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And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

He is not here, but is risen...


May you have a happy and joyful Easter!


The not-so-jolly fat man here again, peeps. Apparently Mary Anne had wanted a serious post, even though she knows I hate serious. I think everything should be fun and funny, especially for an audience. I'm not so different from my wife in that aspect; she's trying to provide her readers an escape from their humdrum everyday lives through fantastic love stories, where I try to lighten everyone's mood via humor.

But she wants serious, so now I'll take you there.

...continue reading "Creating a Book Cover, Seriously This Time"

E-books have arrived.  There's no longer any doubt about that because in the wake of the plethora of e-readers, Apple's iPad is about to enter the market.  The bigs have stopped throwing down over whether e-books should exist.  Now they're throwing down over how much they should cost.  The journey from whether to how much marks the milestone of an industry change.

This week Amazon and Macmillan locked horns over price point.  At the iPad announcement, Steve Jobs indicated that Apple would only take a 30% commission off the sale of each e-book.  Under the Apple scheme, publishers would set the price.  Boy, howdy, that would suit the publishers just fine but the public - not so much.  After the iPad was out and about and had established itself with a sales history, the pricing structure would have given publishers leverage over Amazon.  Note that I said AFTER. 

One publisher didn't want to wait.  Before the stories from Job's launch announcement had gone to print, John Sergent, CEO of Macmillan, decided to go all Godfather on Amazon.  Sergent told the e-tailer giant to adopt Apple's price structure and abandon its pricing insanity ($9.99 as the max for an e-book) OR Macmillan would do "extensive and deep windowing of titles".  In other words, Macmillan said, give us control of pricing or lose the right to sell our newest and most popular books. 

Sergent made the worst of all negotiating errors - he made a threat he couldn't or shouldn't back up.  And Amazon took him at his word.  The e-tailer didn't just give a verbal response, it gave a real world response.  Amazon removed the buy button from all of Macmillan's titles, e-books and print.  Now Amazon sells a lot of e-books, but it doesn't out and out dominate the market because that market is too new, it's evolving daily.  However, no bookstore on the planet sells the number of print copies that Amazon does.

Now Macmilian is in a corner without a fallback position.  It overlooked the fact that even after the Apple launch, it will still need Amazon.  Macmillan reacted by issuing a "letter" to its authors/illustrators and the literary agent community.  As the blog Dear Author noted, the letter missed its most important audience -- the readers. Macmillan wants to make money on its product, Amazon wants to sell a lot of its product, and the readers want to buy books and e-books at a fair price. 

The delicate balancing act of marketing/price structure can't work if total control is given to the publisher.  Amazon talks about anti-trust and in response, Macmillan cites a US Supreme Court decision legalizing retail price maintenance for luxury goods.  Common sense and the free market can imagine more practical reasons for not giving a producer control of the price of its goods.  What would Wal Mart or Dollar General have to charge for goods if the manufacturer set the price? 

If Amazon wants to make money on volume instead of price margin, that helps the consumer.  If Macmillan weren't so short sighted, it would realize that it helps the publisher and its authors too.  People all over America (like me) are caught like rats in the trap of the economic crunch and we can't afford to pay big prices for books.  But the crunch won't last forever (please God) and when it passes, readers will be able to pay more for books. 

Macmillan forgot the most important lesson of the Godfather - if you're making the other party an offer it can't refuse, first you better be sure it can't refuse.  Amazon could and it did.  Be careful what you ask for publishers, because you might get it. 

...continue reading "Marketing Madness & The Price War of 2010"

I'd never realized it until yesterday, but I've been a literary segregationist.  Oh I've never had a mental partition over race, or at least, I'm not aware of one, but yesterday I realized I had one over age.  Books written about high school kids are intended for that age through college age kids, right?  That means they're not meant for me. 

So a while back Stephanie Meyer started releasing books in her Twilight series.   It's a romance series and I write romance.  Lord knows, I read romance and I've surely been a reader of the genre for much longer than I've been a writer.  And I heard good things about these books everywhere.  But never once was I tempted to pick one up.  They weren't written for me, now were they? 

