Thursday, October 25, 2012

Honey vs. Vinegar

I'm a fan of the saying, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Can I use vinegar if a situation calls for it? Yes. But vinegar's more drinkable with honey in it, so I always try to bear in mind that most folks don't perceive themselves as villains. (Which helped me figure out that my brother's at his most obnoxious when he's tired—something I had trouble figuring out, because I'm an early bird, he a night owl, so by the time he's tired, I'm exhausted and irritable.)

Case in point: Piracy doesn’t bother me.

I see some fellow authors get frothing mad over book piracy and its potential negative impact on sales (ignoring that there are also case studies showing potential positive effects)…and my opinion is that they aren't doing their health any favors. Life has enough stress, so why stress over something that happens?

With my years as a freelancer ghostwriting web content, it has happened. If I were to fret over it, I'd have an ulcer and nothing productive to show for it.

Will I send C&D letters if I find my work pirated? Yes. Will I get stricter than that if necessary? Yes.

But there's a world of difference between being firm or stern and being so angry that I can't see straight. Piracy might make me sigh, at worst. A repeat offender would irritate me. But furious?

Nah. Bad for my health.

Fury isn't too productive for getting folks to listen to you, either, because all that comes out is vinegar.

Ask nicely, and folks who didn’t intend to steal your content will repair things and go about things properly in the future. Whereas if you’re a witch from the start, you lose potential customers who didn’t intend to steal from you but who like your writing enough to want to use and share it.

Folks who don’t care, who insist content should be free—they don’t care what you think. But I’ve discovered that, again, presenting my side of the argument pleasantly and politely is far more likely to get a long-lasting positive response.

Once you have to get harsh, you lose the chance of making an honest customer and fan of the erstwhile thief. You also lose the chance to convince them to agree with you, so while you might win for yourself, you do nothing for all the others whose content the person then goes on to take.

This concept even applies to things like online games.

I'm a high enough level now in RuneScape that I often don't have to worry about other players stealing my kills and such out from under me, but recently a lower-level player was having trouble with someone suddenly mining the same rocks he was and taking all the ore. The lower-level player started off sharp about it, but I suggested he ask nicely.

After a bit of trying to converse with the thief, we discovered that his first language was Dutch, not English. I used Google Translate to say something along the lines of "It's considered rude to take another person's rock." The guy apologized and immediately went looking for somewhere else to mine.

And I have more success stories than that, many more successes than all the failures I see when folks get antagonistic.

Many more successes than when I get antagonistic, for that matter.

I do hate being antagonistic.

I actually don't much care for conflict, either, though I'll step over that dislike if I have sufficient cause.

But in any case, I find honey far healthier and more productive than vinegar.

Are you more inclined to use honey or vinegar?


Friday, October 19, 2012

News on A Fistful of Earth + some author recs

A day late (but hopefully not a dollar short), here's the announcement I didn't get to make yesterday:

The e-ARC is out for A Fistful of Earth, for those who participated in the Kickstarter campaign!

What's that mean for those of you who weren't around or who were unable to participate? The official e-book should be out soon—"soon" meaning "in the next two weeks".

And with that, the POD books will also be coming out. I'm working the kinks out of A Fistful of Fire now, which gives me the template for formatting the POD for A Fistful of Earth, too.

So, here we are! Despite so many delays that I am downright embarrassed, the end is at hand! (And I will not run a Kickstarter for an incomplete book again, until I get a better handle on how long it actually takes me to finish a rough draft, rather than just math based in how quickly I'm capable of finishing a rough draft.)

Thanks for bearing with me!

On other, sort-of-related news, Lindsay Buroker (Emperor's Edge series: steampunk fantasy), Seanan McGuire (October Daye series: urban fantasy), and Shanna Swendson (Katie Chandler series: chick lit fantasy) all had books release recently, all of which I highly recommend. (I think there's a theme going on…)

If y'all want me into go into more detail than "I liked 'em. If the blurb interests you, you should like them, too," I will, but I'll say this much about those authors: Despite getting several books into all three series, I find the most recent books just as good if not better than the predecessors. (In fact, I'd argue that all three series get better with every book.)

