Saturday, April 30, 2022

FEATURED AUTHOR: T.S. ROSE


 

ABOUT THE BOOK


Modern-day Britain, with the terrorism threat level set at severe and rising to critical, needs extraordinary measures to overcome the next threat, including the use of students with psychic abilities.
 
Alone, and frightened of her own power, Alpha is forced to use it to protect the care home she’s lived in since the loss of her parents. But such abilities do not go unnoticed, bringing her to the attention of others, some with good intentions and others with racist affiliations. She runs, but just when she thinks she’s found a sanctuary it turns out to have been infiltrated by those with the most violent form of terrorism on their agenda.
 
Sunday, a most unlikely hero and would-be young thief, must form a bond with Alpha if the pair are to stand even the slightest chance of averting the most catastrophic terrorist attack on British soil for many years. They must learn to trust others, too—but how can they do this, when everyone else is a suspect?




Book Details:
Title: Psychic
Author: T.S. Rose
Genre: sci-fi/fantasy/thriller
Publisher: Apprentice House Press (June 7, 2022)
Print length: 380 pages






GUEST BLOG: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF T.S. ROSE­­


Note: T.S. Rose is the pen name for Sharon and Tammy Rose, a mother-daughter duo




Sharon’s Day:

5:45 am  Alarm goes off. I get to work at 7.30 am, and start on over 300 emails and Facebook messages from local residents and councillors. The usual complaints: potholes, trees either just about to fall on someone’s house despite the fact that all the trees in that area were recently risk assessed, but in the mind of the complainant must immediately be cut down. Another complaint that the Council doesn’t plant enough trees. Can’t please them all! Applications from both national and local charities, pedestrian lights not working again, town clock out of order, and a hundred other things. 

9 am  Staff meeting, printer not working, and problems with sick leave applications not being received. Training on how to bring the lift down manually if the electricity is cut. Review of budget against actual expenditure. 



11 am  Walk round local park where a major event is being held – plan wrongly drawn up. Glad to have caught this in time.  


12 noon  Sign off 45 purchase orders raised by staff, query 2 of these. Goal posts in park haven’t been anchored in with concrete. Investigate with Property Officer.   



1 pm  Working lunch with councillors to consider the big strategic issues facing the Town Council. Flooding and the need to create more sequestration opportunities become important considerations. 



3 pm  Problem with allotment fencing that has blown down in the storm. Consider whether it’s worth claiming on insurance.  



4:30-6 pm  Meeting with Policy and Finance Committee. Review cost of capital project that is 2.5 x more expensive than anticipated and where funding will come from.   



7-8.00 pm
 Meeting to discuss renewing contract with Leisure Service Provider, and implications of Covid-19 on swimming and gym membership.  



8:00 pm  Grab some dinner. Thank goodness my other half is cooking tonight.  



8:30 pm  Have a very quick swim. 



9 pm   Prepare agenda for Business Development meeting including writing a report on a new asset/liability to be transferred to the Council. 



10.30 pm  Take half an hour to consider my co-author’s next chapter and discuss implications with her.  Great writing. Oh dear! I’ve done nothing yet on my next chapter. Blank page facing me. Think long and hard – write first sentence, then go to bed. Very proud of first sentence.  No idea what second sentence will be.    
 

Tammy’s Day:


6:45 pm  Alarm goes off. I get dressed, then review my lesson plans over breakfast (great start today it’s croissants and grapes) and walk to school.  



8:10 am  Early meeting with other members of the English Department over forthcoming curriculum and in particular book choices for the year. 



8:35 am Staggered classes start. First lesson is with year 11 high achievers. Prompt them to find the humour and writing techniques used in The Importance of Being Earnest. Long and very funny debate about cucumber sandwiches.  



9:10 am. Year 7 class. Need to work on underachievement of targets, particularly with students inclined to be disruptive. Issue 5 S1 discipline records for poor behaviour, 4 x S2s and 1 x S3. That means yet another detention class this week after school.  



10:15 am   Shakespeare’s As you Like It. At least this lesson starts with a short film about the play.  



11:10 am   Take a class on creative writing and media studies. Several students impress me with their creativity. One busts into tears after getting an S1. Oh dear – something else more personal going on here that I will need to find out about.  



12-1 pm  My turn to monitor the canteen. 



1 pm  Library session – I usually enjoy these. These young people actually like reading, but this week we’ve got work people banging about outside the window, so it’s really not very productive.



1:50 pm  Grammar with year 10s. The difference between Demonstrative, Indefinite and Reflective Pronouns. Does anyone really care? Just ensuring students can identify the pronouns within a piece of text is difficult enough. 



2:30 pm Last class of the day. 



4 – 6 pm  Lesson planning for the next day. 



7 pm  An hour of yoga, followed by a shower – my mind is at peace. 



8 pm  Dinner – Dad’s a good cook – it’s cottage pie. 



8:30 pm Back to lesson planning, and marking of essays, then some Facetime with my brother and a few fellow teachers from my student years.  



10 pm  I finish a chapter of my own writing at great speed. I think it works well, but we’ll see what my co-author has to say.   



11 pm  Bed, then start all over again. If only I had an actual social life.        
 
 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

T.S. Rose is the pen-name of Tammy and Sharon Rose, a mother-daughter duo living in London.

Tammy is a recent graduate of Queen Mary University of London and is now a secondary school teacher.

Sharon was born in South Africa, partially schooled in Germany and the UK, and lived for a while in Kissimmee, Florida. Her career as a Town Clerk, working for the good of the community, keeps her exceptionally busy, so writing takes place during stolen moments just before bed.

Connect with the authors:
Website  |  Goodreads 
Buy the book:
Amazon
   |  Barnes & Noble   |  Bookshop





 








Friday, April 29, 2022

FEATURED AUTHOR: BARBARA FRANCESCA MURPHY


ABOUT THE BOOK

"They did not mean to hurt the boy, much less kill him. They only wanted to teach him a lesson."

A stunning family saga set in Ireland and Italy, Lucina's Letters is a gripping character study that explores the deep, dark repercussions of one long-ago deed.

Family has always been of the utmost importance to Lucina, but when she learns the truth about an event that almost ripped the family apart, she sets about mending the familial bond even if her efforts are from beyond the grave.

One well-timed letter allows her to bring the family together and drag not just one secret but many into the light.

But what will the consequences be; will the now-grown-up girls come to terms with their actions on that fateful day and subsequently their own struggles in life? Were the messenger's intentions just honourable and will the truth set them free and restore the family unit once again?

Book Details 

Title: Lucina’s Letters

Author: Barbara Francesca Murphy

Genre: contemporary fiction / literary fiction 

Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers (March 31, 2022)

Print length: 224 pages

 

 
 

LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH BARBARA FRANCESCA MURPHY

A few of your favorite things: nature in any shape or form.
Things you need to throw out: probably some clothes (I own way too many).
 
Things you need in order to write: peace and quiet.
Things that hamper your writing: lack of time.
 
Things you love about writing: seeing the plot developing and characters coming to life.
Things you hate about writing: anything to do with computer knowledge .
 
Easiest thing about being a writer: being able to write whenever and wherever you want.
Hardest thing about being a writer: being one small fish in a sea of other bigger fish, interruptions.
 
Things you love about where you live: the quietness.
Things that make you want to move: the weather.
 
