Monday, May 27, 2019

Predatory Publishers

Recently, a slight brouhaha flailed at my publisher, the Wild Rose Press, when a writer whined to the Romance Writers of America that the company was “predatory.” This is serious charge. I’ve been associated with WRP for several years, and have five books with them. They are reputable, squeaky clean, aboveboard, and known for being open and honest in all their dealings with writers. RWA dismissed the accusation, so what got this writer’s shorts in a knot? He or she seemed to have a poor understanding of contractual obligations versus options offered by the publishers, and absolutely no idea what constitutes a real predatory publisher.

Warning Signs of a Predatory Publisher

Everyone who’s ever written a book has high hopes of seeing it in print and predatory publishers prey on that. They make their money by charging potential writers for services such as editing and marketing and may also withhold a percentage of sales royalties to supposedly “cover their fees.” There are a ton of these leeches out there ready to steal your money or manuscript and any writer must know the warning signs.

When a manuscript is accepted for publication, a legit publisher (small or large) never charges a writer a fee of any kind. Even a legit vanity press, like Kindle Select, where a writer pays to publish, doesn’t charge a submission or reading fee. A good publishing house never charges for editing, a book cover, or formatting the manuscript into print or an ebook. A vanity press will give you the option, but it’s an option. You don’t pay to distribute the book to outlets. To cut it short: you don’t pay for anything up front. Royalty amounts are always clearly stated in the contract.

This doesn’t mean you can sit back and clutch your wallet to your chest. Small companies can’t promote like big publishers. They do some marketing, but if you want to get your book out there, you must market on your own. Over four thousand ebooks are published each day. If you don’t market, yours will be buried in the avalanche and no one except family and friends will ever read it. This costs money, but how much to spend should always be your decision. A predatory publisher will have mandatory marketing fees. An honest publisher may offer marketing opportunities, but they are never required. This is common practice and shouldn’t scare you away from a company. Wild Rose Press often has marketing options for writers such as having a book listed for a discount rate in NetGalley or a library distribution catalog. I’ve taken advantage of some and passed on others. The choice is always mine. If I decline, it never affects my standing with them.

Rights “in perpetuity”
Run, do not walk, from any contract that has you sign over publishing rights in perpetuity or uses those words in any manner. This mean you never get rights back. No legit company ever does this. All honest contracts have a clearly defined time limit. 

Hi,There. We Want to Publish Your Book
You’re contacted out of the blue. Unless you’re famous, no legit publisher ever contacts you first. Predators buy email addresses from all sorts of companies and websites. Consider it spam and do not respond.

Everybody’s Work is Terrific and Welcome
No. It isn’t. Legit publishers are selective. They require a writer to submit a manuscript for review, and not everyone makes the cut. People often confuse a vanity press with a predatory press. A vanity press makes no judgment on the quality of work and offers a variety of services for a self-published writer. A vanity press can be predatory, but plenty are legit. Kindle Select is a good example. It’s free to use and they’re completely upfront about services (such as layout design) you may wish to pay for. A predatory publisher will dump a pile of praise on your head and then stick you with fees, preying on a person’s desperation to get a book into print.

Other Warning Signs
Is the publisher affiliated with another fee-charging business involved with editing or marketing? Do they pressure you or require its use? Are they secretive about distribution? Do you know how a book will be distributed at home or in foreign markets? Do they clearly define ownership of audio rights? If the publisher produces a print edition along with an ebook, does the author get a free copy? A small press may only offer one, and that’s okay, but being required to buy a certain amount is a sign of a predatory publisher.

Warning Sites
May small publishers are totally legit, but you may not have heard of them. Google them first and check them out in writer's blogs. Below are other sites I've used.
Association of Author Representatives (For agents) They maintain a list of agents that must adhere to standards
(Predators and Editors used to be a good site, but has gone through ownership changes and aren’t as reliable any more. I don’t recommend it.)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

My State Monsters

My State Monsters

Florida is my state and I’ll be the first to admit it’s weird. If we’re not ducking natural disasters like hurricanes, zika virus, and sinkholes that can swallow a town, were dealing with more than our share of monsters. Despite theories that they prefer dark, shadowy corners, several of them seem to have settled happily in the Sunshine State. 

