Tag Archives: ePublishing

Guest post: Felicity Harley on Why I refer to my SF novel as Science AND Fiction

Felicity Harley has been previously promoted on my other blog, Reading Recommendations, and was also a guest on this blog, writing about book clubs. I recently assisted Felicity by beta-reading and polish-editing this latest novel of hers and was struck by the fact that she told me she was referring to it as “Science AND Fiction” rather than the better-known genre of Science Fiction, so I asked her to explain why.

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I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. My favorite writers are Herbert, Asimov, Bradbury and Orwell. I tend to like science fiction writers who explore what happens to human beings within the context of societies like ours which divorce us from our essential humanity. That’s why I like Farenheit 451, 1984 and The End of Eternity.

I think Herbert was quite prescient when he wrote Dune, because he imagined a planet and human beings living there who had to exist without water. In fact, he was one of the first authors to popularize the importance of preserving our planet’s ecology. In my mind as well, all these authors in one way or another, examine the relationships between religion, politics and power, and also between bureaucracy and government.

Because of my own fascination with these themes, and because I’m also a student of social science by training, I set out to write a quartet of novels placing a group of humans in a futuristic society that had failed to stop runaway climate change. I was fascinated by Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, and both she and her book served as inspirations to me.

Before reading Naomi Klein however, I had written what is now the fourth book in the quartet, My Quantum Life. This book was based on Michael Talbot’s book, The Holographic Universe. I have always been fascinated by the spiritual aspects of quantum physics, and Talbot’s book put the science of it all into perspective. It was very readable for a neophyte like myself, and it clicked.

The Burning Years is the first book in my four book series titled Until This Last and has just been published by Double Dragon Press. It explores a lot of hard science around space travel, bionics, and what is causing climate change. Besides Klein, my mentor for this book was Dr. Rachel Armstrong. On my site for the book you’ll find out all about her. She is a remarkable woman and a brilliant scientist. Dr. Rachel Chen, who in my novel is captain of the world ship Persephone, is based on how I imagine Armstrong to be. In my book, Persephone is a human ark; this actually exists, and is being conceived of right now by Rachel Armstrong and a team of scientists. It’s built around the idea of a renewable chemical technology called protocells. In the future, protocells could replace plastics and also animal products and will be essential in the preservation of our planet.

My ark explores Mars and Europa then sets sail for Alpha Centauri. The Australian scientist Wallace Thornhill was very helpful to me as I wrote these sections. He introduced me to an electrical universe and warm nuclear fusion technology, and I learned more from him on this subject than I ever thought I was capable. He would send me wonderful emails that took me several days to decode. His final words to me were, “Don’t worry about the science, leave that to scientists, use your writing as a springboard for your imagination.”

Besides hard science however, The Burning Years explores lots of ways we could live on a burnt out planet in the future, and it has two re-engineered transhuman beings who do just that. Introducing them as characters allowed me to explore the whole field of Artificial Intelligence and how two super humans, a male and female, might think and act. Again the social scientist at play. How would their biology, psychology and past influence them. How would their male and female genetics and gender-biases, play a part?

The arc of the plot is set against a U.S. government of plutocrats that has fled underground, who have saved themselves and a few others, the brightest and the best. Of course there are insurgents, and one of them is a female scientist who is heavily involved in geo-engineering the weather. The book takes place about sixty years in the future, just around the time when we may experience dramatic effects from climate change.

I deliberately did not want to write a dystopian book, but one that was full of hope based on our finer instincts as a species, our desire to return to smaller communities, and our current and future knowledge of technology. I am not good with violence, unlike George R.R. Martin who very skillfully explores all those dark sides of humanity and creates fabulous villains. My villains tend to be more grey and struggle internally with a lot of philosophical and moral dilemmas. My women are very strong, just like Martin’s, and my main female character, Inanna. would definitely be friends with Daeneyrs Targaryen.