Things you never want to run out of: books to read, ideas.
Things you wish you had never bought: probably some spur of the moment clothes purchases.
 
Words that describe you: creative, spontaneous, fun-loving.
Words that describe you, but you wish they didn't: irritable, stubborn.
 
Favorite foods: ginger, tomatoes.
Things that make you want to throw up: nothing.
 
Favorite beverage: red wine.
Something that gives you a pickle face: trash in nature.
 
Favorite smell: coffee, vanilla, freshly baked bread.
Something that makes you hold your nose: grease, fried foods.
 
Something you are really good at: changing plans, organizing stuff, making decisions.
Something you are really bad at: keeping money in my pockets.
 
Something you like to do: travel more, own my own boat.
Something you wish you had never done: nothing, as I believe everything you do you do for a reason, even if you don't understand it at the time.
 
Last best thing you ate: strawberries.
Last thing you regret eating: chocolate.
 
Things you'd walk a mile for: jewelry.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: bad smells.
 
Things to say to an author: I loved the plot, I liked this character.
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: any "good advice" from someone who isn't an author themselves and have no idea what it is like to actually write a book.
 
Favorite things to do: traveling, spending time with friends and family time, reading, walking.
Things you'd run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: anything technical.
 
Things that make you happy: nature, family, the sea.
Things that drive you crazy: rude people.
 
Proudest moment: more than one: seeing my family grow, publishing my books, getting my own place.
Most embarrassing moment: after playing a prank on someone, having to sing a song in front of a jam-packed local pub, neither knowing the words to the song nor being able to sing. I wanted to move house afterwards.
 
Most daring thing you have ever done: moved to a different country not knowing anyone at age 16, jumping out of a plane, going on a jet ski ride with my teenage son.
Something you chickened out from doing: bungee jumping.
 
The last thing you did for the first time: scuba diving, taught by my son.
Something you'd never do again: riding a snow mobile on an Icelandic glacier and getting lost.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Barbara Francesca Murphy was born in Austria in the 70s. She started writing at an early age, some of her short stories were published in local magazines. As a child and teenager she travelled extensively, getting a taste and knowledge for foreign cultures, fuelling her imagination. She graduated from high school in America and went on to study tourism and management shortly after completing her college course. She settled in Ireland, where she has been living ever since. Lucina's Letters is her second published book. Her first one, Second Chances, was published in 2019.


 
Connect with Barbara:
Website  |  Instagram  |   
Goodreads 

Buy the book:

Amazon  |  
Barnes & Noble 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

WHEN BAD PUBLISHERS HAPPEN TO GOOD WRITERS


A CAUTIONARY TALE OF THE IMPORTANCE OF HEEDING RED FLAGS


If you’re a writer, I don’t have to tell you that writing a book is hard work and getting published is even harder. Publishing companies are inundated with submissions, and more and more small presses are popping up. Unfortunately, some of them prey on new and hungry writers. If you’re not careful, your hopes and dreams can turn into despair and nightmares. That's what happens when bad publishers happen to good writers.



Anyone can call himself a publisher. All you have to do is put up a website, spout promises, and declare yourself a publisher. The desire to be a published author can sometimes cause writers to don rose-colored glasses that color their judgment. Before signing with a publishing company, interview them, so to speak. They will be, after all, working for you. Just because someone offers to publish your work, it’s not a given that they’re legitimate or that they’ll be fair. If you’re not careful, you could end up signing away your rights to your characters, settings, and future books. 

It's easy for rogue publishers to be less than truthful to new authors. They think they can (and often do) tell an unpublished author anything, because newbies don't know better. Since true learning comes from life experiences, it would be nice if newbie authors could learn from the mistakes of others. 

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on the Internet. But I have heard and experienced enough horror stories to compile some dos and don’ts you should know about before you sign on the dotted line. Some of these will be easy to spot when you're offered a contract, and some will take some investigation. Trust me, it’s worth the time and effort. And if red flags start popping up, you definitely should run.


DO:

•    Look at the publisher’s online presence. Scrutinize their website and social media pages. What sorts of things do they post? They should have a solid social media presence with both quantity and quality posts. Publishers should have active, engaging websites, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads pages. Their websites and posts should be professional, nit free, and up to date.  

Note: this step should be taken before you submit your work. It’s much easier psychologically to cross a publisher off your query list than to turn a publishing contract down. Once you get an offer, those glasses turn rosey.



•    Google, research, and investigate the company and the people associated with it. Do an Internet search on the publisher’s and the company’s name. How long have they been in business? Check to see if they’re listed negatively on Preditors & Editors, Writers Write, Absolute Write, or other online writers’ forums. “But they may have changed their ways since that was posted,” you say. Yeah, and Elvis might still be alive.



•    Look for positives as well as negatives. How do their authors feel about the publisher? Verify positive experiences. Contact other authors who have had works published by them. Yes, someone has to be the first author for companies just starting out. But don’t let it be you. If you find negatives, can’t find positives, or can’t find anything about the publisher at all, then run like there's no tomorrow.



•    Verify quality for yourself, don’t take someone else’s word for it. Examine books the company has published. At the very least, read an excerpt from Amazon’s “Inside the Book” feature. Are there nits? Bad grammar? Poor formatting? Poorly written work? Make sure the editing and the product is quality. 


 •    Be clear on their royalties policy. You’ve worked hard and deserve to be compensated, so make sure the wording in the contract specifically states how the publisher pays royalties and on what royalties are based. In a perfect world, all authors would be paid royalties based on list price. But unless you have a book in every bookstore in the country, that probably won’t happen. 

Beware of a clause that waives royalties on a certain number of books. (See the Don'ts section.) 

Take note of wording. If a contract says you'll be paid 50% of net profits, you're thinking that's really sweet, right? Think again. Most small presses pay royalties on net income or net profit, which are two different things. Net income is the money publishers receive after bookseller discounts have been subtracted, which is a sweeter deal than net profit, which is what the publisher makes after any number of expenses are deducted. Are taxes, editing, printing, shipping and handling, marketing, distributor fees and/or their dry cleaning deducted? If production costs aren't defined, they could feasibly count anything they do as a production cost. 

Do they require you to buy books? Do they withhold royalties until a certain number of books are sold? Make sure production costs are clearly defined. 

One more point on royalties: Watch for a clause stating the publisher will freeze royalty payments in the event of a legal dispute. If a publisher does something to cause an author to take legal action, or if they take legal action against the author, the publisher will still get paid, but the author will not.



•    Be cautious if there's no advance offered. An advance simply means the company has faith in the author. Rogue publishers might say they don’t pay advances so they can keep overhead low and be able to pay their authors more. Probably bologna. They might say no advance is standard for first-time authors. More bologna. 

Note: there are many legitimate small presses that don’t pay advances, so no advance isn’t always a red flag. If your royalty percentage is higher than average, it may offset no advance. It's just something to consider.



•    Beware of mumbo jumbo. In addition to looking at how royalties are paid, take notice of verbose or overly complicated wording in a contract. Smoke and mirrors, people. 

Read the terminology carefully. 

