Friday, September 30, 2022





Social worker Georgia Thayer can balance her own mental illness with the demands of an impossible job. Mostly. But when her sister vanishes in the dead of night, her desperate quest to find Peyton takes her into the tentacles of a human trafficking network—where she encounters a young victim called “Kitten.”
Kitten is determined to escape. She won’t be trapped like the others. She won’t sell her soul like Lillian, victim-turned-madam, feeding the dark appetites of international business moguls and government leaders. But the Estate won’t let her out of its lethal grip, and her attempts at freedom threaten her very life.
Aided by Kitten and, at times, by the voices in her head, Georgia maneuvers to bring down the kingpin of Estate and expose its dark secrets, but her efforts place her—and the few people she allows to get close—in grave danger.

Book Details 

Title: The Orchid Tattoo       

Author: Carla Damron        

Genre: crime fiction 

Publisher: Koehler Books (September 30, 2022)

Print length: 326 pages



A few of your favorite things: CHOCOLATE, autumn, when my husband says “let’s eat out.”
Things you need to throw out: clothes from 1995, that broken pottery plate that I loved but can’t be repaired, the light-up velvet painting of a riverboat from my in-laws’ house, even though it’s pretty cool.

Things you need in order to write: coffee in my favorite mug. The annoying cat contained in another room so he can’t “help” me. 

Things that hamper your writing: negative self-talk, social media (especially those cute panda bear videos people post).

Things you love about writing: I love words. Their shape and texture. The magic of it: scribbles on a page turn into fleshed-out scenes that take place in the reader’s mind.

Things you hate about writing: sometimes I dread the blank page. The drudgery of middles. The business end of the writing life—querying and getting rejected and querying more and wondering if I should take up knitting.

Easiest thing about being a writer: seriously, it couldn’t be easier. All you need is a pen and paper.
Hardest thing about being a writer: once you have that pen and paper, you need to open your soul and let it bleed.

Things you love about where you live: three wonderful seasons! 

Things that make you want to move: in summer, we live in lava.

Things you never want to run out of: coffee, Fresca, and patience.
Things you wish you’d never bought: those stupid grown-up shoes that, when I wear them, prove I’ll never actually be a grown-up.

Words that describe you: empathic, passionate, witty, fun.

Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: stubborn, self-righteous at times, disorganized.

Favorite foods: hot latte, fried shrimp, rice (the Southerner in me ADORES rice).

Things that make you want to throw up: Feta cheese, mustard, Peeps. I REALLY hate Peeps. 

Favorite music: all things Bonnie Raitt. Also love Ellis Paul, James Taylor, Elton John (yeah, I’m old). 

Music that make your ears bleed: sorry Greek friends, but I’m pretty sure that the music they play at Greek festivals can summon demons.

Favorite beverage: I’m not addicted to Fresca. I can quit anytime. 

Something that gives you a pickle face: Moxie (a carbonated beverage from Maine, where my hub’s family lives).

Favorite smell: fireplace in autumn. Steaks on the grill.
Something that makes you hold your nose: over-applied aftershave.

Something you’re really good at: I’m very conceited about my typing speed. 

Something you’re really bad at: keeping my opinions to myself. Surely everyone wants to hear them, right?

Something you wish you could do: crochet
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: pull weeds.

Something you like to do: go kayaking.

Something you wish you’d never done: agreed to take minutes. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Last best thing you ate: dark chocolate caramel with sea salt. Yum. 

Last thing you regret eating: a soggyish flatbread disaster.

Things you’d walk a mile for: to talk sense into a legislator.

Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: legislators who won’t listen.

Things you always put in your books: social justice issues.

Things you never put in your books: one-dimensional characters.

Things to say to an author: I bought your book!

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “I think you should have changed the ending so that this happens” (then proceeds to tell me what would have been a better ending).

Favorite places you’ve been: Alaska, Switzerland, Maine.

Places you never want to go to again: any crowded airport when lot of flights are cancelled.

Favorite things to do: hug on my animals. 

