Help The Last Empress Win A Publishing Contract #publishing

As a writer, I am constantly looking at the changing world of publishing.

Kindle Scout logo

The industry has changed remarkably since the days when I would hunt for the names of publishers and agents in a banged-up copy of Writer’s Market at the library, print out query letters, mail them with SASEs and wait months for a reply. If any.

In 2002, I self-published (if that was a word back then) my first book. I used Cafe Press to produce print-on-demand (POD) copies of my first novel. I sold 2 copies off the site and gave away 25. The paperback book’s price was astronomical, almost $14.99 retail, because of printing costs to be recouped by the printer.

In 2012, I returned to writing. After collecting a lot of rejections from publishers and agents for Zak Corbin: Master of Machines, I decided to self-publish again. This time it was with Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle. I took charge of my marketing, asked for reviews from bloggers and gave away copies to the wind. In all, I sold maybe a hundred titles and gave away dozens for free.

Speaking of giving away, I tried a new route with the social reading website Wattpad. I decided to release the book to see how it would fare. To this day, Zak Corbin: Master of Machines has a reader count (total number of persons who read a chapter) of 854,000. The sequel, Neptune’s Fury, also released for free on Wattpad, has a reader count of 170,000.

This past year, I signed a contract with Divertir Publishing to publish Darkest Hour, the first of my trilogy about The Battle of Britain during World War II. The book with be produced by POD and ebook, with major heavy lifting in the editing department by Jen Corkill Hunt. This is a standard publishing contract, although I will be mostly be responsible for marketing and publicizing the book (which I don’t mind).

The Last Empress on Kindle Scout

Now I’m going to try another method of publishing with my newest work, The Last Empress. First of all, let’s get you interested in the story:

On a July night in 1918, seventeen-year-old Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov was marched into a basement room, along with her royal family and loyal servants, and executed by soldiers of the new Soviet government. What happens next is a story of miracles and the madness of science. Aided by a most unusual British agent, young Ana flees from her pursuers across the heart of a Russia torn apart by civil war. The Soviets want to kill her and end the reign of the Tsars. Loyalist forces see her as a symbol that could reunite the country. Ana’s choice will change the course of history.

Intrigued? Read the first three chapters of The Last Empress for free on a site called Kindle Scout.

The Last Empress on Kindle Scout
The Last Empress on Kindle Scout

Here is the direct link to the book’s campaign web page:

What is Kindle Scout?

For thirty days, Amazon will allow users to read and download the first three chapters of The Last Empress for free. If you love it (and who doesn’t love my writing?) then click the blue button and nominate that book. The more nominations, the better the book’s chance at being offered a publishing contract. Yes–a contract with Kindle Press. Here’s how they explain it:

There are interesting rules to this game. For starters, you will need an Amazon account to nominate books (can you feel them reeling you in yet?) A book’s “campaign” lasts for thirty days, then it’s either given a deal or dropped. Last and most important: once you nominate a book (clicking the blue button), the book has to stay nominated for it to count.

Oh and tell your friends how lovely it was, too!

Once you nominate a book, keep it nominated!
Once you nominate a book, keep it nominated!

I’m responsible for the marketing campaign and getting the word out. So you will be seeing me dropping anxious reminders from time to time. If the book is popular, it will appear on the Hot and Trendy portion of the site, keeping it on top and in newcomer’s minds.

If you nominate the book and it wins a contract, you get a free Kindle copy.

Unlike say a Kickstarter project, there is no cost to you. I won’t be giving away signed copies of my keyboard or laser-etched, foil-stamped versions of the book. This is the new face of publishing: crowdsourcing. The more people like my book, the more I get to pursue my writing. And … the better your chances to see if Anastasia sits on the throne or lingers on my hard drive. (Oh no! I think my hard drive’s failing! Quick, nominate the book and save Ana!)



