Monday, December 30, 2013

The 2013 Year-End Wrap-Up

2013 saw the tipping point in how writers in general regarded indie publishing, and how publishers regarded e-book sales.

Indie books made regular, steady appearances in bestseller lists. Indie publishing workshops dominated the annual Romance Writers of America conference. Both indies and traditional publishers  saw record e-book sales.

Here in the U.S., retailers saw a reversal of roles. Barnes & Noble paper sales are way down. Chairman Len Riggo has withdrawn his offer to buy the brick-and-mortar stores and dumped 2 million of his personal shares in the company. B&N itself is under an SEC investigation for misstatement of earnings. Half-Price Books is selling more recent releases in order to capitalize on B&N's reversal of fortune, while Books-a-Million has remained notoriously silent in the situation. On the other hand, more independent book stores are not only opening, but thriving, than since the heyday of Main Street.

In the meantime, trad publishers and agents are issuing more draconian contracts in an effort to tie up both writers and their rights.

The Kernel, a nasty little U.K. rag, launched a smear campaign against Amazon that only ended harming a ton of indie writers in the fall-out as other booksellers were dragged into the fray. As a result, most e-book retailers are cracking down on covers, descriptions and content, the terms of which are confusing and illogical.

For more thorough breakdown and predictions, check out:

Dean Wesley Smith has his run-down on the state of publishing at the end of 2013.

J.A. Konrath predicts what's on the horizon for 2014.

What do I think will happen?

- Barnes and Noble isn't going to survive much longer. They are showing the same penny wise/pound foolish behaviors that preceded Borders demise. The question is when they will go under. (Understand that I don't want to see them go under because I sell the most books through them.)

- Amazon and Kobo's over-reaction in the Kernel mess will come back to bite them in the ass and possible give Apple more market share.

- Since customers are getting away from e-reader devices and using more apps on their tablets and smart phones, we may see more e-book retailers spring up.

- More and more writers will jump into the indie publishing river. But just as many will leave based on their erroneous belief that one book flogged to death with marketing should make their career. By the same token, more writers will find they can make a living on their own.

- The trickle of agents leaving the business will turn into a tsunami when they find they can't make a living even by stealing delaying payments to writers.

So what do y'all think will happen in the craziness of the next year in publishing?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Songs I'm Listening To

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga with a classic tune.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Last of the Jonathan Moeller S&S 28 Interviews

After Thanksgiving, I plain out forgot to post links to the rest of Jonathan's interviews of the contributing authors of Sword and Sorceress 28.

I know.

Bad Suzan.

Anyway, here's the links:

Elisabeth Waters (our esteemed editor) and Michael Spence

Steve Chapman

Jessie Eaker

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - The Last Wish

Why are you on the internet, dude? Go spend time with your family.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - A Twisted Christmas

Yes, I have this album. Best version of "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful" EVAH!

To all my Christian friends, have a blessed holiday!

Monday, December 23, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - My Personal Favorite Movie for the Holiday

What? You think I only watch this at Halloween?

C'mon. It's worth it for "Kidnap the Sandy Claws." And the big man is still the one to save the holiday.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Santa, Please Bring the Texans a Win

My family has been Texans fans since the start of the franchise. We've worn our t-shirts and jerseys proudly. GK packed his Mario Williams white jersey in his keepsake box when he got too big to wear it. I had to toss my first tee when it was literally falling apart. And for the first few years, we were often sneered at by our fellow Houstonians.

What pisses me off are the people in Houston who never cheered for the Texans until they went to the play-offs two years ago. And now they treat the coaching staff and players like shit for not giving them a Super Bowl team.

Despite what some of these idiots, including a couple of the sports writers for the Houston Chronicle, think, it's not any one person's fault. I could give you a list, but it means nothing at this point in the season. Like the sinking of the Titanic, it was simply a perfect combination for disaster.

Personally, I don't like the way Bob McNair threw Gary Kubiak to the wolves. This was the coach that led the team to their first winning season, that got the team to the play-offs the last two years. And like most CEOs, McNair has no fucking clue of how he just destroyed his players morale.

But today, Matt Schaub will have one last chance to show his stuff today against the Broncos. And when Peyton Manning was still with the Colts and in our division, he took Matt and the Texans seriously. He won't underestimate them in five hours. And if anything, Peyton will understand Matt's position because just two years ago, all the so-called experts said Peyton was finished, too.

So I'm proudly wearing my Battle Red Matt Schaub #8 and cheering for my team.

By the way, if you're one of those fair weather fans and you come here to piss on my boys, I WILL delete your comments.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Trans Siberian Orchestra

Even if you're not Christian, go see these folks! The Trans Siberian Orchestra puts on one hell of a show!

Friday, December 20, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Suggestion for Boys

Legos has been putting out a Star Wars Advent Calendar for the last three years. If you have a hard to shop for tween boy, these are a big hit!

(Actually, my twenty-year-old nephew likes playing with them, too.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - The Traditional Drinking Game

Get a bottle of your favorite liquor. Watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Take a shot every time his nose lights up.

(It numbs the realization when you get older that Santa is a racist bastard.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Making Cookies the Suzan Way

Yes, I'm sick, but if you're a regular reader, you should know that by now.

With one exception, I've always had either a pass-thru or a counter separating my kitchen from the living room/family room. When it's cookie making time in December, these are the movies I pop into the player.

Lethal Weapon is for peanut butter blossoms and sugar cookies. Die Hard is for date pinwheels and Swedish heirlooms.

Unfortunately, I've had a span of a few years where I couldn't put GK down for a nap and stick to my tradition, but now that he's a teen, I can get back into my bloody Christmas groove.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Tasty Truffles

I've extolled the virtues of Lindor truffles before, but in December, they release their dark chocolate-peppermint. To me, the peppermint flavor is way stronger than their everyday variety. I stock up on the Christmas specialty ones to last me until the dark chocolate raspberry ones come out for Valentine's Day.

I'm officially in big trouble now that I know Amazon carries not only the peppermint and raspberry varieties, but my ultimate favorite, DARK CHOCOLATE ORANGE!!

Why do I love Lindor truffles: You need to try one to understand.

Monday, December 16, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - The Headless Horseman Rides Again!

And this time he's Death. Literally. As in one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Sleepy Hollow gives Washington Irving's classic tale of a schoolteacher pining for the most beautiful girl in town a Revelations twist. Also, the producers made Ichabod hot, let him win the desirable Katrina only to have the American Revolution rip them apart, and turned Brom Bones into an undead corpse wanting vengence since Katrina spurned him for Ichabod.

Most of the series so far deals with Ichabod and his partner, Lt. Abbie Mills attempting to stop Brom and his demon master from unleashing Armageddon. One of the highlights of the series is the always fabulous Orlando Jones as Abbie's captain, skeptical at first but turned believer and ally.

Why I love this show: With the current fairy tale streak in media, I'm excited to see a show based on an American writer, even more a writer who's not L. Frank Baum (not that I have anything against Mr. Baum). Secondly, I'm happy to see a Christian witch such as Katrina shown in a positive light (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing). Sleepy Hollow has already been greenlit for a second season.

EDIT TO ADD: My buddy Angie shared a link to popular fanfic writer Cleolinda's hilarious take on Ichabod and Abbie texting each other. She captures the characters perfectly.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - The Romantic Movie I Watch with My Hubby

Once upon a time, It's a Wonderful Life was the throw-away movie every independent TV station carried because the rights were so cheap. But those repeated viewings in December made an impression on my generation, and we realized that the Boomers' mantra "Greed is good," wasn't true.

I love movies from the '30's and '40's, and I have an extensive collection for someone my age. Ironically, my Boomer hubby hadn't seen a lot of them, and I gradually have gotten him hooked. This is the movie we watch together after GK goes to bed on Christmas Eve.

