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September 10, 2005
Volume 1 No. 1
ISSN pending

The Insider's Guide to Books

Welcome to the next issue of eBook Ecstasy. Well, not really. We've decided to change the name of the newsletter to reflect the wider scope of content. We cover much more than e-books, and we'll now be called The Insider's Guide to Books. Thanks to our winner, April Harvey, who submitted the new name, and walked away with three Tigress Press books by Barbara M. Hodges The Blue Flame, The Emerald Dagger, and The Silver Angel.

This issue we've got featured interviews, conducted by Barbara M. Hodges with Robin Wayne Bailey, fantasy author of Dragonkin and president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; and David Deen, cover artist extraordinaire. And there are the usual great reviews by Barb.

We hope you like the new name for the newsletter, and we'll keep bringing you great interviews, reviews, and markets.

Don't forget you can post your favorite review sites in the Publishing News Section, list your needs for manuscripts (for publishers) in the Market News, plug your new books (authors and publishers) in New Releases, volunteer to be interviewed if you want to get your name out there in the Featured Interviews section (we look for all kinds of creative people, including authors, artists, publishers, etc.), and submit books to be reviewed by Barb and guest reviewers in the Book Reviews section.

Contents

  • Publishing News
  • Market News
  • New Releases
  • Article: Authors share their book marketing expertise with web visitors for free
  • Featured Interviews: Author Robin Wayne Bailey and Cover Artist David Deen
  • Book Reviews by featured reviewer Barbara M. Hodges

Publishing News

Submit your publishing news as it occurs so we can make it available to readers in the next available issue. You can e-mail news to jmusick@tigresspress.com.

Announce the release of your new book in the e-book announcements forum at Knowbetter: http://www.knowbetter.com/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=11 and list the title in their e-book directory: http://www.knowbetter.com/ebook/titles/add_info.asp.

Karenne over at Coffeetime Romance has created a wonderful web site. Please hop over and see what a wonderful job they do there! They've done reviews for Tigress Press, and we're impressed by the quality work they do. http://coffeetimeromance.com/

Scheherazade Tales Romance E-Novels
NEW! Now you can download a full chapter excerpt in the format of your choice for reading on your ebook reader at your leisure!
http://scheherazadetales.com/samples.html

Laura's Guide to Self-publishing is a site to help others in self-publishing, as well as marketing and publicity: http://www.freewebs.com/lauraonselfpublishing.

Check out the SLF Small Press Co-operative, an organization designed to help small presses within the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres cooperate on projects and exchange useful information. For more information, send e-mail to slf-coop@speculativeliterature.org with the subject line: Small Press Co-op Application.

Check out Holly Lisle's free e-book on writing fiction, Mugging the Muse: http://www.hollylisle.com/downloads.html#mugging

Books We Love (http://www.BooksWeLove.net) is a site where readers come to find quality reading, and where authors and publishers benefit shared promotions.

Cybling is a SF, fantasy and horror chat area featuring interviews with the movers, shakers and up-and-comers in the genre: http://cybling.hypermart.net/flashz.htm

ebooklove is a new group at Yahoo Groups for discussing romance e-books: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ebooklove

Ebookbase is a wholesale distributor of e-books targeted for mobile devices: http://www.ebookbase.com/

Publishing & Marketing for New Authors is a publishing and marketing email list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/newauthors

Book Promotion Newsletter is available at http://www.bookpromotionnewsletter.com.

EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection): EPICon 2006 Early Bird Registration Now Open! Stop by and take a look: http://epicauthors.com/

Just a quick note to all authors and publishers: You can have your book covers appear at the end of the newsletter for $5 per cover. If you want to announce a new book and have the cover with the announcement, we will do it for $10. Just send your cover and your announcement to jmusick@tigresspress.com.

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Market News:

Before submitting to any publisher or publication on this list, see the company's website for more specific and current information.

Baen Books now accepts electronic submissions. Prefers 100k-300k word novels: http://www.baen.com/

Black Medina is a new online literary magazine. Open to submissions: http://www.blackmedina.net/

Bobbing Around, Dr. Bob Rich's newsletter, is accepting short articles, announcements and brags: http://mudsmith.net/bobbing.html.

Mundania Press is open to submissions in SF/F, mystery, horror, romance, paranormal and erotica: http://www.mundania.com/submissions.html.

Runestone Publishing LLC is open to submissions in the following genres: SF/F, mystery, romance, paranormal, suspense and thriller: http://www.runestonepublishing.com/.

We're looking for a few good women! Scheherazade Tales Romance E-Novels is interested in acquiring manuscripts for a new romance e-book section featuring "older" heroines. If you're sick and tired of heroines on the young side of thirty, with perfect features, perfect hair, perfect Barbie-doll figures...If you're ready to see more realistic stories involving true-to-life heroines in the prime of their lives...If you can write a gripping story of passion between two mature adults seeking love and romance...Then come strut your stuff with our new line of romance e-books called "Hot Flashes!" Whether it's romantic suspense, paranormal, light-hearted humor, or matron-lit, we want to see stories aimed for maturing baby-boomers who still love a gripping, tender, passionate romantic tale. Sensuality from sweet to spicy, but no erotica. Minimum 40,000 words (novel-length only, no novellas). Query with sample of writing or send entire manuscript by email attachment to editor@scheherazadetales.com We are always open for submissions! Query to editor with complete manuscript, full-length novels only.

Grace Abraham Publishing Non-fiction:

Do you have a compelling story to tell? Do you have the solution to a problem plaguing moms, dads, families or children? Are you a survivor who wants to share a tale of hope? If you have a non-fiction, book-length manuscript you'd like Grace Abraham Publishing to consider publishing, please send us a proposal. Manuscript must be completed. Multiple submissions are okay provided you inform us of that at time of submission.

