Friday, December 31, 2010

Kindness: the gift that keeps on giving

2010 was a great year for me, in which I accomplished many things, thanks to the kindness of others. With the help of several friends like Anita Davison, Kristina Emmons, Mirella Patzer and Gemi Sasson, one publishing goal is complete. I have been able to give some of that good advice back to new friends, like Michelle Gregory, as she revised and published on Kindle. My co-workers have been a tremendous support, like a second family through the good and not-so-good times. And, my real family - what can I say? Several states, oceans and two continents may separate us, but when we need each other, everyone is there. It is only fitting that my year ends as it started, with acts of kindness.

This past weekend's huge blizzard dumped piles of snow on NYC, up to two feet outside my house. It also left my mom stranded at the dialysis center she attends every other day of the week. On Sunday night, while her family was at home worrying about her, she spent the night in a chair, hungry and without her medications for diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Our one attempt to get her out left my brother in-law bogged down in deep snow. By Monday, my nerves were absolutely frayed, and I was determined that she was not going to spend another night away from the house. My cousin Tricia volunteered to go with me and we ventured out into the knee-deep snow on Monday afternoon. We got a bus, which crept along for a bit until it could not go any further on the road impeded with stranded cars and ambulances. Then we walked eight blocks until a cab came. We managed five blocks until the cab could not go further. It was time to hike, up a hill for 10 blocks to the train station. After two stops and three more blocks, we made it to the dialysis center. I might have turned back a couple of times during those six hours, without the kind endurance of my cousin.

Now, it was time to make it back home and I dreaded it, knowing that my mom was not at full strength. Two blocks from the dialysis center, while desperately looking for a bus, and fruitlessly trying to hail a cab, two Good Samaritans pulled up in a SUV and asked us where we were going. After a bit of hesitation, we told them and they told us to hop in. It took them two hours, in which we stopped twice, dug out and pushed the vehicle along the way, but we made it home. It was a nice reminder that strangers can be kind, too. To Marlon in New Jersey and Renee from Brooklyn, thanks for teaching me that lesson.

With all the blessings I've received this year, I bid a fond farewell to 2010 and look forward to 2011. Wishing all of you a happy and blessed New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Amazon's New Kindle Lending Policy

My dear friend, Michelle at Beautiful Chaos blogspot emailed today to discuss Amazon's new Kindle lending policy. Little did she know it would lead to talk of devil-worshipping and selling one's soul. See the trouble you started, Michelle?

Full details are available from the Amazon website, but if I've got the gist of this: in the US only (for now), Kindle books can be loaned once for a period of 14 days, free to read on a Kindle device or any of the reading applications for Kindle. The lender has no access to the book again until the end of the 14 day period.While publishers and rights holder can determine which titles are eligible for lending, all titles made available through Amazon DTP have been automatically enrolled, which includes On Falcon's Wings and Michelle's Eldala. Great, right?

I must say, I initially thought so when the notification from Amazon DTP popped up on my Blackberry this morning. Then I remembered that age-old adage, "Why buy the cow, when you can have the milk for free?" It's applied to premarital sex, but works here, too. Why would you buy a Kindle book, when someone can just loan you their copy for fourteen days for free?

There's a few things in the FAQ section for Kindle authors that left me...concerned at first. Like the following:

Q: Will I receive royalties when customers choose to lend my book?
A: Loans of digital books through the Kindle Book Lending program are not purchases and thus are not eligible to receive royalty payments.

Hmm, okay, that's perfectly understandable. It's a loan for 14 days, not a sale. I can't reasonably expect any money from that.

Q: Will I be notified when someone has loaned my book?
A: At this time, notifications are not sent when customers loan your book.

Well, I reasoned, that's sort of okay, too. I mean, I don't know exactly where I've earned sales on Kindle in the US. In addition to not knowing who bought the book, I won't know if they lent it to anyone. It's like that, I just won't get access to that information either. Not a problem, really.