Now I just have to figure out how to get people to take climate change seriously. I plan to use the book as a tool to get readers involved. The Burning Years is being published as an eBook by Double Dragon Publishing in April 2017. I chose Deron Douglas as my publisher because he loved the book on first read, and I just couldn’t take a chance waiting for other big-name SF publishers to give me an answer.

Please check out my site to buy the book and I would appreciate it if you review it on Amazon for me. And, while on my site, see how you can become involved with 350.org or any other organizations working to stop elements of man-made climate change, so as to keep our planet safe and livable in the future.

Felicity’s new novel has recently been promoted on Reading Recommendations. She is also a fellow-Bequian!

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Blood in the Water – with special mention of Bequia!

Tim Baker is a thriller/suspense writer, originally from Rhode Island, who now makes his home in Flagler Beach, Florida, where his series of nine novels is set. Tim is also a DJ on local Flagler Beach radio station, Surf 97.3, that we can pick up online here on Bequia – or anywhere else we happen to be in the world.

14606493_10201994903831284_6754833612505791100_n Tim was one of the first authors I promoted on my blog Reading Recommendations. And I’ve been reading and promoting his novels ever since. As he has done for me. (More importantly, he’s kicked my butt to keep me writing and publishing and I thanked him for that “encouragement” on the Acknowledgements page in my latest novel.)

Tim also shouts me out on his radio programs, mentioning that Dennis and I are listening from Bequia, and playing our favourite music.

I’ve had the great pleasure to beta-read several of Tim’s novels before they were published, and sometimes he even listens to my advice! I read Blood in the Water early last summer and offered my suggestions. Tim ePublished the book in September then printed copies shortly after that. I’ve been in the habit of ordering all print copies from Tim directly, so he signs them to me, and these books are now shelved between Jane Austen and Nick Bantock on the top shelf of my Wall of Words in the Bequia house. Tim offered to mail this new book to me on Bequia, since I’d already left Canada when it became available. I told him it likely would take forever to arrive/or never arrive at all, but I was surprised when the parcel was here within three weeks. Possibly a new record in mail delivery to this little corner of the Caribbean?

Anyway, once we did receive the book, Dennis claimed it to read next, since I had already read the book in beta format. Imagine my surprise when Dennis finished reading yesterday and said, “It was pretty neat that Tim mentioned Bequia in this book.”

Whaaa??? I said. Where was that?

He flipped through the end of the book and pointed to this exchange on p. 183:

“So what will you do now?” Val asked.

“There’s an island in the Grenadines called Bequia. I’m thinking of opening a dive shop there.”

“Sounds like a nice retirement plan,” Val said.

(Reprinted here with permission of the author!)

When I contacted Tim to tell him of our discovery, he said he’d added that after I had read the book as a little surprise. Not only was I surprised, but I was also quite chuffed with this new connection between Tim and me and the books we write.

Not that Tim’s characters haven’t already visited Bequia … In my contribution to Path of a Bullet, an anthology of short stories by Tim and writer-pals that he published in 2014, a few of Tim’s recurring characters, including Ike, visit the island of Bequia. Bequia Blues was written to bring Tim’s characters together in the setting where my novels take place. It was a lot of fun to write!

So … Did Dennis enjoy the book? Here’s his review:

“That was great!”

(He is an engineer, after all, and a man of few words, some of the time. Tim appreciated the comment when I told him.)

As for me, I thought this was the best novel of everything Tim has written – and I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve read. But that was my conclusion long before our discovery of the mention in it of Bequia! Thanks, Tim! Now it’s the BEST BOOK EVER!!!

Well, maybe I exaggerate, but I do highly recommend this, as well as all of Tim’s books. Oh, and you can’t go wrong listening to Tim’s radio programs while you read, either …

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A new story by Michael Fay!

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IslandShorts has just finished preparing another ePublication of a long-form short story written by J. Michael Fay!

Human Powered Design is formatting the eBooks and will list them for sale online.

