About Writers, Amazon, book promotion, humor

The Birth of Bill McSciFi (It Involves Porn)

SuccubusFinal(LargeWings)Once upon a time, in a land far far away, it was a dark and stormy night. This is not that story. Nope, this is the story of how I wrote a book, one that I got some people to read, and then used their helpful insights to polish. The experience was fun and enriching. I learned a lot. Mostly I learned how not to blow a hole in the solar system and how there are geneticists today thinking about chimeras.

That last part should scare the hell out of you.

If you want to know more about that just click here to read Eric Klein’s interview of me. Lots of science and some profanity.

Anyway, like I said, I wrote a book. Specifically THE BRITTLE RIDERS. It’s a fun look at human hubris, genetics gone wild, and the death of all things.

And, much to my surprise, I found a publisher, Azoth Khem, who liked it, offered me a contract, and set it on the path for human enjoyment.

Now the fun began.

I had commissioned a cover from Jiba Molei Anderson. It’s the image above and to the left of this article. As you can see it’s a dystopian succubus. As you may not have noticed, it signals that my book is porn.

You didn’t notice that? Well, neither did I, the publisher, or anyone involved, until Amazon flagged it and moved it to the erotic ghetto.

I have nothing against erotica. But if that’s what you’re looking for you were doomed to be disappointed by my book.  And if you were looking for sci fi you weren’t poring through the copious amounts of mommy porn and dino-erotica (yes, that’s a thing) to find it.

Suffice it to say sales sagged.

Then, after almost a year of screaming at clouds, it got moved out of there and into … you know what’s coming, don’t you? …. African Women’s studies.

While I tend to wear black, and do like funk, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an African woman. I’m so pale I’m nearly translucent. Once again, this was a bad fit. And, once again, I wasn’t in the right search categories.

Obviously I didn’t belong there either. Nice people, amazing authors, but not really what I do or am. And I doubt they would want to be associated with my dubious ilk.

After another round of screaming at clouds I finally got moved into the sci-fi dystopian categories.


And then my book disappeared. On my Amazon page I was now credited with books on golf, a sport I loathe, tennis, one I know nothing about, and a country song. Oh, and a treatise on the Bible. That last one has since disappeared forever, but for one brief shining moment I looked like an author with wildly different interests and no way to tie them together.

A quick run through their search engine showed there are multiple people named Bill McCormick and Amazon had somehow, despite different account info for each, mixed them up.

This time I wasn’t going to yell at a cloud. I wanted a fucking human I could unleash my wrath on. So I called Amazon, found a human, he turned out to be nice, and we were off to the races.

He quickly understood the problem. So he started ticking off the titles into categories so he could straighten them out online. Bill McSports, Bill McCountry, and so on until he hit Bill McSciFi. The light bulb that went off in my head, when he said it, could have been a beacon in a dust storm.

I had the domain name within a week.

Now, with the books on the correct author pages, and me in the right categories, we were off to the races again …… right?


You see, Azoth Khem doesn’t just publish on Amazon. They deliver to stores, multiple online sites, and so on.  And some of those nice people, finally able to see what I hath wrought, thought the cover was too racy.

So I said FUCK, loudly and often, and got Brhi Peres to do a new cover for me. She’s wonderful to work with and tends to create images without people. Scandalous or otherwise.  Using silhouettes created by Brian “Bigger Lion” Daniels, she designed a pleasant dystopian hellscape that made everyone happy.


Yeah, this time it is.

Nearly two years to the day from when it was originally published it is now headed to brick and mortar stores in the U.K., some in the U.S., and being added, internationally, in as many places as they can find to take it.

So there’s hope yet.

Now, if you buy me a drink sometime I’ll tell you the story about how a Russian site snagged a Kindle copy and sold 35,000 copies of it over there before we could stop them.

Yeah, that was entertaining. And, no, we never saw a penny.

Being an author is fun.

About Writers, book promotion, inspiration, reading, Research, Uncategorized

Building the Legend

One SheetG.D. Deckard, the fun loving maniac, asked me to write a post about Legends Parallel. That’s a comic book I write, in case you didn’t know. And I will. But first, since this is a blog, I’d like to start with a story.

On June 13th I was at a meeting for the stakeholders in Chicago’s upcoming Juneteenth event. Juneteenth, a/k/a June 19th, is the anniversary of when slaves in Texas finally found out they were free. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation became law. It’s a big deal in urban areas. The mayor will be there along with other luminaries. And me. I’ll be there promoting my web design business and selling copies of Legends Parallel. Which led to the following fun moment in my life.

