Already Am

So the (mostly white) grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson for the murder of an unarmed child half a football field away. Transcript is here. Predictably, the prosecutor (who comes from a family of police officers and people who work for them) released the news of no indictment at 9pm instead of 9am, probably to avoid questions from the press, and the people who are being killed for the color of their skin are furious. The President’s speech was a marvel of mealymouth, while on at least one split screen showing said speech and the situation in Ferguson, police “proactively” tear-gassed protestors. The racists and police apologists are out in force, I had to close my social media feeds this morning. I just can’t even.

I’m sickened, saddened, and I feel like crying, but I’m not surprised.

The Ferguson Public Library is open this morning, for teachers and kids who can’t get to school for one reason or the other. I donated to them through their website (the PayPal link is in the top right corner); it feels like the only goddamn thing I can do.

My son’s father isn’t Caucasian. How long before I’m afraid to let my own child go outside, too?

Too late. I already am.

ETA: Comments heavily moderated. Behave.

Sheer Enraged Entitlement

Snow Leopard in the Altai Mountain region My hair’s reaching that point where it won’t lie down, it just sticks straight up like I have a sink scrubber on my head. More about that tomorrow, I don’t feel up to writing the whole thing now.

Today will be another 80+ degree day. GO HOME, OCTOBER. YOU’RE DRUNK.

There’s been some talk lately about “An open letter to the self-published author feeling dissed.”

I asked Sutton, “What do you say to the indie writer who reminds you that Walt Whitman was self-published?”

“You are not Walt Whitman,” he said. “The 21st century is different in so many ways from the 19th that the comparison is meaningless. No one is forbidding you from self-publishing, but neither is anyone required to pay attention.”

We both agree that books from indie writers will only increase. “It may engender a whole new stream of book reviewing,” Sutton said, “but I doubt it, because people are more interested in writing self-published books than in reading them. And if old media is so passe, why do they care so much about what we think?” (Washington Post)

This is, in large part, why I’m considering no longer offering editing services. The sheer enraged entitlement of anyone who thinks it’s “easy” to write a book, that they don’t have to study craft or do their due diligence on the industry itself, they can just vomit up whatever wish-fulfillment or fanfic they want and have it immediately make them buckets of money, is bad enough. (I am well aware I am generalising here.) But when that entitlement slops over into the egregiously bad behaviour one sees daily–well, it’s worse than reading slush, and that’s saying something. It’s getting to the point that I’ve refused clients because their expectation is that I’ll introduce them to an agent, give them a magic handshake, or that my job is to kowtow to them instead of to edit.

I realise these are several different issues–the self-publishing shit volcano, the idea that an author who publishes with a trad house is somehow a “gatekeeper” or a “traitor,” the culture of entitlement on the internet, the ease of firing off an email or blog comment when someone’s opinion has pissed you off–but added together, they make me tired.

I also wonder whether people were as entitled before the internet, but this just puts it on display and gives it a venue. Given the plus ca change involved in humanity, it’s not unlikely.

I am SO GLAD I am not reading slush anymore. Even years ago before people could scratch out some bellybutton lint and expect to be paid for it on Amazon, one would get nasty, hate-filled screeds from a certain slice of the slush pile. It’s only grown worse, and seems to be bleeding over into other people who want to get “published” (if you can call it that) by hook, crook, or any other method. I understand wanting to get your story out to the world, I really do. My understanding and compassion, however, does not excuse you treating someone badly, making death threats, or calling you a “toof aced lieing cunt[sic]” like the email that landed in my inbox this morning.

*eyeroll* AND YOU WONDER WHY I TURNED DOWN THE CHANCE TO EDIT YOUR 130K MAGNUM OPUS, SIR. If the only word you can spell correctly is “cunt,” there is not enough money in the world to pay me for the headache.

Anyway. *clears throat* I’m not sure how this is all going to shake out for the industry. But until the market adds some quality control, my time might be better spent knitting.

Cucumber Proportion & Walking For Jesus Man

no not the wine No, I’m not drinking before blogging–though that holds a certain charm, really–the bottle is for proportion and perspective. I feel inordinately proud that I’ve grown a cubit-long cucumber. (And now all I can think of is Bill Cosby going “Riiiiiiight.”) Technically I didn’t do anything but plant, water, and weed, but I still feel ridiculously proud.

Saturday I finished the revisions for the first Gallow book. It’s clocking in at around 74-75k now, and several new scenes have been added. Now I sit and bite my nails and hope it doesn’t suck.