As with Michael’s other publications, once again the original cover art was provided by Karen Sloan of Wallflower Studio Art in Minden, ON.

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The incomparable Rachel Small, Faultless Finish Editing, provided the final editing and proofing services.

Here’s the synopsis, Michael’s bio, and an advance-reader blurb:

Dan James graduates from college in 1967, a time of major conflicts in the US, when friends are being drafted to fight in the war in Vietnam. Dan, however, chooses to become involved in a different fight, one for human rights. He eventually heads north to Canada, a place where he can pursue a life working for the betterment of all. But also a place where the conflicts turn out to be much more personal.

Draft Dodger? is the next in Michael Fay’s series of long-form short stories, following Passion, The Whirlabout and The Healer. Along with Tenderness, all have been published by IslandShorts.

Michael Fay studied creative writing with W. O. Mitchell, Alice Munro, and Richard Ford and was also the founder of the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society in Calgary. Michael lives in Minden, Ontario, with his wife, Dr. Fay Martin.

Sparkling dialogue and detailed scenes evoke the 1960s in this tale of tested loyalties – loyalties to friends, to country, and to ideals. The Vietnam War overshadows two young men’s dreams, from the white columns of the graduation prom to the red blood of cracked heads at a demonstration, as boyhood rivals Dan and Graham trade quips, barbs and lovers. ~ Penney Kome, author and journalist

From the perspective of today, we look back on the sixties with nostalgia … free love, demos in the streets, back to the land communes and so much more. But often, the vision, as seen through the six decades that separate us from those days, play tricks with our memory. Writer Michael Fay brings it all back into sharp focus showing us the disappointments, the illusions and tempered idealism that was in fact the reality in the season of Peace Love and Rock n Roll.
~ Jack Brezina, retired editor and publisher

We’re just waiting for a few more bits of information to come in before pressing the “Publish” button. If you’re interested in this new eBook by Michael Fay, please stay tuned and check back to this blog where we’ll be announcing the exact publishing date and availability online, once we have all the links and information.

Please check out the previous publications from IslandShorts by clicking here for the list of eBooks and where to purchase. As we like to say …

For a Great Read, Slip Into Our Shorts!

(If you would like to read to review any of our publications please contact me directly: susanmtoy (at) gmail.com)

… better than winning a contest!!

While contest judges may not have considered my novel worthy enough to make their shortlist, I’ve just received far-better validation from a friend who offered to read and write an advance review I can now use in pre-publication promotion.

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And what validation and praise it is, coming from an author who also intimately knows Bequia!

Thanks to Felicity Harley who I promoted previously on Reading Recommendations, and who sent me congratulations on Reading Recommendations‘ anniversary, and wrote a guest post about her two book clubs, and wrote a fabulous review on Amazon of Island in the Clouds … which is how we first “met” online, and since then in person this year while we were both on Bequia.

Here’s what Felicity has to say about One Woman’s Island:

Among its other virtues, One Woman’s Island beautifully captures the spirit of being on the island of Bequia. I also enjoyed the fact that the author’s ear for the local dialogue is faultless.

Besides its lush and exotic setting however, throughout its pages, the book accurately and with pathos reflects the end of an unsatisfactory marriage for narrator Mariana, who is constantly searching for something meaningful to take its place.

There are a slew of interesting characters in the book as well, including a talking parrot and the visitor from hell.

As Mariana tries to sort out her own life, she takes a young girl, Verity, and her two children under her wing, and is criticized about her “plan” in no uncertain terms by Al, one of the die-hard ex-pats who live there:

“I’m so sick and tired of you do-goodnik, butt-in-ski foreigners who come here with your socialist attitudes thinking life should be a bed of roses for everyone in the world. It’s not. What you don’t understand about Bequia is while it doesn’t have an organized social safety net like what you’re used to in pinko Canada, the people here do generally look after their own—maybe not to the level of your satisfaction, but there haven’t been any cases of people starving to death from neglect on this island lately, so far as I know. Am I right, Doc?”

