Sunday, March 31, 2013

Songs I've Been Listening to a Lot Lately

And ten years after Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen had One Vision.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Godzilla-clone Amazon Is Rampaging Again

Yes, the giant behemoth known as Amazon ate Goodreads yesterday. I'm not going repeat all the speculation. And that's all it is right now--speculation.

There's several articles listed over at The Passive Voice that give the range of "Oh, God, Amazon will eat us all!" to "Cool! Best marriage ever."

My two major concerns?

1) My books have more reviews on Goodreads than they do on Amazon. I hope both sets are integrated, and my Goodreads reviews are not purged.

2) I liked Goodreads because it was an alternative to Amazon, and even though I was an author, I could write reviews there. There wasn't any "reciprocity" at Goodreads for me. I could write a review and say whether something I read for fun was "fabulous" or "meh." I'd hate all my efforts to go to waste just because I write for a living.

Like everything else in the insanity that is publishing these days, we'll have to wait and see how it shakes out.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Yesterday, the Titanic. Tomorrow, the Lusitania.

As much as I hate to say it, Barnes & Noble is a sinking ship. Their execs have been making a series of moves lately that smack of desperation.

1) They over-ordered the Nook Touch for last Christmas. And just like in December, they are currently having a sale--buy a Nook HD+ and get a Touch for free.

2) They've added more cute, kitchen-y items as well as foods other than sweets and caffeine. Seriously, when DH and I stopped for coffee at our local B&N after my eye doctor appointment on Monday, three of the five tables between the Nook counters and the cafe were filled with themed utensils, jams and bread mixes.

3) They announced the revolutionary idea of in-app purchases. But they won't be availabel until next month.

4) It used to be that B&N membership meant customers received one 15%-off coupon four times a year. I've received at least five 20-25%-off coupons, not to mention some sweet cafe deals, and it's not even the end of the first quarter yet.

5) B&N is engaged in a battle with Simon and Schuster over the payment for end caps and front table space. As a result, they are under-ordering or failing to order a huge amount of mid-list books. After preaching how much traditional publishers and bookstores need each other to survive, they've now turned on each other.

What's more significant are the things they've promised and haven't delivered, like streaming movies, TV shows or music.

Please don't get me wrong. I don't want to see Barnes & Noble fail. This month alone, I've sold 100 e-books compared to eighteen at Amazon. This is the rough 5-1 ratio I've been mentioning in the last few status updates. I have a vested interest in wanting them to succeed.

But honestly, I don't see how they can without moving into the 21st century. That means streaming entertainment and more digital downloads than just books. This means two-day in-store delivery of ordered books, not two-weeks. This means an honest and radical revision in how they do business, not stop-gap moves.

I'm afraid Barnes & Noble is sailing in a war zone, despite numerous warnings, just like the doomed RMS Lusitania. While it may not take eighteen minutes for Barnes & Noble to sink, the enemy torpedo has already hit the ship. It's just a matter of time until the magazine blows.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Yeah, I'm Still Alive

Friday was the last day of Spring Break, so we had a family day. Breakfast out, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and everything topped off with a stop at The Cheesecake Factory.

The only disappointment for me is that TCF didn't have any of their new orange dreamsicle cheesecake though the white chocolate wild blueberry was an excellent substitute. On the other hand, GK explained in great detail that the Mayans valuing chocolate was a much more interesting exhibit than the Faberge collection to a preteen male. Which may explain why he ordered the Godiva chocolate cheescake.

This morning, we jumped back into our regular routine. Or tried to.

GK worked on four subjects while I was at the eye doctor's first thing this morning. Unfortunately, I was there much longer than I anticipated. What I thought would be a normal prescription adjustment turned out to be a severe reduction in sight in my left eye. My optomologist ruled out the usual culprits: cataract, glaucoma, detached retina. He even did a really cool topography scan of my retina, looking for wrinkles or tears, but he's stumped. And he's worried that he's stumped. So I'm going back in a couple of weeks for more extensive testing.

