Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Best New Show You Should Be Watching

I love Wil Wheaton. The man's true talent lies in comedy, and he demonstrates it well in his new show, The Wil Wheaton Project, on the Syfy Channel.

Friday, June 27, 2014

How the Hatchette-Amazon Insanity Can Get Weirder

Just when you think the propaganda from Hatchette can't get worse, a new meme pops up. Apparently, it's in indie writers' best interests to side with Hatchette in their contract negotiations because Amazon might lower payment rates in the future.

I'll let you read the drama for yourself. There's Laura Miller at Salon who claims Amazon Is Not Your Best Friend: Why Self-Published Authors Should Side with Hatchette. I've never claimed Amazon was my friend, much less my best friend. Dennis Johnson at Melville House piled on with Should Self-Publishers Side with Hatchette? Needless to say, he comes down on the affirmative. And finally Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader says I Think It's Time for Indies to Join Publilshers in Their Fight Against Amazon. Nate is the one that surprised me because I didn't think he'd succumbed to ADS.

In every single article, the rationale for indies siding with the BPHs is that Amazon may lower the payment rates on e-books. May. No proof whatsoever.

Well, here's a few things the Hatchette pundits left out:

1) Amazon never lowered the rates in several markets, including Brazil, Japan and India. The only way to get the higher rate was if the indie writer went exclusive with Amazon. Now let's talk about those sneaky little non-compete clauses you like to put in your contracts, BPHs.

2) Where was Hatchette when Amazon lowered the payment rates for audio books produced through ACX? I didn't see you advocating on our behalf.

3) Where was Hatchette during the Kernel Pornocalypse when Amazon and other retailers were taking down books on the mere accusation of violating their TOS? Where was Hatchette when ALL indie books were pulled from Kobo? Yeah, that's right. No where to be found.

And guess what, Hatchette? I know some of your dirty little secrets. I can't tell anyone due to attorney-client confidentiality, but I know them. I already know you'd ass-fuck me in a heartbeat if you have the chance. So don't play innocent with me.

Amazon? Amazon is just one of many retailers where I sell my products. It's not even my biggest one, so I take Hatchette and its toadies with a grain of salt, a shot of tequila and a lime.

So tell me again, Hatchette, why should I chose sides in your battle with Amazon?

P.S. If you prefer the condensed version of the Hatchette-Amazon kerfluffle, Susie at Insatiable Booksluts has a delightful take on the issues.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bitching and Moaning - The Home Repair Edition

For those readers who haven't figured things out between the lines, I haven't gotten much writing done lately because we're trying to get the Houston house ready to put on the market. There were cosmetic things that needed to be done, of course. Tree trimming. Flower planting. Room painting. Tiling the baths and kitchen

Our original target was February 1. That came and went, so we picked another deadline. And another. And another. Why? Starting with the week after the moving truck pulled out of the driveway last August, more and more shit hit the fan as each month passed.

- Master bedroom /light fan died
- Bottom dropped out of the hot water heater
- Garbage disposal developed a leak
- Toilet in master bathroom developed a leak, subfloor needed to be replaced
- Kitchen faucet broke
- Hot water faucet in master bathroom tub leaked
- Honey bee invasion
- Electric ignition on gas range stopped working, cheaper to replace unit than to fix
- Downstairs A/C unit died
- Cold water faucet for washing machine leaked

None of these have been cheap, easy, DIY fixes. I can paint and tile and lay hardwood and plant petunias in large pots, but I know when to bring in the experts. And every month I managed to save money for the painting and tiling and flowers, whichever disaster happened that month chewed up the cash, sometimes putting us back more than that particular month.

These are the reasons I'm still dealing with this stupid-ass house. These are the reasons my blood pressure has skyrocketed despite my seven years of keeping it under control. These are the reasons I haven't had time to write, other than working on Book 7 of Bloodlines on my iPhone while standing in line at stores. These are the reasons why I understand home owners walking away from their property and letting the bank foreclose.

When I mentioned the last one, DH pointed out we'd done too much and come too far. Then I started crying, but he's right.

My perspective would be a little better if I could get more than four hours of sleep a night.

And if the blister on my thumb from scrapping linoleum glue off the bathroom floor didn't hurt so damn bad.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

2Cellos - One Last Time

The beginning is this video is funny as hell, and I give Steve Vai a ton of credit for going along with this.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Best Show on the Web!

