Posts Tagged ‘ Anne R Allen ’

How To be A Publisher In the E-Age… And Keep Your E-Sanity

So it’s finally happened. No, not the book. Keep up!

That’s happened too, of course.

But even more exciting than that! I now have a reliable electric supply AND a reliable internet connection.

No, I can’t believe it either.

The components for the solar power arrived last month (just in time for the rainy season) and this past few days I finally took delivery of a 4G internet service. Yep, that’s me on the far left

Of course it’s not 4G by Western standards. But by local African standards, and compared to last week,  it’s simply incredible. And once the novelty of being able to listen to radio and watch youtube videos wears off I’ll have no more excuses for my haphazard postings here on MWi, and my poor communications generally.

Fact is my old ISP service had deteriorated to the extent that I’ve only been able to get into my own blog two or three times a month. To all those who commented recently and were seemingly ignore, it wasn’t deliberate.

So be warned. I’m back, and with lost time to make up!

And we’ll start right here by announcing what you probably all knew already, that How To Be A Writer In The E-Age finally went live this past week and is even now storming the Amazon charts.

Check it out on and

It will be available on other platforms shortly, and the POD release is imminent too.

Chasing this we have Paul Dillon’s The Magic In the Receiver (any day now) and the first of  Terry Galanoy’s Bloodgold series.

And no, we haven’t forgotten our very own Rapunzel or St. Mallory’s, but both fell foul of the constant problems with electricity and net here. Expect to see them all in the near future, as well as a resumption of my observations on the publishing and writing scene and some more insights into my life here in West Africa!

Okay, short and brief this time, but don’t get used to it. I’ll be back to normal next post!


Play It Forward – Where Next For MWiDP?

Pay It Forward.

How often do we hear that in the world of indie publishing? It has become the mantra of the indie movement, to the point where recently some bloggers were actually arguing over who thought of it first! The mind boggles.


In fact the concept has been about since forever. It was in use by the Greek dramatist Menander in 317BC, and the first recorded example in the US was Benjamin Franklin, who lent money to someone and asked them not to repay Franklin but to instead lend that money to another person in need. Similar sentiments were later echoed by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The actual term was in use from the early part of the twentieth century, and became popularised by Robert A. Heinlein’s sci-fi classic Between Planets.

But of course the phrase took on a life of its own after Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward was published in 1999. The film quickly followed. A movement was born. A decade on and the Pay It Forward movement is still going strong, guided by the Pay It Forward Foundation Catherine founded.

What does this have to do with MWiDP? Bear with me. There are two big announcements from MWiDP today.


First, some background for the many newer visitors here.

When we slipped our debut novel Sugar & Spice into the murky waters of the Amazon ocean fifteen months ago it was, more than anything else, an act of defiance against the gatekeepers. Not so much desperation as sheer frustration.

There was no carefully thought out marketing plan. No launch party. No blogs. No tweets. It was whole new world, and one we knew next to nothing about.

Ebooks were still in their infancy, Kindle UK was about to experience its very first Christmas, and we just sat back and hoped someone might buy our unknown and unloved book.

Of course, no-one did.

This time last year we had sold nothing. And we were still querying. It seemed our best bet at the time. And maybe, at the time, it was.

And then around February / March we got the serious interest of an agent. A real-life literary agent wanted our book! By then it was just starting to sell a few copies on Amazon, but the agent wasn’t interested in that. She liked the book, but ebooks were just a fad. So the agent took our book under exclusive review, and we sat and hoped.

Three months passed. When she finally got back to us with her decision she wanted us to take down the ebook so she could approach publishers.

That was a close call. If she’d got back to us sooner we might well have fallen for it.

Trouble was, in that three months she had sat on our novel we had somehow sold thirty thousand books. Ebooks a fad? Clearly this was an agent who had no future. And, we realised, querying had no future either.

A month on and we had sold fifty thousand and were the second biggest-selling ebook in the country. The agents started to query us!

Again it was a close call. Big promises, tempting “unofficial” offers, but accompanied by draconian contract conditions. We stayed indie.


You’ve got to be kidding! That same book went on to sell another fifty thousand before it began to wind down on Amazon (not helped by the infamous three week disappearance!). And by then we were riding high in Waterstone’s, the UK’s equivalent of B&N.

Meanwhile we had brought out another book, got on with some other writing projects, and began to look at the bigger picture.

MWiDP was born.

Little could we have imagined that, just months later, we’d have one of the biggest names in modern English literature sign with us.


The big news this week, of course, is the announcement, first made on Anne R. Allen’s blog on Sunday, that Anne and NYT best-selling author of Pay It Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde turned their back on the trad publishers in favour of joining forces with MWiDP.

In Anne’s own words:

The book I’ve been writing with Catherine Ryan Hyde, HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE—and keep your E-sanity! will be published by Mark Williams international in June of 2012. The book will be available as an ebook that will include free six-month updates. AND it will also be available in paper in both a US and UK edition.

We’ve had some interest from more traditional publishers, but decided to go with the innovative people at MWiDP because we need a nimble publisher who can keep up with industry changes and offer timely updates. Also, Catherine has a large international fan base, which made “Mr. International’s” offer especially attractive.

The fab cover is the working design, courtesy of our designer in residence Athanasios.

How To Write in the E-Age and Keep Your E-Sanity will be the first of many books under our non-fiction / education imprint Writers Without Frontiers, aimed at fellow authors, at whatever stage of their career they are at.

