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Monday, 28 May 2012

Lyndsey Roughton Anthology - Contributors so far

We're heading into the final stretch for author submissions for the anthology - if you'd like to submit a piece, details are here.

I'd like to thank the Indie writers who've already submitted pieces for their unflinching generosity, and Scott from Indie Book Blogger for his unwavering support in this. Without all of you, doing something like this would not be possible. I think I can safely say you are all my new personal heroes.

We have stories that cover the range from fantasy to sci-fi, urban paranormal to horror, and every piece is first-class writing. Here are our contributors so far:

Chris Fraser
Edward Larel
Mia Darien
Joseph Garrety
Jason McKinney
Naomi Clark
Jana Hill
Nicholas Ordinans
Leanne Fitzpatrick
B. Throwsnaill
Renee Hall
Sky Corbelli
Jeffrey Poole
Joe Occhipinti

Thank you all!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Werewolf Con Author Beware - There are Monsters, and They Bite

Authors work hard. They restrict their social time with family and friends, especially if they have a day job and can't pay the bills with their writing. If they're self-publishing, and are struggling financially, they either scrape the cash together to fund an editor and designer for their cover, or they have to try to do their damndest  by themselves. If they are lucky, they have a circle of trusted beta readers who can critique honestly. It can be pretty darn lonely sometimes, especially when they are anxiously  watching the rankings and praying for a stroke of luck or the first person to click the button and buy the book.

A number of them work the convention circuit, especially in the USA, which seems to have a Con in every state sometimes.

Unfortunately, sometimes the Con turns out to be a con.

This has happened to at least one writer this year.Jason McKinney forked over $150 dollars via Paypal months in advance to attend the Werewolf Con at the beginning of May this year and set up a table.

Jason was excited - not so much at the thought of flogging his stuff, although that was part of it (and the pink werewolf/butterfly laptop debacle shall entertain me for years) - but because he is a huge fan of  horror, and werewolves. He blogged about it. He tweeted about it.He chatted about it to me on Skype. You know that excitement little boys get just before they unwrap Christmas? That was Jason.

And then...

They cancelled the Con. Jason was gutted. But the $150 would come in handy; being a guy with a family that money is always handy, and sometimes desperately needed.

The money never came. Despite every promise made by Jordan Polintan and his staff, both via e-mail and on their now defunct website, the money never came.

Paypal won't do anything about refunding the money, since it's out of date for their allowed complaint time. Werewolf Con, also known as Con Extreme, LLC, appears to have shut up shop on everything including their twitter account - after pointing fingers at Refresh The Page. Refresh The Page, by the way, claim that they are still waiting for their take from Werewolf Con.

Round and round the mulberry bush, pop goes the werewolf.

If you are a writer or artist planning on attending a con, my advice is to steer clear of anything organised by these guys in the future. If you're a fan, I hope you do the same.

Jason has no recourse, apart from filing a police report, and I'm honestly not sure how much use that will be. I'm not a lawyer or a cop, but I hope he does, because what has happened here is blatant theft, and I can't begin to say how angry this makes me. I've just seen my friend get kicked in the teeth, and the people who did it have crawled under a rock and gotten away with it. I most sincerely hope that I am around to see that rock lifted, and that the US justice system manages to kick some ass and take some names.

In the meantime, I doubt Jason is the only one who got burned by these guys, and I really hope other people pick up this ball and bounce it. Shine the spotlight on anyone who uses hope and enthusiasm and fandom as a weapon against the people who love what they do - writers, artists, businesses and fans.

And Jason, I'm sorry, buddy. I really, really am.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Lyndsey Roughton - anthology and info update

Hi guys

The response to this has been amazing, from the authors giving their stories so generously to bloggers like Scott at Indie Book Blogger supporting the cause. If you'd like to help raise awareness, feel free to post about this on your blog, Facebook, and twitter stream - every little bit helps, and it's all appreciated. If you're an author and you'd like to donate a piece to the anthology, have a look at this previous post regarding FAQ's and drop me an email at jhsked(at) .

I've had a number of queries regarding donating directly to the fund. Although Lyndsey's website is in the process of being stripped and put back together, there is a donate button there. You can also read a few of Lyndsey's posts during her earlier struggle with the tumor. Her optimism and determination have to be read to be believed. Visit  it here.

In addition all fundraising for the next month via the Cobra Group Foundation site will be going to help pay for  Lyndsey's trip. The donation function is by PayPal and the link is here.

The anthology so far...

