Scammer Still Scamming

Pity poor Brien Jones, the veteran vanity press sleazo behind Jones Harvest…who preyed on old people, taking their money on the false promise of "publishing" their books, getting them into bookstores and into the hands of Hollywood producers. Scores of people, most of them elderly, lost thousands of dollars to this unrepetent scammer…and now he wants you to feel sorry for him…and write another check. In a letter to his suckers, republished on the Jones Harvest Fraud Victims blog, he writes, in part:

I tried to sell [BOOK TITLE] and the rest every way possible—more ways than you ever heard about. As with 99% of our titles I failed. It’s hard. And if you ever try selling somebody else’s book (or even your own) to bookstores you’ll find it’s also unpleasant.

By 2010 I spent half my day listening to bookstores hang up on me and the other half listening to authors that paid $950 to publish (usually less than we spent on the print run) complain about lack of sales. I have to admit I don’t feel very bad about giving up on some of those clients.

I do feel bad about you. You were one of the few that even acknowledged our website was free of vanity publishing information or that we had a bookstore. Most of our clients never noticed. I kept on trying anyway. 

Astonishing, isn't it? One moment he's talking about taking $950 from authors to "publish" their books and ignore their calls…and the next he's taking pride in the fact that he never disclosed on his site that he was running a thinly-disguised, nickel-and-dime vanity press that primarily preyed on the elderly.  And by his own admission, he failed to sell books 99% of the time… a fact I'm sure he never mentioned when he was sweet-talking some grandma out of a thousand bucks.   

Jones then has the audicity to recommend to everyone that he bilked that they go to Accurance and write another check for $850 to actually get their books "published" this time  (What do you bet he gets a commission on each of those "sales"?)

Bill Earle, a huckster for Accurance, then sent a letter to the Jones Harvest suckers, breaking the news that, despite all the money they gave to Brien Jones, their books were worthless and unsaleable. In other words, they threw their money away. Here's an excerpt:

Right now, we are concentrating everything on the Jones authors who were published with Jones. Those ISBNs are dead now so those books are no longer for sale. Even if sales were poor in the past for whatever reason, you don't have a chance at even one now. 

Our Jones Publishing Package, is fast, high quality, as affordable as is possible, and most importantly – complete. Right now, the book you had published with Jones is no longer valid. The ISBN from Jones for your book is a dead account. We are honored to be able to offer you the fastest way back to the market for just $849. 

It's so nice that Bill is "honored" to offer the Jones Harvest suckers a chance to throw their money away again. 

I have no sympathy at all for anyone who, after already being screwed over by Brien Jones, would now take his advice and write another fat check to yet another vanity press. 

The "deal" that Accurance offers is a rip-off…just like everything Brien Jones has ever been associated with. A non-Jones author could get exactly the same services from Accurance for $500 (I wonder where that extra $250 is going?). But wait, it gets even worse. As Bonnie Kaye, founderof the Jones Harvest Fraud Victims Blog notes:

And guess what—if you take this route, you don’t even have a publisher. Accurance isn’t a publisher—it’s a set-up company that brokers you out to companies like Lulu, where you are your own publisher.

In other words, you could just go to Lulu yourself and cut Accurance out entirely. And you know what it would cost you to get your book published?

Zero.

Now that's a deal.

The fact is, in today's new world, you'd have to be a brain-dead to pay anyone $900 to publish your book, whether it's Accurance, Tate, DogEar, Author House or anybody else.

Why?

Because you can publish for FREE digitally (on Amazon, B&Nand in print (with CreateSpace, Lulu, etc). Amazon, Lulu and CreateSpace take their money as a very small cut of your royalties. They make money when YOU make money. You don't have to pay a dime up front, to say nothing of $850.

You can even avoid the minimal cost of having your work formatted for ebooks by using Smashwords, which will also distribute your book to scores of online retailers. You can even make a cover yourself using your own artwork and a basic photo editing program.

It's time for aspiring authors to wake up and stop being carrion for vultures like Brien Jones. 

UPDATE: 1-3-2012: Adding insult to injury, the notorious sleazo Brien Jones is now sending letters to the authors that he swindled, offering them the "opportunity," if they hurry and act right now, to buy all of the existing, unsold copies of their books back from him for $5.99 each…oh, and be sure to make the checks out to him personally, not his pseudo publishing company (hmm, do you think he could be trying to evade creditors like, for instance, the same authors he's trying to screw now?). 