Joan Hollingsworth, a force of nature and head of the committee, announced I would be there selling “adult comics.” She made that pronouncement because this comic series is rated “M for Mature.” It gets that rating due to language, sexual activity, violence, use of college level science, and some seriously adult themes. It hits racism and class warfare pretty hard and the LGBTQ community is represented throughout. Combined, it’s not for kids. But, it’s also not porn. After a brief explanation of the ratings we all had a good laugh and went back to work.

The elevator pitches for Legends Parallel vary based on the audience I’m facing. If it’s a general audience I go with “A man, his mom, and her lover, have to save the world. No one said this shit would be easy.” If I’m around college kids, or in a library, I run with “Just in case you thought quantum physics wasn’t violent, or sexy, enough, we fixed that.”

We use them both online.

Back in 2016 Brian Daniel, owner of Hadithi Sambamaba the company that publishes Legends Parallel,  reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in taking a series of unrelated characters and writing them all into a single story. And, boy howdy, were they unrelated. There were, also, about forty of them. Far too many for anything coherent. After a lot of back and forth we settled on a few characters and a basic story.

I began writing. I wrote words, used punctuation, checked my grammar, declared them all worthy, and sent my efforts to Dorphise Jean, author of Spirit’s Destiny and editor for Hadithi Sambamba. She sent them back, shredded and bloody. You see, I’d written a decent script for a movie, or TV show, but not for a comic. The skills are almost diametrically opposed to each other.

She took pity on the idiot she’d been handed and sent me several examples of properly formatted scripts.

A sample example of my errors. You can write “Bob walks to the window” in a movie script. But that makes no sense in a comic. There are too many ways the artist can interpret the instructions, which leads to confusion. So, instead, you need something like this; “Bob, mid motion, walking towards the open window, P.O.V. from behind Bob, the visible light in the window reveals that it’s dusk outside, there are curtains gently blowing.” This is after you have already set the scene by describing the room, in detail, what Bob is wearing, in detail, and so on.

I learned a lot.

I recommend any writer take a shot at writing a comic book script. Even if it never sees the light of day, they will learn a lot about how to set, and relate, a scene.

Back to Legends Parallel.

After the scripts I wrote passed muster for Dorphise Brian began assembling a team. Sherry Vanilla Hardy, owner of V.Yi.P. modeling agency, arranged for some of her models to be used as the basis for the characters. That was important since the artist, Leslie Tejlor, lives in Hungary and wasn’t well versed in drawing black people.  There aren’t many, as in almost zero, there for him to use for reference. Alexander Malyshev, the artist who is famous for his work on the Russian movie series “Guardians,” did the covers.

By late May the first issue was off to the printer.

I built a basic website and we started sending out copies, digitally and on paper stock, for review.

And we waited. And prayed. And drank. Sometimes contemporaneously.

And reviews started coming in. Good ones. From podcasts, well known blogs, and other creators.

As time went on we upgraded our website, released issue #2, signed a national distribution, and IP development, deal with Nerdanatix, and began finding fans. Lots of them.

Legends Parallel isn’t an easy story to wrap your head around initially. It tells the story of Tom Hill, billionaire inventor who inherited a super suit, and multi-national company, from his dad. His dad’s dead at the beginning of the book but his memory lingers on. One of the things his company has discovered is that the multiverse, first posited by Hugh Everett III in the 1950’s, is real and there are five earths which support human life. This discovery is the underlying premise for the whole series. Each earth has its own stories, its own legends, and they are eventually doomed to collide. Tom and, the only person he truly trusts outside his family, Arumar Singh, try and keep everything controlled.

If that worked I wouldn’t have a story, so you know that much now.

Tom’s mom, Sage Hill, wore the suit and used it to fight crime but, now, she’s in her 50’s and getting too old for that kind of lifestyle. Alicia Yang, Sage’s assistant and lover, knows all the family secrets and is a force to be reckoned with all on her own.

Lastly there’s Stacy Lord, a powerful metahuman (a new breed of human that has been appearing more often lately) who Tom keeps calling Sassy, which becomes an ongoing joke in the series. There are a couple more people on the “good guys’ side” but these give you a basic idea.

