Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Avid Publishing

Genres: Romance -- "Books of Male/Male (MM), Male/Female (MF), Female/Female (FF), and Ménages. Poetry is on a book-by-book review. All categories of fiction."

I am fairly confused by Avid Publishling's website.  Based on their books and details of their submission guidelines I think they are mostly romance publishers, leaning erotic romance. But their submission guidelines make me do the confused-dog-head-tilt.

For example: (3) Main character pairing - eg. MM, MF, FF, Ménage, Poetry

Cough, yeah, may main character pairing is sonnet.  There's a lot of rhymed coupling.

Medallion Press Bankrupt

Medallion (2003-2018) press has filed for bankruptcy.  Honestly I think their glossy enthusiasm-and-money approach for publishing (rather than boring fundamentals) was more successful--and for longer--than I expected. 

Most companies that make un-ironic use of the term "synergize" don't break the five year mark. It might have helped that the founder is an heiress to the Wrigley fortune, I suppose.  It is unclear to what extend the company ever ran in the black.

My bias to be skeptical of them might be because of the way the founder said "MP does not publish erotica" -- clarifying that they publish literally any other genre you can think of. I could actually hear the disdain in the italics. 

Nevertheless I have to admit Medallion Press/Media Group had a pretty good run of it. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Review: Dark Rainbow, Andrew Robertson (Ed).

DARK RAINBOW: QUEER EROTIC HORROR is what a short story anthology should be.  Each story nails the theme of combining erotic and horror themes.  Each story is distinct from the other.  The stories have plots, themes, and originality.  

 Some like “Goldilocks and her Undead Bear” are bizarre and stomach churning; others like “The Grave of Lilith” are more conceptual. Most are somewhere on the fantastic spectrum from magical realism, to paranormal, to high fantasy.  

 The emphasis is on G and L, but there is also B, T, and a few other letters from the queer spectrum incorporated as aspects of the stories and their characters. The only thing that strikes me as at all overly predictable is the cover mashup of two arguable genre cliched—the skull and rainbow-- but I have no complaints about what is within.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 5/5

Sunday, October 21, 2018

MARKET Everlasting

Everlasting (2018--) (Imprint of Fiery Seas)

Genre: Romance including erotic romance

Seeking: "Proven tropes: marriage of convenience, forbidden love, opposites attract, secret baby, etc. Heroes: CEOs, cowboys, military, firemen, etc. Beta and Alpha males are accepted. Small town heroes, sexy ranch men, etc. Plot: The romance should be the main plot. Secondary characters are okay, but shouldn't take away from the main character's story. Hero and Heroine Viewpoint should be 50/50. Each story should have a HEA."

Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: BOLT by Angel Payne (Waterhouse Press)

As I started reading BOLT I expected to really enjoy it.  A nice girl falls for the filthy rich but socially awkward alter ego of a super hero. The tone is kooky and enthusiastic with lots of sex (the power dynamics of the sex are a tad erratic and weird IMHO).   

However the relationship becomes a little repetitive with the couple finding reasons to break up, freak out, and then get back together again. Neither the humor potential of being set in a hotel, not the action story of, well, being a superhero are greatly exploited. 

In fact, the plot ultimately doesn’t go anywhere much other than to the altar. I suspect that story worked better in its original form of many shorter parts than it does as a novel.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 3/5 #AlmostPWP

The Christian Author, the Plagiarism Scandal, and the Immoral Silence

Zondervan has arrived at a settlement after conceding that non-fiction author Christine Caine had plagiarized extensively from the work of Carey Scott (HarperCollins Christian Publishing/HCCP). And as the story got passed around the interwebs with very little in the way of a response, professor Warren Throckmorton had cause to write "I don't think plagiarism matters much to most Christians." He suggests that many Christian celebrities use ghostwriters and have a loose idea of what it means to authors something.  And as with the Caine/Zondervan case, reparations may be paid but apologies won't be made.  The entire issue is swiftly swept under the rug.

I am reminded of the number of scammy publishers than tried to dress themselves up as "good Christians". For example the awful vanity outfit "Christian Faith Publishing", and Tyndale Books and HCCP have both been sued by contributors claiming dishonest practices. And let's not even get started about Tate Publishing.... All areas of publishing have problems but there does seem to be a preponderance of silence on the part of Christian publishing professionals where purveyors of prose from genres such as memoir or romance come forth and either apologize or counter-attack, according to their temperament. Perhaps because, not being clothed in the righteous robes of Christian purpose, they are willing to take personal responsibility for what they have done.

