Saturday, June 28, 2014


                The first thing an author does once he or she has finished the final draft of their manuscript is start sending it to publishers. For most they send out query letters and follow submission guidelines to the letter. If what they have written catches the eye of a publisher, then they are sent a contract. However, there is a dark side to publishing and it is called the Vanity Press. What is a vanity press, you ask. It is any publisher who charges to publish books and written materials. Not sure there’s a problem with that? Well there is a huge problem when you take a publisher like America Star Books also known as Publish America who has been notorious for its false claims, scams, and not paying authors. I know this because I was once one of their authors when they were under the name Publish America.
                In 2009, I wrote my first novel. I labored over it and even involved the help of a very good friend of mine who happened to be my Creative Writing teacher from college. She helped me to edit it and then I had the task of sending it to publishers. I sent copies to all the big names and of course I either got “Sorry, we cannot accept it at this time” or “Sorry not interested” and “We only take submissions via a literary agent”. Most of them didn’t reply at all which left me in limbo. I was green; I knew ZERO about the publishing game and that was how I found Publish America. I sent in my manuscript and within a week I got a phone call stating that they wanted my manuscript and they would send me a contract. Sure enough, I got that and a $1 check in the mail which I didn’t cash-who wants to cash something that small? Anyhow I was ecstatic. I looked over the contract not really knowing much but it seemed pretty clear. I would get 10% of sales from each book and would receive a royalty check as soon as I sold $500 worth of books. That meant, my commission had to get to $500. I thought, “Okay, I just have to work really hard.” At the time, we still had a local bookstore; Walden Books. I couldn’t wait to schedule book signings and see my book on the local author shelf and get the local library to carry my book. That is where the dream stopped.
                First off, no book store (and I called them all within my state-both big chains and local mom and pop book stores) would carry it because Publish America offered no return policy, the book price points were set too high, and the only way I could do book signings were if I consigned copies (meaning I buy the books and then reimburse myself with the copies that might sell). Publish America never gave me a press release which they had collected information for and promised me. Instead what I got was E-Mail after E-Mail of offers to buy my own book and to have my book reviewed by big name authors, and services that most publishing companies already do that they do not charge the author for. The biggest heart ache was when I at last got my author’s copy. I began looking through each page and was horrified to see sentences cut off and my book basically chopped up more than a Chef’s Salad. It was like they had just copied and pasted and did a poor job at that. The price point for my book was $35.99 for a book that was barely 300 pages long and in soft cover at that. That being said, I did sell copies. I sold over sixty books. I should have been happy about that but according to the Royalty Statement I was only counted royalties for 10 copies of my book due to “intended promotional copies”. I still didn’t want to believe I had been had.
                The straw that broke the camel’s back was the E-Mail I received that for $400 my book would be shown and represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. I almost fell for it. We had gotten a pretty nice tax check, and I was nearly to the point of getting my husband to invest in me. Something just kept nagging at me though so I looked up the book fair. Indeed there is a book fair. I ran up my phone bill calling the international number all the way in Frankfurt, Germany and after several calls I finally got an English speaking person to help me. I asked them if Publish America was scheduled to be there to vend books. I was told that they didn’t even know who that company was. I gave them the Maryland address. They still had no clue. I immediately contacted Publish America and asked very nicely why they were not listed and I was E-Mailed with a response that made me feel an inch tall and madder than a wet cat. I was accused of lying and getting wrong information. Then I was told that Publish America has invested in me as an author and I should be grateful. The next offers came-“Pay X amount of money to have your book at the NY Times Book Fair, UCLA Book Festival, and AARP Book Fair” All these places I called and they all had never heard of Publish America. I even got E-Mails that I forwarded to Publish America and they still accused me of false information. Then they began with the book reviews for x amount of dollars from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, and J K Rowling. J K Rowling was to review books at the Edinburgh Book Fair in Scotland. She came out swinging and was even on the world wide news claiming she had no such dealings with Publish America nor was she contracted to review ANY books. Her lawyer immediately sent a cease and desist order, to Publish America.
