Hong Kong On Air WITH Muhammad Cohen

I love root canals. I love relatives. I love the fact that I got both at the same time! The only good that came out of this Labor Day holiday (besides Jerry Lewis) was that I got to do my emergency root canal at my local dentist instead of going out to Hell (a.k.a. Ave. P and Ocean Parkway, a.k.a. Black Hatville) to the orthodontist. Dr. B. did my root canal in three sections and I got my final filling in a couple of days ago. Thanks again for your patience Doc, and hope you had a Happy Rosh Hashanah.

BUT putting all that drama aside, I have spent a way-cool week or so with author (and journalist) Muhammad Cohen rapping about his inaugural novel, Hong Kong On Air, and his take on mainstream publishing and self-publishing. Here is the interview:

ME: I realize that you’re a busy man but as a big fan of your book and a journalism student who has dreamed of living in HK since childhood (from a steady diet of Bruce Lee movies), I have to ask you for a little insight behind the publishing of your book. I have been involved in a debate with naive (delusional) people who champion self-publishing/vanity presses. Since your publisher Blacksmith Books truly lives up to the name “indie”, agents and publishing houses do take a considerable financial risk whenever they sign up a first time talent. I am also aware that publishing a book of 454 pages for a first time author is also something to be avoided in the mainstream industry. I can only suppose that BB was using you as you were using it with your experience as a TV journalist and citizen of Britain’s last Asian outpost to generate tourism since the Asian economic collapse in ’98 and the SARS outbreak in ’03 (and BB specializes in HK tourism books does it not?).

MC: Thanks so much for the note and for being a fan. For what it’s worth, I’m enjoying your blog, even if my third decade is a rather distant and sketchy memory.

Your interest in self-publishing vs. traditional publishing is very timely in any era when anyone can publish anything. It’s also timely because Hong Kong On Air is being released in bookstores in the US this month. [YES!!!]

I’ve got experience with both self-publishing and traditional publishers. But no matter how you do it, the bottom line is getting read. (And before you even worry about that, you have to get the work written.)

When I was in graduate school, Apple offered students a special deal on its newly released Macintosh. I bought one as a substitute for my typewriter. Once I had the Mac, I realized I could use it to make headlines, and that meant I could publish a newsletter. I’d started doing some baseball writing for a local weekly and had more material than the paper could use so I had content for the newsletter. In this era, I would have started a blog.

No matter the form, two key points. First, I had a reasonable goal: get noticed for bigger and better projects. Second, I had a plan to get the newsletter read, though a combination of free distribution and advertising to attract (paying) readers. It took years and thousands of dollars to begin to see meaningful results. But it did work, and I made a living as a baseball writer for several years, propelled into the profession by the newsletter. The takeaway is that it may be worth spending some time and money to promote your work if you want to get noticed.

Remember that 25 years ago, the publications universe was a lot smaller, so it was infinitely easier to get noticed if you were moderately clever and could pinpoint contacts that could help you move ahead. Now, there are thousands rather than dozens knocking on the same doors, so it’s a lot more difficult to get on anyone’s radar.

My novel Hong Kong On Air was a completely different story from my newsletter. I don’t know if I would have considered self-publishing if I hadn’t found a traditional publisher. In retrospect, I think self-publishing the novel would have been a huge mistake.

First, about my publisher, Blacksmith Books: it is a Hong Kong publisher but doesn’t specialize in tourism books. It focuses on Hong Kong and China, and that’s a tip for finding a publisher and an audience. If you or your book have connections to affinity groups, use those links to generate interest. Hong Kong On Air was too long and too leftfield – a tale of love, betrayal, high finance and cheap lingerie – for many publishers, but it fit Blacksmith’s catalogue, and the publisher thought it was a good story.

While I was a first time novelist, I’ve had non-fiction books published (under different names) along with a couple of ongoing professional writing gigs. I also do know the TV news business inside-out (that’s less true of women’s underwear) and I brought a unique perspective on Hong Kong (to your interest in the Fragrant Harbor, I once lived around the corner from a Bruce Lee tribute bar run by a Westerner who played a villain in one of his movies). But the main factor was that Blacksmith liked the book.

The challenge with any book is finding readers. Having a traditional publisher made it far easier for Hong Kong On Air to get reviews and other forms of publicity, at least on home turf in Hong Kong. (You can see some of what we managed on the website Blacksmith set up and maintains for the book www.hongkongonair.com) A traditional publisher also gets your book into bookstores, Amazon, etc, and deals with all the bookkeeping that involves. Yes, if you self-publish, you can do all of that yourself, but that’s the key – you have to do it all yourself. Besides the time and effort involved – and as a writer, you didn’t sign up that stuff for when you joined the club – you also need to establish credibility.

The writing universe is divided in many slices: writers, published writers, published fiction writers, published novelists, produced playwrights, anthologized poets, etc, and each category is sliced further. Having a non-US publisher puts me around the midway point on the published novelist scale, and that means I get more opportunities than authors lower on the totem pole. Of course, you have to take advantage of those opportunities. Unless you’re with one of the very top publishers, you won’t get reviewed unless you push, and no matter who your publisher is you’ve got act as your own publicist (or hire one).

I do have friends who have published themselves successfully. Both are overseas. One is a novelist who does literary and genre fiction as well as occasional non-fiction. He already had a publisher and a following, but thought he could do better himself. His wife set up the publishing company and runs the business. The other is a self-employed professional who is an inveterate social networker and self-promoter who published a how-to book with a very specific, targeted market.

My blog is syndicated at www.SpeakWithoutInterruption.com, a site that attracts a lot of aspiring writers as both contributors and readers. There’s a lot of talk there about self-publishing and no shortage of stories of disappointments and some outright scams. So if you do self-publish, you’ve got to be very careful about who you deal with.

What’s amazed me about my experience is that you can get published, get good reviews, publicize tirelessly – I mention Hong Kong On Air in virtually all of the 150-plus times I’m published in print or online – and still barely make a rippled in the ocean of books out there. When you publish yourself, you’ve just made the task of getting noticed and read even more difficult and you’ve got less help to make it happen. It’s not impossible, but the odds are against you.