My eldest son read the books and he flat out loves them.  Keep in mind, Zack doesn't read romance.  The boy refuses to read anything I write and that's natural enough - him reading my books would make me a wee bit antsy too.  But my eldest won't even read this blog.  I've given him fair warning that from time to time I write about him, but still, he won't read it.  Where does he get such stubbornness from? 

Okay, okay, maybe Zack and his Mom have a thing or two in common.

...continue reading "Fate – From Meyer’s Twilight To Me"

Hello again chiljens, it's me the angry old fat dude. Just popping in to tell you Mary Anne has been very busy not working on one book, but two books. Her muse is working overtime, swinging her back and forth between two time periods. Hell, I have trouble keeping up with what year it is in real life, much less numerous crazy fantasy worlds.

Anyways, Mr. Brick has not been seen recently, so we suspect Muse is working like a maniac to avoid him. She is alive and well, though, unlike many others who've had run-ins with His Brickness.

In the meantime, I present Mr. Brick's premiere video, The Bricks-For-Me Challenge, which was his answer to the infamous Blasphemy Challenge. Enjoy, and until later, kiddies, AOFM out.

Okay, America, I can now reveal a closely guarded secret. Santa's name is John.

No? You disagree? Well, maybe John is just MY SANTA. Come to think about it, he is my Santa. And he rocks it big style. So ladies (especially you redheads out there - you know who you are) hands off. In addition to my hubby's myriad and too numerous to list other amazing qualities (in addition to putting up with me), he's a smart and generous man who got me an e-reader for Christmas.

On Christmas morning, my hubby handed me my gifts in a very specific order. First up, I unwrapped an organizer for all those knives, forks and spoons that have been wadded up and tossed randomly in a drawer for years. Then he handed me a box containing a Hamilton Beach Brewstation Coffeemaker to replace ours that died a few months ago.  (As a rambling aside, I'll note that the Brewstation is a temperamental machine with a shorter lifespan than other models. But I forgive it and will replace each Brewstation with another because nobody in the price range comes close for quality and convenience).

When John handed me the first box, with the drawer organizer, he said it would make me smile. It did, because after over 20 years of marriage, he knows full well my rule that Christmas gifts should cater to wishes and wants rather than needs and necessities. I've ranted often enough to him about my ire for men who present their wives something like a vacuum cleaner as a Christmas gift. I'd hope that wives who receive something like that got their hubbys a set of pots and pans because they'd get the same hurt, lost expression when the gift got open. Men of America, your wife may clean and manage your household but listen to me very closely - your wife is not your house.

So the first gift, the organizer, was a "gag" gift of a sort. My hubby is a smart man with a sharp sense of humor and he could be a comic for a living if he didn't have a family dragging him down and grounding him. The coffeemaker was a better gift, although it still catered to need rather than want -- I consider coffee to be necessary for survival. Both the first two packages were very big. The third package was smaller, much, much smaller. And ladies, don't we know that the best holiday gifts come in the small packages?

...continue reading "Did Santa Bring You An E-Reader Too?"

I held a Kindle.

Yes, I actually had a real, live, working Kindle in my very own hands. My hands shook, my palms sweated, my fingers gripped it tight, so very, very tight. My brown eyes glistened with lust that turned to love at first grasp. But then came the time of horror, of desolation, of pain. My hubby, my own ever-loving hubby looked at me and said, "You have to give it back now."

My fingers held it tighter and I shook my head no, no, NO. And John said, "It's not yours. You have to give it back." He held out his hands, very carefully, like a cop trying to talk a deranged psycho holding a gun into giving it up. I could have made him fight me for it. I could have forced him to pry it out of my clinging hands. But then, the Kindle might have been hurt. I couldn't hurt the precious little device. So I untangled my fingers, and handed it back.

...continue reading "The Kindle – Love At First Grasp"

I can't decide whether stress is like poison, administered a drop at a time, or like an opponent in the ring of life that sometimes gets a choke-hold. Maybe it's like another voice that's always there. Sometimes, when things are going well, stress speaks in a barely audible whisper. As things start to go badly, stress speaks louder. And when your world circles the toilet bowl, stress screams.

When stress screams, my muse can't hear the voices of my characters.

Will blogging about it help? Hopefully, it will give me another outlet and I can get the stress down to a dull roar. Sometimes muse can speak over a dull roar. What am I stressed about currently?