It's time for BAMF Girls Club! Guess who joins Buffy and Bella for the monthly Vampire Lovers Anonymous meeting? And you thought the B's had problems with their blood-sucking boyfriends!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Scenes That Would Never Work in a Book

When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorites movies ever. Just as there are books that don't translate well to movies, this is a movie that could never be accurately translated to a book.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Bamboo Stalk and the Vase

While I was packing for the move north, I sorted through a bunch of stuff. There was a pale green, six-inch tall vase with clear marbles at the bottom that I hadn't been able to part with.

A friend from law school had given it to me when I officially opened my own law office. The vase contained a single bamboo stalk. According to Chinese tradition, bamboo symbolizes good luck and wealth. And good luck I did have.

Until 9/11.

I'm not blaming 9/11 for everything. The Twin Towers were as much a symbol of the bad luck that followed my family in 2001 as the bamboo had been a symbol of promise in 1999.

DH and his partners had sold their computer consulting firm, and the purchasing company planned an IPO in May. With the tech stock crash in April, DH's shares became worthless. When I balanced my practice's books on September 10th, I excitedly told DH that August was the first month I turned a profit. It was also the last month. My business withered under the effects of 9/11 and the collapse of Enron a couple of months later.

By April of 2002, I could no longer afford the rent on my office. I tried to run my business from home, but by the end of the year, I got a part-time job at a local bookstore to make ends meet. The little bamboo, now sitting in the kitchen, reflected my depression. The leaves started to yellow, then slowly brown.

I landed a job with another law firm the summer of 2004, about the same time new leaves sprouted from the bamboo. Things weren't better for long. I got sick. Really sick. I tendered my resignation a couple of years later. And the new bamboo leaves never acquired the healthy emerald shade of the original leaves.

Despite my best efforts, I finally had to call time on that poor little bamboo stalk the summer of 2012. Ironically, this was the same time I was finally down to writing fiction as my only job.

It still took me another year to throw out the stalk. I didn't want to give up that little plant even though it had been clearly dead for sometime. It had been a gift from someone I cherished after all.

And as we packed, I was still determined to keep that little vase. But as I cleaned it (remember it was still cake with partially decayed bamboo roots), I discovered a crack in the bottom of the vase. And the more I cleaned, the more cracks I discovered.

It seems the vase had been barely holding together for sometime, and I hadn't noticed because I'd been so desperate to hang on to it and its bamboo. Despite layers of bubble wrap, one solid jolt in the moving van would shatter the fragile glass. I finally had to admit defeat and toss the vase.

And I had to admit, truly admit, to myself, I was no longer an attorney. I'm a writer now, and I need to embrace that role.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Musicians I've Fallen in Love with Lately

Why, yes, I do have an obsessive compulsion when I find something I love. It's even better when they cover one of my favorite Guns N' Roses tunes.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Piracy: Getting More Than You Bargained For

Yes, digital piracy exists. No matter how hard authorities try to stamp it out, a new website pops up every minute.

What people who download "free" material don't realize is that many times the files are infected. Author P.M. Terrell talks about what she found in pirated copies of her books. Some pirates prey on readers' stupidity and/or sense of entitlement to harvest personal information, such as account names and passwords.

If you want free books, the easiest way is to sign up with a service such as BookBub, get on a writer's mailing list, volunteer to be a beta reader, or start up a review website. Seriously, authors are constantly giving away stuff. Or better yet, go to the library! Check the free sections at retailers! Don't risk your computer or phone on an unknown website.

The other factor to think about is just as it's easier to pirate material, it's easier for you to get caught. Recently, a couple of bloggers gave away a pirated copy of Teresa Mummert's White Trash Beautiful. Teresa talked about the incident on the linked post, trying to be gracious about not naming names, then one of the bloggers made the mistake of outing themselves in the comment section. *facepalm* So now the word about these pirates is spreading like wild fire through the internets.

Have I been pirated? You betcha! This week alone one of my books and one of Alter Ego's were put up on Google for free. I have to give Google credit. Both were down within 24 hours of my discovery without any effort on my part.

