December 7th, 2009


23 Hours

Author David Wellington made his name with his zombie trilogy, in particular his first novel, Monster Island, but now his series about Pennsylvania-based vampire hunter Laura Caxton has extended one book longer than his zombie series with the addition of a fourth volume, 23 Hours.

At the end of the third volume, Vampire Zero, Laura Caxton was arrested for using excessive force against a material witness. At the start of 23 Hours, Laura, knowing she did the wrong thing and pleading guilty at her trial, is incarcerated at the Marcy State Correctional Institution, where she's hoping to serve out her sentence in relative peace, despite the animosity of her fellow prisoners toward her for being an ex-cop. Unfortunately, Justinia Malvern, the last vampire in existence and the Big Bad that Laura has been chasing throughout the series, has other plans for her. Malvern infiltrates the prison and assumes control of the facility, taking Laura's girlfriend Clara hostage. When Laura escapes with the help of her speed-freak cellmate Gert, Malvern gives Laura twenty-three hours to turn herself over in return for Clara's life.

While not quite as good as Vampire Zero, which in my opinion remains the best of the series so far, 23 Hours is a tight, self-contained adventure that reads like a speeding freight train while also giving you quite a bit of insight into what life is like in a maximum security prison. Wellington always does a great deal of research for his novels, an approach that adds convincing depth to the details, especially when it comes to the stifling rules of prison life and how it does a much better job of grinding you down with humiliation than actually trying to rehabilitate you. Wellington also does a great job showing how the bigotry and preconceptions of Laura's boss Deputy Marshal Fetlock, who thinks Laura must be having a grand old time in women's prison because she's a lesbian, is so far from the truth as to be laughable. A welcome touch in a book whose setting is one we've seen used for exploitation purposes far too often.

As a writer, Wellington is usually more concerned with plot and action than emotional depth, resulting in novels that are more like blockbuster action movies than finely honed character dramas. That's okay for his chosen subject matter, but at times it does leave the reader feeling a little distanced from his characters, especially Laura. Because she's so singleminded in her quest to save the world from vampires, it would make sense that her emotions tend to point in a single direction, namely getting the job done and trying not to get herself or anyone else killed along the way, but if there's one drawback it's that it's hard for the reader to feel the love between her and Clara, and in this installment it's important that we do.

If you're a fan of the series, 23 Hours is a fine addition to Laura Caxton's adventures, and a quick, enjoyable read. If you're new to the series, though, I'd definitely recommend starting with the first novel, 13 Bullets. 23 Hours works as a stand-alone pretty well, but you'll enjoy it a lot more if you've already taken a ride with Laura through her previous adventures.

(Disclaimer: David Wellington is a close friend. However, I do try to remain objective in my reviews of work by friends because I consider honest reviews extremely important. After all, readers' hard-earned and not so expendable money is at stake.)

Author Solutions Strikes Back, Claims It's Doing It All For YOU

In response to the recent hubbub, a press release written and distributed by Author Solutions, Inc., the folks who teamed up with Harlequin to create vanity publishing outfit DellArte Press (née Harlequin Horizons), was released today, and it includes all the usual "we're your only friend against the tyranny of Big Publishing" language you would expect it to.

Bloomington, Ind. (PRWEB) December 7, 2009 -- Kevin Weiss, president and CEO of Author Solutions, the world leader in indie book publishing, issued a video statement Monday addressing the importance of providing expanded choice and opportunity in the book publishing industry.

As you can see from the very first paragraph of the press release, they're trying to stack the deck with emotionally loaded words like "choice" and "opportunity." Sorry, but paying a company upward of tens of thousands of dollars to "publish" and "distribute" your ostensibly commercial romance novel--not to mention paying them for the honor of sharing your royalty earnings with them as well--is not an "opportunity." An opportunity is something you take advantage of when you see that it can lead to a successful outcome for yourself. A scam is something designed to prey on your dreams and insecurities, and to part you from your money by making impossible promises of wealth and success. Guess which one this is?

During the three-and-a-half-minute statement Weiss addresses concerns that the rise of self-publishing, including ASI's groundbreaking partnerships with leading traditional publishers, signals the destruction of the industry. Rather than the end of an industry, Weiss views these new alliances as signs the industry is adapting to new realities.

First of all, none of the statements I've seen from various writers organizations has called this the destruction of the industry. In fact, all they've called it is an unethical conflict of interest on Harlequin's part. Some, like myself, have gone so far as to blatantly call it a scam--a clear attempt by Torstar, Harlequin's parent corporation, to make money off the backs of authors by monetizing Harlequin's slush pile--but most have taken a more even-toned approach and simply highlighted the conflict of interest involved.