Look at this clause:

Work Expenses means all reasonable amounts actually incurred by [Publisher] in connection with the exercise of the Granted Rights that are identifiably attributable to the Work as a standalone work, to a maximum amount equal to 25% of Gross Work Revenues. By way of example only, Work Expenses include the costs of creating versions and copies of the Work (including, without limitation, manufacturing costs related to the Work and the costs of manufacturing ancillary products), shipping costs, advertising expenses related solely to the Work, and charitable contributions derived from sales of the Work, but do not include expenses related to the general overhead costs of Publisher.


Say what? In other words, this publisher will deduct everything before paying your royalties.



Or watch for this one:


We calculate net property by taking the Sale Price minus retail discount minus production costs aggregated across the minimum print run: SP-RD-(PC/MPR)=NP.  This is split 50/50 with the author so the Author’s Royalties are 50% of net profits.

This is pretty much mumbo jumbo that most authors will gloss over. But again, it says the publisher has the right to deduct any cost he wants from royalties he receives before paying you. Fifty/fifty is a misnomer. Walk away!



•    Watch out for bait and switch. Verify that the promises the publisher has made on the website, in emails, or in person are also in the contract. Sadly, people break promises. They even break clauses in contracts. But the law is on your side if all expectations are in writing. For example, the publisher may talk about obtaining reviews for the author, but is it in the contract? They may say they’ll do the editing for free, but is it in the contract? Ask them to be specific. 
And who exactly are the editors and what are their credentials? Verify the information.

•    Beware of smoke and mirror marketing claims. Enticers are proficient at wording things that can be interpreted differently by different people. 
An example might be:

“The Author hereby grants the Publisher the rights to publish the characters found within the Work and the setting established therein for the purposes of marketing and promotions.”

See what they did there? They mentioned marketing and promotions, so you think that’s something the publisher will do. Read it again. All that clause says is that you grant them the right to use the characters and setting in marketing—-there is no promise of a marketing effort. What is their marketing plan? Is it only through social media and book signings? If the publisher offers no marketing or nothing more than marketing that you can do yourself, or if the wording is ambiguous, or if they require you to pay for services, then run. Because you might as well be doing it yourself and reaping all the profits.



•    Beware of publishers asking for your submission. If a publisher contacts you or advertises for submissions . . . run. Legitimate publishing companies have so many submissions they don’t have to look for authors. Don’t buy the line that they want to help first-time authors, or your work is so fantastic they just have to publish it. It’s just that—-a line.



•    Verify their employees’ experience and that they even exist. Anyone can claim anything on a website. They have five editors with a combined experience of twenty-five years? Who are they? What exactly is their experience? Where did they get it? The school newspaper? They're writers themselves? What have they written? A grocery list? (And notice the word "writers" instead of "authors.") Who are these employees? Are they even real people? Verify. It's entirely possible their editor, Arlo Cooper, is the combined names of their dogs, Arlo and Cooper. Don’t take their word for it. Google. Research. Verify. 



•    Ask who will print the book. Some companies use CreateSpace. Don’t give away royalties for something you can do yourself.



•    Verify the publisher’s address is an actual address. It's a big red flag when a publisher lists their address as a post office box. If there’s an address listed, Google the address and see what comes up. Google map it and go to the street view. Is the address a reputable building or a mail store in a strip mall? 





Look at this bogus address:
Rogue Publishing
123 Scumbucket Lane, Suite 666,
Scammers RS, 12345.

What’s wrong with that (besides the fake names)? Looks legit, right? Wrong. “Suite” can also mean “box.” Who knew? 
Do they list a phone number? Google it. Call it and see how it’s answered. If it’s not an actual business address or company phone line, then run like heck. Sure, some brand new publishers may start with a home office. But why didn't they list that address? They're probably trying to appear like more than they are, or they're hiding something. 



•    Make sure there are no hidden costs. Does the contract clearly state the editing and formatting of the book are services provided by the publisher free of charge? No legitimate publisher charges for editing and formatting. 



•    Ask about the distribution plan. Will the publisher get your book in brick and mortar stores? Will it be available on the distribution lists that go out to all booksellers and librarians? Will it be available for order outside of Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com? It’s hard to sell books if your book isn’t distributed properly. Make sure the distribution plan is in writing.

•    Be certain who pays for review copies. Make sure the contract states who will be responsible for sending the book to reviewers—-you or the publisher? That should be part of the production cost. If they require you to foot the bill or offer no assistance, then you should probably run.



•    Make sure the contract states in what forms the book will be printed. If the clause says “May be” or “At the publisher’s discretion,” request the wording be unequivocal. They may promise an eBook or a hardback, but unless it’s in writing, they don’t have to honor their promises. Don't sign a contract in which the wording is vague, or two clauses contradict themselves.



•    Ask for a galley proof. Is there a clause in the contract stating the author will receive a galley proof at the publisher’s expense? Don't assume. As the author of the book, you have every right to and should see a galley, and it should be part of the production cost. (When you upload a book to Amazon, you have the option of getting a free .mobi copy so you can proofread. Your publisher should forward that to you. Hard copy proofs are also very low cost. A legitimate publisher can afford to send you a galley proof or advance copy. It's your book and your name on the front. A galley or .mobi should be offered­—get it in writing.



•    Keep every email or letter you receive from your publisher or liaison. You never know what you may need in the future to prove a point of contention. Keep everything.



•    Negotiate the contract. You should see a huge red flag waving if the publisher refuses to negotiate. If you’re uncomfortable about something, ask, and don’t buy the line, “it’s standard in publishing contracts.” Contracts are meant to be negotiated so they’re fair for both parties. If you ask questions and get mumbo jumbo answers, or are asked to sign the contract as-is, instead of signing, you should be running.



•    Hire a lawyer or agent to look at the contract before you sign. Yes, lawyers are expensive. But which would you rather do: spend money up front to make sure the contract is fair, or spend money later to get you out of the contract you didn’t fully understand? Be clear on what you're signing, because rogue publishers count on duping newbie authors with double talk and mumbo jumbo.

DON’T:

•    Do not, under any circumstances, sign a contract with a clause giving the publisher first rights of refusal on subsequent works. If this becomes a major sticking point, then a) run like a house afire, b) ask for a two-year opt out clause, where you can at least get free and clear after two years. Legitimate publishers will work to retain your loyalty. Dubious publishers will force you to publish with them or not at all. If the publisher does his job to your satisfaction, then by all means sign a new contract with them. But if their work was unsatisfactory, or your relationship turns sour, you need to be able to walk away. If you’ve granted a publisher first rights of refusal, it may be years before you can publish another book because you’re sure as heck not going to give some #@&*^ more of your work to screw up—-right? Run, don’t walk, away from first rights of refusal clauses. 


•    Don’t give the publisher exclusive rights to publish works based upon characters and settings of the work for the duration of the contract. Never, never, never agree to that. If things go horribly wrong, you’ve lost control of your work. If you'd intended on writing a sequel or a series, an unscrupulous and/or vindictive person could hold your work hostage because of one stinking clause. If you sign off on this clause and later find that you don't want them to publish subsequent works, your choice is to wait years until the contract expires and you can publish again, or spend thousands of dollars suing to regain your freedom. Run from the term "exclusive."

•    Don’t accept free books in exchange for royalties. You're in red flag city if a clause in the contract states you will not be paid on the first 100, 200, or any mumbo jumbo number of retail copies sold of any edition. 

