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Friday, May 30, 2014

Days of Future Past

Since even I am suffering from Hatchette insanity exhaustion, I'm headed to the theater today.

My review will be in Monday's post as usual. The twist will be interesting since Senator Kelly died in X-Men (2000), but as X-Men: First Class showed, the movie people are about as interested in continuity and character history as Marvel's current writers.

My only piddle going into the theater is that it's the guys that go into the past in any adaptation of Chris Claremont's marvelous tale. Kitty, aka Sprite/Ariel/Shadowcat, still rules in my opinion.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Amazon's Shot Across Hatchette's Bow

In a rare move, Amazon.com, Inc., made a statement regarding their ongoing negotiations with Hatchette Book Group, USA.

Amazon normally doesn't say a damn thing in the middle of talks with another party, but Hatchette's PR antics over the Memorial Day weekend elicited a response.

There three main points in Amazon's statement that are very subtle:

1) Amazon will no longer warehouse Hatchette's books for free. They will order books on a case-by-case basis.

2) Hatchette is only 1.1% of Amazon's business while Amazon is 20% of Hatchette's.

3) Amazon offered to match funds Hatchette puts into a pool for authors harmed by the current negotiations. And supposedly, Amazon made the same offer to Macmillan four years ago, which Macmillan turned down. [Correction: Macmillan did apparently accept Amazon's offer.]

Hatchette's executives and attorneys don't seem to understand that they cannot force a retailer to carry their product. Also, I'm beginning to wonder if Hatchette's sales from Amazon aren't a lot more than 20%. That's what happens when you're the test case after you're off probation.

[Edit to add: Hatchette has responded. IMHO, fighting this battle in public is not Hatchette's best tactic.]

[2nd edit to add: A Hatchette memo was leaked to Digital Book World. Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath royally fisk the hell out of it.]

Monday, May 26, 2014

Whiny Writers Trampled in Battle between King Kong and Godzilla Is Just Business

There's a lot of hand-wringing in publishing about the current negotiations between Amazon and Hatchette. I'm not going to link to all the diatribes against Amazon by Hatchette authors and their agents. I think it's telling that Hatchette is using its suppliers in a disinformation campaign against Amazon. What's even more telling is that Amazon is keeping silent.

Why am I not linking to these essays condemning Amazon? It's sad and rather depressing that several writers I admire have become...whiny. These are the same writers who constantly state "it's only business" when someone else gets caught beneath the feet of two behemoths. But now that they are the ones being trampled, they rage and cry and wail, specifically against Amazon. If they say a word against Hatchette, their contracts will not be renewed or possibly current contracts will be cancelled, and these writers know it.

These are the same people who didn't make a peep when Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster were duking it out last year, and fellow authors were caught in the crossfire. Why? Because "it's just business."

So why is Amazon exempt? There's this perception among the Big 5 and their writers that Amazon is destroying their business. I'm sorry, but after music and video went digital, even my blind old eyes could see the digital train heading for books. I was buying e-books years before Amazon debuted their Kindle. So the publishing companies had some warning and chose to ignore it.

Writers had the same warning and chose to ignore it as well. Unfortunately, as Jeff Bezos said, complaining is not a strategy.

What these people are not getting through their heads is Amazon doesn't give a shit about them. Hell, let's be totally honest. Amazon doesn't give a shit about me either. Neither does Apple. Or Kobo. Or even Barnes & Noble. I simply provide them a way to make money.

And truth be told Hatchette doesn't give a shit about these loyal authors either. Hatchette US is not a poor, little anything. It's part of a French conglomerate that's currently the world's third largest book publisher. If Hatchette cared, they would guarantee that writers would not lose their contracts because of poor numbers during this brouhaha.

Funny. Simon & Schuster didn't make any guarantees either last year and some writers were dropped by them once the dust settled because of their shitty numbers. Had the writers done anything to deserve this? No, it's just business.

I have no illusions as an indie writer. I'm at the mercy of the retailers. Nothing proved that so well than the Kernel Pornocalypse last October.

But I adjusted. I changed covers and descriptions and interior crap to get my books back online. And I also started investigating some other e-tailers so I'm not dependent on only one or two sources of income.

I understand the Hatchette writers' fear, anger and frustration, but I hope the Hatchette writers get a clue that they are being used. They really need to be looking at how to cover their own asses. Devise contingency plans. Anything productive because whining sure as hell isn't a solution.

Because after all, it's just business.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Videos I'll Watch Again and Again

This is one of my favorite segments of the ABC series, What Would You Do? I want to hug that soldier at the very end of the segment. He understands more about his rights and duties than any civilian I've met.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The RT14 Clusterf**k

I was going to avoid this topic. I really was. But I'm reading and hearing too much not to comment.