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

Things that make you happy: people who are generous and help others. 
Things that drive you crazy: people who have the resources to help those who need it and don’t.

Proudest moment: winning the WFWA Star Award for Best Novel. 

Most embarrassing moment: there are so many. Recently, I tripped over a bag when I was about to testify at the Statehouse.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: went rappelling.

Something you chickened out from doing: taking a hike through a park in Alaska (we saw a sign that said a grizzly bear had been spotted!)


Carla Damron, a native of South Carolina, is the author of The Orchid Tattoo, crime fiction about human trafficking. She is also a social worker and advocate whose last novel, The Stone Necklace (about grief and addiction) won the 2017 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award for Best Novel. This novel was also selected to be the One Community Read for Columbia SC.  Damron authored the Caleb Knowles mystery novels (Keeping Silent, Spider Blue, and Death in Zooville) and has published numerous short stories, essays, and op-eds. She holds an MSW and an MFA and finds her careers of social worker and writer to be intricately intertwined; all of her novels explore social issues like addiction, homelessness, mental illness, and human trafficking. In her spare time, Damron volunteers with the League of Women Voters, Sisters in Crime, Palmetto Chapter (President), her church, and Mutual Aid Midlands.

Connect with Carla:
WebsiteNewsletter Facebook  |  Twitter   |  Goodreads

Buy the book:

Amazon   |  Barnes & Noble  

Monday, September 19, 2022




In 1859, Junie Benson was a twelve-year-old genius and enslaved. His older sister, Sari, had her own difficulties, including being auctioned to the highest bidder. She was also beautiful, flighty, and had a repetitive dream about a hazel-eyed white stranger. Everybody with the good sense God had given them knew even her dream was forbidden.

In 2022, three things troubled ex-Special Forces Lt. Colonel Zachary Trumble . . . his new job as director of security for Burstein Labs, his loveless marriage, and the green-eyed siren who won’t let him sleep in peace.

Then time’s fickle hand brewed a recipe for a miracle . . . Stir in three runaway slaves, an avalanche, one mad scientist, and an unhappy, in-love hero to create a dish for revenge best served . . . Later.

Book Details
Title: Later
Author: Colette R. Harrell
Genre: inspirational, historical, interracial, African American, fantasy
Publisher: Intentional Entertainment LLC (September 1, 2022)
Print length: 204 pages


A few of your favorite things: books, cheesecake, cold nights under warm blankets.
Things you need to throw out: worry, other peoples expectations, clothes no longer in my size.

Things you need in order to write: silence and light.
Things that hamper your writing: multiple sources of noise and a ringing phone.

Things you love about writing: I love seeing my words bring characters to life.
Things you hate about writing: editing, over and over. Ugggh!

Easiest thing about being a writer: the excitement of seeing the story unfold.
Hardest thing about being a writer: marketing your baby to the world.

Things you love about where you live: my husband, my family, and my house.
Things that make you want to move: the news. Is there a hole we can all burrow into?

Things you never want to run out of: ideas for a new novel.
Things you wish you’d never bought: the car that sits in my driveway. I never go anywhere.

Words that describe you: talkative, humorous, fun, loving.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: anal, fiery/passionate, stubborn.

Favorite foods: pound cake. Texas Sheet Cake. cheesecake. Oh, yeah, cake.
Things that make you want to throw up: when someone else throws up.

Favorite song: “I Hope You Dance.”
Music that make your ears bleed: heavy metal.

Favorite beverage: I don’t drink it often, Squirt soda.
Something that gives you a pickle face: fingers on a chalk board.

Favorite smell: bread baking.
Something that makes you hold your nose: someone throwing up.

Something you’re really good at: writing. (Easy one.)
Something you’re really bad at: sewing.

Something you like to do: read.
Something you wish you’d never done: took time off from college, it just took longer to finish in the long run.

People you consider as heroes: those who fight for the underdog. Those who work in service to others.
People with a big L on their foreheads: rude and inconsiderate people. It is never okay to be a jerk.