On the other side are Oshun, a beautiful assassin and thief who is a mistress of toxins. Her henchman Bes, a metahuman dwarf with a twisted sense of humor. Jack of Spades, a charismatic killer who has a windsock for a moral compass. And Ms. Vin. An ancient metahuman who’s back story plays out over the series.  All she wants to do is rule everything and kill anyone who opposes her. Oh, and she controls a device, called the Gorgon’s Gate, which allows her to visit any of the five earths at will.

You kind of have to pay attention as you read or you’ll get hopelessly lost. Yet another reason it earned an “M” rating.

Issue #3 is in the capable hands of Leslie and we’ll be doing a Kickstarter for issue #4 just so we can get fans some of the cool stuff we’ve been hoarding.

If you want to know more just head over to our website and have fun. There’s neat stuff you can buy, links to the comics, and tidbits about everyone involved. Consider it your one stop shopping mall for all things related to Legends Parallel.

This has been an amazing amount of work but it has led to me working on numerous other titles, and meeting some incredibly talented creators from all over the world. On my Twitter page I say that I have an odd past and an unknown future. All true and I wouldn’t trade it for any of the worlds I’ve discovered.

book promotion, Literary Agents, publishing, scams

Your Publisher May Not Be A Publisher

computer-virus-rev-1-300x200 Each and every day brings an exciting pronouncement that so and so has been published. It’s a thrilling announcement, one which envisions a bright future for the impending literary scion, and one that is, so often the percentages died aborning, wrong.  I’m not going to slam self published authors – at least not today – rather I’m going to help clarify some terms. They are important ones to know if you’re serious about your craft. The word “publisher” dates back to the 1500’s. It originally meant “one who announces in public.” which makes complete sense even today. The more modern interpretation,  “one whose business is bringing out for sale books, periodicals, engravings, etc.” dates back to 1740. Whether or not a publishing company pays an advance to a writer they do, or are supposed to, provide certain services for a fee based on sales, or, to be clear, work on commission. No legitimate publisher charges an author up front monies for anything.

Those services, in a nutshell, are promotion of the work, marketing, licensing (when possible), and distribution. Included in that will be the arrangement of some interviews and other forms of personal publicity which are designed to sell the author just as much as the book.

Should sales, or projected sales, warrant it the publisher may suggest the author ascertain the services of an agent. That person will take over the job of selling you and all your intellectual properties to the unsuspecting world all while trying to get you a better publishing deal than that piece of shit you signed (every agent just laughed here, every author just whimpered).

Good news, no reputable agent will charge an author any upfront fees either. Bad news, like unicorns and South American hockey teams, they are difficult to wrangle. If, as noted in the previous paragraph, you find yourself in need of one many publishers will offer suggestions but no more than that. It’s in their best interest for you to succeed, not to interfere  or micromanage your life. They have other shit to do.

Consider all of the above bullet points to refer to when you’re talking to publishers.

Now, which companies aren’t publishers?

Amazon KDP
Book Baby
Create Space
Ingram Spark
Liberio (recently out of beta testing)

All of the above use the phrase “publish your book” but use it very carefully. They mean the phrase literally. They are all, with a variety of different options available to writers, print on demand services. They do not vet your writing in any manner, other than for formatting or decency standards (if they have those). If you write a book claiming that Iron Sky, my favorite movie series involving space Nazis, is a documentary, and that numerology proves it, no one stops you. You just hit send and off it goes to the Internet. Where it goes after that depends on how much money you want to spend. None of the companies listed above are going to have a single unpaid intern lift a finger on your behalf. That means all of the tasks I noted above are now yours.

Which means, and you need to understand this, you are the publisher. It is now on you, and nobody else, to present your work to the wider world.

Now, for some help. since the majority of writers reading this blog are involved in sci-fi or fantasy, I’m going to share a list of scams sited on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) website.

As you cringe through the many instances of fraud, all of which have been adjudicated, you’ll note some common themes.