First of all, RT stands for Romantic Times. The magazine RT Book Reviews started in 1981 as a "tabloid newspaper" called Romantic Times that was for and about romance books and their readers. Over the years, RT Bookclub expanded to review other genres. In 1982, the founder of RT, romance writer Kathryn Falk, launched the RT Convention.

RT is NOT affiliated with RWA (aka Romance Writers of America). Personally, I'm annoyed that all manner of bloggers and commenters cannot differentiate between the two organizations. There is a lot of crossover simply because of the nature of the romance community.

For the record, I had an RT Bookclub subscription for five or six years, but I have never been to an RT Convention. But I've heard stories from friends who have gone.

Oh, boy, have I heard stories!

But this year, the stories that were normally private over margaritas and Tex-Mex went public. Well, that's not true. They went viral among the publishing industry. And for our size, we're really very small and insular so things get around.

This year wasn't like the time a well-known author did a striptease on a tabletop. (P.S. At business functions, limit your alcohol intake. And make no mistake, the RT Convention is a business function for writers.)

Nope, there were a series of problems that irritated both readers and writers:

1) Record attendance in a too small facility

RT14 had a record attendance (no official number yet, but I've been hearing unofficial numbers in the 2500 range). These were just the registered attendees, and does not include people off the street since the Book Fair was open to the public.

This means they surpassed the RWA conference which has had 1700-2000 attendees over the last ten years. And RT held its conference in the Marriott in New Orleans, a place RWA already knew was too small for them! (Remember, lots of crossover between RWA and RT people.)

FYI - RWA has had a contract with the Marriott chain for the last fifteen years, and there's a limited number of their hotels that can handle 2000 guests. Only one time in that fifteen years was the RWA conference held on a non-Marriott site. That was when flooding destroyed the Nashville Marriott a couple of months before the conference. Only Disney World could handle that size of a conference on that short of a notice.

The New Orleans fire marshal was at the Book Fair, keeping a close eye on the situation. Several attendees mentioned that he threatened to shut down the Book Fair, but hey, his job is to keep people safe.

Now, these weren't all people off the street. I had checked into attending RT14, and a month after registration opened, the Marriott was full, and the RT organizers needed a spillover hotel. It's not like all these people showed up the morning the first day of the conference, so RT had an inkling from the get-go that space was going to be a problem.

Possible solutions for RT:
- Find a bigger facility.
- Limit registered attendees.


2) Separation of authors and long lines at the Book Fair itself

So RT already has a space issue, and they knew it, but they didn't notify the attending authors that space had been reduced for their signing tables until they arrived. Many writers bring signage, displays, and swag to give away to readers, and there wasn't enough room for everyone's. A lot of writers were miffed because they would have been more conservative in their packing if they had known.

RT needed two ball rooms to accommodate all the signing authors, but they placed all the trad published authors in one and the small press, e-press and indie authors in another. There was also the major issue with the square footage of tables. Supposedly some authors got extra. If RT provided some authors less than others when every writer paid the same amount and was promised the same size of facility to participate in the Book Fair, RT is looking at a potential breach of contract lawsuit.

This bring us to the second major problem. A lot of writers are hybrids(TM Bob Mayer). RT organizers forced them to chose whether they wanted to sign their trad published books or their non-trad published books. Major fail here because readers follow authors. Sorry, Big 5, but it's true.

This made a lot of authors, including NYT bestselling writers, feel like second class citizens, which I'll get into a little more in Point 3 below.

The third major problem is the bookstore providing support for the Book Fair did not bring electronic scanners or POS cash registers to the conference. All paperwork was done by hand, which resulted in long lines in the hotel's hallways and rankled the fire marshal. This is the 21st century. Hand tallying went out with the horse and buggy.

I don't know which retailer this was. I've heard both Barnes & Noble and Anderson's mentioned. Either way it's no excuse for not bringing adequate equipment to a major conference.

Supposedly the separation of the two groups of authors was due to returnable vs. non-returnable books at the request of the bookseller. Makes me wonder how long this particular retailer will stay in business.

Possible solutions for RT:
- Writers need to be notified as soon as a potential problem is known so they can adjust whatever promotion they have planned.
- RT needs to research the booksellers they use during the Book Fair more thoroughly, i.e. can they provide adequate staff and equipment? If not, find someone else.
- Indie writers who publish print need to consider the return option since it can be a make-or-break deal with booksellers.
- RT should arrange signing seats alphabetically to make it easy for readers to find their favorite authors. The only authors who need a separate room are those whose lines are difficult to manage (Nora Roberts and Sherrilyn Kenyon come to mind.)


3) Issues with volunteers

I've done volunteer work for a lot of different organizations. It's an exhausting, thankless task at the best of times, but you need to keep a positive face because you represent the event.