Last best thing you ate: oh my, a slice of pound cake that was so good, and I didn’t have to bake it.
Last thing you regret eating: a White Castle Hamburger. I love them but they don’t always love me.

Things you’d walk a mile for: a hug from my love ones.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: horrible table manners. Please can I not see or hear your food? Thank you.

Things you always put in your books: a happy ending.
Things you never put in your books: a sad ending.

Things to say to an author: I love your work. Can I please have more?
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I really hated your characters. And, you’re a writer? (While holding your finished book in hand.)

Favorite places you’ve been: Savannah. Caribbean.
Places you never want to go to again: my first trip to Jamaica was horrible. My next
trip there was wonderful. Must have been the company.

Favorite books: romance. inspirational. historical.
Books you would ban: any focused on hate.

People you’d like to invite to dinner (living): now we are getting so personal. Hmmm . . . Oprah. Barbara Streisand. Michelle Obama.
People you’d cancel dinner on: Why are you getting me in trouble? Let’s go easy. Hitler. OJ. Nixon.

Favorite things to do: read.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: mopping floors.

Things that make you happy: spring days with no expectations.
Things that drive you crazy: when people do not return important phone calls.

Proudest moment: the birth of my children, graduation from graduate school, my first book.
Most embarrassing moment: when my slip fell off while walking into a building.

Best thing you’ve ever done: learning to love myself unconditionally.
Biggest mistake: wasting my time worrying.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: writing a book. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Something you chickened out from doing: running for Homecoming Queen in high school.

The last thing you did for the first time: self-publishing this book.
Something you’ll never do again: allow myself to go against my best instincts.


Colette R. Harrell made her debut as an author with the book The Devil Made Me Do It.
As a published author, she has enjoyed meeting her readers; for her, it’s all surreal. She
holds a master’s degree and worked as a director of social services, which allowed her a
front-row seat to the conflict and struggles of everyday people.

Her days are filled as an author, playwright, story editor, wife, mother, and grandmother. She wears many titles allowing twenty-four hours a day to meet the challenges.
Her goal in writing is to engage readers and provide them with golden nuggets of wisdom that feed and engage. Her biggest lesson is that it takes a village to raise a dream. She loves and appreciates her village.

Connect with Colette:
Website  |   Facebook   |  Twitter

Buy the book:
Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Kobo 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022



Finding inspiration where she least expects it, one woman's life is about to change forever. Life has not been kind to Georgette. Growing up with an alcoholic father and an enabling mother, she clings to the loving memory of a childhood trip to Martha's Vineyard to help see her through the bad times; and now, as an adult, she returns to the island to start her life over. Soon she becomes the private nurse for a prize-winning novelist. As the two become friends, he opens her mind to new possibilities. But everything changes when she encounters the mysterious Dock. Georgette isn't quite sure about him but finds him irresistible. She quickly loses herself in her relationship despite the inherent dangers that come with him. Torn between her own future or spiraling into a life she tried so hard to leave behind, Georgette must make her most important decision ever. Sometimes escaping the past isn't as easy as it appears. The Silence in Sound is the provocative debut novel by Dianne C. Braley detailing the devastating effects of growing up with addiction.

Book Details

Title: The Silence in the Sound 

Author: Dianne C. Braley

Genre: women’s fiction

Publisher: Koehler Books (August 23, 2022)

Print length: 311 pages



A few of your favorite things: dogs, iced coffee, Champagne, dark chocolate
Things you need to throw out: I throw out everything. Per my husband, it’s an issue. I’ve accidentally thrown out my wedding ring three times. (no, it’s not a sign, lol) . . . Hmmm.

Things you need in order to write: inspiration and early mornings. 

Things that hamper your writing: negative thoughts, and as a woman being all things to what feels like everyone some days.

Things you love about writing: seeing the story develop and come together and letting it take me to an unexpected place. 

Things you hate about writing: doing it even when you are not the least bit motivated, but discipline is critical.