Why I love this: Every couple has their ups and downs, but frankly, my nineteen years with DH have been a fucking roller coaster. George and Mary Bailey remind us to be thankful for everything that comes our way.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - My Secret Vice

Many singers put out Christmas albums. Many people go to concerts. I've been to five Barry Manilow concerts since 1984.

Why I love Barry: He's sweet, mellow, fun, and I really don't give a flying flip what you think.

Friday, December 13, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Spell-Slinging, Sword-Swinging Ladies

Twenty-eight years, famed SFF author Marion Zimmer Bradley thought traditional sword and sorcery fantasy was a little too testosterone-ridden. So she put out a call for stories with female protagonists in the S&S subgenre.

Why I love the Sword and Sorceress anthologies: I've discovered soooo many authors through MZB'santhologies. The first one was S&S 3, which had a story by an incredible lady named Mercedes Lackey. I've probably helped pay for Ms. Lackey's house with all of her books I've bought over the years. (I'm not just saying all this because I'm in the current edition, though it is pretty spectacular enough with all the other writers!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - The Guilty Indulgence

I've lived with diabetes for fourteen years now, and I do pretty well about controlling my diet during the New Hallowthanksmas holidays.

But my single indulgence is Starbucks seasonal beverages. And starting December 1st, I indulge in my one-per-week Peppermint Mocha.

Why I love Peppermint Mochas: It's like drinking Girl Scout Thin Mints. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - New Orleans Holiday

Copyright 2008 by AreteStock 
After DH and I moved to Houston but before GK was born, DH and I spent the weekend before Christmas in New Orleans.

Why I love Christmas in the French Quarter: December is the city's slow time. You can get some great deals on hotels even if the Saints have a home game on Sundays. The pace is slower, the people less stressed, and the Quarter is gorgeous decked out in Christmas lights. As this picture by AreteStock shows, there's a tranquility to the city that it doesn't have the rest of the year.

I'm trying to talk DH into staying in New Orleans for the entire month of December once GK is in college. I've even picked out St. Philip French Quarter Apartments. I'm sure I can get all kinds of inspiration here!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Almost Human

Maybe networks are finally realizing they're never going to have the market share they used to and are taking more chances. This year is the most I've watched network TV since Angel and Friends went off the air in 2004.

Almost Human is basically a rip-off of the Will Smith version of the motion picture I, Robot. But any other comparison stops after the pilot when it turns into an almost-typical buddy-cop series. I'd be happier if there was a little more fleshing out of the secondary characters, more issues of Kennex's memory loss from the ambush were he lost his leg, and a season-long story arch dealing with the very bad girlfriend who betrayed Kennex.

Why I'm hooked: Frankly, Alter Ego would like to be the middle of a Karl Urban/Michael Ealy. Pervy thoughts aside, Karl and Michael take a preposterous concept and manage to throw enough heart and humanity into the mix to make it work.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The 26 Days of Christmas IS Interrupted for the Mother of All Rants

Well, I made it to December 9th before someone (or in this case, more than one someone) did something really stupid. I tried to be positive this holiday season.

Really. I did.

1) Posting links to your blog on someone else's is rude. Begging me more than once to let you write a guest post is rude. Here's the deal at WWW: if I don't know you personally, get involved in the conversation and leave a few comments. If you have no idea what's going on here, then you shouldn't be asking. Once I get to know you, we'll talk.

2) If you want something from someone, say 'please.' It's not begging. It's not a cultural thing. It's called common courtesy. If you can't use 'please' when requesting a favor from me, I'm not going to fucking do another thing for you. Capice?

3) If you leave a comment here on a post that's over a week old, you will get a message saying "Awaiting moderation." That means the comment won't appear until I check and release it. And frankly, I work full-time, so that means, when I get a chance. I've had enough problems with spambots, so fans OF OTHER WRITERS probably should not leave repeated messages.

I mean, seriously, dudes? That's insulting.

4) If you're an indie writer, I can no longer recommend Draft2Digital as a distributor. Frankly, the issues I'm having, above and beyond the Kernel Pornocalypse, need their own post for the details. And since the matter has yet to be resolved, the full details will have to wait for another day.

Rant complete. Please resume your holiday merriment.

(And yes, I will fucking say, "Happy Holidays," if I damn well feel like it!)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - You Need the Four Essential Food Groups

There are some movies that the whole family watches as part of the household tradition. The one flick we agree on is Elf. In fact, we saw it twice in the theater when it was released.

Why I love this movie: This is the one film where Will Ferrell balances ribald humor perfectly with the innocence of his character, Buddy the Elf, an orphaned human adopted by the denizens of the North Pole. My favorite scene is Will's duet with Zooey Deschanel of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" while Zooey's character is taking a shower. (It's not as pervy as it sounds.)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Jingle Bell Rock the Brian Setzer Way

Brian Setzer has been around for thirty years and never fails to entertain! I have a few of his CDs including his Christmas album.

Why I love Brian: He resurrected swing and rockabilly for my generation, and he continues to do so for my kid and the nieces and nephews.

Check out samples of his Christmas album at Amazon!

Friday, December 6, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - The Smell of Christmas

Even when you're not baking, you can fill your house with the smells of the season. For me, I like burning candles while I write. It keeps the senses engaged, and it does translate to the words I use.

Why I love Yankee Candles: First of all, their scent is strong, and the candles last forever! Yankee Candle doesn't use metal core wicks, which set off my allergies. However, they do use essential oils which may trigger an allergic reaction. (I can't do pine or fresh grass.) But the food scented ones? HEAVENLY!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Bannon and Clare Save the Day!

What do you get when you cross the Wicked Witch of the West with Sherlock Holmes in a steampunk Britain, solving murders and serving the Queen?

You get Lilith Saintcrow's latest series, the Bannon and Clare Cases, a rollicking damn good time!

Why I love this series: Saintcrow turns gender expectations on end with all her protagonists, but never more so than with Emma and Archibald. Emma is prickly, powerful and believes her mentath needs to be protected. Archibald believes in cooperation to achieve their goals, but can hold his own in a fight better than Emma assumes. In a world where clockwork dragons rule and gryphons dine on unwary sorceresses, Emma and Archibald combine her magic and his logic to guard Queen and Empire from the forces of chaos.

P.S. I added The Damnation Affair even though Bannon and Clare don't appear in the story, it is set in the America of their world.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - N. K. Jemisin, Not Calgon, Takes You Away

I tried N. K. Jemisin on Tobias Buckell's recommendation. And now, I've got another must-buy author.

Even crazier, I whipped through the first book of The Inheritance Trilogy in three days during the middle of NaNoWriMo. Jemisin's style reminds me of Tanith Lee, but with a harder edge.

In The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Yeine Darr is drawn into her cousins' machinations for the throne as she tries to unravel the plot behind her mother's assassination. To make her already tenuous position deadlier, four imprisoned gods demand her help in gaining their freedom in exchange for the truth and revenge she seeks.

Why I love it: Marvelous book with an incredible, believable heroine! Yeine knows she's doomed, but she tries to make sure her death is worth something to somebody other than her evil family. I didn't know it had been nominated for a Nebula, so I didn't start reading it with pre-set expectations. This is one book I suggest you curl up and savor!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The one thing that pissed me off about The Avengers was Joss Whedon killed S.H.I.E.L.D. field agent Phil Coulson. I should have trusted him. He never let me down in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." starts with Coulson's reinstatement to active duty after recovering in Tahiti for several months. Supposedly, the med team of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier resuscitated him, and Fury hid this from the Avengers to push them into facing Loki together.

Except Coulson, and his right hand Melinda May, are beginning to suspect that's not what really happened to Phil.

Joss's brother Jed is the showrunner, and he's definitely got the family talent for delivering rip-roaring action, intense characterization, and a creepy, season-long story arc.

Why I recommend it? Clark Gregg has always rocked as Coulson in the movies as the every man touchstone in a world of superheroes. I always wished he had a bigger role, and had big hopes for him in The Avengers. Seeing a normal looking guy star in a series makes me happy.

