Get Your Jingle On

Happy holidays from the gang here at Thalia Press Authors Co-op!

 

We’ve had a busy year in writing, publishing, and just trying to keep our heads on our shoulders. We hope you’ve met your writing goals, assuming you have some, or have read some great novels this year. We’d love to hear what you’re reading.

And now to some announcements of new and upcoming publications.

BSL AUDIO CoverThe pen name of the author of Beat Slay Love, our collaborative novel, is Thalia Filbert. Thalia (Gary, Kate, Taffy, Katy, and Lise collectively) is excited to announce that the audiobook version of the culinary thriller is now available. It’s free if you’re just joining Audible! Our narrator, Robin Rowan, has a blast with our wily characters, from naughty Hannah to nerdy Jason. Listen to a sample HERE

 • Available at Amazon  Audible and iTunes •

We are giving away a copy to a commenter below, so tell us about your year, your favorite book, or your holiday party.

To keep up with Thalia news please join us HERE


Sarah Shaber has a new book out, Louise’s Chance, in her World War II mystery series. Government girl Louise Pearlie has a new job inside the OSS – the Office of Strategic Services: recruiting German prisoners-of-war for a secret mission inside Nazi Germany. It’s a big chance for her, and Louise hopes she can finally escape her filing and typing duties.

“To a librarian, a well-researched book is a true joy, and Shaber’s Louise Pearlie series is a gem. This newest entry in the series provides a deeper and richer portrait of Louise, as her life progresses through wartime Washington.” –B Brechner, Librarian

New trade paperbacks of older Louise books are now available as well.


 

Be on the lookout for J.D. Rhoades’ new thriller, Ice Chestcoming in February. Dusty read us a bit of this new one at Bouchercon, and we laughed our asses off.

The publisher says: A smart, sexy and hilarious heist novel about a crew of thieves who attempt to steal the world’s most valuable jewels from the world’s most valuable body.

A motley crew of bumbling crooks is scheming to make off with the biggest heist of their careers: five and a half million dollars in precious stones, used to create the world’s most expensive piece of lingerie. But mix the glitz and glamour of the highest of high fashion with a team of crooks that would have trouble stealing a sandwich from a deli, and all bets are off.

“Delivers nonstop entertainment” — Booklist. Available for pre-order now.


 

3 THW-2

Gary Phillips also has a February release. His collection of three novellas, 3 the Hard Way, drops from Down & Out Books. These pulpy, action-heavy, hardcore novellas compiled for the first time in one book.

In The Extractors, one percenter thief McBleak puts it all on the line to take down a greedy man’s gain; extreme athlete Noc Brenner must use all his skills in The Anti-Gravity Steal to prevent the use of a machine capable of wholesale destruction; and in 10 Seconds to Death, Luke Warfield, the Essex Man, part Shaft and part Batman sans the cowl, hunts down the man who killed his foster father and must stop a deadly plan of mass slaughter in his own backyard.  Plus a bonus Essex Man short story.

Check out his Amazon Author page to keep up with this prolific writer.


Lise McClendon has been busy in 2015 getting audiobooks narrated for several of her novels. PLAN X came out earlier in the year and this summer and fall saw the release of The Girl in the Empty Dress and Jump Cut. Working with narrators is a time-consuming but fun experience, getting the names right and hearing the voices of all the characters come to life.

She thanks her generous narrators who worked hard to make these audiobooks happen: Tassoula Kokkoris (Plan X), Denice Stradling (who narrated both Blackbird Fly and The Girl in the Empty Dress), and Kristy Burns (Jump Cut.)

Lise has a few complimentary codes left for all three of these books. Drop her a line at lise at lisemcclendon.com for details.


Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.32.22 AMDog lovers, heads up!

Coming in April is Kate Flora’s new one, a collaboration with a Maine game warden.

A Good Man with a Dog is the story of a warden Roger Guay’s twenty-five years in the Maine woods, much of it with canine companions. Woof!

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New Beginnings, No Ending

Well, here I am, back in the world of “traditional” publishing. Sort of. After several years as my own publisher, my latest book, DEVILS AND DUST, is being released by an actual (if new) publishing house, Polis Books. It’s out now in hardcover and for all the well-known e-book platforms: Amazon, B & N, iBooks, and Kobo. Audiobook editions of this and the first three Jack Keller books are in the works right now with Audible.com.

Devils and Dust

 So, what does this mean? Am I abandoning my self-pubbing career and admitting failure? Is this a sign that the whole e-book direct-publishing thing was just a fad?