Easiest thing about being a writer: nothing.

Hardest thing about being a writer: everything.

Words that describe you: loyal, disciplined, motivated, and strong.

Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: anxious, fearful, occasionally irritated, lol.

Favorite foods: popcorn and chocolate.

Things that make you want to throw up: any type of meat.

Favorite music: I live for music so this is tough. Anything by Billy Joel, but many would say “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” by 80’s hairband Poison.

Music that make your ears bleed: Death Metal and anything by the Grateful Dead.

Favorite smell: the ocean.

Something that makes you hold your nose: Patchouli oil.

Something you’re really good at: being disciplined
Something you’re really bad at: being easy on myself.

Last best thing you ate: a giant bowl of popcorn.

Last thing you regret eating: a giant bowl of popcorn.

Things you always put in your books: my father and footwear.

Things you never put in your books: conventional love.

Things to say to an author: I bought and am reviewing your book.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I’ve been thinking about writing a book too.

Favorite places you’ve been: Martha’s Vineyard; Italy.

Places you never want to go to again: a certain part of Tennessee.

Things that make you happy: my family both human and furry, accomplishing a goal, sweeping, singing, and crank calling my mother.

Things that drive you crazy: messiness and procrastination.

Best thing you’ve ever done: go back to school for my creative writing degree.

Biggest mistake: not believing in myself when I was young.


A raw, gritty New Englander, Dianne C. Braley found love for the written word early on, reading and creating stories while trying to escape hers, growing up in the turbulent world of alcoholism while living in the tough inner city. After putting her pencil down for a time, she became a registered nurse finding strength and calm in caring for those who couldn’t care for themselves. Still, she never lost her drive to write and became published in various medical online and printed publications. Seeing a painting and remembering a visit to Martha’s Vineyard as a girl and falling in love when her bare feet first stepped on the sand, she moved there for a time, caring for an ailing Pulitzer prize-winning novelist. He not only was her patient but soon became her friend and motivator. He and his books helped her realize she missed crafting stories, and she had some to tell.

Currently, Dianne and her family, both human, furry, and feathered, are firmly planted in a small-town north of Boston but not far enough away to lose her city edge. She is currently earning her degree in creative writing. Still, she escapes to the Vineyard every summer, picking up her pencil, resetting herself, and writing in the place that again inspired it. The Silence in the Sound is her debut novel.

Connect with Dianne:

Facebook  |  Twitter Goodreads  |  Book trailer

Buy the book:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, July 27, 2022




What if you could eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anytime, anywhere?

That's normal life for PB&J, boy superhero, who can shoot sandwiches out of his hands! The only problem is, PB&J thinks his superpower is super lame sauce.

But things get only worse when evil scientist Dr. Vile takes over the small town of Goodsprings. That’s because Dr. Vile has a secret weapon—a zapper that can change anything into food. Can PB&J learn to trust his powers to beat the bad guy, or will Dr. Vile rule the world . . . and turn PB&J into a burger?

The fate of the galaxy is literally in PB&J's hands!

Book Details 

Title: The Adventures of PB&J: Attack of the Green Goo

Author: Jon Haney

Genre: juvenile fiction

Published: July 20, 2022

Print length: 101 pages



Things you need in order to write:
I need inspiration to take over when I write. I don’t usually get too far if my heart’s not racing with excitement or if I’m not laughing at my own jokes. Obviously there are times for cranking out that word count, but I know that my best work comes in strange laugh-out-loud spurts. 

Things that hamper your writing: with this most recent work, I unfortunately discovered that a particularly good time of day for me to write is between one and four o’clock in the morning. While this might not hamper my writing . . . it does hamper my life.

Things you love about where you live: I lead an interesting life as an American expat in Skopje, North Macedonia. I speak a Slavic language, interact with multiplecultures every day, and get to taste exotic foods and experience different ways of life. It’s exhilarating!

Things that make you want to move:
being far from family and friends can be challenging, especially on holidays. But the hardest part by far is the Tex-Mex. Because it doesn’t exist.