Ex-Czar of Russia Killed by Order of Ural Soviet

The Sad Fate of the Czar of Russia
The Sad Fate of the Czar of Russia, The Sphere

Front page article from The New York Times, dated July 20, 1918

London, July 20 — Nicholas Romanoff, ex-Czar of Russia, was shot July 16, according to a Russian announcement by wireless today.

The former Empress and Alexis Romanoff, the young heir, have been sent to a place of security.

The message announces that a counter-revolutionary conspiracy was discovered, with the object of wrestling the ex-Emperor from the authority of the Soviet Council. In view of this fact the approach of Czechoclovak bands, the President of the Ural Regional Council decided to execute the former ruler, and the decision was carried out on July 16.

The central executive body of the Bolshevist Government announces that it has important documents concerning the former Emperor’s affairs, including his own diaries ad letters from the monk Rasputin, who was killed shortly before the revolution. These will be published in the near future, the message declares.

The text of the Russian wireless message reads:

“At the first session of the Central Executive Committee, elected by the fifth Congress of the Councils, a message was made public that had been received by direct wire from the Ural Regional Council concerning the shooting of the ex-Czar Nicholas Romanoff.

“Recently Yekaterinburg, the capital of the Red Urals, was seriously threatened by the approach of Czechoslovak hands and a counter-revolutionary conspiracy was discovered which had as its object the wresting of the ex-Czar from the hands of the council’s authority. In view of this fact, the President of the Ural Regional Council decided to shoot the ex-Czar, and the decision was carried out on July 16.

“The wife and the son of Nicholas Romanoff have been sent to a place of security.

“Documents concerning the conspiracy which was discovered have been forwarded to Moscow by a special messenger. It had been recently decided to bring the ex-Czar before a tribunal to be tried for his crimes against the people, and only later occurrences led to delay in adopting this course.

“The Presidency of the Central Executive Committee, having discussed the circumstances which compelled the Ural Regional Council to take its decision to shoot Nicholas Romanoff, decided as follows:

“The Russian Central Executive Committee, in the person of its President, accepts the decision of the Ural Regional Council as being regular.

“The Central Executive Committee has now at its disposal extremely important documents concerning the affairs of Nicholas Romanoff — his diaries, which he kept almost up to his last days, the diaries of his wife and his children, and his correspondence, among which are the letters of Gregory Rasputin to the Romanoff family. These materials will be examined and published in the near future.”

Executive Foreshadowed

There have been rumors since June 24 that ex-Czar Nicholas of Russia had been assassinated. The first of these stated that he had been killed at Yekaterinburg by Red Guards. This report was denied later, but this denial was closely followed by a Geneva dispatch saying that Nicholas had been executed by the Bolsheviki after a trial at Yekaterinburg. This report seemed to be confirmed by advices to Washington from Stockholm.

The next report was what purported to be an intercepted wireless message from M. Tchicherin, the Bolshevist Foreign Minister, in which it was stated that Nicholas was dead. Still another report was to the effect that he had been bayonetted by a guard while being taken from Yekaterinburg to Perm. Of all these reports there was no direct confirmation.

There seemingly is no question that yesterday’s dispatch is authentic. It comes in the form of a Russian wireless dispatch, and as the wireless plants of Russia are under the control of the Bolsheviki, it appears that it is an official version of the death of the former Emperor.

Confusion Persists

Months following the announcement, the royal family were believed to still be alive.

Article Suggests Royal Family Safe
Article Suggests Royal Family Safe
Woman Identified as Tatiana Romanov Held in Japan
Woman Identified as Tatiana Romanov Held in Japan

How Close Did The Romanovs Come To Be Rescued?

This map shows the disposition of White Army troops in relation to where the royal family was being held prisoner, suggesting a rescue attempt may have been underway.

Disposition of White Army Forces To Romanovs
Disposition of White Army Forces To Romanovs


This article from The Sunday Times relates a secret plan to rescue the Romanovs by British intelligence…
From The Sunday Times
October 15, 2006
British spies in plot to save tsar
John Crossland

A NEWLY discovered diary has uncovered a plot by the British secret services to rescue the last tsar and his family from the house in Ekaterinburg where he was imprisoned by the communists and later executed.