Please answer the following questions in your proposal (besides word count, synopsis, chapter headings, etc.): Is there enough interest to provide an audience large enough to justify our publishing your book? Is there enough material to justify a book on this topic? What's different or better about your book than similar books on the market? What qualifies you to write this book? How do you plan to market and promote this book?

Grace Abraham Publishing is currently a royalty-paying publisher of works for sale in electronic format and trade paperback. Audio format is also under consideration. Books will be first published in electronic format. Other formats will be determined for each book on an individual basis.

Please do not send full manuscript unless requested.

Dark-N-Stormies, fiction imprint of Grace Abraham Publishing is currently seeking book-length fiction in the mystery/suspense, psychological thriller, cozy mystery, romantic suspense and procedural mystery categories. If you have a completed manuscript you would like Dark-N-Stormies to consider, please send a cover letter, synopsis, and first two chapters only via snail mail (with SASE) to the address listed on our website (http://www.graceabraham.com ) or via e-mail (posted in the body of your message - attachments will NOT be opened) to gd830@hotmail.com.

Mathews Books is open for submissions. Their goal? To fulfill dreams, one author at a time. Check them out at http://www.mathewsbooks.net.

Check out Tina Adams' Fiction Promotions (http://www.fictionpromotions.com)

WriterBreak.com
Check out www.WritersBreak.com, the web site and ezine for fiction and creative non-fiction writers:
http://www.writersbreak.com

Twilight Times Books. The next submission period will be February 15 to March 5, 2006. Especially interested in professionally written SF/F, literary and mainstream novels as well as literate non-fiction: http://twilighttimesbooks.com/subs.html.

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New Releases

Our featured reviewer Barbara M. Hodges, has a new science fiction release, Shadow Worlds, co-authored with Darrell Bain. Check it out here: http://www.eternalnight.co.uk/books/h/hodgesbarbaram/shadowworlds.html

In June 2005, Clan Gunn: Gerek by Dorice Nelson came out in both e-book and print formats. In August 2005, her book Saratoga Summer: 1863 was released. Check these two books out at http://www.cambridgebooks.us; http://www.DoriceNelson.com

The Red Desk 
Tigress Press LLC is pleased to announce a new book by Mary Kim Schreck, Missouri poet with a flare for making the ordinary extraordinary, The Red Desk. Mary Kim takes a look back at her experiences with school, both as student and teacher, and she shares some of her whimsical musing about everyday life. She also took the great photo on the front of the book. You can order your own copy of the book at
http://www.tigresspress.com.

Tigress Press is now closed to submissions while we get our inventory of contracted books edited, designed, and printed. Stay tuned for more on great stories on the schedule.

New from Twilight Times Books: The Melanin Apocalypse, thriller/SF suspense: A man-made virus is killing all the blacks in the world. The African continent is devolving into total and complete chaos. Blacks in America begin rioting and killing Whites. China prepares to invade Taiwan now that America is overwhelmed with racial warfare and sick and dying blacks. Israel and the Arab states go to war again. The oil fields of the Middle East and Africa are up for grabs... Darrell Bain's most controversial novel since The Sex Gates. http://twilighttimesbooks.com/MelaninApocalypse_ch1.html

"This is one roller coaster ride that just didn't stop to enable you to get your breath back. Things happen fast and furious, going from one scene to another and you have no choice but to read on to see what is going to happen next. I read it one morning; I just had to see where it was going to lead. The characters are realistic and the love interest in the story added to the action, rather than detracted from it. The romance and thrilling aspects of the book were blended seamlessly and I think it would have been weaker if it hadn't been there. ...Excellent read." Reviewed by Annette Gisby, author of Shadows of the Rose and Drowning Rapunzel.

The following publishers have new releases for 2005. You are sure to find a book for your reading enjoyment. Check them out and tell them you saw their listing in The Insider's Guide to Books.

Wings ePress Inc. (http://www.wings-press.com/)
Twilight Times Publications (
http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/)
New Concepts Publishing (
http://www.newconceptspublishing.com/)
Schehrazade Tales (
http://www.scheherazadetales.com/)
Amber Quill Press (
http://www.amberquill.com/)
Atlantic Bridge (
http://www.atlanticbridge.net/)
Awe-Struck (
http://www.awe-struck.net/)
Disk Us Publishing (
http://www.diskuspublishing.com/)
Double Dragon Publishing (
http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/)
Extasy Books (
http://www.extasybooks.com/)
Embiid (
http://www.embiid.net/)
Hard Shell Word Factory (
http://www.hardshell.com/)
Mundania Press (
http://www.mundania.com/submissions.html)
Tigress Press, LLC (
http://www.tigresspress.com/

Authors share their book marketing expertise
with web visitors for free

The book industry reports that 78% of the titles published come from small/self-publishers with combined annual revenues of less than $50 million. These publishers have limited publicity budgets and their authors are expected to do their own promotion. Where can they turn and learn?

Now authors with books to promote may ask questions of nearly 150 author experts whose specialties run the gamut from romance to foot surgery.

Assembled from the thousands of subscribers to Book Promotion Newsletter, the experts include authors, editors, book reviewers, book coaches, ghostwriters, publicists and publishers.

This free service is hosted by Maureen McMahon, author of romantic suspense novels, Return of the Gulls, Shadows In the Mists and others, and Francine Silverman, author of Book Marketing from A-Z (Infinity Publishing 2005), a compilation of the best marketing strategies of 325 authors. http://www.bookpromotionnewsletter.com/

The "Ask the Experts" link is on Maureen's Moonspinners Writer's Page at  http://www.maureenmcmahon.com/. Once at the site, visitors can ask a book marketing question of any of the experts. Responses will be emailed back to the inquirer within 3-5 working days.