Besides having interesting and believable characters, there is also a fast-moving plot that keeps the reader engaged, including several murders taking place over the course of the winter months Mariana is staying on Bequia.

Perhaps the heart and soul of the book is summed up at the end by Mariana and Tex, a fast-talking, larger-than-life guy with a heart of gold, and one of my favorite characters:

“When I came here last October, I thought Bequia was going to be paradise, Tex,” I said quietly.

“Here’s how I see it: any place you are can be paradise. It’s all in your mind; it’s whatever you want it to be.”

With its complex characters, fast-moving plot, authentic setting and underlying seriousness of questions so skillfully raised, One Woman’s Island is a book that should garner a wide readership, one far larger than those who are already familiar with Bequia.

But for those of us like myself who are familiar with the setting, we’ll enjoy the island the author presents in her book as one we’ve come to know and love, despite its all-too-human complexities.

I’d better get cracking and prepare that MS for ePublication! And I now have my “quotable quote” with that second-last paragraph. It’s perfect for advertising copy!!

Thanks, Felicity! I just can’t thank you enough!

no joy in Mudville …

The shortlist for the writing contest I entered has been posted and … my novel did not make the cut.

I had kind of hoped that, since Tues. was my birthday, my luck might have lasted long enough that I would have been chosen. Oh, well ..

So now I’m back to Plan A and working in earnest to prepare the manuscript to be sent to the eBook formatter for publishing.

Well, “earnest” is maybe a bit of a stretch. There’s a lot of work still to be done, blurbs to be requested, promotion to be organized and set up, (and, yes, even recipes to be tested!) before this novel will be ready to purchase and read.

So continue to watch this space for updates and new announcements about what’s going on in my world.

In the meantime, I’m so thrilled because I actually sold 3 (three) eBook copies of Island in the Clouds last month!! (It’s the little things that count, and I really do appreciate every sale and every reader.)

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Finally!! The wait is over … nearly

It’s been one-month-and-a-day since I wrote this Guest Post on Seumas Gallacher’s blog, in which I listed the 10 ways I was dealing with having to wait for my editor, Rachel Small, to finish her edit of my recently completed novel, One Woman’s Island (the second in the Bequia Perspectives series).

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I’m happy to tell you now that Rachel did get that manuscript back to me in plenty of time so I could revise and fix it up to meet the deadline for a contest I linked to in this earlier blog post. And I did make it, too – with an entire day-and-a-half to spare!

And so I wait … again. But this time only for another week until the shortlist is announced. Once I know my novel’s fate, I’ll be able to determine when I can go ahead and ePublish.

In the meantime, I’ll be sorting through ways to promote this new book and figure out how I’m going to afford the cost of printing copies, for those who prefer print .. and for The Bequia Bookshop to sell, come tourist season.

I’ve also been helping both Tim Phillips and Michael Fay publish new eBooks through IslandCatEditions and Island Shorts.

And I’m making changes in my head to the third Bequia Perspectives novel, Tropical Paradox. But there’s a great deal of work yet to be done on the manuscript, so don’t expect to hear an announcement about that any time soon!

A PDF of One Woman’s Island is circulating among a few trusted friends/readers (especially those who know Bequia) and I’m hoping for an honest opinion of the book in advance of publishing. I’ll also ask to use any favourable comments in future promotion once the eBook is released. Already I’ve been sent over-the-top comments from one Bequia friend who read a pre-edited version, so I’m hoping other advance readers will be similarly pleased with this new novel. I’m all goose-pimply now, waiting for their comments …

But at least this time I haven’t had to mow the lawn to pass the time, since Dennis has been visiting the trailer. We did decide yesterday to subscribe to the park’s internet service though and, as predicted, I’ve been online pretty much the entire time since we first logged in. So pathetic. One thing is that being online (mostly playing on Facebook) does pass the time. While I wait.