Q: Can I opt my title out of Kindle Book Lending?
A: Titles in the 35% royalty option may choose to opt out of Kindle Book Lending by deselecting the checkbox under "Kindle Book Lending," in the "Rights and Pricing" section of the title upload/edit process. You may not choose to opt out a title if it is included in the lending program of another sales or distribution channel. Titles in the 70% royalty option must participate in Kindle Book Lending and may not opt out.

If you're wondering why I bolded that last part, it's not because it gives me the warm fuzzies all over.

Over the summer of 2010, Amazon DTP began offering 70% royalties on titles that met certain criteria. Authors like myself cried, "Huzzah!" Score one for the author trying to earn a little more from his or her hard work. For me, that amounted to a net of $2.04 from each $2.99 sale, versus $1.05 at the 35% royalty option. Don't look down your nose at me. Yes, 99 cents does make a difference to a fledgling author. I still feel you doing it, by the way.

Why can't I just be as pleased as punch about the mandatory participation in this lending program for authors earning 70% royalties? It's not because I like to chafe at any mandatory restrictions on what I can or can't do, like some recalcitrant child. As I told Michelle, while I'm reserving full judgment on this new policy for now...the no opt out for those of us in the 70% royalty scheme bugs me. I can't describe it any better than that - it bugs me. The inability to opt out seems a bit like Jeff Bezos saying, "Hey author, you're already getting the better part of the deal anyway with your 70% and you should just be happy with that. No, you're not getting any royalties off the book loans and we won't tell you how many times your book's been loaned. Don't like that? Well, if you don't mind taking less of a percentage per future sale, feel free to opt out and go for the 35% royalty on your work. Happy New Year." Why does that feel akin to one of those offers from the Godfather, one you can't really refuse?

Let me be clear: I'm growing a career as a writer. Maybe JA Konrath and Seth Godin can afford it, but I really don't need readers lending my book to people who could otherwise be buying it. Same principle behind why I didn't give away a bunch of free paperback copies to friends and family. Yet here's Amazon telling me that because I'm enrolled at 70% royalty, I have no choice but to potentially give away free copies to others, who might have been paying customers. I've tried to look at this as a real benefit, but come away with only the potential for it, at best. Word of mouth is the most valuable tool an author has, and loaning the book has the same effect. But it seems only a potential for increased exposure, nothing more. If someone receives my book on loan, any guarantee he / she will read it in that 14-day window? Any guarantee of a recommendation to another person who will actually buy it? In the short term, I can't bank on possiblities.

As Kristie Cook, author of Promise and Purpose said in response to Michelle and me, "The more people who read your first book, despite how they get it, the more who will buy your second. And the more people who will be talking about it to others, who will buy it." Kristie, I sincerely hope you're right. For now, I'm eyeing this new Kindle policy and hoping for a positive impact, but also preparing for the probability that nothing may come of it that will benefit Kindle authors. In that, I'd love to be proven wrong.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

#SampleSunday: Sultana Chapter One, part two

Welcome to another Sample Sunday, where I'm posting the chapters of my next novel, Sultana, set in thirteenth century Spain. Missed the first half of Chaper One? Click here. Otherwise, I invite you to read on...

CHAPTER ONE – PAWNS IN THE GAME

GHARNATAH, AL-ANDALUS: MUHARRAM 664 AH (GRANADA, ANDALUSIA: OCTOBER 1265 AD)

PRINCE FARAJ

Brass lanterns sputtered in an orange haze of fading light. Evening shadows lengthened as defeat cast its grim pall over Prince Faraj. He faced his opponent on a familiar battlefield. The Sultan of Gharnatah leaned toward him and smiled a predatory grin, before he delivered the deathblow. “Do you yield, nephew?”

Faraj surveyed an ebony wood chessboard, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, his father’s last gift to the Sultan. Despite the passing of several years, Faraj still admired this fine piece of handiwork. A wall of his white pawns now lined the other side of the board. He shook his head in dismay, recognizing how the earlier, reckless positioning of his cavalier had heralded his downfall. He rubbed at the corners of his burning eyes and wracked his mind for a counter-move. Yet, he could not deny the truth. As in all other things, his uncle held the advantage.