Hope these thoughts are helpful. To reinforce the point about publicizing your work, I hope you’ll include my tag line below. Again, many thanks for asking.

Fucking A, right? I want to congratulate Muhammad on his US release of HKOA, and would the bar owner be Oharra by any chance? Well here’s to the return of quality writing, but with the fad created by the waifish self-deluded and indulgent Eat Pray Love, I’d say we have still a ways to go.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. Follow Muhammad Cohen’s blog on the media and happens in Asia. His work also appears regularly in Asia Times, The Guardian, and Macau Business magazine.

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Sorting Hat: good and bad of digital and self-publishing

Okay, I’ve been getting knocked on the head (a bit) concerning my rant on the failure that is self-publishing, ebooks, and digital presses. So I posted on sffworld.com to get some practical advice on the LEGITIMATE publishing industry.

ME: My two MS’s (over 100k words, I admit) were reviewed by editors in the industry that were friends of a college prof of mine (legitimately published in non-fiction) and I was told that I had talent, I work hard, but I’m not marketable. Two years later an Arizonan airhead was paid $750k for a sparkling Mormonpire series. I’m working on a third MS, so should I just wait until the idiotic trends are done, and agents are more willing to give a chance to people who LIKE to research and work?

SHEVDON: Bear in mind, rubym3575, that this is not a competition. There are no winners and losers and just because someone in Arizona gets paid a lot of money does not mean you are on the side-lines.

Think positively about this. If a whole new generation of teenagers, particularly girls, are introduced to speculative fiction, then that means they will be looking for something to read when they have finished the Arizonan’s masterwork. Perhaps your story, your idea, will be what they are searching for?

You cannot change what is already written and already published. You can only change what you write and make that the best that it can be. You can learn, improve and develop so that your writing stands out as being imaginative, rich and deep. Then your writing will get published because it is superb, and not because it is better or worse than someone else’s.

Do you really want to be published as the successor of someone else’s success?

I hear what you’re saying Shevdon, but I was raised to believe that there are winners and losers in life. The winners get thousands of dollars in advances and royalties and are able to buy the house, the car, buy jewelry, expand their personal libraries, get insured, pay bills and debts with not a care in the world because they know they have the money, and the world in the palm of their hand. Also, Writer Beware does (time and again) state that getting published LEGITIMATELY is a HIGHLY competitive industry. So you have a heart, but that’s where liberalism fails and I couldn’t help but pick up the stench of self-published self-deluded dolt.

Well Shevdon turns out to be Mike Shevdon of Bedfordshire, UK and is the author of Sixty-One Nails and its sequel The Road to Bedlam that will soon be out here across the pond in September. His publisher, Angry Robot Books, is an “imprint” of HarperCollins. Now when I went to the site it looked like a glorified blog, and as it turns out it’s set up here on wordpress. Their mission statement goes thusly:

Angry Robot ™ is a new global publishing imprint. Our mission, quite simply, is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!

Traditional SF and fantasy has been ploughing an entertaining furrow for many decades, but to our way of thinking much of it is missing a trick. To the new generations of readers reared on Dr Who and Battlestar Galactica, graphic novels and Gears of War 2, old school can mean staid, stuck in a rut. “Crossover” is increasingly the way forward and you’ll find plenty of it here, without batting an eyelid. New heroes and new settings, or maybe just reinventing the wheel, we’re not fussed – if there’s an energy in a book that gets us jumping up and down, we’re all over it.

We know many readers are madly passionate about their genres. Angry Robot is too. If anything, we’re too passionate. We are fans, given at any moment to break into a lengthy harangue about why book X is a lost classic or author Y really should give it up already. The sheer joy, though, of being able to jump onto a table (only sometimes metaphorically) and tell the world about how bloody great a chosen writer or novel is, is what drives Angry Robot.

Run from the UK but publishing worldwide, Angry Robot’s books will pick from a menu of the following formats:

Physical paperbacks – in all good bookstores, worldwide

Limited run special editions – where demand is high enough, as hardcovers or trades, everyday or leatherbound; keep your collection in matching editions

PoD backlistwhen we run out of our early printings, we can now keep copies in print for those who want them, using the latest, very high quality print-on-demand technology

eBooks – downloadable versions of all our titles, across all the main formats including ePub, Kindle and Stanza, alongside their first release anywhere in the world

Downloadable audio – our goal is to release every title we acquire in digital audio format, and we’ll shortly be announcing our first audio initiatives

Well ARB, I couldn’t help but notice that POD parasite there, then again Whorelequin does have DellArte Press to make money off the overdrafted credit cards of the desperately rejected. Mikey boy has seemingly escaped its sticky web if he’s available in brick-and-mortar stores, and I sincerely do hope that your advances and royalties aren’t the pocket change that Lorie O’Clare gets from EC (along with the minute markup she makes on her own).

Now my brother Archer9234 and I have spent hours trying to debunk the bunk that the entertainment industry has become. My beef is publishing, and his is comics (he’s pretty much an expert on it, and I’m trying to get him to audiotape a rant so I can put it up here). Well with the success of Iron Man 2 and the WTF that Jonah Hex was, you can definitely say that the industry is going for a broader audience that doesn’t know jack fuck him in the ass about what they’re watching or reading. I mean John Rambo, Die Hard IV, the X-Men films pretty much says it all: we’ll clean up on the merchandise and hope for the best in ticket sales. JHs sountrack was composed by Mastodon (and was kickass) but I’m not buying it, I’m just waiting until someone uploads it. That’s how much I hate the shit (I saw it on bootleg)! JH was a relatively successful DC character, but (like Captain America) H’Wood will do anything for a buck (John Malkovich was pretty great and I say the same for his performance in Eragon, but seriously he must need the money considering he, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and her husband the prince of Austrian prostitution were caught in the Madoff trap). They dumb down everything and warp plots just to get the Average Joe and Jane interested in the flashy effects, sexy cast, and will (hopefully) buy the T-shirt (or watch, or flamethrower, or vibrator, or cell phone, ad infinitum…).