The diary of Captain Stephen Alley, second in command of the British intelligence mission in Petrograd — now St Petersburg — shows he positioned four undercover agents ready to extract what he called “the valuables” — the deposed Tsar Nicholas II and the Russian imperial family — from the House of Special Purpose where they were held.

The diary also includes a sketch map drawn by Alley of the house and its surroundings.

It used to be believed that Britain had abandoned the tsar, his wife Alexandra — a granddaughter of Queen Victoria — and their children. But in recent years evidence has emerged that both King George V and the government of David Lloyd George were willing to rescue the family. No evidence has previously come to light, however, of the advanced stage that preparations had reached.

Alley’s diary was found accidentally by his descendants in a trunk of his papers and will be featured in Queen Victoria’s Grandchildren, a documentary to be shown on Channel 4 in December.

The diary shows that, after they had been sprung from custody, the tsar and his family were to be taken by train to Murmansk and then shipped to safety by the Royal Navy.

On May 24, 1918, Alley, who was employed by MI1 (c), part of what became MI6, wrote to the War Office in London naming the six Russian- speaking officers he wanted to carry out the rescue. He asked London for a grant of £1,000 a month (about £25,000 today) due to “increased requirements for intelligence purposes”.

Andrew Cook, the historian who has examined the papers for the documentary, believes Alley’s telegrams to London may have been intercepted, leading the Bolsheviks to reinforce defences around the tsar’s prison. “At the first hint of a rescue the whole family would have been shot,” he said.

Alley’s apparent reluctance to activate the plot led to his sacking and recall to Britain. He worked for MI5 in the second world war and died in 1969 at the age of 93.

He always kept his work secret, even from Beatrice, his wife. Anthony Summers, author of The File on the Tsar, said: “She told me that when she asked her husband what he did, he would say, ‘Sometimes I will go away for a night and sometimes for a year, and I won’t be able to tell you where I am, but I’m working for the king.’  She thought he was going for dirty weekends.



American Warship Returns From “Mysterious Island”

USS Abraham Lincoln Departs Island
USS Abraham Lincoln Departs Island

The San Francisco Chronicle; June 22, 1897

–San Francisco, CA

The gun frigate USS Abraham Lincoln made dock here at the port of San Francisco with not only an unusual cargo, but stories to match. Cmdr. Riley Humphries has filed detailed dispatches with superiors at the Navy Department stressing his encounters with the inhabitants of a Pacific island at an undisclosed location off the Greater Solomons. Although Humphries’ report is considered classified, the crew of Abraham Lincoln described what they found on the remote island as, “bizarre.”

Although considered territory of the Solomon Islands, the island’s ownership was regarded as having fallen into private hands. Doctor Henri Moreau, biologist and a well-known medical doctor, was part of an esteemed European society of intellectuals–a rising star on the scientific stage–until a series of papers regarding Evolution forced him to abandon public life altogether. His peers within the European society publicly denounced Moreau and his proposed research as “…unethical and highly questionable.”

Moreau was last seen in Paris in late 1890. He conferred with several close friends and declared that he would be moving to a tropical location for both health reasons and to continue his research.  His last letters were received in 1893 by his friends in the scientific community, although it is said that he continued to make make contact with local sea captains regarding the transfer of purchased animals, some exotic, to his new island home.

The story of Moreau and his private Pacific island might have ended here if it were not for reports of several vessels disappearing from the same area. No survivors of these shipwrecks were ever found. However, reports from steamship captains that visited Moreau’s island included sightings of what were described as “men-creatures”. They were human, barely, but were said to possess the physical characteristics of animals. When asked about the origins of these strange men, the island’s master, Moreau, reportedly explained they were his children. These wild descriptions of Moreau’s children were dismissed as nothing more than patients suffering from leprosy.