A Mad Mad Mad Unsold Pilot

Mark Evanier has unearthed a true television rarity — an unsold, animated pilot from Rankin/Bass called The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians featuring cartoon versions of famous comics doing their schticks. The animated comics include  Jack Benny, George Burns, Phyllis Diller, Flip Wilson, The Smothers Brothers, Henny Youngman, and Groucho Marx…all of whom provided their own voices (though some of the material is from their records). 

 

Dead Man #7: The Beast Within

Beast Withn FinalThe seventh volume in the DEAD MAN series, James Daniels' THE BEAST WITHIN, is now available from Amazon. The series is about Matt Cahill, a guy who inexplicably came back from the dead and can now see a nightmarish netherword that nobdoy else does…and pursues an evil entity known as Mr. Dark.

In this novel, Matt Cahill journeys deep into the Northern Michigan woods searching for a militaristic community that's led by a paranoid visionary… a man who claims to have defeated an entity eerily similar to Mr. Dark. This could be Matt's chance to solve the riddle of his nightmarish quest. But things go very wrong very fast… and soon he's trapped in a bloody siege between warring factions. The only way to escape from an unstoppable advance of mayhem, carnage and black magic is to trust his instincts, grab his ax, and unleash the ferocity of the Beast Within.

James has given some serious thought to who, and what, Mr. Dark might be…and I thought I'd share his take with you:

Who is Mr. Dark?

The straight-forward answer is that he's Matt's nemesis…a taunting, supernatural entity who spreads evil like a disease with just a touch of his finger. Mr. Dark is also, perhaps, the only one who knows the reasons behind his Matt's resurrection from the dead. But Mr. Dark is much more than that. But what, exactly? That's the question that every author is tackling and each one is coming up with their own, intriguing interpretation. 

Lee and Bill have been enormously generous letting the writers contribute to the development of the Dark Man's nature. And it's interesting, because–like Matt's character–the Dark Man is an archetype that's incredibly versatile. A blogger recently implied that Lee and Bill may have borrowed the evil-clown idea from Todd McFarlane's Spawn series. 

But this is nonsense. The wicked, unpredictable trickster is one of the oldest characters in fiction. McFarlane's Violator was begat by Stephen King's Pennywise who was begat by Jerry Robinson's The Joker, who was begat by Edgar Allen Poe's Hop-Toad, who was begat by Mr. Punch, who was begat by Shakespeare's Fool, who was begat by Malory's Merlin, who was begat by the Loki, who was begat by Raven (Europe), Coyote (America), and Spider (Africa). They are all manifestations of the same principle. 

What is that principle? Every writer of the Dead Man will come to his or her own conclusions. 

For myself, that principle is entropy, and the madness and despair that arise from our recognition that all our efforts will ultimately end in death. The major challenge of life is to withstand–and maybe even overcome–that terrible prospect. In the Welsh Grail legend Peredur, the hero is frequently tormented by a black hag who reminds him at every turn that all his acts of valor are causing more harm than good. That hag, portrayed eight hundred years ago, is the direct ancestor of Mr. Dark. And you don't have to be a medieval knight errant to know who she is. I've seen her. And I bet you have, too. 

How we deal with her terrible message is the biggest challenge that we face in life. And one of the ways we learn to deal with it is by reading about others who confront it head-on. Matt Cahill is a hero because he does just that. That's why it's a thrill to read about him. That's why, when we read about him beating the devil, we set down the book hopeful and happy, believing–for a time-–that we can, too.

 

Useful Fictions

My friend John Vorhaus has written a book called The Little Book of Sitcom and the advice, tricks, and lies to tell yourself that he offers are  useful no matter what kind of fiction you're writing. Don't believe me? You will after you read this excerpt from his book:

It took me six months to write my first sitcom script. The next one took three. I knocked off the third one in about six weeks, and I continued to get faster and faster as I learned more and more about everything from how to format a script to how to turn unfunny jokes into funny ones. Last week I wrote a sitcom script in four and a half hours. It was an ugly first draft – first drafts are ugly by definition – but I got from fade in to fade out in a single afternoon’s work, and to me that’s not nothing. So if you’ve embarked upon a sitcom writing career, and especially if it’s early days for you, I want to give you some good news from somewhat further down the line: you’ll get better and you’ll get faster. You can kick this thing’s ass.

It’ll never be as easy as you’d like it to be. You’ll never stop struggling to find the perfect turn of phrase or joke, or character key, or that one plot twist that resolves your story in a surprising, satisfying and rewarding way. You’ll never entirely free yourself from those awful moments of staring out the window, wondering why your brain is broken or where your next good idea will come from. You’ll always have moments where you think, “I suck,” and no amount of pep-talkery from others (and no quantity of overproof rum) will persuade you otherwise. But those moments will pass. You will solve your story problems. You will have good ideas. You will write jokes that are funny the first time, the next time, every time. You will get better at your craft, and eventually you will master it. Why? A couple of reasons.