I took yesterday off to recover a bit, and managed to bomb over the river to Powell’s and Everyday Music with my writing partner. Then someone else made me dinner (let’s call him Tarzan, shall we?) and I was able to stumble off to bed and collapse.

The most exotic part of yesterday was my morning run, and not for the usual reasons. I’ve rehabilitated my ankle, so now I’m working back up to regular mileage. Yesterday was a “long” run, and of course Miss B thought she was in charge of two-thirds of it. What I’m going to do when that dog is too old to run is beyond me, I’ll probably look like a drunken sailor because I keep expecting an invisible dog to try and HEEEEERD me. But that’s not what made it…interesting.

I was on a long straight shot down a local road, running under trees and savouring the shade, when I saw a man waving frantically about two blocks ahead of me. Of course I slowed, and began scanning for the problem–car accident? Altercation? Did he have cohorts? I grabbed for the hand-loop on Miss B’s leash so she didn’t lunge until I was ready for her to, slowed further, and popped my earbud out. “Are you okay?” He really did look distressed.

He was a bit unshaven, gold-rimmed spectacles, wrinkled chinos, a polo shirt that was just a little past “not so fresh.” But this is Vancouver, we’re spitting distance from the rumpled-hipster parade of Portland, so he wasn’t really outre, just a little…crumpled. No blood or damage I could see, but he was sweating an awful lot–it was a warm morning, though. I couldn’t see a car accident, I couldn’t see if he had any confederates, and there was a fence instead of houses to my left, so he hadn’t run out of a house to seek some sort of aid.


I actually stopped, staring at him. Miss B made a low noise in her chest, the sort of do not come near my human, I mean business I rarely hear from her. I replayed what he said inside my head, and decided he had indeed told me he was walking for Jesus and asked for spare change.

My mouth opened, and what fell out was, “I am running, and I do not have time for bullshit.” I hopped off the sidewalk and gained speed, Miss B still making her grinding noise. When she does that, it’s best to listen.

I suppose he wasn’t ready for such a prompt response. I had almost gotten my earbud back in when I heard his final shot.


I wanted to round on him and tell him that I’d already survived childhood, hell holds no goddamn fear for me, and anyway, I don’t run with my pockets full of quarters to give out to shady fucks my dog doesn’t like. But why bother? Also, just getting away from the crazy and keeping my heartrate up and my stride long was probably the best response, since getting in an altercation would mean that I’d have to call the cops after I put him down and really, I did not have time for that bullshit.

It was only later I started trying to figure out what the hell had actually happened. Was he homeless, high, just desperate, figuring that saying “Jesus” would make a scam go easier, or what? Of all the times I’ve been accosted while running, this is one of the more puzzling.

Anyway, I turned in six and a half kilometers at a good steady 7:21 per, so I’m well on my way to getting back to regular running. What Walking For Jesus Man wanted or actually meant is beyond me, and is probably going to stay that way.

I can’t say I mind.

Save Some Trouble

Day 30: Kerplunk! Hachette vs Amazon continues apace. With luminaries such as CE Murphy, Harry Connolly, Scott Turow, James Patterson, and Charlie Stross weighing in, I feel rather as if there’s not much left for me to say. I do want to note a few ancillary things, though.

If my opinions on Amazon enrage you, and you express that rage by threatening not to buy my books, it merely puzzles me slightly. (I’m going to quote from a Twitter thread I posted last night here.) If you don’t like my politics, my feminism, my comment policy, or my opinions on Amazon, my books will probably just upset you more. Your threat to “not read” me just makes me think, well, this person’s saving themselves some grief and ulcer medication, so…good luck? And that’s about it. It doesn’t hurt my feelings or upset me, nor does it change my mind about anything. If you want to change my mind or make me feel bad, first you have to earn my respect. Threats are not a good way to do so.

I also wanted to note something curious I’ve seen in the comments here. Several commenters seem to have landed not understanding that I am also self-pubbed, and that Hachette is not my only publisher. They’re not even my only trad publisher. I have multiple books out with trad presses as well as multiple small presses and my own self-pub LLC. Choosing to lecture me in an ill-tempered and incoherent manner on the publishing industry and book distribution when you do not have a commensurate level of experience stands little to no chance of impressing me, especially if such lecture is full of fuzzy, also-incoherent talking points from people who likewise do not possess much experience. It’s normal to have opinions on things one doesn’t know much about–believe me, I have plenty myself–but trolling on such things is bad form indeed.