So far we have authors from the USA, Australia and UK donating their stories. We've got an exciting mix of horror, black humor, sci-fi and dark fantasy by some of the best Indie Authors writing today. From Jason Mckinney, Naomi Clark, Joe Garraty, and Mia Darien, with more authors to be confirmed, this is shaping up to be one of the most exciting collections I've seen in years.

Keep checking back for more updates in the next couple of days!

Interview at Great Minds Think Aloud

The lovely Kitty Bullard from GMTA put up with me babbling at her for an interview. To find out how the Blue Moon Detective series got started, and other info, go here to check it out! While you're there do yourself a favour and trawl through the site - it totally rocks!
GMTA covers reviews, interviews and promotions, and has everything nicely organised into genre so you can find what you're looking for.

J H Sked is the author of WolfSongBasement Blues and Die Laughing, all of which are on Amazon and enrolled in the Kindle lending programme.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Authors wanted - FAQ's & rules

Thanks to everyone who has already contacted me regarding the Lyndsey Roughton anthology, it's really appreciated.

I've put together a FAQ/rules list which hopefully covers all the questions - if I've left yours off, please hit me in the comments or email me directly at jhsked (at)

Do we get paid?
Unfortunately not - this is a donated story anthology for an ebook for a fund-raiser. You will be sent a full PDF of the book as an authors copy.

Can I send you poetry/microfiction/short-shorts?
Yes, yes and yes!

What is the word limit?
We're trying to aim for an upper limit of  3000  5000 words. If you are slightly over, send it though - as long as it doesn't hit the realm of novella we'll look at it.

What genre are you looking for? Is there a theme?
We're concentrating on horror and fantasy as a genre. Think the supernatural with any sort of spin on it you'd like, as long as it isn't animal torture or hard-core porn.
It could be anything from a haunted ashtray to a chain-smoking unicorn - if it's a printable story and you are happy to donate it, we'd like it.

Do I need to be published/self-published already?
No, not at all. You also keep the rights to your story, so you can go out and re-publish it where-ever and when-ever you'd like.

Can I send a story that's already been published?
As long as you have the rights to the work, we'd love it. If you've been published through a magazine/publisher and not self-published, please check to make sure you can re-use it.

What is the time-limit to submit?
Please submit by 2 June 2012.

When will the collection be published?
Due to the time-constraints Lyndsey is under - the current diagnosis is anything from 3 to 24 months left - we  aim to have the book up on Amazon by the end of June.

How do I submit?
Please send submissions through as an attachment on a word document to jhsked (at) Please also include a short bio about yourself, and any other work you have available - this will go into the book as a bit of a showcase for you.


Thanks again for the wonderful support you've already shown - it means a lot!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Lyndsey Roughton anthology - call for authors

In Manchester, England, a young woman is busy dying. This is her story.

"Lyndsey is a 27 year old professional young woman working for an established PR Marketing Company as a HR Manager in Manchester.

When you meet Lyndsey, you would get the feeling that she was confident but down to earth, strong but fiercely ambitious.  You would not think for a minute that on the 12th April 2012, she had been told that the brain tumour she has battled with for 3 years has now become inoperable and they cannot find a cure.

She is positive, she is funny, she has an amazing smile, and even the side-effects of the chemotherapy are not getting her down.  Her positivity and her determination to beat this disease are evident: she is a fighter.  

In November 2009, Lindsey had a routine eye check with the opticians.  She was having trouble with headaches, with blurred vision during the day and dizzy spells. She thought this was just a symptom of her hectic social life, but the optician saw something different - they suspected ‘Papilledema’ – ‘pressure, in or around the brain caused by bleed or tumour’.

After an examination CT and MRI scan it was confirmed that there was a tumour on the right frontal lobe of her brain. An operation to remove the tumour was done on Christmas Eve 2009.  After a biopsy of the tumour she was told the tumour was benign, and although scans were scheduled for every 6 months all was fine.

On 24th December 2010, (Christmas Eve again) she was told the tumour was back, in the same place but more aggressive - it was now a Grade III Oglioastrocytoma. This time, the tumour was malignant.  Another operation was scheduled for the first week in January 2011. Lyndsey took it in stride, positive and determined to get on with whatever treatment was given to beat this disease.  Radiotherapy was the option.

In April 2011, Lyndsey had to endure 10 weeks of intensive Radiotherapy. Despite her positive attitude, she worried about losing her hair, although when the inevitable happened and she did lose it, she decided to focus on the positives again.
Treatment was working.

This time, scans were scheduled for every 3 months; and everything was going great. On the 7th December 2011 Lyndsey and her family celebrated when they got the wonderful news that the tumour was gone. 

