Release Day: HOOD’s Season Two

That’s right, friends and neighbors! HOOD‘s Season Two is now live in the wild!

HOOD: Season Two

All of Sharud is singing about a man in a hood. He could be a hero–if he wasn’t so determined to destroy himself. Robb Locke is doing his best to hit bottom, and even his childhood friends Ged Gizabón and Marah Madán can’t help.

Explosions, riots, political unrest, assassination, and the threat of starvation are still swirling through the entire system. And now the Parl Regent Jun Planetagen’s flagship has entered orbit for the First Harvest Fête. Jun has plans of his own, especially for Marah–and those plans are murderous indeed.

The war is over, but “peace” is always a relative term…

Season Two now available direct, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I like calling my serials “seasons” because they’re structured as smaller arcs within the overarching arc of the whole story; we’re well into Season Three now and subscribers get weekly chapters fresh out of my brain as well as the unedited and edited ebooks–the latter, indeed, before the book goes on sale anywhere.

I’ve talked a little bit about the genesis of this series, and there’s also a soundtrack over on Spotify. A huge helping of thanks is due my beloved subscribers, since I wouldn’t be able to tell these vast, sprawling, interconnected stories without them. You guys are the best.

Now, since it’s a release day, I’m going to go hide my head in a bucket. It’s traditional, after all. And the hyperventilating makes it sound like the seashore. It’ll be almost like a vacation!

Almost.

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.

Back to the Whetstone

Oh, my best beloveds.

Last night I went on a regular tear (on Mastodon and Twitter) about a certain article I couldn’t find. It was about Susan Pevensie making her own kingdom. I had it confused with Sarah Gailey’s most excellent Women of Harry Potter series, which I read at about the same time.

Lo and behold, this morning a very kind person on Mastodon knew what I was talking about, remembered it, and dug it up. So, without further ado, here’s the link–and it also has a companion piece about Susan at school. (The writer is also a fanficcer and novelist, if you’d like more.)

Sometimes we forget, dealing with the dregs, just how magical the internet is. My faith in humanity is quite restored this morning.

I probably needed it, because I spent last night reading Hurlothrumbo’s The Merry-Thought, all four in the series. Tudor England was a trip, yo. Then this morning I read a little Kwaidan, because I woke up from dreams of ladders and disasters, turned over, had another dream about thieves in my garage, and woke up in a cold sweat. Reading’s generally what I do to calm myself after terrible dreams, especially if my tossing and turning hasn’t disturbed the dogs, but maybe Japanese ghost tales filtered through a Greek-Irish lens was not the best choice, because I feel a little sideways.

But finding those two articles on Susan again made it all worth it. CS Lewis was a misogynistic turd. A very talented one, and you can see the ur-characters he was trying to repress peeking through the bars of his smallness-of-mind and religious poisoning… but still, his hatred of adult women, like Tolkien’s, is very telling. (Even if I do love Puddleglum and Reepicheep and Tumnus and and and…)

In any case, I’m glad for modernity, and for the ability to type into a glowing box, and for literacy, and for the vast treasure-trove of books on Gutenberg.org, and so on, so forth. Often I overlook the good things about the internet because the bad things–trolls, thieves, bots, nastiness–are so very, well, bad. It’s nice to be reminded of the good as well.

I suppose the dreams were a signal that my internal creative pressure has reached the requisite pitch, since physical misery bled off a lot of energy earlier in the week. It’s back to the whetstone to sharpen some words.

Even if a lion tries to keep you out of heaven, there are kingdoms to make here. And, after all, is it really heaven if a misogynist lion can keep you out?

Sharing Good Things

The wind is up today, the Columbia Gorge inhaling for the deep dive into winter. There was stuff hitting the roof all night, but once the dogs are settled on my bed nothing fazes them.1

Of course, that could also have been because the wind chill manages to make the house a trifle chilly at night, so sleeping in a pile mitigates the shivers. I was actually a little too warm, what with flannel sheets and down comforter, not to mention two hairy little stoves to my left.

