Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks--It Ain't As Hard As You Think

Let's see--what am I thankful for this year?

I could go through the whole usual litany of "things Celina is grateful for in 2011" but I'm sure you'd be bored.  The list is short and...well, quite frankly, you guys don't read my blog to see what I'm being nice about.  You want to see what's pissing me off.  So let's head to the top of the list, shall we?

I hate divas.

Now, I realize that's strange coming from a girl who worked in theater AND in drag shows for a long time, but it's the God-honest truth.  You know all the awards show speeches that thank the "little people?"  Well, who are the "little people" in publishing?

The cover artist. The content editor. The line editor. The proofreader. The book designer. The marketing people. The bookkeeper. The review coordinator.  The list goes on and on and on.  A whole lot of people go into creating a book.  Sure--the writer is responsible for the lion's share of it; after all, they WROTE the book.  But the steps of the publication process mean that a lot of different people touch that manuscript before it becomes a BOOK and makes it to readers.  

There is a growing trend I've noticed lately, one that I find more than a little disturbing: authors who feel they have the right--and the power--to treat the crew that works on their book disrespectfully.  Authors who talk out of their asses, criticizing...say, a cover artist, for example, for creating a cover based on the author's OWN DESCRIPTION of the theme and plot instead of reading the book and pulling an image directly from the author's brain and regurgitating it onto the page. Last year, as a matter of fact, an editor who is a dear friend of mine was told by an author that he would SUE HER for copyright violations if she "dumbed down" his manuscript by correcting his very (very,very) horrific use of the English language.

At least I assume it was English. It might have been Tagalog for all I know.

In fact, earlier this year PM (pre-Musa) I retracted a contract offer to a writer who took it upon himself to correct the CONTRACT (one that I did not write and didn't have anything to do with) and then expressed concern over the level of editing he would receive if the contract was any indication of the company's standards.  But what made THAT encounter resonate even more strongly (and heads up!  herein lies the lesson) happened a couple of months later, when the same author submitted the same manuscript to the same editor at a different company. 

Guess who didn't get a contract offer from Musa?

And you know what?--it's a damn shame.  The book was well-written, funny, timely--and with a good, strong editor and the proper platform could have done very well.  But that book lingers with the author as far as I know, and probably will for some time.

You see, all those "little people?" They are working on multiple books from numerous authors at varying levels of proficiency.  That artist is making five or six more covers this week.  The content editor has her next two books already lined up.  The proofreader just got done working with the best-known author in the house, who treated her with kindness and respect.  And THAT'S why the best-seller is loved by the staff--because courtesy and professionalism go a long way to greasing the gears of the process. 

So my Thanksgiving post this year isn't about turkey or family or Pilgrims. My Thanksgiving post is about the actual giving of thanks to the people who work with you on your book.  Be courteous. Be professional. Speak to these publishing pros like equals. You don't automatically assume god status when you sign a publishing contract. 

Don't demand. Ask.

There are enough divas in the world as it is.  In the publishing industry, we don't really have divas.  Instead, we have asshats--and that's the last title you want dangling from your name.  Because usually right behind it, there's another tag that's even worse.


Monday, November 07, 2011

What To Write, What To Write...?

I just spent fifteen minutes looking for an appropriate quote for my blog today.  

Unfortunately, every quote I considered had something to do with not being able to write. Probably not the best thing to write about--not being able to write--and yet, a strangely familiar thing for me at the moment.  

I've never had any problems sitting down and putting words on paper.  Sometimes, those words even made sense. Frequently, those words formed themselves into sequential stories.  And in the end, no matter whether I have my writer's hat or my editor's hat on, the stories are what drive me in all aspects of my life. 

Which makes my life pretty damn cool.

Except that right now, I'm finding it difficult to make the time to write.  All those 20 hour, 20,000 word days are now 20 hour, 20,000 (slight exaggeration for literary effect) email days. My editing time has taken away my writing time, save for...well, now.  Three a.m.  The house is quiet, my inboxes are clean-ish.  I open up my WIP and...

