In my four or five years blogging for Black Gate, readers have probably become used to me interviewing comic creators and editors, reviewing new comic books and webcomics, small press and large, as well as revisiting classic comic runs and discovering new podcasts that dig into how the sausage is made.
It was becoming increasingly obvious to me that it was time for me to ante up and join the game rather than sitting on the sidelines. And it is a lot different than writing short stories and novels! But, in the last year, I had two 16-page comic book stories published by Markosia Press in the UK.
Gorillas in the Ring (with artist Wendy Muldon and letterer Ian Sharman) appeared in the anthology FLIP (Dec 2018), and Frankenpuppy (with artist Trevor Markwart) will appear in the anthology FLIP 2 (Jan 2020), although our story is being released digitally as a stand-alone preview to the anthology and is at Comixology now for $1.99.
This time it’s because a romance writer has been caught plagiarizing dozens (and I do mean DOZENS) of other authors.
Last week, a fan alerted romance writer Courtney Milan that the book Royal Love by Brazilian author Cristiane Serruya included numerous passages lifted from Milan’s The Duchess War. Milan made side-by-side comparisons of the passages and called Serruya out on her blog.
Serruya denied any wrongdoing, blaming a ghostwriter she had hired on Fiverr, a freelance site for budget jobs. Twitter exploded, as Twitter does, and she quickly deleted her Twitter account, all other social media, and took down the electronic copies of her works. As of this writing, the print and audio editions were still available on Amazon.
For the latest developments, there’s #copypastecris on Twitter, and boy is it ugly.
At the time of writing, the list of plagiarized works has grown to 44 books, 3 articles, 3 websites, and 2 recipes, stealing work from 30 authors, including heavyweights such as Nora Roberts and Jamie Oliver. You can see a regularly updated list here.
I’m acquainted with Cristiane Serruya. She was part of the Kindle Scout program, having won an advance, 50% royalties, and publication for at least one of her works from Amazon’s imprint Kindle Press. Two of my books are also in the program. We chatted numerous times on the Kindle Scout Winners Facebook group and we even traded critiques. She read the first two books in my Masked Man of Cairo mystery series and I read Damaged Love, which turns out to contain plagiarized passages too. At the time I was surprised she would want me to be a beta reader on a romance novel, a genre she knew I didn’t read and knew nothing about. Now I know why.
A lot of writers and readers are saying we have entered a new pulp era, a repeat of those days when hardworking writers pumped out exciting fiction in large quantities while facing very tight deadlines. The old pulp era died long ago, and was replaced with modern traditional publishing. Under that model, writers usually only came out with a book a year, and if they did more than that it was generally under a pseudonym. Traditional houses seem to have been under the impression that “less is more” when it came to a writer’s output.
Readers disagree. They want more from their favorite authors, and they want it now. Those writers who have come to the top of the new indie publishing revolution tend to be those who write a lot, generally in series, and keep up a consistent quality. Some traditionally published writers such as Guy Haley are moving that direction too. In our interview with him, he talked about how he has to write five novels a year if he wants to make a living at his writing.
Even superstars such as James Patterson are getting in on the game. A post at Non-Fiction Novelist talks about how Patterson’s new project “Book Shots” fits perfectly into the pulp mentality. These thrillers and romances are touted as having lots of action and no padding, just like a good pulp story should. They’re all under 150 pages and cost less than $5. Plus there’s a whole lot of them.
I’m seeing a similar trend in online start-up publishers. My own body of indie published work, while doing OK, is not bringing me enough to live on, so I make up the deficiency by ghostwriting. This is a relatively new venture for me as I shift steadily away from nonfiction writing, but the trend I’m seeing is remarkable.
Ghostwriting always involves a strict written agreement not to take credit for a work, so what follows will by necessity be of a general nature.
Today we’re talking to Jack Badelaire, author of numerous action books in the tradition of the 70s “Men’s Adventure” genre. His best known work is his Commandoseries of WWII action novels. Jack reflects on indie publishing and the state of the genre.
Full Disclosure: Jack is a critique partner of mine. He’s also a fellow member of the secret commando group Sicko Slaughterers (“SS,” we really need a new acronym), which goes after terrorists and human traffickers. So far I’ve killed 1,487 sickos, while wimpy little Jack has only killed 1,059. He gets props for killing that ISIS commander in Raqqa with a blender, though.
