We interrupt this regularly-scheduled Writer’s Blog for a Special Message from a Middle Kingdom Librarian…..

That would be me.

I’m going to toss that out there with this by way of explanation. I never went to Library School. Now, while I wait for the murmurs and under-the-breath mutterings of incompetency to die down, I’ll say this: in the State of Alaska, the towns and cities that aren’t quite small enough to be villages but aren’t quite big enough to be “large cities,” have their libraries classified, by the Alaska State Library, as “Middle Kingdom Libraries.” Now, when I first heard that, I beamed, “Does that come with a sword? Because, that would be all sorts of AWESOME if it came with a sword.”

“No,” Aja replied.

“Oh, well, then,” I continued, “may I put it on my business card instead?”

“Yes,” was the answer.

Between you and me, I’d much rather have the sword so I could come over all “Conan The Librarian” if the mood struck: I will SHUSH your BUTT.

Well, not really…

And, as in uffish thought she stood,
Macmillan, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

In defense of smaller libraries, I shall be raising my vorpal sword and taking a whack at a manxome foe who, after years of dealing with libraries, still does not quite understand what it is that libraries do for publishers. Macmillan, to add insult to injury before the ALA Mid-Winter Conference in Seattle, came out with an announcement that they were going to make “more backlist titles available as ebooks to libraries,” but with added restrictions and caveats. Their rule is 52 circulations or two years, whichever comes first.

Dear Macmillan: What’re you, nuts? I mean, 52 circulations is laughable because I don’t think you realize how much your books in many libraries are NOT in demand.

As library-specific ebooks, well, the lending gets difficult if the books are dedicated on a library-owned Kindle, Nook, or iPad, and smaller libraries do not have the wherewithal to keep databases of ebooks for download. That’s pretty much what services like Overdrive do for consortiums of state libraries. If I did have the wherewithal to keep a stable of ebooks available for patron download, guess what? 52? It might take eight or nine years to hit that number in a small, rural library. When I purchase a physical book, I look for titles that will garner six to ten circulations. In a town of 1,400, that’s a rave for a book. If you, as a publisher, are looking to cut me off after two measly years of ebook ownership where the book will maybe garner eight to ten circs, guess what? You’re doing me a disservice, and if I were the author, I would be in your office asking if your meds are current. If you told me your meds were “just fine,” I would be publishing elsewhere because it’s pretty clear you don’t give a rip about your authors who are trying desperately to build a readership. Taking books out of the hands of the public in general and librarians in particular is bad policy and here’s why…

In a typical library in a typical small town patrons come in, check out books, and go out. When they come back after a particularly good read, they want to know about similar authors. Where do they get that information? Well, it comes from the library staff. Do you like Baldacci? Here, read some Flynn. Do you like Cornwell? Wow–you should check out Dietrich. Are you understanding this yet? Librarians sell books. And we do sell books–not just the idea of books. Let me let you in on a little secret. No, really, come closer. Ready? If a patron finds an author at the library who is a particularly good fit, guess what that patron will do? BUY THE BOOKS — ALL OF THEM. I know, I know, it’s all so shocking and unbelievable, but, there you go. If you want to take books out of the hands of librarians, well, then we can’t recommend them, patrons can’t want more (and most times, it’s not in our budgets to give patrons everything they want, so they end up BUYING BOOKS!), and your sales slip. In librarians, publishers have honest PR people who have unique relationships with individuals in their communities, who are trusted and respected, who are not seen as slick market-manipulators, and who can SELL BOOKS. It costs publishers nothing for this kind of service, but time and again, they kick and punch at libraries like we’re the anti-Christ come to tear their kingdoms down.

And before anyone gets the idea that, oh, poor publishers are only getting $9.95 for an ebook that will never wear out (don’t get me started on shoddy physical book production these days) and libraries are just mean because they don’t want a level playing field … I’d crawl over broken glass on my tongue for that price. Library ebooks run anywhere from $40 to $159 depending on the publisher and title. Shocked? I was–and so was every other librarian in the Overdrive training a few months ago. Actually, “aghast” is a better word. There was complete and utter silence as we let the numbers sink in. $159 for one book. In a library with a materials budget of less than $10,000.00, $159 for one ebook is more than significant. The idea that you’re just renting that ebook for 2 years elevates it as a concept piece to the level of stupidity. Well, maybe “stupidity” isn’t the correct word, but it’s an increasingly dubious expenditure of public funds. What am I — Congress? Ten ebooks would have the potential to eat up 16% of my overall budget. That’s not good fiscal policy for a small library in a community with diverse tastes.

