Wednesday, January 7, 2015

You can ask for anything. Nothing says we have to give it to you.

I dusted off this blog after ages.  I gathered the pertinent links.  And then I closed it all down.  "Not my circus, not my monkeys" ran around in my mind and I decided that I didn't really need to weigh in on the current publishing kerfuffle any more than I already had among the small group of people I'd written to/among.

And then an author chimed in with (yet another): It amuses me that people apparently think we spend our advances on nothing but printer paper. Food? Clothing for children? A mortgage? WHO NEEDS THAT???

My head exploded, so here I am.  

Of course, in my seething irritation, I began at the end, so let me backtrack.

A few days ago on Facebook, a buddy of mine posted: 
Interesting discussions about Kickstarters on Twitter. It's common enough for pledgers to fund the production of a book - editing, copyediting, formatting, cover art, design, printing - but would it put you off pledging if the kickstarter asked you to pay their wages, too?

I answered in my mind and kept moving.  My answer, "Nah, I'd pass."  I didn't think any more of it until an author on my feed posted the storyfied version of what happened.  I read it (and you should if you're not already familiar with it) and then I'd foolishly responded to the only comment I'd seen at the time--someone saying that they were confused:
Unless a writer is taking commissions from readers, readers don't pay writers for writing. That can change, like anything else, but it's not surprising that got annoyed. We buy the finished product. In this world that now includes crowd funding, asking for a little charity to pay for a cover or a few other things doesn't sound too outrageous. Asking us--ok, asking me; I don't like speaking for others--to pay for your personal bills is a good way to remind me that other authors aren't asking for anything. They take care of their kids, work their day jobs, write their hearts out in their spare time, then wait a long time for the submission process, and/or self publish--and never ask for anything but the fair price of their book.

Wrong answer.  I didn't mind being told 1. that's like saying I'd pay a painter for the finished painting but not doing the painting, or 2. but this is just like a traditionally published author getting an advance or 3. it's like going to a restaurant and only wanting to pay the price of the food (as opposed to the cooking and everything else that goes into the price of the finished meal).  I didn't mind because it was all part of healthy discussion and because 1. I do pay for the finished painting, and if the artist includes a percent for what he paid for the canvas and supplies and his time, OK, but he doesn't ring up ahead of time and say, "Yo, I wanna paint.  Finance it."  2. But I'm not your publisher and I've never heard of one who gave advances and didn't take that money out of royalties.  3. But it's not going to a restaurant and only paying for the groceries, rather the original KS seemed to me like asking me to pay for your culinary school so I can buy a meal from you.

The thing I thought from the start was that *I* wouldn't pay into this kickstarter, but there wasn't anything inherently wrong with saying, "Look, readers are asking me for this book and if you want it it done in 3 months, this is what I need."  There was no need for the Twitterverse to chime in, but when you do stuff in public, there's a chance people will publicly talk about you.  I'm genuinely sorry that this author felt like she had withdraw not only from Kickstarter but also from her YA writing persona

The thing I was thinking more or more by the time I sat down to write this was, "What the fuck is wrong with you people?!"  If one more author chimes in on this to let us know that artists have a right to be paid for their work and can do whatever they want with their advances....I'm going to do absolutely nothing about it, but I'm going to do it rudely!

Yes, there are assholes out there who want music, movies, and books all to be free.  They suck and that's not what this conversation is about.  Nobody said they didn't want to pay for her books so she should give them away for free, they said they didn't want to fund the writing. She can ask.  They can say no.  In a perfect world, her fans would have said yes and she's be writing the book right now regardless of what others thought.

"But if it were Neil Gaiman, it would have been funded in an hour."

Yeah, well. he used to be just Neil and just Neil wrote kick ass stories and lots of people bought them.  He didn't magically jump from birth to guy-with-huge-fan-base.  Maybe it will happen for you, too.  J.K. Rowling famously went from welfare to being richer than the queen.  Or maybe it won't, and it'll suck, but that's the reality everybody has to face when they want to go into the arts.  And it's not just the arts.  Maybe you want to be a world class lawyer, but your skills keep you in small claims court working for people who don't realize you don't necessarily need a lawyer for small claims.  And you still need to pay your student loans.  And...