Oh, and I've had a serious girl crush on Ming-Na Wen since the first season of "ER".

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Movie Mania - Thor, The Dark World

Oh, don't worry, kids! This is still part of the 26 Days of Christmas!

Why? Because even S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Melinda May says, "Thor is dreamy!"

The gratuitous naked shot of Chris Hemsworth for the ladies aside, this is one rare sequel that I think surpasses the original.

The movie begins with a look back to Odin's father Bor and his battle with the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim. Of course, this sets up the Dark Elf king's oath of revenge as we jump to the present. Thor and his buddies are cleaning up the rebellions that broke out thanks to the destruction of the Bifrost at the end of the first Thor movie.

Thor's human love Jane gets infected with floating red crap the dark elf plans to use to destroy Asgard. Big battle starts...

And that's when things get really fun. Loki's in prison due to the events of the Avengers movie. And Thor has no one left to help him save his girlfriend and the Nine Realms except his insanely jealous, power hungry, possibly sociopathic, brother.

1) Naked Chris Hemsworth. (Really? What did you think #1 was going to be?)

2) The incredible Tom Hiddleston making Loki sympathetic and loveable.

3) Zachary Levi playing Fandral was FUCKING incredible. I knew Joshua Dallas, who played the lothario in the first movie, couldn't do The Dark World because of his commitment to Once Upon a Time. But seeing Levi's name in the credits? My estimate of Levi went up a thousand fold.

4) Stellan Skarsgard is incredible as the comic relief.

Um...uh...not enough naked Chris?

Seriously though, Chris can act. When I saw Star Trek (2009), I questioned why Abrams didn't cast him as Jim Kirk, instead of George Kirk.

I give Thor, The Dark World 9.5 stars out of 10!

Even better, you can already pre-order it!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - P!nk Rocks!

I know P!nk's album The Truth About Love came out a year ago, but the music is so damn infectious!

It's hard to believe Alecia Moore has been a fixture on rock/pop scene for nearly fifteen years now. She's gone from unabashed party girl to devoted mom without losing her edge. Funny how the opening act for N'Sync is still going strong while the boy band has long since disbanded.

Why I recommend it? Because I love her brutal lyrics within both her catchy rock licks and her incredible ballads. Despite the ugliness of her early life, you know she's a survivor, and her career has proved that!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

26 Days of Christmas - Have You Read Jonathan Moeller's Ghost Series?

If not, this is the weekend to start! Because for the next 26 days, I'm going to be recommending stuff I love!

Fellow fantasy writer Jonathan Moeller has a sale going on his Ghost series over at Amazon. The first book is FREE, and books #2 and #3 are $0.99 each.

Caina Amalas is a member of the Emperor's Ghosts, his cadre of spies and assassins. She's mastered her teachers' lessons of weapons and intrigue, but will her skills be enough to save her from the same dark forces that destroyed her family?

Why do I recommend it? Because I love it when a male writer can create a three-dimensional female. Caina can kick ass, but still show her feminine side. She relies on her brains instead of superpowers, but isn't afraid to go after what she wants. If you haven't read "Ghost Spike" in Sword and Sorceress 28, you really need to!

Jonathan's sale is good through December 3rd!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

My insomnia has been giving me fits for the first time in over a year. Funny how the last time I had a problem was right before I left my day job.

Anyway, it's gotten so bad over the last month that I have to do this weird trick to reset my internal clock. I stay up an extra 2-3 hours per night (the time I would have spent tossing and turning) until I'm going to bed at a reasonable hour and actually falling asleep.

What this means is that I went to bed about 8 a.m. this morning and woke up about 4 p.m. DH finds the whole thing hysterically funny. GK simply chalks it up to another one of his mom's weird issues.

They are each going out with friends tonight for dinner. Personally, I'm glad to be missing the Black Friday madness on the streets.

Instead, I'll have a quiet house to work on my last 2K for my NaNo project. Yay, me!

And maybe, I'll be awake for the Texans v. Patriots game on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Videos I've Been Watching Lately

Vi Hart has an interesting take on commenters, commenting and reactions to both by the creator of the thing commented on.

I admit my defensive reactions to negative comments are predicated on the incessant put-downs I suffered as a child, both at home and at school. It's taken me a lot of personal work to get to the point where such things don't cripple me, and I'm not saying I'm 100% there yet.

But if you also want to crumple in the face of the one one-star review out of 100 five-star reviews, give a listen to Vi.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Kernel Pornocalypse - Round 2

I wrote about the nasty little piece by the British rag The Kernel launched a panic attack throughout the halls of Kobo last month. Other retailers haven't been inactive, but they've been quietly axing or delaying indie erotica behind the scenes.

Nor did I think mine or Alter Ego's books had some special magic exemption from the current witch hunt. So far my erotica series, Seasons of Magick, has remained unscathed.

Alter Ego though?

1) Apple has refused to accept book four in her first BDSM series, despite changes to the cover, since May.

2) Since the beginning of 2012, Apple has sat on Alter Ego's books for three months or more before approving them for sale. By contrast, Blood Sacrifice was on sale at Apple one week after it was shipped by Smashwords.

3) Kobo was taken down all of Alter Ego's books that were distributed by Draft2Digital. Both mine and Alter Ego's books distributed by Smashwords are still available, except for the two(one from each of us)  that were released in October.

4) On Thursday, November 21, Amazon took down two of Alter Ego's books. In the past, Amazon slapped on their super-secret-double-probation ADULT label. This time they simply took the books down. Ironically, one of the books is about a married couple, and just the married couple, trying to jump start their sex life after the birth of their first child. When I told fellow erotica authors which book had been banned, the response was universal: "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

A large part of the problem is that there are no guidelines from any of these retailers about what is and is not acceptable. The second part of the problem is the lack of consistency in these mysterious super-secret-double-probation guidelines. The third problem is that the primary target is indie writers.

What do I mean?

E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Gray is okay. Selena Kitt's Babysitting the Baumgartners is not. Why? Selena's book has the rear view of a woman's hiney on the cover and the word "babysitting" in the title.

Chelsea Fox's Dog Gone It was banned for bestiality simply for have a canine on the cover, though no bestiality is even hinted in the description or the text. Meanwhile, Christie Sims and Alara Branwen's Taken by the T-Rex, which does all three, is still available without the ADULT label and a best seller, even though Amazon has made public statements that they will not accept any books with bestiality.

Charlaine Harris' Harper Connelly series, which includes an affair between the heroine and her stepbrother is okay, even though incest and pseudo incest is supposedly verboten according to a statement by Amazon to the BBC.

So what are indie erotica writers supposed to do?

1)l I strongly suggest you read Selena Kitt's guide to surviving the Pornocalypse.

2) Have your readers protest the unavailability of your books. The retailers are more likely to listen to disgruntled customers than disgruntled writers.

3) Realize that Smashwords is the only retailer that will.take responsibility and place an adult filter on their website. Promote them to your readers.

4) If you want to sell on the other retailer sites, understand that you will have to play the game dictated by Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and, maybe Kobo (assuming they will ever allow new indie books again).

It all sucks but there it is. Best of luck to all indie writers, because the Powers That Be are doing their best to tear us down. I don't know about y'all, but I like my taste of freedom, and I'm not about to give it up!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

BAMF Girls Club - Episode 13

Some incredible BAMF-y goodness (plus the Doctor) to counter an incredibly sucky week (for me anyway)!

Friday, November 22, 2013

How Artists Respond to Customer Complaints

This is a speech by Dave Carroll of Sons of Maxwell, the writer and artist behind "United Breaks Guitars." No one ever wants to feel like they are unimportant.

Do you think United Airlines learned from the incident with Sons of Maxwell? No, they didn't. Last month, SFF author Jay Lake had to cancel his trip to London due to a family emergency, and United is refusing to work with him in regards to his tickets. As most of you probably remember from my previous posts, Jay has terminal cancer.