Lemon Drops Press is also hosting a bulletin board in which visitors may ask book marketing questions at  http://lemondropspress.com/phpBB2. Both registered users and anonymous guests can post questions by clicking on "Marketing with Fran" in the community forum and then on "new topic" on the new page that opens. There are fields for a username, subject, and message, as well as a selection of fonts and emoticons (smiley or sad faces). When finished, the user simply clicks the "submit" button and his or her question is posted. After Fran posts a reply on the forum, the person who asked the question as well as all other visitors to the Lemon Drops Press website will be able to view both the question and the response. "In this way," says host Lana Jordan, "the entire community benefits from the individual questions."

Featured Interview

Robin Wayne Bailey:

Bestselling fantasy author Robin Wayne Bailey is the author of numerous novels and short stories. His works include the best-selling Dragonkin books (Simon & Shuster), a series written in the tradition of Watership Down and the Redwall books, for adults, young adults, and children alike with covers and illustrations by famed artist, Troy Howell.

He's also the author of the Frost series (Pocket Books, Tor Books) which has recently been optioned for film by Scriptzone Productions. The three novels that make up this series, Frost, Skull Gate, and Bloodsongs, were recently re-published in omnibus hardback and trade paperback editions as Night's Angel by Meisha Merlin Books. The omnibus also includes a brand new short story, "The Woman Who Loved Death."

Robin's contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy extend beyond just his writing. He served for nine years on the Board of Directors of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and is again its current president. He has hosted three Nebula Awards events. In 1996, in conjunction with the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society and James Gunn and the J.Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, he founded the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Hall of Fame. In 2004, the Hall of Fame merged with Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Enterprises in Seattle and became part of the new Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. He continues to serve on the Board of Advisors of the new museum.

In addition to a massive book collection and a deep interest in old-time radio theater, Robin is a former instructor and longtime student of various martial arts, currently training in Ryobu-Kai karate under Howard High Sensei and Kiyoshi Yamazaki Sensei. Other interests include bodybuilding, bicycling, and soccer.

He's an active fundraiser for AIDS causes and as a musician and vocalist performs as often as time allows for various benefits.

He loves travel, speaking to diverse groups, and corresponding with fans and readers.

Now let's talk to Robin.

BMH: When did you first discover your love for writing?

RWB: I've been writing poems and stories since I was a little kid. I actually began my first novel in junior high school, working on it in study halls and at home. Then I sold my first short story when I was eighteen years old. That was in the first months of my freshman year in college and resulted from my first creative writing class there. Suddenly, writing wasn't just something I did to entertain myself. I could make money at it. That pretty much hooked me. I've been doing it professionally now for 23 years. I've produced 16 novels, edited two anthologies, and published almost 100 short stories with numerous poems and the occasional article or essay on the side.

BMH: What was your first written piece? Your first published story?

RWB: Heck, I can't even remember my first written piece. I do remember writing a poem about Indians when I was still in grade school. I got some goofy award for it, and my parents made me perform and recite it to all the relatives and friends when they came to visit. I had a lot of poetry published in various outlets in high school and college and won some awards for it. Almost no payment, though. Maybe a few dollars here or there. Nothing of any significance.

My first published story was called "The Silver Dolphin." I sold it to the Kansas City Star newspaper, which at that time bought original fiction for its Sunday supplement. I think the pay was $100. I'd written the story for a freshman creative writing class and subsequently sold it. I could do no wrong in that class for the rest of the semester.

BMH: Why fantasy?

RWB: I write fantasy and science fiction -- actually, I prefer the term imaginative literature -- because I love the freedom the forms allow. The themes are the same as those in so-called mainstream literature, but fantasy and science fiction allow the writer a broader palette and a larger set of tools with which to examine and play with those themes.

In my work I've dealt with AIDS, child neglect and abuse, urban drug culture, and many other issues that are the subjects of modern literature. However, by framing these issues as fantasies, I can focus on them with a range of techniques that aren't available with a more realistic approach.

Fantasy in its many forms -- dreams, nightmares, legends, folktales, mythology, religious belief -- lies at the heart of the human experience. Done well, it has great power to affect readers, to resonate with their lives.

BMH: What is your writing schedule?

RWB: Half the fun of being a full-time writer is not having to keep an absolute schedule. I know there are writers who do who approach their writing just as if it was a nine-to-five job. I'm not one of those. I do try to write pretty much every day. But my output varies a lot. At a minimum, once I sit down at my desk I try to complete at least one scene. That may be one page or it may be twenty pages. But one scene at a minimum. Often, it's more. But rather than watch a clock, I count scenes.

Mostly, I write at night when the world quiets down and distractions are few. It's moving toward four in the morning as I write this. Every now and then, however, I like to take the laptop to a coffee shop, take a seat in a sunny window, and spend the afternoon writing in that environment. It's a nice change from the office.

BMH: Do you work from an outline?

RWB: Sometimes, but not always. Some of my best work has been "organic." Beginning with a character or an idea, I might type a few lines and just see where the story takes me. A novel is a bit more complicated. I don't start so much with an outline as with a "bible." This is a notebook in which I write studies about the characters, make notes about the setting or the world, jot down possible incidents, maybe short passages and descriptions. As often as not, the story takes shape in my mind as I'm creating this bible. Then, once the actual writing begins, I continue to record details into that bible. It's a great aid to continuity.

I almost always have an opening in mind and a rough story idea, and also an idea of where I think a book should end. Often the ending turns out very differently. The real fun of the writing, for me, lies in that middle territory, finding my way between the opening and the end.

BMH: What are two books on writing that every writer should have on their bookshelves?

RWB: Oh, who knows? This would depend so much upon what you're writing. A mystery writer, a romance writer, and a fantasy writer all need different tools, and there are excellent books on how to write each. I think every writer could benefit from the advice in Richard Curtis's Beyond The Bestseller, and probably also from Robert Zuckerman's Writing The Blockbuster Novel, and there's useful information in something like Masterplots. But are they critical? Probably not.

The only two books a writer really needs are a good dictionary and another good dictionary.

BMH: What is your take on self-publishing?