Another curious thing I noted was a flood of traffic from a site run by a (quite popular, I suppose?) demagogue of self-publishing whose stock-in-trade seems to be such trolling. While I welcome the new readers–come in, have a drink, tell me about yourselves!–I most emphatically do not welcome trolling (concern or otherwise), rhetorical bad form (strawmen, canards, misrepresentation), personal insults or mansplaining. Consider this a gentle warning, mostly because I don’t have time to engage with such nonsense. I do, however, often screencap and save such things, even if I don’t keep them in the mod queue.

Now, many new commenters behaved themselves, and I welcomed (and still do welcome) their comments. There were a few bad apples, however, who wore out said welcome and are now banned after clear warnings. Banning does not have to be permanent–a good place to start with getting un-banned is an apology, should you have a burning desire to keep playing in this particular internet sandbox.

I am also a little amazed and puzzled by the attitude that I am somehow a huge tentacled Goliath picking on the plucky David of Amazon.

Quite a few of those leaping to defend poor, helpless Amazon against mighty incredible me focused on the same talking points and rhetorical strategies. It is frankly incredible–the most bizarre thing was the familiar pattern of typos. I don’t think it’s a coordinated effort, but I do think there is an echo chamber or five, some run by people who profit financially or (more prosaically) emotionally by feeding an air of publishing grievance, where there is a certain lingua franca that includes said typos and also includes the perception that somehow Amazon is an underdog altruistically doing battle on behalf of geniuses the gatekeepers of trad publishing have snubbed. If that’s your cuppa tea, fine, but don’t expect me to concur or give much shrift to the notion.

The mod queue remains a bit tighter than usual, for all the above reasons and others. If you find yourself about to grab comment threads from previous (closed) posts or about to tell me how if I just self-published (more than I already have, I guess?) I would see Amazon as the underdog, or about to tell me just how much my criticism of Amazon or my comment policy means you’ll never read my books now, please take a deep breath and find another subject.

Thank you.

photo by: Dusty J

How “Amazon” Means “LESS BOOKS FOR YOU”

ETA: I know that grammatically, it should be “Fewer Books For You.” I didn’t do that, partly because “Less” fits better in social-networking headline space, and partly because I’m a contrarian. Also, it makes me think of the soup guy on Seinfeld. “LESS BOOKS FOR YOU!”

Dear Readers, let me tell you about my editor.

I have been with my editor at OrbitDevi Pillai, who Anya Devi in the Kismet books was loosely based on–for over a decade now. She shepherded me through the Valentine series, consoled me through the end of Heaven’s Spite, took a chance on the Damnation Affair, and loved a certain hedgewitch Queen so much she kept asking about it for years until she could finally buy it. She remains an editor I trust implicitly. When she sticks to her guns and insists, I generally rethink my position and trust she’s right, and (far less often, because I rarely dig my heels in unless it’s Important) vice versa. She understands my working style, leaves me the freedom I need while ensuring I get the support I often don’t know I need to turn in my best work.

Not only that, but she advocates for me tirelessly in editorial and marketing meetings. She fights for my books, she fights to bring my books to you. She is everything an editor should be, and it’s largely because of her faith in me that I can write full-time and pay my mortgage.

She works for Orbit. Orbit is a part of Hachette. Amazon, the behemoth that undercut its competitors and has become not the only, but the biggest game in town, wants more money out of Hachette. So, Amazon has removed the preorder buttons on Hachette books.

Including the last Bannon & Clare book, The Ripper Affair. Here’s a screenshot of the Amazon page for the Ripper Affair this morning:


Preorders are largely how publishers forecast how well a certain book will do. Those forecasts create numbers that are used when, for example, Devi makes the case to buy another series from me while I’m finishing up writing the current one. It’s not fair, but it’s the only metric the publishers have in some cases, for all sorts of reasons–frex, it can take over six months for the contracts department to get all situated. (Contracts people are by their nature picky and detail-oriented, and that’s fine, it’s just frustrating sometimes.)

All of this is backstory (hello, exposition!) to what I am about to tell you.