DH drove me home around noon, but the stupid dilation drug didn't wear off as fast as it usually does. I laid down on the couch with my eyes closed and a blanket over my head. Still couldn't look at the computer screen by 2PM, so I told GK to forget about science and social studies lectures (not that he was sad about this).

Somehow, I fell asleep, which is weird because I rarely take naps. Next thing I know, it's a a quarter to seven. Thank goodness, we run on Pacific time because of DH's job.

So I'm typing this while my pizza dough is rising. Wednesday, I'll be back to publishing/writing news since there's weird crap happening at B&N. Until then, go out and enjoy some cheescake!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Songs I've Been Listening to a Lot Lately

How can anyone not listen to the harmonies in Bohemian Rhapsody and not get a chill? Yeah, I'm still on the Queen kick.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fear and the New Idea

Normally, when I'm in the middle of writing a novel, some new idea tries to worm its way into my brain. It's like a ferret searching for treasure. "Oooo! Shiny!"

Normally, I can jot down some notes for analysis later, then return to my previous project.

Not this time.

Since Sunday, I've obsessively cranked 6100 words, which is an incredible output for me. I'm a very slow writer compared to some folks. The end result will be a short story for a particular traditional market that I've been a fan of for nearly thirty year.

My goal today is to finish it. About another 1,000 words and it'll be done. I'll hand it over to DH for a beta read, then let it sit for a couple of weeks until the submission period for this market opens. Final edits, then email the text.

I admit I'm nervous. I've never written in this particular subgenre before. Never thought I had an idea that was unique enough for this market. I think I'm more scared that it'll be accepted rather than rejected.

If it is rejected I'll self-publish it later this summer. Let the people decide if it's any good.

In the meantime, I need chocolate...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Status Report - March 2013

Well, it finally happened. For the last three months, my sales on the iBookstore have been closing the gap on Amazon sales. In February, Apple sales of my books edged past Seattle's darling. It wasn't by much though, just a few dollars, i.e. two books. For the record, Barnes & Noble still outstrips both of them by five to one.

Don't ask me why my sales patterns are radically different than so many other indie writers. I don't get it either.

Ironically, today Joe Konrath talks about why he pulled all his books from other retailers and went exclusive through KDP Select.

I'll be the first to admit I don't come anywhere close to Joe's numbers. After talking with several friends who are indie publishing, the radical difference in sales through the various retailers only means book sales are still in upheaval. There STILL ISN'T a perfect answer to best-seller-dom.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm planning some experiments regarding exclusivity for this summer. (To my readers, don't worry. None of the experiments will involve already established series!) I'll definitely report the results.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Songs I've Been Listening to a Lot Lately

Another incredible Queen song from the Highlander soundtrack.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Paper v. Digital

This was too funny not to share. (With a tip of the virtual hat to John and The Passive Guy!)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Scams, Scams and More Scams

There's another scam that's surfaced. This time, it's not a publisher creating a vanity imprint, but a distributor who wants to be God.

Autharium offers to distribute your book and you keep the copyright, but the catch? They keep all worldwide licenses of all types to your primary AND subsidiary rights for the length of the copyright!!!

You cannot get any rights back with permission from them. Period. If you sign with them, you have been royally fucked up the ass without the benefit of soap.

The Passive Voice has a breakdown of some of the terms. And please read the comments to understand further that this IS NOT A GOOD DEAL. Hell, Random House's Hydra imprint is gentler about screwing you over.

Speaking of which, apparently the bad publicity got to Random House. RH has revised their terms for Hydra and its sister imprints. Personally, I don't think they changed enough that I would sign with these imprints, but that's my opinion. Always read the fine print!

For even more laughs, J.A. Konrath talks about a survey Harlequin recently sent to its authors. Unfortunately, I have experience with these kind of corporate surveys. Despite their alleged claims of anonymity and a desire to improve, the suits are looking for the complainers in order to ditch them.

Once upon a time, I thought it would be so cool to write for Harlequin. But after hearing a few horror stories, the urge has committed suicide.

