Friday, March 29, 2013

Leave Lucrezia Panciatichi Alone!

Have a look at the portrait to the right. If you are into horror, history or just plain weirdness, you may recognize her as Elizabeth Báthory, the "Blood Countess," who reportedly had hundreds of virgins slain so she could bathe in their blood and retain her youthful appearance. Someone's clever caption certainly supports that identification.

But this is not Elizabeth Báthory. The mesmerizing young lady is actually Lucrezia Panciatichi, a woman who lived in Florence at the height of the Italian Renaissance. The painting is by Agnolo di Cosimo, commonly called Il Bronzino or just Bronzino.

So why do so many believe this is a portrait of the Blood Countess? Well, once again the internet seems to have gotten something wrong. I don't know who started it, but do a Google image search for "Elizabeth Báthory" and this image is the first on the page. You will find it repeated over and over again as you scroll down.

Granted, one would probably not question the misattribution if one saw it, so does it really matter? Absolutely it does. Like anything else, our cultural legacy depends not only on transmitting information but transmitting the correct information. And to do that, one cannot simply accept the information one is given; too many arguments, misunderstandings and just plain stupidity have resulted from people believing things that are not true, and had they done a little research the entire mess could have been avoided.

I will acknowledge paintings are hard to check for veracity. If someone misattributes a painting, how do you know? You can't very well type a description of a painting into Google and get reliable results. But so much other information about society, science and history can be easily discovered with a little finger-work. Next time do the finger-work, and leave Lucrezia Panciatichi alone.

Edit: If you're a nerd like me and are into not only Renaissance art but also 19th Century literature, this portrait gets a mention in The Wings of the Dove by Henry James. The main character is said to have a striking resemblance to the woman in the portrait.

Monday, March 25, 2013

101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing -- 005: Play for the Endgame

As an independent writer, you may sometimes feel like you're doing an incredible amount of work for very limited results. In addition to writing your books, revising them, coming up with cover ideas and seeing that your work is properly edited, you also have to constantly promote yourself. If the many hours you spend on this each week are amounting to only a handful of sales, it can seem like you'll never get anywhere.

If this is you, as it has been me many times in the past, I find that looking at what you're doing form a different perspective can sometimes help. If you've read my books, you may have picked up on the fact that I am a chess enthusiast. A chess game is divided into three parts: the opening, the middlegame and the endgame. Depending on where you are in your career, you may be in any of these stages. But chess players know that your ultimate goal is to play so that you enter the endgame in a strong position.

So how can this help you as a writer? Well, of the possible twenty first moves in a chess game, sixteen of them are simply advancing a pawn. Pawns are the weakest piece in the game, and amateur players will often see them as merely an impediment to getting their more powerful pieces out into the center of the board. But at the highest levels of play, the loss of a single pawn can lose the game.

When you are just starting out as a writer, the seemingly simple and inconsequential things you are doing--the things that don't seem to be producing any results--are your opening pawn moves: building up your Twitter followers, writing interesting blog articles that get people to your site, befriending established independent authors. Even before you publish your first book, you have to lay the groundwork that will carry you beyond the opening and into the middle game and, ultimately, the endgame.

In both chess and a career as an independent writer, there are both bad and good moves. These articles I'm writing, as well as the articles written by many other authors more successful than I, are designed to help you make the right moves. I know that it can be hard spending your days working yourself to exhaustion while watching your sales remain stagnant, but remember that you are still making your opening moves.

So when do you enter the middlegame? When do you begin making moves that have more immediate results? Well, I now have three novels and a short story collection published, and I feel that I am only now entering my middlegame. My books are my rooks and knights and bishops. Just as I have slowly been developing my pawn base over the past year and a half, now I must carefully position my more valuable pieces. I do that by making sure they are well-edited and professional in appearance. Don't send your novel off into danger by putting it out there before it is ready. It is at this stage that you must be even more careful; now the stakes are higher. A poorly-received novel could be a major setback at this stage, just as losing a piece to a foolish move can lose your chess game.

Fortunately, writing is more forgiving than chess. Many is the chess game I've won or lost due to a single mistake. As a writer, you can recover from an early setback; there is no game-ending move. But there's no reason you should have to suffer that setback if you make the right moves.

Novice chess players will often develop their pieces too soon, sending them off into enemy territory to threaten the opponent's pieces. If the opponent has carefully protected his pieces, these are wasted moves and gives the other player what is called tempo. Basically, he now has the freedom to move and make you respond to him. As an author, you can keep the tempo fairly easily: be active in the community, try to produce new work--even if they are just short stories--regularly, keep writing interesting blog articles, run sales and promotions. I find that it's a good idea to always have something going on, something that keeps people thinking about you.