But it backfires. The Average Joe and Jane don’t even bother because they don’t want to be caught dead with the comic geeks. They also feel intimidated by the lingo and tech. So the only thing that the studios have left are the DVD sales, and with the multiple releases, they’re sure to at least break even (JH budget: $47 million; gross revenue: $10,226,919). Now for publishing I posted in my rant a link to a little discussion as why suck-ass books get published. Well one of the bloggers spelled it out plain as day: BIG BOX STORES. At the end of the 80s the big box store was breeding past their humble Midwest roots (I first heard of Target in 1998 when Katya Gordeyeva was hawking her fragrance) and we had Caldor for a time until it went belly up in ’99. Then Target and Best Buy sprouted like weeds killing off HMV, Virgin Mega (although it dug its own grave opening up so many locations that failed), Circuit City (see Virgin Mega), and Suncoast. Looking for music, books, manga, comics, and movies isn’t fun anymore- especially when you have some toddler moron running into you at full speed and the mother that’s too busy yakking on her phone who doesn’t give a shit. We have BJ’s and Costco’s here in the Big Apple, but Wal-Mart ain’t welcome (that will certainly ring a death knell for local business including the neighborhood mortuary- and ours just closed up shop after 125 years).

Big box stores create big box mentality: I could digest loads of cheap crap! So books were being written for people that don’t read. Keep it stupid and none too moving, or SO moving you drown in molasses (Bridges of Madison County, Endless Love, and Eat Pray Love) that you forget it’s crap. In the 21st century the new form is called self-publishing and digital publishing. One such author of digital crap is Lorie O’Clare. Now I don’t visit her site often, but she puts out a book a month it seems, and I’m not the only one who has critiqued her as shit. She writes mainly for EC but her crap has landed in brick-and-mortar stores for St. Martin’s Press. Now I have her Lunewulf series, Fallen Gods series, Malta Werewolves series, and Sex Slaves series in 4 paperback volumes and the rest ebooks. Now the romantica genre has many problems that I’ve bitched about before. Romantica publishers have screamed they don’t want purple prose, but whether it’s Whorelequin Blaze or some digital ass all I see is purple prose with cursing!

Now this is a sample of O’Clare’s Malta Werewolves 1:

She knew it would never happen. Bruno had no den. His sire and mother had died when he was a

teenager during one of the raids with the humans. He worked in the tobacco factory. She’d known him

since high school, and she and the other females her age often whispered about him when he drove by on

his motorcycle. A powerful alpha, he didn’t run with the other werewolves. At least not that she’d heard.

Any of the runs she’d been allowed to join, he’d never been present. No one knew him that well. But his

incredible good looks, the way he seemed to stalk anyone he approached—every bitch in the pack

wondered what it would be like to be sought out by Bruno Tangaree. But he was the rogue werewolf,

someone all of them knew they could never be seen with. With no den, no history with the pack, her

parents would have put a leash on her if she’d ever even mentioned his name to them. Bruno was a

werewolf to fantasize about. Larger than most, strong with a deadly stare, he frightened and had her

coming in her panties at the same time.

Yet here she was. In his arms. On the ground. His scent smothering her. And that kiss. That kiss almost

dragged her soul right out of her body. His lips were so soft yet his actions so demanding. Her heart

thudded in her throat. Hell, he’d thrown her to the ground and kissed her so aggressively, for a moment

she thought the change would take over.

Remembering his words about her gifts sobered her enough to regain control of her senses. “We

shouldn’t be doing this,” she whispered, barely able to make her voice work.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of this.” He stroked his rough finger down her cheek and then outlined

her collarbone, stretching his fingers around her neck, tightening his grip, and then relaxing it.

No real fuck scene here, but it was puh-lenty purple prosey! Now here’s a scene from the self-published Concubine by Kota Ozembwe:

“Shiao-Shiao,” First Wife whispered, breaking the strained silence. “When you were a little kid, did you ever read stories about demons?”

Shiao-Shiao didn’t know what to make of the question. Warily, she responded, “My mom once read me a story of a prince who fought an evil king. And the evil king was possessed by the demon, which made him stronger than an army, but it also made him evil.”

First Wife turned her head slightly towards Shiao-Shiao. “It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but that works.” First Wife’s voice sounded raw, somehow stripped of its usual polish. “I have always been good at whatever I did. No, that’s not right. I have always been the best at whatever I did. There is something in me that makes me like that- like some supernatural force that doesn’t know how to lose. I make almost as much as Stan, although he is older and male. It’s a killer instinct so to speak, something without mercy. In any competition, I win. Not just win, but WIN, destroy my competition. Do you know that Ver Publishing drove ten other companies out of business last year? And even if there’s no competition I win anyway.”
See the difference? Concubine is a 150-page novella fuck book. It needs editing- quite a bit frankly- but Ozembwe should’ve gotten a contract and should have been in a compilation book. He/She did the research, the structuring and continuity is good overall, all it needs is some grammatical upkeep. O’Clare did NO research on Malta, didn’t tell us why the den was even in Malta, what their problems were, or say anything remotely interesting about Bruno and Renee except that she’s bitchy and gorgeous, and he’s an ass and gorgeous. Oh, and it was 31 pages. So my complaints aren’t sour grapes- they’re real! People need to wake up and get down to their libraries and go cold turkey on the big box books. Prove to them you can think for yourself.

Why Men Don’t Read: How Publishing is Alienating Half the Population

Some startling statistics

Steve Jobs: “People Don’t Read Anymore,” Android Is Going Down

2008 Romance Fiction Industry Stat Report

Self-publishing IS for the lazy and untalented

If you are a multi-millionaire hack who got lucky because of profit-driven corporate entities and a greedy fool of an agent, then get the fuck out. This rant doesn’t apply to you.

You deaf?

I love freedom of speech, it ensures me the right to state my opinion about anything and whoever agrees or disagrees with me can do the same without repercussions…

NOT!!!!!!