                I had at this point begun to just save E-Mails from Publish America rather than read them. They were frauds and the BBB and the Maryland State’s Attorney General found no wrong with them because they had their loop holes. I still had never bought a single copy of my book. The only copy I had was the author’s copy they sent me.
                This could have had a sad end because so many of their authors are still under contract with them and still not making a dime. I found a cloud with a silver lining. My dear friend, fellow author, and mentor, Denyse Bridger, found a law office here in the states that were doing a class action suit against Publish America and I immediately contacted them. I sent them all 1200 E-Mails I had including the one that pertained to J K Rowling, the author of Harry Potter. Last year, I got my rights back as an author to my book and Publish America had to remove my book from their site and vendors. To this day, Amazon is the only one who still hasn’t gotten with the program even though I sent them everything from the law office who handled the class action suit. Today Publish America is still in business with their promises but under a new name, America Star Books. How can they do that? I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine. They are predators on authors and will virtually publish anything. They give false promises, condescending responses, and know NOTHING about publishing.
                What to look for with a publisher or even a self publisher
                First off, read your contracts. Read them and even have an actual lawyer look at them. If they are not clear and to your understanding, then run far and run fast from them. A good publishing company has a clear and concise contract with no small print or hidden agenda. The standard percentage for royalties is about 6% give or take. Most publishing companies whether they are self-publishing pay by the quarter. If sales are very low, they might ask that the writer combine it with the next quarter but you get paid and paid what you are owed. Next, the standard contract usually expires within 2-3 years not 7 or even 10. Publish America had me for 7 long years with my book. A reputable publisher also will outline what they intend and what you will have to do for the marketing of your book. Be ready to do a lot of work yourself because most publishers unless it’s one of the big names, will require you to blog, use word of mouth, use of social networks, and do the leg work with book stores. However, they will give your book an ISBN number and list it with online vendors, have a return policy, and do not over price the price points so that book stores and online vendors can move your book to consumers. Publishing companies want you to sell books because that is how THEY make money and everyone wants to make money. They might clue you in to book fairs and what not but most of that is on you, the author to do. If your books are physical books, then you might need to consign copies or the publisher might send a few promo copies and E Book publishers may offer discounts to consumers that they may push with their online vendors but again, marketing is up to the author. Publishers-especially small presses cannot afford to just mass produce books and send them so they don’t advertise that and they do not charge you the author for that service since well they can’t afford to mass produce books.
                Publishers like Publish America do not want to push your book to the consumer they want to get as much money out of you as they can that is why they offer the world practically. A reputable publisher will let you know exactly what they are able to do, willing to do, and what you must do yourself. Blogging and making use of social networks are tools as word of mouth is. Reputable publishers will list your books with every online vendor they possibly can but again marketing and promotion is up to you. The reward is that you will draw people’s interest and they may choose to buy your book which means money in your pocket not out of it. Steer clear of vanity presses. Go to websites like: and Talk to other authors and publisher and follow submission guidelines to the LETTER! Failure to follow guidelines will ensure no one ever sees your manuscript. Any publisher that seems too good to be true usually is. Go with your gut and if you’re still not sure-ask other authors and publishers. Network! Do not be prey to a predator Vanity Press like America Star aka Publish America.