Myakka Skunk Ape
The Skunk Ape is our version of Bigfoot. It was first spotted by an unnamed Sarasota woman back in the 1960s who sent the county sheriff’s department photographs of what she thought was an orangutan in her back yard. It appeared on three consecutive nights at her house near the Myakka River, eating apples from her back porch. It smelled awful, hence the name. In 2013, another Floridian took a fuzzy 1:55 minute video on his iPhone of the Skunk Ape in the Myakka River State Park.

Although Florida wildlife officials deny the existence of the skunk ape, it’s obviously a government conspiracy, as sightings have been reported over the years, with the beast showing up in the day and at night, in all sorts of environments. It appears to favor swampy areas, usually where the consumption of beer is involved. No way does it look like a guy in a monkey suit.

Much like Bigfoot, the evidence collected over time consists of photos, hair samples, and a few foot casts. The Skunk Ape has four toes unlike Bigfoot, which has five. A website devoted to the creature, The Florida Skunk Ape, receives several reports of sightings each week, and spikes during football season when Florida Gator fans hold tailgate parties.

Butt Spider
The Butt Spider is a crafty arachnoid who lurks under toilet seats and crawls out to bite your butt. Why? No one knows. Again, it’s suspected beer is involved. Fortunately, there are no pictures.

Muck Monster
The Muck Monster inhabits Lake Worth. It’s reported to be shy and earned the name “the elusive muck monster” diving to the bottom of the lake when strangers get within ten feet, leaving only deep ripples in its wake and empty beer cans bobbing to the surface. No way does it look like a bunch of junk, a gator, or a manatee's flipper  in the water, unless you’re sober.

The Devil’s Chair
Cassadaga is a small unincorporated hamlet in Volusia County. Called the Psychic Capital of the World for the large number of psychic and medium inhabitants, it also has the Devil’s Chair. Located in a cemetery, the Devil’s Chair is a wide brick bench. Legend states it was built by the devil and each night at midnight, he kicks back and puts his feet up. (Probably with a cold beer.) Rumor says if you sit on it, he whispers evil ideas and you’re forever haunted by the experience. If you leave a full can of beer on the chair (unopened) and return the next morning, the can will be empty and still unopened.

Friday, April 5, 2019

New Release Spotlights by Jean M. Grant: Soul of the Storm and Will Rise from Ashes

Follow Jean's BLOG TOURS and register for giveaways
Will Rise from Ashes, April 18-June 6

Soul of the Storm, March 20-May 8 

Soul of the Storm
(A Deerbourne Inn novella)

Will love help her summit one more peak?

Charlotte MacGregor lost the thrill of conquering mountains five years ago when her sister disappeared on a hiking adventure without her. Still guilt-ridden, Charlotte heads for a vacation to rustic Vermont with a friend—where she's surrounded by reminders of her devastating loss and plagued with unanswered questions.

Matiu Christiansen is an outdoors buff. He works multiple jobs to save for his dream of owning an outfitter in New Zealand. He's never quite felt at home in the United States and he yearns for his Maori roots, but his attraction to Charlotte puts a kink in his plans to move home later this year.

Thrown together by coincidence, Charlotte and Matiu form a kindred bond through their shared love of the outdoors. Can Charlotte surmount her demons to assist Matiu on a rescue when a late-season snowstorm hits? And can Matiu help Charlotte heal from the pain of the past?