He barely recalled the time when he had not lived by the Sultan’s whim and desire. After his arrival in Gharnatah nine years ago, a wearied and bloodied boy, the old man raised him alongside his own royal sons. At nearly seventy-four, the sovereign’s mind remained formidable. Despite his advanced years, he appeared rested and focused, but then, he probably slept well most nights.

For his part, Faraj could not remember the peace that sleep had once brought. The memory evaded him, just as easily as contented slumber had for nearly ten years.

“Do not succumb to idle thoughts, nephew. You have already lost pawns, as a result.”

“I do not have my father’s skill. How was it that he was able to best you every time?”

The Sultan chuckled. “Is that what he told you? Your father’s talent for exaggeration was always incomparable, but perhaps in this, he did not lie. You may not have his talent, but each day you grow more in his image. If he had lived, my brother would be very proud of you. My only regret is that he was unable to witness your union with my granddaughter today.”

Faraj kept his stare fixed on the board. He dared not raise his gaze for his uncle’s eager scrutiny. Otherwise, the hawk-eyed glint in his expression would pierce the heart of him, and reveal the turmoil brewing inside.

Throughout the day, unrelenting fear had roiled in his guts, warning him against the path he now trod. As before, the same concerns that had plagued him earlier returned now. He pushed them aside, but swallowed audibly before daring an answer. He prayed his voice would not betray him.

Jaw clenched tightly, he muttered, “I share the same regret, my Sultan.”

The sovereign leaned forward in his cedar chair, as though he had not clearly heard Faraj. “Your father would say of both us that regrets are best left in the past. In that, as in other things, he would be right. Still, I believe he would have been proud that you have attained your manhood, and taken a royal bride.”

Faraj nodded, though he believed his father would have viewed the marriage with the same circumspect opinion he once held of his own wedding: a means to an end. As with his father, Faraj had not chosen his own wife. At least his father had made a better bargain, with an alliance that benefitted their family. Faraj was not certain how his own marriage gave him any advantage. Likely, it would bring about a quick death.

The Sultan showed no awareness of his companion’s discomfort. “Your union with Fatima surely surprised many people. I suspect it has angered others, particularly the Ashqilula family, but they shall accept it.”

“And if the Ashqilula do not accept this marriage?” Faraj gasped at his own carelessness, and gripped the edge of the chessboard until the nail bed of his thumb whitened. He chided himself. Only a fool revealed his fears so easily, especially before another inclined to play upon them.

As he anticipated, the Sultan paused and cocked his head. Faraj perceived the change in him instantly, like a hawk sighting prey, and he knew their game of chess was at an end. He released the side of the gaming board and steeled himself, feigning courage he did not feel.

“Do your ties to the Ashqilula family still burden you, nephew?”

The attack came sharp and swift, tearing at his heart to the core of him. The roughened nails of his hands cut into the palms, unseen by the Sultan’s persistent gaze. How dare the old man even ask about burdens? Faraj cursed him inwardly, for having burdened his family generation after generation. Likely, the Sultan’s machinations had brought them to the brink of ruin.

Still, Faraj waved a trembling hand over his chest, as though flicking away dinner crumbs from his black tunic. He controlled the fluttering at his breast with even breaths, before he glanced at the Sultan. He hated and loved this old man, who always pierced to the heart of a matter. Faraj could almost admire the skill, if it had not been turned against him in this instant.

“Why should old ties impede me?” He despised the unsteady warbling in his voice, but the unbreakable cord still encumbered him – blood ties to the Ashqilula family.

Their blood coursed in his veins by virtue of his mother, an Ashqilula chieftain’s daughter, who had wed the Sultan’s brother and loved him until her death. Faraj shuddered at his last memory of her, bloodied and ruined, and drew a deep breath before continuing.

He forced the words from a dry throat. “I could care less about my ties to them. The Ashqilula mean nothing to me.”