                Right now the US laws on this kind of pyramid scheme and fraud are pretty vague. I got lucky that there was a class action suit pending with Publish America but that was luck. If you find yourself a victim, keep right on the publisher asking for your rights back. Sometimes you might even have to pay money to be released from your contract but it could prove very profitable to invest in getting your rights back and your work free and clear of them. Once they have their claws stuck in, it is near impossible to get them out. If you can afford an attorney, you will invest more money but that is another avenue to getting out of a vanity press predator. You can also rewrite your work and use a different title but beware because if a publisher even gets a slight hint that you’ve been previously signed with one of these kinds of publishers and it can even slightly be considered copyright infringement they will drop you like a hot potato and you will find yourself black balled. The best advice is to educate yourself before you sign on that dotted line or sign an electronic contract. Read, Read, Read and do some detective work. Once you sign, you are playing Russian roulette and you’re going to lose. Most publishers if they know you have something published by these kinds of presses will NOT do business with you just because of the stigma and black mark these places give off.  They are a scam; a fraud that so far very few laws to fight them with. They are slippery and know their loop holes well. Steer clear and pass this along. The best defense against these scum bags is a great offense and the more word that gets out about them the less people they will prey upon and the less people they will rob.


American Book Publishing (Salt Lake City, UT)
Archebooks Publishing (Las Vegas, NV)
Helm Publishing (Rockford, IL)
Hilliard and Harris (Boonsboro, MD)
Oak Tree Press (Taylorville, IL)
Park East Press (Dallas TX) (formerly Durban House, formerly Oakley Press)
PublishAmerica aka America Star Books (Frederick, MD)
Royal Fireworks Press/Silk Label Books (Unionville, NY)
SterlingHouse Publisher (Pittsburgh, PA--imprints include, among others, Pemberton Mysteries, 8th Crow Books, Cambrian House Books, Blue Imp Books, Caroline House Books, Dove House Books, and PAJA Books)
SBPRA/Strategic Book Publishing/Eloquent Books (Boca Raton, FL--formerly known as The Literary Agency Group and AEG Publishing Group)
Tate Publishing (Mustang, OK)
Whitmore Publishing Company (Pittsburgh, PA)

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's All In A Series: What Makes A Book A Great Series

         Have you ever wondered what makes a book end up a series? Is it the characters or plot? That's kind

of like asking, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?"

         I can only say that for myself, to have a great series launch from a single book-it has to be a great marriage of character(s) and plot. When I wrote my first two books I knew from the start of the first one that it was a book I wanted to expand on, not only because of the characters I had given birth to but because of the stories that came from them. Cursed Awakening  was not initually going to be a series until I was actually writing the last chapter. I really was hit with the idea or ideas rather that these characters couldn't have everything told in a single novel. However every author is different though. Some absolutely refuse to entertain sequels and maybe Hollywood is to blame for that, who knows. Authors, what is the deciding factor for you when it comes to whether or not  your story has a sequel? Readers-what do you look for in a great book series?

            Still though what makes for a great series? That is the question, isn't it? How does an author write book and decide to continue on with the characters, the continuation of the story, or decides to create a whole world? I think about J K Rowling, who has written the famous Harry Potter Books and how she began with a love of  magic and this story that began to form inside her head and it took on a life of its own. Sherrilyn Kenyon has done the same with her Dark Hunters, The League, and Chronicles of Nick as has authors like Christine Feehan, Lyndsay Sands, J R Ward, Gena Showalter, Kerrilyn Sparks, and countless others in the Paranormal Romance genre alone. Each of their series either revolves around a character or world. So does that answer the question? Not really because every series has their own niche I think.

           For some writers, they write a book and decide for one solitary character or even trio of characters that the story isn't done such as Charlaine Harris did with her Sookie Stackhouse books and much like Karen Marie Moning's Fever and Dani O'Malley books. They kept the stories of their main characters going. When I wrote my first novel, which is currently in the works for republication, I knew after the first five chapters that I would not be done with just my main characters. I wanted to write all of them in stories. Cursed Awakening I didn't think I would make into a series until I re-read it after it was published by XoXo Publishing and then republished through Evolutionary Publishing, that I wanted to continue on with the Wahpeton clan. Have you ever read a series that failed?

