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2nd Edition Mystic Fire & the Emancipation Proclamation

Posted by bebowreinhard on August 15, 2017 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

The 2nd edition of Mystic Fire is now available. I will admit to some bad feelings while going through first edition to fix errors. I didn’t expect to find so many! In my defense, this was the fastest I ever pulled a novel together. I graduated college in 2006, but actually started work on this novel before I started college. But in 2003, shortly after I’d done some work on it, my laptop was stolen. I didn’t have a backup of the new material and only had a print copy of the previous work. Then I started my master’s in history, and I’m really glad that the novel didn’t emerge until after that. I learned so much about Lincoln that I just knew I had to share it.

It was probably 2008 before I returned to the novel. Because I planned to go to the 2009 Bonanza convention, I wanted to have this novel ready in time, so it only went through four edits before my publisher got it. The amount of editing she did was minimal. She kept telling me not to make it too long, so I went through this 2nd edition with every intention to making it as long as it needed to be. What I ended up doing was a lot of clean-up, clarification and error-fixing -- but it didn’t need to be any longer.

When I initially ran my ideas past David Dortort on this novel in 2005, in order to get the book contracted, he was delighted to learn I knew so much about the Civil War. He was considered a foremost authority on the Civil War in Hollywood during his Bonanza days, and completely agreed with the storyline and my analysis of Lincoln in 1862. He was only sad that my master’s interfered with my completion of the book for so long. But in hindsight, this book would not have emerged with these insights without that degree.

Rather than attempt to make Lincoln look bad, the novel shows what he was like. I never really understood why he would issue an Emancipation Proclamation that didn’t free any slaves except those in the rebellion states, and learned that while he didn’t free the slaves, they began to free themselves. Lincoln instigated their new desires at freedom with his proclamation.

In this 2nd edit, I attempted to fix some readers’ concerns as well as editing errors. For the most part, if some readers didn’t finish, it was because of Margaret’s pregnancy storyline. I tried to soften that a bit, but to be honest, I couldn’t delete it because Adam needed a huge reason to go wandering off in the night, where he’s later kidnapped. I also read it with close eye for why readers had a hard to following the events that happened. Except for the Civil War/slavery storyline, everything else is pretty straightforward, and shouldn’t be difficult, but I did make some basic changes that might help.

As for how confusing Tobias and Sadie are, that’s deliberate. You never really know what their game is, as Adam and Ben are twisted and turned in every way imaginable. It’s deliberate because there was never a more confusing period in our history than the Civil War period. It was impossible to tell who was on whose side, a lot of the time. And here, having slaves be against Lincoln served two purposes: without giving away the plot, Sadie and Tobias are against each other in wondering how to stop Lincoln from sending blacks to other countries, and two, the slavers are alternately from the north, or the south, because of the hidden scheme that Tobias doesn’t completely, in his heart, support.

You see, in 1862 Lincoln didn’t know what to do with the slaves that he wanted to free. Sure, the Emancipation Proclamation only freed them in rebellion states, but Lincoln began to see them freeing themselves and running away, more and more. And Lincoln anticipated a problem with so many freed slaves that he bought into a plan to send them to plantations in Hayti (Haiti) or even back home to Africa, to a place created just for them—Liberia.

So Lincoln is a character in this book, and while the dialog I give him is fiction, the events that are being shown are real. (Get a print copy if you want to see the footnotes.) I also added the historical figures of Mark Twain and General George McClellan. They are voices of the period that would be hard to demonstrate otherwise.