This is not the place where I raise the sword and bellow out some “St. Crispin’s Day!” speech followed by a cry for corporate anarchy. Far from it. I want authors to make money (I actually want authors to make more money than publishers). I look at other materials the library purchases–namely DVDs. Did you know libraries pay for public performance rights for their DVDs? Every year I pay dues to the Motion Picture Association for the ability to lend and screen movies at the library. Maybe that’s what’s missing in ebooks. Maybe it shouldn’t be a “we’re-going-to-gouge-you-and-make-this-whole-deal-unpalatable-and-beyond-your-means” thing. Maybe it should be a pay to play type of thing. I pay what I pay for movies, and then pay the dues to MPA. While everyone may not be perfectly happy, at least no one is going to summarily confiscate every DVD or VHS in the library. What’s scary about ebooks is that there’s a bit of control on the devices that goes beyond having a physical copy. What’s to stop a publisher or Amazon or Baker-Taylor from just deleting a book from the collection? You may call it paranoia, but Amazon has done it before. It’s why many people don’t “trust” ebooks–libraries included.

Bottom line: Cut it out. Stupid is as stupid does, and limiting access to purchased materials for libraries is as stupid as it gets. I don’t think publishers actually hang out in libraries. That’s a shame. They should. They’d quickly see that librarians are some of their best advocates. And they don’t even have to pay us for it.



Welcome Author Michelle Muto With Her New Release THE HAUNTING SEASON

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Michelle Muto to A Diamond in the Dark! Michelle is the author of three books: Don’t Fear the Reaper, The Book of Lost Souls, and her newest release The Haunting Season. While she was born in Chicago, she’s found herself and her voice in the southeastern part of the United States; she currently resides in NE Georgia, and it is her newest book, set in Savannah, Georgia and Asheville, North Carolina that positively shows her affinity for her surroundings. The Haunting Season oozes the charm of Savannah, and by “ooze” I don’t mean in a charming way. I mean there’s history in that city, and all the houses have eyes, but Siler House not only has eyes, but ears and a pulse and it’s watching you. YOU! Yes, YOU! Right there — so don’t leave the book open too long … You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not. There’s something so richly disturbing and palpable in the story that you’ll find yourself re-reading it. I did.

The book compelled me (yes, you read that correctly) to leave the following review on Amazon, where I purchased the book for my Kindle App on my phone. Yes. I read the book on my ‘Droid. Talk about a page-turner, I couldn’t flip through it fast enough!

Michelle Muto has crafted a riveting page-turner that will engage YAs and older fans of YA Lit. Her characters are real, breathing individuals with unique voices. The dialog is never muddled. The reader always knows which character is speaking–even without the use of dialog tags. That’s an art–because dialog is more than he said, she said. It is mannerism and inflection, it’s how a character reacts and the choice of words. Four young adults in a creepy situation–a house with eyes and ears that gets beneath the skin and wants …. needs … everything… There were times in the reading that I felt physically uncomfortable (that’s a good thing!), and swore I saw things out of the corner of my eye. At the outset, I’ll admit to thinking, “oh, please, how scary can this be?” Well, I gave up reading it at night. The stark light of day made it a little bit easier. I could NOT read it before going to sleep. It got just that disturbing. But it’s all good, because that’s what you WANT in a story like this. The settings were lush–the book invoked Savannah beautifully, eerily. The reader is drawn to the house, just as the characters are drawn. It’s a difficult book to put down. If you’re brave enough, try it on a dark and stormy night. If you’re like me and not quite that brave, go for it in the light of day in your favorite coffee shop surrounded by people. But, no matter HOW you take this wonderful dose of horror, make sure you take it. You don’t want to miss out

Buy it on Amazon here:


But, wait. Before you do, get to know the imaginative mind that brought Siler House and all within it to life. Michelle Muto has graciously agreed to join me today on the blog. I’m positively THRILLED to have her here, and even more thrilled to share some interview time with her!

Amy: Oh! So great to have you here! I have to ask, because it’s been in the forefront of my mind lately, what sparked the idea for this book?

Michelle: A trip to Savannah, Georgia. I went on a ghost tour through Savannah’s real most notorious haunted house – the Sorrel-Weed House.

Amy: Oh … my heck. Such a place EXISTS?? How do you hope the story affects your readers–I mean, how do you hope they react?

Michelle: I hope it gives them the creeps, LOL! I want them to think, however irrationally,that there could be something in the mirrors, under the bed, or in the walls of their house.

