One Way to Spend

Tightrope Last night I drank wine and watched the first Magic Mike movie. It went about as well as one would expect. I could do a whole blog post of analysis, but who wants that? Suffice to say it’s a sports movie, has all the usual beats of of a sports movie and plot holes you could drive large automobiles through, and there are intimations of another, darker and more interesting movie struggling to get out from under the mess that never quite makes it. I would have loved the movie to star Joanna the psych major doing her fieldwork among Tampa’s male strippers. Or even something like The Wrestler, but about the Kings of Tampa.

Sadly, it was not to be. *removes tongue from cheek*

Anyway, that was one way to spend a Monday night.

Here, have the Onion reporting on Harper Lee’s new book. Trust me, it’s worth it. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.

There’s about 117 pages of Gallow 2 copyedits to get through today. If I make it, I’ll reward myself with a different movie, maybe. Or just collapse on the couch and drool my way into the evening.

Right now, either seems a good option.

REVIEW: The Siege

The Siege - Cover I finished Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Siege yesterday. His Captain Alatriste books are autobuys for me, I love that character with a fiery passion. The rest of Perez-Reverte’s oeuvre is good enough to warrant a look whenever I find it. His Queen of the South is, in my humble opinion, one of the few times a male author has actually written a believable female character, and of course The Club Dumas–with its attendant movie The Ninth Gate–is just straight-up fantastic, even if the latter is directed by Roman Polanski.

The Siege was a bit difficult in places, because even though Perez-Reverte’s written a believable woman once or twice, there is no guarantee for any of his other female characters. There’s a certain amount of brutal historical misogyny–the setting is, after all, Cadiz in the Napoleonic era–but the one female main character, Lolita Palma, is…problematic, at best. (I mean, really, you’re going to choose that name for a grown woman who’s supposed to be this serious, spinsterly paragon?) Palma’s relationship with the corsair Pepe Lobo veered into quasi-romance when it shouldn’t have; it could have been much more effective as a friendship based on mutual respect. Poor Dona Palma was sadly misused; I could have read a whole book about just her if the “ohGod gotta put a romantic subplot in here” bug hadn’t bitten the author. Also, Ricardo Marana, Lobo’s first mate, is the tubercular Doc Holliday to Lobo’s nautical Wyatt Earp, and I could have read a whole book about just their exploits, too. I didn’t get enough of Marana, the Letter of Marque corsairs, or a believable Palma.

The rest of the book is a murder mystery set during the siege of Cadiz, and it’s full of the sort of historical detail I’ve come to expect from Perez-Reverte. The French artillery captain Desfosseux is the hands-down the most enjoyable way I’ve ever read about trajectories and cannon fire; the taxidermist Fumagal served nicely in his appointed role and could have filled a whole book in his own right, but where The Siege really shines is in its sounding of the depths of Rogelio Tizon, the unscrupulous, oddly magnetic comisario of Cadiz’s police force.

Tizon is a nasty bit of work. Cruel, venal, and brutal, he’s also strangely engaging. He makes no excuses for what he does, and it’s that honesty that gives him depth and interest. He veers between offhandedly calling most women “whores” to deciding not even a “whore” should be brutally murdered–whipped to death with a wire whip, their backs flayed to ribbons and internal organs exposed. It’s those murders and the choices Tizon makes while hunting the murderer that function as the spine of the book. Tizon’s chess-playing alter ego Barrull was my initial guess at the murderer, and sometimes I think it might have been more satisfying if he’d turned out to be the actual killer instead of just a scholarly foil for Tizon and a way for Perez-Reverte to do some exposition. The added layer of mystery–the murderer invariably chooses places where a French shell has landed (or memorably, is about to land) is well done, treading the edge of believability and a chilling meditation the eerie logic of chance and instinct.

There are….problems, though. It’s telling that as well as making Dona Lolita Palma into a soapy paragon of a love interest instead of a believable character in her own right, only one of the murdered girls (because of course girls are the killer’s preferred target) is “respectable” and she is the one that ends up being “avenged.” The others are almost doll-like, their bodies only there to provide Tizon with his angst and to mark his changing (or slowly revealed) inner landscape.

