Update June 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Took a break from the DIY this month, though there’s no going out and about for us. We don’t want to mingle, and at the moment I’m still not up to it. Faced with a reason to celebrate, alas we could do nothing more than enjoy a good home-cooked meal. I always cook with fresh ingredients but made more of an effort. It’s not like I can even enjoy a bottle of wine these days, as that irritates my condition. Good news on the exercise bike I mentioned last month. I love it, and am cycling 10 miles 4 times a week.

FILM/TV:

Coming to the end of the last series of Parks and Recreation having enjoyed it, and two other series I recommend that I’ve revisited while cycling, is Schitt’s Creek, and The Good Place… a comical series that explores ethics in a way no show has done before or since. I advise sticking with both as they get better with time.

We’ve also gone through the original episodes of Star Trek, not having watched them for years, though, of course, they’ve revamped it a little, using better tech to make the planets and ship more ‘real’ touching none of the interior shots except for what the crew sees through the viewing screen. I’m sure there are some purists but I can see that this makes the Original Series more accessible for a new audience. As much as I love some of the Star Trek series, and the original will always remain my favourite, seeing it with an eye of living in a modern era is a strange exercise. Even worse, the writer in me can’t help but pick up on inconsistencies and questionable decisions. In some scripts, I couldn’t help feeling they had characters working against their own well-established personalities. Still, nothing plays as well as that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy trinity.

Thoroughly enjoyed The Nevers on NowTV, described as a science fiction drama, made better as they filmed it in London. Although the last episode of the first series seemed bizarre and completely out of sync with the Victorian steampunk feel of the episodes which had gone before, I kept watching, and I’m pleased to say it circled around until it made sense. I had no clue this was a Joss Whedon project when I started watching, though it has his mark all over it, serving as writer, director, and executive producer. It seems to have received mixed reviews but I hope this isn’t a series cut short before its time like Firefly was, even though it’s not as compelling.

READING:

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, James Lovegrove

Book two in the Firefly novels. Not as enjoyable as the first, but primarily featuring Jayne Cobb it’s still fitting, like watching an episode. Not as rewarding, but the next best thing and the closest fans are likely to get to their beloved Serenity and its crew these days. I wasn’t sure I believed one of the plot points, but am inclined to be forgiving to the books of my favourite series. I also love how they present these paperbacks and hope the quality in both writing and presentation continues.

The Walking Dead, The Fall of the Governor Part One

Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Whereas I felt the first two books in this series (The Rise of the Governor) added something to The Walking Dead universe, for most of this book I felt as though I didn’t need to be reading this. Having watched the series and read the graphic novels, this book offers yet a third version of the same world, that of Woodbury and the zombie fights that take place in the arena within Woodbury’s walls. In some ways, it’s bad enough when a beloved book series gets an adaptation to screen (or vice versa) and the fanbase must juggle two timelines in their minds when the stories differ. Why would I want a third? All I can say is this book as one of the most bloody revenge outcomes I’ve read in a long time. Definitely not a scene they would have got away with on the small screen or graphic novel.

The Walking Dead, The Fall of the Governor Part Two

Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Having come this far in reading the first three books, I had to learn what happened to the Governor. The buildup of this felt rather slow, though that’s in part because a story visited both in the graphic novels and on the show, makes this feel like traversing the same ground… though the outcome leads to a major battle sequence that’s worthwhile.

The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell

This gothic chiller takes off slowly but picks up once the ‘companions’ make an appearance. I love the idea of them in this well-plotted gothic mystery. Alas, it’s impossible to tell why without giving away the creepiest part of the book. I’m pleased to have stumbled across this book. The only (small) negative is the sound the author describes as a ‘hiss’ does not appear to relate to the cause of the noise. I would liken it more to a rasp, and the narrative does indeed call it a rasping hiss at one point, which made no sense to me, and didn’t seem to relate to what the protagonist experiences. That slight discrepancy aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Wolf in Shadow (a Jon Shannow novel), David Gemmell

The book which introduces us to Gemmell’s compelling protagonist, Jon Shannow. More western at the start than fantasy, the book blossoms in a bizarre conglomeration of fantasy, western, politics, and religion which doesn’t quite seem to blend. The idea of a world changed 300 years ago, yet reflecting a life of guns and horses, farmsteads, corrupt townsmen, and tribes with little evidence of a technological age mentioned by characters leaves one feeling as though the author was feeling his way as much as the reader does. Took me longer to read than it should have; still, this makes for a intriguing and entertaining story. I’ve two more to work through.