RWB: These are two different issues. My take on self-publishing is that it's not for me. I write to make a living. That means dealing with established publishing companies with established distribution systems, with established agents and publishers who know what they're doing, who can get me into bookstores and foreign markets. It means that publishers pay me. I don't pay them.

But maybe someone out there has a different goals. Maybe all they want is to see their name in print, to hold a book in their hands and show it to their friends, and they don't care how much money they have to pay out of their own pocket for that. Hey, more power to them. But any vanity publisher who promises to get you into the chain stores, or promises you promotion and advertising and lots of reviews and all that -- they're lying to you and taking your money, and all you're going to get is a very sour experience.

It may be different for non-fiction. There is a sometimes-successful strategy for self-publishing non-fiction works. If you're a lecturer, a motivational speaker, or have expertise in an interesting arena that constantly puts you in contact with an audience or large groups of people, then self-publishing can work for you. I've seen that happen.

But it doesn't happen for fiction and fiction writers. If you write a novel you can't sell to a legitimate publisher, put it in a trunk and go write another one. And write another one. Successful fiction writing is as much about practice and practice and more practice as any other art or sport. I mentioned earlier that I sold my first story when I was eighteen. It took me seven years to sell my second story. And in between, a lot of stories went into the trunk or the file cabinet or the trash where they belonged. Not up on the web, and not to a vanity publisher.

BMH: How do you promote your books?

RWB: My publisher does the bulk of my promotion but, as time allows, I also do convention appearances and book signings, radio and television and newspaper interviews and stuff like that. I'm always happy to take part in interviews like this one, or talk to libraries or fan groups.

I suspect my volunteer efforts within the writing community also help a little. I'm currently president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I also founded the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and although that's been transferred to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, I continue to serve on its Board of Advisors and chair the Induction Committee.

Otherwise, I maintain my website (http://home.earthlink.net/~robinwaynebailey) and send out a very irregular electronic newsletter, but only to people who ask for it. And I answer every single piece of fan mail myself.

I do not make bookmarks, and I don't send out postcards or flyers. I don't print up tee shirts or give away pens or lapel buttons.

The very best way to promote your book is to get the next book out in the bookstores. Good books are what build an audience and result in sales, not bookmarks and gimmicks.

BMH: Is it more important to promote yourself or your books?

RWB: For better or worse, they go hand in hand. To promote my books, I do a lot of interviews and speaking gigs. But to get those interviews and speaking gigs, I have to have interesting things to say and be able to say them in interesting ways. Thomas Wolfe, a notorious recluse who hates to do promotion, benefits as much from the resulting mystique that surrounds him. Any work or bit of writing is inevitably such an intimate part of the writer that it's difficult to separate them.

BMH: How do you use the Internet to promote?

RWB: I maintain a website with information about my works, upcoming appearances, and other stuff that will hopefully attract and inform my readers. A couple of times a year I send out an electronic newsletter to select readers who've requested it. I also take part on a couple of discussion lists dedicated to science fiction and fantasy writers and readers. And when the opportunity arises, I do interviews with online websites. I try not to spend too much time on the web. It's a massive time-sink.

BMH: What comes first with you, a plot, setting or characters?

RWB: That depends on the work. My novel, Shadowdance, began with a plot, just an idea really, about a particular kind of magic based on dance. My latest series, Dragonkin, began with a cast of characters, who were all dragons. My Thieves World stories naturally, began with a particular setting. For me, there's no particular rule or pattern.

BMH: How many hours a day do you write?

RWB: Not as many as I'd like to, particularly now that I'm the president of SFWA.

BMH: Do you use a computer to write?

RWB: I wrote my first three novels on an old electric typewriter, and I have written short stories in longhand. But then the earth cooled, and the mountains rose up from the sea, and Bill Gates became God. I worship at his altar.

BMH: What are some of your favorite books and authors?

RWB: Well, if I was stranded on that desert island we all talk about, the one book I'd want with me is John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath. After that, almost any collection of William Blake's poetry.

In the SF/F genre, I have many favorites. Clarke Ashton Smith is one of the forgotten greats of fantasy writing. Fritz Leiber is another giant of the field, and I was very honored to be invited to write in his world of Lankhmar when I did Swords Against The Shadowland. I also enjoy the work of Robert E. Howard. For science fiction, I'm a big fan of C.J. Cherryh (particularly her Faded Sun novels. C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner are also big favorites of mine. And I rather admire Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson and Ray Bradbury.

BMH: If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be, and why?

RWB: Oh, any number of answers here. I'd love to meet a Greek sculptor named Praxiteles. I'm a great admirer of Greek art, and his works are outstanding examples from a period of innovation and grandeur.

Or I'd love to meet Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern karate.

BMH: What do you do to unwind?

RWB: I go to the gym. I'm a body-builder, and I spend as much time lifting weights and working out as I do writing. They're both passions for me. I also study Ryobu-kai Karate and love that. I bicycle as often as I can, too. I'm very physcial.

But if I'm in a quieter mood, I love to read. I collect books. I collect old-time radio shows like The Shadow and Lights Out and a lot of others. I love music.

BMH: You are president of SFWA. Has this helped you in your career?

RWB: Being president of SFWA isn't about helping my career. It's about helping the broader community of writers. It's about speaking up for writers who can't speak up for themselves; it's about protecting our rights and securing the best possible working conditions and, when need be, standing up to publishers or editors and, sometimes, even politicians who would trample on those rights. It's about sharing and disseminating career-valuable information among our members.

Peripherally, it sometimes involves promoting science fiction and fantasy to the larger public and acting as a spokesman of sorts for the SF/F field. In this sense, perhaps it puts my name before the public sometimes. But anybody who would seek to run any writers' organization in the hope of gaining a resume point or turning it into a promotional tool is in for a world of frustration.

BMH: Who has most influenced you in your writing life?