I've lost the thread of the story.

So I have to take some time to read back through the last pages I wrote, so I can pick up the thru line.  Fortunately, that doesn't take long.  And then...and then...

It's seven in the morning and everyone's alarm clocks in the house start to go off.  

*So, Celina, what's the point?*

The point is that writing is not always some bolt of inspiration.  A Muse doesn't descend from the Olympian heights to inject 100,000 brilliant words in the correct order and then drops a wall to block the same writer from ever producing another coherent sentence. 

Writing is work--difficult, painstaking, solitary work.  The best way to cure writer's block?  Write your way out of it.  Instead of sitting there waiting for the heavenly choirs to hit a harmonized high "C" that hefts you over that block, make yourself write.  It doesn't matter what you write. You can write an extremely creative grocery list.  Just go to your writing place, sit in your writing chair, and WRITE. You may have to rearrange your mind from whatever it is you do when you're not writing--I certainly do--but once you've managed that, then write.


Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time...the wait is simply too long. -- Leonard Bernstein

Thank God for

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Journalist And Newspaper Gone Bad

The reporter that was bugging me for details about AMP? The one that Teddi Pig posted the contact details for? His article went up at the Aurora Sentinel newspaper. The title of his "article?"

Battle Among Local PORN Authors Heats Up on Facebook As Aurora Publisher Goes Mum.

Porn?  PORN?  What the HELL?  I don't write PORN.  I don't edit PORN.  In fact, during my tenure at AMP, I never saw a PORN book go through the pipes.  PORN and EROTICA are two entirely different genres, types of book, and markets. AMP didn't publish PORN.  AMP published science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance w/o sex, romance w/sex, erotica, mysteries, suspense, thrillers, action/adventure, paranormal romances.

And yet, this "journalist," Brandon Johanssen, didn't mention that in the title of his article.  Oh no--instead, he compounded the misery of AMP authors by calling them all PORN authors.  


Dude--are you really SO ignorant that you don't know the difference between erotica and PORN?  Are you really throwing it out there that I, who writes fantasy, science fiction, and horror am a PORN writer?  Really?

You know, I think that's called LIBEL.

Or, at the very least, yellow journalism.

What happened to journalistic ethics?  What happened to double checking your facts?  Heck--one of the authors quoted in the story, Charles Sanders, wrote a HORROR book that didn't get anywhere near a PORN.  Charles is probably not real happy to be called a PORN author.

I know I'm sure as hell not.

This is why I didn't talk to that cretin when he kept pestering me for information about AMP.  And despite the fact that in the ARTICLE, he states that not all AMP writers wrote PORN--it doesn't really matter.  The TITLE is what will remain online. So for the eternity that is Google-fu, when my publishing credits come up online, PORN author is what people will think.  No one will remember that I write vanilla spec fic, or that I edited books from all genres and build a no-sex-allowed tradtional Regency romance line.  All they'll remember is the PORN.

With complete unconcern for the victims of the AMP debacle, this "journalist" and the Aurora Sentinel newspaper discarded all the ethics of their profession and threw all AMP writers under the bus on top of the financial and emotional hardships they are already undergoing.  And while I'm really damn pissed at Sandra Hicks right now, the fact that she's been labeled a PORN publisher in her hometown is absolute bullshit.

But the Sentinel and Johanssen don't give a rats' ass about that.  As long as they sell papers, they are quite willing to trample to work and reputations of over a hundred authors and staff into the dirt. Right now, that PORN label is hovering over every single victim of Aspen Mountain Press.  And that "reporter?"  The one that lied to AMP authors and staff about wanting to get their stories out?  

He lied.