While in Felling of the Sons, all four Cartwrights worked together against a single adversary (when they weren’t recovery from their injuries), I wanted to do something different in Mystic Fire. I wanted the book to reflect the series after Season 2, when more and more the episodes focused on a single Cartwright. Here, each Cartwright has a separate and unique storyline, and it necessitates following each of them at various times throughout the book. Hoss and Hop Sing work together when a mysterious ghostly woman shows up seeking help to keep her husband from murdering her. Joe loses Ben in a prairie fire – Sadie and her children save him by pulling him into the mine shaft where they’re hiding. And Adam gets abducted by the slavers with Tobias; because they plan to make him “walk out of here” once they get him far enough away, and because Tobias tells him things about Lincoln Adam doesn’t believe, Adam pretends to be a muley slave to stay with Tobias. He tells a story to Tobias about why he thought he could pull this off. This is the second criticism readers have had of the book, but I think all Cartwright fans can agree that Adam is darker skinned than the rest of his family. Ben, too, goes back with Sadie to meet with Lincoln and represent big silver interests, but unlike Adam, not as a slave. He at times, though, has to pretend he’s as slave owner, especially as they get closer to New Orleans.

Another element is the return of Marie’s cousin Darcy, the instigator of the plan that needs Ben, or any Cartwright, to come to New Orleans. He figured that Nevada Territory, with its Comstock Lode, would interest Lincoln enough to meet with a Cartwright in New Orleans, and that was their goal—getting Lincoln to New Orleans. Eventually in real life, Lincoln does push Nevada through statehood early, in late 1864, because he wants the silver taxed for the war effort.

As you can see, then, this is a very complicated book, but it’s so filled with action and fun and fact that you shouldn’t mind at all. It simply asks that you accept the research I put into it as valid (because it is), and the Cartwrights’ reactions as real as they are thrust into probably the most unusual situations a Cartwright has ever faced.

 The new cover is on the Kindle but I'm waiting for final approval before publishing the paperback.

The Grimms Introduction

Posted by bebowreinhard on November 26, 2016 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I wrote the following as an introduction in one of the Grimms American Macabre edits, when it was known as Modern Grimms Fairy Tales. See what you think about what you'll find in these pages.





The original Grimms Fairy Tales, according to W. H. Auden in 1944, should be ranked next to the Bible in importance. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm compiled these fairy tales as early as 1823, and Jacob, in searching for a publisher, declared that the intent was to preserve sacred narrative traditions. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, claimed that the original Grimms wrote down the voices of their era, but shaped in a certain fashion, leaving out the criticisms of the prelates, the mayors, landlords and the Church. They were even further cleaned up by the Grimms themselves as they realized their market was less for adults and more for children. The purity of the tales was more important than the message, and even today reflect the purity with which we attempted to raise our children, sanitize them from the reality and protect them from knowledge of potential harm in the world.

     Most of the familiarity with the Grimms Tales is of these cleaned up versions, what one might call Disney-ized. And in today's world, we know how anti-political that is. So you can find today two different versions of original Grimm's tales, but the cleaned-up versions for children lose both impact and interest. And with their villain-ized animals, they lack a certain relevance in today's pro-environmental climate.

     So in presenting Grimm's Modern Fairy tales, the hope is the offer children a more modern look at what a fairy tale can do for them in real life, and that is to demonstrate manners of living and attitude that might help them to cope in ways that even radical TV and cinema still miss. These tales will talk to children of all ages in issues that will mean something to them as they struggle to understand the world around them today.

     Regardless of which political party is in current charge of our lives, there is a continuing need to recognize, in all of us, the potential to live better and more fully with nature, rather than usurping it for greed.

     You won't see this collection cleaned up, for what most young adults and pubescents need, even in these modern times, are stories that educate them on what they are most curious about, the consequence of sexual explorations. You'll find several of those included here, not graphic, but with a certain sensibility that is not shameful. You'll find both light-hearted drama and blood-curdling darkness; in other words, all levels of experience lie between these pages. The beauty is that not all stories are meant to be understood at all ages, but one can return to them again and again and take out a different perspective each time.

     Grimm's Modern Fairy Tales is a collection of short stories meant for the teen and young adult market but created to be a stimulating, mythological, symbolic read for all ages. This collection is meant to pick up where parents left off. Many children have to learn about their growing awareness of sexuality from their peers; from everyone and everywhere, it seems, than from their parents. As a parent of three grown children, I am fully aware of the importance of these conversations, I lacked the authority to know how to get my children to listen.