There’s plenty in the book to love–the historical details, the naval battles, the picture of a city on the brink, the unblinking enumeration of all the things a siege does to human beings trapped by war, and some outright lyrical writing even in the middle of describing brutality. I’m glad I read it, but I hope next time Perez-Reverte treats his female characters as, well, human beings in their own right, as he’s sometimes done so memorably in the past.

All in all, two thumbs up, recommended, checked out from the library and would buy to keep in my personal library.

Relaxation Can’t Hurt

"Castle Romeo" atmospheric nuclear test - March 1954 I expected an apocalypse yesterday, and it didn’t happen.

Bother. Suppose I should get back to work, then.

I am told that Trailer Park Fae is having a good initial showing! Thank you very much. The better it does, the more likely I’ll be able to continue the series. (Hint hint. Nudge nudge. Say no more, say no more.) There. That’s my contractually-obligated cheap shilling for the week.

This morning’s run was slow and heavy, despite being an easy 5km. The cooldown, walking home, took me past a knot of men standing around a DitchWitch and a concrete cutter, sharing a joint while they divvied up the day’s work. I’m, um, not sure getting blazed right before handling that sort of machinery is a good idea, but I suppose a certain amount of relaxation can’t hurt. I’m also not sure the guys trying to hide the joint as I passed could tell I can still understand Spanish pretty well, even though my four years of high-school language lessons are regrettably dusty. Yes, I did know that wasn’t a cigarette, yea, I know you made a joke about me and my dog being two bitches out walking–but thanks, young dude, for commenting that my ass is just right. I think so too.

When we turned onto our street, B and I were greeted by the sight of a squirrel darting under a truck. B immediately perked up and trotted forward, stopped only by the leash, and I checked nervously to make sure I was still wearing shoes. We crossed the street, much to B’s dismay, but the squirrel made it into a neighbor’s juniper bush and began to chitter-scream something that sounded suspiciously like “Vive le Squiiiiiiiirrrrrl!

This doesn’t bode well. Later today I’m going to go talk to Emphysema Joe–he’s been hiding in the very back of the green since the Flying Gnome Disaster. I think he still feels a trifle ashamed. (And well he should, but enough is too much, as one of my grandmothers used to say.)

There’s more copyedits, too, on the second Gallow & Ragged book. *cracks knuckles* I’d better get started.

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TRAILER PARK FAE Release!

I didn’t really sleep last night. Release day nerves always get to me, no matter how many books I have out. SO, this wavering, tired morning, I present to you…

Trailer Park Fae.

Trailer Park Fae Jeremy Gallow is just another construction worker, and that’s the way he likes it. He’s left his past behind, but some things cannot be erased. Like the tattoos on his arms that transform into a weapon, or the fact that he was once closer to the Queen of Summer than any half-human should be. Now the Half-sidhe all in Summer once feared is dragged back into the world of enchantment, danger, and fickle fae – by a woman who looks uncannily like his dead wife.

Her name is Robin Ragged, and her secrets are more than enough to get them both killed. A plague has come, the fullborn-fae are dying, and the dark answer to Summer’s Court is breaking loose.

Be afraid, for Unwinter is riding…

Now available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and independent bookstores!

Thanks are due to Mark S., whose dream (the elves are dying) touched off the chain in my head that would become Gallow, and to my writing partner for both telling me about it and encouraging me to write it. Thanks are also due to Miriam Kriss, who said it would sell, to Devi Pillai, who has now edited twenty of my books, and Lindsey Sterling, who did NOT strangle me when I changed things at the last minute. A significant thank-you must also be given to a certain AT3Sparky, who kindly answered all my pestiferous questions about polearm fighting.

A lot of people have asked about the cover–it’s a Dos Santos.

I am hard at work on the third Gallow and Ragged book now. If anyone needs me today I’ll be quivering in the corner, nauseous with release day nerves. This never gets any easier. You’d think it would…

AGENT ZERO Cover Reveal!