....this angry rant is becoming a babble.  Probably became I'm sitting here by myself instead of on Twitter where one person's "huh?  what?" becomes dozens of people piling on.  Maybe we'd have a few less author/reader kerfuffles is more us wrote it all out instead of fueling each other's ire.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Because You Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down

Back in the end of July, I posted Why Do All The Girls Who Save The Day Only Look A Certain Way? on my Facebook page.  It wasn't a huge deal.  I'd been scrolling down my feed and saw that question next to a photo of Katniss, so I clicked it.  I took issue with how the chart characterizes Hermione, but I appreciated the message behind all those checks and Xs: is that, as great as it is to see all these kick-ass young heroines making the movies the days, there's something wrong with the lack of diversity.  I clicked "share" and moved on.

Later, when I signed back in, I saw that an author buddy had written:

I do agree that race is an issue in YA (as in much of fiction), but until people start writing it, it's going to remain an issue. And, quite frankly, a lot of non-people-of-color steer away from writing people of color because we're constantly told we "get it wrong." Which is fine, since we don't live in those shoes and we can't just make it up (I'm not a vampire, but I can pretend to be.) In that situation though, people-who-do-know need to write those characters and sell them.
This is an old argument--not between us, but in general--and I have mixed feelings.  1)  I understand your fear and you shouldn't feel pressured into writing anything you don't want to write.  2) If your book takes place in the backwoods, okay.  But what urban center in the U.S. has NO people of color?  3) I don't think it's wrong for fans to note that few people in their beloved genre (be it YA dystopia, UF for youths or adults, or whatever) "look like them" and I don't support the answer then is for them to become authors.

I'm not writing this to rip the author's words apart.  In fact, I applaud that she does indeed have characters of color.  I'm writing it because there are two sides to the bastard coin.

Follow this crazy loop in my thinking.  See, like I said, this was at the end of July.  I read the conversation that followed and set out to find more YA, dystopian and, since that's not my favorite, other spec fic, featuring people of color and I put a lot of stuff on my To Be Read Pinterest board.  Done.  Almost.

While I was looking for those books, I came across things like Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Disappointed.  What?  I shouldn't have been surprised because I know the racists are happy to speak out over the internet. (I love that they were named and shamed rather than fuzzed out).  I cringed thinking of all the YA books (sorry, not going to search for links right now) that were whitewashed because the publishers gave in to imagined racists.

Those publishers could learn something from the inspiration of this post.  I'd done all that web surfing in a month ago, so why post now?  Because every time I see the Cheerios commercial with the cute little biracial girl, her white mother, and her black father, I think of the racist comments that came up around it.  The cereal company refused to pull the ad, and the support has far overwhelmed the hate.

So don't let those bastards grind you down.

But what about the fear of those who will say that you got it wrong?  If you're at the point where you're getting published, you've been critiqued.  You probably have a crit group or beta readers.  If you're not self-publishing, you've probably submitted to agents and definitely to editors.  You can take criticism.  Hopefully, you've also learned when and how not to take it.  If you screwed up on a cultural point, accept it graciously and move on.  You've learned something so you can do better next time.   If the only critique is that you're white (or whatever) so how dare you, well, they're bastards, too.  Don't let 'em grind you down.

More practical advice goes back to the fundamentals: write what you know.  I have never been a werewoff, and don't know squat about it.  I do have the ability to google wolf behavior and biology and every other little thing that might help.  I have the ability to view every movie that includes werewolves on Netflix and Hulu and decide what I think they've gotten wrong and right, and them imagine up my own mythos.  Why would it be so different creating the background and world of someone who's probably a lot more like me than a werewolf would be?

** For a smile on your face, check out kids talking about the Cheerios commercial.
***For an author kicking ass, check out Cassandra Clare not letting the bastards grind her down.

Monday, June 3, 2013

I've slept on it and I still want her to name names

I read Ann Aguirre's This Week in SF with my jaw dropping bit by bit until it just couldn't go any farther.  I'm not unaware of sexism (and racism) in's why it took so long to finally go to my first con and why I spend so much of my time interacting with people outside (or at least on the fringes) of my genre.  I grew up surrounded by fellow sci-fi and gamer geeks and I know how awesome the guys can be as individuals and how badly they can suck in groups or behind anonymity of a keyboard.  My shock was due to the behavior of Aguirre's fellow professionals.

Maybe there's no good reason to expect them to behave better, but I do.  I wanted her to name names.  I wanted to know whose careers not to support...which is fairly pointless since my readings in the genre have tapered down to the point that when my husband saw me reading Grimspace years ago, despite my being the one who introduced him to Julian May, he asked, "Since when do you read sci-fi?"   My continuing to not buy their books would do little.

