Tuesday, With Questions

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I have coffee, and it’s finally not feeling like a Monday anymore. Small mercies, silver linings, and all that.

It struck me this morning, waiting for Horace de Brassiere (my espresso machine, who is a cousin to Phillip, the great French patent thief) to finish his burbling, that if I had to be dealing with these kinds of historical events, I am probably at the best age for it. I’m 45 this year, and all my fucks are gone. As a matter of fact, the number of fucks given in a room automatically drops when I walk in. Not only do I not have any more fucks to give, but I am operating on a fucks-to-give deficit and will automatically cancel out a few when I get within a certain radius.

It’s a nice feeling.

I’ve had a couple questions pop up from more than one person lately, so let me answer them here.


Is there a sequel to The Marked?

I do have the sequel in my head. What I don’t have, sadly, is the time, energy, and cash to write it just at the moment, especially since the e-pirates are getting kind of active lately. If I do manage to finish Oracle–the sequel’s working title–I’ll let you guys know, I promise. As it is, Jude and Press’s first adventure does end at a natural resting-point if it has to be a standalone.

Is there a site or format that provides you the best return on reader purchases? Does purchasing through the Gumroad store net you more proceeds than from Amazon, for example?

I answered this in comments, but I’ll answer it here too: The short answer is, it honestly doesn’t matter. Amazon, for example, tries relentlessly not to pay writers, but the discoverability and the bumping of their algorithm with sales of a particular book can aggregate over time. Other large distro platforms have their pluses and minuses, and direct selling like Gumroad does hand over a larger share of the proceeds but has a tightly scoped-in audience so not a lot of people end up buying there.

The best answer, from a writer’s point of view, is that it doesn’t matter where you bought the book but THAT you bought/checked out the book–torrenting and pirating doesn’t count.

Another thing that’s really helpful is rating/reviewing the book, wherever you bought it. Algorithms tend to bump rated/reviewed books more, so that does good things for a writer’s backlist.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter, it’s all about what’s more convenient for the Reader.

What’s happening with The Highlands War?

A lot of people are writing me about Steelflower lately. This remains my most-stolen series; it’s difficult to write against that current. If you wish I’d write more of Kaia’s adventures, and more quickly, the reason I can’t is because people keep torrenting/pirating/stealing them. It’s not a compliment, it’s a theft, and it feels so much like a violation I have trouble going back to the books even if I had the time and income to write them.

That said, I am considering writing The Highlands War as a serial once Hell’s Acre is finished. We’re at the start of Season One of Hell’s Acre, and there are two seasons planned–so that will take a while, and by the time it’s over I’ll see if people have stopped stealing Kaia’s books. If they have, I’ll probably be able to use the serial slot to at least bring the adventures of Steelflower and the Gang in the North to their conclusion.

I originally planned another, subsequent trilogy dealing with Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan, but that’s a lot of epic fantasy to write for little-to-no return and a bunch of people stealing it in the bargain.

I know most of you reading this will say, “But I paid for my Kaia books!” And if you did I am very glad and grateful; you (and Skyla Dawn Cameron) are the reason why Steelflower at Sea and Steelflower in Snow are published at all. I thank you kindly, and I’m very sorry other people are behaving so badly. I wish they weren’t.


I’ve been getting some other questions (more like comments, alas) in the mailbag (and other places) lately, but these are the most common. And now that I’ve finished absorbing coffee, some brekkie is called for before the dogs drag me around the block.

Boxnoggin in particular is in fine form today–he’s not called Baron von Titzpunch for nothing, the dog outright demanded snuggles this morning. Miss B, of course, has her rigid schedule to adhere to, but she also plundered his breakfast bowl this morning since there was bacon grease and the Baron wasn’t quite off the mark quick enough.

Never a dull moment chez Saintcrow, alas and hallelujah. At least the week of Mondays seems over, and the weather is holding.

It’s gonna have to be enough.

Tuesday Tuckerizations

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They’re saying 95F today. I’ve already closed the house and turned the AC on. The ceiling fan in the stairwell is going too. Such as it is, we’ve got some remedy against the heat.

In plenty of the country, it wouldn’t be considered bad weather. But here, we are pale temperate mushrooms, and this dries us out. Even the moss in our crevices is cracking. (Hyperbole? Yes, but only a little.)