And they do say that good things come to those who wait. Here’s hoping THEY are correct!

A small request of all my readers …

iitcYes, I know this news is going to be hard to believe, but after 4 years in publication (both as an eBook and in print) Island in the Clouds will finally have a sister-novel to share your shelf or space on your eReader! I finished writing an umpteenth draft of One Woman’s Island a week-and-a-half ago and now it’s in the hands of my editor, Rachel Small. I think at this point in time, after writing and rewriting the story of Mariana on Bequia these past 12 years, I’m more relieved than excited. Now comes the ultra hard work of preparing the final edited manuscript for ePublication, sometime later this year.onewomanisland-cover-draft-3

That publication date has been moved back further, however, because yesterday I discovered this link to a competition for which the new novel qualifies. But the novel needs to be unpublished. Might as well give that a shot first, I thought. What is there to lose? Other than more time before I can actually publish it.

18598024So, while I wait for the edit to be completed and the MS to be prepared for submission to this contest, I figured it was as good a time as any to promote my writing in general, and build more awareness of the Bequia Perspectives Novels as well as my IslandShorts novella, That Last Summer. And this brings me around to my “request” in the blog post title …

If you have read either Island in the Clouds or That Last Summer (or both!) and enjoyed reading them – but you haven’t yet posted a review online about either, I would appreciate you doing so now, on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, your library’s website, or your own blog. I’m hoping to build up awareness for my writing in general so when I begin promoting the publication of One Woman’s Island I have a solid fan base in place who will do the heavy-lifting of informing and, hopefully, exciting different readers about the new book. If you have already posted something to do with me or my writing on your own blog I have likely added that link to this page or this one. If your interview or review are not listed there, please let me know so I can include you.IS (Also, now available as an eBook, One Woman’s Island!)

Now, I know some readers are shy and don’t want their thoughts and opinions posted in public, and especially not online. I appreciate and understand that feeling! If you have read my books though and enjoyed them enough to want to tell me about that enjoyment, then please send me an email (susanmtoy (at) gmail.com). Your review can be as brief as you’d like to make it. And I promise never to divulge your name if you want to remain anonymous, but do let me know if I may post and quote your comments on my blog – without your name attached! – so potential readers have a chance to see what “someone” thinks of my books and my writing. Whatever you decide, please do write and tell me whatever it is that you think. The best way for any author to improve is to listen to comments made by their readers. After all, it’s you we’re writing for in the first place!

What I hope to achieve by all this, of course, is a build-up of word-of-mouth promotion. You who are already satisfied readers will become, I hope, the foot soldiers in my campaign to promote the new book. If you DO want me to quote you in future publicity then let me know I may use your name. A review with a real name has so much more credibility, and I’ll be using the best of those as bullets (not real gun bullets, of course!) and endorsements when I finally do release the next book in my Bequia series.

The other way for you to become involved in this promotion campaign of mine is by telling your friends about my books, and encouraging them to read what I’ve already published. Then, if they like what they read, they will anticipate the future publication of my books. A readership is something we authors build one reader at a time … and by writing books readers enjoy reading.

So thanks to everyone for reading through my post, and for any help you may be able to offer.

And remember … I am but one author out here who is writing and publishing. There are many, many others who can also use a hand in the promotion of their books. Never discount the effect your personal recommendation has on any book you read and enjoy. Please don’t keep that enjoyment to yourself – tell others about it! An author’s success may just depend on your initial recommendation! (I feel so strongly about this concept that I created the Reading Recommendations blog.) And for those of you who would like to take this a step or two further, here are 99 Ways to Spread the Word About a Book You Love.

Thanks for reading – and commenting and reviewing! I could never have come this far without all of you loyal readers, and I appreciate every single one of you!

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Guest Post: J. Michael Fay on Banff, 1976

A couple of days ago, Michael Fay wrote this guest blog post on his experience at the Bread Loaf Writing Conference in 1978. Here’s Michael for a return visit and more reminiscing about writing during the 70s, this time in the Literary Arts Program at the Banff Centre, Alberta.