WRITING:

I have finished the draft of my Work in Progress and have lined it up for an edit in the weeks to come. And I’ve now received edits for Cosmic ready for its re-release. Although the edits were basic and few, me being me I re-read the entire book at every opportunity, so am currently going through it line by line, hoping to return it before the end of the week.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

When Not to Sign

Most writers would like to be published. Even some of those who do not readily aspire to, and write mostly for amusement or self-gratification, would likely consider it should they have the opportunity. For writers who range from those who would like to be published or are desperate to see their name in print there are still times when it’s better to shake one’s head and walk away. After all, there are opportunities for self-publication these days and for some that option will be better than signing dubious contracts or supporting vanity press.

To clarify, vanity press is NOT self-publishing. A vanity press praises the writer, tells them their book will be a best seller and for X amount of money they can make that dream come true. These ‘services’ minimise their costs, often use Print on Demand technology (although bona fide markets use POD too), and then leave all the marketing to the author, whilst they take a percentage of the profits. True, many mainstream publishers also leave all or most of the marketing to the author these days (which is why many authors at least consider self-publishing), but vanity definitely will. Either they’ve already taken a fee and/or they simply sit back to rake in profits from the hard work put in by the author. What they count on is having many hopeful writers on board who will all have at least a few family members and friends who will want copies of the ‘published’ book. The author may sell only what they can flog to acquaintances, but if the vanity press has many people doing this those many small payments all add up to a large profit, while the writer may receive almost nothing and not even recoup costs. In short, they are crooks out to scam you. Please avoid.

Even if the writer can manage the marketing to become a success, then he or she would have done better to self-publish and keep a much larger percentage. There are self-publishing services that are not vanity, although they do charge, but they give a genuine service and distribution. They are not to be confused with vanity publishing although the difference can be difficult to spot. Go with a recognised firm and do your research. Currently, well-known companies are those like Amazon and Lulu to name two. Be aware that there will be much more work required in going it alone, although even those with a publishing house usually need to do a great deal of marketing. If the author will undertake this side of things completely alone, then they can become their own business.

Remember: Money always goes TO the author, not the other way around. The only time this isn’t the case is if one goes the self-publishing route and purchases publishing/distribution services.

Avoid anyone asking for lifetime rights/life of the copyright. There are exceptions and some have no problem with it, but for me to even consider this it would have to be a HUGE deal with a mainstream publisher. In the UK/US at present copyright lasts the life of the writer plus 70 years, during which profits from the writer’s work would go to any remaining family, charity, or whatever the author had stipulated in their will (such as with Peter Pan and Great Ormond Street). If no such stipulation exists for what happens at the end of copyright that work then becomes ‘public domain’. If an author signs ‘life of copyright’ over to a publisher, he or she is essentially giving the work away, and depending on the rest of the wording one might not get out of this even if the publisher folds or removes the work from the market. It’s what many refer to as a ‘rights grab’ and IMHO is criminal. I would never become involved with a publisher (exceptional circumstances are this can be a money-grab for ‘throwaway’ work) who put this in their contracts even if they claimed it was negotiable because I do not feel I should condone poor practices.

World rights may or may not be beneficial depending on the terms. The same goes for Foreign Rights. I would not sign a contract that allowed a publisher to seek publication for my works in foreign markets without my final refusal. I once came up against such an offer, but the contract would have given the publisher full leeway to negotiate the terms on my behalf with no final agreement from me, and I could not allow that. Ideally, that is something an agent should do for the writer, and even then the writer needs to maintain control.