One more time, ladies and gentlemen, WRITING IS A BUSINESS! Treat it like one, and you'll be fine.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday Movie Mania

My regular readers know I'm an Oz fiend, so of course I dragged DH and GK to see Oz: The Great and Powerful this weekend.

Nothing's going to live up to the 1939 MGM musical, so if you go in with that expectation, you will be sorely disappointed. However, I thought it was a wonderful blending of the backstory of L. Frank Baum's Oz series and an homage to the Judy Garland musical.

*** WARNING!***


1) Sam Raimi and his writers use a variation of the original backstory. After the murder of King Pastoria of Oz, his daughter and heir disappears, and the land dissolves into civil war. (The new movie doesn't mention him by name.) Instead of the original eight witches involved, O:TGAP only has the three that were mentioned in the MGM classic. And they make Glinda Patoria's daughter instead of Ozma.

2) The movie begins in black and white and fades to color when Oscar enters Oz as a salute to its predecessor.

3) Glinda is restored as the Witch of the South, aka Quadling Country. (Sorry, but the melding of the witches of the North and South into one character always pissed me off about the 1939 version.)

4) The China Village, which appears in the book but was cut from the MGM movie, provides a pivotal plot point.

5) The Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow have cameos!

6) BEST OF ALL: Rather than channeling Margaret Hamilton or Idina Menzel, Mila  Kunis does an incredible job of spinning her own unique version of my favorite witch. She makes her sexy, sympathetic and tragic in one fell swoop.

1) I understand the setting up of certain characters in Kansas with their counterparts in Oz just like in the MGM version. For Dorothy, it's a dream so the counterparts make sense.  BUT OSCAR NEVER RETURNS TO KANSAS! Sam Raimi and the editors could have seriously trimmed this bit.

2) The pacing turns glacial as the producers, et al, throw too many 3D sequences at the audience for the sake of 3D. Oscar's first encounters could have been trimmed down substantially. These effects do not move the story along whatsoever.

3) James Franco looked slightly more alive in this role than he did hosting the 2011 Academy Awards ceremony with Anne Hathaway. James is a fine actor, but swung from too sincere to downright creepy as the con man who saves the magical kingdom. The producers choice of Robert Downey, Jr., as the charismatic con man was the better idea. Too bad he was overbooked with Ironman and Sherlock Holmes.

All-in-all, OZ was decent and will be added to the movie collection when it comes out on Blu-ray. The price of the theater ticket was worth it for Mila. If it weren't for her, I'd say wait until it's on Netflix.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Songs I've Been Listening to a Lot Lately

For some strange reason, I've been on a Queen kick for the past few weeks. I don't know if it's because we're on the edge of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death or because I've been struggling with my own immortal characters. Anyway, here's Queen's theme from one of my all-time-favorite movies, Highlander.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The SFWA Strikes Back

In a strongly-worded response (for a trad-pubbed writer organization, anyway), the board of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in response to Random House's weaselly letter regarding the Hydra imprint in Publishers Weekly, told Random House "there is very little to discuss."

Click here for the full text.

Nice to see the SFWA board grow a pair.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Random Shenannigans

Yesterday, Random House threw a cow patty at a set of circulating blades. They seem quite surprised that writers are unhappy about the mess.

I wish I could say I was surprised that Random Hose [mistake or Freudian slip?] House decided open, not one, but several vanity press lines. Considering their proposed merger with Penguin, which is already using the notorious vanity publisher Author Solutions for their Archway imprint which now owns notorious vanity publisher Author Solutions, I'm not. Not at all. [Note: Simon & Schuster own the Archway imprint, which subcontracts work to Author Solutions. Mea culpa for the error.]

I first heard the breaking news from the lovely Angie Benedetti when she spoke about the kerfluffle on her blog. I didn't have the chance to do more than skim her thoughts before the family and I had to leave to meet some associates for dinner. My first thought was the situation is pretty bad if it pisses off SFWA president John Scalzi.

Several of our dinner companions are SFWA members and expressed their thoughts, none of which I'm at liberty to repeat here. But let's just say they weren't flattering towards Random House.