So, I do this thing–I sometimes write books expressly for my bestie and writing partner Mel Sterling, and then when they’re done I send them to my agent, and somehow or another they sell. (Hedgewitch Queen, I’m looking at you.) So if you’re wondering how I came to write a book about a virus-soaked superspy and a tired, divorced waitress…well, that’s the short version. The long version involves “Jeremy Fucking Renner Talking,” wine, salacious jokes about biology, and lots of hilarious emails where I complain about the characters and Mel laughs at me, and other emails where I send chunks of the books in process guaranteed to make her happy.

So. Here’s the grand cover reveal of Agent Zero!

Agent Zero

After barely surviving an IED while serving his country, Reese was whisked away by a shadowy government agency and somehow…enhanced. Now he’s an agent—smarter, faster, stronger, deadlier—and he executes his missions with cold precision. But when he’s inexplicably drawn to a down-on-her-luck waitress, Reese learns he’s not the emotionless man he thought the agency had made him.

One minute, Holly Candless is getting fifty-buck tips from that strange, but seemingly harmless customer. The next, she’s kidnapped, injected with something and rescued by Reese. Suddenly, they’re on the run from the very government that wants Reese reprogrammed—and Holly dead. Now keeping Holly alive is not only Reese’s primary mission, it’s his sole chance at love…

And their only shot at survival.

Coming September 1, 2015! Pre-order now on B&N and Amazon.

I hope you guys like it when it comes out in September. Now, I’ve got this werewolf priest homage to Ladyhawke to write for Mel.

It’s gonna be a long summer…

Bundle of Cheer

Duck is judging us all.

Duck is judging us all.

Odd is groaning, the Prince can’t find his shoes (six pairs, and he can’t locate the ones he wants) and Miss B has her nose firmly glued to my calf. The Princess made snickerdoodles last night, so a sugar jolt right after toast made both kids extremely active for a few minutes. I can’t seem to get enough caffeine in, Bandit keeps talking and talking, and all in all, I want to go back to bed.

Sadly, I am committed to being vertical and actually working, so it’s going to be some tea and Olympic-level self-restraint. At least I got the proof for The Demon’s Librarian re-release done, and have only to turn it in. We’re almost out of milk (Christ, I swear the kids bathe in the stuff) and the apples are gone…

Oh. Wait. It’s Monday.

That explains everything.

I’m getting a lot of mail asking me to “Please write more Bannon & Clare!” Guys, I’m not able to write more of them because they didn’t sell well enough. I’m dreadfully sorry, but there it is. I had four more books in that series planned, but it just wasn’t to be.

I do have some tentative good news on the Steelflower front. I can’t say anything just yet. It remains a severe financial hit for me to continue with Kaia’s adventures, and I have children to feed. Not to mention the dogs, who will hold off on eating me for a while, and the cats, who most definitely will not. *sigh* Maybe it will all work out, I don’t know. Right now I’m so damn tired of people demanding things I can’t do without harming myself, I’ve grown a bit sharpish.

All right. Today I go over revisions for Roadside Magic. Soon I’ve to get the third Gallow & Ragged not just boiling in my head but on the page. The problem with getting most things done early is that people begin expecting it, and exhausting myself by scrambling begins to become the norm.

I’m just a bundle of cheer and happiness today, aren’t I. I’m going to go cue up the Pet Shop Boys, fetch my brass knuckles, and have a talk with Monday. We’ll see if it makes the week behave…

Things Not To Send An Author

snobgooseI need a new tag for the “I get mail…” stories. Here, have this little gem:

Date: April 6, 2015 at 6:18:59 PM PDT
Subject: Rose and Thunder can be a Bestseller.
From: *redacted*
To: contact@lilithsaintcrow.com

Hi Lilith,

I must say that’s an outstanding book you got out there. It has readers appeal, but you need to push it a bit.

You can check out *redacted*, they will direct up to 50 of their avid readers to purchase your book on Amazon and these reviewers will then post good reviews on your Amazon book page.