...continue reading "When My Muse Can't Hear"

My oldest son and my gift for worrying were born on the same day. 

When Zack was an infant, newly home from arriving in the world, I had a fear of letting him cry.  By that, I mean letting him cry at all.  One day, after one of those long nights when mommy and he who cried had been up all night, one of my cousins dropped by to see the new addition to the family.  When she arrived, I was sitting on the couch and sobbing.  She asked what had caused me to be so upset and I told her that I wanted to take a bath.

My cousin blinked a couple of times and said, quietly because she'd dealt with lots of new mothers in the family, "Mary Anne, go take a bath." I protested that Zack might cry or need me.  She said the baby was in his crib and he couldn't yet walk or roll over.  He might get upset, but he wasn't going to get hurt because mom took a few minutes to bathe.  I took the monitor to the bathroom and had a long soak.  Mommy felt much better and when Zack woke, he felt better too - especially because mommy felt like playing.

...continue reading "The Trouble With Mister Ducks"

I'm currently in the midst of a  pre-publication edit of A Sixth Sense Of Forever.  Yeah, Boz's story.  He played prominent roles in Faerie and Golden as the friend who kept his cool in the midst of Nial's and Colt's chaotic adventures.  So he's got it coming and he gets it - over the top and then some. 

In the course of this edit, given the current state of the world, the job market and everything, I keep thinking - what if we could edit our lives?  Think of the sections you could go back and rewrite.  You could take back the phrase "I quit" or you could say it instead of saying "I'll accept that."  You could respond differently to a job review or rewind all the way back to college and major in something different.  You could keep the one that got away or re-script a fight or nasty e-mail exchange with your spouse so that the words you can never take back get taken back.  So wouldn't it be great to get a shot at editing your life?

Well, there's a problem with that.  Like the old cliche about woman's work, editing is never done.  What book is ever the absolute best it can be in the mind of its greatest advocate and worst critic - the writer?   If Shakespeare had another shot at Romeo and Juliet  or if Margaret Mitchell could revise Gone With The Wind would they change anything?  As a writer who knows how I'd answer that question, I'm betting they'd find a hundred or more things they'd revise in what legions of readers find to be great work.  Because if you ask any author whether this book or that play is the absolute best it can be, the answer is always going to be - no, I can make it better.

With this edit of  Sixth Sense I find that the big bones of the story stand up well.  It's the little details I'm revising....a word here, a phrase there, rewriting a description or changing a comparison.  Mostly, as is generally the case, I find I can tighten up the language to make the story flow along faster and smoother.   The numerous places where I can tighten dialogue, edit lines and revise scenes are likely products of my creative process.  When I sit down to write something new, I make no effort to contain or control - I follow my muse where she leads.  With the hindsight of editing, I can make muse's meanderings make sense.

I suspect that all writers are prone to editing, but I don't know if they're as prone as I am.  I never like to post anything or send it to anyone without looking at it one more time.  If I got a call from an editor or agent tomorrow saying they'd read the posted free samples of Brotherly or Faerie and wanted to read the fulls, I'd make changes.  If they said they'd read the fulls and needed a word copy to present to a board or to revise themselves - I'd still make changes.  I expect that if they published the book and I passed it on a bookstore shelf somewhere I could leaf through it and yes, find things I'd like to change.  I wonder if my favorite writers - Julia Quinn and Johanna Lindsey - pick up one of their old volumes, flip through it and think - Boy, I could do that so much better today.   

The bottom line of the editing process is that as long as I'm growing and changing, as long as I'm working and improving my craft, then I'll see changes I could make to improve any past project.  If I didn't see those changes it would mean I'd stopped growing and learning and improving.  And that would be a very, very bad thing.

It's too bad that we don't get a chance to edit our real life stories to make them flow more smoothly.  Maybe that's because the bumps and bruises, the miscalculations and mistakes give us the experience that got us to today.  And maybe, where we are today is where we're meant to be right now, at this moment. 

We can't edit our pasts, but we can use that editor's eye to change our futures.  We need to pull out the story of our yesterdays and see the places we'd like to re-write and revise and understand the spots we'd like to alter.  We can't change yesterday's mistakes but we can refuse to bring the past into tomorrow.

Today is Volume I.  Tomorrow is the sequel.