Of course, having read all those in release week (and thanks to an ARC from Lindsay, I read that one pre–release week…), I'm now chomping at the bit for more.

What about you? Do you have any books or series that you're eager to see continued or eager to read?


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quick Note:

For folks who know I usually post by now, I'm fine. I'm just wrapping something up today that I want to post about when it's done. :)


Thursday, October 11, 2012

AVOID: Mark Williams International (MWiDP)

The eagle-eyed might've noticed that I've taken down all links to the two Saffina Desforges Presents… anthologies I've been in. After giving the publisher due warning that I would go public about my issues with Mark Williams International (MWiDP), after I've spent more than 4 months trying to get answers to a few simple questions.

Something I should mention: Due to the nature of such anthologies, I never expected to make a lot of money off the anthology. The story was sitting on my hard drive, and I was (and am) busy with my Aleyi and Darkworld series.

I was honestly happy I'd found someone who liked "PRIMpriety" enough to want that story and more. I've gotten so many personalized rejection letters for that one and its related second-person story—which was rejected for the vampire or the framed narrative as often as it was for the POV—that I'd been wondering where to send her next.

But with Ann Crispin's recent issues with Ridan, I was reminded that while this situation is mainly a nuisance to me, MWiDP has a good reputation, like Ridan did. Keeping mum about my issues could end up putting someone else in Ann's shoes of needing money that the publisher doesn't send.

I haven't even been asking to be paid. On that front, I've just been asking for the royalty statements that I haven't been getting, though I told MWiDP at the beginning of this year of a way they could set things up to keep anyone from falling through the cracks.

But have I gotten the royalty statements monthly, as stipulated in my contract? Never.

For the second anthology, I haven't even gotten statements when I've asked for them.

Let's go back to the beginning…

October 14, 2011

I signed my first contract with MWiDP, for my novelette "PRIMpriety".

November 26, 2011

Anthology came out…Kindle-only. I had no Kindle-capable device at the time, so Amazon wouldn't let me buy a copy to check it out. (And yes, I am tech-savvy enough to know what I'm talking about there.) Stormy (whose stories are for mature audiences only) kindly bought a copy for me to check it out…and there wasn't a table of contents (ToC).


Figuring that accidents happen—and I'd helped Mark with some tech details before—I brought the issue to his attention and suggested that I might be able to make the ToC for him, depending on how he'd created the file.

He apologized, stating that it was an oversight, and said "IT is a nightmare for me". He sent me all versions of the file that he had.

Note that this all happened on the selfsame day.

I made the ToC and had it back to him within a few days.

December 28, 2011

I signed a contract with MWiDP for the short story "For Want of Cruelty", which I was told would appear in the 3rd anthology. (Which has never been released, so rights have reverted to me. However: I had to ask to get a specific clause that reverted rights if unexploited for X duration, so I doubt it's in their standard contract.)

January 21, 2012

Nearly 2 months after the release of the first anthology, and I hadn't gotten any e-mail with sales numbers, which I was contractually supposed to receive "per calendar month".

I wasn't too worried about it. Mark had been sick—snake bite, if I recall correctly—and I knew from the blog that he and Saffina had been busy. Not that busyness was reason to breach a contract, but accidents and oversights happen.

Are you feeling better? I've seen that you and Saffina have been busy. :)

Any idea when we contributors to volume one will be getting the "full sales data per calendar month"? (Wondering when to expect it, so I know when to follow up. If you have no clue when to expect it, look up the "Contract for Primpriety", point 10.)

…And, after including that little side note to remind them about their contract terms, I added another story that I'd written, same world and character.

Confession: I'd written "Hello, Kitty" in the few days before I sent it, so I was also curious about if that speed would affect the quality, to someone who already liked the narrator. From my experience ghostwriting web content, I doubted it would, but I wanted to try.

January 23, 2012

(Letters in square brackets are numbers, removed by me.)

Hi Misti,

This email just appeared, though appears it was sent two days ago.

Yes, fully recovered, thanks, and busy indeed, as you noticed! :-)

We're trying to get an automated system up for the sales reports. Doing them manually at the moment, and inevitably missing a few people. Sorry!