First Refusal Clauses can be a pain but are standard—these usually list the right of ‘first refusal’ on works in a series, featuring same characters or worlds previously brought out by the publisher. Few publishers list the right of first refusal on ALL future works, and again, if they do, I recommend avoiding. If the writer no longer wished to work with a publisher, but had signed this condition, then he or she could not send ‘any’ work elsewhere, stuck signed into one publisher because of this clause.

There are likely many pitfalls, but I’ve listed only a few here as an example of what to look for and are best avoided. If in doubt, research, and do not sign until happy. Any publisher wanting the writer to sign without some ‘grace’ to read the contract and/or consult a legal source is questionable. That doesn’t mean you can think about it for months, but days or weeks is not unreasonable, particularly if the justification is one of seeking legal advice.

And, although I’ve never seen this, never sign a contract where the publisher states the terms may be updated. Future contracts for newer works may change but terms of existing contracts should not. Banks among other ‘services’ catch customers with this clause—it wouldn’t surprise me that someone in the publishing industry will have thought of this.

Also, be aware that many publishers will ask for all kinds of rights on a work including print, digital, audio, film, and merchandise. Things to consider are how successful the work may or may not be, and what terms of payment the publisher is offering on these other stipulations. Make sure there is at least a negotiated payment for all forms. Imagine what would have happened if J.K. had signed away the merchandising rights to a certain wizard and the fortune she would have lost. Although it’s unlikely, such successes happen and could be disastrous.

Another warning, although I’ve only come across one case of this: avoid publishers who insist they own all ‘edits’. A publisher contracts a work, assigns an editor, publishes said work for the agreed number of years, and when it comes out of contract, the story publishing ‘rights’ revert to the author (the author ALWAYS retains copyright). There should be no exception. For a publisher to state they own the edits is as good as saying the writer never owns the finished product. I don’t see how a publisher can justify this when the writer has as much input in the editing process as the editor and certainly should be the one adding any sentences or passages. The ownership of ‘edits’ means that the writer would own no changes to the story after it entered the editing process even if those suggestions came from the author. This is petty at best, possibly criminal. Do not sign.

For all new and even existing writers, please check what you are doing before subbing work or entering competitions. I again stress do NOT send your work to anyone requesting ALL RIGHTS or WORLD RIGHTS, and do not sign any contracts that include a non-specified time limit for the publisher to publish; without a timeframe, the publisher could hold onto the work and never publish. In all these cases, you are essentially handing away the rights to your work indefinitely.

Last, this post on the EREC blog is from 2011 but the advice remains good today, where they detailed a perfect example of a contest taking advantage of hopeful writers, and charged them a whopping amount for the privilege of relieving authors of the right to their work. Read HERE.

Always think before signing. Always be aware of what rights you are giving away. Sleep on the decision overnight. Seek advice where necessary; there are plenty of authors out there who will help if you’ve no other resource.

Cosmic Rerelease

A simple update this week. After some editing, I’ve subbed and contracted the rerelease of Cosmic (previously published at Loose Id) with JMS Books. Anyone interested may not have long to wait as we’re looking at an August publication, but more on that as and when. I also hope to release a completely original work with JMS this year.

Cosmic, by Sharon Maria Bidwell

Can three hearts break harder than two? While on a mission, the last thing the crew of the Sovereignty expects is to gain an addition crew-member, but when an unknown assailant attacks, Axel has no choice but to beam the stranger on board the spacecraft. Already in a sexual relationship with ‘Snake’, a rare species of alien, Axel certainly isn’t looking for another person to complicate his already challenging existence.

The trouble is he cannot deny his growing attraction to the newcomer, who is a striking and intelligent woman. Sela’s so intelligent she’s already worked out Snake is an alien and the two men are in a somewhat turbulent relationship. Still, Axel isn’t the only one who likes Sela. Snake likes her too, and Sela doesn’t appear to mind the idea Axel and Snake are lovers, especially after she sees them together… But can they truly battle their differences and natural distrust, while fighting a corrupt government and dealing with a zealot of a leader? One man, one woman, and one alien; two males and one female, all fighting corruption and their own desires. In a universe at war it’s natural to keep secrets, but can too many confidences mean they’ll never find peace?