Of course it means I’ll be able to crouch in my darkened office and work today, since the holiday weekend is over. I managed double wordcount on Cold North yesterday, but only a pittance on Hell’s Acre. Which isn’t bad (just a reminder, you can read the first few chapters of the serial for free) and today I get to write a chapter where I Tuckerize some of my beloved subscribers. It will probably end in their eponymous characters’ gruesome deaths (Avery has a temper, and quite a bit of training in mayhem). I was kind of unprepared for how many people wanted to, erm, risk a violent end in the serial.

Sometimes the deaths are pretty neat–a certain character in Roadtrip Z got to be an end-of-movie hero, bit by a zombie and saving one last bullet in the chamber for himself. (Hullo, MM!) And since I’m writing a combat scene today I have a list of names to use now, and I think at least one is going to switch allegiances mid-fight.

In other news, I got a very nice letter from Reader B. L., who liked Steelflower very much and entreated me to continue the series. I do go back and look at The Highlands War from time to time. If I can open the file without stress nausea burning a hole in my gut I’ll put it on the writing docket.

Unfortunately, it remains one of my most-pirated series. The level of theft means I literally can’t afford to work on it, and the emotional cost is super high too.

But again, if I can get to the point where I can open the Highlands file without the stress nausea, I’ll consider it, because I really do need that arc finished. Originally it was to be a trilogy–the first book where everyone meets, the Skaialan book, and then Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan–incidentally, that last book was to explain D’ri’s scar, and tie a bunch of other narrative threads pretty neatly.

Best-laid plans and all.

In any case, I’ve got to get the dogs walked and my own corpse through a run before the heat mounts to an unlivable degree, so I’m out the door as soon as the last bit of coffee is swilled. Happy Pride Month, everyone, and I hope your Tuesday goes smooth as silk.

If it doesn’t, we can get out the machetes and the RPGs, and teach it not to mess with us.

Over and out…

Knitting Weekend

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The weekend was almost as exhausting as the week it closed out, wasn’t it. Whew.

But it also held good things, and this morning I want to focus on the good things. On Saturday I decided to do something I’ve never done before, and livestreamed a bit on Twitch. It wasn’t much–just me sitting, knitting, bitching, and answering questions from the chat. There were a lot of questions about writing, and a lot of me staring blankly because I couldn’t think of anything to say. I am told I have a restful voice, though.

It was an interesting experience. I intend to have some regular Saturday sessions, only for as long as it’s fun. I’ve promised myself the power to can the whole experiment the moment it becomes un-fun. it was nerve-wracking and exhausting but also cool to get Reader questions in realtime, though I’m sure my frequent digressions are maddening.

Come Sunday, there was a full day of chores, and finally I could settle with more knitting and Secrets of Great British Castles, which was fun to binge and deeply interesting. (There was a lot of knitting this weekend.) Of course I did a lot of doomscrolling, too.

I can barely look away.

Still, it’s Monday, which means work. There are copyedits to get done, and the last thing on the master to-do list hanging over my desktop–finishing the zero of HOOD‘s Season Three–to strike off. I have been waffling about what serial to do next. It might be Division Seven, it might be the story spurred by my Sapphire & Steel binge… I am also thinking about whether or not I want to try The Highlands War as a serial, but the chance of someone being pissy and torrenting chapters, thereby killing the entire series all over again, is not really one I want to run.

Before I get started on that, though…

Last Thursday I blogged about cookies and the fascist rioters storming the US Capitol. I woke up this morning to find a commenter (who has apparently had comments approved here before, which is how this particular one got through the mod queue) taking issue with my loathing of fascists, and telling me I had LOST a READER because of it.

I shall repeat my response here, so there is absolutely no confusion, grey area, or lack of clarity: GOOD. If my loathing of racists and fascists means you won’t buy my books, GREAT. I do not want you or your money. Off is the direction in which you may fuck.

I am deeply and genuinely baffled that this commenter thought they’d get any other response. At least it gives me the chance to be absolutely clear about where I stand. And that, as they say, is that.

I’m doing my best to focus on the good things–the dogs thrilled to be embarking on another day of adventures and snuggles, the kids going about their own lives full of daily victories and setbacks to share, books to write, knitting to do, friends to cheer on and console, the cedars at the back fence to talk to, a run to accomplish, coffee to drink, the prospect of lunch, the fact that I’m still breathing. There are good things still, and things worth fighting for.

Gods grant I don’t forget it.

So, to end in a more pleasant place, what good/fun things are happening in your slice of the world? Tell me all about it, if you’ve a mind to–no matter how small. Tiny victories are still victories, indeed.

After all, we’re still here. And I think that’s grand.

Coffee, Cats, Banquet

My goodness, I get mail. Do I ever get mail.