As well as more books for this imprint we’ll also be teaming up with other industry professionals to bring online writing courses and other resources to help the growing number of people worldwide who want to realize their dreams of being a writer.

And just to add there will be a prize draw in June to mark the launch of How to be a Writer in the E-Age. And not just any old prize.

We’re talking a first edition of the zillion-selling Pay It Forward, signed by Catherine Ryan Hide herself!


Yep, I had to read it twice too. Catherine Ryan Hyde is now an MWiDP author!


Writers Without Frontiers is just one of several imprints that will see MWiDP expand rapidly in 2012.

Our YA imprint will launch this spring, commencing with the long-awaited St. Mallory’s series, and though it’s not official yet we may well have another fantastic YA title going live with it. More on that in the near future.

We have some great titles pending for our Exotica imprint, all about travel and stories set in distant lands.

And for those so inclined we have also launched our mature-audience imprint, Aphrodysia, with the first book due out for St. Valentine’s Day.

Those not so inclined will be pleased to know covers and content will not be appearing alongside the other books, unlike on Amazon where some seriously disturbing covers are prone to pop up alongside MG titles.

Several other imprint ideas are being developed, which we’ll bring news of all as and when.


Enhanced ebooks are of course high on our agenda to progress, and we’ll be making some announcements on this in the next few months. We have some trial projects under way, but won’t give details until we have a clearer picture.

We also have plans for audio books, and are currently examining ways in which this can work in the new indie publishing world. More on this in coming weeks.

In the very near future we’ll be moving into print-on-demand publishing for some of our titles. While there can be no doubt the days of bricks and mortar stores are numbered, there will be a small but significant market for print for the foreseeable future, and as POD technology improves and prices drop, POD will become the only real alternative to ebooks.

Meanwhile our tech team Elizabeth (she may only be one person, but she does the work of many!) has been hard at it behind the scenes with the new websites and the ebook store. All now very close to completion.

Take a sneak peak at


The ebook store, indiebooksunited, is hardly going to challenge Amazon’s supremacy, of course, so important to remind ourselves why we felt it necessary at all.

I asked an author recently if they would be interested in the ebook store and they answered, “Why? I’m selling through Amazon.” I put it to him he might sell even more if he was in other stores. He answered, “But I don’t need to be. I’ve ticked world rights. I’m available everywhere.” I tried not to laugh.

For anyone who missed it, do check out the MWi post Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Aakash  which explains how Amazon either blocks downloads or surcharges buyers across much of the world.

Above is a screen shot of what I see when I try to buy one of your books. Check out the green box at top right. (You may need to click on the image to enlarge.)

Check out the MWi post referred to above for real numbers about just how many potential buyers cannot buy your ebook from Amazon.

There’s also this strange idea that someone who has bought a Kobo ereader, or a Sony or an iRiver, or myriad other alternatives to the Kindle, is somehow going to make Amazon their first stop for ebooks. Yeah, right. Just like us Kindle users always go shopping in B&N and Diesel…


The recent introduction of KDP Select has raised the issue of exclusivity once again. Leaving aside the good or bad aspects of KDP Select itself, let us briefly ponder exclusivity.

If we had chosen only to list with Amazon last year would we have sold as many books? Unequivocally no.

Of course we are on Apple, Kobo and B&N too. Kobo is a rising star, as I’ve said many times here on MWi. Just this week Kobo announced plans for expansion to ten new countries, including Japan and Brazil, just as the Amazon’s Japan plans have stalled.

Kobo has also partnered with WH Smiths, one of the leading UK retail stores. Kobo is the place to be in 2012-15.

If you’re not on Kobo, or are on Kobo through Smashwords and seeing no results, then be sure to check out the announcement at the end of this post.

But Amazon, B&N, Apple and Kobo are not the be all and end all of ebook vendors, and only form part of our income.

In the latter part of 2011, long after the Amazon star had waned, we had two top ten hits simultaneously in Waterstone’s, the UK’s equivalent of B&N. We held the number two spot, kept off #1 only by the Steve Jobs biography, and for a long while the Saffina Desforges brand was the most searched for name in the store.

But we weren’t just selling there. Britain’s biggest retailer by far is the supermarket giant Tesco. It has its own e-book store.

Guess what? We’re in it.

Foyles? Yep, you’ll find us there.

Books, etc? Yeah, we’re there too.

Pickabook? Of course.

ACCO in Belgium? We used our “leetle grey cells”!

Selexyz in the Netherlands? We love the Dutch!

Fishpond down in New Zealand? Say hi down under!

Kalahari in South Africa? Of course!

I could go on. Our books will soon be appearing in Textr in Germany, Asia Books in Thailand, Eason’s in Ireland, Buscalibros in Chile, etc, etc. I’m not called Mr International for nothing!

There’s a whole world out there that could be reading your ebooks, if only they had the chance. True, the sales aren’t earth-shattering. But a sale is a sale, and that reader may tell a friend who tells a friend…

And sometimes it can be good to be a big fish in a small pond, as we found with Waterstone’s. Next time it could be you. But not if you’re not listed there.

Of course the problem is these stores aren’t indie friendly. Just the opposite. They make it almost impossible to get in. ISBNs are required pretty much everywhere except Amazon and B&N. That includes Apple and Kobo, which is why most people go through Smashwords.