  1. Film deals were based on getting talent signed first, all you need to do is provide a little “seed money.” Just FYI, there is no such animal in the film industry. It’s financing first and then that money attracts names. If an actor or actress likes the author they may “attach” their name to the presentation, but they are under no obligation go appear, support, or otherwise do a damn thing. At least not until they have a contract and money. Not “or” but “and.” That’s important to remember.
  2. Authors were charged fees for services unrelated to, in wildly in excess of, what they needed. Yes, editors charge fees. But agents and publishers are not editors. At least not exclusively. When you’re ready for editing hire someone who does that, and only that, and you’ll save yourself agita and money.
  3. Celebrity endorsements. Be extremely wary of these. The number of faux agents I’ve seen touting them is amazing and, always, a lie. Just last week I reached out to someone I know to ask if she was really “cheering on an amazing author.” Her response, edited for profanity, was “no.” Unless you have evidence, photographic is best, you could end up getting a wonderfully threatening “cease and desist” letter from a lawyer who makes in an hour what you earn in a year. That said, they do happen. I have gotten them from Rosario Dawson and John Fuglesang, for example, but even then I’ve been careful not to use them in advertising or any other commercial venue. You can post them on social media, as I have, but anything else requires a contract. Simply put, “don’t worry about it, they’re friends” is bullshit.
  4. Reading, evaluation, and/or marketing fees. These are where your money goes to die. The SWFA has a litany of reasons why you should run screaming from the room if they’re mentioned. Simply put, they are designed for people to make money no matter what happens to you. And, far more often than not, nothing happens that benefits you in any way.

As a point of reference, all of these publishers have been deemed scams.

  • 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 (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)

The list of disreputable agents is too long to recreate here, so click on the list to see if the person who claims you’re the next J. K. Rowling is there.

So what to do? This part is absurdly easy.

  1. Ask for, a minimum of five, references with direct contact information. Make sure you can reach every single one.
  2. If a celebrity is attached contact their management. All that info is listed on any authorized web site.
  3. Use this new fangled Google thing to search for whoever has made you this amazing offer, you need to act on now – NOW! DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!, and add the word “scam” after their name. You’ll be amazed how much time and money that little trick will save you.

Just like having a blind date at an S&M bar, caution is your friend. Be careful out there.


So Ewe Wants to Rite da Book?

Corey Bradshaw - tentacles-of-destruction

Corey Bradshaw – Tentacles of Destruction

Due to the emergence of self publishing there has been a rise in people who maintain a series of beliefs which, heretofore, would have been considered untenable. I mean they would have gotten someone laughed out of a junior high English class. These people believe, and foist proof of those malignable beliefs on us at every opportunity, there are no rules. That all writing is valid if the author claims it is. That all petunias are squids if they say so. To those of you who ignore grammar, punctuation, structure, coherent plotting, logical thought, or other silly fads of the past, I have one simple thing to say to you… STOP! Just stop. Stop writing, stop wasting Create Space’s server space, stop wasting our time. Just come to a full halt and then step to the side. Because I know what’s coming.

I was in the music industry for many years and saw what happened at i-Tunes and CD Baby. When those services went live anyone with a digital recording device and some free time could call themselves a musician. Within five years each company had built in restrictions, and limitations, to weed out the hobbyists. And, let’s be honest, most of the self published stuff is done by people as a hobby. Very few put in the years learning to write, experiencing rejection, or being crucified by their, oh so cruel yet supportive, peers. They just bundle up their Word Doc, or Open Office thing, and hit send.

Self published comics used to have a shot at being distributed by Diamond, the company with the monopoly on U.S. comic book distribution but, thanks to the wealth of “great ideas” matched with poor execution, now face a labyrinth of restrictions and fees. In Diamond’s case, if you don’t have a minimum of $2,500 per release available for promotion, don’t even bother ringing their doorbell.

Before you tell me I’m being a curmudgeon, and hating on you fun loving literary iconoclasts, know that Create Space has already dropped all support services for self published authors. The last marketing article they published is over a year old, the rest are almost three years old and no longer valid, except in the abstract. Within two years they will have enough barriers in place to stem the flood of drivel and then they can begin sifting for gems.

To be clear, Create Space will continue to exist. If you want to publish your book, and buy copies for your friends and family, nothing will stop you. But your path to a wider readership will be greatly narrowed. If you haven’t been already you will be encouraged to join KDP Select, until you have no choice, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. However, this will keep you out of many other markets. This will allow Amazon, and the rest, to develop a self publishing ghetto.

Oh, I know, this doesn’t pertain to you. You are a serious practitioner of your craft. You’ve seen two or three memes and your mom thinks you’re the bee’s knees. Plus, and this is the super really important part, you have a story you never saw in any of those memes.

Since you don’t know me, and probably wouldn’t like me anyway, allow me to crush your silly dreams.