Things you never want to run out of: living in Europe has taught me to adore sparkling water. My life is no longer complete without it.

Things you wish you’d never bought: I bought two brand-new bikes in two years and each was stolen. I wish I’d bought an old beater from the beginning!

Words that describe you: friendly, passionate, conversational.

Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: intense and emotional.

Favorite song: it’s a toss-up between “Corcovado” by Antonio Carlos Jobim (bossa nova is a particular favorite of mine) and “Thinking of a Place” by The War on Drugs.
Music that make your ears bleed:
I have fairly eclectic taste, but I don’t think I’d like to hear Jobim cover anything by The War on Drugs, and vice versa. Some worlds should never meet.

Things you’d walk a mile for: soft-serve ice cream. One time my family drove an hour out of the way on a vacation just to visit a much-loved ice-cream shop, only to find it was closed.

Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: I have four kids, so you’d think I’d be used to that ear-piercing screech-noise thing. Maybe with the next four.

Favorite things to do: I love going on bug days with my kids. We take a backpack full of glass jars, nets, and cheese cloth into the mountains and see how many specimens we can gather. It’s loads of fun, at least until one of the jars breaks and two mutant praying mantises appear on my shoulder.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: I don’t understand automobiles and probably never will. I would run through this proverbial fire to my mechanic anytime.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: in college, friends of mine wanted to spend the night on the streets of NYC in the middle of December to get a shot at standby seats for Saturday Night Live. The plan was to drive through the day and arrive in the evening. The only problem was, I was scheduled to work an afternoon shift that day. I voicemailed a coworker asking for a shift change but, after getting no response, left town regardless. I worried the whole way to NYC and found out only afterward that the coworker actually did cover for me. Fifteen years later, and I’m still relieved. (Oh, and SNL was sold out that night. Was it worth the stress?)

Something you chickened out from doing: My tenth-grade biology teacher had us prick our own fingers for a blood test. I couldn’t stomach it. Let’s just say I was dramatic.


Jon Haney is a children's book author and fiction writer. You can find him telling stories to his four kids at bedtime, camping on the balcony, or playing chess in the park.

Connect with Jon:

Facebook  |  PB&J Book Club 

Buy the book: 



Tuesday, June 28, 2022



Rook is based on the true story of Al Nussbaum. To his unsuspecting wife, Lolly, Al is a loving, chess playing, family man. To J. Edgar Hoover, he is the most cunning fugitive alive. Al is the mastermind behind a string of east coast robberies that has stumped law enforcement. After his partner, one-eyed Bobby Wilcoxson, kills a bank guard and wounds a New York City patrolman, Al is identified as one of the robbers and lands on top of the FBI’s most wanted list. He is forced to flee his hometown of Buffalo, New York as the FBI closes in and Lolly learns of her husband’s secret life. One million wanted posters are printed and The Reader’s Digest offers a ten-thousand-dollar reward for Al’s capture. While Al assumes another identity and attempts to elude the police, Lolly is left alone to care for their infant daughter and adjust to her new life as ‘The Bank Robber’s Wife’. Friends, family, and federal agents all pressure Lolly to betray Al. While Lolly struggles at home financially, with unrelenting FBI agents, and her conscious, Al and Bobby continue to rob banks, even as Bobby grows more mentally unstable and dangerous. Al has only two goals: avoid capture and steal enough money to start a new life with his family. Returning to gather his wife and baby is suicidal, but as Al said, he’d only stick his neck in the Buffalo noose for Lolly.