          Some books, and they are very few that I have come across and I won't name any names but I just didn't feel like they were series or should have been made into a series just because the books themselves couldn't relate to the other books. It's like a movie-the first one is great and then it gets mucked up with sequels and prequels. Rarely is a sequel as good or better than the original movie. For me, a series doesn't have to be like Moning's Fever series or even Kenyon's Dark Hunters but the books should at least have some sort of relationship to each other. Larissa Ione, Kresley Cole, and Laura Adrian all have series that fit together and when you read each book you know exactly where you left off. However some books can all have a vampire main character but that's about it-they fall flat because they are so different that after you read one you're reading the next thinking, "Who are these people and what is the story here and what happened after I finished the last chapter of the last book I read?" I don't like to feel that way, do you?

            So what do you look for in a series? Do you mind if each book is just different or do you like books that follow at least some pattern? I consider myself an open mind when it comes to books, especially my genre, but I like to stay on the adventure instead of stopping in one place and having to start in another and not know how I got there. I don't like being confused. One of my favorite things about reading series is the characters that we all end up falling in love with and get curious about getting their story told and it flows with the rest of the books. I mean it's cool if Batman doesn't always hang out in Gotham but if you start out reading Batman's story you don't want to go from him to some Mr. Grey who lives in Seattle that has nothing to do with Batman's world even though it has Batman's title to it. Have I confused you yet? I think I might have confused myself. Just hang in there, I am sure once you re read this blog post you'll see where I am going here.

           So what makes a series? You tell me since I have already given you my idea and writers, what makes you want to write a series? What combination of characters, storyline, or combination of the two does it for you? C'mon, let me hear what's rattling around in your head.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Paranormal Romance: The Softer Side

    Stay with me here, I know you read the title of this blog and you're already groaning. The movie adaptation of the book by John Green, The Fault In Our Stars, hit theaters Friday and it got me thinking, what Paranormal Romances have I read that are complete tear jerkers. I mean what ones have literally caused me to weep? So get your tissue boxes handy and I'll give you my picks for a good paranormal romance that will no doubt have you getting teary eyed if not weeping. For me, these books had me ugly crying, and ladies I know you all know what that's like when you're crying so hard your face is puffy, red, and you look more like a boiled cabbage and if you've ever watched Steel Magnolias, My Sister's Keeper,  or the pinnacle of "cry ugly" movies, My Girl, you have cried ugly.

The first trio of the paranormal tear jerkers are awarded to Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunters. All of her Dark Hunter books always has one character that has literally come through some hell but none have ever suffered like Acheron, Styxx, and Zarek. Acheron and Styxx have their own stories respectfully and if you can read through either of them and not have to grab something to keep from wailing aloud, well you're made of sterner stuff than I am. Zarek's story is almost as heart wrenching and gut ripping as the two brothers but I won't give anyone away other than to say that it will melt whatever ice you might have packed on your heart. 

Inside the dark world of the Carpathians there is a war between Carpathians and Vampires. For Carpathian males, their only salvation is with their life mates; the light to their darkness. I have read just about all of Christine Feehan's Dark Series and none of them made me ugly cry like Dark Melody. Dayan is playing a small club; pouring out his heart in song, desperate to find the light to his darkness and when she walks in, his whole world changes but just as his miracle is before him, he realizes she's not only carrying a child but is dying. This is the first book in the series where the male lead has been shaken to his knees and is unable to anything. Dayan is going to have to rely on not just his own gifts but those of his own family as well as Carpathian brothers and sisters to save Corrine and her baby. Need a Kleenex yet? I needed several.

I know there are some Kresley Cole fans that are reading this and you know exactly why I chose this book. One of the most noted characters from the Immortals After Dark series is Regin the Radiant. Regin throughout the books has been full off piss and vinegar and she does it with style and a middle finger. Regin is flawless when it comes to battle and the use of quick wit, even she would make a gangster rapper blush with her use of "poetic profanity". Regin is a well loved character but in Dreams of a Dark Warrior her walls come down because Regin isn't such a stone cold Valkyrie; Regin once fell in love but it was a love that became cursed. She would never have her Berserker but that didn't stop fate from reincarnating him every few centuries but no matter how hard she tries-he always dies and she's left with the heart break.  How many times can a girl go through that? 