      Children, it seems, do not want to learn certain things from their parents because it means they have to see parents "that way." To present them with a book like this means that we freely acknowledge that parents cannot do it all for their kids. No message is more important today. No job is more important than parenting, and no job is given us with less training. So there are all kinds of parents vs children stories, only a few of which deal with sex.

     The entertainment value of the human and nature lessons here is of utmost importance, because no one wants to read for entertainment and feel the preacher's breath. There are talking animals, ghosts, and families in disarray, dreams that aren't dreams, and tales of revenge. There are happy endings that don't always seem happy, sad endings that are satisfying, and twisted endings that will leave them with shivers and images for some time to come. Whether the tale is about girls, or boys, or both, they will be enjoyed equally by all because of the insights into the complexity of human nature that are depicted.

      Nor does this collection skirt political issues. Estes claimed that three tales Bluebeard, Thumbelina and the Princess and the Pea, had been so powerful as to have been used to keep up the skirmishes of war. Here in the modern tales we instead look for paths of keeping up the peace and honoring the environment, and find blatant ways to ridicule those who find war a first resort rather than last.

     We also don't abuse animals or nature, the way the original Grimm's tales did. Quite often the animals provided the sad part of their happy endings. Humans could also communicate with animals in a number of their stories, but that communication wasn't necessarily beneficial. Here, if there's a conflict between humans and animals, the animals will win, sometimes allowing humans access to their special knowledge, as symbolic of what happens when humankind believes it can conquer nature.

      Disney adapted a few of the original Grimm's Tales, making fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White American icons, even though these were based on German stories written for the peasants. But often in the adaptation the original message is lost. The golden haired beauty, for instance, is not beautiful in face but in soul. The beauty who is far better than the rest means that her nature and not her face is beautiful, but in the visual telling of the tale, we recognize only the physical beauty. Even Shrek distorted the message by going to the other extreme; by preferring their ogre appearance, they don't understand that it is not the appearance but how you feel inside that counts.

      A number of these modern stories could be adapted without the internal and symbolic message lost; for animation, such as Heart of Ahmalia, Golfer and the Tree, The Three Sisters, Wisdom of the Three, and The Cave Bird. Classy horror films could be made from Traveling Salvation Show, Unleashing the Wolves, Path of the Moon, Someone Else's Shoes or Blessed Are the Bloody. Others could be told as oral stories to young kids for bedtime, such as the Lousy Flea and King Fluffy the Great. Several, though with a sexual theme, should not make any parent hesitate allowing even their pre-teen to have access, especially in today's world. At first, some stories, like Babe In the Woods, may seem controversial but the message that is embedded is of utmost importance for our children, and the health of the world in general.

     The original Grimm's were written for the peasants of the old world to help them escape and dream of riches and empowerment. These modern tales are created for escape back into the world of nature; a reversal, you might say, but also to empower them to make their own choices in life, learning ways to take control of their lives. Filled with bawdy humor, blood-curdling drama and table-turning pranks, this series will help anyone living in today's modern world to relate to their environment just a little bit more. Some of the stories are not modern, it's true, but even in relating tales of moments past we can see bits of our future, and that's what these tales are all about.

     Violence is an important part of the tale, today as well as in the past. We often disdain violence without recognizing its benefit -- that we are to sit up and pay attention to the seriousness of the message. No violence should ever be gratuitous, without a message. Only in this manner today do we see real damage done to fragile psyches. Once we learn this, our tale-telling in Hollywood and elsewhere will take on new meaning.

     Happy endings? That all depends on what you call happy. The purpose of this book is to get us all to sit up and take notice of the world around us, of nature, of love, of what is really meant by the pursuit of happiness. And if we look at happy endings as being the attainment of something we want, we really won't recognize a happy ending when we see it. Look beyond the ending in these stories for the happy ending because that's where it will lie -- in your imagination, where your mind travels beyond the story's end. No reading is worth any value if it takes you nowhere beyond its pages. This is where people today are losing the delight in reading. The original Grimm's tales, before the clean-up, also had a number of tales without happy endings to instead confront us with harsher realities of life. When the package is not neatly wrapped with a happy bow, we have to do a little more thinking on our own, but the end result is so much more satisfying.