But still....

I will continue to buy Ann Aquirre and Jaye Wells (number 55 in comments) books, which I enjoy greatly.  I will find someone who does zombies to gift Rhiannon Frater (#92) books.  I will start reading David Brin and   John Abromowitz (#67) because our supporters should be supported.

...I get SF fans not liking SF Romance.  Nothing bugs me more than getting paranormal romance all over my urban fantasy.  In the past, I bought just enough of the latter--with the romantic relationship too important to the story and worldbuilding consisting of "alpha werewolves/vampires/Scottish immortals are hot"--to be cautious. There's a market for that, and more power to them, but I'm not in it.  In fact, I borrowed Grimspace from the library (before buying the rest) just to be safe.

The answer to that, dear sexist male fans, is don't fucking buy it.   You'll miss out on good stuff along with the bad, but that's your loss.  You can not read it and yet still not act like fucking assholes.  Not mutually exclusive.  Sexist male SF writers, thinking you can behave this way toward fellow writers and fans...Aguirre didn't name names, but others will and we will happily treat you as you deserve.  Or you can grow up and enter this century.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Free Books!

Marata Eros is offering the first three ebooks of her DruidBreeders series free for a limited time.

Amazon description: This is a collection of the first three titles in The Druid Breeders series which are erotic dark urban fantasy books about vampire warriors who search for women of rare Druid witch descent. (Approx. 60,000 words total.) TDB is a dark urban fantasy erotica work, mature audiences only, 18+

I picked up the first book of the series because (1) I'm interested in paranormal erotica and (2) it was free.  The warning in the description didn't hurt, either.  She changed the price and warning because people didn't like non-consensual content that they consensually bought?  I had to check it out.

What I found was an interesting story about a young woman in peril saved by hunky alpha males who bring her more peril still.  The men who would have raped her at least would have let her go after.  The vampires who save her (but not, alas, her friend) realize that she's a druid, and druid women are the only ones vampire men can breed with.  They don't intend to take no for an answer.

The rape of her friend left me wanting to call the police--it was graphic enough for such a strong reaction and not eroticized enough to dismiss as an uncomfortable kink.  Moving on from that, though, I enjoyed the story enough to get book to and find out what happened next.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The worst book I couldn't put down.

This book is so bad that I'm reading it again!

...Which makes it so good that I'm reading it again.

I went on an indy book streak a while back (that hasn't exactly ended, come to think of it).  Self publishing has become more and more valid as the authors have put in more effort to put across well written, well edited stories--not the hot messes that we used to get when authors were rejected by publishers and yet still wanted to get their stories out there.  Between their efforts and the lower prices, why not give them a shot?  So I read Sterling by Daninka Dark and declared it the worst book I couldn't put down.  I'm reading it again because I wanted to make sure I still felt that way before declaring that public and yes, there's plenty in it that makes me want to grind my teeth, and yet I once again can't put it down.

Book description (via Amazon):
Zoë Merrick lived an ordinary life until late one night, she was brutally attacked and left for dead. 
She was found, covered in blood, and taken in by an ex-soldier named Adam. Zoë didn't just survive that night - she underwent a physical transformation and acquired unexplainable abilities. Severed from her old life, her frustration grows as she tries to comprehend what's happening to her. 
Serendipity leads her to Justus De Gradi. He's handsome, arrogant, and not entirely human. Through Justus, Zoë learns the truth about what she is and where she belongs. A young Mage is vulnerable in this dangerous world. The only way Zoë will understand her power is by putting her trust in a stranger and accepting the protection that he offers.
When her immortal freedom is threatened by the one man who has a right to claim her, Zoë learns the price of freedom...and the value of loyalty.
I want to launch into the excessive adjectives, the many times that the author seems to think "why just show the audience when I can show and tell them?", the odd interactions/uncomfortable dialog, the off use of wording, including slang gone terribly wrong....And yet the best example of why I find this book so bad is in a bit of plotting early on.  Zoe's been attacked, left for dead, picked up by a sympathetic ex-military hottie, and transformed while she slept it off.  She wakes up taller, with different hair and a different face--I mean, she really transformed.  She establishes a friendship with Adam, who feeds her and picks up some clothes without asking too many questions since she doesn't want to give any answers.  And then nothing happens for two weeks.