Here's the thing to remember if you're a reader: If you want your favorite writer to keep writing, pay for a copy through an authorized e-book retailer, or at least buy a new paper book once in a while. Contrary to popular belief, not all writers live in castles, a la J.K. Rowling. Some of us are just trying to pay for our kids' braces. Or the mortgage. Or even the electric bill.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

More of Amazon's Unofficial Guide to Banning Covers

Studio Smexy for Illustrated Romance posted revised Amazon guidelines to the Great Erotica Cover Whitewash. Many Thanks to Erin Dameron of Hill Graphics for prying the info out of the Mighty River of vague information.

Most of the issues have already been covered by the incredible Selena Kitt, a lady most erotica authors owe a debt to for making erotica mainstream accessible. But a couple of new things have cropped up (pun intended):

- No models can wear handcuffs, but they can be blindfolded. Erin warns that she believes this may also be banned in the future.

- No cleavage, butt or boob.

- No women on their knees before a guy, even if fully clothed.

- No men touching women's boobs in any way, shape or form, clothed or unclothed.

So basically, as Erin says, Amazon wants symbolic covers, i.e. flowers, watches, keys, ties, etc.

Personally, I think the whitewashing is going too far. Erotica authors are starting to have problems with people thinking our books are straight romance, when they aren't. Therefore, we have more dissatisfied customers and more returns. It doesn't help anyone's bottom line, ours or Amazon's.

So what are our alternatives?

There's always Smashwords. Selena Kitt is talking about starting her own taboo erotica store. Contrary to what people think, Amazon doesn't rule the world. Alternatives will pop up. Providing a service people want can be someone's cash cow if they're smart and willing.

So any takers out there?

Even Hitler Hates Amazon

Many thanks to The Passive Guy for the link!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Non-War of Hachette vs. Amazon

If you're in the book biz, all you've heard in the last three weeks is "AUGH! Amazon is taking over the world!"

No, it's not. Although, I'm sure Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos would love to.

As I've said before, Hatchette Book Group, USA, is hardly a wilting Southern flower being trampled by the longhorn bull that is Amazon. They are two multi-national companies duking it out over--

See? No one really knows what the specific issues are because Amazon and Hatchette signed a negotiation non-disclosure agreement.

Oh, you can guess and speculate, but you don't really know. What we do know is that Hatchette has orchestrated a massive PR campaign to paint Amazon as an evil ogre that eats babies. Hey, when you've got newspapers and TV stations in your pocket, why not pull out all the stops when you're not getting your way?

But there's two little problems:

1) The mass of the human race doesn't give a flying fuck what two mega-companies are doing right now. It's one more case of white noise in a multitude of crap they have to deal with in  their daily lives.

2) Even the publishing industry is getting tired of Hatchette's whining.

How bad does a publisher have to be before the rest of the trad industry stops taking your side? Hatchette may have hit that point. Last Friday, Publishers Weekly ran a piece that was, for once, even-handed in the current business negotiations between Amazon and Hatchette. Until now, PW has been on the trad publishers side, touting the party line that Amazon is evil, indie writers are producing a tsunami of swill, and only trad publishers can protect and cherish American literary culture.


As one small publisher stated in the article, no one blinked an eye when a similar negotiation/battle went on for six months last year between Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster. In their case, the issue was end cap and  front table pricing. B&N pulled the same under-ordering tactics that Amazon are, but the only ones who complained were authors whose books came out during that period.

Ironically, Simon & Schuster released indie phenomenon Hugh Howey's print version of Wool during their tiff with B&N. The paper version could have been S&S's 50 Shades of Grey last year, but it had mediocre sales because B&N refused to order large amounts of the book.

But did anyone raise the hue and cry like Hatchette is doing now? Nope. And writers in trad contracts should take a damn hard look at the similarities between the two situations.

Did Simon & Schuster acknowledge their part in your lack of sales last year? Were any guarantees made that you wouldn't lose your contract due to the conflict with B&N? How many of you did lose your contracts due to low sales number in 2013?

As much as Hatchette bitches and moans about Amazon, they won't remove their products from Amazon's virtual shelves. They can't. They'd lose too much money, and their corporate master in France would kick them to the curb in a heartbeat. In fact, Lagardere's CEO issued a statement that there would be a quick resolution to the situation. Reading between the lines, he's telling Hatchette US to get their shit together.