Amy: From my side, I can say you succeeded. Um … thanks for that. When did you start writing? Not the books lately, but when can you remember starting?

Michelle: When I was about six, I think. I wrote stories for my mom – of dragons and castles, and of course, princesses.

Amy: Did your childhood influence what you write now?

Michelle: My brother made me watch scary movies whenever he had to babysit. He wanted to scare me, and it did. But it also had an effect I don’t think he ever counted on – that’d I’d also love those movies. hat, and my mother used to read to me when I was very young. When I was older, we’d go to the library on weekends. Those are still some of my favorite memories growing up.

Amy: It’s so cool your mom read to you. There’s nothing better than having a mom who reads to you, I think. What are your favorite books? Do you have any favorite writers?

Michelle: I love all kinds of books, from humor to horror, fiction and even some non-fiction. Some of my favorites are Harry Potter, The Haunting of Hill House, The Shining, The Stand, and The Stephanie Plum series. My favorite authors include: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, J.K. Rowling, Janet Evanovich, Shirley Jackson, Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, David Sedaris, and probably a few dozen more.

Amy: You have three books out now. Do you hear from readers? What do they say?

Michelle: I do! And honestly, I’m honored they took the time to contact me. They usually tell me how much they loved a particular book or character, and ask when the next book is coming out. It’s a humbling experience. I have to look around the room to see what other writer is there with me, because they HAVE to be talking about them – not me.

Amy: Wow! That’s wonderful and well deserved, too. I have to ask, too, because you’re here … Dish, please! What are you working on now? What new projects are you contemplating, and what are we going to see from you in the near future?

Michelle: I have another adult/new adult book due this spring. It’s dark fantasy, maybe a little horror. I love this book. I think it’s my favorite over anything I’ve ever written. Then, there are the sequels to The Book of Lost Souls and Don’t Fear the Reaper.

Amy: This spring? Oh, I’m going to have to have you back then! Thank you so much for being here!

And … Michelle has one other surprise for us! A Giveaway of The Haunting Season! Comment on this post for your chance to win ONE of THREE COPIES that she is giving away today!

Thanks for stopping by the blog today! I hope you enjoyed meeting Michelle Muto and finding out more about her new book The Haunting Season. Don’t forget to leave a comment below fror a chance to win a copy, and go check her out in the land of many links:

Michelle’s Author Page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Muto/e/B004RWAZCK/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Michelle’s Page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1114431976407.2018403.1095154206&type=3#!/pages/Michelle-Muto-Author-Page/154882381238003?fref=ts

Follow Michelle on Twitter: @MichWritesBooks

Michelle on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4712387.Michelle_Muto





The Fishing Widow eBook Release on 6 January 2013!


Three years in the making, and it’s nearly here! I’d like to take this opportunity to invite EVERYONE to the eBook Release of The Fishing Widow on Sunday, January 6, 2013. How will this work? Well, there’s a Fishing Widow eBook Release Facebook Event and then there’s also going to be a Google+ Hangout at 1:00pm Alaska Time (that’s 5pm on the East Coast of the US, and 10pm in Ireland and the U.K.). The address to join me, A.K. Marshall, is that there embedded in my user name. I will admit, the whole Google+ Hangout thing is new for me, and we’ll see how the bandwidth at the coffee shop in Craig, Alaska supports it!

If you happen to find yourself in Craig, Alaska on that date, head over to The Waterstreet Café (801 Water Street) for a cup of the good stuff and cake! You’ll also be able to use the WiFi to download the ebook for free. Actually, the codes will all be posted on the Facebook event page and here that day. Download it from Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, or Barnes & Noble.

And, whether you’re here, on Facebook, or in Craig, let me know you’re out there somewhere and interested. Join the Facebook event, hashtag a post on Twitter #thefishingwidow, or leave a comment here. Folks who join the Facebook event and/or post a comment here on January 6th (or are at Waterstreet Café) have a chance to win PRIZES! Alaskan-themed prizes; kinda like The Gift of the Magi, but with a twist. I have Raven’s Brew coffee, Moka (chocolate) Bars, Deadman’s Reach gear (including hoodies), and quintessentially Alaskan things that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Yes, if you’re overseas, you can still win (as long as it’s legal to ship coffee and chocolate and hoodies).

What’s it all about? Check out The Fishing Widow eBook Release Trailer


Want more? Check out the NEW The Fishing Widow Book Trailer

Many thanks to Stuart Spencer for his more-than-awesome-and-I’m-not-worthy cover art for both the eBook and the pending hard cover release (Coming March 2013).

Days left …. Let’s get this party started!