The lie hung heavy in the room. Faraj gritted his teeth as the weight of it bore down upon him. A burdensome encumbrance, but one he undertook for his own sake. The Sultan expected it. He would never accept anything but unwavering loyalty from his family.

“What are your thoughts on my granddaughter, then?”

Faraj swallowed at the sudden change of the topic’s focus and pronounced a swift reply.

“I hardly know her. We have never met before I married her today.”

“That is common enough. Yet, surely you must feel something about this union. You have barely spoken of it since the oaths made during the ceremony. When my heir congratulated you before all our guests, you did not acknowledge his acclaim beyond a mere polite nod.”

Faraj cursed the old man. Why did he keep pretending that this wedding was anything other than a declaration of war against his enemies? Why did he appear so unconcerned that those enemies would now retaliate against him, and embroil Faraj in their feud?

Still, he steeled himself against showing any further weakness. He began, “My Sultan, I perceive the great honor you have bestowed upon me with this union betwixt myself and the daughter of the Crown Prince.”

“Bah! Do not dissemble. You don’t have your father’s skill for it. Not yet. Tell me, truthfully, what did you think of my granddaughter as you beheld her for the first today?”

Through the haze of his bewilderment, Faraj recalled the image of the pale, stick-thin, elfin girl whom everyone expected him to acknowledge as his wife. She had worn gaudy jewelry, garish cosmetics, and rich robes -- extravagant wastes for such a scrawny, waif-like child, in his opinion. The weight of her finery overwhelmed her, as she had sat on a yellow, damask cushion trimmed with gold filigree apart from everyone. Her features were markedly angular and gaunt, similar to her father’s in appearance, though not as sallow. If the sight of her had not stirred his revulsion for the prospect of marrying a child, he might have pitied her. Except in one instance.

When the evening breeze had filtered in from the open-air courtyard, torchlight flared and cast its glow upon her hair, the color of burnished copper. At that moment, her sharp chin rose and her stark gaze met his, unflinching. Brilliant flecks like the embers of a fire glittered in her brown eyes. The sight took him aback for a moment. Then she looked away. Even now, his lips curled at the memory of how she had turned and ignored him, with the neglect reserved for menials.

He tamped down the abhorrence souring in his belly. “Forgive me, but she is merely a child of eight years. What can I, a man ten years her senior, be expected to feel regarding her?”

After a moment, the Sultan shrugged and nodded, as he had hoped. “I suppose you have years, Faraj, in which you may come to know my granddaughter better. For now, she shall remain in her father’s household, until she is of an age to bear you children. I rely upon her father to protect her.”

“Your plans shall tear the Sultanate apart.”

“Your union with Fatima shall heal the rift. Can I rely upon you?”

Though Faraj doubted how a union with a child might preserve the land, he kept those thoughts to himself.

“You may.” He held the Sultan’s gaze without wavering. Not for the first time, he thought the old man burdened him unduly with inopportune vows.

Raised voiced echoed beyond the closed doors of the chamber. Both the Sultan and Faraj turned toward the sound. At the sovereign’s nod, two sentries stationed beside the door opened it. Faraj stood as torchlight revealed the sallow face of the Crown Prince of Gharnatah.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad sneered at the guardsmen outside the chamber before he approached. He sagged on one knee before the Sultan, his dark leonine head bowed. When his father touched his shoulder, he stood unsteadily. Faraj scratched his thin beard and eyed the men steadily.

A frown marred the Crown Prince’s brow, aging him beyond his thirty-one years. His deep-set eyes, a family trait, were red-rimmed and his mouth was a grim, fixed line. He spoke in low tones with his father. When he finished the Sultan grasped his arms, as though propping him up.

“Are you truly surprised by this betrayal? It is only your wounded pride that cannot accept it.”

“She belongs to me! I shall never give her up.”

The Sultan sighed. “If you insist. There are few places within al-Qal’at Al-Hamra where she can hide.”

“But she is not within the palace!”