“What’s on your agenda tomorrow?” He offered her a brookie. He sat closer this time, his thigh brushing hers.
She unwrapped the brookie, grateful to have something to focus on, inhaled the enticing mixed scent of chocolate and buttery deliciousness, bit into it, and had to cover a moan.
“Choice, right?”
“Heaven. I need to get you to write these sayings down. Though I’m filing them away in my brain. This is choice?”
“Yup or sweet as.”
“Sweet as what?”
“Just sweet as. We leave the conjunction hanging there.”
They shared a chuckle.
“Confuses the hell out of tourists,” he added.
“Easy as.” His eyebrows lifted as he munched. “So, tomorrow?”
“Not sure. If Ronnie hasn’t already ventured there, maybe north to Waterbury to visit the cheese and ice cream factories.”
“Nah, that’s tourist stuff. How about farther off the beaten track?”
“You have better ideas?”
“Of course.”
“What’s your schedule like since you’re Mr. Busy?”
His smiled tipped to a frown. “Another full day. Since I mucked this morning on my day off, maybe they’ll give me a break tomorrow. Plus, I’m waiting on their vehicle to get repaired.”
She found herself nibbling on her lip, and it wasn’t just from the chewy deliciousness in her mouth.
He poured her tea. His clock near the TV chimed. “I gotta change for the inn shift. Be right back. Drink the tea slowly. Let it work its flavor on your palate. Drink it like you would an expensive wine. Slosh it, inhale, savor.” He rose. “Just don’t spit it out after.”
She almost snorted the swallow of tea. God, he was a flirt, even if he didn’t know it. Maybe he did.
She admired his physique as he strode to his bedroom. The T-shirt stretched nicely across his wide shoulders, and she presumed he had a well-defined torso beneath it. She bet his calves were in kick-ass shape from all the work he did. And his butt…
He only half closed the door. She got a decent peek as he took off his dirty T-shirt. Elaborate, curved black tattoos covered his shoulder blade in similar symbols to the ones on the quilt.
She pulled her gaze away as he disappeared behind the door. Veronica had warned her. Fun only, fun only. Oh my God, what the hell was she doing?

Will Rise from Ashes

Release date: April 17, 2019
Available now for pre-order

Living is more than mere survival

Young widow AJ Sinclair has persevered through much heartache. Has she met her match when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, leaving her separated from her youngest son and her brother? Tens of thousands are dead or missing in a swath of massive destruction. She and her nine-year-old autistic son, Will, embark on a risky road trip from Maine to the epicenter to find her family. She can't lose another loved one.

Along the way, they meet Reid Gregory, who travels his own road to perdition looking for his sister. Drawn together by AJ's fear of driving and Reid's military and local expertise, their journey to Colorado is fraught with the chaotic aftermath of the eruption. AJ's anxiety and faith in humanity are put to the test as she heals her past, accepts her family's present, and embraces uncertainty as Will and Reid show her a world she had almost forgotten.

Even from far away, I recognized the man’s plaid long-sleeved shirt and the large backpack, but now he was walking alongside a bike on his approach.
“Hey, look! It’s that guy you drove past this morning!”
 I shuddered inwardly. Well, karma just bit me in the butt.
“How did he catch up with us?” Motherly instinct took over as I rose, my legs wobbly. “Will, stay there. Here, take this,” I said, handing him the tire iron.
 “We already tried that, Mom.”
“Not for that, Will.”
He scratched his brown hair, which was overdue for a cut, and looked at me, confusion wrinkling his brow.
“Be my wizard, Will. It’s your sword.”
“Wizards have wands.”
The circuit connected. “Oh…yes, Mom, I’ll protect you!”
I smiled faintly. “Thank you, honey.” I didn’t want to explain further that it was me protecting him. I didn’t want to say that if something happened, to run and hide in the woods. Because he would run and hide. Then what? Who would come help?
I shoved my hand into my front jeans pocket to nestle my fingertips around the pocket knife I had given Harrison for our wedding anniversary. The man slowed his bicycle as he drew nearer. He gave me an understated, yet significant, nod. The nod of understanding, of kindness. I didn’t buy it.
“Hello, again,” he said.

Available for pre-order at:

Available April 17th at Kobo ~GooglePlay ~ Walmart

Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.

Social Media links:

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sensitivity Readers

A new term has popped up on the publishing landscape—sensitivity reader. These are different from beta readers who scrutinized a manuscripts for content, grammar, and flow prior to publication. Sensitivity readers, however, are specialized. The concentrate on cultural inaccuracies, representation issues, bias, stereotypes, or problematic language and their voices are increasingly heard in literature meant for juveniles.