But Smashwords won’t get you into Waterstone’s or Foyles, Fishpond or Kalahari. And apart from ISBNs there are a ton of other conditions to meet and hoops to jump through too, before these companies will even think of listing your title. For example Waterstone’s insist you are a VAT-registered company to set up an account.  For the US readers that means having an annual turnover of about $100k. Then you face the nightmare of keeping track, receiving payments, etc. It’s not easy.

Which brings us to the second big announcement of the day:

MWiDP can now offer your titles direct listings to these stores, and also Apple and Kobo.

We’ll be contacting you all shortly with further details. For anyone not currently with us who wants to know more, just drop me an email.

We hope to start uploading to Waterstone’s by the end of this month, and just in case you’re wondering how anyone will find you there, we’re delighted to tell you we have advanced promotion in hand. We own the domain name and will be launching a big awareness campaign within the UK this spring aimed at bringing attention to your titles.

Oh, and did I mention we accidentally bought the domain names welovekoboebooks, welovetescoebooks, welovefishpondebooks and welovekalahariebooks too? 🙂

So, even though it may have seemed nothing much was happening, we have been busy behind the scenes. I’ll be elaborating on the various projects in more detail over the coming weeks here on MWi.

I’ll also be introducing the Book Theatre project to find narrators for audio books for your novels, and the Translator’s Co-op project to bring together a pool of novel translators worldwide to help get your books selling not just in the international stores, but in the local languages.

The trad publishers will tell you writers still need them because they can get you places you can’t get on your own. They have a point. Once you step outside the Amazon bubble being indie isn’t easy.

But with MWiDP you’re not on your own.  Many of our authors are already busy exchanging ideas and services. It’s all part of the cloud.

With MWiDP you get all the benefits of being indie but a lot less DIY.

Mark & Saffi

Covering For Mark Williams Part 4 – by Athanasios

More shoes on covers? There’s no escape, it seems.

Danielle Blanchard Benson is another MWiDP author who has been lucky enough to grab the inesteemable Athanasios for her cover-designer. Check out Athanasios’s Covers For Hire site (link below) to see the scrumptious covers he delivered for Danielle.

But for today it’s another look at the darker side of Athanasios’s work, as he rounds of his four part series on cver design with, rather appropriately, part four.

Here’s Athanasios.

Covering for Mark Williams – IV

In the three last posts I went on about how some of the indie book covers I’ve created came about. My primary focus, however, is promoting and plugging my Occult/Horror Thriller Series, Predatory Ethics. Thus far Predatory Ethics has two installments, Book I: Mad Gods, Book II: Commitment.

After finishing Commitment, the sequel to Mad Gods I needed an editor. A notion came to me: why can’t I offer someone at IWU or IWI a cover for their editing services. I posted this and was contacted by a few people and settled on JA Beard. I had already exchanged posts and messages on facebook with JA since we became facebook friends in early September. I sent off my .doc and he told me what he wanted his Mind Crafter cover to be. I did my usual Google research, found reference images and put them into the mockUP I sent him.

We then tried a few font choices and settled on the last version shown here.

The following is an encapsulation of the email exchanges:
My book is a slightly Asian-tinged fantasy. I say ‘Asian-tinged’ because though it’s a second world fantasy, the setting is influenced in many ways by Tang-era China.
Pitch blurb:

Title: Mind Crafter
Author on cover: J.A. Beard

I was planning on something slightly more abstract. I wanted a lotus because it fits in with the general cultural background of my story, thematic resonance, and all that, stylized portion is a bit more eye catching, kind of somewhat fits in with certain nightmare ideas as well, even if it isn’t a literal thing from a scene) It dominates the image with those elements arranged in front or around it or something.

I’ve attached some of the elements I want you to use.
I went ahead did the mockUP and sent it to him.

We’re basically 95% there. Great.

The background, in particular, is very excellent. I’m actually kind of wondering if despite what I said, going a bit more East Asian in the font would actually be better. I was also thinking another dagger. I know the angle is different, so maybe you’ll have to adjust the angle or whatever. Final is the last version in

Following another week and another post Justin Kemppainen contacted me for his book Haven. He wanted a cover to the sequel and to revamp the current Haven cover. His reasoning was to have continuity between Exodus and Haven his original release. The title change was Fall of Haven with the first installment being the original Haven re-titled, Fall of Haven I: Uprising and the sequel Fall of Haven II: Exodus. He gave me his description and examples and I found them with Google. The final of are all here.

The first requires text alteration but keep the same image and idea, receiving a bit of polish so that things like the text are actually visible.

The second is a new cover based upon Haven. The concept image for the second cover (Exodus) is attached as well with notable differences:

– The character has his face concealed by scarves and shadows.
– No wings or feathers
– Wide-brimmed hat should not be pointy.
– Eyes should glow probably blue or silver.

I think I get the gist of what you want from your emails. The first should just be a punching up of your earlier work with the same background image but with a more vibrant and eye catching text that will be able to carry across to your intended sequel, as to give the series some cohesive look.

I like the fonts and colors for each element of text, but it could get a bit bigger for sake of readability. I like the style and arrangement of the book and series title, I just think it could get a bit more size.

– The added color and contrast looks really nice. I’m guessing it’ll see tweaking.

Other than that, I think it’s looking quite good so far. Looking forward to seeing it refined.

If I were to list the reasons I have any affinity or facility in making covers, writing or anything creative, I would list the retention of unrelated and pointless knowledge coupled with an open mind. I cannot explain or describe why, how, or what I remember but at times I bring it unwittingly back and can use it to spark something for a visual, a plot or an idea in one of my stories or covers. This is very useful in my day job and my side projects.

