Cyber-Space: the Final Frontier – Shea MacLeod Boldly Goes…

Captain’s Log: Star Date September 2011

With two teen grammar-Nazis constantly pointing out my mistakes as we progress the first of the new YA boarding school series St. Mallory’s Forever! it seems there is no room for error.

An ill-advised apostrophe triggers a deluge of complaints from my young co-authors, and abuse of a semi-colon is a hanging offence. And believe me, these girls take no prisoners!

Yet these two crazy teens also love all things sci-fi / fantasy, and have even managed to worm Dr Who, Star Trek and Star Wars into St. Malls!

Which got me thinking about the infamous split-infinitive from the Star Trek intro, and about how revolutionary Star Trek was in its time. My young co-authors might be suprised, and certainly would be appalled, to know Star Trek made headlines because two fictional characters kissed on screen. The kiss was fine. the issue was that one of the actors was, in the language of the time, “colored”.

As I wondered what the broadcasting Nazis of that era might make of my own relationships here in West Africa I thought of Shea MacLeod, an American fantasy writer living in London, who has two books out with the word “kissed” in the title, and who had set me this quirky post on the publishing revolution. Her post seemed especially timely in the cicumstances, so has jumped the queue.

Here’s Shea:

This post has nothing and everything to do with going digital and going indie.  So, stick with me, mmm’kay?

The other day my mom emailed me a story from one of her radio programs. This is one of those radio talk shows where someone with fancy letters after their gives advice to people with various personal problems. On this particular afternoon, two women called in to the show complaining about their truly horrible lot in life.

Mrs. A moved to England 6 years ago with hubby. Originally, they were only supposed to be here 1 year, but 1 turned in to 6, and now Mrs. A is whining and carrying on about how HARD living in England is. I am still trying to figure out how hard it could possibly be (and so was the host of the radio program). It’s not like they live in bamboo huts without refrigeration and running water. Heck, we even have McDonalds and Starbucks!

Not real!

Mrs. B’s husband has always dreamed of an African safari (Sounds good to me!). Mrs. B was freaking out because Africa is such a horrible place and she does NOT want to go. Maybe Mrs. B has been talking to my grandmother because my grandmother is convinced the natives eat people in Africa.  Since Mark hasn’t wound up in anyone’s stewpot, I think it’s safe to say that is not the case.

Anyway, my mom and I agreed that these women had no appreciation for how lucky they were! Personally, I think they should download some ebooks on the real pioneer women and how hard their lives were, read them, and stop complaining! These ladies were faced with the opportunity for some truly Grand Adventures and they were wasting time moping and complaining!

I guess I never thought I came from an “adventurous” sort of family, or that I was a particularly adventurous person, but truly, the women in my family are amazing!

The year was 1644.  Mary and William Robinette stood at the altar of a small church in London near St. Paul’s and exchanged vows.  Within 4 years they’ve left the bustling, modern city of London for the wilds of the New World where there were no cities, no shops, no roads.  Nothing but hardship and the real chance of starvation or death at the hands of the native people.  But they survived and four hundred and some odd years later, their many-times great-granddaughter would stand in wonder on the spot where they’d once exchanged vows.

Back in the 1970s my aunt Ellen ditched the Pacific Northwest to teach English with my uncle in Brazil.  She didn’t quite live in a mud hut, but it was close.  Back then, Brazil wasn’t the first world country it is today.  In fact, she thoroughly enjoys telling the tale of how she was offered pig ears for dinner.  I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it makes for a good story.

A few years ago my mom and dad spent several weeks in Nigeria helping build a well for a village there.  Mom got well into the spirit of things (as you can see).  The ladies of the village wasted no time getting her kitted out in proper attire.

And then there’s little old me who, quite by accident, fell in love and ended up in London, leaving behind everything and everyone I knew and loved.  The love didn’t last, but I found love of a different kind: the love for a city full of magic and wonder. Yeah, I’m the great-granddaughter and I’m on a whole new adventure.

So what does any of that have to do with going indie or the digital revolution?