For two weeks, she doesn't search the internet for similar transformations, regardless of the fact that she would find none.  She doesn't experiment to find out of she's gotten more for her trouble than killer hair.  Basically, all she did in that lapsed time was chew up my suspension of disbelief and spit it out.

Yet, I recommend it.  For all the book's flaws, the author created a story in which I always wanted to know "What happens next?"  I read the first book, immediately bought the second, and checked her site to find out when the third would be out.  Now that I'm nearly done with the re-read of the first, I'll do the same with the second before buying the now-out third and probably the novella set in the same world.

There's the bones of good story telling in these books that will hopefully grow as the author has more practice, and is still worth the read in the meantime.  You should check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Maybe New To You: Vicki Pettersson

I've been reading indie books lately, not posting because I wanted to re-read one or two before commenting.  In the mean time, I dusted off my copy of Vicki Pettersson's The Scent of Shadows.  I loved this book, and quickly bought the second, but during the wait for the third to be released, I got distracted.  Now five years later, the series is complete.  The question isn't if I'll devour them, but if wait the time it takes to get hard copies of the last four to make the first two, or if I'll get them all instantly by e-reader.

When she was sixteen, Joanna Archer was brutally assaulted and left to die in the Nevada desert.  By rights, she should be dead....

After what she survived, Joanna had a right to become a snarky, kick-ass heroine.  This could have easily been another wounded heroine more obnoxious than the last, but the situation was managed beautifully with great writing, clear-eyed secondary characters, and character growth.

By her birth, Joanna is destined to become an Agent of the Light--a superhero.  Both times I read it, I loved this urban fantasy departure from vampires, were-whatevers, and fairies.  (Don't get me wrong, I love the others, too, or I wouldn't be such a fan of genre; but it's nice to have something different from time to time.)  If I have any complaint about the book, it's that like many superheroes, Joanna has a secret identity.  The good guys are curious about it, the bad guys want to uncover it and use it to destroy her.  With surgery involved, it's just a little less painfully obvious than Superman-with-the-glasses-off and Clark-with-the-glasses-on.  Since I've lived my whole life with Superman movies, TV shows, and animation without rejected it, I say that's a small complaint.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Speaking of Star Wars...

I haven't been feeling well, which explains why I was drifting in and out of sleep in the wee hours, but does not explain why my sleepy mind insisted on casting Derek Hough as Luke Skywalker, or the pitch I made to be on the new writing team.

"Sure I don't have a resume to speak of and I have a history of creating great beginnings, crappy endings, and barely-there middles, but that's why you have a TEAM of writers, right?"

Clearly, I'm crazy in the wee hours.

Mark Hamill, the original Luke
I cheered when I heard that Disney bought Lucasfilm.  Literally.  I was with my parents, who looked at me like I'd gone a bit crazier.  It's not that I don't find Disney a little creepy* or that I feel glee at the idea of George Lucas being that much richer.  My joy was at the peace the payout would bring me.

See, my husband's love of Star Wars is rivaled only by his love of Star Trek and his disdain for Lucas.  With the creator out of the picture, I can stop hearing about how great the books were without his interference or the many, many ways in which he screwed up the "first" three movies.  Perhaps even I, a fangirl** in my own right, will be able to stop holding myself back from violence at the mention of midichlorians because no one will ever mention them again.

Derek Hough
Randomly, some 13 (?) seasons of Dancing with the Stars ago, I first saw Derek Hough and thought, "He'd make a great Luke Skywalker.  I wonder if he can act."  Even more randomly, since it's weeks after the buy out, the thought is back.  Only now, maybe there's a real possibility.  Could we soon be treated to watching Luke Skywalker meet Mara Jade?  Portraying what happens next in the saga seems a logical reason to buy the rights, though I certainly wouldn't complain if Disney went back to movies 1-3 and somehow made them not suck.

Disney also owns ABC, so in addition to feature films, I can fantasize about Star Wars mini series and Saturday morning cartoons.  With a whole new generation of Jedi making names for themselves in the books, there's limitless material and a host of possible venues.

Disney, Lucasfilm, call me.  I'll hook you up.

*None of that is really why I find the company creepy, it was just easier to find a quick link than expose my cyberpunk fear of megacorps.
**Yes, yes, I know I'm a grown woman, and I'm not likely to let anyone else forget it either.  Fangirl just has a (totally incorrect) ring to it that I haven't been able to replace.