Let's look at my correspondence with him At first, he contacted me because of my blog and mentioned that an AMP author (who most assuredly does NOT write PORN) had contacted him about AMP.  In my return email, I confirmed that I did work at AMP (and yeah, that was a big DUH on my part since I'd been raging about it on my blog. Cut me some slack. Even I can pull a DUH.) and asked what he intended to write his story about.  He indicated he wanted to do a business story, and wanted details about why AMP fell, how much I personally was owed, how many books AMP published and WHAT KIND OF BOOKS AMP PUBLISHED.

I talked about the offer with the ladies of Musa, and we arrived at a decision together that what I'd said on my blog was enough to serve as Musa's statement about our dealings with AMP, both within the company and as a separate entity.  I informed Mr. Johanssen of this in a formal, if cordial, reply:

Dear Mr. Johansson,

After discussing your request with my colleagues and considering it very carefully, I'm afraid I don't really want to comment further on the Aspen Mountain Press situation.  My blog posts are already up and impacting the situation. I don't feel that participating in such an interview is the best choice for me at this time.
Celina Summers

His response? He wanted more background information for the story. At that time, I replied that I would be happy to reply to his questions via email, but not via a phone call.  I never heard from him again.

Now I know why.

The article came out the next DAY.

He didn't have any interest in the facts of the story.  The facts are pretty boring. What he wanted was the sensationalism of screaming PORN!!!! into the quiet little community of Aurora, pointing to a member of that community as the PORN Queen who stole from her writers.  

So thanks for nothing Aurora Sentinel.  Appreciate all the "help" Mr. Johanssen. My situation is SO much better now that I've been branded for my involvement with a company that produces PORN.  

Anyone who is outraged by this article--like pretty much every writer that's been born?--can leave a comment at the Aurora Sentinel story page (linked to above) or send an email to  As writers, we know the power of the written word. The truth pales next to it.  And this is just another example of how to exploit the writers who have already been exploited by their publisher.  

Yellow journalism should never be supported, particularly when a journalist and the organization he writes for are content to lie in order to sell more copies.  Perhaps the Aurora Sentinel and Mr. Johanssen will be surprised to realize that a simple writer of non-porn PORN has a greater understanding of journalistic ethics and scruples than they do. 

You see, when I was working toward my degree in Communications, my professors always pounded home the fact that a reporter had to be sure of the FACTS before he went live with a story.  I guess Brandon Johanssen slept through that part of the course.

But his editor?  His editor knew better.

For shame.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Breaking My Word About Aspen Mountain Press

Yeah, yeah--I really thought I was done.  There are a lot of things I could be blogging about, but this one is sticking in my craw.

Since all this mess started, Sandra Hicks has been maintaining a low profile.  The splash page on the AMP website reads:

The Aspen Mountain Press web site is temporarily suspending operations.Over the past five years we've demanded high standards in all areas of the company from authors to editors to administrators.  Due to the current health of the owner these standards have not been met.We'd like to thank you for your support and patronage over this past half decade and apologize for any inconveniences this decision causes.

Due to the current health of the owner...

Makes it sound really bad, doesn't it?  Like the situation is dire?

Well, then let's take a look at the owner, Sandra Hicks, and her personal Facebook page. Her personal Facebook page tells an entirely different story.  This Sandra Hicks doesn't seem to have many health problems.  According to her posts, she is shopping to finish decorating her son's bedroom, going to concerts, baking pumpkin pies and...quoting Bible verses. A lot of Bible verses.

And yet, this is the same woman who just a few weeks ago in an  open letter to her unpaid and rebelling authors and staff claimed, "I can only work about two hours a day."

Obviously, if one is shopping, decorating, baking and going to concerts that doesn't leave a lot of hours in the day.  And, curiously, while the AMP authors and staff remain unpaid, Ms. Hicks can miraculously afford to redecorate her son's room?

Amazing recovery on her part--both financial AND physical.

