BEWARE! epub.pub – Book Pirates and Scammers!

More scum in the indie author sea – epub.pub  

I found at least two of my books on their site via an author name search on Google. They claim to offer a free version of the book for download, but when I clicked on the “Download Now” button, my anti-virus software flagged it as a “known malicious site” and strongly recommended that I not open it. I did not.

Clicking on the options at the bottom of the page (About Us, Terms & Conditions, Contact us, DMCA, Links, Donate) will only take you to a different page that says “If you require any more information or have questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact us by email: epubpub @ outlook.com This is a dead link and went nowhere.

MAJOR RED FLAG – the only link that works is “DONATE”. There you find five different cryptocurrencies to choose from! It’s no surprise what these slimy bastards are really after.

Apparently, there’s no way to remove my copyrighted property from their site. It seems likely that they are only using the cover and part of the blurb and do not possess the actual eBooks. I certainly hope so, anyway!

Like pirates of old, their ship should be boarded, the crew hung, and the vessel burned. I’d be happy to help if they are ever caught.

Wish me luck!

I’ve just entered my first writing contest! Rise of the Draman has been submitted as a children’s mid-grade entry. The contest winners will be announced in December.

There are lots of contests out there, and I have considered entering a few in the past. Three things held me back: entry fees, dubious claims, and lack of confidence. As Best Indie Book Award (BIBA) appears to be legit, I decided to go for it. Even if I don’t win, this entry may give me the courage to try again in the future.

Find out more HERE.

On the other hand, winning the award would not only boost my public profile, it would validate the sacrifices that have brought me this far. I chose Rise of the Draman because I’m finding it difficult to promote, and it needs some love and attention. Coincidentally, this same book has been selected by Amazon as a Prime Reading title through December 1st.

Perhaps the tide is turning and my brand will get a boost soon. You’ll be the first to know!

Rise of the Draman – Now available in paperback!

Get it HERE!

For those who miss reading “real” books, the wait is over. Rise of the Draman is now available for purchase as a paperback! Draft2Digital is distributing the book through the following channels: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo (including Kobo Plus), Tolino, OverDrive, Bibliotheca, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, Hoopla, Vivlio, and BorrowBox.

I’ve been working on this since last December, but the pandemic has been wreaking havoc with the printing industry and things are moving very slowly. At some point I will add most of my other books, but can’t say when. It’s an involved process to make the needed alterations to the book before I can even upload it to the printer, plus the time they need to set it up and make the title available for purchase.

Allow me to say something here about the price. By the time you figure the actual cost of printing, and then add in everybody’s cut, (plus shipping) the book is much more costly than I like. Alas, I have little control over the process, and my royalty on each one is miniscule. The truth is that print on demand books, even paperbacks, are expensive. Double thanks to those die-hard fans who purchase copies anyway!

Here are some reasons why readers still love traditional paper books:

  1. Better Sensory Experience — The feel of paper matters when reading a book. There is a real human experience to holding a book in hand, smelling the paper, hearing the crackle of the binding and flipping through the pages. Observing the number of pages you’ve read and the number you have left to read also plays a part in the psychological experience of reading.
  2. Better for children — Studies have shown that babies and children learn better with paper books. The more interaction a child has with an object, the better he or she learns. Parents and children also talk and interact less when using e-readers, compared with reading paper books.
  3. Better for your health — According to a Harvard Medical School study, reading a light-emitting e-book before bed hinders your ability to sleep, decreases your alertness the next morning and negatively affects your overall health. Paper books don’t create the same adverse effects. They also bring a wealth of benefits, including increased language skills, enhanced mental development and improved memory (and, no batteries required!)
  4. Better at conveying information — A study reported in the Guardian concluded that people using e-readers were less likely to recall events in a short story than people who read the same story in print. The research suggests that the tactile experience of using an e-reader doesn’t offer the same benefit.

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Addendum – just a few days before the paperback went live, I received emails from two different readers. Both had read the eBook and wanted to know if it was available in print form. I was delighted to write back and inform them that , yes, a paper and ink version was now available. Below are snippets of the correspondence, both timely and incredibly encouraging.

Lesley – I read this book on my Kindle and want to buy a print copy for my great-nephew, but Amazon only sells the e-book. Are there any hardcover or paperback books to be found?

Alexander – UPDATE – a paperback version of Rise of the Draman is now available from multiple retailers, including Amazon!

Michael – This book should be published in print. It is perfect for upper elementary or middle school readers.