I once posted reviews for them in exchange for gift cards before i started my M.Ed program. Imagine having 50 readers post great reviews on your book page, that’ll definitely land you on the bestsellers list. I believe the many positive reviews from *redacted* will greatly help your book.

Thanks for putting out such an enjoyable book, but please promote it.

Regards,

*redacted*

Let’s just count the things wrong with this. First, you sent it on release day, so what are the chances that you’ve actually read the book? Close to zero, I fancy. Second, it’s a huge insult to think I’d purchase reviews, positive, negative, or otherwise. Third, for someone who claims to be in a Master’s of Education program, you should have at least enough common sense to know how insulting the mere suggestion is, and how ethically repugnant it would be for me to even consider. Fourth, your closing needs a little work–“Thanks…but please promote it,” is incredibly insulting as well. Deigning to tell me about a pay-for-reviews scheme and implying that I’m less than intelligent for not “promoting” my book to your exacting specifications is even worse. (It’s like a skeezy PUA attempting to neg me, for God’s sake. GROW UP.) Personally, I much prefer to do my promotion in less ignoble ways, thank you very much.

So, readers, here’s a way to be amazingly rude to an author, and if you’re a new author, taking this sort of email up on its offer is sketchy at best, a waste of money and a nasty skeleton to have in your career closet at worst.

There. A teachable moment, courtesy of someone who should have known better. I think it’s time for some tea now.

ROSE & THUNDER release!

R&T_draft4 I am sunk in the gutting and rewriting of Blood Call, so much so that I almost missed the most auspicious (and terrifying) of things for a writer: release day! Rose & Thunder is now live in all formats!

Beauty…

Isabella Harpe, last in a long line of witches, drifts with the wind. Her tarot cards always ready to bring in enough to live on, and her instincts keep her mostly out of trouble. Unfortunately, bad boyfriends and even worse luck strand her near the most dangerous place for a witch to land-beside a cursed town, and an even more cursed man.

The roses…

Jeremy Tremont’s family built their house over an ancient place of power, turning it into an uneasy, rose-choked sanctuary for the weird and the dangerous alike. Scarred, quiet, and difficult, he’s not Isabella’s idea of a prospective employer, no matter how badly she needs the money. He’s paying well, and there’s only one catch: she has to be home by dusk. Because in Tremont City, bad things happen after nightfall.

And the curse.

Secrets hide in every corner, an ancient curse cloaks itself in silence, and Isabella’s arrival has begun a deadly countdown. Despite that, she may have found a home-all she has to do is figure out how to break the curse.

Oh, and survive in the dark…

My faithful and beloved assistant Skyla swears that her real boyfriend in this book is the Tremont house, which owes a great deal to Robin McKinley’s Beauty, holding pride of place on my favorites shelf for a reason.

I love both Jeremy and Isabella; this book is set in the Watchers/Valentine universe and was just a ton of fun to write. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale; I will probably revisit it again at some point. I hope my dear Readers enjoy it as well.

Now available direct or at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and All Romance Ebooks.

Weekend Persistence

Wild dog licking his chops A nice sunny weekend, and now I need a day to recover from everything I did on my days “off.” I did manage my One New Recipe Of The Week, Thug Kitchen‘s spiced chickpea wraps with tahini dressing. It’s the first time I’ve ever worked with tahini, despite loving hummus with a fiery and abiding love, and they were more flatbread-plus than actual wraps. The Princess found them acceptable and would ask for them again; the Prince prefers mac-and-cheese, of course. The box kind, not homemade. *eyeroll*

Also this weekend: the Princess, at seventeen, got her ears pierced. She finally wanted to do it, and we discussed getting it done by an actual licensed piercer rather than at the mall. I checked out the local tattoo/piercing shop–it’s been open for three years, so I felt comfortable enough that it wasn’t a fly-by-night operation, and the piercer (clean, friendly, and calm) answered all my questions cheerfully and thoroughly when I dropped in unannounced. When I came back with the Princess she greeted us both warmly and went over aftercare and the procedure with the Princess, making sure she was comfortable. All in all, a good experience. I recommend body piercers over the mall stores anyway; it’s just better.

