The Briton and the Dane: Timeline – available on iTunes

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Dr. Gwyneth Franger is a renowned expert in early medieval England who is set upon learning the truth about the death of Lord Erik, the last descendant of the powerful House of Wareham.  Her quest becomes an obsession, a condition that began with the discovery of a portrait of the tall and valiant warrior with which she forms an extraordinary and inexplicable bond.

Digesting troves of mildewed scrolls and source documentation only enhances her belief that Lord Erik was brutally assassinated by a cabal of traitors in the pay of William the Bastard, shortly before the onslaught of the Norman Invasion.

On an archeological dig in Southern England, her team unearths an Anglo-Saxon fortress, a vast citadel built during the reign of Alfred the Great, which she believes was Lord Erik’s stronghold.  In the midst of her excitement, she is awakened one night from her slumbers by a disconcerting anomaly emerging from the site.

Dr. Franger finds herself transported back to the Dark Ages and at the side of the noble Lord Erik who commands an army of elite Saxon warriors, a swift and mobile force able to deploy quickly throughout the kingdom to ward off invaders.

Witnessing the unrest firsthand, Gwyneth senses that her instincts had been right all along, and she is determined to learn the identities of the treacherous blackguards hiding in the shadows, villains who may well be posing as Lord Erik’s friends and counselors.

Will Gwyneth stop the assassins?  Is she strong enough to walk away and watch her beloved Erik die?  Or will she intervene, change the course of history and wipe out an entire timeline to save the man she loves with all her heart?

iTunes

Mary Ann Bernal web page

Today’s Email from Amazon re Hachette

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I received the following email today and thought I’d share it.  Neither party is acting in  authors’ best interests, and so this blogger has no opinion on the subject.


Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

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

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at http://www.readersunited.com

Emprise Re-released

I have re-released Emprise, having tightened up the first few chapters. I really like the book, but was unhappy with the execution of the opening. To celebrate its release, the eBook will be free this weekend, starting at midnight pacific time (UTC -8).

I hope you check Emprise out. If you don’t buy “fantasy” because you hate “Dungeons and Dragons” and “Lord of the Rings” and others of that ilk, but you would like a nice retreat from reality with people you like, this is the book for you. Sixteen-year-old Charlie is hunting creatures trying to have a normal life. It would be easier were he not tasked with hunting carnivorous rabbits, rapidly evolving dragons, and much more dangerous creatures from the world of dreams, The Stream. Something is destroying the gateway that separates dreams from reality and life from the afterlife. Only Charlie and his best friend, Robin can save the universe from chaos, and the dark enemies determined to bring it about.

You can find excerpts of Emprise here, here, and here.

You can find the book by clicking on the cover shot below.

Emprise, coming ... eventually
Take the journey.

If Thine Eye Offends Thee

Edit it.

I started re-reading Emprise, in order to understand where I went awry. I quickly decided it would be impossible to tell, as my writing style has changed so dramatically in the last year to be unrecognizable as compared to my first three books. In a word, the opening to Emprise stinks.

That left me with 3 alternatives: ignore it (which I would NEVER do), pull it from the shelf, or fix it. I chose the latter. I made it painfully through the 1st chapter tonight, pulling out 840 words. My goal is to cut at least 15,000 words of shite, crap, unnecessary material by the end of the book. It will be painful.

I suppose I should delight in this, since it means I’ve truly grown as a writer. I remember when this was my pride and joy, the book “I cared about.” Now, I’m embarrassed by it. Absolutely everything I’ve written this year has been better.

I’m not sure about timing, since I want to continue working on Jeanne Dark, which will be emotional, romantic, dark, and upsetting. I suspect it will be my best work to date, and hard as hell to write. We’ll see if editing Emprise is a respite or something that blocks my flow. If it’s the latter, I’ll just pull Emprise until I decide it’s good enough.

The real truth is this: everything I write in the 1st-person POV is better than everything I write in 3rd person. But re-writing a book from 3rd to 1st is substantially harder than scrapping the whole thing and starting anew. I’m no longer enamored enough with fantasy fiction to do that. Instead, I’ll tighten the descriptors and really emphasize the romance and emotional content of the story.

It’s amazing how being in love changes one’s perspective, no?

Now, to figure out what to do about the two short stories that need editing. Those, I want people to read.

Fear Itself

Just to give you a taste of The Stream trilogy, of which 1/2 of the action takes place in dreams, here is a typical sequence from Book 1, Discovery. It’s Chapter 14, entitled, “Fear Itself.”

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Mary was in a deep but fitful slumber on the night of Charlie’s visit. In her mind, it was 1973, and she and her boys were under attack. The meds given by the nursing staff made her sleep but did nothing to assuage the images that had taken over her unconscious mind. She knew nothing of Virginia, or Charlie, or of being a 69-year-old woman. For her, there was but a single reality — the pack had begun to hunt.

Mary grabbed her boys and began to run.