Just this: it takes a bit of gumption, a lot of determination, and a never ending thirst for adventure to go indie.  The ladies above would never be able to make it in this brave new world.  They’d have given up at the first hurdle.  This isn’t about wandering well beaten paths and wallowing in comfort, but of blazing new trails and being willing to make sacrifices.  It’s the Wild West, baby.  It’s anyone’s game, if you’ve got the cojones.

Welcome to the New Frontier.

“Blazing new trails and being willing to make sacrifices.”   That sums it up perfectly. Thanks, Shea!

We could all hide behind the comfort and security of the gatekeepers if we were so inclined. Seeking their validation and approval, and then hoping and praying they would decide to give us a chance to shine, undeserving as we surely are. It’s the safe option, after all. Far better to sit about and whine about how hard something is than to actually do something about it.

Needless to say Shea is an indie published author. She got up and did something. Though you won’t have guessed it from her post.

One of the common fallacies of indie publishing is that authors have to spend all their time marketing, and the gatekeepers are always tellings us how everyone hates an author thrusting their book in our face. Leaving aside that that’s exactly how the gatekeepers sell books – by buying plinth and window space and paying for advertising and faux reviews in newspapers and billboards to thrust their books in our faces – it just isn’t true.

I’m betting if Shea had turned up here today raving about her book and begging us to buy it most of us would have switched off and found another blog by now. Instead we’re still here reading this and – go on, admit it – you’re wondering what kind of book she writes and thinking maybe you’d like to check it out.

Well tough, because Shea didn’t even bother sending me an image or links, coz that’s the kind of girl she is.

But coz I’m the kinda guy I am I’m gonna sneak the links in anyway. If you want to buy Shea’s first book. Kissed By Darkness on or on just click on the links. The sequel Kissed By Fire is also available on and

If you’re wondering what the books looks like, here’s a sneaky peep at the covers.

By the way, Shea, believe me Brazil is still not a first world country! Despite its immense natural resources and relative wealth the poor of Brazil are among the poorest anywhere on the planet. The favelas are every bit comparable to the slums of Calcutta or the shanty towns of the richer African nations.

The skyscrapers and glitz & gloss of Rio and Recife may look impressive, but it’s window dressing that hides desperate poverty and little hope for those trapped there. But the people of the favelas are simply wonderful, and like any “slum dwellers” have much to teach us about want and need.

Which brings us full cicrcle to Star Trek. Visiting the poorest parts of the world can be a bit like visiting another planet. I thoroughly recommend it.

Becoming an indie author is also a great adventure. I thoroughly recommend that too.

Both can change your lives and help you see the world in a whole new way. I leave you with this view of Rio.

  1. It is certainly a fallacy that indie-writers must spend all their time marketing; I should probably do more, but Amazon’s bestseller categories and “people who bought this also bought that” links seem to be pushing me right along. I first published Wearing the Cape in May, and, now in my 5th month, I’m selling 30+ a day (and Villains Inc. is virtually lock-stepped with it).

    I think you have to do a certain amount of marketing to get started, but if you’ve got a good book that appeals to a wide enough audience, then past a certain point it sells itself–much like Sugar and Spice did. How many copies sold? 100,000?

    • George, I have done ZERO marketing. I’ve done social media because I love getting to know people and hanging out and having a chat, even if it’s virtual.

    • Too true, George. A good book may take time to build (we sold nothing for three months) and of course you need to let people know it exists, but the best marketing is done by readers telling other readers.

      With 100,000 sales behind us S&S is now a “backlist” title for us and is slowly drifting out of the charts, yet almost a year on it’s still selling 1000 copies a month as new readers come into the e-book market place.

      And that’s pretty much just on Amazon. We’re currently in the top five on Waterstone’s (UK equivalent of B&N) and have yet to get started on iTunes and the myriad other e-outlets.

      But I’ve said before and will say again here, WtC and its follow-ups will outsell us many times over, given time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

  2. … I’m watching your grammar, Mark Williams! The Grammar Nazis are coming for you! 😉

    Eugh, those two women sound unbearable! Can’t believe they would pass up such a great opportunity for an adventure, honestly! I’m with Shea!