RWB: A question with multiple answers. During high school, I had an excellent English teach named Dana Childress. She also ran the Creative Writing Club. She encouraged my writing immensely. Same thing with a couple of college professors, Craig Goad, who taught Creative Writing, and Dr. Carrol Fry, who chaired the English Department and also taught a course that focused on J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams.

Along the way, a trio of writers also became mentors of sorts. Wilson Tucker, Frank Robinson, and C.J. Cherryh were all generous with their time and advice and have become lifelong friends.

BMH: What are three pieces of advice you would give to a new author?

RWB: 1. No matter what you're writing, dare to say something that needs saying. Make a point. "I just want to tell a story," is a crummy excuse for killing trees.

2. Not everything you write is going to be gold. Learn to recognize crap, especially your own. Then buy a big trunk with a big lock. Even the crap you put in the trunk may have ideas you can rework and use later.

3. Spend as much time learning the business aspects of professional writing as you do actually writing. Learn the names of the publishers and editors and agents in your field. If you can't understand a literary contract or a royalty statement and are unwilling to learn, save yourself some anguish and find another hobby.

BMH: What's next for you?

RWB: Dragonkin: Undersky, the third book in my Dragonkin series, will appear next spring, 2006. I've just begun work on a new fantasy series, a trilogy actually, using medieval Japan as the background. The first is called Queens Of Air And Darkness.

Excerpt from Dragonkin: Undersky

Prologue

Rono, the first star of evening, shone with special luster in the deepening eastern twilight. Its silvery light shimmered on the tender green leaves of Wyvernwood as the gentle breeze murmured through the trees. The warm smells of spring wafted in the air the rich scents of fresh earth, the perfumes of daffodils and crocus and sweet grass.

Sweeping the last broomful of dust out the open door of her cave, the Dragon Marina paused from her labors and smiled to herself. Another winter gone, and the new season and the awakening forest lifted her spirits. The fireflies winking in her yard and at the forest edge made silent music with their flickering. Setting aside her broom and stepping past her threshold, she reached out with gentle care and allowed one of the tiny creatures to land on the back of her left paw. Its soft rhythmic glow glimmered on her argent scales.

"Twinkle, twinkle, little friend," Marina chanted in a quiet voice. "Spread your wings and swift ascend." With an easy gesture she shook the little bug free and watched as it spiraled upward and away to join a group of its companions.

A pair of pale, yellow-winged sulfurs darted past the tip of her nose as they chased each other on the evening breeze. Silly butterflies! she thought. The creatures circled her head and flitted off. She blinked her large eyes and watched them until they disappeared among a thick patch of nasturtiums. Silly, yet beautiful!

Marina couldn't quite remember when she felt so good, so full of life. Something about the new spring made her tingle all over; some sense of expectation and surprise stole upon her and filled her Dragon heart. She looked up toward the sky where, one by one, more stars broke through the deepening gloom to bejewel the cloudless heavens -- red Burbur in the south and in the west the pale constellation called the Piper.

She fixed her gaze again on bright Rono, which was always the first and brightest star.

"I spy! I spy!

Way up in the velvet sky

The first star of night I see!

Now my wish will come to be!"

With secret embarrassment, her voice little more than a whisper, she sang the words of the old nursery rhyme. For an instant the breeze became still as if it paused to listen, and the fireflies and the butterflies ceased their play. Putting a paw to her Dragon lips, feeling almost like a child again, Marina gave a self-conscious laugh.

The breeze resumed, and another voice issued suddenly from the forest. "This is the way the world ends," it said in rich, unfamiliar tones. "Not with a bang, but with a chuckle."

Marina gave a start, but calmed herself as she stared with curiosity toward the trees. "That's true," she agreed. "Nature has a sense of humor, or else I would not be." With her sharp gaze she spied an old owl that had settled on the thick branch of an oak. "Nor would you, silly bird, with your saucer-shaped eyes and hooky beak. Was there ever a funnier looking creature than you?"

The owl fluttered from its hiding place and perched on a new limb closer by. It gave a shrug and fluffed its feathers. "Well," it answered. "There are the satyrs."

Marina tilted her head and thought for a moment, then nodded agreement. "Point to you, old owl," she acknowledged. "But you're still the funniest looking bird." She flexed the tip of her tail and waved it in a dismissive manner. "Now fly away, mouse-breath."

The owl blinked its big, round eyes in indignation. "You...! You...! You...!"

Marina reached back and drew closed the door to her cave. She loved the fireflies and butterflies, but she didn't want bugs flying in and cluttering up her nice home, nor birds either of any kind. "Stutter, stutter, mumble, mutter," she said over her shoulder to the owl. "Shiver, quiver, fumble, flutter." She waved her tail again. "Fly away, I say. On such a perfect evening I'm going for a stroll."

The owl spread broad gray wings and rose upward. "I see a plump mouse now," it announced with enthusiasm. Dipping one wingtip, it plunged back into the forest.

Marina hoped the mouse was sharp-eyed and alert.

The breeze gusted again, and the forest branches rustled. With her silver wings folded upon her back, Marina began to walk up the side of the hill. The sulfurs rose up from the nasturtiums to accompany her, and a small swarm of fireflies lit her way, although she really didn't need their light. Dragons saw very well in the darkness, and it wasn't even quite dark.

Before she reached the summit, the wind shifted, and a whiff of wood smoke tickled her nose. Then a small cacophony of excited shouting came over the hilltop. For a moment, Marina stopped and frowned at the noise. It jarred the evening's tranquility and disturbed her peaceful frame of mind. Yet it also piqued her interest for as she listened she recognized the sound of children's voices.

Her frown fading, she increased her pace and arrived at the summit. The pair of sulfurs perched on the top of her head and fanned their wings while the fireflies hovered close around like a diminutive advance guard. "Children of the night," she whispered to the fireflies, "at ease, you little dazzlers!"

As if they understood, the twinkling insects drifted off a little way or settled into the rich grass, but they didn't wander far, and the butterflies stubbornly maintained their lookout.