Book Details

Title: Rook
Author: Stephen G. Eoannou

Genre: fiction

Publisher: Unsolicited Press (June 28, 2022)

Print length: 300 pages



A few of your favorite things: at the height of the pandemic, I decided I didn’t have enough stress in my life and bought an 1865 Victorian in Buffalo’s lower westside. Old homes are never “done”—there’s always something that needs to be repaired, replaced, renovated—but two of my favorite rooms in the house is the cupola and the library. To get to the cupola, I have to climb a set of steep, winding stairs. The stairs are tough. When people come over and want to see it, tours are given early in the evening when everyone’s relatively sober. Windows face all four sides, of course, and the space has great natural light. I have views of the Niagara River and a 19th century armory that looks like a castle. My office is up there. It’s a great place to work and daydream, which is part of a writer’s job. So, technically I’m working when I stare out those windows. My other favorite room is a parlor off the dining room that I turned into a library. It had this bare wall about twelve feet long and twelve feet high that was begging for bookshelves. I found a picture online of an 1870’s English bookshelf and found a guy who could reproduce it. Now I need chairs and curtains. If you want to see it and don’t mind sitting on the floor or the neighbors peeking through the window, swing by. But, like I said, if you want to see the cupola, we need to do that before we sit on the library floor and start drinking.

Things you need to throw out: I hired my cousin’s friend, Fast Freddy, to do the home inspection when I bought the house. I was following Freddy around taking notes on all the things that needed to be repaired or replaced. We were down in the basement and Fast Freddy asked if I knew what I had down here. He asked me a couple times, not waiting for me to answer before asking again. Freddy grew more excited each time he asked. I was growing excited, too. What did I have down here? A stop on the Underground Railroad? Some rare example of a 19th century basement? Hidden money in the walls? No, Fast Freddy explained, what I had in the basement was the history of wiring. This is not necessarily a good or safe thing. So, yeah, I got some wiring that needs to be pulled and thrown out if you want to give me a hand.

Things you need in order to write: sleep. I write from five to seven in the morning before I go to my day job. Those are the best two hours of my day. But if I’m out late the night before or stay up late binging something on Netflix, it makes it tough answering that bell at 4:45. If I do sleep through my two-hour window, I’m miserable the entire day. Luckily, I grow bored easily if the movie or series isn’t written very well, and I’m getting too old to have many late nights anymore. Happy Hour is much more appealing these days. So, there’s that.

Things that hamper your writing: time. For the first time in my writing life, I have enough projects to be a full-time writer. I’m marketing and preparing for the launch of my debut novel Rook, which drops in June from Unsolicited Press. I’m finishing the final edits for my second novel Yesteryear, which will be published in 2023 by SFWP. I’m polishing what I hope to be my third novel with the working title of After Pearl. And I have a fourth novel already mapped out that I’m anxious to start.  That two-hour window starting at 5am isn’t big enough to accomplish everything I need to get done. I think the only answer is lottery tickets—scratch-offs, MegaMillions, PowerBall.  One of them has got to hit. When it does, I can sit in my cupola and write and daydream all day. I might even buy a chair or two for the library. I’m not sure about buying library curtains, though. I like waving to the neighbors.

Things you love about writing:
I love reading something I’ve written and being surprised, wondering where that came from. I love polishing sentences and pushing words around the page until it’s just right. I love writing something that makes me laugh while I’m writing it, and it still makes me laugh when I’m rewriting it.  I love when strangers tell me they love my books.  I love how I’m completely focused and I’m aware of nothing around me when I write. Jesus, I’m such a nerd.

Things you hate about writing: not a damn thing. It’s a gift. It gives meaning to my life. It defines who I am. It’s the only thing in the world I’m even a little bit good at. Writing, rewriting, editing, line editing—I don’t consider any of that work. If you’re going to push me in a corner and make me answer this question, I’ll say I hate when publishers and publicists say I need to work on my ‘brand’. I have a brand? I don’t even know what that means. Am I ketchup now? A can of tuna? I’m just going to be me and call that my brand. My brand? Jesus, just shoot me.