An author deserves to be paid for every book sold. If a publisher wants to give you free books in exchange for royalties on a certain amount of books, just say no. Publishers should give authors free books for promotional purposes—-period. Publishers pay authors, not the other way around. Run like crazy away from a clause that cheats you out of hard-earned royalties.


Note: If a contract has the double whammy of no royalties on the first X-number of books, and they pay on net profit, from which they deduct production costs, run to the law, because you're about to be robbed.



•    Don’t agree to a book purchase requirement, even at a discount. Just don't. There's no reason you should be required to purchase a certain number of books. None. That's a huge red flag. 



•    Don’t sign multiple contracts until you have one book under your belt. Even if the publisher produces a quality product, what if your relationship goes south? Protect yourself. 

Note: Publishers do take a risk on first-time authors, and the more books the author writes, the better the first book will sell, so ideally it’s only fair to reward a publisher’s faith in you by publishing multiple books with them. If you’ve done your homework, and the publisher is solid with no other red flags, signing a two-book contract is a show of good faith in each other. Just don’t sign away an entire series. Stuff happens. And it wouldn't hurt to have an opt-out clause just in case.

After you sign on the dotted line . . .

Verify, verify, verify:


•    Verify promises. If the contract states the publisher will have the work copyrighted within a certain amount of time, verify that he has done so and that it is in your name. Just because the contract says he will, doesn't mean it will happen. Protect yourself.
 
•    Verify formatting quality. This is where a galley proof or advanced reader copy is important. Formatting should be included in any service a publisher offers. But just offering it isn't enough. Readers notice sloppy formatting. If the eBook formatting isn’t done properly, insist it be fixed and don’t take anyone’s word for it. Verify. If it’s not fixed when it’s published and after a reasonable amount of time, Amazon might pull it for review, and you will lose sales. A badly formatted eBook will affect your reviews, ratings, and reputation.
 
•    Verify sales. Would you believe there are some rogue publishers who try to falsify sales reports? Shocking, but true. Since Amazon doesn't allow authors to see Kindle sales (can someone please explain to me that decision?), the author must trust the publisher's reports. But watch your online sales closely. If you feel you've been given an incorrect report, verify.
 
•    Verify facts. Take screen shots if you believe your publisher has violated the contract and there is online evidence. You may need it at some point in the future. Be a boy scout. Be prepared. If your book is on Amazon best seller lists, even in subcategories, your book is making money, and your royalties should reflect that.

"It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.” ~ Jackie Joyner-Kersee


Some red flags I personally found but ignored before signing the contract:

I'm a trusting, honest person. So even though people told me the contract smelled fishy, I brushed the concerns aside. I encountered a lot of the above points, but here are some specific red flags I found out too late were practically flashing at me in neon lights.

    •    I googled the mailing address. It showed a strip mall, so I assumed since the publisher was new, the “office” was in the strip mall. I later discovered had I looked further, I would have seen the mailing address was merely a box in a mail store.

    •    The contract said royalties would be paid after 250 books were sold. This is a very (at best) rooky move and (at worst) an unscrupulous tactic. If the publisher gets paid, so should the author. If he's deducting expenses before paying you anything, he's nothing more than a vanity press.

  • The contract said the “publisher” would give the author 25 free books to offset the lack of royalties. That sounds good. But it isn’t. On paper, you could sell your book for $15.99 each, which would be $399.75 pure profit. But in reality, and what I learned, is that you are not going to sell those books to your family and friends. You also need books to give to reviewers, or small bookstores, or for marketing. Those should be provided free of charge by the publisher and not be used instead of royalties. The promise of pure profit from 25 books was an empty one.


Red flags once the contract was signed:


    •    The contract said the publisher would obtain a copyright in my name. I later found out he registered it in his name.

    •    The “publisher” often mixed up my book with another author’s. He posted on Facebook that he was formatting my book when he was actually formatting another author’s book. He even mixed up our titles when he put my book on Amazon. To this day, even though he is no longer listed as the publisher of my first book, it is technically listed under another author’s title. Amazon says there’s nothing they can do if I want to keep my 600+ reviews of the book.

    •    During the editing process, it became clear that the “publisher” and his wife were the editors. Neither had solid editing credentials, which I found out once the book was published.

    •    I was not allowed a galley proof. He said it was too expensive. That’s not true, and I don’t know why he wouldn’t send me a galley proof. They are under $5 from Amazon. When I received my 25 “free” copies, and I started looking through it, I found multiple—multiple errors in not only grammar and punctuation, but also in the story. He had mixed up one character’s name completely. In the case of a fellow author under this “publisher” he misspelled the title of the book. Instead of “Angels” he had “Angles.” Big difference! And the error was not discovered until her book launch party which turned into a major disaster. It could have been avoided had she been allowed a galley copy.

    •    His email responses were erratic. He always had a good excuse, His mother was sick. His neighbor needed his help. His computer was down . . . The excuses got more ridiculous each time he disappeared or was out of contact for days even a week or more.

    •    My book began hitting Amazon bestseller (top 100, even down to top 10) in sub categories: women sleuths, animals, cozy mystery. I was climbing the Amazon top 100 authors list and was on it for months. Yet he still wasn’t paying me royalties. He was sending me “reports” but there was nothing official about them. They were a spread sheet that he created. (And I use “created” in every sense of the word.) I contacted a lawyer. He quickly sent me a check for $1,000. My book and author status kept climbing.

    •   I waited way too long, but I eventually evoked a clause in the contract that said I could audit the sales of my book and the publisher’s books. We set a date and time for me to travel to Atlanta for the audit. The day before our arranged time, he canceled the meeting with a bogus excuse. My reviews exceeded the number of books he said I had sold, my ratings status continued to be high. I knew he was selling more books than he was reporting to me. When he canceled the audit, I was convinced.

    •    As my lawyer attempted to broker a deal to end the contract, the “publisher” threatened legal action against me because I had published online a few of his unscrupulous actions. Eventually, with my book on the top 10 cozy mystery list, I had to contact Amazon and reported him as a fraudulent publisher. I revoked his right to publish my book, and they removed the book from their site. It took another year for me to have the book edited again and republish it. And that lawyer wasn't cheap. Had I decided to go further and sue the man for unpaid royalties, the legal fees were estimated be be around $60,000.

    •    I eventually discovered, thanks to some excellent online sleuthing from another author with this “publisher” that the name we knew him by was not his name given at birth. Since my dealings with him, he has changed his name again, at least once. I’m not sure why a judge would allow a person to legally change his name every few years, but it’s pretty evident why he does so. I quit tracking him years ago because he literally made me sick, but I am sure wherever he is, or whatever he is doing is unscrupulous.

Please use this cautionary tale to vet any prospective publishers and hold them to account for sales figures. I wish I had.


Final thoughts


I'm certainly not disparaging all small presses or pointing fingers at any specific publishing companies (well, maybe one). I believe there are a number of great Indie publishers out there doing really fine work. But I've heard so many stories about publishing nightmares and experience my own, I think it's worth writing about to hopefully keep other authors from falling victim to a rogue publisher. Have you had a nightmarish publishing experience? Leave an anonymous comment so others can learn from it.



If you're comfortable with some of the red flags above, that's your decision. It's up to each individual author to decide what he/she can live with in a contract. But I believe the more informed you are, the better able you are to make educated decisions. 