Or perhaps because the media and their consumers are more willing to demand it?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Zumaya Nonpayment

eXtacy is one of the 7 imprints of Zumaya which is now openly not paying service providers like cover artists (e.g.).   On this basis it is being marked on the publisher page as 'not recommended'.

So I am told eXtacy is not and has never been an imprint of Zumaya (see comment).  I have no problem seeing I have made an error here in that they are not currently such an imprint and so the two business may now be completely unlinked. So I will remove the tag.

However my post is based on eXtacy being previously identified as such an imprint of Zumaya by a 2003 Press Release (as well as by Piers Anthony). EPIC does say this was their "original" stats, and so presumably has ended.  So I am having some trouble based on this with the idea that such a relationship never existed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

MARKET Major Key Publishing

Major Key Publishing is seeking new adult and contemporary romance.


How would you feel if, shortly before your debut novel was to be released,
the woman who runs the company publishing it revealed the cover of one of her own books and it looked like this?

Monday, October 15, 2018

BEST WOMEN’S EROTICA -- Rachel Kramer Bussel (ed)

BEST WOMEN’S EROTICA provides a lot of stories but unfortunately they are all very similar: a contemporary woman does something a vanilla person would consider a tad daring and feels good about it.  There is no real plot to speak of.  And some people think that is par for the course with erotica or short stories, but girl I read about a dozen erotica anthologies a year and most of them manage to have both stories and sex, in fact lots of rather more adventurous  sex with sometimes unexpected consequences. Whatever criteria these stories were selected according to I would respectfully request the raise the standard and broaden the scope.  It is pretty rare that competently written erotica bores me, but this was a snooze-fest. Or perhaps there is a strong readership for these anthologies that does not read a lot of erotica and is very happy with these brief scenarios as a glimpse into the world they don’t want to venture any further into.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 2/5

MARKET: 10th Street Press

10th Street Press publishes erotica and related non-fiction. I have to say their website Utt-Bugly.  They seem to have been around for a while and customer reviews suggest their books are a mixed bag.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Money, Bias, Exploitation and Book Review

On one hand if a book reviewer is paid by the author, they will probably be at least somewhat biased towards giving a positive review rather than a purely accurate one.  This is why paid reviews cannot appear in the customer review section of Amazon books listings.  Although you can certainly pay hundreds for a review and post it as editorial. And payments are fine so long as Amazon is paying for them via the Early Reviewer Program where the idea is that approaching people after purchase somehow eliminates this bias.  (But I have to say, after taking part in many reviewer programs, most people people assume they have to give fake glowing reviews if they are being given a freebie and/or compensated, whether this is actually true or not.)

On the other hand when a book review soliciting service is being paid for, how does it make sense that the only person not seeing any of the money is the person doing the work?  Programs that organize the exchange of ARCs for reviews often charge a significant amount and make a little money--I assume--in the process.  And in my socialist little heart it seems odd to build a profitable business on a volunteer activity.

And if the solution is to offer books to people for whom access to the book is more than enough compensation, doesn't this introduce the bias of salting the book listing with gushing praise from super-fans who don't really represent the typical consumer experience?  Because if so, any kind of organized coordination between publishers and reviewers is ultimately going to result in "invalid" reviews.

And is it magically money that is the root of all evil?  On Netgalley the key to getting your pick of books is having reviews featured and being put on auto-approve lists.  Something that is unlikely to happen if your tone is overly critical or your star ratings under 4/5.  And while Amazon rules do also suggest you cannot "require" a review in return for a book many of the book review services--such as Hidden Gems--track whether you post to Amazon and are probably going to cut you off if you don't.

And in many cases, can anyone even really tell if the reviewer is being paid or not? For example while the Paranormal Romance Guild is a non-profit, they charge for membership and one of the benefits is reviews--cross posted to Amazon.  The site is not specific about whether any of the membership money goes into the reviewer's pocket either directly or by dint of wearing multiple hats at the organization.