This weekend also featured the Inktera Twitter feed–Inktera is one of the companies involved in the recent Clean Reader app kerfuffle. So the Inktera “bookstore” was pulled from the Clean Reader app, but PageFoundry (which seems to be the same company as Inktera?) is still offering Clean Reader. There’s also the confusion over what PageFoundry and Inktera actually do, what their connection is. I have some questions–and so does Andrea Phillips. I’ve Storified our interaction with whoever was running their Twitter feed this weekend. It’s a little…bizarre. I think at one point they were trying to sell me their services or insult me, but I’m not sure which.

Here’s the first set of questions I have for them:

1. The Twitter person seems to imply Inktera and PageFoundry are the same company, or will soon become the same company. Is this the case?
2. Did Inktera code the CleanReader app, or just provide the database of books to be “cleaned”?
3. Is CleanReader still for sale in the Apple app store, Google Play, or any other platform? If so, is it a new version not covered by the former announcement that the app has been discontinued?
4. How did Inktera not understand writers would protest such a treatment of their work?
5. What policies or procedures, if any, have been put in place to make sure similar apps aren’t introduced by Inktera/PageFoundry/whoever in the future?
6. Who at Inktera or PageFoundry is equipped to answer these questions, if you are not?

I know it seems like I’m beating this horse to death. Unfortunately, I’m genuinely curious–who at this company thought this app was a good idea, who still does, what precisely does Inktera DO, is Inktera the future version of PageFoundry? Is the app still around, despite the kerfuffle and the assurances that it’s been taken down? If it is still available, has it essentially changed so it isn’t Bowdlerizing people’s work without their consent? I checked the Apple store through my iTunes this morning, and found Clean Reader still available, with the developer listed as PageFoundry Inc and “in-app purchases” listed as “ebooks.” It’s still available through Google Play, too. It seems to be that one can import books through it, and the only change has been the PageFoundry database isn’t offering in-app purchases of people’s work for Bowdlerizing? Is that indeed the case?

See? So many questions. When I get curious, I get extremely persistent. Furthermore, when I can’t tell if I’m being insulted or sold to, I get irritated, which makes me even more persistent. It’s like an endless cycle of “how to make Lili very, very curious indeed.”

Now I’d like to fully understand what happened, who coded this, who at this company (or companies?) thought it was a good idea, what they’re going to do with similar apps in the future, and why they’re still offering the app. Of course they could refuse to answer, or cite internal privacy or something-whatever. Frankly, I’m expecting to be blown off again, and am considering taking my Smashwords books out of PageFoundry even though the Smashwords CEO made the decision that none of its books would go through the app in particular. (See the March 25 update.)

ETA: I have received what I can only call a partial answer from Inktera. Let’s take it from the top…

On Mar 29, 2015, at 3:32 PM, Inktera wrote:

Hello!
This was passed to us via Twitter.
How can we help you today?

Lilith Saintcrow wrote:
Lilith Saintcrow ‏@lilithsaintcrow
@Inktera Someone with the ability to answer these questions can email me at contact AT lilithsaintcrow DOT com. @andrhia

So my initial feeling, that whoever was manning the Twitter stream just wanted to unload me onto Support, seems somewhat justified. Here were my initial questions:

On Mon, 30 Mar at 8:18 AM , Lilith Saintcrow wrote:
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am one of the authors who vigorously protested the CleanReader app. I have further questions, and whoever is handling the Twitter account does not seem empowered or disposed to answer them. My questions include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. The Twitter person seems to imply Inktera and PageFoundry are the same company, or will soon become the same company. Is this the case?
2. Did Inktera code the CleanReader app, or just provide the database of books to be “cleaned”?
3. Is CleanReader still for sale in the Apple app store, Google Play, or any other platform? If so, is it a new version not covered by the former announcement that the app has been discontinued?
4. How did Inktera not understand writers would protest such a treatment of their work?
5. What policies or procedures, if any, have been put in place to make sure similar apps aren’t introduced by Inktera/PageFoundry/whoever in the future?
6. Who at Inktera or PageFoundry is equipped to answer these questions, if you are not?

