Station Identification Time

Who Am I?

I’m a writer originally from Falmouth, MA who now lives in Worcester (pronounced like the name of Stephen Fry’s dry-witted butler) with my awesomely talented wife Veronica, who runs a business called Storied Threads.

After 15 years with the Falmouth Enterprise, where I worked as a general and political reporter, blogger, and editor, I left the news industry to focus on my creative writing.

In addition to my novels (more on that in a minute), I am a freelance writer, an occasional contributor to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and I’ve produced scripts for Pastimes Entertainment of Revere, MA and the Connecticut Renaissance Faire.

What Do I Write?

Action Figures is a YA superhero adventure series featuring a team of young superhumans who set out to make a name for themselves in the superhero world and quickly find themselves in over their heads. Fun, full of humor and action, populated with likable characters (including some of the villains), and suitable for teen readers and adults who still love superheroes. Oh, and no love triangles. Ever. The first book reached the #1 spot on two Amazon best-seller lists.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot is my response to all the overly serious fantasy novels out there that have forgotten how to have fun. The series follows two hard-luck adventurers for hire with a knack for biting off more than they can chew and their friends as they explore ancient ruins, fight deadly monsters, go on epic prophecy-driven quests for artifacts of great power hidden in highly inconvenient locations, and cross a lot of rickety rope bridges along the way. The first book, Scratching a Lich, received a gold medal for fantasy fiction from BellaOnline, a resource for women in writing, which also recognizes feminist writers and their work.

Cheap Thrills Digest is a short story collection featuring introductions to my two series, plus an original novelette-length horror story, Lost Souls, which is exclusive to CTD. If you’re curious about my writing, you can grab this for just $6 in print or 99 cents in e-book format.

What Will I See Here?

I post weekly updates that include progress reports on various projects, cover art reveals, new release announcements, a schedule of appearances and book-signings, the occasion essay on writing, and whatever random bits and pieces capture my attention.

Where Can You Find Me Online?

Official website

Amazon author page

Facebook

Twitter

BookBub

Instagram

Goodreads

Google +

LinkedIn

A Writer’s Anti-Scam Checklist

I’m writing this as an indirect response to a Facebook scammer who made an appearance on one of the writers’ pages I follow. She (if she was indeed a she) asked people to PM her if they were interested in an easy writing job that promised big money in return.

I was instantly skeptical and smelled a scam in the making. My instinct was confirmed to my satisfaction when I visited the poster’s FB page and found it curiously empty. I posted a warning to fellow page members. This prompted a brief exchange between the OP and me, and soon thereafter the OP was banned from the page as a scammer — after at least two people took the bait, unfortunately.

Scammers like this prey on aspiring and novice writers and depend on their naivete and inexperience to score some free labor and maybe a quick buck or two before vanishing into the Internet aether. Fortunately, having encountered quite a few of them, they’ve shown themselves to be fairly obvious if you know what to look for, so as a service to my less experienced fellow writers out there, here are some key warning signs that someone might be a con artist.

1: They ask the mark for money.

Neil Gaiman has a simple rule when it comes to writing professionally: money flows toward the writer.  Someone offering a writing job should never ask you to cough up any kind of fee or to cover costs associated with the publication of the end product (your writing). If any part of a writing gig involves you paying them for anything and getting reimbursed later, it’s a scam.

Similarly, a legit publisher shouldn’t ask an author to cover the cost of anything, from editing and cover art to distribution costs and comp copies to — and I’ve seen this before, no kidding — office supplies allegedly used in the course of working with the writer. All those expenses are supposed to be recouped from the sale of the writer’s work, not from any up-front charges to the author.

2: They ask for personal information.

If someone posing as an employer says they need a Social Security number as part of an application process or a bank account number so they can pay you via direct deposit, cease all communications immediately. Give them nothing and, if it’s a conversation over social media, report them.

3: They are stingy with details.