Alexander – I would love to see Rise of the Draman in the hands of young readers. A paperback version of the book is now live. Let your local library or school library know that it is available, and thanks for spreading the word!

Michael – I’ve ordered one for a Media Specialist to read and endorse, then I will encourage other media people to get it too.

MY 2021 PUBLISHING ANNIVERSARY!

It seems like more than four years have gone by since the release of my first book. Having re-visited the last three anniversary posts, I discovered that while the tune has changed, the dance remains the same. Progress? Undoubtedly. Frustration? By the bushel. Pleasure? Enough to keep me addicted. Desire to continue? Yes! Before looking ahead, allow me to share some snippets from the last three anniversary posts.

2018

“l wish I had some fellow authors I could talk to when I need to vent or ask advice.” Unfortunately, this wish is yet to be fulfilled. I’ve always had difficulty making friends and am not very good at putting myself out there. I haven’t the foggiest idea how this will ever happen, short of a writer’s conference or something similar, and I lack the funds and confidence to ever attend one!

“Other than sales, I find motivation in two things: I love to write, and readers enjoy my work.” Thankfully, this is still true! While sales are encouraging and provide the resources to continue publishing, I continue writing because I have stories to tell, and people want to read them. It’s encouraging to note that my skills improve with each new book, confirmed by increased sales and reader feedback.

2019

“I intend to focus on shorter works rather than novels and will probably set aside romances for more sci-fi and fantasy.” The grand experiment of shorter works kept me going during a financially lean year. I posted a series of five stories on my blog in serial fashion, which took most of the year, and finally published them as Rise of the Draman in 2020. While the book garnered wonderful reviews, it’s a tough one to market. Sadly, I can’t afford to write only what I want (yet) if it doesn’t bring in enough income to pay for itself. So, for now, I remain busy with romance and plan on other genres in the future.

Incidentally, readers have been asking when I will write more Sci-Fi. Truthfully, I don’t know. It’s not for lack of interest, and I have some creative and exciting ideas to explore. Aside from no time, one issue is that many sci-fi readers are difficult to please, insisting that only hard science fiction is TRUE science fiction and anything else is garbage. I vigorously disagree, but those same readers have no qualms about bashing authors with scathing reviews if they happen to pick up a story that doesn’t meet their expectations. While I have no desire to paint a target on my back, I refuse to let them win.

2020

“Despite personal setbacks, financial concerns, and the pandemic, the last twelve months have been fruitful ones.” Oddly, the pandemic helped me focus and brought new readers who were locked in at home with nothing to do! I enjoyed seeing increased output and a significant upswing in sales, giving me a much-needed boost during trying times.

“Last year’s goals never materialized for various reasons.” I’m afraid this trend continues, as only one and a half of my five goals were reached! I did manage (sort of) to set up one of my titles for print-on-demand. I started the process last December, and it’s still ongoing due to the pandemic’s impact on the printing industry. My other books will have to wait until the world returns to some kind of normal.

The one goal I achieved—to focus on writing new material—resulted in publishing two books last year and writing a significant portion of another. In June of this year, I released my tenth novel!

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Moving Forward

Currently, I am working on a new romance series based on major holidays featuring bear shifters and their human mates. Meanwhile, if time allows and my creative juices provide good plot ideas, I intend to write one or two more Gladstone Shifters stories. My hope is to move on to other projects in the next couple of years.

At present, I have one simple goal – WRITE. Write to the exclusion of almost everything else and publish as many books per year as possible. Each new release creates a sixty-day frenzy of excitement and sales before dropping off. If I can increase from two book releases per year to three or four, it gives my brand that much more exposure and boosts income. Meanwhile, I learn more about the craft and incrementally improve my skills. Everybody wins this way, and I don’t stress out over all the things I’m supposed to be doing.

Even with this stripped-down focus, it’s very difficult to address some of the goals on my wish-list, which include wider distribution beyond Amazon, a newsletter, an updated website, membership in writer’s groups, print-on-demand for my backlist, and the introduction of audiobooks. Unfortunately, all of those things require either time, money, or skills I don’t possess—so they have to wait while I focus on what I can do.

As I said back in 2019, “Perhaps I’ll get a lucky break and win an award or be offered a movie deal.” While that would be wonderful, I’m not counting on it! I believe realistic goals and persistence will eventually get me where I want to be, and I’m looking forward to another great year!