It’s sad that sometimes lessons are learned the hard way. The above points are not melodramatic or overly cautious; and what's worse is, I'm sure it's not comprehensive. Bad things happen, even to nice people and good writers. Don’t disregard red flags or fall for false promises. Be aware. Protect yourself. Investigate. Verify. If you see the warning signs, prepare to run, because chances are, if you don’t run away, you’ll be slogging through the mud with a devil in a cheap suit.
 


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

FEATURED AUTHOR: JISUN SUNNY FISHER



ABOUT THE BOOK




For thousands of years, the greatest minds have all sought to understand the purpose of life. Bodhi(sattva) means one who seeks enlightenment, and if you’re here, love and freedom call your name. The Bodhi Blueprint is here to take the heart-wrenching years of guesswork off your shoulders and guide you powerfully on your path to a courageous life worth living.
 
In The Bodhi Blueprint, you will find answers to questions like:
•           What would make me feel truly happy and fulfilled?
•           How do I live with intention, so I have zero regrets?
•           How can I break free of my limiting thoughts and self-defeating patterns?
•           How do I find the confidence to live authentically?
 
Derived from a series of cosmic downloads, the information in this book will:
•           Point you in the direction of your true north.
•           Guide you to profound peace.
•           Help you feel more alive.
•           Show you how to go from living a reactionary life to one where you’re in control.
•           Open portals for you to manifest your best life.
 
Imagine living life on your terms, on purpose. How do you feel? What have you transformed? This is my invitation to you: are you ready to follow the cosmic breadcrumbs and experience your most epic, authentic and meaningful life?

 

Book Details


Title: The Bodhi Blueprint: Ultimate Freedom! Master Your Fears and Live Life on Purpose


Author: Jisun Sunny Fisher, PhD    


Genre: nonfiction, self-help, spirituality

Publisher: Jisun Sunny Fisher, Ph.D. (June 26, 2022)


Print length: 354 pages


 



LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH JISUN SUNNY FISHER


A few of your favorite things: hiking with the pups, my toes in the sands of Hawai’i, reading tarot, Haagen-dazs vanilla ice cream, dancing to music, playing the piano, reading a mind-shifting book.

Things you need to throw out: jeans from high school, poinsettia plant from December of last year (I don’t like clutter – when anything goes missing in the house, everyone comes to me first because I like to throw things out – very liberally, I might add).

Things you need in order to write: peace and quiet on some days, soothing solfeggio music on other days, while on most days I need invigorating cinematic music.

Things that hamper your writing: clutter, unfinished task list, a loud environment.

Easiest thing about being a writer: I channel my writing, so just opening up to be a vessel comes easily.

Hardest thing about being a writer: I’m also very type-A with perfectionistic tendencies – this leaves me needing control over some areas of my life on most days; if I have a deadline but don’t feel a divine resonance, I’m SOL.

Things you love about where you live:
peaceful, serene, lots of green and birds.

Things that make you want to move: it’s not Hawai’i.

Words that describe you: magnetic, bold, fearless, inspirational.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: stubborn, impulsive, jack-of-all-trades.

Favorite foods: ice-cream with warm brownie, drunken grandma’s sicilian pie/pizza, egg-fried rice and kimchi.
Things that make you want to throw up: licorice.

Favorite smell: patchouli.

Something that makes you hold your nose: gasoline.

Something you wish you could do: choreograph hip-hop dancing.

Something you wish you’d never learned to do: saying, “I think” when I know.

Favorite places you’ve been: Maui, Kaui, Switzerland.

Places you never want to go to again: NJ beaches.

Favorite things to do: creating deep connections and intimacy (in-to-me-see).

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: making small talk.

Things that make you happy: reggae music, remembering my grandmother, playing with my pups.

Things that drive you crazy: people who complain.

Proudest moment: presenting my dissertation.

Most embarrassing moment: walking out of the bathroom after clogging the toilet at my mother in law’s house.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jisun Sunny Fisher, PhD, MA, CHt, CAPP, is a licensed psychologist and purpose coach who helps courageous leaders remember their true north and re-discover what makes them fall in love with life again. Through her gentle but powerful guidance, clients learn to master their narratives, break old patterns, and turn their weaknesses into superpowers. They learn to embody absolute clarity, unshakeable confidence, and ultimate conviction.
 
Dr. J received her graduate degrees from Columbia University and the University of Connecticut. She is also certified in Positive Psychology, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), and Hypnosis. Dr. J’s thought leadership has been featured in Yahoo!Life, Thrive Global, Bustle, Goalcast, and more.
 
Dr. J loves hiking with her pups, dabbling on the piano, reading tarot for growth and healing, and making annual trips to her beloved land of Hawai’i. If you catch her in the kitchen cooking, run the other way!
 
Her forthcoming book, The Bodhi Blueprint, Ultimate Freedom! Master Your Fears and Live Life on Purpose, is due out in June 2022.

Connect with Dr. J:
Website  |  Instagram




Buy the book:

Amazon

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

FEATURED AUTHOR: BILL FENTRESS


 


ABOUT THE BOOK


The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest is a salute by the author to a lifetime of outdoor experiences in eastern North Carolina and beyond. It encompasses 14 true short stories about family, friendships, and the emotions involved in hunting, fishing, and other outdoor-related topics. It is not a how-to book, nor just a compilation of hunting and fishing stories, it describes how simple family and personal interactions, with the outdoor sports and unmatched natural beauty as a backdrop, can result in treasured memories like perhaps no other pursuits. If you hunt and fish or grew up enjoying histories of family traditions and friendships revolving around either of the sports—whether it be in North Carolina, or elsewhere—The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest is for you.

Book Details:

Title: The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest

Author: Bill Fentress

Genre: sports/outdoors/hunting and fishing

Publisher: William C. Fentress (February 3, 2022)

Print length: 272 pages



    


LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH BILL FENTRESS


Things you love about writing: it is emotional and cathartic for me.
Things you hate about writing: it is a little frustrating when it is not clicking. My last story in the book was like that. Then, finally I got it. But actually,  no story is ever “finished.”

Things you love about where you live: New Bern is a beautiful small town. And I am close to my boyhood farm and the nature I crave.
Things that make you want to move: only the Rockies.

Favorite foods: the Edwards chocolate pie my wife buys every Thanksgiving.
Things that make you want to throw up: Brussel sprouts. I am a collard man.  

Favorite song: “Love Song” written and performed by my daughter, Sarah.
Music that make your ears bleed: Rap.

Favorite beverage: Diet Sun Drop.

Something that gives you a pickle face: Sardines . . . still remember seeing those little fish being eaten by traveling salesmen in our country store . . . looks like cat food to me.

Favorite smell: wood stove smoke.

Something that makes you hold your nose: skunk on my dog, and then in my truck (numerous times).

Something you’re really good at: being a smart aleck with my wife.

Something you’re really bad at: understanding that she can be a better smart aleck than me when she wants to. 


Something you wish you could do: hand tie a fishing net. I still remember seeing men in yards during my boyhood mending their nets. I was always curious how they could do that. Still am.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: nothing . . . wish I knew how to do more. Love to learn new things . . . as long as I want to do them.

Something you like to do: have intelligent conversation and laughter around a fire pit with good friends.

Something you wish you’d never done: handled a few personal situations the wrong way.


Last best thing you ate: my chickens’ eggs.

