Newsflash—Amazon Isn’t Evil After All

Photo Courtesy of Jason Scragz via Creative Commons
[Evil Monkey]Thanks to our friends over at Authors United, there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about Amazon’s business practices as they relate to bookselling. Apparently, the kerfuffle began with the tense negotiations between Amazon and Hachette and has escalated to a letter from Authors United to the DOJ, demanding that they investigate the monopoly that is Amazon.

For the record, I agree with Joe Konrath. These folks appear to be a bunch of “whiny little babies” who are not at all pleased with the direction bookselling has taken—especially concerning independent publishing. Thanks to Amazon, readers are—wait for it—saving money on books. How dare Jeff Bezos put his customers first! And also thanks to Amazon, indie authors like me get a chance to be heard without relying on traditional publishers.

Rather than rehash the debate, I thought I would provide a couple of links. Enjoy!

Joe’s Letter to the Assistant Attorney General
“For the past fifty years, a handful of big publishers have functioned as a cartel, controlling the majority of what has been published. They did this by having an oligopoly over paper distribution. If a writer wanted to get their work into a bookstore, the only way to do so was to sign a contract with them.

“My best guess is that out of every 1000 books written, only 1 was published. That meant 999 out of 1000 books were effectively deep-sixed, prevented from ever reaching the public.”

A Message from the Amazon Books Team
“The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.”

Authors United founder says Amazon’s control of the book industry is “about the same as Standard Oil’s when it was broken up”
“Amazon is like any other corporation; it has two goals. One is to increase market share, and the other is to increase profits. So anyone who thinks that Amazon is their friend is deluded. Is Exxon the friend of everyone who fills up their tank with gas? I don’t think so. Anti-trust laws are to prevent the natural growth of companies to grow to a monopoly status, and then use that monopoly power to stifle competition. And that’s what Amazon has been doing.”

Hugh Howey on Author’s United Letter to the DOJ: “I think it’s hilarious!”
“Amazon has done more good for literature than any other organization in my lifetime. They make books available to people without bookstores nearby, and at great prices. And they pay authors nearly 6 times what publishers do.”

‘Maggie’—A Poignant Family Drama

[Maggie Poster]
Photo Courtesy of IMDb
Maggie’ (2015)
Directed by Henry Hobson
Screenplay by John Scott 3
Drama | Horror | Thriller
Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson
LionsGate
Rated PG-13
Log Line: A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side.

You see, the thing about zombies is, they’re incredible boring. I’m pretty sure that’s why George Romero always chose to marry the “ghouls” in his stories with political commentary. I had to learn this lesson myself with my own horror-thriller trilogy. You cannot expect readers to embrace three novels—nearly three hundred thousand words—if all they have to look forward to is a bunch of drooling braineaters on the loose.

Forget Zombies
‘Maggie’ is not a zombie movie—not in the normal sense. Yes, there are zombies in it—in particular, the title character, played by Abigail Breslin. But these are not the undead we are used to. They are victims of a plague that has swept the planet and has made ordinary people sick—slowly. They may no longer eat, but they can still talk and think and love. They don’t shuffle, and neither do they move ultra-fast as in World War Z.’ They are simply people who are dying.

Against this backdrop you have a father, played beautifully and with quiet strength by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is determined to keep his daughter not only alive, but safe for as long as possible. In doing so, he drives away his wife and their two small children, manages to earn the scorn of the police and quite possibly risks his own life. Because when the day comes that Maggie “turns”—and that day will come—he will be forced to either take her to a quarantine facility, where they will end her life with a death cocktail, or deal with her in his own way at home.

Family Is What Matters
If there’s one lesson that ‘Maggie’ teaches us, it’s that family and friends matter—especially in times of crisis. This movie didn’t have to be about zombies. Wade and his daughter could have ended up exactly in the same situation as a result of worldwide famine, cataclysmic climate change or End Times. It doesn’t matter. For me, the poignancy is most present in those quiet moments when Wade and his daughter are sharing a memory or a laugh. It’s when he desperately tries to get her to eat something to keep up her strength. And it’s when she’s starting to turn and he exhorts her to fight and stay human.

Box Office Fiasco
‘Maggie’ bombed at the box office. As of this writing, it has earned only $187,112 domestic, according to BoxOfficeMojo. And that’s a shame. I think perhaps LionsGate may not have known how best to market this film. I sympathize, though. As soon as you say “zombie” and Arnold Schwarzenegger, audiences are going to have certain expectations. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were thinking guns, brains, and lots and lots of blood. Too bad. This movie is not that.

I’m really hoping ‘Maggie’ does well on video. It deserves an audience—the right audience.

Interview with M. J. Williams, Author of the ON THE ROAD Series

[MJ Williams]Today, I’m pleased to have as my guests Peggy Williams and Mary Joy Johnson, who together write under the pen name M. J. Williams and are the authors of Books One and Two of the “On the Road …” mystery series, On the Road to Death’s Door and On the Road to Where the Bells Toll.