      Can children read these stories? For the most part, these are young adult and adult tales. This is the way the book is marketed. However, if a precocious child were to get their hands on this book, they would not be traumatized by it any more than any magic or sorcery book, because the sexual language is well cloaked by symbolism. Only if the child is already familiar with the terms will they understand these certain stories. No lock and key will be needed here.

      So dive in, and expect magic. Because that's what the world is all about today, as it was back in the original Grimms day.



My grandmother, Elizabeth Grimm Bebow, lived in the house on the cover of this book, and the photo shows as it stands today. (I don't know how the bra got in the tree, honest, but how appropriate, so I left it in.) Whether she was actually related to Jacob and Wilhelm is still open to speculation. Here are my efforts to trace these roots so far:


      The distinguished surname Grimm can be traced back to Brandenburg, a region that eventually expanded to incorporate the Rhineland, Westphalia, Hannover, parts of Saxony, Pomerania, Silesia, and Hessen. The Germanic Semnonen tribe lived here, then the Slavic tribe of the Heveler, who held this territory until the arrival of the Christian Saxons.


     The name Grimm became noted for its many branches within the region, each house acquiring a status and influence which was envied by the princes of the region. In their later history the name became a power unto themselves and were elevated to the ranks of nobility as they grew into this most influential family.


     The family name grew to the same dimensions as the population explosion in the 16th century. They established branches in Bohemia, Basel, Bavaria, Austria and Solothurn, Switzerland. Their special interests were political, military and religious. Notables were the Count Grimm von Bentheim and the Bohemian Knights of 1859. Jacob (1785-1863) and his brother Wilhelm Grimm(1786-1859), born in Hessen, were the founders of folklore as well as historians of the German language. Their dictionary and collection of fairy tales are world famous. Hermann Grimm (1828-1901), son of Wilhelm, became known as an art and literature historian, whose works were translated into several languages.


      Prussia became a haven for political and religious refugees, including Salzburg Protestants and the French Huegonauts.


      Andreas Grimm came to Philadelphia in 1736. Heinrich Grimm, with his wife Barbara Mohler, came to either Carolina or Pennsylvania in 1772. August Grimm, 41, came to Winterhill, Massachusetts, in 1778. Joseph Grimm came to Texas in 1846. Hans Grimm (1875-1959) from Lower Saxony, was a nationalist writer in the twenties.


     Grandmother was, unfortunately, not too anxious to talk about her family history, and I was not yet writing this book when she died so there was an opportunity missed. I do know that her parents' names were Hans Jacob (H.J.) Grimm and Wiebeva Elsabea Dorothea (Dora) (Kolpein). The town of Grimms (where this house was located) in Wisconsin was not named after our Hans Jacob Grimms but after a different H.J. Grimms, or so the story goes (certain relation claim this but without source of this knowledge). They referred to Grimms as the village.


     I welcome anyone's input on the family tree of Grimms. How fun it would be to establish this connection! And if it turns out we are not related, the name is still valid, as are the tales.


     And finally thanks to all who read, for remaining young at heart.




Why Bonanza Novels are Studied in College

Posted by bebowreinhard on April 16, 2015 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (2)

I haven’t been able to get my huge nonfiction book published—I write history that is human and very real, and at times the truth that’s uncovered can be uncomfortable. But we cannot learn from history without application of human attitude that created the history to begin with.

I think this is being sensed even in my fiction novels.

University of Maryland at Baltimore was the first college to make Felling of the Sons required reading. The professor told me she was a major Bonanza fan and for the reasons that I am—those very real people we never hear about in real history stories. This TV series used a lot of true history that the Cartwrights became involved in. 

She hosted me at one of their class sessions to discuss this novel, and one of the students showed skepticism with the material. “But cowboys and Indians were never friends in real life, right?”