Marina gave an amused sigh as she gazed down into the valley below the hill where a sprawling village of farmhouses and barns nestled. Lamps and lanterns burned in the windows, but like her, many of the citizens had been drawn outside by the beauty of the evening. Fat minotaur farmers walked hand in hand with their bovine-faced wives. Satyr couples strolled in the dusty roadways. A lone old human male with a wavy white beard leaned on a fence rail and blew random notes on a reed flute.

A narrow stream ambled along the near side of the village, and on the closer bank, someone had built a bonfire. An old minotaur, his hide grown gray and shaggy, leaned on a staff near the fire, watching while the village children danced and leaped around it. As if sensing suddenly that Marina was also watching, the minotaur gazed up at her. Stiffly, he lifted a hand and waved.

Raising a paw, Marina returned the wave, and a brief soft sadness -- or perhaps it was only melancholy brushed across her mood. Chergo, the minotaur, had lived in the valley all his life, as had most of his family before him. Marina could remember when the farmhouse built by Chergo's great-grandfather had been the only homestead down there. It pained her to see Chergo so old, so near the end of his time with no heir to call his own. He was the last of his line.

Near the fire a couple of satyr boys began to scuffle, and one of them punched the other. Chergo shouted a stern warning and thumped his staff on the ground, but the other children clustered around the boys in a tight circle, wide-eyed and excited as they chose sides and cheered for one or the other and screamed encouragements. On the fringes of the circle, a small black-and-white dog began to bark and scamper around the children, seeking a better view of the match.

Far up the roadside, the satyr couple saw the altercation and, becoming alarmed, hurried toward it. Hobbling into the fray, Chergo tried to break up the fight, but only got knocked down for his efforts. A pair of minotaur children separated themselves from the others to try to help him up, but the fight continued. Concerned for Chergo, Marina spread her wings and prepared to fly down and stop the battle herself.

Then, a blast of red-orange fire shot across the sky from the direction of the forest on the village's edge, and an instant later, the Dragon Puck raced over the treetops. He clutched loads of kindling in his claws, and it was suddenly plain that it was he who had built the bonfire for the children.

He gave an angry roar that stopped the fight instantly, and dropping his load, folded his wings and landed on the edge of the stream. The children fell back as he strode into their midst and their shouting ceased. The bonfire's flames glimmered on his golden scales as he loomed over them and glowered.

"Well?" he said after a tense moment. "I'm waiting."

With sheepish expressions, the two young satyrs reached out and shook hands. "We were just having fun," one of them said as he wiped the back of a hand over his swollen nose.

The satyr couple from the roadside, parents of one of the fighters, finally reached the gathering. While the mother made sure that Chergo was all right and offered profuse apologies, the father grabbed his son by a budding horn. "I'm going to make sure you have fun all week!" he scolded. "In your room!"

"I've got a better idea," Puck said to the father. He swept his gaze over all the children, and then, with a sudden smile that suggested wisdom beyond his Dragon years, he looked to his mother still on the hillside and beckoned. "It would be a shame to waste such a good bonfire. I think we need a story." He beckoned to his mother again.

Spreading her wings, Marina glided with gentle grace down the slope and settled beside her son near the fire. She smiled at Puck and touched his shoulder affectionately with the tip of one silver wing. He was nearly as tall as she was now, and she didn't see as much of him since he'd made his own cave on the far side of the valley.

Chergo shuffled forward. "Welcome, Marina!" he called. "I see you've brought your entourage, too!"

The pair of sulfurs fluttered in a circle around her head and perched on the tip of her nose to fan their wings. The swarm of fireflies chased after her as well and filled the air with merry lightning.

"We need a story, Mother," Puck said with a soft grin, "and who better to tell it than you."

Marina gazed around at the children. One by one, they drifted closer to her and seated themselves in the grass near her feet. The light from the bonfire lit their upturned faces with a ruddy glow, shimmered on the satyr-children's ivory horns, and filled the large eyes of the minotaur-children.

In the village, others took note of Marina's presence, and word quickly spread from house to house. The adults left their evening chores and their suppers and their comfortable easy chairs and walked across the meadow to join their offspring.

"You keep to yourself too much these days, Marina," Chergo said as he leaned on his staff. "Everyone is coming to see you."

Marina blinked her eyes and wrapped her wings around herself. It was true that she seldom came to the village anymore. She had her flowers and her gardens and her cave to occupy her time and all her forest friends to keep her company. All her books, too. Maybe she did feel a little lonely since Puck had moved out on his own, but she didn't dwell on it. She felt nothing but pride for her son.

"We always need stories," she said to Puck, but she spoke loudly enough for all to hear. Then she directed her gaze toward the two young fighters. "Stories remind us of who we are and, just as importantly, of who we can be. They're our history and also our hope for a better world to come." She looked at all the children now gathered with their parents around her feet. "Whether we tell them in books or songs or in paintings, we are the sum total of all our stories."

Puck nodded his Dragon head. "That's a good beginning," he said.

Marina looked at her son as she squeezed one eye shut. "Oh, no," she answered. "I've told all my stories." Folding her wings tightly against her back, she sat on her haunches and looked up at Puck. "Tonight, in this deepening darkness with the stars over our heads and this nice fire to warm our bodies and good friends all around to warm our hearts you become the storyteller."

Puck protested. "But I don't know any stories!"

Marina squeezed her other eye shut. "Nonsense," she said. "You know them all. I taught them to you just as they were taught to me. Now it falls to you to teach so that our stories are never lost." She opened her eyes again and regarded her son. With the bonfire's flames dancing on his golden scales he looked like a pillar of fire.

This is how great Stormfire must have looked, Marina thought wistfully, and for a moment she forgot where she was and her mind wandered back to younger days. She had never known the legendary leader of the Dragonkin, but she remembered all his stories.