Many call it being artistic or letting creativity blossom but I don’t put that much though into it. If I did it would lessen and somehow impede it. So I tell those people to stop with all that artsy-fartsy crap and just plain enjoy something that connects with you.

I can guess and call it intuition or instinct but that’s only a guess. I just know when I have found a great idea or notion. I know it for my own Predatory Ethics, their covers and any other cover I’m commissioned to do.

As a parting bit of fun I’ve included the three latest covers I’ve finished for upcoming and existing indie books.

I’m always willing to help with indie authors with their covers. More examples of my work are @: Covers For Hire or email me @:
Athanasios’s webpage is

Athanasios’s Covers For Hire page is

Mad Gods buy pages are &

Commitment buy pages are &

Thank you, Athanasios.

With our new site almost ready to go live we’ll be giving our various designers, formaters, editors, technicians, etc, their own permanet pages where you’l have a one-stop shop for indie resources. That’s coming very soon.

Launching the new year here on MWi we’ll have the one and only Christine deMaio-Rice here next Tuesday, looking at some of the covers she’s been doing, and following Christine will be our S&S and Rose Red cover designer Jeroen, and also Anne R. Allen’s cover designer Laura Morrigan.

But the aim is to give writers as much choice as possible, not limit your choices, so to all you other MWiDP authors out there please let your other cover designers know there will be a spot here to share their wares. And of course for any other resource providers, like editors, proof readers, etc.

That, after all, is the point behind MWiDP – to bring authors together to share resources, share ideas and maybe even share the writing burden.

Christine, for example, has recently done some fantastic new covers for Sarah Woodbury’s historic fantasies.  We have Sarah appearing here on MWi in the very near future, and we’ll be showing off those new covers alongside.

MWiDP author Karin Cox is also editor to Cheryl Shireman, among others (not least David Gaughran). We hope to have Karin here to tell us more aout her editing services shortly, and take a look at some of her poetery while we’re at it.

As for the ultimate sharing that is co-writing… Regulars will know Saffi and I not only write together, but we’ve already teamed up with the two fantastic teen writers Miriam and Charley for our new YA series St. Mallory’s. On top of that we’ve also teamed up with our tech expert Elizabath Ann West to write our new chicklit mystery series China Town, and have a co-write planned with Beyond Nostalgia author Tom Winton.

And of course we also have the anthology series, with Saffina Desforges Presents Volume 2 due out to kick-start 2012.

Just to add here that Saffina Desforges Presents Vol 1: The Kindle Coffee-Break Collection is currently free on Amazon as part of a Christmas promo, and is ranking #1 in the free anthologies category.

And speaking of freebies, Anne R. Allen’s The Gatsby Game is also free for Christmas on Amazon.

And so is Cheryl Shireman’s wonderful You Don’t Need A Prince.

I leave you with Cheryl’s cover, which isn’t an Athanasios cover, but is one of my all time favorite indie covers. Even if it does include a shoe!



This Is Why Men Hate Fashion – Christine DeMaio-Rice

So what is it about women and shoes?

It would never, ever occur to me to put a shoe on the cover of a book.

I mean, shoes are what feet go into. And feet are at the other end of the body for a good reason. Bunions, blisters and broken toe-nails, ripe cheese aromas and crispy socks that can stand up on their own. Or is that just me?

Anne R. Allen has two cover artists working on her Camilla Randall Mysteries series. Though there was no exchange between the two designers they both came up with shoes…

Christine DeMaio-Rice designs her own covers (more on this next month). The big image above is a fine example of her work. And, of course, there’s a shoe in it.

Okay, it’s a book about the fashion industry. But even so… Why a shoe? Somebody explain to this ageing male brain what’s going on?!

Saffi and I have teamed up with Elizabeth Ann West to write our new China Town rom-com mystery series (Narcissus Nights due out early 2012!) and I can see already that even if there’s not a shoe mentioned anywhere (admittedly improbable, with two female co-writers dictating the storyline) there will somehow be a shoe or two on the cover. 😐

Just to add here for anyone keeping count that the China Town series will be after the first of the St. Mallory’s YA series we’re co-writing with the fantabulous teens Miriam and Charley.  So far I’ve been lucky and not seen any sign of any shoe obsessions in St. Mall’s. Are teenagers immune to such things? At what age does a girl stop wearing shoes as footwear and start wearing them as fashion accessories?

Of course, I could have asked fashion-industry insider Christine, when I invited her on to MWi to talk about Dead Is The New Black, the first of her Fashion Avenue Mystery series.

Btw, how irresistable is that title?! So irresistable, in fact, you’ll probably be wanting to head off and buy it before you read any further. You can find it on here and on here.

I asked Christine not to mention the book and do a post on fashion instead. With plenty of images, I added.

Yeah, I was angling for an excuse to run a post with lots of pics of scantily clad top totty. But Christine saw right through me, and wrote a post on men in t-shirts instead. Cruel, or what?!

Here’s Christine.

This Is Why Men Hate Fashion


I’ll send three mental images your way.

1) A man slouches on a couch outside dressing rooms, waiting for his girlfriend to exit. He looks like he’d rather be dead, or chewing razor blades, or simply watching football.
2) A man in a suit, outside the bathroom. His wife exits wearing something either obscene or absurd, twirls around and says, “how do I look?” The man in question doesn’t have to answer. We know he’s in trouble.
3) A man stands stock still as a woman dresses him in something ridiculous while she squeals about how fabulous he looks.