When I got home from dinner, I read Mr. Scalzi's full post regarding Hydra, Random House's questionable SF/F line. By then, he'd managed to obtain a copy of the contract for Alibi, RH's mystery line. I have to agree with John that if the tems are that egregious with Hydra and Alibi, they are equally egregious for Loveswept (romance line) and Flirt (New Adult).

Both Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch talked a bit about the terrible terms. And today, a majority of The Passive Guy's headline gathering consists of stories regarding Random House's vanity lines, the scariest of which is RH's public letter to John Scalzi, the SFWA, and Victoria Strauss of WriterBeware.


If you want to be traditionally published, by all means, go for it. But a real traditional publisher DOES NOT FOIST ALL THE PRODUCTION COSTS ON YOU WHEN YOU HAVE NO SAY IN THOSE SAME PRODUCTION COSTS!!

Seriously, why are you paying Hydra, Loveswept or their ilk a huge chunk of your profits if they are doing nothing for you and you are paying ALL the costs?

Don't sign a contract with these assholes. Period. End of story.

If you really, REALLY want to pay the production costs, go indie.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

It's a Joke!

There are times in your life when you're going to put your foot in your mouth. It's inevitable. And I'm hardly innocent in this matter. (I used the word "crippled" to describe a character with quadriplegia. A reader called me on my offensive behavior.)

But it's how you handle the dumbassery when you're called on it that really matters.

You start by apologizing. Not excusing, not back-handed apologizing. A simple apology. Maybe with a promise not to do it again.

WRONG: I'm sorry you were offended.

RIGHT: I'm sorry.

The worst one though is "I was just joking."

Yesterday, I read another blog post that was so sexist that it made me literally nauseous. I protested in comments. The response I got from both the writer and the blog host, both women by the way? The writer was just joking, that she was being ironic. In fact, the blog host went as far as comparing the post to Stephen Colbert.

Um, no. Pointing out hypocritical absurdities in our culture isn't the same as saying Ellen Ripley (starship officer trying not to be used by an alien as a baby incubator) and Annie Wilkes (psycho who delights in cutting off the limbs of her favorite author) are the same type of woman.

In fact, it's all too close to someone making a racist/homophobic/religiously offensive joke, then looking at the offended person with a blank expression. "B-but I can't be a bigot. I have friends who are black/gay/Muslim."

As one of my favorite authors would say, once you've put your writing out in the world, it's up to the reader to interpret your meaning.

If you did your job correctly as a writer, the image in the reader's head will be very close to the image in your head.

If you failed miserably as a writer, well, you're going to get called on it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Happy Whisk 444 Giveaway

To celebrate her 444th blog post on March 4th, The Happy Whisk (aka Ivy, the gorgeous and talented chef) is holding a contest. Four winners who can choose from four fabulous authors--one of which is me, of course!

To be eligible for the roll of the dice (Whisk's hubby Tim is the gamemaster deluxe with his own 'zine), head over to The Happy Whisk and leave a comment. Comments close on Thursday!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Amanda Palmer and Asking

At TED, artist/musician Amanda Palmer talks about her early life and her recent (highly criticized) Kickstarter project. It reminds me of some of the crap indie writers have received for giving their books away for free. Why are people in general so afraid of doing something that's different from the rest of the tribe?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

BAMF Girls Club - Episode 8

Hanging out with the other BAMF Girls finally gives Bella a little backbone!

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Sage Perspective on Writers Behaving Badly

After my own little rant on Wednesday, I noticed a severe uptick in pageviews. It's like a car accident in a small town. Everyone's rubber-necking to see who it is so they have something to gossip about when they reach the beauty parlor. (I grew up in a small town. I know it's true.)

And ironically, I was catching up on my blog reading when I stumbled upon this gem by MaryJanice Davidson, detailing hers and friends' involvement in internet brouhahas.

My spiritual mother is right. No good comes from a writer responding or acknowledging other people's stupidity opinions.

I admitted my fee-fees were hurt. Now it's time to let it go.

Just one problem--I'm a classic Scorpio with a damn near eidetic memory.

In other words, I'm fucked.