It was not until one survivor of a shipwreck, Samuel Wilcox, managed to return to civilization with the true story of Dr. Moreau and his island. Considered mad and suffering from dehydration from being found adrift at sea for weeks, Wilcox’s story provided sufficient detail and navigational information to suggest he had washed ashore on Moreau’s island. Initially well received and treated as Moreau’s “guest”, Wilcox realized he was about to become a victim of Moreau’s horrible plan. He had chosen the island specifically for its remote location and tendency to receive terrible storms. The survivors of shipwrecks became fodder for what Wilcox described as “horrifying experiments.”

Wilcox said he managed to escape the island. He was found adrift after many days in the currents of the Pacific. With great convincing, he led the USS Abraham Lincoln back to the island to verify his claims.  They found the island in a state of revolt. Moreau and his assistant were both found dead, his research and papers destroyed, and many of his children had divided themselves up into camps and were warring with one another. U.S. Marines took the survivors that could be found into custody for transport back to the United States. They have since been interred at the Fort on Alcatraz Island to isolate them from the rest of the population.

The exact descriptions and temperament of these “survivors” has not been released to the public. Those who have seen them when they were offloaded from the ship described them as “Beasts, walking on their hind legs.” According to the Surgeon General of the United States, each one is undergoing a through physical and mental examination to determine if they are the products of experimentation and/or victims of leprosy, as originally thought.







Latest Work Completed! Read the Opening Scene

My apologies for not updating in a while. I have been very busy with latest writing work, taxes, job hunting, etc. Eh, it’s a life.

My latest screenplay has finally reached Draft 1. I’m very excited about this because it combines two of my favorite subjects: MAGIC and NOIR. I was a huge fan of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and RPGs like “Justice, Inc.”  that combined detective mysteries with the fantastic. Here’s the opening description I wrote for the one-sheet (the query usually sent to agents and producers):

Inspired by BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and GRIMM comes a cheeky tale of a Hollywood detective whose world is full of magic and murder. In a 1948 Los Angeles, movie stars and ordinary folks rub elbows with the Three Arcana: the Craven (vampires, succubae and things that live on the life force of others), the Fey (elves, dwarves and other fairy creatures) and Demons (you don’t want to go there).

In celebration, here are the opening scenes for my latest screenplay. Enjoy!

(PARENTAL WARNING: The language of this excerpt is rated PG-13)

MURDER BY MAGIC — by Anthony Russo


A huge CROWD in front of the theater stands behind velvet ropes. They cheer MOVIE STARS as they head inside. Dazzling camera flash bulbs POP while searchlights stab at the night sky…




An exhausted JESSIE COOPER (22) climbs out of her beat-up rust bucket of a car and retrieves a brown sack of groceries from the back seat. Her arms full, she heads for the front door of her rented bungalow, FUMBLES with keys from her purse.

A can of soup falls from the bag. CURSING to herself, she bends down, picks up the can and pushes her way inside…



Jessie kicks the door closed with her heel. More fumbling as she fights to find the light switch on the wall. The place is tiny but comfy: a few pieces of furniture face a kitchenette while a tiny hallway leads away from the living room.

She sets the sack of groceries down on the counter. The same can DROPS to the kitchen floor. Jessie bends down, picks up the soup can and GROANS. The can is dented.

She leaves the sack, hangs her coat and purse from the back of a chair, kicks off her heels and disappears down the hallway…


At waist height, the CAMERA emerges from behind the sofa and traverses the living room. Trade magazines are on a coffee table. A copy of DAILY VARIETY is left open with jobs circled.


CAMERA checks purse hanging from chair.


CAMERA ducks inside the kitchen, behind swinging door.

Jessie reappears wearing only a bathrobe. She goes to her purse, finds pack of cigarettes and lighter, then heads back down the hallway. Shadow of bedroom door swings closed.

CAMERA examines the dented soup can on the counter. A tiny hand swaps the can with … a used left shoe.