I am sure most of us have decided where to draw the line on what's fair in love and reviews, but while the rules may change the biases remain the same.  And while one of these biases is to give glowing reviews even to crap books if compensation is offered, the other is to make money off the free labor of volunteers.  And given that those volunteers have to be incentivised somehow--don't we end up just concealing the problem rather than addressing it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: In the Vanisher's Palace by Aliette de Bodard

IN THE VANISHER’S PALACE resonates with the story of Beauty and the Beast without being anything as literal as a retelling of it.  A post-apocalyptic Vietnamese setting seamlessly blends myth and science is a way vaguely reminiscent of Anne McAffrey but with a completely different cultural context and aesthetic.  The basic story is about Yên, a poor scholar abducted by a beguiling but dangerous dragon to be a teacher for her strange children.  The story, romance, and revealing of what is happening in the wider world around them occurs at a perfect pace and arrives at a satisfying conclusion.

I found the writing style just a little disjointed in the first few pages but eventually got into the flow of it.  If I have any complaint it might be that nested into the richness of the world, culture, and relationships sometimes the actual personality of the two female protagonists did not seem quite as multi-dimensional in terms of what the basis was for their attraction to each other and some of their more extreme actions and reactions. But perhaps I am just not appreciating some of the story’s subtleties. The tone of the book is somewhere between science fantasy, romance, and literary but the beautifully illustrated cover gives a good introduction to what is within.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 4/5

Monday, October 08, 2018

Review: Women who Love Monsters -- Lori Perkins (Editor)

While I ultimately really enjoyed WOMEN WHO LOVE MONSTERS, but the connection between the stories and the title and stated theme is a bit slippery.  The best of the stories really do explore the connection between women and the monstrous -- be that horrors from the dark, abusive men, magical races, or those who seem to be our enemy.  The best of these stories also explore different motivations for loving the monster like need, conquest, a desire for power, a wounded soul,  an ancient urge, or even the desire to become a monster herself.

That said, the frame shifts jarringly between stories.  The most constant theme is the erotic desire to make love to a monster and very few of the stories touch upon happily-ever-after situations.  Some of the excerpts and stories seem to offer very little in relation to the theme at all, unless you stretch its boundaries very wide.  If I were to rate the tries separately they would range from a grudging 1/5 to an enthusiastic 5/5 with the best being reminiscent of my favorite anthology of all time ALIEN SEX (Ellen Datlow, editor).

I have a particular interest in the borders between erotica and horror, and explorations of monstrous love interests that are not basically superheroes with no down side or neutered versions of their ancient selves.  Several of the stories in this anthology directly and successfully engage with this theme, and given the rarity of this kind of bold originality I can somewhat forgive the rest that were irrelevant, openly self-promotional, or merely benignly entertaining.

Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 4/5 #DarkerThanThatFTW

Ruby City Books

Ruby City Books (2016--) "spicy romance" publisher, lists six authors and does not seem to be open to submissions. 

"Ruby City Books is a publisher of romance, billionaire, shifter, erotica, bad boy, fantasy, mystery, among several other titillating genres featuring the hottest authors"

Sunday, October 07, 2018

MARKET: Black Velvet Seductions

Black Velvet Seductions is seeking romance is many categories including: 
  •  Action and adventure romance 
  • Historical romances, especially westerns 
  • Soft tender romance 
  • Capture/Bondage/BDSM romances 
  •  Dominance/submission/power exchange romances 
  •  Romance stories in which the hero and heroine practice some form of domestic discipline (eg spanking) 
  • Paranormal romance 
  •  Erotic romantic suspense

"Bang" Still Selling to Eager US Customers.

It was reported last month that 'pick up artist' book BANG and other similar titles had been withdrawn from Amazon, but at the current moment it shows as still on sale. While buried in negative reviews on the UK site, the Amazon.com listing is currently averaging 4/5 stars. It seems that only his most egregious and explicitly pro-rape works were withdrawn and this cor title and many others remain on sale world-wide.

Critics have requested that the Roosh V books be withdrawn from sale en masse because they both describes the author's sexual assaults on women and counsel others to do the same. Amazon reviews for the title include the following direct quote:

"While walking to my place, I realized how drunk she was. In America, having sex with her would have been rape, since she legally couldn’t give her consent. It didn’t help matters that I was sober, but I can’t say I cared or even hesitated. I won’t rationalize my actions, but having sex is what I do."

Other quotes go beyond what I would want to post on this blog but can be seen at the link below if you have a strong stomach. Hopefully his egotistical empire will continue to decline.

See also:
Pickup guru Roosh V: End rape by making it legal

Saturday, October 06, 2018

How sensitive would you have to be....