Writing, like neurosurgery, is a craft. You don’t want some wanna-be brain surgeon, who just saw something on YouTube they think they can handle, operating on your loved one. The same, minus the life threatening implications, applies to writing.

It requires years of study and practice. If you think Strunk and White is a rap group, you should not pretend to be a writer. If you think On Writing follows On Dancer, On Dasher, et al, you should not pretend to be a writer. If you think a subjunctive clause is an alien Santa, you should not pretend to be a writer. If you think a dangling participle is something on a stripper’s outfit, you should not pretend to be a writer.

I could go on but, by now, you’re either laughing your ass off or pissed at me. If the former, congrats, you can write. Or, at the very least, read constructively.

You see, what happens is, the flotsam and jetsam of drek clogs up the pathways and prevents readers from being able to find works worthy of their attention. To that end Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others, are tweaking their search engines. As Create Space has less and less influence over the next couple of years you’ll see self published books eased out of rankings, search results, and so on. Publishers, even if they’re just indies, will be given preference, just like they are in the music and comic book industries.

It’s simple economics. When something has a failure rate of nearly ninety-five percent the market adjusts. Vanity presses might seem like a viable resource for some, but they come with their own baggage. Often they buy reviews, inflate social media numbers, and are generally shunned by distributors, both digital and traditional. Worse, they tend to hand out meaningless awards, for a fee, to inflate an author’s ego and confuse the market.

Please note, there are a couple of vanity presses tied to traditional publishing companies. They exist to make money and, if something catches the eye of an editor, present new authors to the parent company when their book released. It’s still going to cost you, but at least they’re honest about what they do and what your chances are. Slim is a word heard often. Also, they don’t flood the market with crap posts and fake links.

Since I can already hear the “They’re out to screw the little guys” chants allow me to rebut them here. No, they’re not. Self published authors screwed themselves. Badly and without lube. The plethora of drivel dumped out each day is whelming, to say the least.

While there are self published authors who release high quality stuff, and generate sales from same, they are the minority. And, good news for them, there are safeguards already in place to ensure they don’t get caught up in the swirling cesspool that will soon drag many into blissful oblivion. Those in the minority already receive email updates from Amazon, et al, explaining the future so I need not go into them here. If you haven’t gotten such a missive, well, I hope you know how to swim.

For the rest they will be required to treat writing like the business it is. Have a plan, a marketing budget, clear sales parameters, and a professional package to present the world. In other words, treat the product of your craft with respect and your potential readers with the esteem they deserve.

If you must have a hobby that wastes everyone’s time, and your money, CLICK HERE to accomplish all your goals.

book reviews

A Steampunk Christmas Carol: The Dracosinum Tales

AngeliqueDickens’ A Christmas Carol has been bunged through the remake blender so many times that it’s difficult to imagine anything new attached to it. Yet Angelique Anderson has come up with a fun, and refreshing take on the mythos. We are introduced to a woman named Wylie at the beginning. She’s a Teselym dragon tasked with bringing balance to the world. At least at night. During the day she’s human. It’s clear, early on, she’s not one hundred percent pleased with her existence. But she handles her duties expertly and becomes our avenue into a fascinating universe.

At the center of that universe is Professor Langford.  Like Scrooge before him he’s a despicable human.  Anderson goes out of her way to drive that point home when he’s visited by the first Immortal, a stand in for the ghosts of lore. The professor has abandoned his mother and sisters, leaving them to a life of abject poverty, after he’s stolen money from their business, fired the only honest help they had, and then went on to corrupt an honest man leaving him to be doomed for all eternity to be a Siapheg dragon; a creature that encourages evil in the hearts of men.

This guy is seriously warped. He values money, and power, so highly that he’s prepared to cut the wages of his staff before Christmas, just because, and steal the invention of his best employee and present it as his own. In his personal ethos a Thunderdome-like atmosphere in the work place is desirable. Those who are weak, in his view, will quit and those are strong, or desperate, will stay.

Really, he’s not a nice guy.

If you know Dickens’ original you have a pretty good idea of how this all plays out. Which is fine. In Anderson’s universe the characters are rich, the Immortals are flawed and fascinating, and the clockwork dragons are interwoven flawlessly into the narrative.

Anderson’s universe is wonderfully textured and clearly presented. This is an ideal book to share with your family or enjoy by yourself on a cold, winter’s, night.