Puck cleared his throat, looking somewhat disconcerted. All the children waited in expectation as they nestled into their parents' arms or stretched out on the grass. "Well then," he said at last, turning up his paws in a gesture that was both an acceptance of his task and an invitation to his audience.

Marina smiled to herself. He was a natural showman.

"We begin as all good stories begin. With a poem." Pausing, he tilted his head back and stared straight upward at bright Rono. Marina looked up, too, and all gazes followed. Puck's whisper rose like a soft invocation.

"Its light brings inspiration,

Unlocks imagination."

Wrapped in her wings, warmed by the fire and the company, Marina began gently to rock herself as she listened and let her thoughts get lost in the words.

The sulfurs flew from Marina to Puck and settled on his head between his ears. The fireflies, though their tiny hearts were loyal.

Featured Interview

David Deen:

David Deen has been drawing for as long as he can remember. "It has always been the easiest way to express myself," he says. His first coloring book was a copy of the AD&D Monster Manual.

He earned an art degree from the University of North Texas, but most of what he knows has come from other artists and trial and error. Because of the restrictions of being a college student and living in a dorm, he picked up colored pencils as his major medium. Most of his current work is in colored pencil, although he says, I am now getting back into acrylics and falling in love with painting all over again.'

After graduating in 1997, he and his wife, Robin, moved to St. Louis, Missouri. For the first five years after moving, he worked for a computer game company, making 3D models. He has now helped create computer game art for the Age of Empires series, Railroad Tycoon II, Tropico, Age of Wonders II and Railroad Tycoon 3. In the fall of 2002, he quit to pursue illustration full time.

He and Robin have recently moved to Boston where Robin is a postdoc at the CSAIL lab at MIT in Boston. She helps him with all of the technical, legal and financial sides of freelancing and is a blessing.

I would also like to add that David did all three of the covers in my Daradawn series, and I think they are fantastic!

Now let's talk to David.

BMH: When did you discover your love for painting?

DD: Well, it went hand in hand with my love for creating art in general, which started so long ago that I can't tell you when it started. Painting was just another way of creating that artwork, a way that let me use color and work on a larger scale.

BMH: When did you paint your first picture?

DD: If you include student-grade tempera paints, finger paints, or those classic watercolor sets you would buy for school, with the dried ovals of paint, then I really can't say. Long ago.

My first "real" painting was made fairly late in life, in the 11th grade of high school. I finally got some acrylics and made some paintings at home, but decided I didn't care for them. I couldn't get them to do what I wanted. Then I got some oils and made my first oil painting in art class. It was love at first stroke.

BMH: What is your favorite medium to work in?

DD: I have since gone back and relearned acrylics, so they are high on my list now. But living in a dorm forced me to work with colored pencils, and I still really love working with them. Then again, I still look forward to working in oils again, something I haven't done in about eight years. Graphite (aka good ol' pencils) has always been a favorite. Do I have to pick just one?

BMH: How did you get involved with doing book covers?

DD: The desire came from reading fantasy as a child. I would look at those wonderful covers and dream about being a "big artist" who could make them myself some day.

War of the Outcast 
My chance to create some book covers myself came after several years of convention attendance. I caught the eye of an author, Michales Warwick Joy, who had me make a cover for his self-published book War of the Outcast. That turned out really well, and he later introduced me to his new publisher, Tigress Press. At the same time, another publisher, Yard Dog Press, approached me at a different convention. Now I have made covers for both houses.

BMH: How many book covers have you created?

DD: Eight so far.

BMH: Do you have a favorite?

DD: Maybe it's nostalgia, but the cover for War of the Outcast is still my favorite.

BMH: How do you create a book cover?

DD: Oh, the process! First I receive a manuscript from the publisher. I have been lucky enough to read all of the books before making the covers, so I can really dig through for details and get the feel of the story. As I read, I make notes on all of the little details I can find about the characters. I pick a favorite scene or two, play with compositions until I find one I like, and make a rough concept sketch for the publisher.

After approval of the concept, I make a final drawing that shows all the detail and again send that off for approval with notes on the colors I intend to use. When approval comes back, I paint the final right over the drawing. I send that off for approval and then send the final files to the publisher. It's a careful and intense process, but I feel good about getting the details right.

BMH: What is your painting schedule like?

DD: If I only could get keep a schedule! But for the most part, I do "busy work" and "administrata" in the morning when my artistic juices aren't yet flowing. I answer email, balance the books, all of that fun stuff. After lunch, I sit down and get to painting. I keep that up until my wife comes home, and after supper I sometimes get a little more done.

On some days I am able to get into the studio and start painting in the morning, too. On other days I have too many errands to run and conventions to get ready for and never get to paint at all.

BMH: What do you do to promote yourself and your work?

DD: The main way is by going to conventions and introducing myself. But I have also been contacted by people who found my website on the Internet.

I keep threatening to send out flyers and inquiries to publishers, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

This fall I will have a page in the new Directory of Illustrators, which will in a sense be my first "real" attempt at self-promotion.

BMH: Whose artwork do you admire?

DD: I would have to say that my favorites are from the Brandywine School, especially N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle and James Wyeth. Then there are Geromé and Waterhouse, both of whom make beautifully realistic visions of exotic places and times. Monet's colors and sense of light are wonderful. Rackham's fairy tale and otherworldly paintings. When it comes to more modern influences, I would have to name James Gurney (especially before he became all about Dinotopia), Michael Whelan, Parkinson and Froud.

BMH: Who most has influenced your painting style, if anyone?

DD: Oh, I don't really know. I have admired James Gurney, Michael Whelan and Darrell K. Sweet for so long that I would have a hard time not believing that they have influenced my work but, if so, it's not deliberate and I don't look at my work and see them in it. That may be a question more easily answered by others who can see the influences.

BMH: Why type of support do you receive from your family?