Second of all, "new realities"? No. There's nothing new about the vanity press scam. It's been around since the dawn of publishing, and it'll probably never fade away. Especially now with POD technology and the zillion "self-publishing" companies to be found online. (And just for the record, this is not actual self-publishing. Self-publishing is truly DIY, from design to printing to distribution, and you get to keep 100% of the profits. Using a company like DellArte and others is actually vanity publishing, because you're paying them and they're still taking part of the profits.)

"The publishing industry has been around for many, many years, and it will continue to be around for many years into the future, but what it looks like will be different," Weiss said. "And that's the thing that's difficult for people today. Change is hard. You can either be impacted by change or you can embrace change."

Again, this is baloney. The future of publishing will not be author-subsidized, no matter how hard the vanity press honchos stomp their feet and bellow otherwise. The future of publishing may be direct sales from author to reader, but that's not the same as what Weiss is talking about here. Because that would cut out publishers altogether, whether they're traditional or vanity presses, and Weiss certainly doesn't want to see that happen.

Weiss also addresses protests lodged by writer's guilds in response to last month's announcement of a publishing partnership with women's fiction publisher Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Weiss takes exception to these guilds' position that only traditionally-published books can succeed.

Hmmmm, I can think of roughly three originally self-published books (and truly self-published, not published through a corporate pay service) that went on to become national bestsellers that got picked up by major presses. There are probably more than three. Still, there are hundreds of thousands of books published by traditional presses that also went on to become national bestsellers. You do the math.

Does this mean they're automatically better than the self-published books? No. It just means readers could find the damn things in bookstores, which is half the battle to becoming a bestseller. Vanity and self-published titles rarely if ever appear on bookstore shelves. Most of them are sold from online catalogues that nobody visits except to buy the book they specifically went there for. Trust me, ain't nobody browsing a vanity press' online catalogue looking for a book that looks like it might pass the time nicely on a daylong outing to Rockaway Beach. And that's why your chance for success really is better with a traditional publisher.

"There are plenty of books in traditional publishing today that just don't make it; it's a hits business," Weiss said. "It's why the publishing industry is going through a transformation today and the consumer has everything to say about what is good content and what isn't good content. To say that in order for a book to make it in the marketplace it has to blessed by a traditional publisher doesn't make any sense in 2009."

Here, Weiss is spot on, but not for the reasons he thinks he is. Plenty of traditionally published books are garbage and do have poor sales numbers, usually because the publisher was just trying to fill an available genre/marketing slot regardless of how embarrassingly written the book was, or because the audience for a celebrity or politician's memoir was overestimated. It happens. A lot, actually. And if publishing doesn't find a way to correct course, they'll just keep blowing millions on advances for the next flavor-of-the-month's "book" (How To Be Famous by Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, anyone?) and then complaining that they're in the red and nobody is reading anymore. But the answer isn't to ask authors to pay them to be published. You don't see ABC asking the cast of Lost to pay them to be on the show from now on because "we're putting you on TV," do you? Asking authors to pay to be published is the same principle. Authors aren't publishers' clients. We're their business partners. We share the risk of our joint ventures. We do not assume all the risk ourselves.

To view Weiss's full statement, visit For more information on how Author Solutions and indie book publishing are increasing the number of opportunities and choices for authors, readers and publishers, log on to

More egregious use of emotionally loaded words. They really know what they're doing, these Author Solutions people. In fact, they know it so well that they accidentally let it slip in the paragraph below (italics mine):

About Author Solutions, Inc.
Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), an Inc. 5000 company, is owned by Bertram Capital and is the world leader in indie book publishing--the fastest-growing segment of publishing. ASI's self-publishing brands--AuthorHouse, AuthorHouse UK, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, and Wordclay--have helped more than 85,000 authors self-publish, promote, and bring to market more than 120,000 new titles. Through strategic alliances with leading trade publishers, ASI is making it possible for publishers to monetize unpublished manuscripts, develop new literary talent efficiently, and provide emerging authors a platform for bringing their books to market. Headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, ASI also operates offices in Indianapolis and Milton Keynes, England. Visit, or call 1-888-519-5121 x5238 for more information.

Whoops! Looks like they accidentally tipped their hands! Oh well, better luck next time, Author Solutions. Maybe you can get a copyeditor to pay you for the honor of proofing your press releases from now on.