First, writing sitcoms isn’t really that hard. So much of what you need to know is already defined for you. You know that your script needs to be a certain short length, with a certain small number of characters. You know that your choice of scenes is limited to your show’s standing sets and maybe one or two swing sets or outside locations. You know how your characters behave and how they’re funny, either because you invented them or because you’re writing for a show where these things are already well established. Sitcom is easy and sitcom is fun. Sitcom is the gateway drug to longer forms of writing. It’s a pretty good buzz and a pretty good ride, a great way to kill an afternoon, or even six months.

Second, improvement happens naturally. Every time you write a sitcom script you get a little better at it. You learn how to avoid dead-end stories. You learn how to enter a scene as late as possible and leave it as soon as possible. You learn how to avoid chuffa, the boring bullshit that slows down a story or scene, or as it’s otherwise known, tomando café –drinking coffee –  meaningless moments where people are just sitting around talking about nothing. You learn how to stay out of joke deserts, where pages and pages of dialogue roll by but nothing particularly hilarious happens. And you learn all of this organically, almost subconsciously, simply by attacking over and over again the problems peculiar to writing a sitcom script. 

Now, are you ready for the great news? This education takes place even if what you’re writing is not particularly good. It’s true. No matter how badly you suck on the page, you’re always learning something new about your craft, and thus steadily (okay, in fairness sometimes unsteadily)  moving toward a time when you generally don’t suck. All you have to do is keep writing. The learning takes care of itself.  

That said, no one around you will tell you that mastering this craft is a snap. It takes a lot of work: hours and days and weeks and months of creative labor and skull sweat, trying to turn nothing into something. It’s hard on the ego to face rejection and revision and notes and suggestions from yammerheads who may or may not know what they’re talking about. It challenges your resolve when people around you (maybe your nearest and dearest) tell you that you’re wasting your time. It takes a toll on your social life when writing your next script is more important than seeing friends, doing laundry, taking a shower. There’s doubt, fear, procrastination, alienation, poverty, writer’s block, writer’s cramp and dozens of other real and imagined setbacks, hurdles, distractions and delays. It would be fully disingenuous to pretend that these roadblocks don’t exist – yet that’s exactly what I want you to do. There’s a name for this strategy. It’s called adopting a useful fiction.

A useful fiction is a certain sort of lie we tell for the sake of moving past barriers and moving closer to our goals. If you believe me when I tell you that writing sitcoms is easy, you’ll be more motivated to try, because just generally we’d rather do things that are easy than are hard. If I tell you (or you tell yourself) that you’ll get better at your craft, then you’ll cast loose the air of hopelessness that might otherwise engulf you. You’ll push ahead, having such writing days as you are able to until you find to your surprise and delight that you are, in fact, getting better at your craft. In this sense we can say that a useful fiction is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You might say that it’s a case of “fake it till you make it,” or of having faith in your ability at a time when evidence is absent. No matter how you look at it, a useful fiction is a fiction, but it’s useful just the same.

So right now I’m asking you to adopt this specific useful fiction: You can do it. Go ahead and say it right out loud. Yes, it’s dumb, but it’s not the dumbest thing you’ll do in your career, or even today. And even if you don’t believe it, you have to agree that saying, “I can do it” is a whole lot more uplifting, more enabling, and more likely to breed success than saying, “I can’t do it.” That’s the power of the useful fiction, and that’s exactly how it works. You tell yourself you can do a thing for the sake of being able to do that thing, because you know for sure that if you tell yourself you can’t, well, you won’t.

I’ve been writing situation comedies for more than a quarter of a century, and showing others how to do it for nearly as long. I’ve taught and trained writers all over the world – 26 countries on four continents at last count. Along the way, by closely examining my writing process and the process of others, I’ve developed some pretty slick tricks, and it is these tricks that I intend to share with you here. Because it’s not enough just to sell you the useful fiction that sitcom is easy. I want to make it easy. I want to help you find shortcuts, see creative problems clearly, and generate solutions you can trust. I want to help you be funny and I want to help you be sure-handed in story. You’ll find some of these techniques to be immediately useful; others will not really bear fruit until you’re somewhat further advanced in your craft. But they’ll all help in the same way: by demystifying the creative process, and making it easier and more enjoyable for you to do what you do.