Recently, news hit the publishing world of a young adult novel
pulled shortly before publication because of perceived slights and cultural biases. Prior to this, the author of Blood Heir, Amélie Wen Zhao, had hit the publishing jackpot. After winning a Twitter pitch she scored a six–figure book deal for a YA trilogy, a culturally diverse retelling of Anastasia with magical elements. Princess Anastacya’s father was murdered and she lives in secrecy because she shares the arcane talents of the enslaved Affinites. The pre-publication buzz was strong with good reviews and then the Twitter hit the fan.

Certain Twitter accounts with large followers accused Zhao of racial insensitivity. It blew up into a storm with people taking both sides, but was the criticism justified? Among the complaints is that a black girl was rescued from the slave trade and subsequently died so that the white protagonist could live. However, according to those who read the book and the author herself, the character is only described as having blue eyes and either tan or coppery skin with dark curly hair. I have a Greek friend who fits that description just fine.

An additional criticism concerns the portrayal of slavery, but Zhao, who was born in China and raised in Europe explained, “Affinite indenturement…represents a specific critique of the epidemic of indentured labor and human trafficking prevalent in many industries across Asia, including in my own home country. The narrative and history of slavery in the United States is not something I can, would, or intended to write, but I recognize that I am not writing in merely my own cultural context.”

The United State is not the only country that has had to deal with the stain of slavery. Europe, Africa, and Asia have had slave histories that were longer than and as torturous as ours, but, unlike the rest of the world we still deal with the dark aftereffects. Perhaps, that also affects the ability of sensitivity readers. Do they read from one cultural perspective without being able to see Zhao’s point of view? I don’t know the answer. The result of this criticism is that Zhao issued an apology for any unintended offense and asked Delacorte, to pull the book. Delacorte put Blood Heir on hold, but stated they were open to publishing the book in the future. Perhaps there will be rewrites and a new publication date, so that the rest of us can see what all the fuss was about.

I didn’t read the book, so can’t answer the question why were there so many positive advance reviews and things changed so suddenly when criticism from a few caused a Twitter storm. Blood Heir isn’t the first book to be pulled pre-publication date. In 2016 the release of the YA novel The Continent was stopped when online reviews criticized portrayals of people of color. In that case the book was reedited and released with numerous changes. Last month, Sourcebooks stopped the release of the YA historical novel, A Place for Wolves by Kosovo Jackson for depictions of the Kosovo War, genocide, and Muslim characters. The future of the book is undetermined.

Is all this brouhaha just censorship or do sensitivity readers fill a need? Sure they do. We need fair and equal representations of diverse characters in books. When writing from another person’s cultural perspective, especially a minority, it helps to have an unbiased opinion from someone in the know. This isn’t censorship but compassion and common sense. Considering the feelings of others won’t thwart an author’s ability to tell a compelling story, but, hopefully make it more engaging for all readers.

Friday, March 22, 2019

New Release Spotlight: The Night House by J. C. McKenzie

The Night House

By J.C. McKenzie

She’ll kill for him, bleed for him, even die for him, but she refuses to fall in love

What would you pay for your freedom?

Caught by a powerful lord from the alternate realm of Arkavia, Taya’s offered the chance to avenge the dead, save her home world, and win her freedom.

Her days of stealing supplies and surviving among the remnants of Earth are over, but can she afford the price of Lord Thane’s deal?