I was very happy to set them straight on this. I spent 20 years researching and writing the war experiences of a great-uncle between 1862 and 1884, and I can tell you that there were more friendships between cowboys and cavalry and Indians than anyone has led us to believe. I told them what Henry told as his family legacy: “We didn’t try hard to catch the Indians, we could see they were good people.”

This huge Henry nonfiction would make great campus reading because I strive to tell the history that falls between two opposing sides; this is where the truth is found. But that book, for perhaps its more controversial stance of what really happened, has not yet found a publisher.

Much of what I learned with Henry came in later years and can be found more completely revealed in Mystic Fire, which has yet to be chosen as campus reading; I hope it will be, because it is perfectly designed for that kind of study, with more dedicated footnotes.

Being chosen by the University of Maryland was the biggest honor I could have imagined for a Bonanza novel, even one dedicated to truth and history as mine are. But it had begun to feel a bit like a fluke, until my publisher told me that a college in the UK had recently made a major purchase of Felling of the Sons. The location doesn’t surprise me. England, and Germany especially, boast of having a lot of Bonanza fans—they are enamored of American western history and its native Indians in particular. The cowboy culture in America (including Mexico) is quite distinct. Henry himself was a German soldier with an affinity for the Indian culture, but that doesn’t quite explain why he would have called the Indians good people. Certainly his direct experience with them could have altered that perception.  So what he said was based on what he observed.

But what is it about Felling of the Sons in particular that would have encouraged these colleges to have students read it? Is it just because of the American history that is included, with characters that they are already familiar with?

There are elements of American western history that were very well researched for this novel, including cattle driving, the Paiute culture, timbering and silver mining. Any one of these elements by itself could teach students about life in 1860 in the West. For instance, I go into some detail about the Paiute war that happened that year and the repercussions. There is also a good deal of information about the gold strike in Coloma, California on Sutter’s land, because the “villain” was someone Ben knew in his early days with Sutter.

One could also study what a real “bad guy” was like – not a stereotypical one- dimensional character, but someone who had a real life before things went wrong. It’s a study of how a man refuses to take responsibility and blames others. We all know people like that. It’s also a study of two fathers and the opposing ways they raised their sons. I call it a psychological historical novel, not a western.

I was told once by a fellow member of Western Writers of America that I should have changed the title of the book because most people won’t “get it.” But the title’s intelligence is indicative of what is found inside. All three of the sons face being “cut down” by the villain, creating an atmosphere of pain and survival that is so important in western history. Here Ben finds all three of his sons’ lives are at risk. One of the most important things about the Bonanza TV series in its time, and today, is the fact that Ben showed us how to love all our children equally. What does Ben do when his sons are all out there and he can only choose to go after one of them? That is a question for the ages. I don’t know if even the book provided that answer. Maybe you can tell me.

When I write, I take the time to craft a very dimensional book because I want people to want to read it more than once. But this is also a fiction novel that is not in the least intimidated by the subjective questioning that can happen on a college campus. I welcome its inclusion in the study of American history everywhere, and ask that Mystic Fire also be considered, as a way to look at what Lincoln was really like in 1862.




Pen In Cheek

Posted by bebowreinhard on June 14, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Enough already, all you writers with all your great successes. Do you ever for a moment stop to think that maybe some of us aren’t doing so well and feel even more miserable to learn that you’ve finally found that magical spot in the book world where you belong? Do you enjoy leaving the rest of us behind?

Oh, I know what you’ll say. But I’m only try to get people to buy my work. Oh really? So it isn’t enough that you’ve published, now you actually want to make money, too? Heavens. Before you know it, there’ll be no room for anyone else, and you won’t care, because you’re off there somewhere rolling in your dough.

Yes, I know how rich all you successful writers are. Why do you think I’m trying so hard to make it? I have bills, too. And they’re stacking up!

You know it doesn’t matter if I buy your book. That’s not going to get me any closer to publication. And take your advice? What good’s that gonna do me? I don’t have your flare for words. I just have these ten sentences that are basically the same but arranged differently, that’s all. Hey, haven’t you always said there’s no such thing as a bad writer, only one that doesn’t try?