Not at all. In fact, I am as sick of articles declaring the “death of e-publishing” because of minor downticks in the sale of e-books as I am of the articles predicting the “death of the print book” whenever e-book sales go up. I am REALLY sick of people I like and respect tearing at one another and making nasty remarks because they’re on opposite sides of some imaginary e-book/print book or “legacy publishing”/”indie publishing” divide. The traditionally published authors claim all indie published work is cheap unedited crap that will keep everyone from making a living and the indies accuse the traditionalists of wanting to keep all the cookies for themselves.

cappfight

Stop it, ya’ll. Just stop it.

The fact is, I’ve self-published work I love and care about, reached new readers, and made quite a bit of money, more money than I ever did with my former house. But then, I met up with a smart, innovative, and energetic small press owner who immediately responded to the casual e-mail query “you interested in re-issuing the first three Jack Keller books?” with “you interested in writing a fourth one?” That was on a Saturday morning. By Monday, we had a deal. That’s how things ought to work, but never do in big-house publishing, where everything takes forever and, even if an editor likes the book, the decision has to go through the marketing department while you, the author, wait and fret.

It certainly helps that Jason Pinter, who founded and runs Polis, is not only experienced in publishing and marketing, but he’s a writer as well. Far too often, and for far too long, our livelihoods as creative people have been at the mercy of people who are not themselves creative. This is how we get the all-too-common rejection that says “we love this book, but marketing says they don’t know how to sell it.”

I will almost certainly have projects in the future that I believe in, but that don’t fit in to what others need. Experience has taught me, however, that those projects can find readers and make money if I put them on the market myself. The best thing about this brave new world is the number of options it gives us. I’d even consider an offer from one of the big houses again–but I’d be secure in the knowledge I could walk away from it if I don’t like the deal.

Back in 2011, when I announced my first serious foray into self-publishing, I wrote a blog article that quoted SF writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Those words are as instructive today as they were back then:

“I personally want readers and I want as many readers as possible.  More readers equal more money—of course—but more readers also equal a long-term career.  If my book is in print from a Big Publisher, then theoretically the book is attracting readers.  If my book is in print from my self-publishing arm or an indie publisher, then theoretically the book is attracting readers. And that, my friends, is really what matters.”

‘Nuff said.

Happy holidays from the Muse

All our best for the holidays, readers! Have a wonderful time with friends and family.
Here’s what’s happening with the Thalians at the end of the year. 

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Sparkle Hayter

Sparkle’s Robin Hudson mystery series has been re-released in digital by Open Road Media. Sexy, irreverent, outspoken, and newly single, Robin Hudson is a TV news reporter living with her cat in New York City’s East Village and occasionally moonlighting as a sleuth. Life in the big city isn’t always easy, and Robin keeps finding herself tangled up in outrageous crimes perpetrated by outlandish characters. Run-ins with mobsters, S&M enthusiasts, and licentious chimpanzees are all in a day’s work for Robin Hudson as she steadily moves up the professional ladder in television journalism and in and out of love with a wide variety of cute guys. The first novel in this smart and uproarious mystery series, What’s a Girl Gotta Do?, was awarded the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel and the series won Britain’s Sherlock Award for Best Comic Detective.

Sparkle Hayter has been a journalist for CNN and other news organizations, a stringer in Afghanistan, a producer in Bollywood, a stand-up comic in New York, a caretaker for an elderly parent in Canada, and a novelist of seven books. She currently lives in Canada with her rescued Nepali street dog, Alice, and is working on a new book.  Amazon       Barnes & Noble      Mysterious Galaxy

Gary Phillips

Birthed full-blown in the comics mini-series, Angeltown, L.A. private eye Nate Hollis makes the jump to prose in six new short stories in Hollis, P.I. New York Times bestseller Juliet Blackwell, acclaimed young crime writer Aaron Philip Clark, new pulp luminaries Bobby Nash and Derrick Ferguson join Hollis’ creator Gary Phillips in penning these tales.  As Kevin Burton Smith in Mystery Scene said of the character, “Slick as spit, big-shouldered Hollis walks the walk and talks the talk…”  In tradepaper and e-book from Pro Se Productions — http://tinyurl.com/kycvqqz

J.D. Rhoades

J.D. Rhoades’s first three Jack Keller books are being re-issued in e-book format and are available for Pre-order at Amazon. His first new hardcover in six years (and the fourth Keller book) DEVILS AND DUST is also available for pre-order.