Eventually, you will get to the endgame. It may take years, but if you've positioned your pieces carefully, you will enter it in a strong position to achieve your goal: in chess, checkmate. In writing, a successful career. The important thing is to keep that goal in mind from the very beginning. Don't let the loss of a piece, or a month of poor sales, divert your attention from that goal. You will constantly face hardships, your position will always be under attack. But when you move that final piece that wins you the game, you will know that everything you've done up to that point helped contribute to your victory. Don't let short-term mistakes or losses discourage you, and don't give up, no matter how long you have to fight for it. Play for the endgame.

If you're enjoying the series so far and would like a single page to bookmark, I'll be adding each of my 101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing here. Also be sure to subscribe by email (see the box in the sidebar) to be automatically notified about my new posts.

You might also be interested in my eBook, Building a Promotional Package: How to Prepare for Your Successful Book Launch. Details about it can be found here.

Michael K. Rose

Did you like this post? Tweet it! Just copy and past the following to your Twitter account:

How is writing like a game of chess? Read Pt. 5 of the 101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing series by @MichaelKRose!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spectrum of Speculative Fiction Blog Hop: Three Must-Read Science Fiction Short Stories

Hello, all! I'm very excited to be a part of the Spectrum of Speculative Fiction Blog Hop. My focus will be on science fiction short stories and, keeping with the theme, I am offering an eBook copy of my collection Short Stories to one lucky winner. Entering is easy: just follow my blog by entering your email address in the "Follow by Email" box in the sidebar to the right. I'll email the winner on Monday, March 11.


From the very beginning, science fiction writers as a whole have produced some of the best work in the genre in the form of short stories. Some of the most popular and prolific fiction magazines of the twentieth century focused on science fiction and its speculative fiction brethren. Science fiction short stories launched the careers of many of the genre's greatest writers--Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Sturgeon--and while short stories in general seem to be slowly fading from public consciousness, with many mainstream magazines have reduced or eliminated their fiction section, science fiction short stories still enjoy a decent amount of popularity. There are three major print magazines and countless online magazines offering new fiction every month.

I think one of the reasons for the success science fiction has seen in the short story form is due to the very nature of the genre. Science fiction writers love exploring new and different ideas. When the answers to the "What if?" question that every writer asks spans the entire breadth of time and space and even cross over into parallel realities, it makes sense that the short story--which allows a writer to explore so many more ideas--would be a medium of choice.

For those who aren't too familiar with the long and fascinating history of science fiction, there is a book that everyone even slightly interested in the genre should read. It is called The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume I. First published in 1970, its goal was to present in one volume the very best short stories that science fiction had to offer. I've read through the entire collection and have re-read several of my favorite stories, and I would like to offer up just three of those as absolute must-reads.

"A Martian Odyssey" by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Isaac Asimov considered this story to be a work that changed the way all subsequent stories in the genre were written. It is, at its heart, a basic adventure story, but Weinbaum's imaginative descriptions of the life on Mars is both fascinating and delightful. I'm a big fan of Weinbaum, and if you enjoy "A Martian Odyssey," be sure to check out his other stories, most of which can be downloaded for free from Amazon or Project Gutenberg. More information can be found here.

"Nightfall" by Isaac Asimov

This story explores a very basic idea: what would happen to a people who experience true darkness for the first time? The planet of Lagash is located in a solar system with six suns. Approximately every two thousand years, the suns align in such a way that the only visible sun is eclipsed by another planet. The story is both fascinating and chilling. It explores what people--even alien people--are capable of when everything they believed to be true about their world is upended.

"Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes

I am not ashamed to admit that I cry every time I read this story. Unlike "A Martian Odyssey" or "Nightfall," it takes place on Earth and exposes a side of our society that we all know exists and, unfortunately, will probably always exist. Told from the point of view of Charlie Gordon, a mentally handicapped man, "Flowers..." follows the mental and psychological changes he undergoes after participating in an operation to make him more intelligent. If you have not read this story, I do not think it goes too far to say that it will change the way you look at the world, especially those who are different through no fault of their own. You can read more of my thoughts here.


Don't forget to enter the giveaway by following my blog by email. And if you're interested in my other work, click on any of the banners in the sidebar to the right to read more about my books. Also be sure to check out the rest of the blogs listed below.

All the Best,
Michael K. Rose

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

CHRYSOPTERON: Only 99¢ Until the End of March

Hello, all! For the rest of the month, I've decided to put my novel Chrysopteron on sale for just 99 cents (or your country's equivalent thereof). It's received great reviews so far, and I personally think it's the best thing I've written to date. Despite that, sales have been a little slow, and I really want you all to have a chance to read it.

Chrysopteron is available at all Amazon Kindle stores as well as Barnes & Noble's Nook store (See links below).