Easiest thing about being a writer: you can do it anywhere. When I was traveling all the time for work, my short story collection Muscle Cars was edited at the end of various Marriott Hotel bars up and down the east coast. Rook was written in the attic of my old house on Lafayette Avenue. Yesteryear was written mostly in bed. After Pearl was written during the pandemic as a means of escape. All you need is your laptop or pen and paper—except I can’t read my handwriting anymore. The other easy thing about being a writer is it’s your easy excuse for all your failings. You look crappy in public? “It’s ok, he’s a writer.” Had too much to drink at a party? “It’s ok, he’s a writer.” Socks don’t match? “It’s ok, he’s a writer.” Being a writing is a free pass for all your social short comings. Oh, the lies I tell myself . . .
Hardest thing about being a writer: it takes a long time, at least it did for me. I started writing in the 80’s, about the same time Chabon and Brett Easton Ellis were coming on the scene. I thought I’d be like them and have my first novel drop before I turned thirty. That sure as hell didn’t happen. Rook will be published a month after I turn 59 and Yesteryear is schedule to launch on my 60th birthday. I’m no Boy Wonder. But, you know, I didn’t quit. I take pride in that. I kept working at my craft, trying to improve. I absorbed twenty-five years of rejections like they were body blows, which they were. Pretty soon you outgrow having ‘potential’ and you have to produce something of merit. I’ll never be a Chabon or Brett Easton Ellis. I don’t have the talent, the gift. But I got something. I’m really interested in seeing where it takes me now that I’m on my way. And if this is it? If Yesteryear is the last book published? If After Pearl never finds a home? That’s okay. I’ll still be getting up at 4:45 to write even if no one will read it. Unless those lottery numbers hit. Then I’ll get up at seven. In Greece.

Things you love about where you live: the last line of my current bio is, “Eoannou lives and writes in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, the setting and inspiration for much of his work.” That’s a lie. It’s the setting and inspiration of all of my work. The majority of Rook and all of Yesteryear are set in Buffalo. And those stories in Muscle Cars where the setting is never specified? Yeah, that’s Buffalo, too. I don’t fully understand the connection I have with this physical place and my creativity, but it’s there and it’s real. I enjoy writing about this town, its history, its characters. I’m creating my own fictionalized, romanticized version of this city. This reimagined Buffalo links my books and acts not only a backdrop but a character in my work. All those places I mention in my stories—The Lafayette Hotel, The Statler Hotel, Al Nussbaum’s house, Fran Striker’s house, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Voelkers, The Kitty Kat (now Eddie Brady’s) are still standing. Okay, Voelkers is about to be torn down, but it’s still standing as of today. I sit in those bars or walk through those places or just park outside and start daydreaming, imagining, and I get inspired. It’s a great town filled with great stories and ghosts that speak to me. It also has cold beer at reasonable prices. You should come visit, help me pull wire out of basement.
Things that make you want to move: I like Buffalo winters. I like the way the city looks blanketed in snow. I like walking the dog in all that white silence. I like writing winter scenes. I like all these things until about Valentine’s Day. Then I’m done. I’ll never move away from Buffalo. This is the place that inspires me. I feed off its history and architecture and my own family history here. Having said that, I can see becoming a snowbird as I get older, spending February and March someplace where I don’t have to scrape ice from my windshield every morning. I’ve got my eye on Greenville, South Carolina. My good friend and novelist Ashley Warlick is an owner at M. Judson, one of the coolest bookstores around. I’ll talk her into hiring me for a couple months out of the year. I’ve got retail experience. I always say the only job I was ever good at besides writing was stockboy at my dad’s liquor store. I guarantee if I cash you out at the bookstore, I’ll greet you, thank you, count your change back, and place all those George Washingtons in your hand facing the same way. That’s the way it was done at Thruway Liquors in Cheektowaga, New York. Of course, if one of those scratch-offs, MegaMillions, or PowerBall tickets hit, screw that bookstore plan. I’ll be spending winters in Greece.