Well, I try. Every day I take these ten sentences, rearrange them, re-submit and what do I get for my trouble? The publisher says, sorry we’re all filled up publishing GOOD stuff! How do you think that makes me feel?

I don’t know why I bother telling you. You’re not sympathetic. You forgot you were once where I am. You forgot that someone had to help you along the way, but now you’re just stepping on us poor unpublished … what? You’re 60? You’ve been a writer for 40 years? Oh, sure, now you’re just trying to make me quit!

Have patience? Shudder.


Why You'll Like - Or Not - Mystic Fire

Posted by bebowreinhard on July 10, 2012 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

When I first conceptualized this second Bonanza novel, my first concern was to differentiate it from Felling of the Sons. I knew I could never recreate the feeling that I get, personally, reading that book. I put all the Cartwrights in danger, and gave them hurt and pain, to the point I could feel it myself.

But I didn’t want to do that again. There are fans, too, who dislike these kinds of storylines.

Also, since I was setting Mystic Fire two years in the future from Felling, I felt I needed to capture what the TV show itself did two years later—and that was focusing on individual storylines for the four Cartwrights. I call this an ‘epic saga’ because that’s exactly what it is. It is like getting four novels in one.

Now that can be a bit disconcerting to a reader, constantly going off in a new direction almost every other page. If I did it right, the story lines are different enough so that you do not get lost. If the majority of readers get lost, then I failed, and my editor failed.

I have heard from readers who will choose their favorite storyline, and using that as their focus and almost breezing through the rest of it. I heard from one reader who completely skipped the Joe storyline because “I never liked him.” But even if you do this the first time you read it, try reading it again. I’ll bet it gets easier. I like writing novels that you want to read more than once.

Because here’s the thing—the four storylines are meant to go together. It may not seem like it at times, but it is. Skipping even one storyline means you miss most of what the novel is about.

This novel is about family—and together or separate, you will always get this intense feel of family devotion, just like in Felling of the Sons.

But this novel demands more reader involvement. You have to let yourself get drawn in. Without that determination, right from the start, to accept these four worlds as being real and valid as I created them, then please save your money. Because each and every one of the four storylines are valid, in their own way.

Now – here’s a spoiler. Here’s a reason I believe a lot of readers are not mature enough for Mystic Fire. I have not ever anywhere warned anyone about this particular feature of the book before. One reason is that my publisher warned against doing this. She thought having sales was better than having satisfied customers. But as it stands, I have neither. And I would rather have satisfied readers.

I created a number of characters for this novel. True, I use real-life figures like Lincoln, McClellan, and even Mark Twain. There are several women created as sideline romances for each of the Cartwrights. But I needed one event, one romance, to be so devastating to Adam that he goes walking off into the night, during a party, and stays out all night. By morning, a runaway slave has found him and asks for his help. A short time later both are abducted by slavers and taken east. That is the Cartwright involvement in the Civil War. And from there, so much is shared about what the Civil War was like in 1862 and what Lincoln was like.

What was this devastation? Margaret comes back into his life. They’d known each other five years before but she and her father left suddenly one day, never to return. Adam feels himself falling for her again and is not ready to hear her tell him that she had been pregnant—that her father had raped her. Adam asks where the child is now. And she tells him that when it was born—she didn’t even know its sex—her father strangled it and buried it. She never even saw it.

Adam can’t handle it and walks away. Margaret becomes overwhelmed with guilt when she learns he is missing and she becomes a connecting figure between the four storylines.

Now, as a reader, you have to be mature enough to accept that these things happened. And probably still do happen. And you have to be able to forgive Margaret and even root for her as the heroine who deserves happiness.

You have to accept the reasoning that Adam decides that pretending to be a muley slave is the only way to save his neck, but he’s also curious about the runaway’s story.

Yes, you may have some discomfort during the novel. That’s deliberate on my part. I don’t think anyone should ever just breeze through a novel and emerge at the other end unscathed.

Consider yourself scathed when you read Mystic Fire. And now, in the future, I never want to hear anyone say they couldn’t get through it. Now, consider yourself warned.