DD: My whole family has been wonderful. They may have been skeptical of my trying to do this full time, but otherwise they have been great. My dad may be my #1 fan. My oldest brother also likes to brag about me (probably just to see me blush), but he has always done a great job of pointing out weaknesses I need to work on. He prodded me to add backgrounds behind my characters, and then color to my scenes. He would get me to make sprites for the games he programmed, and once wrote a graphics program for me when our computer didn't have one available. But they've all been great.

Now that I'm married, my wife is very supportive as well. She encourages me, and talks through issues with me, criticizes me when I need it, and takes it all very seriously. She's just wonderful.

BMH: If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be, and why?

DD: Oh, boy. That's always a hard one to answer, and I think the answer usually depends on my mood and fascinations at the moment. I recently read "The Monk in the Garden," so right now I think I would want to go back and talk to Mendel before he died, to let him know he hadn't wasted all of those years, that he would become known as the Father of Genetics. It seems a shame that he died not knowing that. Or Joan of Arc. She is a historical figure who fascinates me.

BMH: What do you do to unwind?

DD: Well, I don't tend to be very stressed to begin with, but in my free time I go for walks, go jogging, read a good book, watch movies, or do errands. I know, errands don't sound like an unwinding kind of activity, but they're something I can do without thinking too hard and it gets me out of the apartment.

BMH: What's next for you?

DD: I'm working to finish a marketplace scene (you can follow its creation at http://www.daviddeen.com/imprint/index.html), and then I have several more of my own pieces I want to work on. Meanwhile I'll keep my work in front of people and see how it goes.


Tigress Press Book Covers by David Deen

Tigress Press 

Book Reviews:

Title: Magnetism
Author: Shannah Biondine
ISBN: Unknown
Publisher: Unknown
Rating: 5 Diamonds
Sensuality Rating: Sweet

Bliss and Echo are angels. The book opens with Bliss being not too happy to be given the honor of becoming Echo's mentor. It seems the wayward novice has caused some problems and is in need of a little more calming celestial influence.

Echo doesn't see it that way. She holds herself responsible for an industry accident that leads to an unexpected death. Echo is a challenge. She reminds me a little of Sister Maria in The Sound of Music.

To make Echo happy, she is allowed to remain as guardian angel to the family of Archie Musgrave, the man who was killed. The Musgraves, Ember and her two children, are going to a ranch in Jordan Valley, Idaho. Yes, it's true the ranch was supposed to go to Archie, but they don't know he's been killed and she is in dire need for a place to take her children. With no other road open to her, Ember moves her family and trusts that all will work out.

On the ranch there are a foursome of con artists who have their own plans, and they don't include a widow and two children. But God moves in mysterious ways. And He, along with Bliss and Echo, have their own ideas.

I loved this story. Shannah Biondine made these characters and era come alive. I think you will enjoy it too.

* * *

Title: 8 Days
Author: Barri L. Bumgarner
ISNB: 0-97-40848-9-1
Publisher: Tigress Press, LLC
Rating: 5 Diamonds
Sensuality Rating: Mild

8 Days by Barri L. Bumgarner, is not the first novel to be written about doomsday, but it is one of the best. Ms. Bumgarner draws you into a future designed by four brilliant young scientists who bring a whole new meaning to the term "survival of the fittest." When their plan for planet-wide genocide is executed, it's not exactly what they had in mind, but once started, even they can't fathom the devastation created.

8 Days is a roller coaster ride of gigantic proportions. You're catapulted along at a dizzying pace as the world as we know it ends. Like a phoenix rising, a sturdy group of survivors are drawn together, struggling with unimaginable horror and visions most of them can't comprehend.

Barri L. Bumgarner has assembled a company of characters that lend strength, humor, and a belief in forever to her story. Even more important, she breathes life into each one meticulously, and somehow gets them all on stage at the right time and in the right place. And, even though she brings the world we know to an end, she conveys a feeling of hope, a feeling that it's all going to be okay, no matter the conclusion.

This book is one that will survive over many years, just like its characters and their new world.

* * *

Title: Angelos
Author: Robina Williams
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Rating: 5 Diamonds
Sensuality Rating: None. Not sensual.

Angelos is the second story of Brother Jerome. Jerome is still getting used to being dead and perfecting his travel techniques.

As Angelos opens, Father Fidelis is leaving and has a last conversation with the ginger-striped tabby, known as Leo in the mortal world. In fact, Leo is really a seraph who has been the companion to Jerome in an earlier lifetime.

Father Fidelis' leaving introduces another character into the wonderful story begun in, Jerome and the Seraph, Father Aidan. From past experiences, the other brothers are expecting an easygoing fellow, but something has happened to Father Aidan, and what they receive is a troubled man who shakes up their happy living arrangements.

While the brothers are coming to terms with their problems in the mortal world, Brother Jerome is having some adventure in his. He ends up switching places with the Minotaur and both are very upset at their new surroundings.

I loved seeing the mythological creature through Ms. Williams eyes. The Minotaur becomes much more than a nasty mythological beast.

As Jerome learns more of his years to come in the afterlife, so do we. And although both Jerome and the Seraph and Angelos are both fiction, they leave me with a feeling of hope. You are sure to enjoy this delightful book.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Barbara M. Hodges shares her life with her husband Jeff, two basset hounds and a sassy cat. Barbara has been published in both fiction and non-fiction, and her first novel, The Blue Flame, was a finalist in the Independent eBook Awards. Her other fiction novels include, The Emerald Dagger, released June 2003, The Silver Angel, released February 2005, an anthology, Stargazer's Children, released in May 2005 and Shadow Worlds, a science fiction novel co-authored with Darrell Bain released June 2005. She can be reached by e-mail: bassetbarb@aol.com.

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Publisher ~ Janet Musick
Editor ~ Barbara M. Hodges
Distribution ~ Lida E. Quillen
The Insider's Guide to Books Online: http://www.theinsidersguidetobooks.com/
Copyright © 2005 Janet Musick. All rights reserved.

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