The Sultan cocked his head and chuckled. “She possesses a quick wit, even greater than you anticipated. Do not trouble yourself, my son, we shall find her before she leaves Gharnatah.”

“When I have her in my arms again, she shall regret this night.” Thinly veiled rage seethed from the Crown Prince’s embittered lips.

While Faraj wondered at the import of their conversation, the Sultan patted his son’s shoulder. He strolled toward Faraj. Looking down at him, he gestured to the chessboard. “It would seem the pieces are set. The game can begin.”

The last embers within the brass lanterns crackled and died, as Faraj pondered the meaning behind that enigmatic statement. His mind swirled with myriad thoughts. Foremost, he must ensure his uncle’s plans would not threaten his own survival or interests. He was not about to become anyone’s pawn again, not even that of the Sultan.

Comments are welcome. As always, thanks for stopping by the blog.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Love in the Time of Amazon

There are lots of ways to show the writer in your life some love...but surely less expensive than this, right?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

#SampleSunday: "Sultana" - Chapter One


Kindle Author's David Wisehart, one of my favorite bloggers, recently started a new Twitter hashtag #SampleSunday. It's a way for new authors to share and promote their writing.

I'm hard at work on my next self-published offering, Sultana, which is set in thirteenth-century Moorish Spain. It's the tale of the last Muslim Dynasty to rule Granada. If you've known me for any length of time, you must have heard of it. You haven't? You truly have no clue what I'm talking about. Then I invite you dive right in:


PART I

CHAPTER ONE – PAWNS IN THE GAME

GHARNATAH, AL-ANDALUS: MUHARRAM 664 AH (GRANADA, ANDALUSIA: OCTOBER 1265 AD)

PRINCESS FATIMA

A hot, dry hand covered Fatima's mouth, stifling the scream in her throat. She awoke to a nightmare unfolding in the darkness.

The figure in a black hood and cloak hovered in silence above her. As her eyes adjusted to the dimness of the shadowy chamber, she made out the images of three others, cloaked and hooded like the one who held her captive and quiet. Two of the intruders stood on either side of the olive wood door. Another treaded quietly toward the lattice window and shuttered it, before crossing the room and lingering beside the boy closest to the door.

Fatima froze, paralyzed by terror. Muhammad ibn Muhammad snored heavily, his head lolling on the silken pillow. In a deep slumber, he remained unaware of the danger they faced. The intruder bent and loomed above the boy, studying him in silence.

One thought burgeoned in Fatima’s mind, mirroring the whimpering plea muffled behind her lips. "No! Don't hurt my brother!"

She scratched and clawed wildly at the hand pressed against her mouth. Muhammad was the eldest among six sisters and their father's heir. She could never let anyone harm him. She struggled in vain. Her captor pinched her nostrils. A choking wave of terror swelled in her throat and squeezed her chest. Her eyelids fluttered and tears coursed beneath the lashes, momentarily blinding her.

On a low table at her side, the sparrow in its gilded cage chorused a cry of alarm and beat its wings against the metal bars.

The person beside her brother stood and approached, bypassing the white marble alcoves where her younger sisters Muna, Alimah, Azahra, and Tarub slept peaceably. Only the baby Nadira, born two months before, was absent. Fatima prayed Nadira’s wet-nurse would keep her safe and away from harm.

Each noiseless footfall brought the intruder closer to Fatima. Her fingers relentlessly clawed at the hands that left her gasping for breath. A tightening sensation swelled inside her throat and her eyes widened. Her body went limp and her limbs grew stiff.

The silent figure knelt beside the cage and withdrew a square of black cloth. She panicked and renewed her struggles, fearing for her pet as much as she worried for her family. The cloth went over the cage and covered it entirely. The sparrow quieted except for a few clicks and chirps.

Then blunt fingers alighted on her captor's shoulder. At this silent command, the one holding her nostrils released her nose, though the other hand remained on her mouth. The first merciful lungful of air burned at the back of her throat. Despite the harsh pain, she sucked in the next breathed with a heavy wheeze, before she stared at the intruders.