The full, nasty effect of Amazon removing buy buttons (like they did when squeezing Macmillan for more cash a few years ago) and removing the ability to preorder a publisher’s upcoming books doesn’t hit the publisher. Sure, the publisher is who Amazon can blackmail most directly–Amazon’s a huge distributor, and if they decide not to distribute, that’s lost revenue, since ease of buying is a component of consumer activity. (Translation: every time you make a consumer go somewhere else, they are fractionally less willing to buy the damn item that’s costing them time and headache.) There’s also lost revenue from people who buy only through Amazon (they have their reasons, natch) and that means a publisher can’t afford to take a chance on certain authors. The publisher takes the visible hit, but the ripples spread out and hit midlist authors, or debut authors. And while I am not the latter, I am most certainly the former.

In other words, Amazon’s behavior right now is impacting my ability to sell more books to Orbit, since when preorder numbers take this kind of hit it’s harder for Devi to fight for me in acquisition meetings. The numbers for B&C were already not good enough for me to do the “B&C travel to different countries” books we were all looking forward to. Amazon’s blackmail of my publisher makes it harder for my editor to justify taking a chance on me next time I’m up for a contract with them. (It isn’t fair, but it’s a business decision, and I understand as much.) This impacts my ability to write full-time, to continue producing those stories you love (or love to hate) at my accustomed rate. Because I have to pay my mortgage and feed my kids, and if this won’t do it, I will have to spend my time doing something else that will.

Amazon is obeying the natural behaviour of corporations. Corporations are not people, but once they reach a certain size they start behaving like any greedy organism. They metastasize. The effect of this is passed down through the ecosystem to yours truly–and also to you. Less time for me to write those stories means less Lili books for you to read. It means less books from other authors you may like or love, as well. If Hachette has to cave and agree to Amazon’s predatory terms, I will feel that directly, because that money will come out of budgets that take a chance on me, the midlist author.

As Elizabeth Bear said this morning, Amazon is hoping customers will turn on the publishers and force them to do Amazon’s bidding. If you’re fine with that, and with the effects I’ve described above, okay. I naturally don’t agree with you, but okay. I have Amazon links, affiliate and otherwise, on this very site for your convenience, not mine.

If you’re not fine with Amazon’s behavior, you can preorder The Ripper Affair (and order other books of mine) through Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, or Indiebound. You can even preorder and order signed copies through Cover to Cover Books with a simple stock inquiry, they ship worldwide. You can preorder for other authors you like, too, at Barnes & Noble, at Indiebound, and at C2C though they may not be signed if they’re not mine–you get the idea.

Hachette has been keeping its authors apprised of developments in this situation. They’re doing their best to take care of us, because we are, after all, their bread and butter. Hachette isn’t the bad guy here. (I should hope that my regular Readers know that I’d tell you if they were, srsly, mortgage be damned.) Please think about buying somewhere other than Amazon, even if it is a little inconvenient.

In the end, dear Reader, it’s all up to you.

‘Nuff said.

ETA: Courtesy of Reader Scott Drummond:

I seriously have the best Readers.

I seriously have the best Readers.

ETA: Comments are now closed. Thank you all for participating.

A Funny Business

Rollin Sometimes you just gotta channel the Dude, and abide. It’s probably time for me to go visit Emphysema Joe and get some advice. Or even just sit for a bit, now that it’s not -20 outside. They’re even saying some sun today.

And why, may you ask, am I contemplating spending time out in my backyard talking to a resin statue of a pothead undead gnome? No real reason, I guess, except I found out the numbers on a certain series had plummeted, and as a result, well, the last three months of work might have been for naught. Publishing’s a funny business. You spend months waiting for some indication, any indication, of what the hell’s happening. You get so used to delayed gratification, and you also get used to the perceived helplessness of not knowing what the fuck for months at a time.

Of course, as the author, it sends me down into a spiral of “what did I do wrong? Did I somehow make the book suck? Have I run out of stories? I was excited, I gave it my all, but am I blind? Is it just a big pile of suck? Is my career over? If it is, how do I pay the mortgage? AUGH!”

You get the idea. Pretty much everything in a writing career seems designed to turn even the most well-balanced and sane of people into a neurotic mess. And of course, being not the best example of sane (come on, I am still chortling over an undead sorcerous hamster) I get tipped into a raging whirlpool of self-doubt, second-guessing, panic, and outright terror.

Nothing’s been decided yet, of course. I’ll probably get a call from my agent later today, and she’ll probably chide me for worrying, as she so often does. She’ll reassure me, and I’ll feel marginally better for a while. But the panic will still return at weird moments.

I love my job, but I’m not blind to its pitfalls. The knife of Not Looking Away cuts both ways more often than not.

So, if anyone needs me, I’ll be out in the backyard with the dogs, talking to Emphysema Joe.