Stats for the partial month of November were [X] sales on and [Y] on, so a respectable start. We were not expecting as much take up in the US as is the brand is not as well known there.

December stats: We put the title into KDP Select to take advantage of the five three days, to maximise exposure.

Before it went free the title had [Z] sales an and [A] on am,co,uk. During the free period it had a respectable (bearing in mind the huge number of free titles suddenly available through Select) [ZZ] free downloads on and [AA] on

As you saw from our updates we have plans afoot to get our titles and others to a far wider audience (the Select option is only for ninety days to benefit from the free exposure), and the sales continue to build.

Once the new site is fully up and running we;ll be able to push these anthologies more, and of course each new release will add to the overall impact.

Love the Hi Kitty story, We are literally just preparing to launch volume 2 and just had to pull one title after some copyright issues (it had been published in a magazine and the author belatedly decided they had rights, not him). We could well slip Hi Kitty in if you can get the contract back asap. If not, then in Volume 3. Your last story with its mixture of vampires and such had some great private feedback btw.

I've had some e-mail flukes, myself, so I appreciated the prompt response once he'd received my e-mail. And as a self-publisher, myself, I knew how annoying it could be to get those sales numbers figured out, so I figured it would be a lot worse for someone who wasn't very tech-savvy.

I let them know about e-mail groups as a way they could send sales numbers to everyone in a specific anthology and not miss anyone.

Mark's response (still January 23rd):

Great idea. Shall look into that.

Note: When I got the contract for "Hello, Kitty", a certain clause had been removed from the previous one, a clause that had explicitly limited the exclusivity period to a certain time frame. Now, I'm no lawyer, so this isn't legal advice, but I read contracts with an eye towards "worst possible interpretation". In that case, "worst possible interpretation" was giving MWiDP full 2 years' exclusivity—and, from what I was told, other authors had insisted on that clause's removal, so my (non-professional, non–legal advice) understanding is that the contract clause therefore would be read in the publisher's favor, not in the favor of the party that insisted on the clause change.

In any event, I'd rather have an explicit timeline for exclusivity rather than a vague one that could be read in my favor or against it. Mark readily changed my contract back, and he even offered to go back and amend the second one—but that one didn't have the clause removed, so that wasn't necessary.

But I found that difference because I read my contracts—and when I have more than one from the same publisher, I compare them.

Again, I'm not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, and I have the added confusion here of MWiDP technically being a foreign publisher, since I'm USian and they are not. I'm just pointing out that, in my little non-lawyer opinion, contract negotiators need to be careful—and I include myself in that warning.

March 31, 2012

My e-mail to Mark:

Hey Mark,

I've not heard any update on sales figures since the January 23rd e-mail from you, so I know nothing since December's numbers. When can I expect updates?

Everything going well? Do you have any themed anthologies coming up where you need a story? I could see if I have or can come up with something, if you like. :-)

For those of you thinking, what was she thinking, offering to write another story?

I had several reasons for saying that, among them giving Mark an opening to say "Thanks, but no thanks; we've shelved that idea for now." (I do know how to use NovelRank.)

When I'm stupid, I try to be intentional about it.

April 2, 2012

Mark's response:


Juggling too many balls at once this past month, on top of catching up with everything I'd fallen behind with.

Finally got everything ordered now and should have everything out on time and up to date hereon (for Amazon)..

See attached the latest stats, up to end February.

Vol 1 is now live on B&N and will shortly be appearing on Kobo and other platforms in the UK and internationally, but these only report quarterly figures.

Best wishes,


Aw, I thought. Poor guy. I, myself, had fallen sick for pretty much the latter two full weeks of February, so I could relate.

He planned to be on time henceforth. Sounded good to me—even if he did seem to think that "full sales data per calendar month" on the contract could be read as "full sales per calendar quarter". I could live with that.

I would have accepted that.


June 28, 2012

I e-mailed Mark again.

Hi Mark,

Me, again. A few questions:

1. Sales figures update? I've received nada since the below April e-mail. (I'm in Volume 2, as well.)

2. Any ETA for when payments will go out? I've double-checked PayPal, but per my records, I've never received a payment for my contributions.