Whatever answer I receive will be posted publicly. I am quite curious about this, and whoever is running your social media feeds seems unable or unwilling to answer what I think are quite reasonable questions about the provenance and the future of CleanReader-type apps. I have other questions, but this list will do for a start.

Thank you for your time, and I do hope to hear from you soon.

Best,

Lilith Saintcrow

Here is the reply I’ve received so far, sent at 8:55am, March 30, 2015:

Lilith:

Thank you for taking the time to send us your questions and concerns.

You have contacted the support queue that manages questions and help-requests from customers, and also general routing of other inquiries that might come in for any number of reasons.

The most common question we get is “How do i delete a book, after I’m finished reading it?”, if this gives you some context for what we typically handle. On principal, care so much about serving you that we would treat you the same if you were asking for a good chicken soup recipe! :) (you might be surprised if you knew how diverse our customers are!)

For some of the questions you have sent through, I can answer them directly, because we have the training and knowledge to do so.
For some, I can get back to you shortly, as the answer may require some research on my side to make sure I get everything right.
And then for others, the scope of the question is outside the parameters of what a customer-service queue can handle. In these cases, I can route your concerns to other individuals or departments.

I also want to make sure I’m responding to you as quickly as possible, as we have internal SLA’s we like to hit when first responding to requests for help.
In the time that it has taken me to type thus far, I see 11 other support requests which have not yet been serviced, too!

So I hope you will accept our fastest-possible “first cut” of those questions that have ready-made answers.
It might take a full day for me to respond to the rest. OK??

Q: Are Inktera and Page Foundry the same company?
A: The company “Page Foundry” created the brand “Inktera” to represent the bookstore product that customers would buy. For example, Amazon and Kindle have a similar relationship, though many people use the terms interchangeably. Page Foundry and Inktera will soon become “Inktera” alone, which will be simpler.

Q: Is the Clean Reader app still available for download?
A: I just checked, and it is available both in the Apple and Google app stores.

More to come very soon, my friend!
We are here to serve you, whether you are an author, publisher, reader or all of the above!

Okay. So PageFoundry and Inktera ARE the same company. PageFoundry is still offering the app through Google and Apple. The change is that they have removed Inktera’s “buy now” capability and database; now the reader must import the books in, as far as I understand, PDF form. The major objection to the app was that they were selling the books to be Bowdlerized, now the app is free and one must import one’s own books. Which makes it somewhat distasteful, but still just on the edge of legality as far as my understanding goes.

I shall update here when/if I receive more.

ALSO ETA: It seems whoever’s in charge of Clean Reader’s Facebook app got into a snit and disclosed private financial information about one of their critics. They have since apologized. I have to say, between this and the numerous grammatical and spelling errors in the app’s feed, that I am not at all sanguine about them arrogating the privilege of word choice…

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Nasty Letters

I get mail. Some of it is…breathtaking.

First Name: *redacted*
Last Name: *redacted*

Your Email
*redacted*

Re-enter email
*redacted*

Subject:
steelflower

Message:
Loved this book. I just read that epiracy killed the series. How does it not kill your other series? You would write of a woman who does not shirk her responsibilities to those she comes across, who does not back down from trouble; yet after giving her life, you would back down from finishing her story? I will not read your books after this, you let Steelflower down.

So, because some of the other series I’ve written have been pirated but not killed completely, I am to blame, and I am to be roundly punished.

I see.

I was not initially going to reply, but I thought about it. I decided this might become my form reply to similar letters.

Dear *redacted*,

I am very sorry you feel that way. I hope you never have to make the type of decision I did when I found I could not continue Kaia’s story because of the theft of my work by e-pirates. I further hope you never receive the sort of hatemail I have for making that decision. It is quite distressing to be stolen from, then blamed for being stolen from and furthermore receive nasty letters about it.

I hope you find other stories you like,

Lili Saintcrow

The more I get letters like this, the less inclined I am to work my ass off to try to find a solution to thieves killing a series I agonized over, with characters I love.

*sigh*