Q. Welcome to you both. Mystery is a genre that seems to appeal to both young readers as well as adults. Personally, I love them, though I haven’t written one myself. So, tell us what’s unique about your stories.

A. Our “On the Road …” mystery series features a retired couple, Emily and Stan, who travel in an inherited, second-hand RV. The most frequent comments we get about our main characters are that they are the kind of people our readers would “love to sit and have a drink with.” We’ve sort of flipped traditional roles and put Emily in the lead when it comes to investigating, because of her law enforcement background. Stan, a retired history professor, is research oriented and more contemplative than his action-oriented wife. They are also grandparents, and in our second book, On the Road to Where the Bells Toll, which takes place in Boston, reviewers have consistently mentioned enjoying the interaction between Emily and Stan and their granddaughters, one of whom is a typical—if moody—teenager.

Q. That’s funny. So, it sounds like you are really contrasting the two generations which, I’m sure, makes for some interesting conflict. Since there are two of you, can you tell us a little bit about the writing process?

A. The process of writing is actually an evolving process of learning how to write as a team. We do all our initial brainstorming and plotting together, something we happened onto while writing our first book, On the Road to Death’s Door. We depend hugely on outlining—using a day-by-day and scene-by-scene outline format that we’ve designed. And we’ve just started using Google docs so that we can work simultaneously side-by-side or from wherever each of us happens to be at the moment. However, once we have a detailed enough outline, we each take a chapter and begin writing solo, often leapfrogging one another from one chapter to the next. When the first draft is done, we sit down together again and our individual voices pretty much automatically meld into one voice as we revise and edit subsequent drafts, just as we’ve done for this interview.

Q. Wow, you’re both way more disciplined than I am! In terms of the theme, what are the one or two things you are hoping the reader will come away with in each book?

A. Because we set our stories in colorful, current-day settings with the mysteries having historical connections, we hope the reader comes away with a deeper curiosity of a time and place, as well as the satisfaction that comes with a good whodunit. Relationship is another important theme for us. We find ourselves exploring the transitions that come later in life. However, readers of all ages can empathize with the interactions between Emily and Stan and between the couple and their friends and family.

Q. What are you working on now, and is it in the same vein as your current mystery series?

A. We are hard at work on the third book in our series, On the Road to the Deadly Apostles, which takes Emily and Stan and their RV up to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Lake Superior, just off northern Wisconsin. There they become ensnared in a sting involving Native American artifact trafficking. We are not quite sure how it all turns out yet.

Q. That sounds exciting! Best of luck to both of you, and thank you.

Book Blurb

[On the Road to Where the Bells Toll Cover]

In this second book in the “On the Road …” mystery series, Stan and Emily pack up the RV and head to Boston for some R & R with the grandkids and a chance to immerse themselves in colonial history. But their Fourth of July celebration comes to an abrupt halt when they stumble over a body on the Boston Esplanade and then another hanging in the tower of the Old North Church. Now the couple must unravel a tangle of forged clues and flush out the perpetrator before their own untimely epitaphs are written onto the historical landscape.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Authors
M. J. Williams is the pen name of sisters-in-law Peggy Joque Williams and Mary Joy Johnson (nee Williams). Peggy is an elementary school teacher and freelance writer. Mary Joy is a retired college professor and professional quilter. Their “On the Road…” mystery series features RVers, Emily and Stan Remington. Both writers live in Madison, Wisconsin.

You can find Peggy on Twitter, and both Peggy and Mary Joy on Facebook, as well as on their Amazon author page.

Meet Samantha Powell from DESIGNING SAMANTHA’S LOVE

[PJ Fiala]Guest post by PJ Fiala

My name is Samantha Powell. I’m in my mid-fifties and have three children—all boys. Joshua is married to Tammy, and they have given me my beautiful, sweet grandchildren—Abby and Dodge. My middle son, Gage, is not married, though he recently started dating, and my son, Jake, is married to Ali. My sons Josh and Jake and my daughter-in-law Ali, all served in the Army. Josh and Jake were both deployed and saw conflict. I’m happy to say they are all home now and doing well. Scary times for us as a family.

I manage a small law office in the Green Bay area and fill in as a paralegal when deemed necessary. The management position is a combination of many functions: HR, scheduling, changing systems and software, overseeing marketing, and so much more. I like the varied tasks built into each day and it’s never dull, which is good and bad. I enjoy my job, but it isn’t without its frustrations.

I was married to my husband, Tim, for close to thirty years. Our marriage, while not a bad marriage, was stressful and unfulfilling. Tim suffered from depression, and it completely consumed us. Each day was filled with the challenge of what Tim couldn’t or wouldn’t do that day. His mother was another story. She constantly meddled in our lives. Because Tim couldn’t break from her strong personality, he would often cave to her many whims. The boys and I were left out in the cold where his attention was concerned.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was relieved when Tim died in a car accident. I’d thought of divorce many times over the years, but I was worried that, due to his frail mental state, he would do something drastic. If he harmed himself because I left the marriage, I knew I couldn’t live with that. Finally being free from that stress left me feeling giddy one minute and scared the next. I know that sounds foolish, but after nearly thirty years of constant manipulation and dealing with Tim’s constant mood swings, I’d lost my identity. Where had Samantha gone?