Lise McClendon

New this week is Lise McClendon’s Bennett Sisters series novella, fresh out for the holidays. ‘Give Him the Ooh-la-la’ is the third installment in the series, after last summer’s ‘The Girl in the Empty Dress.’  Fun, food, wine, fraud, and Frenchmen feature in this book set in New York City. Look out for the drag queen and more as Merle Bennett juggles her French policeman, family holiday drama, and more than a bit of wine intrigue.

Amazon       Barnes & Noble

Amazon Overlord

There’s an ongoing dust-up over the selling price of e-books between publishing giant Hachette and retail behemoth Amazon. While Hachette author Stephen Colbert can give Amazon the double finger on his show, the rest of us might not be so bold. Not for the first time in a fight with a member of the Big Five, Amazon has shown it is not to be effed with. It has taken away the pre-order buttons on upcoming Hachette books – including Silkworm by bestseller J.K. Rowling, and current Hachette books are said to be not in stock or new copies are not for sale.

While it would seem that a big, to use the baller term, like Hachette wouldn’t blink and promote its titles on other sources like Barnes and Noble online, iTunes and such, it seems Amazon has it by the short and curlies when it comes to the ebook versions of their cataloge. For reasons that are painfully technical, I reference what sci-fi writer and social commentator Cory Doctrow wrote on this matter in the June 20 Guardian.com:

“Hachette, more than any other publisher in the industry, has had a single minded insistence on DRM [digital rights management] since the earliest days. It’s likely that every Hachette ebook ever sold has been locked with some company’s proprietary DRM, and therein lies the rub. Under US law only the company that put the Dsmartphone-obeyRM on a copyrighted work can remove it. Although you can learn how to remove Amazon’s DRM with literally a single, three-word search, it is nevertheless illegal to do so, unless you’re Amazon…It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can’t afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers.”

There’s a well-done article by George Packer that ran in the February 27 issue of the New Yorker about the irresistible rise of Amazon. Entitled “Cheap Words,” the piece begins with this portentous statement, “In the era of the Kindle, a book costs the same price as a sandwich.” Packer goes on to further note that its founder Jeff Bezos intended for Amazon to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. That books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume.

As an example of how Amazon utilizes its prized data, this past week they released the Fire smartphone. The phone comes with an app called Firefly – not to be confused with Joss Whedon’s cult TV sci-fi show of the same name — that can identify a song from a few lyrics or, I guess, if you point it at a particular crystal vase, hipping you want kind of bric-a-brac it is. Of course these items for just a few clicks away can be ordered, paid for by your credit card on file, and delivered (maybe same-day) to your home or office from Amazon. As a sales incentive, any picture you take with the Fire phone will for free be stored on one of the retailers’ mighty computers.

Hmm, I wonder if facial recognition software will ID a Hachette author you might snap a pic of and the phone sends you a note urging you to buy a book from a Holtzbrinck author?

The phone also includes an app they’re calling Dynamic Perspective. One of its practical uses is when your viewing a map, by tilting the phone, you can get different angles on the streets and a better sense of what’s the area you’re heading to looks like I wonder if you point the Fire at one of my books on a bookstore shelf, will my picture of me with my hands pressed together in supplication come up, with a word balloon that reads, “Please buy my book.” All in glorious multi-view.

Look, I’m down for fighting the power. I’ve been many things in my life including a community activist and a union organizer. I still take it to the Man in some of my fiction. In one of my recent short stories “Masai’s Back in Town,” the plot revolves around a former Black Panther long on the run. He returns to the States to retrieve a score he took down, looted COINTELPRO (this was FBI honcho J. Edgar Hoover’s counter-intelligence, agent provocateur effort to destabilize the black power movement) slush fund monies, and to settle old debts. I imagine my politics don’t align with Mr. Bezos’, but Amazon has the anthology, Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! it’s in listed and hasn’t removed the buy buttons – yet. Hell, they even allow monster porn available even after threatening to remove such.

For Amazon sees all and knows all.

Not only can the beast that grows make us want four-slot toaster powered by tiny lasers that singe the bread just so, home delivery of our groceries because going to the story takes us away from browsing on Amazon, but the Fire is probably designed to probe our deeper psychological needs and anxieties. It sits there on our nightstand supposedly in off mode while we sleep. The machines internal neuron sensors probe us and plant certain thoughts. In some remote bunker Bezos sends his commands through the device of what to buy, to consume more and more.

And we obey…

The changing marketplace

My favorite librarian sent me a tweet this week:

Hi, Lise! I like buying books from Amazon, but am concerned about its multiple efforts toward dominance/monopoly. Your thoughts?

