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.