So how much longer will the publishing cyberspace be inundated with anti-Amazon propaganda? Who knows? But no one's paying attention, and even the people carrying the signs are getting tired.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Musicians I've Fallen in Love with Lately

2Cellos garnered the attention of Sony when they posted their cover of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal on YouTube in January of 2011.

[Sorry about that, folks. Some time in the last two weeks "Smooth Criminal" was banned in the U.S. Here's a video of their live performance.]

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thank You

With all the hoopla going on as King Kong and Godzilla continue their battle, the incredible Jason Gurley reminded me of who was really important in this world.

The Readers.

Yep, it’s definitely about the readers. They’re the ones that find and love you (or not) and recommend you to their friends (or not). Agents, editors, consultants, publishers, they all are outraged by their loss of power. They blame Amazon, Bezos, indie writers, but it’s the readers that ultimately make or break this industry.

So to all of the readers who've taken a chance on my books...

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Monday Movie Mania Delayed - X-Men: Days of Future Past

The original story "Days of Future Past" was published in The Uncanny X-Men, issues # 141 and 142, in 1981. I was a freshman in high school when this story came out. To say it (and writer Chris Claremont) had a profound influence on my own storytelling is an understatement.

As I said last week, my biggest pet peeve going into the new 20th Century Fox movie was the need of PTBs in Hollywood to replace Katherine "Kitty" Pryde as the time traveller in the story because no one would EVER watch a video with a female protagonist.


Anyway, the movie was good. I know, I know. I'm not raving, but let's talk about the good stuff first.

1) The writers (Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn) integrated Rachel Summer's and Bishop's timelines as the one terrible future. The "M" tattoo over the right eye, which was a mark of pride in Bishop's future is used the same as the number tattoos the Nazis inflicted on the Jews in the concentration camps. Of course, the writers couldn't bring in Rachel because their predecessors killed Cyclops and Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand.

2) Also, the previous writers whacked Senator Robert Kelly in X-Men. The alternative target is Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels, giant robots designed to kill mutants.

3) The movie Sentinels look more like the second BSG-series Cyclons, making them even more scary than the purple and pink originals.

4) Now, we know why 20th Century Fox and Disney/Marvvel got pissy over who had the rights to Quicksilver. Evan Peters' performance as the teen son of Magneto and future Avenger were the highlight of the entire movie.

5) For all my pissing and moaning about Shadowcat's non-participation in any Days storyline after the original, the writers added a nice extrapolation of her phasing abilities, making her the catalyst for the time travel.

6) Roles for a couple of my favorites from the gigantic X-Men comic cast: Sunspot and Warpath

1) They tried to write Bolivar Trask as a monster, but Peter Dinklage is just didn't come across as Trask. I'm not sure if director Bryan Singer or the writers were trying to make the character sympathetic in order for the audience to want Mystique not to kill him. I know Dinklage is a first class actor, so I think if he'd been allowed, he would have made the dichotomy work

2).Bringing back Cyclops and Phoenix AGAIN! Seriously, part of the reason I've stopped reading the comics is Cyclops and Phoenix have been killed and resurrected too many fucking times! If you stay for the snippet at the end of the credits, you'll know why they were brought back. I'm not happy because I think this person is THE lamest of the X-Men villains.

I'm only giving X-Men: Days of Future Past an 8 out of 10.

Why? It didn't just work for me as a whole. Maybe the storyline has been adapted too many times. Maybe it's the fact that none of the superhero movies have new, original storylines. They are always variations of something I've read years, sometimes decades, ago.

Maybe I'm getting jaded in my old age. YMMV

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Light Went Out In The World

SFF author Jay Lake passed away at 5:45 am PDT yesterday.

We spoke a few times by e-mail, and I only got to meet him once, but he had a profound influence on my own writing. I was looking forward to reading his novel, Original Destiny, Manifest Sin. It will never be finished, and the world will be a poorer place for it.

His family has requested that donations be made in his name to:

Clayton Memorial Medical Fund
P.O. Box 5703
Portland, Oregon 97228

If you want to leave personal messages, there is always Jay's website and his Facebook page.

I'm closing comments. Regular blogging will resume on Wednesday.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Musicians I've Fallen in Love with Lately!

Craig Ferguson had 2Cellos on The Late, Late Show two weeks ago where they played Thunderstruck. I've been blown away since that night.