A scan wasn’t scheduled till 17th April 2012, but she didn’t get that far. On Easter weekend - 5th April 2012 - Lyndsey didn’t feel well at all and had to be rushed to hospital. She knew, deep down inside, from her symptoms, that the tumour was back.
 On Monday 9th April, 2012 it was confirmed that the tumour was back a Grade IV ‘Glioblastoma’, although not in the same place. It had now moved to the “left frontal lobe”.

The surgeon explained that the tumour was far more aggressive than before, and they would not be able to operate because of the damage that it would do to her life, her memory, her ability to walk, talk and think, so an operation is not an option.

As it is so soon after her previous radiotherapy treatment this too is no longer an option, leaving her with chemotherapy is the only choice she has.  Chemotherapy has started, but has been described as ‘palliative care’ - is given to prolong life, and improve quality of life.   

The diagnosis is not good, but to Lyndsey the future is still bright, just wanting to live everyday as it comes.

In all the time that Lyndsey has been living and dealing with this awful disease, she has never once pitied herself or her situation, she considers that this experience has helped her to grow as an individual. Her ability to remain positive and not be scared has meant that everyone whose life she touches is therefore not scared and always positive about the future.

Throughout this journey, Lyndsey has always planned that once she had recovered she would go travelling, specifically to Asia, Thailand and Vietnam, a spiritual journey, to be able to sit with the Buddhists, and find herself. 

But with the devastating news that she recently received, time is not on her side. There is little time to plan, little time to accept the news - all that is left is time to do!   

So our plan is to raise as much money as we can to give Lyndsey the holiday of her dreams, to travel through Vietnam, and do every thing she has always wanted, packing every day with fun filled days and laughter.  Due to the severity of her illness the cost of insurance and travel is very expensive, so our target is £15,000.

Events are being held all over the place to help raise funds, by the Lyndsey Roughton Purple Heart Brain Tumour Fund, we would really appreciate your support; please find details of some of our up and coming events below:

26th May, 2012                 Pavo – Sings                                    Location:           Bees Knees, Cirencester
1st June, 2012                   Golf Fund Raiser                           Location:           TBC
4th June, 2012                  Duck Race                                         Location:           South Cerney, Cirencester
9th June, 2012                  Casino Royale Night                   Location:           3D Organisation, Manchester
TBC                                       Electro Night – Music                                Location:           TBC, Manchester
TBC                                       Walk, Aberdeen – Forfar         Location:           55 miles, Scotland

Total raised so far, (within 4 weeks) is  £5664.79"

Full disclosure - I know Lyndsey's mom and her partner through work connections. The family have a site link which is currently being re-built, and I'll post an update when that happens.

We can't fix this. No matter how much money we raise, the situation is that there is no cure - although I'm not counting Lyndsey out just yet; pure determination and positive thinking do amazing things. What this will do is hopefully help someone achieve their dream before they leave the skin of this world and the light goes out.

That's where the writing thing comes in useful. The plan is to put together a short story anthology to be published as an ebook, all proceeds to go to the family.

If you're a writer, or know anyone who writes, and you'd like to donate a story, please let me know - you can contact me at jhsked(at) Authors will keep all rights to their stories, but there is no payment or fee for this one.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Putting a perspective on reviews

Every so often the internet explodes when an author - self-published or trad - throws their toys out of the cot at a reviewer. Usually the backlash is like watch a train-wreck; hypnotically awful. I'm not going to link to it because once it turns into a blood-sport it makes me queasy, but googling "authors behaving badly" will throw up enough results to get you through a large bucket of popcorn.

Here's the thing though: authors invest time, effort and love in our work. No matter what anyone else thinks of it  when it's done, the creating part (let's not even get started on editing, which just plain hurts) comes from a pretty visceral, emotive place.
Once we put it out there though, it becomes a product, and too many authors forget that. The average reader doesn't care that you wrote your first draft by candlelight at 3a.m in the middle of winter. The average reader sees a product, and either likes, loves it, or loathes it. (Every now and then you get "meh" instead, which is worse.)

This is a product. This is something that you hope people will buy (maybe even enough to get your coffee fix for the month) and if they like it enough they'll buy more of your stuff. If they like it, hopefully they leave good reviews. Even better, hopefully they recommend it.

If they don't like your stuff, a buyer of your product is entitled to leave a bad review. 