There were several reports of the registration desk opening early late and closing late early. One writer who was trying to confirm something was bluntly told she couldn't ask anymore questions. And then there was the volunteer that raised hackles by stating the people in the small press/e-press/indie room were "aspiring authors."

Everyone who witnessed this particular incident agreed this was the only incident and the volunteer was quickly and firmly corrected. But with the pressure of the book signing, the feeling of packed sardines, and the long wait to check out, the comment was a match on the pool of stress oil.

That in turn set off a firestorm of blog posts this week, ranging from Hugh Howey, who didn't attend RT14, to Jennifer Bray-Weber, who did.

Steven Zacharius, president of Kensington Publishing, jumped on Hugh's blog and pretty much made an ass of himself. I understand he felt the need to defend RT CEO Kathryn Falk because he and his father have been friends with her for years. But Kathryn's a big girl. If she can handle her own company, I'm sure she can learn from and fix the problems for next year's RT Conference. But considering Stevie Z.'s own stance on the separation of trad and indie books, he's the last person Kathryn needs defending her.

Possible Solutions for RT:
- An apology to all writers for the muck-up that was the RT Book Signing.
- Full training for volunteers, preferably in person the day before the conference starts. Online training prior to the conference if logistics for in-person training are impossible.
- Hire an outside conference organizer who has plenty of experience with large events.
- A ball gag and fingercuffs for Stevie Z. With friends like this, Kathryn Falk doesn't need enemies.


Personally, I think RT needs to go back to the basics of what it did best, facilitate interaction between writers and cover models and their fans in a fun atmosphere. Leave the publishing politics out of the equation. If Kathryn and her people want to promote classes for the business side of writing and publishing, then make that a separate event.

But the writer/fan interaction? That's where I've always heard terrific things about RT.


P.S. Stevie Z., you really need to let go of your hard-on for Hugh Howey. I don't think he swings that way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Amy's Baking Co. - Redux

If you thought the couple from last year's Kitchen Nightmare season finale was crazy, here's a brand new episode to prove it!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Male Geeks Can't Get Laid

Psst! Yeah, you with the latest issue of Wolverine. C'mere. Yeah, I know I have breasts. But I'm trying to help you.

See that girl over there? The one you just dissed for wearing glasses, lacking boobs, and not being hot enough? Loud enough to your friends, hoping to drive her out of the comic book store. You realize you missed your chance, don't you? She would have made you a nice girlfriend. She would have made your first time extra special.

Oh, please. Hate to tell you, kid, but I'm nearly fifty. Yeah, that does mean I'm older than your mom. It also means I can smell a virgin a mile away.

Don't give me that load of shit. The only experience you have is with your hand. I can see the blisters.

Let me point something out to you. The girls you fantasize about? The cheerleaders and the super models? They're not going to fuck you until you're my age. Even then, the only reason they will sleep with you is because of your fat bank account. And guess what? They're going to make fun of the things you love, like The Avengers and Star Wars and Firefly, behind your back.

That girl? She wouldn't make fun of you. Why? Because she loves the same shit you do. If you wanted to see the midnight showing of Guardian of the Galaxy, she'd be with you, carrying the jumbo tub of popcorn and your favorite candy. If you said, "Let's go to the Emerald City Comic Con," she'd be on her laptop buying con tickets and booking the flight. If you admitted your secret sex fantasy, she'd find that Catwoman costume and take whip lessons for you.

For you, doofus.

And guess what? It''s never going to happen now because you decided to be an asshole.

This is relatively minor. You have the chance to change. Yourself. Your perspective.

Maybe you go up to the girl and admit you were an asshole and apologize. Maybe she says you can make it up to her by buying her a slice at the pizzeria next door. And you two eat and talk and debate Kirk versus Picard, but you both admit you secretly liked Sisko best.

And fifteen years later, you two want to introduce your kids to the passion that is Comic Con geekdom. Your family dresses up as the Fantastic Four, and you're having a great time until some pimply faced boy makes a lewd comment about your daughter's Invisible Woman costume.

What are you going to do then?

Hopefully, you'll pull the kid aside and give him the same advice I'm giving you.right now. Maybe he'll actually listen, like you did when I talked to you fifteen years ago.

If you catch him harassing your daughter or any other girl at the con again, then by all means, beat the shit out of him. But come get me first. I'll hold the asshole down with my walker.

* * *

This essay is in response to Cherry City Comic Con's director Mark Martin belittling female attendees' security concerns. Piece of advice, folks: don't ever mock your paying customers on social media.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Description - Love It Or Hate It?

Description.

Some people love long passages talking about landscape and foods and battles. This is the stuff many epic fantasies are made of. Westeros and The Shire are as much characters in their respective books as Jon Snow and Frodo.