I've canvassed the AMP authors and staff over the past few days.  Despite a minuscule trickle of rights reversion letters 10-14 days ago, no one has been paid or received their rights back since then.  I know since I had the 'latest betrayal in a long line of betrayals' voice message (ironic since apparently me not getting paid the royalties she owes me is now some kind of betrayal of her?) I haven't heard a peep from Sandra Hicks or Aspen Mountain Press.

We are now into November. I have not received any pay from Aspen Mountain Press since June.  That means that on November 15th, we'll be at the FIFTH consecutive month without receiving pay.  And yet, Sandra Hicks apparently feels holy enough to purchase the makings of pumpkin pies, to pay for concert tickets, to redecorate her son's room--and all with the royalties that AMP authors and staff members didn't get paid for.

How easy it is to steal someone else's money and spend it on yourself. And so, despite numerous articles and blog posts about the thievery ongoing at Aspen Mountain Press, including from Writer Beware and sites of that nature, Sandra Hicks apparently feels well enough--and safe enough--to spend the money she has illegally withheld from the authors and editors who actually EARNED that money.


The time for excuses is past.  The time for spurious claims of ill health or some other incapacity to follow through with her sorely abused authors and staff and to rectify her mistakes is long past.  At any time in the past five months, Sandra Hicks could have made even a tiny effort to recompense the well over a hundred authors and staffers for the over four hundred books that were published by Aspen Mountain Press.

She has not.

Instead, while claiming poor health, she's engaged fully in her new AMP-free days: spreading the word of God, baking pies, redecorating her son's room and attending concerts, sharing the joys of her life and the bounties of God's grace with her new pals from church, none of whom appear to be aware that she is responsible for financial hardship across multiple continents and blithely unconcerned with the suffering she's left in her wake.  She's not responding to emails, or phone calls, or registered letters, or text messages.  Nothing.  Nada.

And yet I am the betrayer for spilling her dirty little secrets, despite the fact that I almost lost my house while she redecorated hers?


Allow me to make myself VERY clear.  If Aspen Mountain Press and its owner, Sandra Hicks, do NOT respond in a clear cut fashion and make an effort to make amends to the writers, editors and staff who've been stolen from, I will release every single piece of correspondence, every financial record I was provided or had access to, and every single word of the transcripts I have for the multiple staff meetings I attended/ran as the managing editor at Aspen Mountain Press on this blog, other blogs, and whatever sites want to have them.  I will provide those materials to each and every author at Aspen Mountain Press for their legal cases. I will give that information to the journalist in Aurora, CO who's been asking me for an interview and whom, up to this point, I have refused.

A brand new countdown clock has just started. I would have been happy to deliver this message to Ms. Hicks in person and privately, but she's not answering her mail OR her phone these days.  But I'd damn sure be willing to bet that she's watching her Google Alerts, or that her husband, Jeff Hicks, the owner of 1PlaceForRomance (Mr. Hicks was also involved in an unsavory situation last year when AllRomanceEbooks sued him for copyright infringement and the third party site cancelled AMP's ability to upload books to the ARE site, naming Sandra Hicks as a co-respondent in the lawsuit) is.  As a matter of fact, judging from the undeniable truth that the only time Ms. Hicks has contacted me since my departure from AMP had to do either with getting money from me (the Aurora Regency deal) or to accuse me of betraying her as the result of a blog post, this is probably the ONLY way to get the warning to her ears.

Close the doors permanently, Sandra.

Give the authors their rights back.

And then pay the people you owe the money you owe them instead of going on about your business like there's not a thing in the world wrong with what you're doing.

There is something very wrong with what you're doing.  You have become what you once preached against--you, the leader in the fight against the scam publishers that burned you and your rights back in the day.

No matter how many Bible quotes you regurgitate, you have become a scam publisher yourself--an electronic pirate garbed in the spoils you've earned from the labor of others.

Just get it over with.

There's not a person in the world stupid enough to believe that you're at death's door when you're spending your energy, time and OUR money redecorating your son's room.  Seriously.