Bill Mitchell and the Banff Centre 1976

I was tingling with excitement in the spring of 1976 when I found out I had been accepted into the Creative Writing program at the Banff Centre. It was early in the history of that venerable institution, but not too early to attract participants from across North America. And what a lively gang they proved to be.

I was young and struggling and couldn’t really afford six weeks at the Centre, so I managed to cobble together a job as the ID checker in the cafeteria and a spot at the nearby campground to pitch my tent.

Photo Credit: Pete Patterson

Photo Credit: Pete Patterson

W. O Mitchell was the titular head of the program. But he was really raconteur-in-chief. He sat in on all the seminar sessions, regaled us with tales of boyhood summers, and became the steady beam keeping us on his writing methodology.

Freefall was designed to shut out the ‘critical self’ and let the ‘creative self’ out to play, by getting the writer to write swiftly, checking consciousness for sights, smells, sounds, tastes and touches, which would bring concrete substance to the writing. I spent mornings in a hut on the periphery of the campus banging out Freefall on my electric typewriter and afternoons in the seminar sharing it with my fellow students, W. O., and the brilliant seminar leaders, Ruth Fraser and Sandra Jones. And, as you might have guessed, nights were filled with talk, pints, and camaraderie with the most brilliant folks I had ever encountered.

I managed to bang out over two hundred pages of Freefall that summer. And believe me, that wasn’t out of the ordinary in the writing huts. I also learned to listen carefully to what made writing sing and soar and reach for the wonder of dreams that seemed more real than reality.

I still have those pages with me, yellowing sure, but with me every day as I revisit some of the magical people and places that appeared in the writing hut that special summer. And I continue to write about them every day.

Photo credit Sheila MunroThe very smart directors of the Centre assembled leading artists, playwrights, writers, dancers, and musicians in a wild celebration of the best in the arts. Big Miller belted the blues, Alice Munro shared her inner self, Aaron Copeland led the orchestra through his magnificent Appalachian Spring. I saw him alone one evening, rushed up to him and took his hand, and thanked him for the wonder of his music. He was shy and embarrassed by this bold young guy, but he still seemed to beam.

All of this made the hours checking IDs in the cafeteria and the nights snuggled deeply into my sleeping bag seem incredibly romantic, something a struggling young writer should be doing. And, by golly, it’s what I did! Hemingway had his Paris and I had my Banff…

Coming soon!
Passion
by J. Michael Fay

Published by IslandShorts

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(Michael Fay has been promoted on Reading Recommendations.)

I discovered a couple of videos from the 70s posted online of interviews with W.O. Mitchell (who really was quite the character in real life …) and Alice Munro.

Here’s Big Miller and his big blues sound.

This is a complete recording of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring.

From Gene Doucette … an excellent post discussing the collective insanity of the publishing industry

This excellent post written by Gene Doucette came to my attention recently, and I applaud him for hitting the nail precisely on the head with regards to this whole “print books are outselling eBooks!” and “eBooks are dying!” business that has been making the rounds in the media and on Facebook. Friends have sent me these articles and asked what I thought of the early death of eBooks. I’ve always thought this was a load of crock, but didn’t have the evidence … until I read this blog post of Gene’s. What he says here is entirely believable, and I know it is, because I worked for publishers for a very long time and, for the most part, they never wanted to change the industry in any way – as long as it was going their way. When eBooks were first introduced, I saw this new format as a means of reaching an even wider audience of readers. Not so the publishers who were angst-ridden over marketing and selling these new eBooks – but would never entertain any of my suggestions as to how this might be done differently or how it could involve the traditional booksellers as well as the new online sales markets. That’s all in the past, though, because I walked from that job and began using my own new ePublication to test some of these ideas I’d had. So, it was with great pleasure to discover the following post that explains exactly why the claims of an early demise of digital books are just not true. (Thanks to Gene Doucette for permission to reblog this post, which has gone viral since I first read it. Congratulations, Gene!.)