Last thing you regret eating: ham my wife left in fridge for my dog Luke. It was 3 months old, and I did not realize it was for the dog . . . woops.

Things you’d walk a mile for: view around Silverton, Co., or to get to a good, scouted bow stand . . . or behind any good bird dog with quail in the hedgerows .
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: Roto calls.

Favorite places you’ve been: Grand Canyon and San Juan Mountains in Colorado.

Places you never want to go to again: never been there.

People you’d like to invite to dinner: my daughter Sarah and her idol, Taylor Swift, just to listen and watch . . . and make Sarah happy. 

People you’d cancel dinner on: pretentious people—of course I doubt if they would ever invite me. Pretty much set in my ways and they could probably  tell.

Favorite things to do: spend time with my family; hunt; fish; piddle on my farm with my tractor.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: inside painting.

Things that make you happy: walking my farm with my wife or daughter or dog.

Things that drive you crazy: not much drives me crazy anymore. I just deal with it. As you get older the trivial things seem a lot less important. I do hate the loud mufflers some of the young bucks have on their trucks though. But then again, they will never sneak up on a turkey in a rig like that . . . so that’s good.

Proudest moment: birth of my daughter—by far. Nothing close.

Most embarrassing moment: asked a friend if she was pregnant, in a restaurant, in front of people—she wasn’t. Yep, did it. That’s me. Yessir.

Best thing you’ve ever done: marry my wife.

Biggest mistake: not meeting her sooner.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: wrapped a boa around my neck to get a customer to join the Chamber of Commerce.

Something you chickened out from doing: retiring from banking sooner.

The last thing you did for the first time: write a book.

Something you’ll never do again: ask ANYBODY if they are pregnant.




EXCERPT FROM THE YELLOW HONEYSUCKLE IS THE SWEETEST

       There is something special about hunting, that sears in place our memories with others. Maybe it’s the vivid nature where our grand experiences take place or the team efforts we go through to make it all happen? Maybe it’s the getting up early, the black coffee, the smell of eggs and bacon in a cabin, the swoosh of ducks over decoys or the violent uprising of a big covey followed by the delirium of released bird dogs? Maybe it’s the sunrises, the sunsets, the gobbles at dawn, the split oak fires or the oysters? Maybe it’s the bonds we have over lifetimes? I’m not really sure.  But I do know we’re blessed when these partners come into our lives.

Like many boys, my first hunting partner was a dog, Pepper. I wish I could say Pepper was the granddaughter of King Rothschild’s Sire of Pepper Creek, but I cannot. Pepper was a fittingly, albeit not uniquely, named black and white pointer-mix stray who took up at Miss Jo’s house in Bayboro. Somehow, through either constant brow beating with her pathetic brown eyes or via her constant hanging around the back door looking for food, Pepper convinced Miss Jo to call me—not my mother, her friend—but me.

“Billy,” she commanded, “I have a beautiful dog you would just love!”

Of course, I immediately got off the phone and begged Mom to take me to Bayboro. “Miss Jo’s got a dog she says I need!” I always thought Miss Jo should have led many of the sales classes I attended in my banking career. Let me tell you, she talked directly to the buyer, and went right around the secretary. While I’m not sure how long it took for Mom to talk to her again,  we came home with Pepper in the Chevy wagon and me with a smile as broad as the cuff on my dungarees. Pepper was one of the smartest dogs I ever owned. She followed me everywhere—from our store to Grandmamma’s house to the woods behind our house to the tractor shelter woods across the road, down Swan Point Road, and of course behind our neighbor’s house. Pepper was smart enough to look both ways before she crossed the road. Don’t smirk; I saw her do it a hundred times. She also knew how to be quiet as I planned a sneak-up strategy on the local robins and wrens. But her mind absolutely took the day off when it came to our neighbor’s chickens.

--- Excerpt from The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest by Bill Fentress.  Copyright © 2021 by William C. Fentress. Reproduced with permission from Bill Fentress. All rights reserved.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR 



Bill Fentress is a retired banker and current Finance Officer in eastern North Carolina. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a BS Degree in Geology in 1983 and worked all over eastern North Carolina in the banking business for 26 years. He grew up in Pamlico County where many of his hunting and fishing experiences in The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest  take place. He has enjoyed nature's beauty and God's gifts of family and the outdoors throughout his  lifetime, in North Carolina and elsewhere.




Connect with Bill:
Website  |  FacebookTrailer 

Buy the book:
Amazon 





Tuesday, March 29, 2022

FEATURED AUTHOR: PETER McDADE



ABOUT THE BOOK


Atlanta couple Ben and Nina plan to move in together, but their relationship unravels when Ben dismisses Nina’s surprising claim that her dog can talk. Songs By Honeybird follows the pair as they move on without each other. Doctoral candidate Ben dives into research on the tragic story of Honeybird, the South’s first integrated rock band, while spiritual savant Nina searches for the elusive truth about her father’s death.

Will the buried secrets of the past bring Ben and Nina back together—or send them down entirely new paths?

Book Details

Title: Songs by Honeybird 

Author: Peter McDade

Genre: literary fiction

Publisher: Wampus Multimedia (March 29, 2022)

Print length: 341 pages





LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH PETER McDADE


A few of your favorite things: my Technivorm coffee maker, my turntable, and my drum set.
Things you need to throw out: sheets and towels, sheets and towels. . . Live in the same house for 20 years and suddenly you have a closet of these things you think you will someday need? On the other hand, I am set if we suddenly wind up hosting 20 extra people for a few days.


Things you need in order to write: I was going to say “nothing particular,” but as I started to write that answer I realize I need to have my laptop. My third-grade teacher described my handwriting as “needing improvement,” and it's only gotten worse since then.
Things that hamper your writing: teenagers with sudden, impossible needs, and/or a sudden, inexplicable desire to fold those five loads of laundry I let pile up. 


Things you love about writing: creating characters. Finding a way to take the people wandering around my head and introducing them to the world is endlessly satisfying.
Things you hate about writing: it may sound like I'm lying, but there is little about the process I actually hate. I find first drafts harder than revision, but even then I don't hate it. Maybe it's because I've always enjoyed it, and have often turned to writing to escape things that are Not Fun. (Stuck in a biology class? Think up some story in your head about your fellow students. In the middle of an eight-hour drive on the way to your next gig? Return to that short story where people are running around doing things.) It also could be as simple as deciding to focus on things I enjoy doing, as I get older, and writing is high up on that list.


Things you love about where you live: walkability! We can walk to half a dozen good restaurants and (most crucially) a good coffee shop. The kids can also walk to all their schools.
Things that make you want to move: the summers can be hot, for sure, and winter tends to be dominated by grey and rainy days.

Things you never want to run out of: coffee, books, patience.
Things you wish you’d never bought: that fondue set we used once.

Favorite foods: oh, there are lots of foods I love—in fact, I'm a little wary of people who don't enjoy food and music and books. Baking projects have been given more time than usual recently, so off the top of my head I wonder, Can anything beat a homemade loaf of bread?
Things that make you want to throw up: anything whose key ingredient is mayonnaise.