Anyway, on with the interview.
The Men’s Adventure fiction of the 60s and 70s is obviously a huge influence on your work. You’ve mentioned that you think there’s a lot more going on in these books than many people think. Could you expand on that?
This genre of fiction was brewed up during an especially turbulent period of history. The Cold War, Vietnam, rejuvenated organized crime syndicates, the rise of international terrorist organizations, the War on Drugs… and those are just the chart-toppers. These post-modern pulps of the period were a direct reflection of, if we want to get Freudian for a moment, society’s collective Id. The Executioner went out and slaughtered Mafiosi because we wished someone would, and Phoenix Force obliterated terrorists because we wished someone would. Even today, the modern successors to these stories feature ex-SEALs and former Delta Force operators hunting terrorists and organized crime syndicates, stories little different than those written thirty or forty years ago.
This is Part I of a two-part series on How to Run a Successful Novel Kickstarter
For years I’d been planning on pulling together my short fiction into a collection of some sort to get it out and into the world. And for years I hemmed and hawed about actually doing it. I didn’t have the time. It wouldn’t do well. My time would be better spent on my next novel. You’ve probably said many of the same things yourself.
Well, late last year, a few things changed. One, I wrapped up my debut trilogy, The Lays of Anuskaya, which finally freed up a bit of time for me to work on something besides novel-length work. And two, Kickstarter happened. What do I mean by that? Well, Kickstarter had been around for a few years, but more and more I was seeing successful projects being started and completed on the platform. I saw how impressive some of them were as well, how caught up I got in the “community” that successful projects could bring about. I saw how savvy some project owners were about running the Kickstarters during the ‘Starter itself.
And it got me to thinking: it may take some time and effort, but if they can do it, so can I.
The second Kickstarter I ran was for the third book in my Lays of Anuskaya Trilogy, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, and it came about all quick-like. That is, I hadn’t planned on running a second Kickstarter, but there were a few, well, “issues” with my publisher, Night Shade Books.
That’s what I tell my wife that this book is about whenever she asks. Nanites, power suits, superhuman strength and intelligence versus hordes of raging orcs armed with crude weapons and dark magic. Okay, that’s not completely accurate. There’s only one cyborg, at least until the assimilating begins, and while there are plenty of orcs, most of the fights are against the same one. So, maybe “cyborg versus orc” would be more accurate.
Still, with a premise like that, there’s a lot of fodder for great stories, once you consider what else would be in a world that produces orcs and cyborgs: AIs and computers and starships, vampires and wizards and necromancy. And what happens when you combine them: orcs who can sense radio signals, flying humans created by technology? Robert Sier has managed to find a place for all of these things in his book, and the only question is with so much material, where do you begin.
So he starts with the hero. The cyborg, Derek Kazenushi, isn’t exactly military-grade: he just has the standard upgrades that any citizen of New Athens would, including enhanced speed and strength and healing, a few augments in matter fabrication, and the help of his built-in AI, Shadow. What he’s really specialized in, piloting, isn’t much help once his ship inexplicably crashes on Earth. That shouldn’t be possible, as Earth is light-years from New Athens, and faster-than-light travel doesn’t exist. New Athens lost all contact with Earth seven centuries ago, and Derek quickly learns that things have changed. There’s been a cataclysm, a merging of Earth with other worlds, bringing strange peoples and even stranger magic. Come to think of it, Earth merged with another world in the last novel I reviewed at Black Gate, too. Why doesn’t that sort of thing ever happen on this Earth?
John O’Neill has been kind enough to invite me to blog more regularly here at Black Gate. This gives me the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.
Nowadays, it’s really easy to self-publish a book. However, it’s very, very hard to stand out in the crowd. For every author who breaks through, there are hundreds out there who do not. While many of these self-published books are deservedly unknown, I believe that there are self-published books out there that deserve more attention than they’re receiving, and I’d like to help them get it. So I’m offering to review one self-published fantasy book each month. Considering that there are hundreds or thousands published every day, I’m sure that this won’t even scratch the surface. So in order to help me find out which books I should be reviewing, and to give you the best opportunity to sell yourself, I’m going to set up a submission system.