The writing of FORBIDDEN MOON

This story was a labor of love, with the emphasis on labor! While it’s the third book I’ve published since the start of the pandemic, it affected Forbidden Moon far more than the others. Though I never contracted COVID-19, pandemic fatigue plagued my writing efforts from the beginning. Distracted by work issues, stress, and the disruption of life routines, my poor brain lacked the energy and creative juices needed for the project.

When I began, I fully expected the process to take about four months. Instead, it launched after eight and a half! There were serious plot issues to fix, doubts to overcome, and days where I couldn’t write anything at all. Bone tired and discouraged, I wondered if the manuscript would EVER be completed. When the glorious day finally arrived, the sky-high word count forced me to cut over eleven thousand words—and it was still too long. I came to the conclusion that Forbidden Moon was destined to be both BIG and beautiful!

Despite the challenges, the book contains some terrific ideas that were fun and exciting to write! It also included a number of firsts for the series:

  • first Black character
  • first human/shifter mating
  • first wedding
  • first visit to the Afterworld
  • first bar scene
  • first shifter-human conflict

It may not be apparent to the reader, but this story wasn’t supposed to have two bad guys. Originally, I intended for Dominic to be the heavy and then make sure he was suitably punished. Well, that idea went out the window about twenty-five percent of the way through, as I came to realize I couldn’t do that to him. I liked the character too much to bring down the full weight of wrath upon his head!

Instead, I cooked up a different but related evil character in the person of Russell. Doing so was no easy feat, and for several weeks the manuscript came to a standstill while I figured out how to integrate him into the story. I was terrified that I’d written myself into a corner and would never get out. That left two options: start the book over or abandon it altogether.

 I can’t recall now exactly how the solution came to me, but it finally did and I got busy writing again. In the end, Dominic unintentionally caused a lot of trouble for the pack, but he goes on to find a better life. On the other hand, Russell became the sketchy character I needed to pull off the dangerous and dramatic portions of the story. Of course, he got what was coming to him.

As mentioned above, this book features my first Black character (RJ). He even made the cover! You may wonder why that’s such a big deal, but I was eager to present him realistically without my own cultural baggage and attitudes. So, I searched for information and found an informative blog post written by a lovely Black author. Her guidance gave me the courage to move ahead with the idea, and I wrote to tell her so. Coincidentally, her mother was also going through stage four cancer treatment, the same as RJ’s mother! I still consider this real-life connection to my fictional characters inspirational.

My favorite story threads were those relating to the romance of Jonah and RJ. I grew to love them as they struggled to build an unconventional relationship under difficult and dangerous circumstances. It was a fun challenge to create and implement an entirely new set of rules for the first shifter-human couple. They turned out to be sweet, funny, and smoking hot in the bedroom! While their future family situation remains unresolved for now, I expect to address the issue in a forthcoming book.

Introducing new characters is always enjoyable (even the bad guys), and this book has quite a few. I found Dominic’s story arc particularly satisfying, and my sassy waitress, Darlene, was a hoot to write! Walter’s nephew, Gray Claw, was another intriguing addition, though there wasn’t adequate time to give him the attention he deserved. Something tells me we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.

I must also mention the importance of recurring characters, as they are the backbone of the series. Readers tell me repeatedly how much they love the Gladstone pack and miss them between books! Honestly, I’ve come to think of them as real people and enjoy watching them grow and change with each new story. The tough part is choosing which ones get the limelight since no single volume could ever contain significant updates on all of them. It’s a somewhat arbitrary decision, but I try to give past characters a chance to shine, whether a little or a lot, in each addition to the series.

Lastly, I want to mention the creation of the book’s cover. This one turned out to be a collaborative effort between the author and the graphic designer. I always look for photos that resonate with me and send them to the artist for consideration. So far, none of my suggestions ever made the final cut. This time, she loved the image as much as I did, and it fit perfectly with the overall design of the series. After a few minor tweaks, it became not only my personal favorite but hers as well.

No one is more invested in a book than the author, and while I love each volume of the Gladstone Shifters, Forbidden Moon is a personal triumph over daunting circumstances. Is it perfect? No. Is it the best in the series? You decide. Am I proud of it? Yes!

NEW RELEASE – Forbidden Moon!

Book four of the Gladstone Shifters series is now live and available on Amazon!

Wolf shifters have kept the secret of their existence for centuries, living in harmony with their human neighbors. Now, a secretive blogger threatens to expose them to the world. While efforts are made to find the dangerous human, packs everywhere tighten their security. Meanwhile, Gladstone is plagued by a series of attacks by unknown assailants. Threatened on every side, Ben must find a way to protect his people or risk losing everything.