The problem is that Jay doesn't have the nine months to fuck around with United like Dave did.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More Jonathan Moeller Interviews of the S&S 28 Contributors

In the focus on the current novel during NaNo, I forgot to post links to the latest interviews by Jonathan Moeller. You see, Jonathan did this out of the goodness of his heart, using his precious time on his fellow contributors instead of working on his own wip.

First up is Lori Calkins.

Then there is the lovely Rebecca Eaker (who's father Jessie is also in Sword and Sorceress 28. Like me, this is Rebecca's first time in S&S. A fair warning, her story in the volume made me bawl my eyes out.

As Jonathan pointed out to me in an e-mail, what's interesting is that I'm the only contributor that's self-published.

Monday, November 18, 2013

NOOK Press Needs Epinephrine--STAT!

Once again, Barnes & Noble's Nook Press is acting up when tallying sales. Supposedly on November 11th, I only sold three books. (I'd like to point out that for me, that's normal this time of year)

When sales from November 11th rolled over from the Recent Sales page to the Monthly Sales page on Wednesday, the 13th, an extra book showed up. Then Friday, the 15th, a fifth showed up on the Monthly Sales page for the 11th.

On Friday, B&N announced Nook Press would be down for system maintenance on Saturday, November 16th, from 1AM to 4AM EST. When I logged into my account, Saturday afternoon, lo and behold, my total books sold for the month of September jumped from 79 to 81.

On top of everything, Friday's sales jumped from three to four.

In a post last month, I talked about my worries over B&N's fuzzy accounting. The last two week's developments are not reassuring in the slightest.

But why? I can hear you ask. You got credit for five books.

Yes, I did. But the book I got credit for on September 24th IS NOT for the book sale I reported missing to B&N.

Like I said before PubIt worked pretty damn well compared Nook Press.

Which makes me wonder what's going on behind the scenes at B&N.

It's not a comfortable feeling.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Videos I've Been Watching Lately

Because I got to talking about last year's Kitchen Nightmares season finale with Amy's Baking Company in yesterday's blog, I went back and rewatched it. It only reinforces my opinions about crazy professional writers. So this is a blog repeat from last spring.

I'm not a big fan of Gordon Ramsey, mainly because he yells a lot. But I don't deny that the man knows his business, and if you're calling him for help, then maybe you should listen to him. Not only did the folks on this episode not listen to him, they created their own social media nightmare after the episode aired.

Publicity tip, kids: Don't ever, EVER blast your critics on Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter. Even better, don't engage them all at the same time! It never ends well.

P.S. This is the ONE episode of Kitchen Nightmares I've ever watched all the way through.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The NaNo Crazies

Our local community college has an adult education program that focuses on hobbies. Fun stuff like photography, belly dancing, tarot card reading. One of the classes is a cake decorating.

All kinds of people sign up for the cake decorating class. Teens, housewives, grandparents, folks that just want to try something for fun.

Now imagine if you will, a bunch of professional chefs are picketing at the main doors of the community college as you walk in. Jamie Oliver, Emeril Lasgasse, Bobby Flay, and a bunch of other people who you've never heard of are waving signs and screaming at you. Things like:

"You didn't pay your dues!"
"How dare you think you're as good as us!"
"You're second-rate and you'll always be second-rate!"

These guys are nuts, right? I mean, you're just taking a cake decorating class.

What exactly are these guys thinking? That you're going to take their restaurants? Their experience? Their customers?

Do they seriously think all these cake people are going pro overnight?

If you ask the picketers, they'll tell you that they are just trying to save the cake students from a lifetime of disappointment. You see, the chef business is incredibly hard!

Yet, that very reaction happens every year in November. Something about National Novel Writing Month (aka "NaNo) drives the long-time writers and other publishing professionals stark raving bonkers. It's hard finding a publishing-related blog that doesn't go apeshit crazy about NaNo.

Even one of my favorite people, Kris Rusch went a little NaNo crazy last week. In Kris' defense, hers was more along the lines of Gordon Ramsey saying, "You're in my fucking kitchen, and you'd better fucking keep up, cupcake!"

Speaking of Mr. Ramsey and his show Kitchen Nightmares, you're always going to have people like Amy of Amy's Baking Company whose estimate of their abilities far outstrips their capabilities. But hey, that happens in every industry. (In fact, I can think of a couple of opposing counsel that fell into that level of delusion.)

The truth is that people like Amy are going to fail. They don't want to learn, and they won't listen to people like Gordon who are trying to help them. You don't need to put them down. The raw pizza and burnt fish they serve are going to drive people away. They definitely aren't a threat to the celebrity chefs, much less people like me.

So where do I fall in my cooking analogy?

I'm a short-order cook at the highway diner. My regulars come in because I serve the comfort food they love. I try to make it a little special, like substituting nutmeg for cinnamon in my French toast. I know I'm not at celebrity chef level, but I'm learning and saving to go to culinary school. I'm taking the cake decorating class because I've been creating birthday cakes for my neighbors and friends. Now that I have roses down pat, I'm experimenting with fondant.

Am I a threat to the celebrity chefs? Hardly.

I just chuckle and shake my head as I walk past them. I'm looking forward to tonight's lesson: fondant monkeys.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lessons Learned - Why You Need Links in Your E-Book

A few weeks ago, I picked up Tatooine Ghost as a Kindle Daily Deal. I used to inhale Star Wars novels like cocaine before GK was born. So needless to say, this novel was one of many released during the 21st century that I haven't read.

Honestly, I can say this is one of the better conversions I've seen of a novel that was originally in hardcover. I only noticed one typo. So kudos to Random House for one small grace. Plus, there was a short story starring Chewie, his wife and son. *grin*

But there were some other things that really annoyed me, and this comes under the list of "if you're indie, you probably shouldn't do this":

1) Over half of the file were samples for other Star Wars books. Seriously only 48% of the damn file was the actually novel. One or two samples I could have dealt with, but I lost count of the number of single chapters from separate novels. I felt cheated, even though I know I really wasn't.

2) There were no links to ANY of the e-books that were sampled, much less links to the zillion other Star Wars novels mentioned after the end of Tatooine Ghost. In fact, one of the sample chapters I read involved Leia, Mara and Jaina. I would have downloaded it right then if there was a 'Buy Now' link. But there wasn't.

And I've already forgotten the title of the story.

And I'm in the middle of NaNo, so I probably won't remember to look up the story in December.

See how Random House just lost a sale?

I understand if you're going through a distributor, direct links can be a major no-no. But if you're uploading your books directly to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc., you have no reason not to have the links for those particular stores for all of your books. (And you should ALWAYS have a "Additional Books by" section at the end of your e-book!)

For those of you using a central distributor and you can't add specific buy links to your e-book files, make sure you have a link to your website where you have...wait for links to all the online stores that carry your books!

This is a simple little solution to not lose a sale.

Have I always done this? No. I'm going through my early releases and rectifying this little problem. It means a separate file and conversion for each store, and it's a bit of a pain, but I know the end result will be soooo worth it!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Movie Mania - Last Vegas

I saw this movie a month ago. (FTC alert: Yes, my husband got free tickets.) With the craziness of getting my latest novel out, I haven't had time to write my review.

My respect for Michael Douglas (Billy) has dissipated with his crazy behavior (not to the extent of Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise, but close). But with Morgan Freeman (Archie), Robert DeNiro (Paddy), and Kevin Kline (Sam) rounding out the cast, this movie is worth it.

Think of Last Vegas as an '80's coming of age flick picking up sixty years later. The four men have best friends since they were preteens. When they were kids, Billy and Paddy were in love with the same girl, but she chose Paddy. The guys had a falling out when Billy fails to come to her funeral.

The movie starts with Billy, the group's eternal playboy, realizing his friends are dying around him. He proposes to his girlfriend (who's young enough to be his granddaughter) during a funeral where he's givng the eulogy. Archie and Sam connive to get Paddy to go with them to Billy's bachelor party.