Favorite music: I wouldn't even know where to start with this one. Music has been a central part of my daily existence for as long as I can remember, literally—from the early years, when I would swipe my sister's albums when she wasn't looking (Beatles, Queen, Heart), to this morning, when I cued up a Spotify playlist of new releases (Spoon, Lianne La Havas). In general, I tend to love most music with a strong melodic sense and an understanding of a groove
Music that make your ears bleed: I give my kids free reign of the car radio, but when Maroon 5 come on I deploy my veto power.

Favorite beverage: coffee.

Something that gives you a pickle face: I tried straight gin once. Once was enough.

Something you’re really good at: logistics. When our band first started touring and had no money for roadies, I was the one in charge of figuring out how to get places, and what we had to leave, and how we'd manage to do everything on a minimal budget. That translated well to getting toddlers out of the house more or less on time, usually with everything I needed in backpack.

Something you’re really bad at: dancing. Take my word for it.


Things you always put in your books: at some point someone is going to listen to, or play, music, and at some point people will sit down and have a big meal and talk a lot.

Things you never put in your books: detailed medical procedures. Oh, and so far no zombies, but let's see what the future holds.

Things to say to an author: “I still think about your book, and try to imagine what those characters did next.”

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “You know, your book would have been much better if you had only x, y, and/or z.”

Favorite places you’ve been: Paris, Great Wall of China, Minneapolis.
Places you never want to go to again: Biloxi, 7th grade P.E.

Favorite things to do: play music in a room with other humans, sit around in our house with family on a lazy Sunday morning.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: dangle from some scaffolding more than 20 feet in the air, 7th grade P.E.

Things that make you happy: listening/playing to music, reading/writing, running.

Things that drive you crazy: sitting in a slow-moving, crowded car on a highway with countless other slow-moving, crowded cars.

The last thing you did for the first time: I just put some cinnamon rolls in the oven, and have never tried making those before. Fingers crossed. 

Something you’ll never do again: have I mentioned 7th grade P.E. yet?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR  


Peter McDade writes novels, teaches history, and plays the drums. After a childhood in New Jersey and years of touring the country with rock band Uncle Green, he has settled happily into domestic life in Atlanta.




Connect with Peter:

Website  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads


Buy the book:
Amazon


Sunday, March 20, 2022

FEATURED AUTHOR: M.B. LEWIS


 

ABOUT THE BOOK


An artifact with untold power. An unlikely protector. Can she prevent the past from being used to destroy the future?

Kadie Jenkins lost her faith long ago. Traveling to Egypt as part of a research team battling a lethal virus, the talented scholar’s already weakened beliefs take a deadly dive when her colleague and mentor is murdered. With the man about to share a shocking finding before he met his demise, Kadie frantically gathers his papers… and barely escapes when the killer returns.

Fleeing by plane and forced into an emergency-landing in Israel, Kadie questions who in her group she can actually trust. And as the murderers close in, she’s stunned to discover they’re all hunting for an ancient relic that could change the course of history . . .

Will this headstrong academic lean on powers from above to keep the wicked from wreaking havoc on Earth?

The Pilate Scroll is a pulse-pounding Christian thriller. If you like complicated heroines, stunning twists, and divine light shining through the darkness, then you’ll love M.B. Lewis’s breakneck page-turner.


Book Details:

Title:The Pilate Scroll
Author: M.B. Lewis

Genre: Christian thriller

Publisher:  SATCOM Publishing (April 27, 2021)

Print length: 364 pages
The Jason Conrad Thriller Series




LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH MB LEWIS


A few of your favorite things: new electronics.
Things you need to throw out: old electronics and incompatible power cords.


Things you need in order to write: coffee, coffee, and more coffee.
Things that hamper your writing: sleep.


Things you love about writing: the freedom to express ideas in an entertaining format.
Things you hate about writing: not enough hours in the day.

Easiest thing about being a writer: generating and organizing ideas.

Hardest thing about being a writer: marketing books.


Things you love about where you live: family close by, the beach, the people, the history.
Things that make you want to move: big crowds, lack of seasons, new surroundings.


Things you never want to run out of: ideas.
Things you wish you’d never bought: VHS tapes/DVDs.

Favorite foods: steak, pepperoni pizza, Buffalo wings.
Things that make you want to throw up: unfortunately, nothing.

Favorite beverage: water . . . followed closely by a nice Cabernet . . . 

Something that gives you a pickle face: pickles?

Something you’re really good at: flying airplanes.

Something you’re really bad at:  water skiing.


Something you wish you could do: play the piano.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: there is some good in everything you learn whether you like it or not.

Things you always put in your books: characteristics of people I know.

Things you never put in your books: an exact replica of someone I know.

Things to say to an author: I left you a review!

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I love your books, but I haven’t read any of them yet. (Yes, it happens)

Favorite places you’ve been: the Holy Land in Israel.

Places you never want to go to again: not that I don’t like Japan or Korea, but I’ve lived in Japan (Okinawa) and spent plenty of time in Korea. I’ve only got so much time left on this planet, I’d like to explore other places instead.

Favorite books: thrillers.

Books you would ban: well, banning books is not something I would promote, but there are age-inappropriate books that should be kept away from children.

Favorite things to do: fly, write, spend time with family.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: pay income tax.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: probably some of that combat stuff back in the day.

Something you chickened out from doing: talking about my first book in public as a new author. (Combat seemed like a better alternative.)


EXCERPT FROM THE PILATE SCROLL

Chapter 1

Port Said, Egypt
The Market District

Samuel Jacobson was a dead man. Or at least he thought so. His phone call had been erratic, anxious—almost in a panic.

“Brian, we have to go.” Kadie Jenkins stood and slid her iPhone back in the pocket of her tan 5.11 cargo pants. She grabbed her purse and rose from the table in the back of the tiny restaurant, dragging her nineteen-year-old brother out before they had a chance to order their dinner. The restaurant sat tucked between shops selling hookahs on one side and women’s clothes on the other. The aroma of fresh bread and grilled meats dissipated, replaced by the pungent scent of car exhaust and camel dung.

“It’s only a fifteen-minute walk back to the hotel,” Kadie said. “I bet we can make it in ten.”

Brian stumbled behind her as they hurried along dusty streets. They turned into the souk, or open-air market, the brick-laid section of the market that was pedestrian-only this time of night. While many of the shops had their “roll-up” metal security doors pulled down, the market bristled with life. 

Vendors waved items in their faces, children tugged on their pant legs, and beggars held their palms up hoping for a handout. Her eyes studied everyone who came close, gauging their intentions in a moment’s glance. She was one of only a few women in the market not wearing a hijab.

“Kadie slow down,” Brian said. His breathing came deep and awkward, despite being a regular participant in the Special Olympics.

“Sorry, Brian. We could get a cab at the other end of the market. But by the time we find one, describe our hotel, and negotiate a price, we could walk to the hotel.” While she relished the exercise, she worried her pace was too much for him. He was fit for a young man with Down syndrome, but she moved swiftly.

Their team had been in Egypt for almost three weeks. Starting in Cairo, the small group of seven from GDI, the Global Disease Initiative, had been scouring the city for clues to an ancient cure. Their quest had led them from the United States to Cairo, then to Port Said. Their four days here had not yet proven fruitful.

The goosebumps on her skin reminded her of Samuel’s phone call. His message was brief yet concise: his life was in danger because he knew what they were really searching for. What did he mean? Their team was one of four positioned across the Middle East in search of their goal. Now, for some reason, Samuel questioned what that was.