Amid the danger, Jonah discovers his long-awaited mate. Trouble is, he’s not what anyone expected. What should have been a joyous union is marred by secrets and deception, presenting Ben and the pack with a difficult problem. Will Jonah’s unconventional mating bring happiness, or has Luna made a serious error?

Join your favorite shifter pack for a thrill ride of danger, secrets, drama, and romance in this fourth installment of the Gladstone Shifters – FORBIDDEN MOON! (Book 4 of 4. Contains steamy M/M content.)

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Your favorite wolf shifter pack has returned! It’s been a while since the last book, and this story is packed with all the goodies you’ve come to expect. With love and danger in the air, Gladstone is in for a wild ride. Don’t miss your next great read – pick up a copy today!

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See what my readers are saying:

“Elliott crafts his best and boldest story here with moments of humor, danger, cultural respect, and topical racism all woven together into an endearing love story. Fast-paced, lovable characters and hot sex! Highly Recommended!!” DC

“Another wonderful book with great characters, interesting plot, and fantastic world-building. It was like coming home, and I hope the series continues. Definitely a five-star read!” AS

“Wonderfully written, with well-developed, likable, and interesting characters. The best book yet and my favorite in the series!” BB

“Mr. Elliott has crafted such a rich reading experience and a world so realistic that I can’t wait for each book to be published. I couldn’t put this one down! He has great attention to detail and wraps up all loose ends while leaving many possibilities for future storylines. Best series installment yet!” KC

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As an indie author, I rely on readers to help promote my books through word of mouth, social media, blog posts, and reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub, or any sites where recommendations may be found. Will you help?

If all else fails, send me an email with your feedback. I love hearing from my readers!

Celebrate Spring – It’s May Day!

Here in the United States, May Day isn’t celebrated as widely as some other holidays. Many, I’m sure, have no idea what it is or where it came from. Let me help you with that! May Day began as an ancient festival to celebrate the return of spring, and lies halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.

“As with many early holidays, May Day was rooted in agriculture. Springtime celebrations filled with dance and song hailed the sown fields starting to sprout. Cattle were driven to pasture, special bonfires were lit, and both doors of houses and livestock were decorated with yellow May flowers.

“Later, celebrations evolved to speak more to the “bringing in the May” with the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, the weaving of floral garlands, the crowning of a May king and queen, and the setting up of a decorated May tree, or Maypole, around which people danced. Such rites originally may have been intended to ensure fertility for crops and, by extension, for livestock and humans, but in most cases this significance was gradually lost, so that the practices survived largely as popular festivities.

“Have you ever heard of a May basket? People would leave a paper basket or cone with spring flowers and sweets on each other’s doorsteps, usually anonymously. This tradition was popular through the 19th and 20th centuries, especially with children or sweethearts. The custom was to knock on the door, yell “May basket!,” and then run. If the recipient caught the giver, he or she was entitled to a kiss.”  https://www.almanac.com/content/what-may-day#

Though I never knew why we did it, my sisters and I used to present our neighbor down the road with a May basket. Mabel Huffaker lived alone at the last house on the street, her yard filled with Iris and other flowers. We did, in fact, call her the “flower lady” and it was only years later that I learned her real name.

She had other interests, including painting and ceramics and I would stop and talk to her on the way home from school if she was out in her yard. When I got a bit older, and she a bit frailer, she hired me to mow her lawn. She told me once that when she went downtown, she carried a rock tied up in a handkerchief to protect herself from mashers! She was a feisty old gal.

Even if you don’t have a need for fertility rituals or a kiss from the neighbor, you can still celebrate spring by giving a May basket, sending flowers, or planting a tree (yesterday was Arbor Day). HAPPY MAY DAY!

When to Murder Your Darlings

My current manuscript is almost finished, yet I have a most onerous task before me—one which must be completed before anyone sees it. Some of my darlings must die, sliced from the story in a ruthless culling of extraneous words. In and of themselves, the passages convey interesting and useful information, or so I thought at the time. Looking back, I now realize they do nothing but distract from the plot and slow the action. And so, my precious, imaginative darlings, you must be sacrificed for the greater good.

While I have done this with other books, I did not know there was a term assigned to the difficult process. You may know it by the phrase “Kill Your Darlings”, but where did it originate and what did it mean?