These are all a beer commercial waiting to happen, and we have bought them in their entirety. I hate beer commercials because they play on gender stereotypes and expectations. This is a huge injustice to men everywhere, and it’s the reason most of the men in America dress like laundry sacks.

Worse, runway shows specialize in making men look like slim, asexual fourteen year-olds, while men’s magazines mention clothing as an afterthought to the barely-dressed women on the cover. The backlash is not only understandable, it’s should be expected. Fashion has been marketed as a “girl’s thing” and sports as a “boy’s thing,” and like normal human beings we follow along.

I know, you’re saying you’re different. Fine. You’re different. Are all the men in your life like you? (If you’re gay, and all your friends are gay, please don’t answer. Gay men get this right already. We need to bring the straight boys along with us, gentlemen).

So I want you all to choose a t-shirt. Go on the internet or look in a catalog with the intention of buying a nice t-shirt. I know what you’re saying. “I wear t-shirts in the yard or to hang out with my buddies I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a t-shirt.” What I’d say to that is, a t-shirt can change the way you look, and you don’t have to change t-shirts for the yard, but it’s you’re leaving the house at all, you can affect an enormous difference by not looking like a sack of crap.

First. Ladies. If you’re in on this process, stop squealing. Do not squee. Do not fawn. Do not seduce. At the first sign of any feminine behavior, you will lose his interest. This is borderline clinical. Act like a surgeon over an open heart.

Second. Gentlemen. That little twisty part of yourself that associates looking good with being less manly? Take charge of it. Go with me here. It won’t hurt, I promise.

I want to start by showing you what a t-shirt should NOT look like. I mean it’s so bad the model looks like he’s cringing.

Why is this so bad, you ask.
Why, indeed.

Look at those sleeves. He looks like a slight breeze will send him flying away. There’s a good four inches of excess fabric in there. This is bad. Worse, the outsleeves are hiking. The outsleeves are the outer edge, on the sleeve fold. Do you see how the sleeve opening angles down in toward the body? This is a no-no, and it’s making him look like a big trapezoid.

Now I’d like to direct you to the placement of the shoulders. They’re way down on his arm! Which, honestly, would be just fine if the sleeves weren’t flappy-dappy.

Which brings us to the biggest problem. Because the sleeve balance is something easy to see and obvious. But the less obvious problem is proportional. The chest fits really nicely, and when you buy something online, it’s the chest you’re buying against. You look at the chest measurements and you compare to your body measurements, and there you go! A chest that fits with these big stupid sleeves. And that’s why you need the big, shoulders, to make these two pieces to the puzzle fit together. If the shoulders were the correct size to the proportion of the chest, they’d be narrower.

But he’s wearing two different t-shirts. One fits (the chest) and one doesn’t (the sleeves).

So, why is it this way?

Part of the reason is that the customer’s gotten sloppy and doesn’t care (yes, I’m talking to you). The other reason is that those sleeves are easier to sew than sleeves that fit. In order to get the curve of the armhole to fit around the body, a bunch of cool easing and stretching techniques have to be used so there’s not four yards of fabric in the armpit. But if you make big shoulders and a straight-ish armhole, you can sew a million of them consistently and sell them for ten bucks each.

This is better. At least he doesn’t look like he’s going to fly away. The sleeve openings are level to the earth and the shoulders hit in the right place. And though the chest still fits, to be honest, the sleeves now look too small for the body, proportionally. And there are draglines on the sleeve (little vertical creases) caused by a poorly balanced sleeve cap. Fixing that is another whole order of patternmaking and sewing though, so you can ignore me.

This is the nicest-fitting t-shirt I’ve seen. The sleeves are tight, which makes it good for wearing a jacket or sweater over it, and the shoulders are just where they should be. The problem of course is that it’s generally too tight. It’s also short. You can see how high it’s falling on his crotch.

OK, so I went looking for a Guess tee, because they fit better than 90% of the men’s tees out there (disclaimer – I was employed by Guess and yes, worked on the men’s t-shirts). But this one is not good, and led me to something else I wanted to point out. When you buy a graphic tee that’s really soft and has these cool stitches and stuff, be aware they are beat to hell in the production process. Dyed, washed, printed, dyed and washed again. One medium likely won’t fit like the next medium. So you get one like this, that’s about an inch and a half too short, and the stitching on the sleeves didn’t shrink at the same rate as the rest of it – so you have these bizarre ruffle/wing things at the cuff.

OK, this one looks good. I mean I could pick it apart, but I know you guys don’t want to spend an hour in the dressing room, with your girlfriends sitting outside wishing they were watching football.

Askew images down to me I’m afraid. Still trying to blog one-handed…

I’m not going to say anything about Christine’s observation that most men in America dress like laundry sacks. As to my own fashion sense, I haven’t got any. But here in West Africa the fashion rule is simple: vibrant colours and walk tall.

In the New Year I’ll be finally beginning my West Africa blog Paradise Amid Poverty, on my life here in sub-Saharan Africa, and will be getting some great photos of the absolutely to-die-for everyday fashions that make West African women the envy of the world, and one of the key reasons I shall never leave.

Meanwhile, since Christine chose this blog to be illustrated with the male figure, I leave you with this parting image of how most men (Not me!) dress here.