Moving back into living room, CAMERA spots TV remote control on sofa arm. Tiny hand swaps remote with … a used left shoe.


CAMERA moves down the hallway, passes partially-opened closet door. Door OPENS further, revealing an electric iron on shelf. Tiny hand steals iron and replaces it with … a shoe.

CAMERA moves past closet door to bedroom door. Bedroom door is pushed OPEN wider…


CAMERA examines bedroom: bed, side table, lamp, closet door and door to bathroom. There is a window and a patio door on the far wall, both are covered by blinds.

CAMERA moves around bed, walks up to TICKING alarm clock. Tiny hand is about to steal clock, but is slapped by another hand.

CAMERA turns around. Jessie’s clothing is scattered on the bed. Tiny hand takes brasserie and replaces it with … a used left shoe.

CAMERA moves to bathroom door. The door is pushed open, revealing bath fixtures. The shower is running and there’s a dark shape behind the translucent shower curtain. Steam FLOATS about the ceiling.


A tiny hand grasps the shower curtain and pulls it back.

It’s not Jeannie, but fully-dressed private eye CAVANAUGH (30s). He’s holding the shower sprayer in his hand.

CAVANAUGH: Looking for Alfred Hitchcock?

He turns the sprayer on the CAMERA.

A trio of drenched tiny little MEN screeches in high-pitched voices and stumble out of the bathroom.

GNOME 1: (clutches face) Oh! I’m melting! Melting!

CAVANAUGH: Gnomes. I should have known. Come back here, ya little twerps!

Cavanaugh climbs out of the bath to go after them. One of the gnomes sticks out his foot at the doorway and trips Cavanaugh. He falls like a tree on the floor. Little legs hop over him.

GNOME 3: Scram, fellas! We’ve been had!

Getting on his knees, Cavanaugh grabs one gnome by the leg and lifts him up in the air by his foot.

GNOME 2: Put me down! Put me down!

CAVANAUGH: (snatches stolen bra from him) What the hell are you doing with this?

GNOME 2: This is little people abuse! (bites Cavanaugh on the wrist)

CAVANAUGH: Ow! You want abuse? Try this! (ties bra around gnome’s head and heaves him down the hallway)

Cavanaugh knocks the other two gnomes right off their feet.

CAVANAUGH: And he makes the split!

The gnomes shake their heads and get up on their tiny feet.

GNOME 3: Get him! He’s just one guy!

GNOME 2: (holds up gun) I got his gun! I got his gun!

CAVANAUGH: (comes down hallway) Hey! Be careful with that thing.

GNOME 3: Ventilate him!

Gnome 2 aims and pulls the trigger. The gun is a cigarette lighter.

GNOME 2: What kind of dick are you?

Cavanaugh takes a few steps and kicks Gnome 2 in the gonads with his shoe. SCREAMING, he goes soaring into the kitchen.

CAVANAUGH: (picks up lighter) The kind that kicked the winning extra point for Oklahoma State.

Gnome 1 leaps from the top of a bookcase in the living room and lands on Cavanaugh’s back. He scratches and bites him on the neck.

GNOME 1: You kicked Kenny! You bastard!

Cavanaugh grabs the gnome from his back and tosses him. The little acrobat lands on the sofa, does a victory jig and gives Cavanaugh the middle finger.

GNOME 1: Screw you!

Cavanaugh snatches a fake Oscar statuette off the bookcase and knocks the little dancing man off the sofa.

GNOME 1: Ow!

CAVANAUGH: And the Best Choreography award goes to the little jerk with the splitting headache.

Cavanaugh scans the room. A WAIL of pain comes from Gnome 1 on the floor. A CRASHING sound comes from inside the kitchen. That leaves Gnome 3…

Way stronger than his size suggests, Gnome 3 rips the rug out from underneath Cavanaugh’s feet. Cavanaugh performs a somersault and hits the floor with his chin. Dazed, he MOANS.

CAVANAUGH: Great. Spade gets a case about a black bird. I get the Three Stooges.