“The phrase ‘kill your darlings’ has been attributed to many writers over the years, but the earliest known example comes from Arthur Quiller-Couch, who spread it in his widely reprinted 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures “On the Art of Writing.” While railing against “extraneous ornament”, he said:

“If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

“He went on to describe extraneous ornament as inauthentic, like a man who hires someone else to write an exquisite love letter for him. His point was that beautiful and expansive writing was not necessarily good writing.”

Over time, the phrase has taken on additional meaning to encompass more than Quiller-Couch intended.

“To kill your darlings is a common piece of advice given by experienced writers. You do so when you decide to get rid of an unnecessary storyline, character, or sentences in a piece of creative writing—elements you may have worked hard to create but that must be removed for the sake of your overall story.”

Darlings may include any of the following:

  • Redundancy or over-explanation
  • Overly cute or witty turns of phrase (purple prose)
  • Unnecessary or distracting plots or sub-plots
  • Characters without a clear purpose or point of view

So, once the manuscript has been pruned, what happens to your darlings? Are they lost and buried forever? Not so fast! You may yet find a use for them in sequels, other books, or stand-alone works. If necessary, cannibalize the verbiage for pithy turns of phrase, quirky character traits, or sentences that fit better elsewhere. It’s your work—do what you want with it! Just remember this before you hit the delete key:

“The beauty of creative writing is that one project can often inspire the next.”

So unless your darlings are utterly wretched, save and repurpose them. It makes the unpleasant task of killing them easier!

Winter Blues

A little poetry for the frost-bitten

The wind is howling,

There’s lots of snow,

The temperature’s dropped

To one below.

No point in going out today,

In fact, I’m staying in.

I think I’ll run a bath instead,

Submerged up to my chin.

Later on, when darkness comes,

And supper is digested,

I’ll take a look outside to see,

If weather has corrected.

A frozen wasteland is the view,

Aghast, I slam the door.

If winter’s going to be like this,

I’m home forevermore.

When Fiction Meets Real Life

Once in a while, authors hear from readers who can personally identify with something they’ve written. Perhaps a character who reminds them of their sibling or a plot that eerily mimics an experience they’ve had. Whatever it might be, the story brings two strangers into the same orbit for a brief moment in time, allowing a connection neither of them anticipated. Magical!

I enjoyed such a moment recently but I need to share some background first.

In my current manuscript, I have intentionally included a person of color. As a white male, writing about a community of white shifters, I wanted to push my own boundaries a little and be more inclusive. Sounds straightforward, yes? Perhaps – if I knew how! I wanted to do it right, so I searched WordPress looking for advice and hit paydirt when I discovered a post entitled “So You Wanna Write a Black Person?”. Here’s a taste of what the author had to say.

“So, you’re a writer, huh? You, as a non-black author, want to write outside of your comfort zone and explore someone black, but you don’t know where to start…. Regardless of race, culture, sexual identity, or gender, we are all unique. However, there is a stigma in the writing community that writing black folks is hard. Writers cry out saying, I don’t wanna get it wrong! I don’t wanna offend….. I believe if you write any person with respect and empathy, you’ve done your job.”

Turns out, this is exactly what I was looking for! With suggestions from the post in mind, I went back to the very first paragraphs of the MS where I introduced the new Black character. There were numerous cringeworthy mistakes, but I set about rewriting and expanding the Prologue to correct them. In the end, I not only fixed the character, but I also improved the overall tone of the story. It felt good to have done it right and avoid offending my readers.

As work on the book continued, a desire to thank the writer of that post grew until it couldn’t be ignored. I wrote to her, explaining why and how her words helped me launch a Black character with confidence. When she responded with appreciation and interest, I sent her the Prologue and asked for some feedback. In those paragraphs, I introduced RJ and his mother, who was about to tell her son that she’d been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. By the end of the Prologue, she had died, leaving RJ to begin life on his own.

Now remember, not only was the post written three years ago, but we were total strangers. I knew nothing of her life or circumstances and had no idea my story would touch her personally. Her response floored me.

“I really enjoyed this. It hit a little close to home since my Mom is in stage four but it sounds like it will be a great book.”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading! What were the chances her real-life experience and my fictional story would have included the same sad circumstances? My heart went out to her of course, and with a final exchange of messages, she encouraged me to let her know when the book published.

I realize in the grand scheme of things this might not seem like such a big deal—but it was to me. I’m reminded again we live in a small world, that words have power, and that my stories will touch the lives of people I will never know. The entire episode left me encouraged and feeling as though my writing made a positive difference in some small way. I’m not sure it gets much better than that.

Note – the MS mentioned is Forbidden Moon, Gladstone Shifters book four.