Mystic Fire will burn you – with knowledge, truth, angst, spirit, humor and the effects of family devotion.

Oh, and by the way, that ‘stinky hole’ in the beginning? That’s what mystery writers would call a red herring.


Writing Contracts Analyzed

Posted by bebowreinhard on January 30, 2012 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

You've got a book done, you've been submitting awhile and finally someone sends you a contract! Are you excited? Of course!

Before you sign on that web generated line, however, please read the contract. Make sure you can live with its requirements. They are not all created equally, even if the publisher insists otherwise. And many of the smaller presses aren’t that good at putting a contract together.

I recently rejected a contract for my vampire novel. There was a clause that said they could make substantial changes and the author would have no recourse if they decided to publish the novel with the changes. I couldn’t do that to my vampire Arabus Drake, a creation of mine that I spent many years of research on.

What that clause in the contract means is they want to take your rough gem and make changes to make the book publishable. When I turned the contract down, I did so with the belief that I am the only one with the proper vision of what that novel is to be. I can’t have some stranger meddling in my vision, and then saying if I don’t like it, they’re going to publish it anyway.

I want a publisher that likes what I have as it is—if I wanted to sell them an idea, I’d sell them an idea.

That’s what a contract does—it spells out exactly what to expect in the months ahead. A contract I recently signed with Sunbury Press noted that if they fail to produce a book in 6 months, without reasonable excuse, the contract will be canceled. In the one I didn’t sign, they ask for 18 months to publish the book, during which time, of course, those substantial changes could be made. There was also a clause that gave them the copyright of your book if they created so many changes that it basically became theirs.

Know what you’re signing. Swallow your excitement. Be sure you’re getting what you want. If you have that idea and don’t mind the total rewrite, then that kind of contract will appeal to you. It did not appeal to me.

The royalties as state in the contract should be reasonable for the market. Another contract I rejected wanted to give me 10% for ebooks, where most publishers offer between 30 and 70%.

What rights are they asking for in the contract? Don’t allow them to take all rights—unless there ‘s a clause that tells you that after a certain amount of time, if they’ve not been able to produce anything with your project, they return the rights back to you. And even then, there had better be a good amount of money attached. A clause like this is often used to option a book or screenplay to be made into a movie, for instance. When you’re optioned, you’re given anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 to give them exclusive and often complete rights, but make sure those rights are returned to you if they fail to produce the movie. Optioning is bread and better for most Hollywood writers.

Some further resources:

I noted that none of these talked about the experiences that I’ve recently had. These are all pretty generic. I will continue to include my experiences here and would love to hear yours. We can learn more by people who are actually dealing with contracts, and signing away their projects.

For instance, I had another contract offered me that stated that if for any reason I wanted out of the contract, after seeing the editing, for example, then I would have to pay them up to $1,000, or they would publish it anyway. This is similar to the other one, and when I asked the reasoning to this, they said that often authors will take the book that they edited, reject the publishing contract and go on to self-publish this nicely edited book.

What writer would do that?

They also did not allow you to reject the cover they created. If you did, you’d have to pay them to create a new one. I don’t know how other authors feel about this but the cover is of extreme importance to the sale of a book. I looked at the covers of the books at their site and was not impressed. I did not sign that contract.

There’s a good discussion here on transferring copyright, which is not something I noted in any contract. But this is vital to have an understanding of, so read this. With my next contract, I’ll be turning back to this link again: I’ll end this discussion with a quote from this link, which is very fitting to my experiences:

Small presses, unfortunately, may be less willing to negotiate their contracts than bigger, more professional publishers. However, if you receive a contract that's full of omissions and/or bad clauses, negotiation probably isn't the answer anyway. A publisher's contract says a lot about its attitude toward authors and the business of publishing. Even if you could get the publisher to remove the termination fee and the temporary copyright transfer, and option only your next work in the same genre, do you really want to go with a publisher for which such demands are the default position?

I know I wouldn’t. I found the door and walked away.