She could not discern their features in the darkness, except for heavy lidded eyes lined with kohl. Who were these people? She felt certain they did not speak to conceal their identities further. She would have known any of the eunuchs or retainers in her father’s palace by the sound of their voices alone. Had their servants betrayed the family and risen against her father?

Fists tightening at her side, she trembled with fear and a growing rage. If they had hurt her father or kept him captive like her, unaware of the threat to his children, she would…. Her hands slackened. What could she do, a girl who might now not live to see her ninth birthday?

The one who stood beside her lifted a burly hand. She glared defiantly at the intruders. If they had harmed her father, she prayed Allah would give her some means to avenge him.

Fingertips glided across her wet cheek, startling her. She jerked her head away, recoiling from the unwelcome touch. Tears trickled from the corners of her eyes.

"Take her."

The hand over her mouth withdrew for the course of one breath. In the next, a cloth saturated with a thick odor covered her lips and nose. Blackness encroached again.


Fatima awoke to the glare of lamplight. She opened her eyes to the golden light cast by iron brackets affixed to the walls. She rested on a pallet in one corner of an otherwise empty room. At its center, the lamplight shimmered and reflected in the depths of a pool lined with marble. Fatima shuddered with the realization that she could not be at home in her father’s palace.

As she sat up and looked around, a brisk wind raced inward and whipped through her curly hair, startling her. There were no windows in the room. She swiped strands of hair away from her face and marked the flow of a water channel connected to the pool, carrying the crystalline liquid outward and around a corner.

From that direction, a feminine voice echoed, “…She has demanded to see her, Abdallah. How could I have refused her?”

A man answered, “You risk too much. You should not have brought the girl here, all for the whims of an old woman.”

“A dying woman, Abdallah. My mother.”

“Still, it is a heavy burden you bear. Now, to involve the child and ask her to….”

“I ask nothing more from her than her grandfather has already demanded. He knew the risks when he married her off. If you had seen her earlier today at the wedding…. She is barely eight years old, and already a bride. She cannot begin to understand the consequences of this union, what it may mean for her and for us all. This husband of hers,” her voice seethed with disgust, "Prince Faraj has his father’s selfishness. He shall ensure his own protection, not Fatima’s. The Sultan and my husband are responsible for her final fate. She is a mere child, not some pawn in this game of her father and grandfather.”

Fatima did not recognize the voices, though each person seemed to know her. She frowned at the woman’s reference to a chess game. How could a person be a pawn? Pawns belonged on the chess board with which she and her father played in the evenings.

The man continued, “It is finished now. The girl has done her duty.”

“Duty! She had no choice. Just like me. My husband thinks I am a fool, who knows nothing of his father’s plans. He thinks to keep me an unwitting fool, a prisoner caged within the walls of his palace. I have been nothing more than his broodmare.”

“We must leave the city at first light when the gates are opened. My coming to Gharnatah cannot remain a secret for long. Are you certain of this course? Your husband shall believe the worst of you, that you have betrayed him. He shall hate you.”

“No more than I have hated him.”

Fatima snapped aside the silken coverlet draping her, and crept across the marble floor. She winced at the coldness of the tiles, and peered around the corner into the antechamber.

A brazier cast a shadow against the wall, the aroma of ambergris and musk scenting the air. The pair in the antechamber was settled before a lattice-covered window, where the water channel dipped below the plaster wall. The man knelt beside the woman on the stool. She wore silver silk robes and a black hijab covered her hair. The man’s large, olive-brown hands covered her smaller, slim ones. She looked down her aquiline nose at him.

“There is hope for Fatima. You have given it to me, Abdallah, the means to save her from the schemes of her father and grandfather.”

“Neither of them can trouble you here. Still, I regret my part in this. You risked too much in coming. I should never have asked it. I have placed you in grave danger, ‘A’isha, you and your daughter.”

