Why Being Responsible Matters

This past week or so has had a lot of negatives, and as McKay pointed out in her post, it’s made writing more difficult. We’re pushing through it, because we have a deadline, but I admit it’s sapped a lot of joy and energy out of our  process. But what I want to talk about isn’t the election, although in a way there is some resonance with what’s on my mind. Specifically, I want to talk about Torquere Press, LLC, how their failure to own up to their responsibility to pay has affected us beyond a loss of money — and why it matters to us.

To be a publisher is to be in a position of trust. Authors bring the fruits of their labors to a publisher, and trust that, in exchange for a percentage of the profits, the publisher will market their work, collect the revenues, then reimburse the author in a timely fashion. This is, in many ways, no different than how it’s managed in my day job. I work for a company that pays me by the hour for my efforts. In exchange for a percentage of my billable rate to the prime contractor, my company collects the revenue from the prime, and passes my percentage on to me. I trust my company to properly bill the prime and give me my cut, just as McKay and I trusted Torquere to collect from the distributors and pass our money on to us.

It was Torquere’s responsibility to pay for certain things out of their half of the revenue, just as it was our responsibility to deliver things according to their schedule, and help promote our own work. Just as we wouldn’t expect Torquere (or any publisher) to assume responsibility for the expenses we incur in writing (for instance, the cost of internet access, computers, or the food we eat while writing), it’s not our responsibility to assume their expenses for running their business. They’re supposed to know what their expenses are and plan accordingly. If things go badly for them, in no way does that give them the right to dip into the profits that belong to the writers and use them for anything else. Period. That is the only honest way to run a business. Using the author’s share of revenues for anything else is irresponsible and dishonest.

Now, I fully realize that there are expenses incurred before a book makes a dime of profit. Editors, artists, ISBNs, etc, all cost money, as does marketing. These are up front costs similar to those in any business, and tend to be an issue more for a company that is starting up, not one that has been in business for years. But my major complaint against Torquere in using that argument to justify not paying us is that in our case, is that it’s pure bullshit. All of our titles except the most recent one were well past the point of recouping the up front expenses, and at any rate, the vast majority of our works were published under Torquere Press, Inc, not Torquere Press, LLC. Which means that the previous owners of the company paid the up front costs for twenty two of our twenty five titles, and Torquere Press, LLC, was just collecting profits off of us. Any expenses they incurred, or losses they suffered, were not and are not our responsibility. If they took risks on authors whose work didn’t pay off, that was not our fault, and we shouldn’t have to pay for it from the money our work earned. If they had medical expenses, or took vacations, or spent too much money on something they shouldn’t have bought, or owed legal fees… again, that is not our responsibility. As professionals, we fulfilled every obligation to Torquere Press, LLC, that we contracted for. They, however, failed us by not paying us.

Which brings me to the subject of our profits. They owe McKay and I each almost $1400 just for 2Q2016 (which includes 1Q2016 from most of the distributors), and I know from tracking our sales ranks that what we’re owed from Amazon sales for 3Q2016 (earned in 2Q2016) is just as much, if not more.

In the grand scheme of things, what is owed to McKay and I might not seem very much. But there is more involved here than just the financial aspects. When Torquere failed to fulfill their responsibility to us, it meant that time we would normally have spent writing was suddenly taken up with other things. Like getting our rights back. Well over 75% of our totally back catalog was with Torquere, which means that we have taken a very large financial hit over and above just the money we’re owed outright. And while we’ve managed to place some of our stories with another publisher, and will be self-publishing others, it’s taking up time and effort that we’d prefer to put into  writing new stories. It’s robbed us of momentum, we resent that almost as much as the loss of revenue. Multiply our feelings and experiences by the dozens of authors Torquere has failed, and it’s a horrible breech of trust.

We do understand that as writers, the failure of a publisher is a risk we take. It makes sense for authors to spread their stories around to different publishers, just to lessen the impact if any one of them fails to live up to their contractual responsibilities. But it’s galling for a publisher to blame the writers for the company’s problems, and even more than that, it’s immature and irresponsible. If a company has problems, it is only professional to own up to them, not place blame everywhere except where it belongs. Not to lie and try to pretend things are fine. It’s irresponsible to ignore problems and hope they’ll go away. It’s immature and unprofessional to ignore emails and other attempts at communication. It’s wrong to make others pay for your own mistakes. It’s appalling that they seem to believe they can walk away unscathed, having misappropriated money that wasn’t theirs. It’s extremely troubling the lesson they are teaching their children by their actions.  They have violated their position of trust — if McKay or I were to do the same thing, we’d lose our jobs. And rightfully so.

We hope Torquere Press, LLC, will step up and take responsibility for their actions and their debts. It’s the right and responsible thing to do, and the only way they can salvage their reputation. But if they don’t, no doubt Karma will catch up with them eventually. It has a way of doing that.




We are giving away five ebook copies of “Blood Bathory: Like the Night” (the first Blood Bathory book) on Amazon! All you have to do is follow us at Amazon and you’re entered! You can find the giveaway here! Good luck!