GDI had been contracted by the United States government to locate an ancient cure for an even older virus—the hantavirus. Kadie researched the topic before they left for Egypt. Rodents generally spread it, and this strain was a particularly virulent “Old World” virus that had proven resistant to modern medicine.

The Central Intelligence Agency learned that ISIS weaponized the hantavirus in aerosol form and planned to unleash it across the West. The virus was known at the CDC to cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome. Initial symptoms include fever, chills, blurred vision, back and abdominal pain, and intense headaches known to bring a grown man to his knees. Later, those exposed would experience shock, low blood pressure, kidney failure, and vascular leakage—all in all, a nasty virus to thrust upon any population. The logistics involved in treating the virus were obvious.

The unique thing about the “Old World” hantavirus, was that it had predominantly appeared in Europe and Asia. GDI discovered that the virus had been eliminated in the Middle East, which was odd, as rodents were prevalent throughout the region.

Through one of their many connections, GDI learned of a legendary cure developed in ancient Israel around 30 A.D. The virus had a different name back then, but the symptoms were the same. The cure was a simple combination of plants and minerals. The formula was stored in a vase with Aramaic writing on the side and lay hidden for millennia. That was why she was here. Kadie was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic. The executive vice president for the Science and Technology Division of GDI had contacted her personally, telling her she was “uniquely qualified” for this job. Kadie was enthralled to join the team when the offer came.

Samuel was in his early sixties, and he and Kadie had struck up a friendship at the beginning of their journey. He became her mentor and father figure, occasionally giving her advice on what to do with her career. Samuel was the team’s expert on carbon dating. His equipment was state-of-the-art, but other than testing its functionality the day after they arrived, he hadn’t used it. So, what did he discover? What did he know that was worth killing for?

Halfway to the hotel, she mumbled something she shouldn’t have as she pulled out her phone and dialed. Her eyes darted toward her brother.

“Do not c-cuss,” Brian said between heavy breaths.

Brian. Her moral compass there to steer her back on course. She squeezed her brother’s hand. Brian always kept her grounded. What would she do when he was gone? But he was here now, and she needed to make sure he would be safe, something she had done for him since the day he was born.

“Sorry, Brian. I just remembered I need to call Curt. He’s probably on his way to the restaurant to meet us.”

“He is probably s-still wor—king.” Brian’s eyes darted back and forth. His speech impediment that made his ‘r’s sometimes sound like ‘w’s wasn’t nearly as bad as it was when he was younger, and his stutter only showed up when he was nervous.

Kadie grimaced. Curt didn’t answer his phone. He was GDI’s security man and the only full-time employee on their team. Kadie left a message, telling him she was sorry, but she had to leave the restaurant. They’d talk later.

Next, she called Samuel. He didn’t answer either. She slipped her phone back in her cargo pocket and glanced at her brother. He was doing all he could to keep up with Kadie and avoid the distractions of the numerous shops in the marketplace. Gasping, his jaw jutted forward, brow furrowed, and his eyes bulged. He had been reluctant to leave the restaurant; he must be starving. She had to plead with him to get him to budge.

“We did not stay—for food. I am hungry,” Brian said.

“I know. I’m sorry. I am, too.” Her eyes darted back and forth in search of something they could eat. A few moments later she smiled. Near the end of the market, a vendor baked and sold bread. They stopped next to the giant metal oven that extended back into a yellowing mud-brick building. The bread rolled out of the front like doughnuts at Krispy Kreme, and two men placed the warm food on a rack woven out of sticks to cool. Her limited vocabulary in conversational Arabic helped her in situations like this. Kadie bought two loaves of Aish Baladi, an Egyptian flatbread made with whole wheat flour, similar to a pita. Handing the bag of bread to Brian, they continued on their way.

The dust of the market peeled away as they rounded the corner, and their hotel came into sight. Well-lit against the black sky, it sat on the edge of the water where the Suez Canal merged into the Mediterranean Sea. An outdoor restaurant sat to her left; the numerous tables had their umbrellas open, lit candles centered on each table. To her right, a small mosque lay nestled amongst other buildings. This street was far less crowded than the souk.

“What do you think about Curt?” Her chestnut-brown hair bounced as she slowed her pace so Brian could keep up. She needed a conversation to take her mind off Samuel.

“He is okay.” Brian looked away when he answered. Kadie knew what that meant. Brian’s instincts on people were spot on, and he wasn’t very fond of Curt. She wasn’t sure why; she was still trying to figure him out herself. Curt was a few years older than her. He was handsome, dashing, and brave—former Delta Force. There was something to be said for that.

They entered the newly renovated hotel, leaving the Third World atmosphere behind them. Kadie sighed as they weaved through the crowded lobby and lumbered up the stairs to their room on the second floor. She dropped Brian off in their room before she went to check on Samuel.

“Don’t leave,” she said. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Okay.” Brian moved to the couch and pressed the big green button on the television remote.

Kadie closed the door; the hairs on the back of her neck bristled, and her heartbeat raced higher than usual. She hurried down the hall to Samuel’s room. Inside, she heard a loud crash and the sound of something hitting the wall, followed by a solid thud.

That’s not good, she thought.

Kadie tried the door handle. Locked. She pulled a small FOB out of her pocket. It was called a Gomer, a new device that opened almost any electronic lock. It had wreaked havoc on the hotel industry, but she had picked one up back in the States knowing she’d be living in hotels abroad for three months.

She was hesitant to use it. She shouldn’t just barge into his room. Then came a second thud, followed by a muffled cry.

Kadie swiped the FOB across the lock and pushed hard against the door. The door cracked open about two inches and abruptly stopped; the chain secured on the inside.

“Samuel?” She peered through the gap; a body lay on the floor. Oh my, he’s had a heart attack. Kadie lowered her shoulder and bulldozed the door. It started to give way. On the second try, the chain burst free from the wall and the door flew open.

Kadie gasped. In the center of the room, a large man stood over Samuel’s body, wearing a faded brown futa, the traditional Yemini male shirt, and black pants. A black keffiyeh covered his face, with only his eyes exposed.

The man stood over Samuel, the bloody knife in his hand dripping on the floor.

***

Excerpt from The Pilate Scroll by M.B. Lewis.  Copyright 2022 by Michael Byars Lewis. Reproduced with permission from Michael Byars Lewis. All rights reserved.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

M.B. Lewis is an Amazon #1 International Bestselling Author (as Michael Byars Lewis), and his books have also been on the Bestseller lists on Barnes and Noble Nook and Kobo platforms. The author of the award-winning Jason Conrad Thriller series has been on numerous author panels at writer’s conferences such as Thrillerfest, The Louisiana Book Festival, The Pensacola Book and Writers Festival, and Killer Nashville.

A 25-year Air Force pilot, he has flown special operations combat missions in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan in the AC-130U Spooky Gunship. Michael is currently a pilot for a major U.S. airline.

A proud Christian active in his community, Michael has mentored college students on leadership development and team building and is a facilitator for an international leadership training program. He has participated as a buddy for the Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine” and in his church’s Military Ministry program. Michael has also teamed with the Air Commando Foundation, which supports Air Commando’s and their families’ unmet needs during critical times.

While his adventures have led to travels all around the world, Michael lives in Florida with his wife Kim.


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