The FB post I referred to in the opening read something like this: “Want to work from home, control your own schedule, and earn big money writing? Contact me privately!” When I asked for specifics about the job, the poster got rather pissy (more on that later) and refused to say anything about the jobs they were offering — not the nature of the job, what kind of pay they were offering, not the name of the company — nothing. Even when asked directly she refused to say anything. Well, almost…

4: They behave unprofessionally

When I asked for more information, the OP became immediately defensive. I was told to back off, berated for expressing my doubts about her legitimacy, and shamed for not letting the adults on the page “make their own decisions.” The OP even threw an implied threat at me that she would wield “the power of my pen” (actual quote) against me if I gave her any more grief.

Despite what our recent presidential election might lead some to believe, responding to simple questions with belligerence is not mature or professional; it’s a warning sign that this person is offering nothing and knows it and didn’t expect resistance, so now he’s doing what teenagers trying to buy cigarettes at a convenience store do when asked for ID: they feign indignity to try and scare and intimidate the cashier into giving them what they want.

5: They have no distinct identity.

I checked out the OP’s Facebook profile and it immediately smacked of a fake account. There was no personal info, the profile pic was a stock photo (“professional woman with laptop”), she had all of 15 friends from several highly disparate geographical locations, and the page was only two weeks old, indicating that it had been set up very recently. Scammers regularly set up fake profiles for the express purpose of pulling a hit-and-run scheme, so if you’re suspicious about someone, look for telltale signs that a profile page might be bogus.

Added FYI: if someone’s profile photo looks a little too slick and professional, try using Google’s image search feature. Just right-click over the photo and choose “Search Google for image.” If a stock photo comes up, you know you’re being duped.

6: The company has no online fingerprint.

Someone might claim to represent a company, but far more often than not this is a Vandelay Industries type of thing. Run a Google search and see if the alleged business has full website rather than just a Facebook page or a Twitter account, which are much easier to set up for a quick con. If it doesn’t have a full-fledged website or any kind of serious online presence, be suspicious.

7: It has an online presence, but not the good kind.

I regularly advise neophyte writers looking for job opportunities, agents, or publishers to Google their prospects with the terms “writer beware” or “water cooler” attached, which will bring them to the Writer Beware and Absolute Write websites, which are great resources for ferreting out scammers and less-than-reputable businesses. Scammers either don’t realize writers talk to one another, or they hope that their current target is too naive to think of conducting a due diligence check.

They See Me Trollin’…

In the three-ish years I’ve been a full-time freelance writer/novelist, I’ve largely managed to avoid being the target of online dickishness.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]That ended yesterday with a hysterically amazing incident on Twitter. The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot is currently part of a month-long promotional effort through Author Shout and is getting a lot of exposure on Twitter — where it caught the attention of a user whose name I won’t state here, because I don’t want to inflate this sad little man’s fragile ego any further.

The initial post seemed innocuous enough. He wanted to know if Erika Racewind, the character in the center of the cover, was an albino, and why she was wielding what appeared to be a Persian weapon. I responded that she was part of a race of elves whose appearance was characterized by chalk-white skin but said nothing about the sword.

(In case you were wondering, she’s chalk-white because she’s meant to be a subtle poke at the traditional Drow-style “dark elf” archetype. But I digress…)

Now, here’s where the fun begins. His next tweets were:

so why would an elf have a Persian blade? Do Persians have elves in their mythology? I know they have unicorns

but their unicorns are wolves& I don’t ever remember anything about them having elves

At this point I had a sense where this was going but I responded anyway, stating, “Persia doesn’t exist in my novel, ergo it isn’t a Persian blade; it’s elven.”