Being Dependable

I’ve had a bad experience with an editor lately – an independent one, not one of the wonderful folks at Torquere or Dreamspinner – at a place called “Wicked Pride” that I thought based on reputation would be reliable. Unfortunately, after three months and having prepaid $172, all I’ve gotten back of my ~28K is a half-editted word doc (when I submitted and asked for a google doc), and a lot of empty promises. I am highly disappointed, especially since the owner assured me that she prided herself on her professionalism. I have kept all the emails, and I can prove that she said she was finished but “googledocs wasn’t letting her share the doc”, then she said she would do it again, and it didn’t show up. THEN there was a litany (I haven’t counted, but no less than four or five times) where she promise she was “almost done” and I’d have it “in a few hours”. Always some excuse why she couldn’t – the flu, then multiple hospitalizations, then computer problems – some of which may have been true, but I have my doubts, ESPECIALLY after she promised to refund my money and didn’t. Now she is refusing to answer my emails or facebook messages at all, which I find highly unprofessional.

So you indy writers out there, please be wary of hiring editors, even if they look professional. I guess I should have gotten recommendations, so if anyone has a recommendation for a good, reliable editor, please let me know. And don’t be afraid to spread the word that Ari had a horrible experience with Wicked Pride and that Tash Hatzipetrou (the owner/editor) is unreliable and unprofessional.


Writing what you know…

So, one of the cardinal rules of writing fiction is to write what you know – draw on your own knowledge and experiences to help shape your characters and stories. For those of you who have read our stories, you may have noticed that we use a lot of different locations and have characters from a wide variety of occupations and with a varied set of skills. For those who are curious, McKay and I really do draw upon our life experiences for these things.

When it comes to locations, you may have noticed we tend to favor the South. Both of us are born and bred southern girls, so that made it easy. Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Charleston, Richmond and rural Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas… all of these are places we have either lived in or visited, and I think that gives our writing a certain authenticity. My absolute favorite city on the West Coast is San Francisco, so we’ve used that, too. I’ve travelled a lot in the Caribbean, and the locale in Caribbean Blues is based on a place I’ve actually been in Port Lucaya. McKay and I have both been to London, and we’ll probably be including it in something in the future, and since I was raised in Miami, it’s probably only a matter of time until Florida shows up, too. 😉

As far as characters, many of ours are based on the types of people we tend to like or be attracted to — yes, there is a reason there are quite a few tall, dark-haired, snarky men in our stories. 😀 Some characters are based on real people, both celebrities and people known to us. When it comes to their occupations… well, English professors, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and yes, even the mercs are familiar to us. I have worked with a great many military people from all branches of the services over the course of my career, so it was easy to bring those characters to life — plus my father was a paratrooper in WWII, and I grew up on his stories of the Pacific theatre. McKay and I are both geek girls, so our nerdier characters have a firm basis in reality.

Aside from personal experiences, good research helps, but I  prefer to use things I actually know. One of the beauties of writing with a co-author is that we both have different experiences to draw upon, so it quite literally doubles our comfort zone. So while neither of us ever has been a gay man (unless there is something McKay hasn’t told me), we hope that the real-life aspects that we bring to our writing accomplish the goal we both have for our writing – to tell a story that will entertain our readers, and bring them back for more.




In a world…

So, today I wanted to talk about finishing what you start.

I think, in the world of writing, this is one of the hardest things to do. I can’t tell you how many stories McKay and I have that we started and either the idea just wouldn’t gel, or the characters wouldn’t speak up — and even, on rare occasions, the characters just wouldn’t get interested in one another no matter how much we tried. I think every writer must have a folder of things that didn’t pan out, and that’s fine. But what do you do when you’re two books into a series of three and the last one refuses to let itself be written?

Fortunately, we didn’t have that happen with Blood Bathory, although I think writing that third book was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. We KNEW how it had to end, of course, because that was obvious, but just because you know where you’re going doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to get there, or how long it will take. Or what unexpected things you might discover along the way.

McKay can correct me, but I think we made something like three or four starts on BB: Be Not Proud before one finally worked. Mostly, it was the characters not coming together properly, which is probably, in my book, the absolute worst thing that can happen. We knew these guys well, but they kept wanting to show unexpected quirks that would cause us to have to go back and rethink where the story was going. And it wasn’t one character, but both of them who did this to us. In the end, we finally did get the dynamic worked out, and I believe the story is actually stronger for all the time we put into writing things that DIDN’T work. But while the act of discovery was working itself out, there was more than one grim moment when I wondered if we might be in danger of committing the cardinal sin of not finishing a series. Thankfully, our sins –thus far — remain only venial. 😉

Which brings me to world building. The Blood Bathory universe is a fantastically detailed one, and it sometimes is hard to walk away from something you’ve spent so much time — literally years, in this case — building up. McKay and I both have talked about setting other things in the universe, because we’ve gone to great lengths to create a reality that is logically consistent and self-sustaining. Gaia’s playground is large and varied, and other hazards face the theriomorphs and Dark Guardians.

I hope we do go back and do more with it one day. But for now, I’m just incredibly glad that we have told our story, told it well, and can be proud of what we’ve done.