Nice fantasy though, eh? I just posted a response on the WB Blog about the self-publishing scam industry concerning the evil editor myth. I simply said that self-publishing is for the lazy and untalented, which is overwhelmingly true. You wouldn’t believe the replies I got for making my opinion calling me “harsh” and “ignorant”. I especially loved this one breeder bitch who said that her self-published book was so good it was getting nothing but 5-star reviews and that she was doing a “blogging book tour” that paired her book up with Philippa Gregory. Okay, first off, if you read my series on the real author strifes, book tours are no longer lucrative for publishing houses big or small. The author (as in genuine because their work is available in brick-and-mortar stores as well as online in paper and digital format) isn’t exactly a rock star unless they are Smeyer, Danielle Steel, Dean Koontz, or Stephen King, so the publishing house is going to lose money on sending their author on appearances. So a virtual book tour via blogging is a money saver (because it costs nothing except internet charges), and if you’re desperate enough you can believe that your work is getting publicity.

People, writing is one part art, two parts hard work, and five parts marketing. If you are going to work your ass off on a book, you’d better be expecting a BIG, FAT PAYOFF at the end of the day. Because if you don’t you’re just another sucker for the self-publishing industry or the corporate “legit” one that lets you UPLOAD (not “PUBLISH”) your book on Amazon.com. You cannot expect the glory and moolah without a big financial backer! If you self-publish or publish for peanuts online (example Ellora’s Cave), YOU AREN’T A REAL WRITER!

Why am I being so critical? Because I have purchased self-published books and EC books that have been large part failures! Lorie O’Clare’s Lunewulf series was passable, but her other work was pure garbage! If you don’t believe me go to 4shared.com and you will find GIGABYTES upon GIGABYTES of books, both traditionally published and self-published. You will be able to tell them apart by the quality, style, editing, polish, and overall presentation. Now the reason why I’m calling these people lazy is because once they type “The End”, they honestly believe their crap is ready for bookstores. Really? I want you to take a look at this sample from a shitload on Cherishpress.com:

A Lady’s Revenge

by W. H. Bossert

Part I

Lady Ashley gently grasped with her delicate hand the iron-hard, fully erect cock of General Thomas Bascomb who, at age 32, was the youngest general in the American Continental Army. He lay in bed on his back while Lady Ashley, still wearing a pale blue dress with flowing skirts and petticoats, sat on her heels between his widespread thighs. The General himself was totally and gloriously naked.

The size of his cock astounded her. How could any woman…? Pushing that thought from her mind, Ashley began to gently massage the soft skin on the underside by making small circles with her thumb.

The General lifted his hips and groaned with pleasure as he tugged against the silk scarves that bound his wrists to the head posts of the bed. The sculpted muscles of his powerful arms and torso rippled in the flickering light from the fire in the hearth.

Ashley had not known any man in this way before, never touched a man there, so intimately, as only a married woman should, or maybe a prostitute. Ashley was 21 years old and still totally inexperienced in such matters. When she was a girl she had overheard men talk of these things using words that if she had repeated she would be punished. Now, she would have to make her way with this novel task. She noticed it was not at all unpleasant.

The General was unaware of Ashley’s true identity. He believed her to be Miss Ashley Thompson, an American patriot from Philadelphia who supported the Colonists in their war for independence. In truth, she was Lady Ashley Hartford, the only daughter of the Earl of Hartford. She was loyal to the King, and a spy for General Howe, the British commander.

“Does this feel good?” she asked.

“Very much so,” he moaned.

“Should I continue?”

“By all means, yes!”

Of course, the General wanted her to continue. Why would he not? She had heard of his reputation with the ladies. He had been the talk of Philadelphia before the war. Handsome. Tall. Dark hair. Even darker eyes. And he owned a five thousand acre estate in Virginia. There was a bit of gossip, true or not, about a young woman who actually swooned when he smiled at her. These days the stories were mostly about his courage on the battlefield fighting the British.

Ashley had to admit she had felt a flutter when he first smiled at her during their introduction at dinner. His smile was a brilliant white against the sun-darkened, rugged features of a man who made his living outdoors. She understood why women found him so charming.

Ashley gently squeezed the General’s cock, then began stroking slowly, sliding her hand along its full length. He groaned with pleasure, so she squeezed tighter and thought it interesting how the skin moved easily over the turgid core, how when she pushed down, the tiny  slit at the tip opened up, and when she pulled upward, how the skin bunched up above her hand, and below her hand, the skin stretched and lifted his dark pubic hair. He groaned loudly and lifted his hips. Maybe she should not grip it so tightly.

Earlier that evening, a messenger sent by General Howe had knocked at her door and given her an urgent task: to steal a secret letter carried by General Bascomb from General Washington to the Continental Congress in Lancaster that would reveal the location of the wintering camp of the Continental Army. If General Howe discovered this, he could attack and destroy the badly weakened American army  once and for all.

The British learned that General Bascomb had stopped for a rest at the home a wealthy Pennsylvania landowner and asked for food and lodging for the night. The landowner, secretly a Tory, immediately sent word to the British. They hurriedly arranged for Ashley to meet the American General for dinner at the landowner’s house. It must appear as a happenstance, a visiting family member, and not alert the General that he was being set up to be betrayed.

There was only three at dinner, with the General sitting across from her. She had difficulty trying not to look too often at his ruggedly handsome face. He was an interesting conversationalist, and she was grateful that he politely chose not to discuss politics. She was afraid her temper would flare and she would be found out.

At the end of the meal, when she was deciding whether to eat or not to eat her last bite of plum pudding, she looked up and he was staring at her. She felt a bit odd, as his stare was so intense. Did he have suspicions? How would she escape? Suddenly he smiled, apologized for his rudeness, and explained that he had never seen so beautiful a woman. She blushed, and thanked him for his compliment. After that, she found she had a loss for words, so the two men discussed the difficulties of farming versus raising cattle.

As secretly planned, the host begged off after dinner, citing a need to retire early. After some pleasant conversation with the General that evolved into flirty banter, and after he had finished his fourth brandy, Ashley accepted the General’s invitation up to his bedroom. It shocked her when he asked her to tie his wrists to the bedposts. Apparently he had engaged in that sort of play before.

Ashley loosened her hold on his cock and continued moving her hand up and down slowly and sensually, feeling the soft, warm skin slide under her palm. His massive thighs flexed with the well-defined muscles of an accomplished horseman as he thrust his hips upwards, pushing his rigid cock through her curled fingers.