There's the typical age jokes; some are actually funny. The best one involves Archie, who's living with his son's family after he suffered a stroke, and a blackjack table in the casino. The second best involves 50 Cent, but I won't ruin that one.

But for the most part, the movie is a serious exploration of what it means to grow old in our society while dressed in laughs. And it deals with second chances. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Videos I've Been Watching Lately

This X-Men parody is deliciously hysterical because the impersonations are so dead on. Enjoy!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Why "I Write Like..." Has Changed

If you've been paying attention to the badge at the top of my blog, you'll notice it's changed from "William Gibson" to "Jack London."

Why? When I fed in the first chapter of Blood Sacrifice, the cute little analyzer said I wrote like the author of the sci-fi classic Neuromancer. Last Friday, I fed in my first chapter of Sword of Justice, and the analyzer spit out the writer of The Call of the Wild.

So, is there really a difference in my writing? Probably. I'm definitely using more formal, almost antique, language in Sword of Justice since it's more of a classic fantasy type story. I'm just surprised how MUCH of a difference it makes. Wondering if it was popping out crap at random, I tested several of my other novels.

Blood Magick - Margaret Mitchell
Zombie Love - Stephen King
Zombie Wedding - Ian Fleming
Amish, Vamps & Thieves - Gertrude Stein
Zombie Goddess - J.K. Rowling

I'm a little disappointed to say the least.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sword and Sorceress 28 Is Now Available!

I'm officially a hybrid author! On Saturday, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress 28 was released into the wilds, and my story "Justice" is included in the anthology.

This is the major squee moment for me. I've been reading MZB's S&S since Volume 3, and I quickly scrounged the library and used book stores in order to devour the first two volumes. A lot of my favorite fantasy writers either got their start in S&S or contributed over the last thirty years, including Laurell K Hamilton, Mercedes Lackey, Diana Paxson, and Carrie Vaughn. I'm so proud to be a member of this august assembly!

Justice Anthea should have tossed the apprentice veterinarian out on her ear when she came to Anthea with a cock-and-bull story that she's engaged to a local lordling and he's been kidnapped. But something doesn't smell right, and it's not the scent of livestock on the girl's clothes.

When Anthea and her partner Luc investigate, they discover a bigger conspiracy than a noble couple pissed off about their son wedding below his station. One that threatens the queen herself!

Barnes & Noble

Sunday, November 3, 2013

NSFW - The Difference Between Porn Stars and Real People

This video is most DEFINITELY not safe for work, but it's funny as hell!

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's NaNoWriMo Time!*

*Sung to the tune of the Howdy Doody theme song.

Yes, it's November! That month when thousands of writers sit down to draft (from scratch, mind you) 50,000 words in thirty days. If you want to take up the challenge, there's still time to sign up!

Some people freak about the process. To those writers I say, if you want people to respect your style, then you have to respect theirs. To all the other naysayers I say, go tootsie frootsie yourself!**

National Novel Writing Month is a great way to kick start a new project or force yourself to finish one. As I told a young lady over at The Passive Voice, there's no wrong way to do NaNoWriMo (or "NaNo" for short). It is simply whatever you need it to be.

I'll let you in on a little secret. One of the Bloodlines novels was written during a previous NaNo. If you can guess which one, I'll send you one of my novels of your choice. Just e-mail me at suzan at suzanharden dot com.

So what will be my project this year? I was going to do Zombie Goddess, but there's an issue in the middle that needs a little more percolating thanks to an unexpected turn of events in Blood Sacrifice. (I love it when my subconscious does some weird shit.)

In the meantime, DH has been bugging me since March about writing a full-length novel starring Anthea and Luc, the characters from my short story "Justice". So I thought, why not?

This should be a fun, off-the-wall project after the struggle I went through with the last novel. I view it as a sword and sorcery version of CSI  It all starts with a dead woman found in a wine barrel at Lord Marco's estate...

I've got chocolate, popcorn, tea, Pepsi and a working laptop. I'm ready!

** Yes, I stole that from Craig Ferguson's The Late, Late Show.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When a Writer Assumes the Role of Gatekeeper for Other Writers

Yes, I'm late posting today, but I wanted to think long and hard about what I wanted to say.

I thought while I bought a Batman outfit at Build-a-Bear for the teddy bear DH gave me for our fifth wedding anniversary. I thought while I decided on my birthday chocolate at Godiva's. I thought while I checked at Yankee Candle to see if they had any Witch's Brew left. (They didn't, but I'm definitely getting Cherries in Snow for Christmas!) I thought while I ate my birthday breakfast of a classic Cinnabon and Starbuck's black ice tea.

I didn't think when I saw a brand-new Ghoulia doll at Toys R' Us. I just squealed in delight, which made the clerk's day. We chatted about the New Hallowthanksmas retail season while it stormed like crazy outside.

But once the rain died and I could safely make it to the car without getting electrocuted or Ghoulia getting soaked, I started thinking again. So what caused all this thinking?

Libby Fischer Hellman is pissed off about EVERYONE self-publishing. Her sales are down! No one can find her books among the tsunami of swill! And everyone else needs to just stop publishing!

After reading her blog one more time before I started to write this post, all I can say is Genius Kid never threw a tantrum like this even in his Terrible Twos.

What's even sadder is that I've never heard of Libby Fischer Hellmann before her post was excerpted over at The Passive Voice (and her post caused a firestorm of comments over there). Is this how she wants to introduce herself to potential readers?

Because that's what other writers are. They are readers, too.

I wouldn't dream of stating on my blog that no other writer can publish because no one's buying my books. That simply DOES NOT MAKE SENSE!

Do I think writers should learn their craft before they publish? Hell, yeah. I don't know an indie writer who doesn't believe that. But once a writer is past the initial craft stage, the game changes.

If no one's buying my books, that means I'm not doing a good enough job entertaining my readers. That's no else's fault but my own. It means I need to step up my game, not "everyone needs to be gentle with poor widdle Suzan."

The whole point of indie publishing my books is that they're niche. I know they are niche. The Big 5 don't see how they can make any money on such a small market segment, but I do see how I can. And I have. And I wrote things that tickled me, and obviously tickled a few other people or they wouldn't have bought them. Or read them. Or asked when's the next one coming out.

I don't believe we writers are in competition with each other because readers are varied in their tastes and voracious. We're definitely not in competition with people too lazy to learn their craft or who plagiarize other writers, which, to me, is the real swill.

It's going to take me 120-150 hours of butt-in-chair time to write Zombie Goddess, plus another 40 or so hours of editing time. (That's me personally; that's not counting the editor and beta reader's time.) The average reader will whip through it in 4-5 hours.

What's the reader going to say if I tell her she can't read anybody else's work while I write the next novel? She's going to say, "Fuck you!" and rightly so.

Also, readers are very good about finding what they like. I've been choosing my own books since I was six. I'm pretty damn sure other readers can choose their own material as well.

So I'm going to keep writing and publishing whether Ms.Hellmann likes it or not. And if my zombie tabloid reporter is outselling her female PI, then maybe she needs to step up her game instead of whining.

Monday, October 28, 2013

FINALLY! Blood Sacrifice is out!!

I stayed up last night until effing four in the morning, but dammit, this book was getting uploaded! (Many thanks to Pepsi, Inc. LOL)

It seems appropriate that Alex and Phil's book comes out Halloween week since they literally go to Uku Pacha, the Incan Underworld.

I'll be posting sales links as they go live during the next couple of days (yes, I'm talking to you, Barnes & Noble). I want to thank all of my readers for your incredible patience!

Alex Stanton is done being Phillippa Mann’s whipping boy. She made it perfectly clear she preferred him only when his body temperature was human. And he would keep his distance from the Amazon if his vampire master didn’t value Phil’s business relationship.

But when someone breaks into Phil’s antique shop and steals a replica of an Incan artifact called a tumi, Alex discovers she’s in deep trouble. The tumi isn’t a fake after all, and the original owner wants it back. Can he and Phil mollify a ticked off god of death long enough to find the thief and retrieve the god’s property, or will the Incan deity decide he’ll take their souls in exchange for his lost weapon?