3. What's the ETA for the release of Volume 3? (Which I'm also in.)


Note again that my contract stipulated that I was to be getting sales figures monthly.

Rights also reverted to me after X days without being used, so technically, they had no right to include my story in volume 3, but I figured I could at least find out if they were even planning to release volume 3 before I pointed that out.

July 6, 2012

No response came. So this time, I e-mailed Saffina and CC'd Mark:

Hi, Sorry to trouble you, but I sent this to Mark a week ago and haven't heard back. In case it's gotten eaten by the ether, I'm passing it on to you.

1. Sales figures update? I've received nada since the below April e-mail. (I'm in Volume 2, as well.)

2. Any ETA for when payments will go out? I've double-checked PayPal, but per my records, I've never received a payment for my contributions.

Note that those two items do put MWiDP in breach of contract. Not trying to be difficult—I've been patient—but…months? And then to not get an answer after a week of bringing it up? This is getting annoying.

Also, I was looking at the contract and noticed that my contract has expired for volume 3. (Point 12 on the contract for either "For Want of Cruelty" or "Hello, Kitty"; I was told "Hello, Kitty" would be in volume 2, but I haven't been able to confirm that.)

So, in addition to the two above questions, I also have two questions regarding those stories:

1. Can you confirm which story of mine appeared in volume 2? (I've checked the online pages about the volume—even checked reviews—and can't find anything.)

2. Can you give your intentions for the other story, considering the contract has fallen void?

Thank you.

Same day, I got the below response (in response to my June 28th e-mail, not the most current one—and the time stamp did show June 29th on his version):

HI Misti!

Quick acknowledgement, In transit at moment (rainy season, so very slow). Will follow up over weekend.


…Well, I thought. At least he gave me a heads-up. With the time differential, I should have an e-mail in my inbox on Monday morning.

July 9, 2012

Monday morning, and nothing's in my inbox. Not promising.

I'd noticed that one lady in the first anthology with me also had another book recently released by MWiDP. If she's having problems, then the company's probably in trouble.

I don't have that author's permission to name her, but her response was essentially that I was a fluke, per her experiences with MWiDP.

Granted, that particular author had several books with MWiDP, not just entries in the anthology, so they had further reason to keep her happy. But maybe all the problems I was having was a fluke. Improbable, but possible.

If things had gotten resolved that week, I would've been willing to believe that. I doubt I would've ever signed with them for a book, but I would've given them the benefit of the doubt.

July 10, 2012

Tuesday—coming up on Wednesday, for him, if my math was right—and the promised follow-up hadn't arrived.

I sent the following e-mail, forwarding the promise of follow-up below it:

Hi Mark,

I haven't gotten any e-mail from you since this one, which said you were going to follow up over the weekend. If you followed up, the ether ate it.

Also, I sent another e-mail after I noticed that the contract for #3 has fallen out of date. Also, which story of mine appeared in #2, anyway? That was never confirmed.

I was…irritated.

July 11, 2012

Mark responded:

Just back at my "office". Rainy season barely started here, but inland travel suffering.

Following up as soon as I get settled in.

At this point, I was hoping so, Mark. I was very much hoping so.

Because I prefer not being a grouch, even when I have a right to be.

July 17, 2012

No response had come, so I forwarded the July 11th e-mail on to Mark, saying:

Hi Mark,

Again, it's been nearly a week, and the below is the last I've received from you. If you sent something else, the ether ate it.

July 19, 2012

Wouldn't be at all surprised! But equally morel likely fault on my part. Having one of those days when nothing goes right, and that lasts for several weeks.

Attached are the sales reports for the SDP series. Never expected miracles from them, but the results are disappointing, though perhaps not surprising given amount of free books since Select,

We plan to move beyond Amazon and get these on Kobo, B&N, etc, and just maybe tap into an area where the competition is less and have some better traction.

Pretty sure you raised some other points in your "first" email. I'll get to that very shortly and explain things in more detail. We've just had all our power and net upgraded here and in theory working better, but inevitable teething problems.

Will follow up further asap, Misti.

Best wishes,


Attached was a spreadsheet that only went through June, only included the first anthology's numbers (except for an error in one month that evidently has the second anthology's instead of the first), and even had math errors in it that would've been resolved if they'd used the spreadsheet ability to calculate for them.