T-Shirts Who needs them?


MWiDP Mid-Week Review – Georgina Young Ellis

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good blog must be in want of a guest post to make life easier and entertain the masses.

So let’s all be thankful to Georgina Young-Ellis for being available at short notice to step in on behalf of yours truly and bail me out on my second week of the MWiDP Mid-Week Reviews.

The more astute observers among you will have noticed this isn’t Gerry McCullough’s review of Tom Winton’s The Last American Martyr as I indicated last week would be this Wednesday’s post. As ever the best laid plans…

In fact the review of Tom’s book had been held over because Tom had joined us with another of his books, Beyond Nostalgia, and I promise we will get to hear about both just as soon as all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together. Why they’re not right now is partly my fault – I left my datacard with the relevant files in a place geographically barely twenty miles away, but in travel time several days away.

I say partly because we have been distracted by other concerns, like our best-seller Sugar & Spice going missing completely on Amazon UK for two entire weeks, and most definitely not through any fault our end. This was a pure and simple Amazon balls-up, and one we’re none too happy about. We readily accept errors and glitches can happen, and with the best will in the world errors and glitches will happen.

What both perturbs and disturbs us is the fact that it has taken two weeks for Amazon to get round to resolving. Several days just to get an acknowledgement, then we were told it would be several days before someone could address the problem. Then we were told it would be several days more as the problem wasn’t what they first thought.

As Saffi explains in detail over as her own blog, we were actually fortunate this didn’t happen earlier, when we were still riding high in the charts, or just when we were starting to climb. For two entire weeks no-one in the UK has be able to buy – or even find – our book on Kindle UK. If this had happened back in May or June it would have pretty much finished us.

NOT available on on Amazon UK

Amazon have made clear they will not reimburse us for lost sales, and while that’s a minor consideration (but irritating given this problem is entirely their fault) it seems they also will not reinstate us by chart position or in categories. I somehow doubt they’d treat their Big Six clients like this, or the authors using their own imprint.

Come to that I doubt most self-publishers would get this sort of service. Amazon supposedly prides itself on being the most customer-centric company on the planet. ot from where we’re standing! It seems yet another example where Amazon treat the satellite sites as second-rate sideline enterprises, where problems are set aside to be sorted when they have a spare moment.


But life goes on. And Georgina Young Ellis is her to prove the point, with a delightful post about tastes in reading.  Here’s Georgina.

I’m always astounded by the wide range of taste in books. I belong to an online book discussion forum which gets thousands of posts on a simple topic: What Book Are You Reading? Someone started this thread by giving a list of some of their favorite reads, and then asking for recommendations. It got people talking  not only about what they’re reading but chiming in about what others are reading, mostly in an engaging conversational way with almost none of the negativity you find on other forums. Not only do I like to know what people are reading, but I love being part of that discussion…what avid reader doesn’t? And how many authors, like me, aren’t avid readers? Very few I would imagine. I’m sure it is the passion for literary discussion that spawned sites such as Shelfari and Goodreads.

What’s fascinating to me is when I recommend a book, say, Wilkie Collins’ Woman in White, and a conversation is generated, with some saying how much they loved it and others complaining that they couldn’t get more than a chapter into it. I believe this phenomenon often stems from people picking up books that aren’t really in their preferred genres. If you don’t like classic literature, stay away from Wilkie Collins, I say. By the same token, if you don’t like sci-fi, stay away from A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and if you are solidly a non-fiction reader, don’t try to pick up the latest best-selling novel. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t try to expand their horizons, but people do really tend to enjoy one or two or three genres over all others. (Inevitably, if someone doesn’t really care for my novel, it’s because they don’t get Jane Austen. Please note: I’m not comparing my novel to Jane’s work, but it was certainly inspired by it.)

I have even been known, on the thankfully few occasions that my novel received a less-than-stellar review, to go to the Amazon or Goodreads page of a book by an author that I love, like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneggar, or The Hummingbird’s Daughter, by Luis Alberto Urrea, and read over some of the negative reviews of those books, just to make myself feel better. I always think: how on earth is it possible for me to love these books so passionately and for others to hate them almost equally so? Besides my genre theory, I don’t really know. But such is the beauty of diversified thought, the thing that makes the world of literature so vast, and book clubs and online forums, or the sharing of literary opinions in coffee shops and water coolers so compelling. So…what book are you reading?

Georgina Young-Ellis

Well, since you ask, Georgina, I’m edit-reading Sherwood Ltd, which is the next book due on the e-shelves from Anne R. Allen (just in time for Christmas!).

And next after that will be J. Carson Black’s Dead On The Edge Of Town.

Ashamed to say I haven’t personally read Georgina’s The Time Baroness yet, but that’s just waiting until my mind-set pendulum swings back to Regency mood. It’s high on my TBR list, and very much looking forward to it.

Why? Because Georgina has rather bravely stepped completely outside the box and written a sci-fi Jane Austen novel. This from the blurb:

The Time Baroness is the story of Dr. Cassandra Reilly, a scientist from the year 2120 who embarks upon a time travel journey to England of 1820. Her purpose is to conduct an experiment: living for a year in the guise of a wealthy widow and interacting within the Regency world. Though she has painstakingly prepared for the experience, her unusual ways arouse both ire and interest from her neighbors…and attract an unexpected admirer. Ultimately, circumstances beyond Cassandra’s control plunge her into a dangerous adventure, and she learns that people, and love, aren’t always what they seem to be.