Novel, approximately 76,000 words or 277 printed pages

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Brand New BAMF Girls Club! Episode 12!

That's right! Just in time for Halloween, Katniss learns she's been training for the wrong reality show! (And watch the end of the episode for a hint of Episode 13's special guest star!)

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Jonathan Moeller Interviews of S&S 28 Contributors - Part 4

Yesterday, Jonathan posted my interview. Show Jonathan some love! Stop by and leave a comment!

P.S. There's a snippet of "Justice" for you to check out.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Status Report - October 2013

As the Celtic year winds down (yes, folks, Halloween, or Samhain if you will, was the Celtic equivalent of New Year's Eve except with a lot less glitter and champagne), I'm looking at what I've accomplished.

Sales have been down over September and October, just like they have been for the last three years. Why? Because readers are dealing with school, kids, fall activities like football, and holidays. Oh, and October is when trad publishing unleashes a flurry of paper books, especially hardbacks, in preparation for the Christmas rush.

A lot of folks in indie world are panicking, but they've panicked every fall for the last three years.What they need to be looking at is the long-term implications. The initial gold rush in self-publishing is over. Thank Djehuti!

Why do I say that? Because the people who aren't serious about writing as a career are starting to give up. That doesn't mean the rest of us can relax. If anything, we need to up our game. We not only have to be better than other indies, we have to be better than trad published books in our production values.

Fortunately, that's not hard. *grin*

Here's some of the data you're looking for:

After Amazon's August surge, Apple sales are still beating the house that Bezos built as far as my books go in September. Barnes & Noble sales have dropped thanks their schizophrenic board of directors and total lack of direction. Frankly, I can't blame Nook owners for not wanting to invest any more money in their devices. Kobo and Smashwords sales have been non-existent since April. Sony is the retailer that surprises me because I'm starting to see 2-3 actual sales per month for the second half of 2013.

Total sales in August = 215
Total sales in September = 139
Total sales for October as of the 22nd = 74

I place a lot of the blame for October on Congress' shoulders because of the stupid-ass government shutdown. There was a marked increase in sales after 16th, and not just because Alter Ego published a new novella on the 18th.

The rest of the year will be interesting. Blood Sacrifice will be published by Halloween. Sword and Sorceress 28 with my short story "Justice" will be released November 2nd. Alter Ego will put out her first novel in December as well as the last novella of her current BDSM series. That will bring my total releases up to ten for the year.

And I've officially made more money in 2013 than I did in 2012, and I've still got two more months to go.

All-in-all, I think I've done pretty good this year for an average mid-lister.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Star Wars - The Condensed Version

The complete Star Wars movie saga told in less than five minutes. This version is WAY better than George Lucas'. Wasup!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Kernel, Kobo, and the Great Erotica Blow-up of 2013

Yes, I know I don't normally write a Thursday blog, but I wanted to record the shitstorm that happened over the last week while it's still fresh.

Once upon a time, which was actually Wednesday, October 9, 2013, a little U.K. rag called The Kernel ran a piece by Jeremy Wilson, vilifying Amazon as the purveyors of pornography. Specifically, they named erotica books that allegedly contained underage sex, incest, non-consensual sex and bestiality, four of the biggest no-no's in erotica because these are usually illegal in real life.

There's two things you need to understand before I continue:

1) The Kernel is so bad it makes the U.S.'s National Enquirer look like the epitome of top journalism.

2) Most traditional publishers, including those in newspapers and magazines, have a bad case of ADS, aka Amazon Derangement Syndrome, a term coined by the Passive Guy, the well-known, pro-indie publishing blogger of The Passive Voice, to describe the rampant trashing of Amazon in the publishing industry by those traditional pundits who still use Amazon's services to sell their merchandise.

On Saturday, October 12, 2013, The Daily Mail latched onto the so-called "story", but they added Barnes & Noble, W.H. Smith, and Waterstones (all brick and mortar stores with an online presence) into the lambasting of porn sales. Yes, this is the same Daily Mail singer Amanda Palmer mocked for reviewing her boobs instead of her singing.

That same day, the BBC (British Broadcasting Network which is the state-run television network) jumped on the bandwagon. They only focused on Amazon and the contents of the original Kernel story. According to the Amazon spokesperson's statement to the BBC, all books mention in the original story had been removed.

A legal side note to explain something: the U.K. does not have any equivalent to the U.S.'s First Amendment guaranteeing a right to freedom of speech. What the U.K. does have is the Obscene Publications Act, which makes the retailer liable if a shopper accidentally encounters material that would outrage public decency.

On top of the OPA, Prime Minister David Cameron is pushing a far-reaching law that would prevent anyone in the U.K. from accessing any kind of sexually explicit materials, not just child pornography. This proposed law has been jokingly referred to as the Great Firewall of London, but it would have some serious ramifications for writers, retailers and consumers if it is enacted.

At some point on Sunday, October 13, 2013, W.H. Smith shut down their website. I don't mean just the e-book portion but the entire fucking thing. Here's the screen shot of the holding page as I write this at 1 AM CDT on Thursday, October 17, 2013:

As you can see, more finger-pointing started. W.H. Smith blamed Kobo for the content of their e-books. Nevermind that W.H. Smith had been making money off that content for some time.

Kobo, in turn, started deleting books from their online sales site. But it wasn't just the books mentioned in The Kernel and The Daily Mail articles. Nor was it a deletion of erotica titles. It was a wipe of small/micro press and indie books regardless of the genre. Specifically targeted were books handled by distributor Draft2Digital (D2D) and those uploaded through Kobo's Writing Life.

One of the writers hit was thriller author and pro-indie pundit David Guaghran. The guy does NOT write erotica.

[DISCLOSURE: Two of Alter Ego's erotica titles handled by D2D are no longer available through Kobo. Both the Suzan Harden and Alter Ego erotica titles distributed through Smashwords, Inc., are still available on Kobo's website.]

On Monday, October 14, 2013, at 9:26 AM, I received the following e-mail from D2D's CEO Kris Austin:

Dear Suzan Harden:

We have discovered that over the weekend Kobo removed all books published through our account. While we have received no official word concerning this issue, we believe this is related to recent articles in the media concerning erotica titles available at WHSmith and Kobo’s storefronts.

However, Kobo’s response to this situation seems to have been removal of all books for any publishers (including distributors) that have offending titles until they find a solution.

I deeply regret that authors who have released books that are not erotica have been affected by this situation as well.

We are working aggressively to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and we will keep you updated as we learn more information.

Kris Austin
President and CEO
Draft2Digital, LLC

Late Monday afternoon, Kobo finally made a statement concerning the removal of D2D books.

Defense of indie writers from the Kernel's hatchet job started early. The Digital Reader came back with some valid points.

On the IndieReader, Michelle Fox describes the witch hunt going on over at Amazon. Apparently, The Kernel didn't do their research. A couple of the books they mentioned didn't have the things they described. Kernel writer Wilson claimed author Chelsea Fox's book, Dog Gone It, supposedly had acts of bestiality. His reasoning? There was a dog on the cover.

Since the story went viral, The Kernel has taken down several of the alleged bad books on their page. Why? The U.K.'s laws concerning libel and slander are a lot more stringent than the U.S.'s. Writers like Chelsea Fox could have a hell of a payday if they decide to pursue actions against The Kernel.

Even though Chelsea's book was originally removed, it's now back up on Amazon (at least the U.S. website).

In the meantime, Amazon is doing more than taking down the books named by The Kernel and The Daily Mail. Erotica superstar Selena Kitt has a spectacular rundown over at One-Handed Read. While not mentioned by the British tabloids, one of her bestselling books, Babysitting the Baumgartners was removed from Amazon. She had to change the title only in the data base, not on the cover or text, to get Amazon to put it back on sale.