Ashley looked up at the General’s face that was contorted from pleasure. This was the man she must betray, and it bothered her somewhat to do so. But he was the enemy. That was why she referred to him as the General and not as Thomas. To become personal with such an attractive man would make it much more difficult to succeed in her mission.

Ashley continued to stroke him as she glanced across the room at the General’s satchel on the floor near the fireplace. The bedroom was large, with a big four-poster bed and a massive fireplace with a pair of matching silver candelabras on the mantle. The blazing fire, along with the heavy carpets and drapes, made the bedroom warm and cozy. Outside, it was crackling cold. Winter was fast approaching.

She had not seen the letter when he had disrobed and hung his blue officer’s coat on a bedpost at the foot of the bed. Maybe she was too distracted by his magnificent body—tall, muscular, and hard.  Or he may have hidden it somewhere else to be picked up later.

No. He would keep it with him.

She gripped his cock firmly now and stroked it more energetically. He groaned as he lifted his hips, slowly moving his pelvis in circles.

In a soft voice she asked, “Does this feel good?”

He gasped. His face grimaced in painful pleasure. His hips dropped back onto the bed.

“Yes, yes, very much. Call me Thomas.”

“I only want to please you.”

As she continued to stroke him, she turned and looked at his coat behind her. She realized he was looking at her. Staring, actually.

Why? Was she hurting him? Or did he suspect anything?

She smiled sweetly at him. “You’re staring at me.”

“You’re beautiful, you know.”

She blushed and looked again toward the hearth.

With a more sensitive touch, she stroked him. He closed his eyes and groaned again. “Damn,” he murmured. He sucked in air through his gritted teeth and rotated his hips upwards. He pulled at the scarves tied to his wrists. “Damn!”

She released her grip.

He likes this. He might like this even better.

She stroked him now with the lightest of touch, using only her thumb and forefinger, moving her hand up and down only an inch or so over the warm, sensitive skin. She enjoyed watching him writhe with pleasure.

Ashley had been instructed by Howe’s messenger that she was to shoot General Bascomb if necessary to get the information. Ashley’s reputation with firearms was known to the British.  It was one of the reasons she had been recruited as a spy.

The ability to shoot was an unusual skill for a lady, but Ashley was an unusual young woman. Her father, a big man with a florid face and fists the size of hams, had no sons and only one daughter, and he doted on her. An Earl without a fortune, he became a career British Army officer. He had spent considerable time in India in service to the Queen, and was an avid huntsman and adventurer.

Ashley had spent her childhood years living in India under his tutelage. He believed that his daughter should be able to make her way in the world and not depend on any man. If the girl could shoot and had a liking for it, why the hell not? He would ask that question of anyone who protested the propriety of it. Her mother, having died several years earlier, wasn’t there to protest. Her aunts back in England protested vehemently, but her father was a strong willed individualist and had his way.

One day at the Royal British Club in Bombay, a member had called him an unfit father. With a slam on the bar of his glass of whiskey, he turned and stated loudly for all to hear that his daughter was as fearless in a hunt as any man, an excellent shot, and he was proud of her, and if anyone should take grievance with that, he would meet him outside with pistols. There were no takers, and henceforth, no more talk of it.

When it was learned that at fourteen years of age, Ashley had gone on a tiger hunt and actually shot one about to maul her father, her aunts back in London, nearly apoplectic at the news, finally had their way. Ashley was sent back to England for a proper education.

In England, she was incorrigible. Her insistence on riding and shooting and her refusal to take her role seriously as a proper young lady was an embarrassment to the family, so they sent her to live with her uncle and aunt in the Colonies.

Ashley knew she could not shoot a man in cold blood no matter what the cause. Especially one so attractive as Thomas Bascomb. It was at the moment she first saw him that she hatched her plan to seduce him to get the letter, though she had never done such a thing before and had no idea how to go about it.

Now, she held his thick cock nearly encircled in her thumb and forefinger and stroked him down into his thick nest of pubic hair, and then pulled upward to under the flare of the tip. His hips moved erotically in response to her sensuous touch. Ashley continued stroking his cock with one hand while she reached around back with her free hand and lifted the side of his coat and saw, peeking out of a pocket in the lining of his coat, the white end of an envelope. She reached for it while still stroking his cock.

Could she read it, and then replace it, without him knowing?

She lifted it partially clear of the pocket. It was sealed with red wax. Damn.

“Suck it, Ashley,” he ordered. She pushed it back down into the pocket.

What?

His eyes were still closed. His head turned from side to side.

“Suck it. You’re driving me crazy with your teasing. Suck it!”

Ashley leaned over his body and  planted her hands on his firm chest. She put her lips close to his ear and whispered, “I believe you’re the one who is tied up, sir. So therefore, it seems, that I should be the one giving the orders. With all due respect, sir.”

She lifted her head to see his face, to get his reaction, and he stared at her now, clearly not used to his orders being disobeyed.

“I said, s….”

Before he could repeat his command, she kissed him lightly on his lips. He smiled and her heart fluttered. He was a handsome man. Maybe at another time, and another place…

“Does the General like women who suck cocks?”

He looked at her, a smile forming on his lips.

“A beautiful woman of good family who can talk like a whore. I like that.”

“I see.”

She had always assumed a man’s sexual organ would be an ugly thing. But the General’s was rather handsome, actually. It was long and thick, a huge, fleshy pink, and had a bulbous head the size of a plum which was quite pleasantly soft to the touch, and tinted a slightest tinge of purple. The skin along its length was soft and smooth, but had rippled areas under the flare of the head. It stood upright in a thick nest of dark hair. Nestled at the base of his cock like a pair of pale pink peaches were his balls. She grabbed his cock in the middle and squeezed.

The General drew a sharp intake of breath.

“You’re driving me crazy!”

She held his cock while she leaned over him again, with one hand planted on his chest. She nuzzled his cheek and whispered, “I hope so.”

She looked at his eyes, searching for something. She knew the General was unmarried. The talk about him in the whispers and pursed lips of the society ladies was legend. His exploits with the married wives of the highly ranked had made him dangerous to proper society. Once he jumped out of a bedroom window without his breeches, barely ahead of an irate husband. Another cuckolded husband challenged him to a duel with pistols. The General let him fire first, the man missed, and then the General lowered his own pistol, unfired.