So let’s have some fun, shall we? Because this is sitcom writing, after all. As jobs go, it’s not a hard one. We get to work indoors, sitting on our rhumbas. We don’t punch a clock. We play and invent and create. I remember once running a story meeting on an episode involving a woman’s decision to get breast augmentation surgery. At the conclusion of the meeting I said, “Do you realize we just spent the entire afternoon talking about boob jobs?” Sitcom. It’s nice work if you can get it. And you can get it if you try. 

That’s the good news, and it’s not even a lie.

 

The Mail I Get

I got this urgent email today. The subject heading was "Very Important Message.': 

Lee, I know you don't know me as well as I don't know you either and you can e-mail me here at this address : XYZ . I just want to ask you how soon can you e-mail me because I have something I really need to ask you and it's very important. It's your show of Diagnosis Murder : The Sins of the Father. What I'm asking you for is the whole summary plot of the second part of the show. Lee, I'm sorry I put this message in here first before I introduced myself, I'm sorry Lee I apologise. Hello, My name is Christopher XYZ and I'd really like to hear from you as soon as possible. I would like to hear back from you about this matter. Lee, Have a yourself a great and wonderful evening. And may God bless you and your whole family with his love and grants you with all of his peace ! Have all of yourselves a Blessed and joyful Christmas ! I look forward to hearing from really soon.

 

I'd left Diagnosis Murder before the "Sins of the Father" episode came along. But I immediately grasped the urgency of the situation and knew that I should probably drop everything I was doing, screen the episode, and write a detailed, minute-by-minute summary for Christopher as soon as humanly possible. Lives could be at stake.

Instead, being  lazy and irresponsible, I googled the episode, found a summary, and sent the guy the link, all in about two minutes. I spent another minute on this grave matter and found the entire episode on YouTube and sent him the link to that as well.

But this left me with a Very Important Message of my own for Christopher…

Have you ever heard of Google?

News from the Dead

Lots of exciting news in the world of THE DEAD MAN. The Brilliance Audio edition of THE DEAD MAN V1 — which includes “Face of Evil,” “Ring of Knives,” and “Hell in Heaven” — is now available for pre-order. What makes this especially cool is that “Ring of Knives” author James Daniels performs his own book while his brother Luke Daniels does the others. The Daniels Brothers are experienced audio book performers and we’re lucky to have them bringing Matt Cahill and Mr. Dark to life…so-to-speak. The paperback edition of THE DEAD MAN V1 comes out in February.
Meanwhile, James Daniel’s latest DEAD MAN tale, “The Beast Within,” will be published in just a few weeks.

Submissions Open for Audio Scribe Awards

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers has added an audio category to their annual Scribe Awards. Because the category was assembled so late in the year, they are extending the entry deadline to March 1st  for this category only.

Audio programs must fit the following general guidlines:

Audio entries must represent full-cast radio-style plays, not readings of short stories or novels, of licensed tie-ins based on games, television shows, movies, etc.

Audio entries must be first published on CD or MP-3 and not first broadcast on radio. If, after publication, the audio was picked up and aired, that is considered a secondary market.

Audio entries must be forty minutes or more in length.

Please send published version (i.e., the audio on CD or MP-3 as marketed) to the judges. If that is not possible, include with your copies of the audio information on publishing.

Audio entries must bear a 2011 copyright.

Contact the IAMTW at tieinwriters@gmail.com for a list of judges to send your entries to.

Giving it Away

0316 Goldberg ecover JUDGEMENTLooking for some action? The Kindle edition of JUDGMENT, the first book in the JURY SERIES, is free for the next five days on the Amazon store. Here's just some of the critical praise for my first published book, originally released as .357 VIGILANTE back in the 1980s…

"This is straight-up men's adventure material {…] So look out, folks! Here comes justice with a big freaking gun!Bruce Grossman, Bookgasm 

"Judgment  has an amped-up, neon-bright,'burning rubber down the main drag doing sixty while blaring Motley Crue so loud you can't even think' sort of quality. And that's how I like it." –Post-Modern Pulps 

"Generous helpings of sex and violent action, along with some smart-aleck dialog. But if you're a fan of Robert B. Parker, Dirty Harry, or the Die Hard movies, you'll have a very good time,"  –J.A Konrath, author of THE LIST and AFRAID 

"Lee Goldberg's The Jury Series serves vengeance hot with loads of action and plenty of suspense to keep you turning the e-pages. Vigilante justice was never so much fun,"  –Joel Goldman, Bestselling author of "Motion to Kill" 

"As stunning as the report of a .357 Magnum, a dynamic premiere effort […] The Best New Paperback Series of the year!" West Coast Review of Books 

This is a really entertaining thrill ride of a story with plenty of sex, violence, humor, social commentary, and great action scenes. Highly recommended. –James Reasoner, bestselling author of "Dust Devils"