Lately Amazon seems to be taking drastic measures to destroy its competition. This isn’t exactly news. They’ve been in that zero-sum game for some time, where they spent vast amounts of money to expand into everything from diapers to lawn mowers, not to mention their bestselling Kindles and exclusive deals on e-books. They undercut everybody else’s prices, hoping to drive everyone else out of business. And then what? Are they going to raise their prices? Are they going to be sued by the government like Microsoft? Or just sit back and rake in the cash?

This week brought the news that both Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million will not carry Amazon Createspace titles in their stores. As far as I can tell they will still carry them on their websites. E-books are a different story, not apparently affected. But for the library market, well, often librarians buy directly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It’s faster and cheaper. But will it stay cheaper if Amazon is the only game in town? The future is murky, my friend.

I told my librarian friend that things are changing so fast in publishing that I couldn’t get riled up about any particular change. Tomorrow there will bring something else. Jeff Bezos of Amazon said: “As a company, one of our greatest cultural strengths is accepting the fact that if you’re going to invent, you’re going to disrupt. A lot of entrenched interests are not going to like it. Some of them will be genuinely concerned about the new way, and some of them will have a vested self-interest in preserving the old way.” He says they plan to disrupt themselves. They can be something different next year, next month. They can change on a dime, and plan on doing so. Are bookstores entrenched interests? Absolutely. Are publishers? Without a doubt. Are libraries? I hope not.

Let’s face it: the old way of publishing, where you as a publisher bribe bookstores to carry your book then take it back at full price (hardback) and/or encourage them to tear the cover off and throw it in the garbage (paperback), was fundamentally broken 50 years ago. Entire forests have died for unloved literature. Yet the broken system continued plodding along, until the Internet and Amazon turned it on its head. Thank God for Amazon!

But if you don’t like the changes, you can always squawk about them — everywhere. This week showed again the power of social media when the Susan Komen Foundation decided to blacklist Planned Parenthood, pulling over half a million dollars in grants for breast cancer screening. Three days later they got the message loud and clear: petitions on Facebook, rants on Twitter. The outcry was deafening and they backtracked. News travels at warp speed on the Internet. Public opinion of your decision, good or bad, is democratic and widespread. Everyone has a voice. Like the revolutions in the Mideast, you can’t keep a good opinion down, no matter how much money or power you have. As an old sociology major I find this fascinating — and encouraging.

The biggest change this past year for Amazon is expanding into their own publishing with Larry Kirshbaum at the helm. (An interesting article about him here.) The ultimate insider, Kirshbaum brought Jeff Bezos to a publishing meeting way back in ’98 when Amazon started as an “internet bookstore.” (Another article, on Bezos, here.  Wired Magazine, by the way, is full of great writing!) As much as publishers (and some authors) talk about Amazon’s business strategies being evil, they are making money there. (Full disclosure, I made about $11,000 on e-books at Amazon last year, much of it on books that had been traditionally published years before.)

Every year won’t be like 2011. It was a wild ride for e-books, e-readers, publishers, self-publishers, and authors. But it’s hard not to be excited by all the changes. The author is now in the driver’s seat, (even if your book is proclaimed by Publishers Weekly to be “The Worst Novel Ever.” At least you can upload it and get a reaction.) Nobody is forcing readers to buy your book but at least they have a chance to see it and decide. You have to write the best book you can, get it edited and proofread, put your baby out into the world all fresh and shiny. You have the opportunity with Amazon — and Barnes & Noble and Smashwords and Apple. May there always be choices in the marketplace. Lots of competition out there, from great writers, mediocre writers, and crap writers. Amazon and those who followed them have leveled the playing field. Will the cream rise to the top? I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Monday 2/6: We didn’t have to wait long for the next part! Over the weekend Indigo Books in Canada also decided to not stock Amazon books. And this just in: Amazon will open their own bricks-and-mortar store. Reportedly to open in Seattle in the next few months. As the worm turns…

 

What will 2012 bring?

A quick note here, and a nod to TeleReads which has published this analysis of publishing trends in 2011 and what may be coming in 2012. It was a crazy year for self-publishers, with new authors, new millionaires, and new wrinkles. I’m not a data cruncher myself but I do appreciate it when somebody does it for me. What do you think? Will 2012 bring as many publishing changes as last year? Check it out: http://www.teleread.com/paul-biba/top-self-published-kindle-ebooks-of-2011-a-report-by-piotr-kowalczyk/