Sitting back on her heels, Ashley lightly grasped the head of his cock with one hand, and with the other raked her fingernails along the underside. It throbbed under her ministrations.

“Suck it!” he ordered again.

Maybe I can preoccupy him.

She grabbed it with both hands, pulled the full length, then twisted it using her hands in reverse directions. Next, she fondled his balls while vigorously stroking him. She tried stroking him with interlocking fingers, her palms squeezing and massaging with her thumbs. She even tried holding it loosely while twisting the head.

“Suck it!”

She sighed. It was all to no avail.

She stared at the head of his enormous cock. She had to admit she felt a mild urge to take it into her mouth. But the idea seemed so degrading. Yet the head was so soft, so inviting. And there was the turgid length. The softness of his balls. The contrasts of hard and soft appealed to her.

She moved her face closer to see it better in the warm glow of the firelight. To put her mouth on his sexual organ would be a humiliation. That’s one reason why men frequent whores and prostitutes. But she liked the full, rounded tip with the tiny opening, the flare of the edges, the vee shape at the underside of the head that felt satiny soft under her fingertips.

She placed the tip against her cheek, and it was as soft as her own lips. Yet the cock itself was as rigid. She lightly kissed the tip, nuzzling the softness there. She looked up for his reaction. He had closed his eyes and groaned, pulling at the scarves tied to his wrists. His muscles flexed. She glanced at the letter tucked inside his coat.

“Don’t tease me so, Ashley. Suck it.”

His eyes opened and bored into hers, and the humiliation of submitting to him was intimidating. But a war was on. She reminded herself she must get that letter at any cost.

She licked the very tip. It had a faint salty taste. She flicked her tongue over the small slit at its opening. He groaned loudly. She licked up and down the length on both sides. She held it with both hands, looking at it, then took a deep breath.

She lowered her head, opened her mouth, and slipped her moist lips over the fat velvet plum that was the end of his cock. It was so large that she had to open her mouth all the way. She took a deep breath, relaxed, lowered her head a little more, and let the plump head slip farther between her lips. It was a pleasant sensation being filled up by him as she finally took the entire head within her mouth. He groaned loudly.

“More!”

She took it from her mouth.

“More, dammit!” he said.

She took him into her mouth again and stroked his cock as she cupped his balls with her other hand and massaged them gently. He groaned again and squirmed against his bindings.

“More!”

She began to stroke him while sucking.

“More!”

What more could there be?

She pushed her head down to take in a little more of  him and suddenly felt his cock slip into her throat. She pushed down farther and felt it go down her throat and she went down farther still until his pubic hair tickled her nose and her chin rested on the softness of his balls. She had to admit she liked the feeling of him deeply inside of her, of being filled by him.

She moaned and the vibrations from her throat seemed to drive him to greater heights of pleasure. She reached under to lift and massage his balls and accidentally touched the skin under there with her fingertips. His jerked his hips upwards, urgently.

As she moaned again, she caressed the skin under his balls near his anus. She looked up at his face and saw that his head was thrown back. He was totally lost in his ecstasy.

It was now or never.

If he finished, it would be too late.  She lifted her head up. His wet cock glistened in the light of the fire. She got off the bed.

“I want to please you, sir, but I’m too modest to disrobe if you’re watching me. So I ask you to be a gentleman and close your eyes.”

Without comment, he closed his eyes.

She rustled her skirts with one hand while she slipped the letter from his coat. She glanced at him, and his eyes were still shut. She held up the folded letter to the light of the fireplace. The light behind it revealed the writing inside.

Valley Forge! General Washington’s army is heading for Valley Forge!

Quickly, she slipped the letter back in the pocket and moved the lapel so he wouldn’t notice that the letter had been visible.

He was looking at her. Fear clutched her.

Did he see me with the letter? Her throat tightened in fear.

“You’re still dressed.”

She suppressed her sigh of relief. It only took a second to compose herself.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do this.”

He looked puzzled. His cock stood erect, throbbing in need.

She looked at him in his agony. Should I leave him like this?

“I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t. I’m sorry, but I must leave now.”

“Dammit! Finish what you started!”

“I’m sorry, General, but I cannot go through with this.”

With that statement, she turned and ran from the bedroom and down the stairs and out to her carriage.

The full moon lit the drive in front of the house. Her coachman, huddled in his top coat and leaning back against the wheel of the carriage, was startled by her running.

“Miss Ashley? Are you all right?”

“To Philadelphia!  Quickly!”

He held the door for her and her hand as she sprang up into the carriage. She glanced back at the house and heard a commotion from inside. As her carriage started to move, she looked out the window toward the entrance of the house and the General burst from the front door, clad only in his pale breeches. There was a massive bulge on the inside of his thigh. A silk scarf still clung to one wrist, its shredded end flapping as he ran toward the departing carriage and her.

She called up to her driver. “Faster!”

The coachman flicked his whip and yelled at the horses. The General was running and almost upon them, but the carriage picked up speed, leaving him behind.

She saw him standing there, the sight of a powerful, lusty man thwarted in his desires. His physique was exaggerated in the moonlight, with the deep shadows displaying his power. There was a sadness inside of her, an emptiness, thinking of what might have been. What could have been. What will never be.

The carriage passed the end of the drive and the coachman slowed to a steady, brisk pace. Philadelphia was a half-hour’s ride.

Ashley looked back, and here he was, riding hard on his chestnut stallion. She gasped in alarm and called up to her driver.

“Faster, James! He’s after us!”

James flicked his whip over the backs of the horses.

Ashley again leaned her head out of the window and looked back. The General was gaining on her.

“James! Faster!”

“The team’s at a full gallop, Miss Ashley!”

She looked back again.

The General was closer. His chestnut stallion pounded onward, relentlessly closing the distance between them. She held her hand to her heart, feeling its rapid, thudding beat, thundering like the hooves of the horses.

He continued to ride hard, closer now, his horse snorting with each quick breath, its hooves thundering on the road, its muscles rippling under the strain of exertion.

And the General’s naked torso, hunched forward, also rippled and strained in the light of the full moon. His muscular arms held the reins. He was in hot pursuit of her. And he was coming closer.

