Sunday, December 21, 2014

Different Takes on the Book Piracy Issue

From the start of the ebook revolution, piracy has been a thorny issue for authors. Some are outraged while others feel that it has increased their visibility and ultimately helped boost sales. I recently read an interesting piece in WritersWeekly, where site owner, Angela Hoy, answered a writer’s question about whether to worry if her book had been pirated.

Hoy maintains that there are far more honest book buyers than dishonest ones, and that people who choose the illegal route probably wouldn’t pay for a book anyway. Hoy also runs a publishing service and maintains that ebooks are still profitable for her business, despite piracy issues. In fact, she says she has little piracy problems as she doesn’t put any security on a book. After all, hackers have the capability to quickly break codes. Secondly, Hoy states that secure ebooks are not available to blind readers which is discriminatory and subjects her to lawsuits.

In an earlier article, Hoy writes that many of those websites that list an author’s ebook for free are overseas operators who don’t actually have the book. They obtain the title, ISBN, price, etc. from other sources, then list it on their site to entice people there. When would-be customers try to download a copy of the book, they wind up with some sort of malware in their computers.

While Hoy may not be overly worried about piracy, law enforcement agencies certainly are. Some of you probably heard that authorities recently shut down the huge, Stockholm-based site called Pirate Bay. The site has been on law enforcement’s radar for some time and has been in and out of court for nearly a decade to fight for the right to exist. However, authorities were finally able to shut them down through copyright infringement laws. As the Dec. 13th Yahoo article says, this success will not stop the piracy trade. Incidentally, one of Pirate Bay’s owners claims he doesn’t care that they shut it down, implying that he has other means of keeping himself busy. Hmm. If that was true, why did he battle so hard with the courts to keep the site going in the first place? Let’s be honest. The issue won’t likely go away, but at least we can decide how we’ll respond to it.

Why I Stop Reading -- reblogged from

As a writer, I'm interested in why readers stop reading. Since I'm an avid reader, I decided to ask myself. Here's what I answered:

There are many reasons why I stop reading, and they sort of have a pecking order.

Why I stop reading on the first page:

  1. If the grammar, punctuation, and spelling are poor (unless they're obviously supposed to be), I stop reading.
  2. If the style is stiff, clunky, cutesy-poo or lackluster, I stop reading.
  3. If the narrative is full of cliches (the character can load 'em on, if that's the way the character talks), I stop reading.

Why I stop reading later:

  1. If the characters explain too much, especially the same thing multiple times, I stop reading.
  2. If the author shows something happening and tells me, in the narrative, that that thing happened, I'll let it slide twice but, if it happens three times, I stop reading.
  3. If the dialog is stiff, clunky, cutesy-poo or lackluster, I stop reading.
  4. If the story just goes on and on and on and none of the activity seems to matter, I stop reading.
  5. If I don't care about the characters, I stop reading.

Why I stop reading at any point:

  1. If there is gratuitous sex or violence, I stop reading. If the book is otherwise good, I skip that bit.
  2. If there is explicit sex or violence, I stop reading. If the book is otherwise good, I skip that bit.
  3. If there is sex or violence of any kind against children or animals, I stop reading. Period.
  4. If there is prejudice/bigotry on the part of the author (a character can be an asshat, if necessary), I stop reading.
  5. If the characters or action are creepin' me out, I stop reading.

Why I want to stop reading, but don't if none of my other buttons have been pushed:

  1. If the viewpoint character is described by looking in a mirror or other reflective surface, I want to stop reading, but don't.
  2. If any character rolls their eyes, I want to stop reading, but don't. If more than one character does it, I really want to stop reading.
  3. If the story goes a way I don't want it to (I can't help it; it's the writer in me), I want to stop reading, but don't.
  4. If the characters speak without using contractions (unless there's a good reason), I want to stop reading, but don't.
That's all I can think of right now. It's surprising how many books I don't stop reading, actually. But life is too short to read irritating books. Unless there's something really, really good about them.

What can redeem a book I want to stop reading?

  1. Great characters.
  2. Great dialog.
  3. Great style.
  4. Meaningful theme.
  5. Colorful language.
  6. Unique premise/storyline.
  7. Information (I love Moby Dick – I've read it twice – all the bits).
I was recently asked to name three of my favorite books. They were:
  1. Three Men In A Boat, To Say Nothing Of The Dog, by Jerome K. Jerome
  2. Books 1 and 2 of the Gormenghast trilogy, by Mervyn Peake
  3. The Life And Death (but mostly the death) Of Erica Flynn, by Sara Marian
So now you know.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pondering Amazon's Bestsellers Lists

This week, Amazon released the year’s bestselling titles in a couple of different categories. With the rise of the indie author and the growing number who are make a living from their work, I thought I’d see more of these authors make Amazon’s top twenty, overall bestsellers list. Instead, I found a significant percentage of traditionally published names who were top selling authors before the indie revolution. Names like John Grisham, David Baldacci, Diana Gabaldon, Lee Child, James Patterson, Ken Follett, Stephen King, and Rick Riordan, for example.

I took a look at the top twenty list in Kindle sales and found some of the same names plus Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, and Nora Roberts. As Amazon notes in its media release, some of these names made the 2013 list and Grisham is on the list for the fourth year in a row. A quick look at the prices revealed that most of the titles were between $6.99 and $9.99. Very few were in the $3.99 price range.