As the wolves encircled her, Mary watched each one, noting their positions. First would be the alpha, which must be avoided at all costs. She had noticed one to her right that lagged behind. It was away from the rest of the pack. Perhaps it was old, or wounded – maybe the omega, more timid than the rest. She knew wolves could sprint up to 40 mph, faster than she could ever hope to go. They possessed stamina and ferocious determination. They would never give up, and they would not be outlasted. She feinted in the direction of the beta male that stood directly to the alpha’s right. She appeared to be playing chicken with it, on a beeline in its direction. It reacted by sprinting toward her, and the horrified boys screamed, no longer holding onto their mother, but holding their eyes shut instead.

The alpha saw Mary’s move instantly. It took one step, and leaped a full fifteen feet in the air on an interception course with dinner. A split-second before both wolves would have tackled Mary, she cut right, heading toward the timid wolf in the shadows. The alpha, just landing, did not have time to alter its course, and barreled into the beta that had been running full speed at Mary. They tumbled in a swirling, snarling, angry ball. The other wolves began to chase, but they were distracted by the two lead wolves – the alpha female and her mate, the beta male – that were busy chastising each other.

Mary charged the sole wolf ahead of her. It seemed more inclined to run away than attack. Mary shouted fiercely at it, using words her sons had never heard her say before. It turned and bolted. It was just another outcast in dangerous territory.

She had chosen well, and her sons had survived because of it. At the base of a tree with deep, thick roots, Mary practically threw her sons into the lowest branches. The wolves were on her heels. She could hear the snarls and feel their humid breath against her legs as she pulled herself into the tree. One solitary tooth snagged the flesh of her heel, leaving a crimson trail streaming behind.

They had tasted her, and she was warm, and it was good. Exhausted, heart pounding, full of fight, and tears, and hugs, the trio climbed deeper into the massive branches of the tree, away from the wolves, and toward salvation. She rested and pulled her children closer to her breast. Her boys were brave now, safe in their mother’s arms, and almost calm enough to stanch their tears. Below, the wolves circled and waited, circled and waited. They were forest sharks, and the little family was adrift in a deadly sea. The pack followed a protocol of snarls and leaps for a while, before settling down below the tree.

They are hungry, but not starving. They can wait. Wolves are patient beings.

Mary pulled off the few remaining leaves from the middle branches of the tree and tore off most of her skirt to make a bed in the manner that she had seen chimpanzees do. They were twenty feet above the ground, and safe as long as they stayed in the tree. The wolves would tire of the hunt — she hoped. In the meantime, they would sleep.

“It’s okay kiddos, we’re safe here.” It was as much a prayer as it was comfort.

The wolves were quiet, all save the alpha, which pawed at the tree, never taking her eyes off the group above. The alpha had a pack to feed, Mary a pack to save. Mary and the alpha made eye contact, neither blinking. The wolf showed her teeth in a warning, and Mary answered with a middle finger. It was an impotent gesture, but it made Mary feel stronger. The two watched each other for a long time, until both settled down to a restless sleep.

Around ten o’clock, with the moon high in the night sky, Mary awoke to a rustle in the leaves above. Squinting, she could just make out what appeared to be a branch moving above. Mary looked at the boys, who were sleeping quietly. Mikey had his thumb in his mouth, something he hadn’t done in months. Davey was sleeping with his arm around his little brother, protecting him even in sleep. Mary sat up, not wanting to disturb the boys or waken the wolves, now invisible below, deep on the forest floor.

Something moved below. Another sound overhead. Below, a small branch snapped, and a whimper shattered the still night, followed by a loud thud. Above, the moving branch had become two, and one had a mouth.

It is no branch. There are snakes in the tree above.

Below, Mary heard a low growl and saw angry amber eyes fifteen feet below her. They were looking straight up, and met her gaze with a coldness that chilled her. She had seen those eyes before. They were the eyes of an alpha female gray wolf.

The wolves had learned to climb.

P.S. For the record, I think wolves are the most beautiful animals on Earth.
P.S. For the record, I think wolves are the most beautiful animals on Earth. Brownie points if you noticed I gave the white wolf this wolf’s eyes.

New Book Releases

The paperback version of The Juice and Other Stories will be available within the next week. I’ll post a link when I get the final date from the distributors. It features 15 stories, including two only featured here on this blog.

I hope you’ll check it out.

Juice Cover Web

I only have 3 reviews thus far on Amazon, but they all been favorable – 4.7 out of 5.0 stars. (If you’ve read it, but haven’t reviewed it, I’d love 5 minutes of your time for a honest review.) I want to start writing a new set of stories, so it would greatly help my motivation if I thought people were actually reading the old ones.

The Juice and Other Stories is priced at $1.99 for the Kindle version, $10.50 for the paperback version. NOOK version coming soon (although Barnes and Noble is such a horrid mess, it’s hard to tell).

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By the way, Discovery, Awakening and Emprise are also available for the NOOK. It’s a surprise, since they never bothered to let me know they were available. Email much, B&N? Discovery features the old cover art, although I have NO IDEA why. B&N thinks my name is Edward and Bill. If you click on the ebook link for Awakening you will see links for paperback and hardcover versions THAT ARE NOT MY BOOK! What a horrible, terrible distributor they are. All of the books are $1.99 each.

Get them before Barnes and Noble (hopefully) goes out of business.