Fair Warning

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

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

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.

Price for Acuity

My nose was out of commission for a couple days, thanks to the flu; this morning, however, I cleared it with a honk into a somewhat overstrained tissue and can finally smell again. It’s a bloody relief to have that primary sense fully back instead of only dimly usable when something like a dog’s excited digestive system emits a pungent dambreaker. (So to speak.)

Of course, now that it’s back, I’m sure the house will be full of unpleasant corners. But if that’s the price I pay for acuity, so be it.

I went to bed super early last night, just after my second Inktober drawing–I’m not following any prompts, I’m just doing whatever I feel like. The kids like bringing their own sketchpads into my office in the evening, and we listen to Forensic Files cases while sharpening pencils and sharing pens. They used to draw while I knitted, but now that I’m drawing too they’re extremely pleased. One couldn’t ask for a more supportive audience; I’m no good at visual arts but they gravely remind me that it’s having fun that matters.

Youth is wise, indeed.

I’m pretty sure it was the flu; I still ache all over. Not like I was beaten with a truncheon anymore, which is a relief, and the fever’s receded though it didn’t break in a gush of sweat and clarity as it usually does. But I’ll take it. I can probably even start jogging again, very gently and on the treadmill. I don’t care if my plantar fascia gets upset, I’ve got to move and get some of this itching out.

The October Valentine Test Giveaway is still going strong, and don’t forget you can get more entries by clicking in daily. So far the response has exceeded my wildest expectations, and I’m already thinking of what to give away next month. Maybe a Gallow & Ragged set, or a couple Kismet omnibuses. (Omnibi?) It depends on what I’ve the postage for.

I should also get the monthly newsletter out the door, as well. But first there’s the rest of my coffee to absorb, and a little bit of deep breathing before I hit the damn treadmill. It’s always something, and I can’t wait to write some more Wangsty Dracula Reboot. The only thing I’m not doing is making it an epistolary novel, because I frankly don’t have the patience. I love reading epistolary, but writing it is a whole different ballgame.

Good gods. How did we arrive at Thursday without me knowing? I suppose I’d best get started.

Over and out.

The Valentine Test Giveaway

Dante Valentine

The fever is still hanging around and I’m hacking into tissues like a consumptive heroine in a Victorian novel. Of course, this means I have all sorts of ideas that may or may not be good ones, so here we go:

I’m trying something new this month, dear Readers: a giveaway!

I’m testing a giveaway process for signed, personalized author’s copies. Since I don’t sell said copies, and since I don’t do signings anymore (except for the Powell’s Authorfest. which sadly I have to miss this year due to a punishing publication schedule), the copies are piling up. I only need a very few of them for my brag shelf and associated personal uses, so what to do with the rest?

Well, give them away, I guess.

So. From now until October 15, you can enter to win one of two (2) signed, personalized copies of the Dante Valentine UK omnibus. Winners will be chosen on the 18th. I’ll personalize and sign your copy, then send it anywhere in the world. Future giveaways might be restricted to the US or the US, UK, & Canada, depending on what kind of cash I have for postage that month. I may even do a dedicated giveaway page on the ol’ website, I’m not sure yet.

Time will tell if this is a great idea or a terrible one, but if it gets the boxes out of my garage and maybe makes a few Readers happy, I’m down with it.

I may even do giveaways of less-physical objects in the future, though probably not ARCs due to piracy concerns. But, for example, a manuscript critique or a free cover copy revise? That’s do-able.

Anyway, if you’re interested, scroll on down and enter. We’ll see how it goes.



Busy Meatspace

The past few weeks have been hell on my daily writing time. If it’s not the stress it’s family events, and if it’s not family events it’s back-to-school arrangements, and if it’s not any of that it’s scrambling to catch up with stuff that fell by the wayside because of stress, family events, and back-to-school arrangements.

It’s enough to make me wish for a cave in the woods. A cave with an electrical outlet or two, of course, so I could work in peace.

Single mothers are superheroes. No co-parent to take the pressure off even for a moment, as well as a constricted choice of jobs (so as to be available for childcare) and seventy-odd cents on the dollar a man would make besides. It’s surprising that any woman would choose to reproduce under these circumstances, which is, of course, why birth control and abortion are consistently made unavailable.

The State, you see, needs warm bodies, and there’s only one way to make those.

I finished Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain last night; it was like finishing one of the large, hearty sanitarium meals he describes so lovingly. Poor Settembrini, and poor Joachim. And poor Ellen Brand, taken advantage of by that damn doctor. Hans I have less than no sympathy for, even though he’s the reader’s entry into the tale. It was a lovely meal nonetheless, and while I’m sad it’s over, I’m sated and can push away from the table. I do like it better than Death in Venice; this book came along at just the right time.

I’ve still got an hour to spend in the car today, all told, and a good half-hour taking care of various things once I reach my destination. I’d best get started, especially if I want to get in wordcount. Subscription stuff needs to be sent out today, too–I could have taken the weekend to get a few weeks’ lead time set up, but instead I spent it taking care of life out here in meatspace.

The disconnect between how long it takes to write a book and how long it takes to read, let alone buy, one is huge. Related: I’ve noticed another spike in piracy lately, and there’s been a concomitant spike in people getting shitty with me in email about my request that people not steal my work.

This is why we can’t have nice things, like more Steelflower books in a reasonable time. (If you know someone who torrents, let them know they’re stopping you from getting more books from me.)

Anyway, the only thing I need now is breakfast to settle so I can run. I need the zen more than ever, from now until September.

Over and out.

Tired. Just Tired.

Yesterday I did a thread about how much I hate seeing female action stars (or backup dancers) in heels. Cue a deluge of asshattery in my email inbox from guys who tell me I’m ruining all movies by having an opinion on social media.

Just another day, ho hum. No death threats yet, but they can’t be far behind.

I suppose I should view it as a sign that what I’m saying is almost becoming important, since the Misogyny Troll Brigade only comes after women they think have a chance of being heard and believed. At the same time…I’m tired. I’m just so damn tired.

Even getting up in the morning is becoming a chore. Tearing my heart out, over and over, to write stories is what I was meant and made for, but it’s still exhausting and the mass of misogyny, violence, bigotry, and hatred makes for rough swimming.

I often think about how much better it would be–how many more amazing stories, paintings, music, sculpture, poems–there would be if we weren’t struggling under that mass. It would be lovely…but so many people contribute to the stone over our living graves, either by inertia (very common) or by conscious evil (least common) or by just not caring when the boot lands on a human face as long as the face doesn’t look like theirs (most common of all).

Then I shake myself, smile ruefully, and get back to work. And yet…I’m so tired.

So, so tired. And I have no answer.

It will be better tomorrow, I suppose. But every once in a while, I wonder why I bother when so many people are seemingly determined to either be cruel or ignore cruelty until it reaches their very doorstep–and by then it’s too late.

*sigh* I’m gonna go pet the dogs now, and let them help me feel better. It’s not a panacea, but it’s damn close and I’m lucky to have it.

Over and out.