And closer still. She could see the tight cords of muscle on his neck. His dark hair flowed over his shoulders. His dark brows furrowed low over his intense face.

He was coming after her. The General…Thomas…Thomas…

Her heart ached with an unidentifiable emotion.

Thomas…

He came closer, his horse snorting, sweating, its hooves thundering. Closer still.

Now she could see his eyes—his dark, intense, penetrating, angry eyes. And she saw something that frightened her even more than his anger.

He was now only an arm’s length from the wheel of her carriage. She could not escape him. His eyes bored into hers. Eyes ignited with a passionate, primal fire.

Fear gripped her. Fear, and another powerful emotion she could not define.

She clutched her hand to her heart.

His fiery eyes captured her. Possessed her.

She could not look away.

Tell me, do you think an agent is going to pick that shit up? The answer is no way in Satan’s red hell. I have tremendous respect for the dollar, and I feel that I haven’t truly earned anything if I haven’t worked on my piece to the death, then it’s not good enough! And 9 out of 10 times that’s the fucking truth! The reason why the moo-cow broke on me was because she was tired of getting rejection letters. I hate rejections too, but that’s the writer’s life. I also explained that even if the moo-cow’s work is good, an agent isn’t going to pick it up… because the publishing industry is broken! Or didn’t you read the articles I have supplied?! Like music and movies, fiction is suffering under the plethora of trends. Rehashing and regurgitating old best sellers, and copies of those best sellers is what’s selling. Find anything different that an open-minded agent genuinely likes and believes in, it will get crushed in the editorial meeting.

So if you’re not going to take advice from editors and rework your art, or are just plain stubborn and demand praise for something that looks like crap, you are lazy. I didn’t mean that you are lazy in life. There’s a fucking difference! Moo-cow puts in that being the stay at home mom is hard work and that’s what she had to get around in order for her to write. Well good for her. Parenting is hard work. I’m just saying have a real job to survive and deal with rejections and criticism, so that when you are a best-seller your success will be all the more sweeter and lucrative! And if you want more proof go here, but I think I’ll post the best bit:

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time writer thinking of publishing on Kindle?

LEE GOLDBERG: Don’t do it. I still think selling your book to a publisher, and getting wide distribution in brick-and-mortar stores, is the way to go…and will always be my first choice. You benefit from having an editor, a marketing team, a sales department, and nationwide visibility. (Emphases mine.) I don’t think self-publishing is a wise move for novice writers/aspiring novelists…for all kinds of reasons[…] Too many of them do it because they can’t get their work published and, I hate to say it, in most cases there’s a good reason for it—their books suck. They see self-publishing on the Kindle as a short-cut….or as a gold mine…and its neither. They look at success stories like Joe Konrath and Boyd Morrison and assume the same thing will happen to them. It probably won’t.

I have sampled hundreds of self-published books on the Kindle… and 99.9% of them aren’t just awful, they border on illiterate, as if they were written by people who never graduated high school. It’s astonishing just how terrible the stuff is. Putting unprofessional, hideous crap on the Kindle *will* hurt your career. You only have one chance to make a first impression with readers, agents and publishers. That said, at least self-publishing on the Kindle doesn’t cost you anything (if you don’t count cover design, which you could do on your own, or hiring a professional editor) and cuts the vanity press scammers entirely out of the equation.

UPDATE: As you can tell from the comment Jane of DearAuthor.com made, I feel that I should clarify something. I’m glad she agrees that the reality that FAR TOO MANY self-published and digital press books suck blue donkey dick, I do not want to believe she got a smidge huffy with me concerning the “success” of ebook authors. I knew that authors are getting paid quite a bit for ebooks, I looked into it when I was investigating EC a few years back. On Redlines and Deadlines EC authors were gushing about their royalties from their ebooks, but at the same time I couldn’t help but feel that they were selling themselves short (and from a corporate cost-cutting perspective ebooks are great, but you do realize that we are nowhere near a Star Trek evolution and we really shouldn’t put printing presses out of business or send them to China- KEEP JOBS IN THE USA!). On the WB forums, the editors and writers (of brick-and-mortar store sold books) make it clear that (greenhorn) writers should set their bars high, so they don’t get scammed by self-publishers or digital presses. And as it turned out, they were right when I saw the “new” EC website and some of EC’s “well known” authors walk out on Engler and publicly denounce her. I want to make clear to the writers who HAVE talent and mettle, it’s ultimately NOT your fault why you can’t get a contract with a giant NY publishing house or a smaller indie house. The system is broken, and the only way WE can mend it is to stop falling into the corporate trap and purchasing trash. Be a fucking bitch and keep submitting to every legit house and agent on earth! I’m pulling for you.

Boyd Morrison: My Publishing Journey From eBooks to pBooks

J.A. Konrath: Top EBook Questions

Media Comments on Self-Published Books

The great American DIY novel

I banish thee to PublishAmerica!

The Choice to Self Publish Books Using Electronic Publishing

Self-published works?

Why do such badly written books get published?

The New—and Disimproved—Meaning of “Self-Publishing”

PublishAmerica Sting: Would they publish the worst book ever written?

Selling Out?

Top Tip 2: Page Turnability

Ten rules for writing fiction

Unputdownability

The Decline and Fall of Books

Why were those two so successful on ebooks? Because (and I’ve checked them out) THEY ARE GOOD! The industry is broken and it’s up to us to fix it so the other Morrisons and Konraths can have their proper chance. Oh yeah, I know I’m repetitive. And I don’t give a shit.

Oh yeah and one more thing, who is Lee Goldberg you ask? Well he’s a successful mystery novelist, screenwriter, and producer. And yes he uploads his OUT OF PRINT books on Kindling. Why you ask? Easy money and his work is good, so he can always use the extra scratch from the crap-ass Kindling fad. When your shit goes out of print the ISBN is yours and you get to do whatever whatever the hell you want with the work. If you are established (with plenty of shekels in the bank like Lee) then you could upload for fun and see what happens. I don’t like ebooks (self-published or legit by the big boys), but if I ever hit it big, and my shit goes out of print I might upload and sell it for a buck or two. Then again, I might just upload the damn .pdf on my blog and let you guys have it for free. I can be nice sometimes.