She withdrew one hand from his grasp and smoothed a lock of his thick, brown hair from his forehead. “I have known danger most of my life, Abdallah, ever since I married the Crown Prince of Gharnatah. Why should tonight be any different?”

He brought her hand to his lips and kissed the fingertips. Fatima smothered a sharp, involuntary cry behind her hands, but not quietly enough. The pair jerked toward her.

The woman’s wide, green eyes sparkled like emeralds. At first, Fatima imagined those eyes glistened with tears, but that could not be true. Fatima had glimpsed her only briefly, a few times in the past. She had never seen her cry.

Fatima’s hands fell at her side, shaking. “How could you do this to my father? Steal me away? Be here with another man? Why are you letting him,” she stabbed her finger at the stranger, “touch you?”

The woman rose and approached, her slim fingers clasped together. Her pallid face resembled a stone carving in the garden – beautiful, but cold and hard. She had rejected the charms of the world around her and the joys within it, even her children.

The man behind her stood. “Ignorant child, you know nothing of what you are speaking. You are being disrespectful to your mother.”

The woman hushed him. “Do not chide her, brother. If Fatima is ignorant or willful, it is because her father and grandfather have allowed her to be so.” She paused and held out her hand. “Come, daughter, it is time you learned the truth.”

Fatima drew back. “Don’t touch me! You’re not my mother, you never were.”


Comments are always welcome. Next Sunday: the second half of Sultana, Chapter One.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Obsessed with Amazon Sales Ranking? You're Not Alone.

Just in case you needed another reason to interrupt your writing productivity, Amazon's got a little something for you.

They must be aware that authors obsessively check the sales ranking of their books, at least three or four times a day. No sniggering, you know you do it, too - "Oh, let me just check one thing before I go to bed....woohoo! 11,395!" followed next morning by, "Hang on, just have to look at one thing...damn! It's 13,794. Heading the wrong way!!!" In fact, I know it's not just me who does this - Amazon even says so on the Author Central website. Now, authors have an (easier?) way to manage their compulsive need to check sales rankings.

If you have no clue what Amazon Author Central is, let me sum it up: a free Author Page, where you or your publisher can list your biography, books, photos and videos, your blog, and even tour events. Two things you need to get started: a book you've written and an online account with Amazon. Ever wondered where your books are selling? Amazon has taken it a step further by providing sales data paperback and Kindle purchases of your book(s) in the US from Nielsen BookScan. This service was once available only to the publishing industry at thousand-dollar fees. Also, Author Central consolidates your sales ranking history, viewable over a span of two weeks, one month, or based on all available sales data. Admit it: isn't it much easier to have all the information over a span of time, rather than obsessively checking the ranking several times a day? Feel free to check as often as you want, and jump for joy or freak out over the information - no one will ever know.

This move by Amazon has spurred all sorts of responses. Some of my favorites from Twitter are here. Reasoning behind the decision? Amazon VP Russ Grandinetti says: “Authors are an important community for us … We’re really happy to make it easy and free for them to see geographical BookScan data updated weekly, as well as historical Amazon bestsellers rank, for their books. We hope this creates an improved feedback loop for authors and enables them to develop more effective methods for reaching the widest possible audience.”

Ha! All thoughts on corporate culture and reasoning aside, I know one thing it's gonna do for me - feed my obsession! Mwahahaha, mwahahaha.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Giveaway: Free Books at Unusual Historicals

It's the fourth anniversary of Unusual Historicals this week. I've been a longtime contributor to this blog, and it's great to see how much it has grown over the years, with new contributors and readers.

In celebration of four years of Unusual Historicals, here's your first chance to win some of the giveaways being offered this week, which includes medievals by Lila DiPasqua, Carrie Lofty, Lindsay Townsend, Margaret Mallory and Blythe Gifford. Visit Unusual Historicals today.

Announcing: SULTANA: THE WHITE MOUNTAINS, available December 2, 2017

It's been a monumental journey.... But Sultana: The White Mountains is almost here. The e-book will debut on December 2, 2017. Pre...