So, what does this mean? I guess it depends on how you look at these things, but it does seem clear that fans of these writers are sticking with them. Despite the growing prestige and sales of indie writers, they aren’t yet reaching the top rung of the ladder. I suspect that some are undoubtedly close, and it’s highly possible that E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, made that list last year. I haven’t checked. I’m wondering if, in a few short years from now, indie authors will dominate Amazon’s bestseller’s list. Now that would be quite a feat.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Ongoing Gender Imbalance Debate

About a decade ago, I was a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC) a U.S. based organization that welcomed both men and women writers, and supported chapters in different cities as well as a few countries. Their mission, as I recall, was to support and raise the profile of female crime writers. You see, surveys showed that the ratio of men and women crime writers was about equal, however, SinC’s monitoring of newspapers all over the U.S. revealed that far more men than women were being reviewed. Part of the issue was that some newspapers had more male reviewers on staff. The other issue was that more men wrote thrillers, and gritty, noir crime than cozies, and cozies did not interest male reviewers. SinC took this matter so seriously that they wrote to some of the papers pointing out the discrepancy. A few of the papers attempted to rectify the situation.

I let my membership with SinC lapse and didn’t give the issue much more thought until an article this week in Time stated that reading habits appeared to be gender specific. Men preferred to read work by male authors while women preferred to read female authors. The data was based on a poll taken from 40,000 readers from the large site.

The article also noted that a yearly analysis conducted by Vida: Women in Literary Arts, showed that the reviewers in the top publications were predominantly male. It seems that nothing has changed over the last decade, despite the efforts of SinC and others.

Quotes from female authors in the article noted that publishers tend to package women’s work in a more feminine style instead of giving their books a gender neutral appearance. In earlier decades, women writers didn’t use their own names for fear that they wouldn’t find a publisher. Even in the latter part of the twentieth century, I recall reading articles suggesting that female science fiction writers use their initials or a pen name. Have things changed? A little, but not nearly enough for some women writers.

Although more women are writing thrillers and noir fiction, the majority still appear to be writing fun, light cozies. Let’s be real here, men shouldn’t be forced to read what they don’t want to any more than women should be. For that reason alone, I don’t think the deeply entrenched gender preferences will ever change. As a woman writer, if I want more recognition, I’ll join the ranks of gritty, thriller writers, use a pseudonym and launch another series. But I’m not going to waste time complaining about gender inequality. I’m far too busy writing stories for anyone who wants to read them.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Three Steps to a Disciplined Writing Life

Although I’m not the most prolific writer in the world—far from it—colleagues often think of me as a disciplined writer. It’s probably because my publisher has released a book a year for the last four years and, until recently, I was posting two blogs a week and four book reviews a month. But, as you can imagine, output changes along with lifestyle.

For a dozen years now, I’ve alternated day jobs with full-time writing. I haven’t worked at the same job for more than five years, and I’ve tried different types of employment beyond clerical work. I’ve learned that how much time I have to write isn’t nearly as important as how efficiently I use whatever time I do have. Honestly, while writing full-time I was at the computer only three to four hours a day, with many breaks in between. Another hour was spent networking. A full-time day job this past year forced me to cut much of the networking, but I was still completing the blogs, reviews, and slowly editing chapters. I’m not one of those people who can tell you how to write a novel in two weeks, but I do finish projects. Here’s how:

1)      Have a plan. At the end of each day, I think about what I want to work on the next day and during that week. I always have more than one project on the go, so setting priorities is essential. A book review is often my warmup. If it’s a weekend, heavy editing will come next, then lighter editing in the evening and afternoon. First drafts, where creativity hits its stride, occur better in the evening. By the way, an interesting article on why sleep deprivation helps creativity can be found at

2)      Set aside time for writing every day. On weekdays, it was a half hour before work and another half hour during lunch breaks. By Friday, I had five hours of uninterrupted writing or editing completed, plus whatever I could accomplish in the evening after a shift. Evenings were used to type up the penciled edits and rejig things. Whether you have thirty minutes or two hours, stick to your schedule. This means, no answering phones or becoming distracted by something good on TV.

3)      Keep it in perspective. There will be obstacles, sick days, emergencies, and a host of unexpected events to swallow up your allotted time and damage a positive outlook. It’s not the end of the world. Real life…the aggravating, fearful, shocking, heart-wrenching aspects of it, will happen. There will be setbacks. There will be bad reviews and unsupportive family members, colleagues, and acquaintances. It doesn’t matter. If writing matters to you, you’ll keep going and learn and improve. There are no short cuts. There’s just life and the many creative ways we share our experiences

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Winter Heat Blog Hop

I was invited to participate in the Winter Heat Blog Hop. A blog hop is a way of getting to view new blogs that are offering giveaways and opportunities to win prizes. Click here on this blue link to view the entire Winter Heat Blog Hop list!

blog hopb

As for my giveaway:

From now until December 5, you can download the first two books in the Rubicon Ranch trilogy for free. In case you’re not familiar with Rubicon Ranch, it was a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and was written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing. No one knew the outcome of the novels before they were written — we just wrote our characters’ stories trying to prove simultaneously that they were the killer and that they were innocent. A real challenge, but according to Sheila Deeth, writer and reviewer extraordinaire, we succeeded.

Sheila wrote: I thoroughly enjoyed it. Different authors pen chapters from the points of view of different characters. But the end of each tale meshes perfectly with the next, and the story progresses, through twists and turns (and death), to its mysterious, perfectly logical conclusion, while the reader is left to guess, imagine, wonder, and reflect.

Rubicon Ranch

In the first book, Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story, a little girl’s body was found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child?

Click here to download a free ecopy of Rubicon Ranch Book One: Riley’s Story (no code necessary) in the ebook format of your choice from Smashwords.

In the second book, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces, residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Click here to download Rubicon Ranch Book Two: Necropieces in the ebook format of your choice from Smashwords. Be sure to use Code LT25A when ordering to get your free download. Offer expires December 5, 2014

These ebooks will make a great stocking stuffer. Just click on “Give as a gift” on the Smashwords page before proceeding to check out.

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.