On the other hand, thrillers go for the short minimalist approach. If I asked a fan for a description of Jack Reacher, any specifics, other than height, they would give me would come directly from their imaginations. Why? Because the only thing Lee Child says about Jack's physical attributes is that he's unusually tall.

Which is better?

Neither. Both. It totally depends on the purpose of your description. Are you conveying information? Mood? Setting? As a writer, you need to ask yourself, "What is the purpose of this description?"

What brought up this subject?

Alter Ego released her latest book last week. A reader sent her a note the day after the release, saying she loved it. That it made her feel as if she were in the heroine's shoes.

I realized something that had been bugging me for over a year.

The biggest gripe one of Alter Ego's editors had was that there was so little description of the heroine. She thought there should be more details of the heroine's physical appearance. Not just height, hair color and body shape, but those of her snatch and breasts as well. I resisted, though at the time I couldn't say why.

I mean, I had no problem with physical descriptions of secondary characters, and my written picture of the hero could have been used for a police artist's sketch.

But the reader helped me answer the description question. I put so little detail in these types of books because I know, deep down in my heart, that most women reading romance and erotica want to BE the heroine. By only giving a rough idea of the heroine, they could imagine themselves in her shoes, especially since I write these stories either in deep third person or first person POV. And I haven't written one from the hero's POV. (Yet.)

So how do you use description in your stories?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tending My Garden

Over at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, JA Konrath has a lovely list of things you should be looking at in your indie publishing business. Go read it. I'll wait.

You're back? That was fast. A pretty simple checklist, isn't it?

However, I would add  a #12 to Joe's list--Keep writing.

That's the point a lot of writers seem to forget these days. If you don't have any stories for sale, then what's the point of #1-11?

If you're one of my regular readers, you probably noticed I didn't post a blog on Friday. I was doing the final read-thru on the last book of Alter Ego's current trilogy. (I listen to my text-to-speech program. It catches a lot of crap!)

I'd originally promised that book would be out by New Year's and failed miserably due to several factors. There were problems going on with the extended family. There were points I wanted to give up on writing totally in mid-winter thanks to my SAD. There was a lot of unanticipated drama concerning the house in Houston. But I had readers asking, and I couldn't bear to disappointment them.

So I edited and started formatting on Friday, and finished formatting and uploaded Saturday afternoon. By the time I got home with my celebratory pizzas, the book was live on Amazon. A reader had already bought a copy and left a note on Alter Ego's FB page. She then sent Alter Ego a note Sunday morning saying how much she loved it.

Now, if I'd stopped writing during the miserable cold and ice in February, I would never have heard that reader's words.

Now, here's where Joe's #11 comes into play. Last winter, I didn't complain so much about writing itself. (I did complain horribly about what my physical problem does to me, and my doctor helped me find a solution I can live with.)

But if you don't have a physical or mental problem that affects you, and you hate writing, then why are you doing it?

Life's too fucking short to be miserable.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Whiny Agents

Once upon a time (March 5, 2009), there was #QueryFail.

Then came my favorite tweet from Colleen Lindsey from April 6, 2011--"OMG would you people please STOP with the "indie" vs. "legacy" thing! These are meaningless buzz words that make you all sound ignorant."

Donald Maas stepped in the cow patty when he said writers needed to be culled. (Moo!)

Now, we had Amanda Luedeke fuck up last Thursday and call writers "schmucks". And fuck up bad she did.  [Note: She has since changed the wording of her blog post, but the original paragraph wording can be seen at The Passive Voice.] But she apologized and tried to fix the problem.

Only to have her efforts torpedoed by her own boss, Chip MacGregor. Read the comments he left at TPV, and you'll see what I mean.

What is it about agents, who are supposed to understand PR, who berate writers for doing stupid things, who are supposed to be professionals, that makes them stick their foot in their collective mouths? They are doing all the things that they chide us writers for doing.

I've said it before.

Fear.

Fear of losing power in what is a really, really small industry. Fear of losing their livelihood. Fear of losing their prestige.

Maybe some agent somewhere will post the following list to their wall (and hopefully, some writers too):

1) DO NOT EVER insult the people you depend on for making a living. In the case of agents, that means writers. In the case of writers, that means readers.

2) If you do accidentally insult someone, say "I'm sorry." That's it. Nothing else. Anything else is an excuse to justify your actions.

3) If you screw up, fix the problem. It you can't fix it, own your screw-up and vow never to do it again.

4) DO NOT EVER post anything online while tired, angry, upset, drunk, etc.

5) Always remember Wheaton's Law, aka "Don't be a dick."

Angry Sheep doesn't like seeing people lose their jobs and is feeling very sad right now. But she doesn't feel sad about agents who call commenters from super popular blogs "dicks". That's not very professional, Mr. MacGregor.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

Colors of Lightsabres

Star Wars Day is Sunday. What color and style of lightsabre would you use?