Now who could possibly resist that? A Regency sci-fi! You just couldn’t make it up… Well, obviously Georgina could, and did, but you know what I mean.

The Time Baroness is available on and, and if anyone on the UK site experiences any problems buying it (we are aware of issues with many other titles by other authors, not just our own) just email me here ( and we’ll make sure you get a copy.

Ghostwriters In The Sky – Anne R. Allen’s Latest Release

Happy Halloween!

Okay, so it may not be Halloween yet where you are, but think time zones! For some MWi readers it’s already started!

No “proper” post here at MWi today. As ever, I’m over at WG2E, where today the title is Forward To The Future. Tomorrow Always Comes, and the topic is why it’s important for us as writers to look ahead, think ahead and plan ahead if we intend to stay ahead.

Needless to say MW has his crystal ball out and sets out some likely future developments that will affect us all. Given his track record so far I’d say it’s worth checking out.

* * *

There’s also talk about the future over at MWiDP, for those who missed it, including advance news of the pending MWi ebook store.

And if you check out the comments you’ll find that some unexpected references by Elizabeth Ann West forced us to play our hand early and reveal our Teach The World To Read project, which we were kind of hoping to keep under wraps until the New Year.

But ne’er mind. We still have plenty more surprises in store for 2012!

* * *

Meanwhile back to today.

While MWiDP has got off to a great start with the Crossing The Pond initiative, we’re only a month old and so far only have one author, ourselves aside, that we have taken all the way from draft manuscript to pristine published product. That person being the one and only blogging guru Anne R. Allen.

Anne has no less than three previously unpublished novels debuting with us.

The first, The Gatsby Game, which is a murder-mystery based on real life events, has been out a few weeks now.

The third, due out before Christmas, is Sherwood Ltd,  a satirical comic murder mystery, part of the Camilla Randall Mystery series, set in our very own merry England in the Lincoln green countryside of the Robin Hood legend.

But just in time for Halloween comes another in the Camilla Randall Mystery series – Ghostwriters In the Sky. Set in a writers’ conference on a cowboy ranch in California, the victim, the suspects and the MC are all writers. Irresistable or what?

NYT best-selling author Ruth Harris described it as “chick-lit noir with a side of funny”. Kindle UK best-selling athor Saffina Desforges (no, I’ve never heard of her either) describes it as “chick-lit for brunettes”.

But there’s no hair-color checks on and so don’t be deterred if your hair doesn’t match. Even baldies can buy!

So grab yourself a glass of wine, a box of chocolates and a comfy sofa, and enjoy Halloween courtesy of Anne R. Allen.

The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself Before You Publish – Anne R. Allen

If it’s Sunday, it means I’ve crossed the pond and can be found lurking over on WG2E again. Which is rather appropriate because, as promised yesterday, my post at WG2E is all about the launch of our new publishing imprint, the Mark Williams international Digitial Press, and in particular our unique Crossing The Pond service.

Ruth Harris

Here at MWi in West Africa I’ve dragged blogging guru Anne R Allen all the way across from California to stand in for me. Problem is, Anne posts on Sundays too. So Anne had to drag NYT best-selling author Ruth Harris across from New York to the Pacific coast to fill that gap. A right game of musical chairs.

Was it worth it? Only you can judge. But word was out last week from Gatekeepers Inc  that all us writers are wasting our time blogging. Over at the Passive Voice the one and only Passive Guy was discussing  a post on a literary agents’ site. The argument being put forward by Wendy Lawton was that writers are wasting their time writing blogs as they don’t sell books and are only read by other authors.

Leaving aside the ludicrous suggestion implicit that writers don’t read books, Wendy seems to be rather missing the point about why writers blog, which is hilarious given how agents nowadays constantly recite the mantra about all writers needing to have a degree in SMP to get anywhere .

What Wendy doesn’t understand is this: A good writing blog is an extension of that writer’s purpose in life:  To write.

Bloggers who scream Buy My Book! in every post soon have no readers. But good blogs attract readers back time and again. A good blog sells the author, not the book. Wendy Lawton, you have a lot to learn.

Anne R Allen

Today’s guest is a fine example. Anne R Allen is one of the leading blogging gurus in our field, widely loved and respected for her weekly observations on the writing life. Yet Anne hasn’t had a book available for sale for years! Her last publisher inconsiderately went bankrupt and left her in limbo as an author.

In fact, just this week has that finally been remedied, with the first of two of Anne’s books being released by Popcorn, a small press outfit in the US (about which I’ll be returning in another post). Prior to this Anne had trod the same path of agent rejection and author dejection as the rest of us. She could have walked away and watched TV, but instead Anne started blogging for the benefit of fellow writers, and today gets visitor numbers most of us can only dream of.

The connection with the Seurat painting? Just the title, Sunday Afternoon. After all, we don’t need an excuse to display fine art.

But we do need today’s guest, Anne R Allen, to show us how blogging too can be a fine art.

Here’s Anne:

The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself before You Publish

Two decades ago, if I’d known the challenges I’d face in pursuing a writing career, I’d have chosen a more stable profession.

Like maybe running an all-ayatollah drag show in downtown Tehran.

Since the late ’nineties, writers have been treated with more and more contempt by the publishing industry, as marketing departments have taken control of artistic decisions and editorial meetings have turned into Gossip Girl-style hissy-fights. Advances have shrunk, royalties never happen, and contracts have turned draconian. Even long-established authors can barely scrape together a living and only a handful of superstars get the benefit of publicity and marketing.