My thoughts on all of this? Major overreaction on the parts of the retailers. Smashwords has had an adult content filter on their website almost from day one. Why the mass purging when a little forethought could have saved these retailers a lot of trouble?

Because Amazon, Kobo, et. al. are only going through the motions. They WANT you to find these erotic books. They WANT to sell these books. Erotica makes them a BUTTLOAD of cash every year. I know because I've been making a buttload of cash since I created Alter Ego.

Right now, they're calming the pearl-clutchers as my friend Angie refers to the holier-than-thou assholes like Jeremy Wilson, knowing that writers will rename their books and upload them again when the kerfluffle dies down. THE RETAILERS DON'T GIVE A FLYING RAT'S ASS. Not about the writers. Not about the consumers. Not about Jeremy Wilson and drama mamas of his ilk.

Welcome to capitalism, baby! Ain't it great?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The S&S 28 Interviews, Part 2

Fellow fantasy writer Jonathan Moeller interviews his fellow contributors to the Sword and Sorceress anthologies. Here's last Thursday's interview with Catherine Soto.

Monday, October 14, 2013

When Bad Computer Problems Happen to Good Writers

After the computer kerfluffles in July and August, I've been limping along with an ancient laptop. Thursday night, I got to a good stopping point, took a shower, grabbed some tortilla chips and salsa, and sat down to watch The Big Bang Theory.

I went back to work after the show.


Somehow, I managed not to burst into tears, got DH and started going through the checklist. Number one being, "No, I did NOT spill salsa on the computer!"

The error messages were all over the place, but two of them indicated it might be the memory. Thankfully, I had the same type of memory card in a defunct computer that hadn't made it to the recycling center yet.

Yay! New memory worked.

But the problem with the old memory had corrupted my registry. *head desk*

All of this to say, I've got enough restored to get to try to finished the edits on Blood Sacrifice, which is what I would have been doing Thursday and Friday if this shit hadn't happened. *grrr*

So the rest of this week will be interesting links for y'all to check out while I try to get caught up on getting this @*$@@( book published!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Commercials I've Been Watching

HEB, a Texas grocery chain, has been using Houston Texans' players in their commercials for a few years. And defensive end, JJ Watt is one of the sweetest guys in the world.

Until he gets on the football field.

This is HEB's funniest commrcial ever.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Speed and First Drafts Are Not Your Enemy. Fear Is.

The reason this post is late today is I'm reticent to stir the controversy pot.

I can hear what thinking. Since when, Suzan?

It's the issue of speed when it comes to drafting a story.

Please understand that I'm not talking about physical limitations. And before anyone goes off on me in comments, yes, I do understand certain impediments. I'm in the early stages of arthritis thanks to the self-destructing chemical soup that is my body, and I'm losing my eyesight, even though my doctor has been running an a battery of tests since March, he can't figure out what the problem is, and he's more frustrated about the situation than I am.

Maybe it's my own impending problems that spurs my need for speed. I've got so many ideas in my head that demand to be told. I started watching how many books were put out per year by my favorite authors. The only one who really talks about his process is Dean Wesley Smith.

When I started writing with the intent to publish back in 2004, I was doing great to get down 250 per hour. At the beginning of the year, I could do 500 words per hour. Dean's 7500 words per day seemed an impossible thing to achieve unless I went without sleep, food or potty breaks.

So instead of the impossible, I went for the possible. I'd done NaNoWriMo before. 50K words in 30 days comes out to 1,667 words per day. What if I bumped that up to 2K per day?

And it worked! Despite the craziness of homeschooling and packing, it worked. I finished five novellas, three short stories and the infamous novel Blood Sacrifice since January 1, 2013.

Which brings me to the other problem--rewriting. Maybe it's the flippant answer I gave in a recent interview. Maybe it's something Dean said in his blog, but I've given up on rewriting pieces ad nauseum.

Why? Because when I do, the book doesn't sound like me anymore. It reads like every piece of pablum coming out of New York these days. Oh, there's definitely times when I, my editor or beta readers say, "Hey! This piece here doesn't match the rest!"

But to me, that's content editing, not a complete rewrite. And I'm not saying a rewrite is never necessary.

Blood Sacrifice is a prime example. I started it in 2009, and I had to scrap it after seeing Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull because Steven Spielberg and I had the same frickin' plot. In 2010, I tried again, but I realized I had a problem with who the Big Bad was. It needed to be someone worthy of Alex and Phil.

I sat down for a brainstorming session over pumpkin lattes with my friend Jody in 2011. "The Aztecs and Mayans are overdone right now," she said. "Go farther south."

She had lived in Peru during the 1968 military coup. (I really think she needs to write about her life, but she thinks she's boring. Goddess, she so is not!)  She had a ton of books (most of which I couldn't read because they were in Spanish) and native music recordings she let me borrow, but it was her photos and recounting of the the Day of the Dead festivals that caught my warped attention.

Again, I started Blood Sacrifice. Again, I ran into a problem. I set it aside and concentrated on Alter Ego's career. This year, as I was wrapping breakables for packing, the solution popped into my head.

The only other time I rewrote a novel was to satisfy the bizarre whims of agents. (Zombie Love if you're curious. The published version is very close to the original version once I gave up trying to please a bunch of strangers who didn't give a shit about my story.) It's one thing when my perfectionistic streak comes into play. It's another when someone arbitrarily dictates changes.

Anything else I've written and published is the first draft. Including the short story "Justice" which I sold to Elisabeth Waters, the editor of Sword and Sorceress 28.

I can go into all the psychology of why writers think slow drafting and multiple drafts are a good thing, but I won't since Dean covers it pretty well in his Killing the Sacred Cows series on his blog.

It all comes down to one word--fear.

It's amazing how good writing feels once you let go of that fear.

So I challenge all of you to write FAST, write FEARLESSLY and have FUN!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Jonathan Moeller and the Sword and Sorceress 28 Interviews

Fellow fantasy writer Jonathan Moeller has been interviewing the contributors to MZB's Sword and Sorceress anthologies for the last several years. He posted the first one with Pauline J. Alma last Thursday for the 2013 edition.

Sorry, guys, but between Blood Sacrifice and Justice coming out within weeks of each other, you're going to deal with me squeeing a lot.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Brittany's New Single

I'm not sure what I think of this. Trying too hard for attention? Berating other people? Or herself? Or is this the lecture she's getting from her dad because she needs to step up and be responsible for her sons?

Let me know what you think.

Friday, October 4, 2013

XinXii and Their Rights Grab

[Edit to add: For anyone who's dealing with XinXii, you have my permission to use the text of my letter to Dr. Andrea Schober, CEO of XinXii. I would suggest that you edit it to illustrate you personal circumstances.  -S.H.]

For those of you who may not know XinXii is a e-book retailer/distributor in Germany. Think of it essentially as a German version of Smashwords.

When I first signed up with them, Amazon didn't have a German store and Apple and Kobo were fledglings in the European market. I took a chance with them.

I stopped uploading books at the beginning of 2012 because of some issues I was having with their interface that were not their fault, I might add. One of the things on my To-Do list was to get the rest of my books uploaded after Christmas of this year.

Not anymore.

On Tuesday, October 1, 2013, I received an e-mail from XinXii CEO, Dr. Andrea Schober, talking about XinXii distributing to Flipkart, and Indian e-retailer. Fifty minutes later I received a second e-mail from Dr. Schober, talking about e-Sentral, a e-retailer servicing Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Below is my response to Dr. Schober that I sent to her last night:

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Dear Dr. Schober:

I have several problems with the arrangements XinXii has made with Flipkart and e-Sentral and well as the lack of specifics in the both e-mails sent out on Tues, October 1, 2012, and the lack of specifics on the XinXii website itself.

1) You gave publishers forty-eight hours to respond without taking into account any time zone differences. In my case, it cuts the investigation and response down to thirty-five hours because Berlin is seven hours ahead of Houston. Another distributor, Smashwords, Inc., gave publishers two weeks to decide in the matter of Flipkart.

