Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Coming Soon... Very Soon (with cover reveals!)

Over the next few weeks I'll be releasing two novels, one steampunk and one mystery/thriller. First, I'll be publishing book three in my Iron Horse steampunk series. Here's the cover and blurb:

As the Iron Horse journeys ever deeper into its mysterious post-apocalyptic world, the crew encounters a lone knight on a quest to slay a dragon. They mock him at first, but when they arrive at the fog-shrouded city known as Stormwatch, the streets are abandoned, the doors are locked, and the citizens are terrified to leave their homes. One old woman, alone and seemingly insane, confronts the crew with this ominous warning: Beware the dragon's breath! 

They hear the knight's words echoed in her statement, and begin to realize that things may not be as they appear. Then, as night closes in, strange things begin to happen aboard the Iron Horse. Crew members are attacked by invisible beings and strange, mutated creatures. One by one, they begin to vanish. When it seems things can't get any worse, they realize their adventure has only just begun... and that maybe, just maybe, dragons really do exist.


I'm also launching a new mystery/thriller series. These books are not related to the He Said/She Said detective series except for the fact that they both begin in Sequoia County (my fictional setting based on several northern California counties) and they share a few of the same supporting characters. This is the Valkyrie Smith series:

Valkyrie Smith should be dead. None of the killer’s other victims have lived. Yet somehow, after spending two long nights trapped at the bottom of a dry well with a broken back, Valkyrie miraculously survived. She lost everything that night: her husband, her son, even her dreams. Lying at the bottom of that well, staring up at a tiny circle of sky, waiting for the killer to find her and finish the job at any moment, Val lost one more thing: She lost her fear.

The doctors told her she might never walk again, but Val refused to give up. After years of rehabilitation and relentless determination, Valkyrie regained the ability to walk. She took training in self defense and firearms, and developed a strategy to track down the killer. She walked away from her past forever, and began moving from to town to town in search of the man who had killed her family.

Now, after a series of missed opportunities, Valkyrie finally has her chance. An anonymous phone call informs her that the man she has been hunting has surfaced again in Sequoia County, a rural California landscape of redwood forests, vineyards, and isolated coastlines. Valkyrie knows it could be a trap. She doesn’t care. Armed with her skills, her intellect, and her determination to see the killer brought to justice, Valkyrie heads straight into the heart of danger. She thinks she’s prepared for anything. She’s wrong.


I'll send out a newsletter when they're ready. I also have a sequel to He Said/She Said written, but I'm going to save it for later in the series. I'm working on another right now, which should end up being Book 2. I hope to have both published by this spring. 

Also on dock: I'm in the outlining stages of a new fantasy series. It's high/epic fantasy, which I've missed writing over the last few years. I cut my teeth on The Lord of the Rings, Conan, Tarzan, and all of the derivative works that filled shelves back in the 80's. High-fantasy influences just about everything else I do, and I feel like I'm ready to delve back into that world. 

I have also been outlining the next two Hank Mossberg books. I know it has been a while, but I've had a lot going on and I didn't want to rush through these. Part of the problem is that I expect some major cliffhangers in Books 5 and 6, and a huge story arc that will require two books. I don't want to publish one and then make my readers wait a year for the second part, so I'm going to try to write and publish both at once. I've never tried this before, so we'll see how it works out. 

As always, follow my blog and newsletter to stay updated.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Amazon Sues Fake Reviewers

It's old news that people will write or buy fake five-star reviews for their books, and they will also post or buy fake one-star reviews against the books of authors they consider competition. Over the last two years, Amazon has gradually been hardening their stance against these scumbags. They've rewritten their terms of service and started enforcing them. They've removed hundreds, perhaps thousands of reviews they deemed suspicious, and earlier this year, they sued several websites guilty of selling fake reviews.

Maybe it's working, because now they've filed suit against more than 1100 individuals who are advertising their fake review services on a website called Fiverr. The website is a Craigslist type of classified, where you can purchase or sell services for five dollars. People use this for all sorts of things: graphic art, music, tutorials, resumes, and obviously, fake reviews.

It's still rather baffling to me that people will shamelessly advertise the fact that they will write a five-star review for a book they've never read, or worse yet, write a one-star against someone you don't like, for $5. I didn't have much faith left in humanity, and examples like this really don't help.

My personal feelings aside, Amazon knows that this is a problem, and now that it has caught the public's attention, it could possibly even endanger their business model. After all, if buyers can't trust the reviews on Amazon, they might end up going somewhere else. Amazon needs to get this fixed. I predicted before that they would seek people to make examples of, and I think this is another step in that direction. I don't know if this will succeed in discouraging fake reviews, but it should be interesting to watch the fallout. After all, Amazon has the identities of these reviewers and their customers. Or they will soon enough. The lawsuit will expose the identities and financial information of the people who bought and sold these reviews. Most likely, those "authors" will have their books banned from Amazon permanently and their accounts closed. They may even find themselves on the receiving end of another lawsuit.

 Which makes me wonder what will happen if Amazon finds that some of their best-selling authors were buying hundreds of fake reviews? What if their investigation proves that there is in fact a direct correlation between high sales and a large number of five-star reviews? Will they relax their policy? Or will they publicly shame these people for their unethical behavior? It's hard to guess, because Amazon is still a business, and their number one priority must be protecting the bottom line. Which is more valuable: a reputation for honest reviews and quality products, or a higher quarterly revenue due to a handful of best-selling novelists?

I'm not saying that's exactly how it is, nor am I predicting such a result, but it does raise some interesting questions. For a while, it seemed that Amazon wasn't terribly concerned about fake reviews. I'm sure many people out there took this as a sign that they were "looking the other way" in order to let authors (or other retailers) bump up their sales, even though it was technically forbidden in their TOS. What if those people now end up sued for all the money they made selling books at Amazon? Or more? And what about the victims? Surely, there are some authors out there who received these fake one-star reviews. After all, if somebody's selling them, that mean's somebody is buying them. So what will happen to those authors, when Amazon's algorithms find a connection between their books and these fake reviewers? It could get ugly, if they're not careful.

Hopefully, when the smoke clears, we won't find any innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.