GNOME 3: Come on fellas, let’s get the hell out of here!

Gnome 3 helps up Gnome 1. They almost make it to the front door until …

Gnome 3 is FLATTENED by Cavanaugh wielding a fly-swatter. The gnome staggers and drops to the floor, knocked cold.

Cavanaugh NAILS Gnome 1’s gardening overalls to the wall with a thrown letter opener. His legs dangle there, helpless.

CAVANAUGH: (rubs his chin) I’m going to add you two to my dead cockroach collection.

Cavanaugh STORMS into the kitchen.

Gnome 2 points a carving knife at him.

GNOME 2: (snarling) Come at me, flatfoot! I dare you! I’ll cut your nut sack off! And I’m just tall enough to do it!

Cavanaugh yanks the knife from his hands, hoists the gnome up in the air and throws open the door to the newest kitchen appliance for 1948–a microwave.

CAVANAUGH: (tosses him in, slams door shut) You’re about the size of a Cornish game hen, aren’t you Larry?

GNOME 2: (throws hands against glass door) No! No! No! You wouldn’t!

CAVANAUGH: My finger’s on the fricassee button. Are you going to behave?

GNOME 2: Yes! Yes! We give up! Don’t do it! Oh the humanity!

Cavanaugh opens the microwave door.

The gnome gives him an angelic expression and offers up his wrists for handcuffs.



End of The Year — Mile Markers

As the end of the year makes its appearance and the holiday seasons turns into the gray season of dread (January), so too comes the awful Best Of The Year lists that appear on web sites promoting everything from Most Buzzed-About Tweet to Worst Use of a Spatula Outside the Kitchen. I thought I’d post some things I managed to accomplish and some things in the hopper.

1) That Publishing Deal — This is, of course, one of my favorites. Divertir Publishing stepped forward and said they wanted to put my work in print.  Much appreciation goes out to  Ken Tupper and Jen Corkill-Hunt for taking that chance. Happy dance commences. So the book has a title change and an editor, who is still working diligently on it. So I am both hopeful and a little daunted by the edits that will soon come my way. Look for Darkest Hour sometime in 2015.

2) A Completed Brand New Book — I am extremely pleased to announce the completion and posting of The Last Empress (currently available for free on Wattpad). This is a brand-new series of stories about the last Romanov princess set against the backdrop of a steampunk Russian Revolution. Its all very exciting stuff.  I am contemplating self-publishing this work, but it needs a strong edit and perhaps a rewrite because of (3) down below.

The Last Empress
The Last Empress

3) Screenplays! — Yes, I adapted Zak Corbin; Master of Machines and The Last Empress into the visual world. I entered Zak Corbin in the PAGE International Screenplay Writing Competition and made Quarter Finalist (not bad for my first script and its first contest). Since then, Zak has been haunting The Black List web site and I’ve entered the screenplay into the BlueCat screenplay competition. Speaking of screenplays, I wrote The Last Empress as a 1-hour TV pilot. I’m looking to create the next Game of Thrones here, so the results of recent pitches and an entry into the Celtx Screenwriting Felllowship competition. The winners get to sit down with producers and agents in Los Angeles. (I’m packed and ready to go)

4) Up and Coming — I have some work that is on the slate. I am still pondering the second and third book of the Darkest Hour series because of edits and revisions to the first book. It’s kind of a Catch 22 here.  There is the chance of submitting new work to an anthology from Dark House Books, giving me the chance to dust off my sci-fi skills and return to the retro-futurism of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  Then, of course, I have the next book of The Last Empress to write. I already have a title and the plot running through my heads.

5) Life, The Universe and Everything — So I’m living in my new digs on the shore of Virginia. It’s a very pleasing place to be, even in the winter. I’ve made some wonderful new friends, reached out and made some important contacts, had a great birthday dinner, traveled all around the area, and look forward to a happy and productive new year as a writer.

Hope your year has been merry and bright too!