...To need to be protected from this review by the Amazon "sensitivity filter"?

What is "Romance Pup"?

Romance Pup  (2017-?) appears to be a Singapore-based publisher, but curiously all of their books also list "Romance Pup" as the author. 

Their website refers to a "team" of writers and editors which, if accurate, means it is not just one author with a weird pen name.  The one example of their books that I have read is consistent with a wordy but rushed work-for-hire book. 

But... your guess is as good as mine.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Review: The Haunting of William Gray by Renee Canter Johnson (The Wild Rose Press)

THE HAUNTING OF WILLIAM GRAY is a story that has many classic featured and is well-constructed much like the historic mansion where much of the action occurs.  It has hints of ‘The Ghost and Mrs Muir’ and ‘Rebecca’ and is written with a palpable sense of place such that you can almost smell the sea air.  The story centers on a peculiar love triangle of sorts between an single mother and graduate student, a pompous wealthy heir with a ton of emotional baggage, and a ghost that occasionally possesses him—with a history-mystery that needs to be untangled to set everything to rights.

For the three quarters of the story I would suggest that pace is a little sedate and the style more like romance books from a few decades ago than a modern example. Just as I was starting to skim a little the plot took a very dark and dramatic turn, however there was also a plot element that stuck out to at this point as wildly implausible.  To avoid spoilers I can’t say much more than that, but for those of you who might otherwise lose interest a plot twist is coming!

I think a slightly stronger editorial hand could have made this a 5/5 book where the plot advanced at a more interest pace without sacrificing believability. The theme of a size 10-12 woman being wildly insecure about her weight could also be toned down a little IMHO.  However there is no doubt that this maritime romance is tightly plotted overall and seamlessly blends a supernatural mystery and obstacle strewn love story to arrive at a very satisfying happily-ever-after.

Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 7/10, #HeadHopping

Thursday, October 04, 2018

I come not to praise Barnes and Noble

In the current business climate small independent books stores are doing quite well.  This may be in part because Borders (as was) and Barnes and Noble stamped out any bookstores that weren't extremely robust, and a few that were.

So why is Barnes and Noble now doing so badly?  My guess would be appallingly bad management.  Their stores are often too large.  Their foray into e-readers was inept and they stuck at it for too long.  They tried to spin off educational products (Ticker: BNED) with lackluster results.

At this point in time someone starting from scratch might be far more capable to creating a book store chain in areas with good foot traffic, that actually contains mostly books, targeted to the needs and interests of the local community.

So who on earth is going to be interested in purchasing B&N, as they seem to want?  You buy a 'Sears of Books' brand, a few great stores, a bunch of terrible ones, and a long history of not understanding how to sell books.  (With management coming -- not coincidentally -- from other industries).

For the industry as a whole, in the long run it might be better if they collapsed quickly and something better had a chance to spring up in their place.  And, no, I don't think it will be Amazon.

Meme Rant

Do y'all want to know why people of your parent's generation want to hold the phone to look at it.  Because most of us are or should be wearing bifocals.  Waving a phone in our general direction is completely un-fucking-helpful if you want to show us something on that tiny screen.  Our ability to focus on things requires that they be in a very particular area in space and completely fucking motionless.  Stop being implicitly age-ist assholes.  Thank you.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Review: Grilled Cheese and Goblins (Adventures of a Supernatural Food Inspector) by Nicole Kimberling

Anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t use the word ‘delightful’ very often-slash-ever, but GRILLED CHEESE AND GOBLINS is delightful.  Now I do have a special weakness for curmudgeonly men with unreasonable devoted and gorgeous boyfriends.  Yes, that’s kind of a specific trope, and there’s not much of it out there.  However I think a lot of people would find Keith and Gunther adorable.  

The assorted tales collected within also betray a deep understanding of the twisted habits of bureaucracy and the strange and special ways to exploit them for the greater good whenever you can.  In this case relating To Keith Curry investigating supernatural food safety issues, and with inexorable and understated ethical impulses, often uncovering so much more. Equally blended-in some sharp humor and riffs on issues of prejudice, corruption, and the role of the ‘little guy’ in (possibly) making a difference.

 And finally the world building has the authenticity that comes from realizing that every wonderful part of a fantasy world is going to come with weird, wonderful, and frequently disgusting corollaries—or it would if it was real. I didn’t previously have an author auto-buy list but I think I may now have to start one.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 10/10