I spent the first few months following Tim’s death trying to figure that out. I’m not totally there yet, but I’m getting there. I had decided to sell my house and buy a condo where I wouldn’t be tied to the constant upkeep of owning a home, and I could have time for me. So I contacted my friend, Shelia, a seasoned realtor, and she came out and pounded the “For Sale” sign in my front yard. Instead of immediately searching for a new place, I thought it’d be better to wait until my home sold.

Then I met Grayson Kinkaide.

I was minding my own business at work one day, taking care of one of my favorite clients, Mrs. Koeppel, when he walked in the front door. When our eyes met, he smiled, and I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Oh. My. God. Feeling like a teenager at my age was a whole new concept for me.

He asked me out that morning before he went into his appointment with one of our attorneys. I was giddy, excited, and scared out of my mind. I hadn’t been on a date in what…about thirty years? I knew nothing of the current dating protocol or proprieties. After all, it’s not like we were both still virgins. Honestly, I hadn’t felt sexual for the past decade or more. Part of me thought those days were over. The butterflies in my stomach immediately came to life, and I could feel my face heating up as I began to sweat. I know, right?

We went on that first date, and I was enthralled while I listened to him talk about his kids, his parents and siblings, and even his ex-wife. I’m sure it sounds corny, but I think I fell in love instantly. He was working on a big project and we had to wait a few days for another date. We emailed and texted each other in the interim, and just as I was feeling as though I could probably handle a relationship…BAM! There it was—he allowed himself to be manipulated by his ex. You know what they say, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Something compelled me to see where it could go though, so I cautiously dipped my toes into the waters of Grayson Kinkaide. There were more surprises to come, and it’s probably a good thing I didn’t have the ability to see the future, because I may have just cut and run. Gray continued to stay strong and he fought hard for us. I’m so happy he did.

Our families are blended—Grayson’s three kids and two grandchildren, Lily and Lincoln, and my three boys and two grandchildren get along well. We spend Sundays at Gray’s parents’ house and we spend Fridays at our house. Now I would say, “If it seems too good to be true, thank your lucky stars!”

Book Blurb

[Designing Samantha’s Love Cover]

Nothing terrifies Samantha Powell more than starting over, but after devoting three decades to a troubled man and an unhappy marriage, Sam finds the courage to seek her own happiness. She imagines a nice quiet life filled with friends, family, and a career that leaves no room for relationship drama. Unfortunately, no one told the alluring Grayson Kinkaide.

After escaping a bad marriage of his own, Grayson realizes his soul mate is still out there and his heart is set on Sam. Their instant attraction begins a steamy affair, but the women of Grayson’s past aren’t ready to let him go. Can Grayson convince Sam that she is the only one for him?

Designing Samantha’s Love is a steamy romance that contains sexual content.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
PJ Fiala is a wife of thirty years, a mother of four grown children and the grandmother of three lovely grandchildren. When not writing a new story, she can be found riding her motorcycle and exploring this fabulous country of ours. Her writing revolves around people anyone would love to spend time with. No self-absorbed billionaires for her. You can find PJ on Twitter, on Facebook, at Goodreads, and at her website, www.pjfiala.com.

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S—A Holly You Won’t Recognize

Let’s face it, the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is iconic. Who doesn’t immediately picture the lovely and elegant Audrey Hepburn when someone mentions the name Holly Golightly in conversation? I pretty much grew up with this movie—and it is a good movie, though a little sentimental and tinged with studio conventions. And let’s not forget the rather embarrassing portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi by the talented Mickey Rooney, saddled with fake Asian eyes and buck teeth. Really, Hollywood?

Thankfully, the novella is not that. I had the pleasure of reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s recently and found it to be sweet, charming and a little heartbreaking. The Holly of this book is much younger—not quite nineteen, in fact. She’s not brunette either but blonde—or something resembling blonde with “tawny streaks.” Like the movie, though, she makes her way in New York generally by using men and acting educated. And she’s running—always running. Even her business card reads, Miss Holiday Golightly, Traveling. All I can say is, I wish someone would make this movie!

There’s a bonus in this 50th anniversary edition—a short story by Truman Capote entitled “A Christmas Memory.” I recall seeing the PBS production years ago, narrated by Capote. The story is evocative and sad, and it’s easily the best Christmas-themed story I’ve ever read.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[Breakfast at Tiffany’s Cover]

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

This volume also includes three of Capote’s best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which the Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents—a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend—whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon CA

More Reviews
Did you enjoy this review? Check out my other Amazon reviews here.