In response to several recent questions, no, there is not a projected date for The Highlands War, which is book 4 of Steelflower. The ongoing piracy means I can’t afford to take time to write it, frankly. Yelling at me because you want to download it for free off a torrent site is not going to make me work on it, either.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, it’s a Tuesday, and the only thing dragging me out of bed was the prospect of coffee. Well, that and the fact that the dogs needed a loo break after a hard night spent trying to get under me to sleep. They both long to be as close as possible, though Miss B is, like many elderly beings, a light sleeper and is up and down several times a night to seek the tile floor in the loo when she gets too warm.

Boxnoggin, however, picks a spot and stays there, at least until B moves and he can get into a better spot. He’s a great believer in patience winning the battle of location. Although he rarely uses said patience for anything else in his canine life. Especially cats.

Man, does he ever want to catch a cat or two. Even the rabbits down the street don’t fill him with as much frustrated longing, although you’d think a terrier would be more into rodents than felines. But no, it’s a big juicy cat Boxnoggin wants, to love and lick and SHAKE.

I’ve tried explaining to him that they’ll last longer if he just cuddles them, but the terrier in him is absolutely baffled by this chain of logic and insists shaking is the proper way to show affection to small things. So, no cats for him, just toys.

It will frustrate him, but better that than the alternative.

Today I have a Banquet of Death to write in the epic fantasy. All sorts of stuff has been boiling away, and it’s about to bubble over. I realized last night I could cut a planned sub-arc and that will save me around 15-20k words, although the arc can be added in later if the rest of the book isn’t hanging properly. But I think it’ll be fine.

If I can turn in another few 5-6k days like yesterday, I might even finish a messy, hole-laden zero this week, which would be ever so nice. There’s a whole lot of brackets in this thing, though, since the entire last half of the book has been laboring under pandemic stress.

I suppose I’d best get to it. Tuesday is marshaling its forces, and I’d really like to get this particular Big Goal off my plate. All I need is to draw a line through the zero; that’s all I’m asking out of this week. We’ll see if it happens; be kind to yourselves today, my beloveds; remember, survival is the victory.

Fair Warning

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Apparently I have “arrived”, to some small degree, since over the weekend I was the recipient of quite a few bot-written emails telling me I’m “too political” and have “lost readers” because of it. Well, either those emails were bot-written or more than one subliterate fascist mouthbreather with exactly the same knee-jerk misspellings and right-wing buzzword addictions decided to hit my contact form at exactly the same time from masked IPs.

Hilarious, isn’t it.

Assuming for one moment these were written by a real human being instead of a bot, I decided to make a public statement. Here it is again, just for clarity:

So if you’re emailing me with “you’ve lost me as a reader, you’re too political,” let me just answer you publicly: I don’t write for fascist white supremacist asshats. Go with your tiny god, I am singularly untroubled by your absence. Besides, I suspect you pirate content instead of buying honestly anyways, because cowardly thieves are all of a piece.

What I said on Twitter, and I meant it.

I’m repeating it here because my tweets are deleted after a certain amount of time (Jack Dorsey doesn’t get to mine my content for more than a short while, dammit) and so there is absolutely no grey area or confusion about where I stand.

No story is “apolitical”, and if you think it is, it’s only because you share prejudices with the writer. Human beings are political beings; artists transmute their daily lives into art and make no mistake, politics are a part of daily life. Politics affect schooling, the availability of food, whether or not a particular person will be targeted by violent law enforcement or COINTELPRO, the availability of healthcare, and a host of other inescapable facets of modern life.

If you side with violent repression, if you side with white supremacy, if you side with hatred and bigotry, you’re not going to like me or my books. Consider this fair and explicit warning. Also, attempting to threaten or “shame” me will only get you roundly mocked. Go sit in your dirty racist diaper and howl elsewhere, you’re doing this to yourself and I have no sympathy.

Everything is on fire right now, and I have to work. I have the luxury of still having work, and of being able to shut off the wi-fi and concentrate–if I can, I suspect it will be difficult for a long while. Of course I’d love to be a superhero, or impersonate one out on the streets, but that’s not my lane. My lane is my books, to tell stories, to tell the truth with fiction and not to look away, and to use whatever privilege and platform I personally have to boost those voices which might not have either.

If this angers you, if this makes you want to avoid my books or my blog or my social media streams, that’s fine. I’m not forcing you to read me. There’s a vast mass of content out there, I’m very sure you’ll find something that suits you.