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The collective insanity of the publishing industry
February 29, 2016 by Gene Doucette

Unless you’re a writer, I imagine you haven’t been paying quite as close attention to the publishing industry and all its weirdness as I have, and that’s a shame, because it’s been really entertaining.

Actually, entertaining isn’t the right word. It’s been insane, but the kind of insane that’s unreasonably fun to watch from a safe remove. Like watching a man stop traffic to cross against a green light by shouting, “I’ll bite your car!” As long as it isn’t your car he’s threatening, it’s sort of funny.

You might imagine that as an author with published works for sale, I am not at a safe remove when it comes to the publishing industry. That’s sort of true, but only sort-of.

Here’s a superb example of the madness of which I speak, and why I’m not concerned that anyone will be biting my car.

In 2014, there was a drawn-out dispute between Amazon, and Hachette. The latter is one of the largest publishers in the world, and Amazon is a company that sells things, such as books. The essence of the dispute was that Hachette—and all the other publishers we affectionately refer to as ‘the Big 5’—wanted more control over the list price of their e-books on Amazon.

That sounds thoroughly reasonable, and it sort of is, but please let me explain because the crazy is in the details. What was happening was that Amazon was discounting the price of the ebooks, and it may seem like this is something the Big 5 would want to stop, except the markdown was coming off of Amazon’s end. In other words, if Hachette wanted to charge $15.99 for an ebook, and Amazon marked it down to $9.99, Hachette was still paid their cut of the full price of the book.

More people will buy a book at $9.99 than at $15.99, so essentially, the Big 5 was coming out ahead in this arrangement in every conceivable way. They collected royalties at an unreasonably high price point while moving the number of units that corresponded to a lower price point.

So of course that had to be stopped right away. Read the complete post here.

For readers in the US, Gene is running a Goodreads Giveaway for his book, The Spaceship Next Door. Enter here!

Guest post: J. Michael Fay on Bread Loaf, 1978

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this article online, A 26-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-August, 1977, and immediately remembered that author, J. Michael Fay, had talked about his time at the Bread Loaf Conference. When I asked, he told me he was there the year following and that he remembered his time fondly. So I asked if he would write about that time …

Bread Loaf 1978
by Michael Fay

I was thrilled to attend the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers’ Program in 1978 with financial support from Alberta Culture. There were 850 applicants that year and only 230 were accepted. The buzz in Vermont that summer was all about two key presenters, John Gardner and John Irving.

Gardner was a key theoretician in the literary community with his classic On Moral Fiction. Irving was on the verge of entering the super-star stratosphere with The World According to Garp. And for two weeks in the mountains of Vermont, those two icons seemed to have permanent circles of supporters surrounding them, day and night.

As presenters, they each soared in his own way: Gardner, the philosopher, and Irving, the raconteur.

It was all magic for me, thousands of miles away from my home in Camrose, Alberta, taking it all in with thirsty relish.

Gardner was all about the head, the structural issues that built strong stories and novels. Irving was all about the heart, the beating centre of a tale that enraptured the reader.

And there were more than these two and others who made formal presentations in the theatre.

Oh my! My fellow students and the carefully selected young writers, working as assistants and fellows, were on their way to successful careers. I only mention two; both had a profound impact on my writing.

Meredith Sue Willis was an amazing novelist who dug deep into the soil of Appalachia to weave tales of intensity and resonance. Richard Ford was a spare and cerebral stylist who examined American life with a probing scalpel.

And thirty-three years later I carry their words as inspiration as I settle in front of a blank white screen and dare to create people and places and events which lurk inside of me and clamor to come to life.

Here’s a photo of Michael taken around this time …

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J. Michael Fay has published three long-form short stories under my IslandShorts imprint and I’m pleased to announce that his most recent publication, Passion, will be released very soon!