Despite the promise to "follow up further asap", I have not received another e-mail from MWiDP to date.

August 13, 2012

Hi Mark,

If you've sent me another e-mail since the one below, I haven't gotten it.

Also, I found errors in that spreadsheet you sent me. It says it's for volume 1, but on one month it mentions volume 2, so I don't know if that's a typo or if volume 2's sale accidentally got in instead. Also, the "running total" amounts are wrong.

I just spent an hour adding another sheet to the spreadsheet that takes the data you handed me, highlights the problems in red (and highlights the data that's missing in yellow). The sheet I made is easier to read and update than that mess you handed me, so you might want to use that layout.

I still haven't gotten any comments on 1. what's going on on the payment end; 2. confirmation that "Hello, Kitty" was, in fact, the story that ended up in volume two; 3. sales numbers for volume two.

At this point, July's sales numbers would also be nice to have, too.

Not trying to be difficult, but please notice that it has been 2 months since I first contacted you, pointing out that I'd fallen through the cracks on getting sales reports and payment. More than once, you said you'd get back with me, and now it's nearing a month since the most recent promise to get in touch with me "ASAP".

What do I have to do for you to keep your attention long enough to have my questions answered, Mark?

I did, in fact, attach that repaired spreadsheet.

I received no response.

August 17, 2012

Okay, Mark wasn't answering. I tried e-mailing Saffina directly:

Hi Saffi,

As you can see from the e-mails below, my questions I first raised TWO MONTHS AGO have not been answered. I've gotten a few "I'll get back to you ASAP" responses, but the response doesn't happen.

The one answer I did get was incomplete (and actually flawed, but you can see the below e-mail I sent Mark 4 days ago for the details on that).

What do I have to do to get my questions answered, Saffi? I've been polite; I've been patient. But this was ridiculous a month ago—which is when I was last told I'd get answers "ASAP". Nearly a month later, and I've still gotten no update.

I didn't get a response to that e-mail, either, though I waited.

And waited.

And put off starting the next step, because I didn't want to go here.

October 8, 2012

I finally bit the bullet and gave due warning, sent to Saffina and Mark both, and BCC'd to my friend who's my emergency contact on my contracts for MWiDP.

See the below forwarded e-mail for my questions and issues that have been ignored for 4 months now.

I have been patient. I have been polite. That hasn't worked.

Therefore, if I do not get answers (not another "I'll get back to you" that then doesn't happen) in the next 48 hours, I will go public on Thursday about the breach of contract.

[Question e-mail was forwarded here]

October 11, 2012

And here we are.

I haven't even been asking for them to abide by their contract terms. I've just been asking for information that I am required to get due to my contract.

And even when I ask for it, I can't get it.

So, to sum up my review of my experiences with Mark Williams International Digital Publishing (MWiDP): Ditch and avoid.

Fortunately, due to my contract, I have non-exclusive rights back to my stories at this point, regardless of which one was actually in the second anthology. I've therefore taken all three contracted stories, had them copyedited, created my own cover, and bundled them for sale*. If you're interested in another urban fantasy world that's a bit salty and gory, closer to "The Corpse Cat" than the other Darkworld stories, feel free to check it out. Be warned, though: These are salty and gory and well-dosed with black humor.

However, if you've bought one or both anthologies, please don't feel as though you need to again. E-mail me, and I'll send you a Smashwords coupon code for the stories.

Will you please help spread the word about MWiDP? Thank you.

*If you want to show solidarity and have money go to the author, please be aware that other authors have far more need of "mercy buys" than I do. For example, I understand that Ann Crispin is battling cancer. (If you like sci-fi, you might check out her Starbridge series: Amazon US | Nook | Kobo).


I am not asking for you to go up in arms and attack MWiDP. That does little good for someone ignoring e-mails, and I don't like the idea of using the public mediums of Twitter and Facebook to debate a private dispute.

I am asking for you to help me spread the word about MWiDP. I'll be alerting who I can about this post, but you surely know folks I don't.

These are my experiences. I make no claims as to how well (or poorly) this publisher is treating other authors. I've heard a third-hand rumor that I'm not the only one, but that was anonymous, so I can't verify it.