    • LOL! Rock on, Charley. Can you believe passing up the chance to live in another country or at least TOUR another country?

    • Watching my grammar, my spelling, my syntax, my word count, my…

      It’s true what they say about working with animals, children and teenagers!

      • Miriam
      • September 17th, 2011

      And I’m watching yours!
      So who’s watching mine?

  3. Mark, thanks so much for allowing me to join in YOUR adventure. And I stand corrected on Brazil. I should probably have been a little more clear in my description. Brazil is a beautiful place with wonderfully warm and loving people and there are now lots of “first world” places, as you mentioned. But yes, also the extreme poverty clearly pictured in the photo. And sadly, there are places nearly as poor still today in my own homeland.

    • Oh, and Mark, I share your girls’ love of all things sci-fi. They have EXCELLENT taste. 🙂

    • Thanks due yo you, Shea, for an excuse for me to drift off-message and take up my other passion apart from books and writing.

      On the American poor, in some ways they are worse off than in the Third World, because the family support and community spirit that pervades the slums of Rio, Calcuttta or Banjul are also missing.

      There are some great indie writers out there tackling the theme of the social issues within the US, some with great aplomb. I must mention here Tom Winton’s Beyond Nostalgia. A masterpiece of compassionate writing wrapped up in a beautifully written love story.

      Along with Marion’s (George, above, in comments) Wearing the Cape, beyond Nostalgia is a book that will, given time, far outsell us with our five-minute-wonder commercial successes.

  4. Fantastic post 🙂 Shéa, I always knew you were a strong and brave Adventure Girl!

  5. Always a livewire, Shea and a subtle message as well!

    Great post both Mark and Shea, and very apt as I wondered today, what on earth got me into this whole indie thing (print and e-)… amazing! I’m such a conservative, ‘don’t change’ bunny. What happened?

    • There are many words I could use to describe you, Prue, but conservative is not one of them!

      For those unfamilar, this is the person who jumped head-first into the indie waters very early on, who wrote a novel on twitter, who writes miniature novels, and who is currently engaged in other ventures, equally improbable that I can’t mention further just yet. .

    • Miriam
    • September 17th, 2011

    Yay, now the whole world knows what a nerd I am!
    …did I tell you the dalek alarm clock I referenced in one of my chapters is actually about a foot away from my chair right now?

  6. Great post, Shea & Mark.

    Shea, we must have swapped places. I fell in love with an American (for my sins) 🙂 and ended up living in the States. I was homesick for a while but then I discovered BBC America and that put paid to that 🙂

    Totally off topic – Does anyone know if there is a site where you can cost-effectively sell audio books? I did my 1st book as podcasts for free but now people are asking if I am going to be producing an audio version of the 2nd book. Well, I’m not doing the 2nd one for free but can’t find anywhere where you can upload the files and sell them.

    Just curious if anyone else had thought of this.

    • Ah, sigh, BBC America how I loved thee! Until I met the real McCoy. 😉

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my homeland Alison. 🙂

  7. Grammar Nazis bemuse me. Don’t get me wrong. If a book has a bucket load of uncapitalized I’s and forgotten commas, it can take away from the reading experience. But I never got people who’s whole reading experience was ruined just because of one misplaced apostrophe. I just see the minor error, recognize it, and move on.

    As far as independent writing goes, it does seem like quite an adventure to take. I’m preparing to take it myself with my first novel and already I’m excited. Of course, I realize that mistakes will be made along the journey. But as with any entrepreneurial and artistic practice, mistakes are meant to be learned, not avoided in fear.

    Also, I look forward to catching up on Shéa MacLeod’s works, as well as Saffina Desforges’ Sugar and Spice (as well as Snow White) ;D

    • gerrymccullough
    • September 18th, 2011

    Great post, Shea! Life is all about adventure, isn’t it?
    And Mark, you are so right about poverty, and the need to write/pay attention to it. Tom Winton’s second book, The Last American Martyr, centres even more on this subject – an amazing book, one which could easily become a classic.

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