2) You made these two retailers an opt-out option. In the past, new distribution channels on XinXii were opt-in. Frankly, this feels like a bullying move similar to the one pulled by Google and is now in litigation in the United States. Frankly, it does not inspire my confidence in XinXii as a company.

It also doesn't take into account that I may already be distributing to these two retailers by other means. This takes me back to point Number 1, where I have to drop everything else on my business plate to deal with this issue. Again, this does not make me want to do business with XinXi..

3) I'm not happy about the terms offered, i.e. 50% of net, to a third party without any negotiation on my part. Your e-mail does not specify what constitutes "net." Your Terms of Use does not specify what constitutes "net." And the TOU page only send a user to the Distribution Information page shown below, and STILL does not list the specific items which qualify as "net."

At the very least, Smashwords, Inc., listed the transaction fees, the Indian VAT, the fact that they entered into a wholesale arrangement with Flipkart, and that Flipkart can discount at any time for any amount they wish.

XinXii has listed none of this anywhere.

Needless to say, I no longer am comfortable doing business with XinXii since terms are not being fully disclosed, and I have removed all my books I have listed with you. I hope you change your mind about giving full disclosure in your future business transactions.

Suzan Harden

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Yes, folks, I am a backwoods, redneck hillbilly, but I'm a backwoods, redneck hillbilly who went to law school. I expect my contract terms to be fully defined, or I'm out of the deal.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Is Barnes and Noble Sinking Faster Than We Thought?

Back in August, I wrote an overview of Barnes & Noble's problems. In September, fuzzy accounting seemed to become more pronounced. For the second month in a row, my sales would pop on the Recent Sales screen and disappear when it's supposed to roll over to the Monthly Sales tally.

(For those who don't use Nook Press or its predecessor PubIt, here's an example: Any sales from yesterday and today, October 1 and 2, show up on a screen called Recent Sales. Tonight at midnight EDT, sales from the 1st will get moved to the October monthly sales report.)

Why B&N does this rollover thing instead of placing them directly in the month report is beyond me. With PubIt, there were some occasional glitches, but nothing compared to the problems with Nook Press.

In August, I had sales from two days disappear during the rollover. I e-mailed Nook Press customer support, and I received a response from them in twenty-five hours. Sales were restored.

However, this came after the supposed fix on August 15th, which was supposed to prevent this from happening. So another fix was done on the August 20th.

And then things got worse.

USA Today bestselling writer Heidi McLaughlin released her new novel on September 2nd. At other retailers, the book was clicking along in sales. However, B&N showed dismal numbers, even though by the 5th, My Unexpected Forever was ranked #19 on B&N's own bestseller list. The numbers simply didn't add up.There was simply no way she could be in the top 100 after only selling seventy copies of her new book.

That's right--70.

And Nook Press support swore up and down that those number are correct. They have since notified Heidi that there was a glitch in the system.

The same glitch that has been plaguing Nook Press from the beginning?

More authors started relaying their stories on social media. Some are asking readers for copies of receipts to prove their case to B&N. Several, including me, have e-mailed, called or chatted with Nook Press representatives, only to be met with stonewalling or silence.

The only missing sale I can verify is from September 24th. However, I may have missing sales from the 25th through the 28th as well, because as in Heidi's case, the sales numbers don't match the variance in the ranking numbers.

Today, Alter Ego sent out her quarterly newsletter to fans, warning them that she may be withdrawing her books from B&N this month. It's drastic step, and not one I want to take.

But the similarities between B&N's "glitches" and Dorchester's incorrect sales statements and missing checks right before they went under is scary as hell. I don't feel like lining Len Riggio and his cronies' golden parachutes.

But I hear the apologists. It's just a couple of books, Suzan. Yeah, it may be a handful on mine, and a few thousand of Heidi's, and a couple from you, and...

And it all adds up to a dollar figure with a lot of zeroes after it.

As my grandpa used to say, "I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night."

Monday, September 30, 2013

Can Writers Review Books?

Writers are in an incredibly difficult position. Most, if not all, of us started as readers. The love of story is what got us into this profession. Unfortunately, we can't talk about other writers' books without being accused of something.

I'm a pretty selective reader who delves into, well, just about anything. In fact, my only line is Christian romance, but there's always exceptions. I'll read anything Carla Rossi puts out. Not because she's a friend, but because she understands the difference between subtlety and beating someone over the head with a cross.

Which brings me to accusations of favoritism. When I said I was selective, I wasn't joking. I rarely pick up or download something that I know I'll hate. Which means pretty much everything I read will get three out of five stars or more.

Does this make me a Pollyanna? Someone who's unable or unwilling to criticize a fellow writer?

Maybe it does. But as I said on The Passive Voice, reading is a very subjective experience. Just because I don't like it doesn't mean it's wrong. All it means is that particular piece didn't do anything for me.

Have I read things I hate? Of course, but there's only one book I've read in the last ten years.that would have gotten zero stars. It was a paranormal romance where the so-called hero committed what in Texas would be a minimum of aggravated sexual assault against the heroine. I have a serious problem with rape as titillation, so the author in question lost me as a reader.

Now, what exactly would it gain me by going onto Amazon, Goodreads, etc., and blast this lady?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, I would lose in the long run.

Why? Oh, goddess, there's too many reasons to count, but I'll list a few. She's a NYT best selling author and I'm not. therefore there would be accusations of jealousy. No matter how carefully I worded the review I'd be the one coming across as a douche. Rape fantasy is the number one sexual fantasy among American women so more than one friend has questioned what's wrong with me because they thought that particular scene was very hot. Her readers may decide I need to be taught a lesson and one-star my books in retaliation.

It's the last example that brings me to the current issues with both Goodreads and Amazon. (FYI - Amazon purchased Goodreads in March of this year.) Accusations of gaming the system drove the changes to Amazon. Accusations of bullying drove Goodreads' changes.

A lot of folks are upset about these revisons Amazon made to their review policy last year. Goodreads revised their review policies on September 20th. Many readers feel the new policies are draconian and limit their free speech. The reason in both cases are abuses of both businesses' reviewing policies by both readers and writers.

Was there a happy medium before either company went Big Brother on everybody's asses?

Yes, but neither side wished to meet in the middle. Extremism has become the word of the day, not civility. Former agent, now author, Nathan Bransford tried to discuss the problem, but the comments on his blog quickly escalated into vitriol by those with vested interests on each side of the Goodreads divide. Nathan had to disable comments because things got so out of hand.

And underneath the truckloads of manure are all the people who, like me, just want a place to hang out and talk books.

Do reader's have the right to discuss why they don't like a particular book? Yes, they do. Can writers get upset about bad reviews? Yes, they can. It's what both sides do after that, threats, listing people's personal info, etc. that becomes the problem.

The whole situation reminds of why I stopped mediating divorce cases. Invariably, neither spouse was innocent. A lot of hate was spewed, a lot of ugly accusations, a lot of lies. The children were caught in the middle. Sometimes the divorcing parents could get the kids to take sides. Most of time, the kids would hate both parents by the time everything was said and done. Both parties harangued me for trying to get them to let go of their hate and come to a settlement. And both parties raged at the judge because she HAS to end this situation one way or another. Sound familiar?

So what am I going to do?

1) I'm going to continue talking about finding the new authors I love (like when I discovered Gail Carriger), new books from old favorites that I'm squeeing over ( Lilith Saintcrow's new paranormal steampunk series, the Bannon and Clare Mysteries, rocks!), and occasionally, the stuff I dislike (Star Trek: Into Darkness isn't quite as bad as Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but it comes pretty damn close).

2) I'm going to keep a close eye on comments. If parties from either side come here to continue their Goodreads feud, I will shut down comments. I've already disabled anonymous comments. There's plenty of other places in the internet-verse for y'all to rip into each other.

Civility is the key. There's no reason not to use it when it comes to books.