Praise for Chrysopteron

"A masterpiece." - 5-Star Review

"Chrysopteron is a 'golden-winged' gem of a novel and one that cements worlds imagined into the conscious dream of worlds yet seen." - 5-Star Review

"This tale is woven expertly, filled with intrigue, suspense, and grips onto you to the very end. If you have not read any of this author's work, you are missing out! This is a definite must read."

"The scenes are vivid, and Michael K. Rose has a keen sense of pacing. He knows just when to do a quick cut to the next scene to keep the story moving quickly. This is very, very well-written."

The Sullivan Series: "A Must Read for Any Science Fiction Fan"

I'm honored by reviews like the one you see quoted in the title of this post. When I first set out to write Rick Sullivan's story, I had no idea that it would be so enthusiastically received. But my journey with Rick Sullivan will soon be coming to an end. The final book in the series, Sullivan's Watch, will be out this summer, so now is a great time to catch up on the first two books, Sullivan's War and Sullivan's Wrath. Just click on the links below to be taken to the Amazon or Barnes & Noble store of your choice to purchase eBook copies for your Kindle or Nook. Sullivan's War is also available in print, and you can order a signed copy here. Thanks again to all my readers, especially those who have taken the time to review.

Get Sullivan's War at:

Get Sullivan's Wrath at:

Praise for the Series:

"[A]n exciting and fast moving story, that will delight science fiction readers." - Review of Sullivan's War

"A must read for any Science Fiction fan." - Review of Sullivan's War

"A very worthy sequel and a Hell of a story." - Review of Sullivan's Wrath

Monday, March 4, 2013

101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing -- 004: Build a Website

In Thought 002, I recommended that you write a blog. Your blog is where you write articles to stay connected with your audience, announce new releases, hold contests, etc. However, I would also recommend an "official" website. The information on your website will be more static that your blog and will, first and foremost, showcase your books and provide easy-to-find links where a reader can buy them. It's a good idea to have this information on your blog, too, but your website will be your professional web presence.

Let's begin with a domain name. If it is available, get a .com domain name with the name you publish under. My domain name is If your name is already taken, try to get something that represents you and your work and, most importantly, is easy to remember and easy to type.

Once you get your domain name, you'll want to create an engaging home page. Have a look at my website here. Right away you'll see my major works prominently displayed with banners. There are many ways you can organize the information on your website's home page, but I would strongly recommend that the information be visual, as with my banners, or with the full covers of your books. Let readers be compelled not just by the words but by the images as well.

You'll also notice that I have visible, accessible links to my social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter and my blog. Give readers an easy way to not only click over to your books but stay connected with you as well. I've seen some author websites with very confusing or limited links. On some I could not find direct links to Amazon product pages, on others I could not find any way to contact or connect with the author. Make it easy for your readers. Make sure links are clearly distinguishable from the rest of the text by making them a different color. Use the widely-recognized Facebook and Twitter icons to draw your readers' attention toward them.

Finally, you'll see a list of products available in my web store. If your website package has the capability, I'd recommend setting up a store. Lots of readers like signed copies; give them the option to put a permanent, physical reminder of you and your work in their homes.

Let's look a little more at my website. If you click on any of the banners on my website's homepage, you'll be taken directly to a page dedicated to that book. Here is the page for Sullivan's War. Again, you will see that I have put something visually interesting--the book cover--on the page. I have also included the official book description that you will find on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble product pages as well as easy-to-click buy buttons. Finally, I have included some quotes from reviews of Sullivan's War. When you do this, I think it is important to link to the actual review so readers can see the rest of it. If the review appeared on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, this has the added benefit of taking readers to a site where they can buy the book.

The rest of my site has what you would expect: An "About" section with a brief bio and links to some interviews I've given, plus a page dedicated to reviews of my work. I need to update the interviews and reviews section, but you can look at them and get an idea.

Now, I'm far from being an expert on web design, and I'll reiterate that these are self-publishing thoughts, not tips. Still, I think that if your website has these basic elements, it'll give you a solid, professional-looking home on the internet. What else do you think should be included on an author's website? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Just leave a comment below.

If you're enjoying the series so far and would like a single page to bookmark, I'll be adding each of my 101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing here. Also be sure to subscribe by email (see the box in the sidebar) to be automatically notified about my new posts.

You might also be interested in my eBook, Building a Promotional Package: How to Prepare for Your Successful Book Launch. Details about it can be found here.

All the Best,
Michael K. Rose

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Release: The Human Body, a Psychological Horror Short Story

Hello, all! This is just a short update to let you know that I have a new story out called The Human Body. I think you will find it to be similar in tone to "The Tunnel" and "Pedro X." from the collection Short Stories.

The Human Body

The human body is highly resilient, but what happens when a man's own body decides to betray him? Ted, after struggling with weight issues his entire life, is about to find out.

This psychological horror short story contains language and situations which may not be appropriate for some readers.

Available at:
and all other Amazon Kindle stores.