Saturday, December 31, 2005

Literary Vampires

I was just corresponding with an online acquaintance of mine, and saw with horror that she had been taken in by

I don't know if any of you are writers, or specifically poets, but there are a number of people out there who are literary vampires, sucking the money and literary lifeblood out of people. The general scam goes like this:

(1) "Enter our writing contest for free!"

(2) You get a letter from them, that reads something like this:"Dear Patsy, I love your poem titled Poor Slob. Thank you for entering it into our free contest. It has already been moved into the semi-finals! Our joy is to discover new talent like yours..." and it goes on in a similar vein.

(3) Your poem is to be published in a GENUINE HARDBACK BOOK! But to get things like a dedication, a photograph, illustrations, biography, etc., you have to pay numerous fees. Oh, and if you WANT a copy of this astounding volume, you have to pay for it (at a premium price!)

(4) You order the book. The "publisher" now knows he has a live one on the other end, and you get a letter a few weeks later that says you are a WINNER. You are invited to come to a remote location, read your poem to hundreds, nay, THOUSANDS of admiring fans and receive a trophy or plaque of some kind. (Of course, all this costs money... the fees are as follows...)

And so it goes.

If you would like to know more about such scams, here are a FEW links:

If you have fallen prey to such an organization (as I did many moons ago, sadly), keep your hand on your wallet!

Tony Burton
Editor, Crime and Suspense ezine
Voice Mail and Fax: (702) 543-8386

See my new cozy mystery, "Blinded by Darkness". Get it in either ebook version or hardcopy at

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Editorial Cruelty

Hmmmmm. Where does one begin? I'm the editor of an ezine, and I really enjoy that. It doesn't make me any money, but it does allow me to get to know and become friends with a lot of people I probably wouldn't otherwise know. I get to read a lot of stuff by new (and established) writers, and it's a great learning process for all concerned, I think.

But at heart I'm a gentle soul, and there are times when the editorial sword is in my hand and I have to think - "This is going to hurt!" I have a review that I have written coming up in next month's issue, where the book probably should not have been put on the street. At least, not yet. It needed heavy copyediting, proofreading, call it what you will. If this was a new publication, or I had an advance review copy in my hand I would think, "Ah, well - the bugs will get straightened out before it goes into full production." But this book has been in print for over two years!

I had a rather protracted debate about the merits of self-publishing versus the "traditional" route with some folks, and it was touched off by my offer to review self-published or small-press books on my ezine/website. I was severely taken to task by a couple of folks for "encouraging" these "talentless hacks who couldn't make it in regular publishing". I was also accused of planning to present only glowing reviews in order to make the self-published books look good. That last part really got my dander up, to use a very old phrase.

So, I made a commitment to give honest reviews. What WAS I thinking???

The first book I received for review turned out to be an editorial nightmare written by someone who attempted to imitate the hard-boiled authors of the thirties, forties and later - but only succeeded in sounding like a cheap knockoff. Unfortunately I had made my editorial bed, and now I had to try to sleep in it.

Thankfully, there are many other self-published and small-press books out there which ARE good reads, which ARE well-written and deserving of glowing reviews. Perhaps it's best, though, that my first one will not glow very much. At least, no one can accuse me of trying to falsely pump up the book.

Tony Burton
Editor, Crime and Suspense ezine

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rainy Vacations and Other Minutiae

My wife and I were down at Hilton Head, SC, visiting with my wife's parents who were down from Wisconsin for a week's vacation. Unfortunately, since it is the wintertime even in sunny South Carolina, the rain was a more or less constant companion. We did have a nice time-share condo with a canal running behind it, and resident alligators. (There is a sign warning us neither to feed nor agitate these large lizards...)

We drove back into the north Georgia mountains yesterday - and it was SO nice to sleep in our own bed once more. Our dog Buddy was staying with my younger daughter, and had been pining/whining for us, so I have been led to believe, so it was good to relieve his canine anxiety as well.

I don't believe I have yet mentioned that I am the editor of an ezine, Crime and Suspense. The link will take you to the home page for the ezine, where you can sign up for the monthly issues that are sent out (FREE) via email. We have some great writers who contribute to the ezine, both new and established authors, experienced and green-as-grass. We also have reviews of published novels and anthologies, writers' helps and a lot of other cool stuff. The December issue has stories by yours truly, Diane Dahlstrom, Gay Kinman, Deanne Boast, Sunny Frazier and Rashid Raza. I'd love to have you come by and visit, and even subscribe. (As I said, it's free.)

I read today where they had arrested some ecoterrorists who had (among many other things)destroyed a plywood and veneer plant back in 2001. The story said there were about 1,200 ecoterror attacks attributed to these two groups: the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

OK, I have to admit it: I drive an SUV. But where and how I live, it's basically a necessity. Other than that, I like to think I am relatively eco-conscious. I recycle cans, bottle, paper and plastic. I limit my trips to town. I buy recycled where possible. So, I feel like a pretty good citizen of the Earth.

But eco-terrorism really gets my back up. As good as the intentions may be, terrorism is not the answer. Education, yes... public protests, yes... even annoying and bothersome things like dumping sludge onto a conference table can be of value. But burning down a plywood and veneer plant, or destroying a power transmission tower - come on, these are acts of TRUE terror, that could destroy lives, and accomplish little else except to mark as extremists all those who would work for peaceful resolution of these issues.

The hypocrisy of such people really gets to me. It's not like there is a large group of people in the United States, or even in the world, who live totally without leaving a footprint on the ecology. Whether you are a suburbanite who commutes to work, or an aborigine who hunts for food, you change the ecology around you. Here's a kicker, too: these two groups, the ELF and the ALF, have websites where they communicate about their causes. Well, gee, folks! The electricity for running all the various parts of the Internet comes from a variety of sources, many of them NON-eco-friendly. Many of the parts for computers are plastic - and NOT recycled plastic - made from petroleum products. And so on. Anyone who is using computers and the Internet to communicate is also having a negative impact on the environment. It's all a matter of degrees, and how much one is willing to compromise.