And just how did J.A. Konrath become so successful? Quoteth Couselor Lee:

“You poo-poo the notion that having a platform helped you, or is helping me, and I think you’re wrong. I think having a platform helped you enormously.

Would you have your Kindle success if you hadn’t had a series of books published in hardcover and paperback by a major NY publisher? If you hadn’t toured and visit a thousand bookstores? If you hadn’t spoken at hundreds of conferences and libraries? If you hadn’t had a very popular blog? If you hadn’t had a book, published by an established publisher, that was given away free on the Kindle? We’ll never know… because you had all those things.

There’s no question that you have also succeeded on the Kindle because of shrewd marketing, the right product, and positive word of mouth… but you are the exception.”

“I was at the end of my rope. Naturally, I’m speaking of my state of mind at the time when I wrote Boogiepop and Others. I was flat broke, and an editor at one of the publishing houses had started saying things like, ‘There’s no point in you sending us anything else,’ and it felt like the realization that I wasn’t going to ever accomplish anything by writing novels… I changed my mind. I remember being absolutely convinced that I could write this book, even before I started writing it. I put that conviction into one of my characters… and thus Boogiepop was born.” – Kadono Kouhei, creator of Boogiepop Phantom.

“I work as the marketer for a very small scholarly press. We primarily publish regional non-fiction history and culture. I read most of the books we publish raw, as they were received, and very few manuscripts are publication-ready. Even when the writing is excellent, the books are still improved through the editing process and collaborative effort. Our editor brings decades of experience to the table. It is extremely difficult for many authors to view their own work in an objective manner. If self-publishers want to have more credibilty, then they must make the effort to produce the best book possible–using professional editors, designers, and illustrators–resources a conventional publisher would invest. Many do not, and the poor results are rampant in self-publishing. Until that changes, don’t expect distributors and booksellers to take the risk.

Further, there is no motivation for any publisher to turn down a manuscript in their genre if they believe it will sell. We actually have a difficult time finding worthy manuscripts in our niche, and some we agonize over. We are only human, and we do make errors in judgment. Yet for each book we print, we accept a substantial financial risk. And if we lose money, we won’t be going back to the author to request the difference.

Some of the common reasons we issue rejections include: a topic outside our scope of publishing, poor writing and/or research, too narrow a focus, no apparent audience, and subject matter that has already been thoroughly covered in other books. I can also understand why many publishers have stopped accepting unsolicited manuscripts. If you want fewer rejections, pay attention to the submission guidelines. Each year my press receives literally hundreds of manuscripts that have clearly ignored ours. It is a colossal waste of time (and thus, money) on all sides. Apparently, these writers think their book is so great, we will surely make an exception in their case. Yet regional history, pre-history, and culture is the area in which our editor is a true expert. He would not be qualified to correct anything more than grammar and spelling in many other subjects. In addition, our distribution channels, our marketing and publicity contacts, etc. are all geared toward the genre in which we publish. It would take a tremendous amount of additional work to succeed outside of our niche–something we are not willing to do for an isolated title–no matter how good it is.

We have also had authors who were unwilling to accept the changes we wanted to make to their writing, or felt our publishing timeline was too long, and decided to self-publish. Some I have regretted losing–especially since I believe the self-publishing process did not produce as good a book as we would have. I can think of one in particular I thought could have been a regional best-seller.

All that being said, whether a book has been published through a traditional publisher or a “vanity press,” a strong self-promoter can have an immensely positive impact on sales, so in either case, if you want to see your title sell, be prepared to invest the time and effort. That, even more than writing a great book, may be the reason some authors are picked up by major houses after successfully self-publishing–their ability to generate sales has now been proven. Or, they may have revealed the potential of an undeserved market.

Best wishes to all you self-publishers out there.”

This is a real gem:

Pádraig Ó Méalóid said:

“I recently ran an SF con here in Dublin. As a courtesy, I provided a table for authors to bring copies of their books to sell to the attendees, which is usually attached to one of the secondhand book tables. One American lady fantasy writer brought her Celtic fantasy novel, as well as several anthologies she appeared in, all POD. Any time one of the attendees went anywhere near the table of books, she immediately came up to them, offering to sign a copy for them, and generally browbeating people into buying her books. I am convinced that she badly damaged any chance any of the other writers (all mainstream-published, and all prepared to leave the bookselling to the booksellers) had of selling their books, and it is only the fact that I was too busy running the con that prevented me being fully aware of it at the time, and doing something about it. However, I had several complaints about her behaviour from the booksellers, as well as some of the other writers, and even some attendees. Suffice it to say that she won’t be asked back to anything I ever have anything to do with, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure she never gets asked to anything in Ireland ever again. It has also, of course, made me deeply wary of any self-published or POS authors.”

Tprinces, I’m worried about you

Just thought I’d say how worried I am about Tprinces. If you know who Ruthie is, I wish that you would show her this thread about American Book Publishing on Absolute Write’s forum: American Book Publisher – Writer Beware!

I know it’s old, but criminals usually don’t turn over a new leaf. Honey, you’re 18 (and a tad overconfident), and when I dropped you the line about self-publishing/vanity press/publishing on demand/online publishing/subsidy publishing I was greatly relieved that your mom is an attorney that’s looking over the contract to ensure you will retain your creative rights. But that isn’t a fail safe. Many smart, professional people have been duped because their belief in their dream can put up blinders. And that’s what self-publishers want.

They’re only after your mom’s hard-earned cash, and your dreams could get destroyed like a sandcastle in a tsunami. One day when you send your MS to legit houses, and mention your first novel was self-published by ABP in your cover letter, you won’t get a response let alone a rejection. I posted a response on a blog about the “successes” of self-publishing asking three (important) questions: 1) Define success. 2) What are the annual profits of this “publisher”? 3) And if I asked for a profit statement will you give it to me? Or do you run one of said self-publishers? The minute I mentioned Absolute Write he wrote this long diatribe insinuating I hadn’t read his post thoroughly and that I was running around in a tizzy over nothing.

Writer beware: self-publishing =/= respect.