Things you always put in your books: my grandfather’s restaurant, The New Genesee. It plays a prominent role in Rook, Yesteryear, as well as my work-in-progress, After Pearl. Here’s the funny thing: I’ve never set foot in the restaurant. My grandfather died and the New Genesee was sold before I was born. The building was razed. My dad was a great storyteller, especially when he had a couple drinks, and my mother wasn’t around. I loved hearing his memories of growing up living above the restaurant and all the characters that came in—Lefty The Dog Thief, boxing champion Jimmy Slattery, the prostitutes from the brothel down the street. I drank those stories in then and they’re coming out in my fiction now. I always say my best stories are my father’s stories. It’s a shame he passed away before I was published. I think he’d get a kick reading the stories he used to tell. I bet some of them were even true.

Things you never put in your books: well, I don’t think it’s possible to say what you will never write about. Each story has its own demands, and the characters are the ones really calling the shots. However, it’s hard to imagine me ever writing about a child’s death or disappearance. I’ve always been that way. I used to teach at the College of Charleston with Bret Lott a lifetime ago. I remember when Reed’s Beach was published. The novel deals with the death of a child. I went to Bret’s reading and book signing, but I never read a word of that book. Couldn’t do it. And this was three or four years before I even had kids. In one of my seminars at the Queens University of Charlotte’s MFA program, somebody—maybe it was David Payne or Pinckney Benedict—told us that to achieve truly emotionally impactful writing, we should write about what scares us, to push ourselves to honestly confront our demons. Maybe someday I will, but I think stories about children who are harmed are someone else’s stories to tell, someone braver than I am.

Things to say to an author:
1.     This was the best book I ever read!
2.     I can’t believe this book is even better than your last one!
3.     You look so much taller in person than in your author photo!
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book:
1.     It took you that long to write that? (No. It took me to this point in my life to be able to write that.)
2.     You actually make money writing that kind of stuff? (Yes, but not enough to afford a hitman to get you to stop asking stupid questions once and for all.)
3.     Can I get a free copy of your book? (Jesus, just pay the fifteen bucks.)
Favorite places you’ve been: Greece. I’ve only been once with my son and ten of my cousins. It was the Eoannou Traveling Circus. There were misadventures galore. We thought we saw a merman emerge from the sea, but it was just our waiter who decided to take a swim. We somehow managed to get a minivan wedged between two buildings in this impossibly narrow mountain village road—I think it was a paved goat path. All the neighbors came out to watch and shake their heads at the stupid Americans. And, we inadvertently skipped out on a 900 Euro bill, which we eventually paid when they caught up with us in Santorini. If that wasn’t enough, I got to see my grandfather’s village (Yeah, that grandfather from the New Genesee), meet cousins I never knew existed, and found the humble little house where my father was born. I brought back a lot of great stories from that trip, but I don’t think we’re allowed on the island of Evia anymore. I swear I thought my cousin paid that bill.
Places you never want to go to again: I liked India and was grateful that I had the opportunity to go. I enjoyed the food, and the people were kind and gracious. The Taj Mahal was as beautiful as the pictures. But there are other places I’d rather go: Belgium, to visit my Uncle Steve’s grave in Henri-Chapelle Military Cemetery, Germany, to show off four years’ worth of Kenmore West High School German language skills, Australia to visit my Andromidas cousins. I tell my kids, whenever you get a chance to travel, go. You never know when you might get another chance and what stories you might bring back with you. Like I said, India was great. Remind me to tell you the leper story and the naked baby story the next time I see you.


Stephen G. Eoannou is the author of the novels Yesteryear (SFWP 2023), Rook (Unsolicited Press 2022), and the short story collection Muscle Cars (SFWP 2015). He has been awarded an Honor Certificate from The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and won the Best Short Screenplay Award at the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival. Eoannou holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and an MA from Miami University. He lives and writes in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, the setting and inspiration for much of his work.
Connect with Stephen:
Blog |   Facebook  |  Twitter   |  Book trailer

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Saturday, April 30, 2022




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


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.        


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:
   |  Barnes & Noble   |  Bookshop


Friday, April 29, 2022



"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




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.


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  |   

Buy the book:

Amazon  |  
Barnes & Noble 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022



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.


•    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 and Barnes& 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.


•    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.