But a little less than two years ago, this crumbling world was rocked by an earthquake called the Kindle, and aftershocks are still altering the landscape on a daily basis. The pulp paperback is in its death throes, as mass market houses like Dorchester slink into ignominious bankruptcy. E-book sales grew 169% just last month.

Trusted voices in the publishing industry, who not long ago warned against self-publishing, now sing the praises of self-epubbing. Insiders Nathan Bransford and Jane Friedman see it as the most lucrative road for many authors. Agents like Laurie McLean and Jenny Bent suggest new authors self-publish rather than directly query agencies.

And writers are shouting hallelujah. After years of being told to wait, wait, wait, and LEARN PATIENCE, PEOPLE, aspiring writers have hopes of establishing careers writing fiction. Now. Not three or five or ten years down the road after the excruciating query/submission/editing process, but right this minute.

Self-pub gurus urge you to jump in immediately, because 1) You’re throwing away the money you could be making on those manuscripts sitting in your files. 2) There’s an indie “bubble” that’s about to burst. (We’ve been hearing that almost since Joe Konrath published his first blogpost, and now Stephen Leather is telling us the party’s almost over.)  (Do read Mark’s rebuttal.)

The biggest lure of all is that writers are making real money. Joe Konrath and the superfab ladies at the Writers Guide to E-Publishing  regularly post hot financial statistics that are pure writer porn.

Is it time for you to join in the orgy?

Maybe not.

Something happened last spring that serves as a cautionary tale.

It was a brouhaha that went viral when an indie author came to cyberblows with a book blogger over a bad review. The author had a very childish meltdown and the entire blogosphere followed suit: a Lord of the Flies moment in indie-land.

I think the people who made the nasty blog comments all wanted to believe it all happened because the writer’s book was really bad—so they could tell themselves it would never happen to them.


But Isaac Asimov once observed that writers fall into two groups: “those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.”

Unfortunately, in these days of social media, there’s very little “secretly” any more. Everything is visible—on a global scale.

That writer wasn’t ready to publish—regardless of the quality of her book. Her problem was that she hadn’t yet developed the soul-calluses that are required of a professional author these days.

Turns out there were some unspoken benefits to the old query-fail-query-fail-submission-fail-editorial meeting-fail, fail, fail system we’ve suffered through for the past few decades. It not only gave writers numerous readers to help hone our books to perfection—it also taught us to deal with rejection, failure and bad reviews.

If you choose to self-publish because you can’t handle the rejection of the query process, you’re setting yourself up for worse pain later on. If those form rejections in your email sting, think of how you’ll feel when very personal rejection is broadcast all over the blogosphere.

Don’t publish until you’re psychologically prepared to take the heat. Always keep in mind this is a business, and business can be nasty.

Here’s the question to ask yourself when you’re trying to decide if it’s time to publish:

Are you emotionally ready for your close-up?

Every successful author gets nasty reviews. Every. Single. One. If you want proof, go read the one-star reviews of literary classics on Amazon. Unfortunately, indie authors attract those one-star reviews more than any others. In fact there are professional review trolls who are paid to bring down a popular writer’s star ratings by rivals in the genre. (Yeah, it’s an indie-eat-indie world out there.)

Learning to deal with crushing, unfair criticism needs to be part of your skill set. Make sure you keep in touch with the part of you that has nothing to do with your books—the one that goes outside to hear real birds twitter and gets face to face with actual friends.

And do make sure your book is really, truly ready. Not just for friendly readers, but unfriendly ones. I suggest you look for some not-so-tame beta readers and ask them to do their worst. Then imagine seeing their harshest words in a review. Can you see how a reader might accept them as valid? If so, hold off and do some more editing. Better yet, write another book. (David Gaughran has a must-read post this week about the need for inventory in indie publishing success.) Then edit the first book again.

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Then you need to accept that after a nasty review, it’s time to STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Hide all electronic communication devices and bring in chocolate, wine, DVDs, and/or your BFF, and hibernate. PAY IT FORWARD author Catherine Ryan Hyde suggests you allow yourself to mourn for at least three days after a bad review. I think that sounds about right.

And this advice doesn’t just apply to self-publishers. My comic thriller FOOD OF LOVE went up on Amazon this weekend. It’s professionally edited and polished, but way quirky. It breaks all recognized rules of corporate publishing. And a whole lot of other rules besides. It roller-coasters from comedy to tragedy. It’s got politics, religion, race issues, and body-image issues. Also a hot KGB agent, a sexy fat chick and a couple of Elvis impersonators. Plus a small nuclear bomb.   

I’ve got to anticipate that a few readers will find it all too much. 

So if you miss me from the blogosphere for a few days after the reviews start coming in, you’ll know I’ve taken my bag of Belgian chocolate chunks off to the beach. If I’ve learned anything in my two decades of rejection, it’s how to put on a happy face and do my copious bleeding in secret.

Thanks, Anne. Not so many thanks, though, for reminding me about all those great Asimov books I haven’t read in decades. My poor Kindle will explode!

Anne will have her second book out with Popcorn shortly.  And another three out with that upstart digi-press MWiDP between now and November. More on those nearer the time.

Meanwhile you can be sure she’ll be ignoring the advice of Wendy Lawton and carrying on blogging with a vengeance.

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