I will not stop doing–and saying–what I know is right. I’m also not going to stop writing romance, fantasy, sci-fi, or any other genre I damn well please. If that’s a problem for you, there’s the door. If it isn’t, great! Come on in, grab a digital drink, and I’ll keep telling stories.

And that, as they say, is that. Onwards to Monday, my friends.

Shillin’ My Wares

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I am so close to the end of revisions for HOOD‘s Season Two, I can taste it. Of course, there’ll still be CEs and proofing, but the season has its shape now, and it’s… actually… not a bad book? Which means I’m almost at the final gate.

I go through phases of hating each book. Generally the first one hits in the Slough of Despond from about halfway through the zero draft until four-fifths through, when the gallop to the finish takes me and I have no time for any emotion other than weary focus, then again it strikes midway through the revision into a reasonable first draft, then there’s the point halfway through other revisions when I think I have always been revising this book, I will always be revising this book, and weep.

It gets to where I’m afraid, each time, that I will always hate the book, and that it will go out into the world an unloved child. Which dovetails neatly with the “everyone will hate this, then they’ll hate YOU, then your career will crash and you’ll be homeless and your kids and dogs will starve and then the sun will go out and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT, LILI, ALL OF IT!” that strikes right before Release Day.

But in between those bursts, I have shoals of time where I think, well, this book ain’t perfect, but it’s not totally awful, and I’m grateful for the respite.

This particular burst of “maybe not bad” came when I reached a particular scene, frowned, and realized that the hole I’d sensed in the book was right there, plainly visible. I just needed to let the season rest for a wee bit before I got enough distance to see it. Which meant I could reel back in Scrivener and drop in an extra chapter (hey, I wrote about that earlier this week!) that makes the entire book hang in the shape it needs like a 3D tapestry.

It was a welcome discovery. I knew the hole was there, I just couldn’t see it.

Which reminds me! Some of you are asking about Haggard Feathers, my writing Substack. Come February, one weekly post there will be free and the rest will be subscriber-only. I’m still going back and forth about what’s a reasonable price to charge for it; the Substack will focus on being a working writer as well as refining your craft as a casual hobbyist. I plan on also doing a Thursday Evening Open Thread over there, where subscribers can ask questions, play, and generally interact with each other and me. I’m thinking around $5/mo wouldn’t be too much to ask; I might end up doing subscription tiers if Substack supports that. In any case, it has not changed to subscriber-only yet, and one post a month (probably on the first Tuesday) will be utterly free so you know what you’re getting. Come February, I’ll trot out the subscription option.

Also, if I’m shilling my wares (as one is frequently required to do in order to keep body and soul together) I have a Patreon, and also have subscription options at Gumroad. They fall into three classes: A Latte’s Worth (a once-monthly fiction drop, the price of a cheap but good coffee), Crow’s Nest (weekly fiction drop, generally on Thursdays) and the Nest Egg option, which not only gives you the weekly fiction drop but also gives you access to whatever serial I’m running currently–including the unedited and edited ebooks of said serials, before they go on sale and most times before they can even be preordered. The current serial is my Robin Hood in Space story, of which Season One is available in entirety and Season Two is spiking for a finish involving a ball, assassination attempts, and a GIANT SPACESHIP BLOWING UP because hey, write what you love, right?

I’m trying to maneuver myself into an emotional-mental space where I can have the next serial be The Highlands War–that’s right, the next Steelflower book. But there’s still Season Three of HOOD to get through, so I have time to think about, doodle, dream, and prep to my heart’s content. The next serial might end up being Lightning Bound instead of Highlands War, too. I haven’t decided yet.

Giving yourself enough time to make decisions is a skill that edges into a luxury. But if one can possibly take it, I recommend it. There are very few decisions that are as pressing as the world would like us to believe, especially that slice of the world full of people who (wrongly) think they’re entitled to something from us just because they want it.

Anyway, the dogs need walking, I have a workout to get into, and there’s correspondence to take care of before I can get to what I really want to do–revise this book so I can get to the next stage of the publication process.

See you around, chickadees.

Fewer Books of Less Quality

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We are in the throes of the shopping season. Stress and tension are everywhere, from the aisles where tired, overstimulated children cry to the checkouts where overwhelmed parents, counting their pennies, feel the sick thump of what if I forgot someone or what if I can’t afford what Little Spawn wants? It’s just as bad online, too, and the usual “Should I have run a holiday sale, what price points are good, things are ordered and I have to stand in long queues to ship them” discussions are afoot on author loops and social media.

This year I’m also seeing a lot of discussions about ebooks. Specifically, the question “Should I lower my ebook prices in the new year?” has been asked at least five times (and counting!) on different loops and in different social media I’m privy to.

