and started walking towards the back door. Then looked back to see if he followed.

Zebbie darted me a reluctant look, then made a half-movement, as though to pounce on the thing.

“No,” I told him. “Don’t you touch that.” Just as rational as you please, as though restraining Zebbie from playing with a squirrel or a mouse.

I made it all the way to the phone, dialed Glen’s office phone and found myself telling him, “I just saw a fairy in the garden.” . . . .

Both of these stories are available for individual purchase or as part of the collection of stories we did for Halloween.  The collection, Night Whispers, is available here.  As with the stories, it will also be available through Amazon and other outlets within the next few days.   The collection includes Jack by Dave Freer, Till Your Proud Heart Break by Sarah A. Hoyt, Gooble, Gobble, One of Us by Charles Edgar Quinn, Predator or Prey by Ellie Ferguson, Bite One, Get One Free by Robert A. Hoyt as well as Hell of a Job by Kate Paulk and Zebbie by Sarah A. Hoyt.

As far as observations go, I’m not a big TV watcher.  When I do watch, it’s usually something on the History Channel, BBCA, one of the Discover Channels or an old movie.  But the other day I decided to take a look at AMC’s new series, The Walking Dead.  I’ll admit right now that I’ve never seen the graphic novel it’s based on.  Nor am I that big of a fan of zombie movies.  My opinion has been that zombie movies have gone the way of slasher flicks — after the first couple of really good ones, they’ve become nothing but parodies of themselves.  But The Walking Dead changed my mind — at least so far.

Don’t get me wrong.  There isn’t a lot of new material here.  The sheriff waking up alone in the hospital after being in a coma reminded me a lot of Howard Keel awakening in the hospital and ripping the bandages off his eyes in Day of the Triffids.  (Oh no, now I’m going to have the opening theme of Rocky Horror Picture Show playing in my head — “And I really got hot when I saw Janette Scott fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills”.  Okay, it’s been one of those days.  What else can I say?)

Okay, back to business here.  Before getting hijacked by RHPS, I was going to say that I found myself enjoying the pilot of The Walking Dead more than I’d expected.  I haven’t had a chance to see the second episode yet, but it’s on the dvr waiting for me.  Maybe tonight.

I also want to let you know that we are having a few issues with our store right now.  It’s nothing major — unless you happen to be one of our IT guys and they are pulling their hair out right now.  For some reason, on the pages where our new short stories and novels are listed, some of the images have decided to appear one moment and then disappear the next.  We aren’t having that problem on the individual product pages, nor does it impact your ability to purchase and download the items.  It’s just frustrating and I’ve got a tech or two threatening to commit violence if they can’t find the problem and fix it soon.

Finally, tomorrow we’ll be publishing Darwin Garrison’s first anime/manga review.  His column will appear twice a month.  Beginning December, it will be the first and third Wednesday of the month.  So be sure to stop by and take a look tomorrow.

Until tomorrow, I’m going to go see if I can’t calm the techies and keep them from throwing a computer across the room.  They never clean up the mess when they do ;-p

 

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