And that’s when it happened…

Troll

His next several tweets, posted in rapid succession:

it is a Persian blade, they are the only culture I know of that uses those blades

I’m getting the distinct impression that you either:

thumbed through a weapons book and thought they looked cool or are mimicking PJ’s LOTR

Note that it’s Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.

either of which would be amateurish and juvenile

it is a Persian blade, they are the only culture I know of that uses those blades

copying it and calling it Elvin doesn’t undo your stealing it from their culture, directly or indirectly

But apparently basing a fantasy world heavily on medieval Europe and adapting its cultures and arms is totally cool.

and “ergo” is a pretentious word, and you didn’t even use it right

 

Wait, did I? Let me check…

Ergo

Nope, everything looks good here.

And now, the grand finale of this carnival of the absurd:

and elves don’t exist moron, myths draw from the weapons of the culture that created; don’t be infantile

And then HE blocked ME.

I did a little digging around on this guy, and I am far from the first writer he’s thrown shade at. I found quite a few other accounts of this guy picking on an author for some ridiculously trivial thing, giving him or her shit for a while, and then disappearing back into his dank cave to lie in wait for the next victim after blocking the latest target so he/she can’t respond to the troll’s blather.

If anyone out there has had any similarly amusing run-ins with online trolls, I’d love to hear about them.

In closing: elves don’t exist?

Tilda Swinton

I beg to differ.

 

Odds And Ends

With the manuscript for Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women out to my editor, it’s time to move on to the cover, which is proving something of a challenge.

Coming up with a concept for the cover of book one was remarkably simple; it was one of those “it just popped into my head” moments, and even after giving the concept some cooling-off time, to see if it was still a good idea once the thrill that comes with the act of artistic creation died down, it held up. I threw the idea over to my cover artist Tricia Lupien, and she nailed it right away.AF Cover

The cover achieved what I wanted it to achieve: it hinted at the nature of the story without spelling it out. It also avoided the trap I see on so many other novel covers: it wasn’t such an abstract image that it told you absolutely nothing about the story.

It further avoided another trap common to self-published novels, in that it wasn’t absolutely wretched (like these regrettable entries).

Book one was such a cakewalk, I assumed I’d have similar luck with book two, but no. I wanted to utilize the same approach and present a cover that teased the story, but every concept I came up with didn’t stand up to the cooling-off test — mostly because the end result would have been a crowded image. I’m not a great artist, but I grasp composition well enough (thanks in large part to my time at the Kubert School) to know when an image is too cluttered.

While it pains me to do so, I asked Tricia to play with something more general, that drew inspiration from some of the more familiar comic cover tropes (i.e., the hero walking away, as if in defeat, a la “Spider-Man No More!”; or the anguished hero cradling the body of a dead comrade, a la “I love my dead Dark Phoenix!”). The back cover will now serve the intended original purpose of the front.

***

In case you missed it, which you may have because I didn’t post anything here, the print edition of Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins is now available at Barnes & Noble’s website!

AF on BandNLast month I submitted the novel to B&N hoping to have it added to their catalog of in-store items, but apparently its sales need to be better for that. However, they added the book to their website, so I’ll take that as a minor victory.

***

To tweet or not to tweet is the question I’m asking myself.

Full disclosure, I hate Twitter. I simply don’t get it. It’s like Facebook for the ADD crowd, with the self-absorption factor cranked up to 11. I’m as guilty as anyone for posting trivial fluff on my personal Facebook page, but Twitter, to me, always seems to encourage people to report on their every little activity (“Just peed in nastiest restroom ever #employeesmustbleachself”).

Yet, like any social media outlet, it has a lot of potential as a marketing tool, which is why I encouraged my wife to set up a Twitter account for Storied Threads.

Apparently, a lot of indie writers are turning to Twitter, sometimes in favor of Facebook, to promote their work, mainly because Twitter feeds every post to every follower, unlike Facebook, which decided to monetize news feeds by limiting what people see from pages they’ve liked, thus encouraging people to drop money to expand their posts’ visibility.

The question is, do I take advantage of a viable marketing tool, or cling to my distaste for the Twitter platform?

Of course I’m going to swallow my contempt in order to pimp myself. Duh. Go follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MCBaileyWriter