Rating: Spicy (PG13)
Page Count: 290
Digital Price: $3.99

The Tarka held perfectly still, gray gaze flashing, white-blond hair shining under the setting sun. He looked like a warrior angel sent to Earth to smite the pest-like humans.
She clutched her staff and brought it up with numb fingers.
He raised a dark eyebrow. “You plan to fight me with a stick?”
“I can hand it over and tell you what to do with it, if you promise to follow directions.” She moved the stick slowly. Not fast enough to give away her skill, but enough to warm her wrists and get blood flowing back into her limbs.
“I’ll take option number one, thank you,” he said.
“Fine with me. I’d prefer anything to becoming your next sacrifice.” They’d never confirmed the Arkavians were responsible for the bloody sacrifice they’d stumbled on, but no crazy magical beasts had roamed the forest since the portal opened, so they made an assumption. She glanced behind her at the trees and George’s exposed foot. What the hell had the Tarka done to him?
“He’s incapacitated. You won’t find any help from him.”
Taya snarled while her mind raced. The man hadn’t used any magic yet. Maybe he didn’t have any. Maybe only some of the blondes had power. Could she outrun him? She wasn’t fast, but he was bulky with muscle, and wore lightweight armour and a heavy cloak to stave off the damp cold.
Where would she run to? She couldn’t lead him to the others, and she couldn’t survive long in the woods without supplies.
The man cocked his head, studying her and probably reading every thought screaming through her head. “Sacrifice? Exactly what kind of fantasies have your kind concocted about us?”
“I would hardly call them fantasies.”
“What would you call them, then?”
“Nightmares.” Duh.
He nodded. “Is this where you tell me my evil ways are done?”
“I’m not sure. Is this where you make some grand speech about ridding the world of my kind or do you plan to preach about the superiority of your race and how you deserve to leach off our planet?”
“I’m waiting for you to finish warming up so we can get on with it.”
She fumbled and almost dropped the staff.

About the Author:
J. C. McKenzie is a book-loving, gumboot-wearing, unapologetic science geek. She's the author of the Carus Series, an urban fantasy five-book saga published by the Wild Rose Press. Born and raised on the West Coast, J. C. sets the majority of her books in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance with sassy heroines and brutish, alpha-type men.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Good Bones on Sale for 99 Cents

Still Moments Magazine Novel of the Year
on sale for 99 cents until March 1

Good Bones
by L. A. Kelley

If the living won’t get justice for the dead, who will?

No matter how challenging the case, psychologist Katherine Fleming never shirks from helping a patient confront a painful issue. Her keen powers of observation and compassionate nature have eased many troubled souls, but a homicide detective with a buried secret of his own stirs more than just clinical interest.

The first time Detective Jake Sumner spied the old house, he sensed the good bones. Little did he know the purchase of the property included an unusual tenant far from resting in peace. Can the new psychologist in town help him treat a ghostly trauma case or is his growing attraction to Katherine Fleming best left buried?  

With the aid of a mysterious white cat and a mystical mirror, Katherine and Jake join forces to solve a murder. Can they stop a killer from claiming the next victim or will their investigation only lead them six feet under?


Jake flicked on the light. Other than faded floral wallpaper, the single decoration on the walls was a large antique gilded mirror. The glass was old, dotted with hazy black splotches where the reflective silver coating had worn away. Katherine’s image was blurred and barely recognizable. She ran a finger over the window sill, and it came away covered in dust. “Your tenant is a lousy housekeeper. This room doesn’t seem as if anyone has been in here in years.”

“Yeah,” Jake murmured. “It’s not her thing.”
“I don’t understand,” said Katherine. “Where is she?” Without warning, the temperature plummeted. Katherine shivered, hugging her arms to her chest. “Why is it so cold?”
Jake’s lips pressed together in a thin, tight line, his gaze fixed on the mirror.
The lamp flicked on and off. Katherine’s pulse soared. “Detective?”
Jake glowered at the lamp, his face red with anger. He grabbed Katherine’s arm. “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have brought you here—”
The French doors slammed shut. From outside came a muted thud as the front door closed as well. Katherine shrugged off Jake’s grip. “W-what are you doing? This isn’t funny.”
“It’s not me.” He peered at the mirror. “I’m sorry, Dr. Fleming. This is a bad idea. We should go now.”
Don’t leave me.                          
“W-who said that?” Katherine turned around to face the mirror. Her eyes widened in horror as the black splotches slid toward the center of the glass. “Trick.” Katherine clutched at her shirt. “It must be a trick.”
The blotches whirled together. A misty shape formed. Arms…legs…now torso…now head…an image of a person appeared from inside the gilded frame. Facial features blurred beyond recognition, but the body was definitely female. Katherine’s legs refused to move, a scream died on her lips. Shaking, she raised a trembling arm. Instead of mimicking her movement, the reflection remained rooted in place. “T-that’s not me.”
A plaintive whisper filled the air. Help.
A blast of frigid wind whipped the curtains and knocked Katherine into Jake. With the sound of breaking glass, a vaporous arm separated from the mirror and reached toward her.
Help me…
“Out now!” Jake dragged Katherine across the room. He yanked open the parlor doors and shoved her into the foyer.
The unearthly plea followed Katherine out of the house.
Jake slammed the front door shut behind them. The muted cry faded away.