You know, if the a fore mentioned books don't have that thing in your chest jerking a little, then perhaps J R Ward's Lover Eternal and Lover Awakened will crank those waterworks just a little. In Lover Eternal, Rhage is a beast of a guy-literally, he's one of the biggest dudes of the Black Dagger Brotherhood but he can get a little Godzilla now and then which makes him dangerous. He's also an infamous playboy with all the female conquests he gets per night. So when he falls for a human who just so happens to have cancer, everyone is wondering," How she could have tamed the beast?" What Rhage is wondering, is what he is going to do without her in his life and how he can stop it?

One of the darkest and most volatile of the brothers is Zadist. He doesn't care about the pain he inflicts and if it weren't for his twin, Phury, he'd probably made Jack The Ripper pee his pants.He's full of rage from a horrific past as a blood slave but when Bella needs him in a way that he has never known himself capable of, he may just destroy himself in the process. 

Bella is coming through hell and Zadist is the only one she wants. She doesn't know what it is about the male that calls to her, but ever since she first saw him-he ignited something in her. Can she awaken the part of him she knows he's hidden so well?  

Okay picture this, you find this really unique mirror, and there standing in it is a naked man who is every wet dream you have ever had but he's cursed inside the glass. Imagine you're a centuries old Highland Laird who was cursed inside a mirror and standing before you is a woman who presses all your buttons yet you can't stop envisioning what it would be like to just touch her, just once. 

Cian MacKelter is on borrowed time, literally and as badly as he would love his curse broken, he wants Jessi St.James even more. However, just as their passion is creating firestorm, Cian's ancient enemy has almost found a way to keep Cian trapped forever. How far will Jessi be willing to go and what will Cian for all his knowledge of the dark arts be willing to sacrifice for Jessi?  

Gena Showalter's Lord's of the Underworld series are some of my favorites. Basically you have these fallen guardians of Olympus who became cursed with the demons that were let loose from Pandora's Box. Of all the books, The Darkest Lie just made me tear right up. Gideon is the keeper of the demon of Lies. He cannot tell the truth or he feels excruciating pain. However, meeting up with his long lost wife, of whom he has no recollection of by the way, is not really a good thing. Scarlet is the one person that Gideon cannot tell whether she is lying to him or not. Scarlet is a demon possessed female. It seems when Pandora's Box was opened, one of those little critters found a mortal woman and of course it would have to be nightmares. She is too dangerous to be left alone but she can't help but plot his death and he can't help but totally not want to jump her bones and both of them are going to find out a good many things while they're both trying to keep their hands and claws off each other. 

The tear jerker about this book, you ask? Well Scarlet deep down remembers the love she shared with Gideon. It's still there in her heart buried deep and the fact he doesn't remember makes her quite distressed. Gideon wants to remember but he couldn't tell her if he could or not because everything he says is a lie. It's both frustrating, funny, and heart breaking.

The Sentinal Wars series by Shannon K. Butcher has got to be added to your reading lists. It has all that groovy Sci-Fi feel to it yet has a great love story. The Sentinals are warriors that are born with a tree. The tree grows and leafs out but what's bad is that when the last leaf falls from their body tattoo, the good part of their soul dies and they grow dark. Each Sentinal needs their mate-the one female who can absorb all the power that is stored up within them and both can work as a team at defeating the really nasty creatures that want to eat us humans. In this book, Torr, who was once paralyzed and on his death bed was saved by the sacrifice of Grace-a woman he saved. Grace gave her life for Torr but he found someone to heal Grace but part of the cure was that Grace would lose all her memories-including the love that she and Torr shared. CRY! 
Yes, this book will take you on a emotional boo-hoo but it also delivers on adventure too so don't think it is all mush. So be sure to check this book out.

                          Are you dragging out your Kleenex yet? Got any favorite paranormal tear jerkers to share? Make sure you let me know which book(s) and authors have you crying ugly below in the comments.