I’ve typed some shorter answers, but I figured why scatter them all over the map when I can put them all in one place?

So. Generally, my TL;DR answer is “…no.”

You already know my thoughts on the convenience of ebooks (without concomitant protections against theft) leading to massive entitlement and piracy. The convenience has YET another unpleasant aspect, made monstrous by Amazon’s business practices.

The race to the bottom in ebook prices is terrifying for any author trying to earn a living. The way the industry is currently set up, either you starve because your ebooks are priced too low for you to get a reasonable return on the investment of time needed to produce a quality product, or you up your production schedule and end up burning out, in the meantime risking cranking out heavily compromised texts that could have been great if you’d had the resources to take the proper time and care with them.

Or, if you price your books reasonably in line with the time and effort spent, you can be inundated with nasty emails calling you a sellout or accusing you of “taking advantage” of readers somehow. And, as a bonus, informing you that your books are going to be stolen in “protest.”

Fun times for all.

Here’s the thing: low across-the-board ebook prices are not good deals. You end up getting fewer books of less quality in the long run, not just because of writer burnout and starvation, but because that’s the way the business model is set up. That’s what it’s engineered for.

Amazon’s success means it’s been able to impose a number of conditions on the market. Amazon profits on volume when prices on ebooks are kept artificially low, because they don’t care what you’re buying as long as you’re buying a lot of it. Authors do not benefit–they work themselves into the ground or the grave, or they quit publishing because they literally can’t afford to keep going. That means readers don’t benefit either; the quality fiction you crave gets harder and harder to find because selling algorithm bumps is profitable as all get-out and/or because the writers experienced and talented enough to provide that quality fiction have been driven out.

Who does benefit from this? You guessed it–Amazon. They profit both coming and going. There’s a fresh crop of hopeful new baby writers willing to be fleeced each season, the plagiarizers and page-stuffers pay Amazon for the privilege to play, writers are working themselves into burnout, and it’s all going into Bezos’s pocketbook. The ‘Zon gets their cut of even a $.99 ebook, you’d better believe it, and enough of those going out the door is a nice chunk of change. Who cares if it’s readable, if it’s quality, if it’s what you actually wanted? You’ll buy anything, according to Amazon, as long as it’s cheap.

Now, Amazon’s done some good things, largely without wanting or trying to. I suppose you could find a few beneficial effects in any cancer if you narrow your focus enough, too. And I’m sure a lot of people will say “books are a luxury anyway, nobody who creates them deserves to make a living because it’s not a real job.” I’ve heard it all, from “all authors are rich anyway”1 to “but if books aren’t less than a dollar apiece people will HAVE to steal them, you just hate FREEDOM.”

But if you’re a fellow publishing professional looking for advice on ebook prices this fine holiday season, take it from someone who’s been in the game for a little while and saw the first explosion of ebooks and witnessed the race to the bottom afterward: Price your books however you damn well please. I’ve raised some of my prices recently to better reflect the time and energy spent on writing and taking the books through quality control; I haven’t been sorry and haven’t noticed any dent in sales. In fact, pricing my books to reflect the quality I try to put into each and every one has had a somewhat salutary effect, I’d say, because it’s clear I respect myself and my work and Readers tend to follow suit.

Trad, indie, and small publishers all refine price, discounts, and deals all the time. It’s part of the game, and self-publishers should do the same. There may come a time when I look at the industry and say “yeah, prices are outta control, I’m dropping mine.”

But today is not that day.

Amazon profits immensely from the race to the bottom in ebook pricing, and has been doing everything possible to keep it going. Nobody else gets a good shake out of the deal, and we’re all somewhat at the mercy of the elephant in the room. Until the rapaciousness of their business model provokes a reaction and a shakeup, it’s pretty much every self-publisher for themselves, not least because getting writers to work together for better conditions is like herding caffeine-crazed hyperactive felines.2

In the end, very little will change until readers are tired of swill choking the gunnels and their purchasing habits change as a result. When a market reaction comes, it’s going to be quite painful for a lot of people and I’m not looking forward to it. In the meantime, though, I’m going to price my books to reflect a fair value for my time and experience, and I encourage any of my peers considering the question this holiday season to do the same.

And I wish everyone, publishing pro, Reader, or anything else, a low-stress holiday full of good food and free of family or other arguments. This time of year’s awful on everyone; I say we all go to bed until New Year’s.

I know we can’t, but it makes me feel better to contemplate the prospect. Over and out.