Buy Links

Amazon (CA)


Barnes & Noble


Google Play

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Body Language for Beginners

What is Body Language?
Communication isn’t all talk, talk, talk. Body language refers to the nonverbal signals. They can be subtle or overt, conscious or unconscious, but all humans give off messages without speaking.  These signals make up a huge part of a conversation, some scientists estimate at least ninety percent of the data exchanged between two participants is in the form of nonverbal communication. For a writer, body language can offer hints to a character’s inner turmoil or beliefs without having to spell it out. Body language can subvert the evil of “telling” an over explanation by showing what a character is thinking.

Types of Body Language

Facial Features
Since most people focus on faces in a conversation, expressions convey a huge amount of information. This information can vary sharply depending on a slight variation in facial muscles. For instance, you don’t need to tell the reader a character is happy if they have a “eyes crinkled at the corners and a beaming smile”. Using the same two focal points of eyes and mouth, anger is present when those same eyes narrow and lips are now stretched across a tight smile.

Eyes are an important focal point. Normal, steady eye contact signals a person is truthful and is trustworthy. An inability to maintain eye contact, send up warning signals to the reader of lies or deception. Blinking can communication something irritating the eye but also surprise or shiftiness.

Deliberate movements and signals pass information without words. Interesting enough, the same facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, and fear are similar throughout the world, but gestures can vary widely in meaning. A circled thumb and forefinger means “Okay” here, but in Brazil it refers to a certain body opening that best’s left unmentioned. For a writer, think how gestures can be incorporated into a scene. They often include hands. A girl impatiently waits for a boy. The author doesn’t need to tell the reader her growing annoyance as she paces and constantly checks her phone. They’ll get the message.

Paralinguistics is vocal communication separate from actual language such as tone, loudness, inflection, and pitch. The same voice can rise and fall, become shrill or raspy, stutter or blurt depending on the emotional state of the character. A change in tone can change the meaning of a sentence. If a person asks “How are you feeling?” and the answer is “Okay” but the voice is tight, dry, and shaky then something is up.

Posture takes in the whole body, so when writing a scene where you wish to convey a particular emotion don’t stop at facial features, but envision the complete character. Brighter feeling such as happiness tend to cause more open postures; shoulders up, arms wide or out. Darker feeling such as sadness or anger have more closed, stiff postures, with clenched hands or arms kept tight to the body.

Proxemics is personal space, distance need to feel comfortable with another. It’s influenced by factors social norms, culture, but also has a situational aspect. Two people attacked to each other will move together. Two people repelled will move apart. An aggressive person will move forward and threatened person will back away.

Haptic is communication through touch is another important nonverbal behavior. A simple tap on the shoulder conveys sympathy in one instance and an uncomfortable invasion of personal space depending on the situation and the power differential between two characters. Women tend to use touch to convey care, concern, and nurturance while men are more likely to use touch to assert power or control over others.

Appearance and clothing also convey nonverbal communication and can be used to define characters. A shy person is unlikely to shave half her head and dress in bold, bright colors to attract attention. Appearances affect physiological reactions, judgments, and interpretations from others. Call it “The Cinderella Effect.” Not even her stepmother at the ball recognized her and all she did was take a bath and slip on a new outfit. Clothing can relay tons of information about character. Loose clothing vs. stiletto heels, tailored suits vs. denim. The choices authors make in a characters outward appearance can give subtle clues to inner thought and desires.

When to Add Body Language

Incorporating Body Language is a great way to create believable and engaging characters, but don’t go overboard. Too much description is a good way to make readers’ eyes glaze over. Body language doesn’t have to be added in the first draft. Think of it as icing on the cake and use it to flesh out a scene, especially where you can “show it” instead of “telling it.” Need a few ideas? Check out the websites below for body language list.