By bad review, I'm not talking about the incoherent ramblings that scatter some websites and pages: anyone with an ounce of common sense will look at them and wonder if they could get hold of whatever narcotic was in the water supply that day. I've had one of those - sadly, it disappeared before I could decipher it, although I do remember a lot of references to "dude" in the middle of  things.
I'm not talking about three star reviews either, which to me come down pretty evenly as didn't love/didn't hate it, and often give more balanced feedback.

Reviews that give a one or two star rating because of the price, or because they didn't check to see the length of the book, or because they tried something totally outside their normal genre and hated it can be pretty safely discounted as well (and don't scream about them pulling the star rankings down - I know. Report it if it's unfair, and move swiftly on. Most folks aren't that stupid and those reviews will be treated with a grain of salt at the very least.)

But if you get a bad review that states clearly why the reader doesn't like your book, what the issues were, and most importantly, that the reader obviously actually read the thing - they've done you a favour. Take a step away from the emotional "OMG my BAAAABY just got trampled!!" response. This is no longer your baby. This is a product, getting feedback from a customer, and if their issues and points are valid, listen to what they say.

In other words, listen to your customers.

Some things you can fix. Things like formatting issues, which are still a major bug-bear for me in my own books (I've lost track of how many times I've re-formatted WolfSong - this weekend marks yet another slog at it). Spelling errors or incorrect words might be common through every form of book, whether traditional or self-published, but if your readers notice and mention it, try to fix it. Continuity issues like sudden name changes or spelling changes, missing pages - these can all be fixed, and if your customers don't complain about it, you will carry on happily doing the same thing over and over again, and wondering where the hell your sales went.
They went to the authors who listen to their customers.

The best feedback I've had have come from the folks who point out the rough patches and the issues. I had an awesome discussion on Good-Reads with someone who was not a fan of WolfSong a while ago.There were parts of the books he just didn't like, he wasn't crazy about the P.O.V., and he entertained the hell out of me trying to guess the resolution that's coming up in the second book. He gave me three stars (which I thought was pretty cool since like I said, he wasn't really into the book), great detailed feedback, and I loved our discussion. (He's also a pretty sharp writer himself, with a wicked sense of humour and the absurd that comes across pretty clearly in his work.)

If the review is on an independent review site, you're even more likely to get well-reasoned and fair reviews; so if the issues raised are technical or parts of your writing you can fix, say thanks for the review and fix what needs to be done. Review bloggers aren't paid to write reviews. They do it because they love books, and they don't deserve anyone being precious over their opinions. Because that's what a review is - an opinion. They're as entitled to it as anyone else, and these folks - repeat after me - are reviewing your product.

Some things you can't fix. If the issue is with the plot, the characters, the story as a whole or simply your writing style - short of re-writing the entire thing that's not going to change. This is a good thing. If everyone wrote the same story, with the same characters, in the same style, the world would be sad and grey little place. So you can't fix that, nor should you want to. Here's the kicker: the reviewer's opinion is still valid. If they don't like your stuff, a buyer of your product is entitled to leave a bad review.

Good reviews are great. They soothe the ego, brighten up the day, make you bounce a little. They don't necessarily sell books. I'm not sure of the negative impact of bad reviews, to be honest; there's a whole bunch of folks who claim not to read reviews at all before they read a book. But bad reviews or low stars are just the flip side of the ego coin; unless you pay attention to your customers.

I've watched a few authors melt down on forum boards, or get a bunch of folks in on the "Stone the Reviewer" game. A nasty review is going to hurt. But do you seriously think that other business owners - let's use Richard Branson as an example here - do you seriously think Richard cries into his coffee when a customer complains? Does Richard call upon the power of all loyal Virgin customers to bombard the complainant with ridicule and down-votes? Does Richard point a quavering finger via the internet and whimper that he's a victim and nobody understands what he's trying to achieve? I'm fairly sure he doesn't. (If he does, feel free to send me proof).
Richard Branson is a business-man, with a brand. Richard sells products. Richard does not cry over them, bully reviewers or drum-up witch hunts when a passenger on the Virgin service from London to Glasgow has a problem with the service.

In other words, authors need to put on their big-girl (or boy, if we need to be PC) panties, listen to customers, and stop harassing reviewers if their ego doesn't get stoked enough. Come up with the best product you can, put it out there, and stop assuming that reviews are personal attacks, because otherwise you're going to devolve into someone rocking gently under their keyboard with a fairly large dose of medication.

Your books are a business once you publish them. Your writing is a product. Treat it like one.

J H Sked is the author of WolfSongBasement Blues and Die Laughing, all of which are on Amazon and enrolled in the Kindle lending programme.