But from how MWiDP has responded to me, I can only recommend that they be avoided.

Update (10/13/12):

The best update I can give is to link to the thread on KindleBoards.

Short version: Saffina Desforges had to change her e-mail address. Evidently posted on her FB about it, which I found out about because Elizabeth Ann West kindly reposted it in the thread. I e-mailed Saffina; she e-mailed me back with some of my questions answered (and I've been paid, now). She also posted in the KB thread, posting the e-mail (which included monies owed) in the thread.

She also included a gem of an insult that I just have to laugh over, because it's that or get ticked to the point of joining her level: "Maybe if the authors *hooks fingers around the words in the air* on here spent more time writing books instead of shite on here, they wouldn't be moaning about £15 quids' worth of royalties! ;-)"

I really have to take my hat off to the folks on KB on this one—they're covering all the reasons why the behavior there's appalling, so I can focus on the ludiocrity here. Because really, things have gotten ridiculous.

Update (10/15/12):

KB thread's been locked, due to some amusing but unnecessary joking that started, but I want to thank everyone who's contacting me in support—publicly and privately.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

There Are No Bad Words

Whether you think salty language should be avoided or if it should be used for realism, you likely have an opinion on its propriety. (Warning: The below post contains some salty language by dictionary definition.)

Leave that opinion by the door, please. You're welcome to your preference. If you want to avoid it, want to use it, only want to use it when it fits the character and story—whatever your preference, that's fine.

I honestly don't care about that. Sometimes I don't want to read salty language, myself. Sometimes I don't care and have friends give me odd looks after they check out a recommendation.

However, by "salty" language I mean things like vulgarities. I don't write blasphemy (that's using any of God's names as an expletive), and I don't like reading or hearing it. I find it far more offensive than salty language.

I'm Christian. Even if "keep His name holy" weren't one of the Ten Commandments, why would I be glib about my own deity? Folks don't casually insult other religions' gods, not without backlash. But for some reason, to insult the Christian God (capped because it's a name) doesn't even give pause to most otherwise politically correct folks.

Not that I'm usually a fan of political correctness, but some things are just polite. If you're going to belittle my god (not a name here), at least be an equal opportunity offender.

But notice that my complaint here isn't about the use of things like "God" and "Jesus" themselves, as words. My complaint regards how they're used.

And that's even true of "salty" language: The usage is what's "bad", not the word itself.

Take damn. Meaning: Condemn to hell, a place of eternal torment. So to damn a person is to wish that the person would suffer from eternal torment.

That's not nice, so it's understandable why some people complain about (or want to avoid) uses of damn in reference to people.

But many folks go reactionary against all uses of the word, even cases where it's used in reference to its actual meaning.

However, to call the word itself bad is to say the problem is with the word, not the attitude behind its use.

How can a word be innately bad? (For the Christians among my readers, the question becomes: "How can a word cause someone to sin?")

Calling the word itself innately inappropriate, bad, or sinful is like calling a corset innately inappropriate, bad, or sinful.

Some corsets are underwear, which limits the situations wherein they're appropriate, and they're not useful for everyone. Some are outer wear—for medical or aesthetic purposes—and different styles and shapes suit different people.

But neither type of corset is suitable for, say, swimming. Or other situations wherein the wearer needs to breathe deeply. ^_^

Again, it's up to you if you want to avoid a specific type of word (or corset!). I put content advisories on my own stories for that purpose.

But gracious, at least acknowledge that the problem is the way the word is used, not the word in itself. The latter attitude misses problem entirely.

What are your thought on "bad" words?


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Alert to Subscribers!

You might have noticed that I've removed subscribe links from my blog.

Reason: Feedburner looks as though it's shutting down on Oct 20th.

…And all my feed handling stuff has been with Feedburner.

So if you're one of the folks subscribed to my site by e-mail or feed reader, you'll want to switch to another method. I'm trying to find an alternative. For now, if you're subscribed via a feed reader, you'll want to reload the URL.

(Speaking of which, if you know of any alternatives to Feedburner, I'm open to suggestions.)



Popular Posts
(of the last month)