I do have something awesome for you today, chickadees. My writing partner has a new story out, Voice of the Knife, which centers on woodpeckers, terror, and the legend of Jenny Greenteeth. I consider it one of the five perfect stories I’ve ever read, which is saying a lot. There’s not an ounce wasted in it, and the ending is simply marvelous. I highly recommend taking a gander, not only at it but at her other stuff. Especially Shots in the Dark.2

I am thrilled absolutely to the gills to be able to shout about Voice, since I love the story so much. I’m pretty sure my enthusiasm is both terrifying and amusing for said writing partner, but I don’t do halfway friendships. I am like an octopus on your face UNTIL WE BOTH DIE.

Uh, so to speak.

Anyway, it’s a windy day, the dogs need walking, and the Damage revision is going to be a knotty problem. Yesterday was a 1k net word gain, and I only got two chapters revised. I knew the zero was extremely lean, but this is kind of ridiculous. To be fair, I finished it under acid-test conditions, and I won’t let it out of my hands until it’s a respectable length.3

On the bright side, I got a lot of work done even though I had to leave the house for errands4, so I can look forward to being super productive today because I won’t be interrupted…

…that’s right, go ahead and laugh, I am tempting fate in the extreme. I will be interrupted, but whoever (or whatever) does so will have to deal with Very Direct Problem Solving so I can go back to revisions. I want this draft done and resting with my agent before NaNoWriMo.

But more about that later. For now, it’s time to walk the dogs–though B will have her nose in the air to read the wind the entire time, which will make her trip, and Lord van der Sploot will hop lively every time the invisible hand of moving air brushes his hind end. Fun times will be had by all. (Can you see me rolling my eyes? I’ll bet you can.)

Enjoy Tuesday, chickadees. It’s our only hope.

Unmatched Stubbornness

So there was a book release, a zero finished, then another book release–this one ultra-stressful for a variety of reasons–and a beloved pet dying.

No wonder I feel like the last few weeks have been an endurance contest, and one I’ve got the worst of. There was also a shift to a new desktop, which is mostly pleasant–as in, my damn computer isn’t requiring a restart every ninety minutes–and partly goddamn annoying. (Catalina broke my Time Machine backups. Fortunately, I have several different automatic backups for work, so it wasn’t a catastrophe, just a series of minor disasters to be surmounted with ingenuity and stubbornness.

I have a limited stock of the former, but my stubbornness is unmatched.

My master to-do list has finishing the zero for HOOD‘s Season Two (featuring a speeder race, a giant heist, and various other fun things) next, but I think I’m going to shift to revising Damage, which needs to go out and start making the rounds. I’ve several projects out on submission; you’d think I’d have a single bite so far. *sigh* Festina lente, that’s publishing. I’m getting to the point where I’ll set time limits for them; if they don’t respond, it’s time to get a damn cover and format something myself.

I’m very tired of being treated like a nuisance instead of the person whose work (creating the damn books) makes everyone else’s job possible.

At least I’ve cardamom coffee, shoes that don’t make my feet hurt (my gods, Alegrias are magic), said new desktop (shiny and new and organized after this past weekend’s drive to get everything in its place) and the kids are healthy. The dogs are attempting to move me out the door for walkies through crisp dry fallen leaves, I can ease back into short interval runs because I’m not walking on knives, and my windowsill is full of freshly dusted and cleaned glass apples.

In short, things are as best as can be expected, in this most semi-perfect of worlds. And I might be able to plug in a beautiful papier-mâché lamp that was a gift many years ago, and contemplate its beauty before whipping a zero into first-draft shape.

It is indeed the little things. Here’s hoping Monday doesn’t get worse than this. I know I missed the Soundtrack Monday last week (grief does funny things to time) but I’ve got a good one for you this week, my friends. It’ll drop this afternoon.

See you then.

Monster Wish-Fulfillment Hooky

So Incorruptible is out, and I’m aching to get back into the swing of things after the usual release day nerves. You’d think after however-many books out, I’d be almost blasé about a release day. But that’s not what happens. I still get just as nervous-anxious-upset, each damn time.

It’s like the speed of light, I should just take it as a constant and arrange for it, then move on.

I woke up this morning wanting to write a Dracula reboot with reincarnation and angsty blood-drinking, not to mention the monster getting the girl. Which is strange, because one of my biggest turnoffs in a narrative is the creator not being willing to hurt their monster. Maybe it’s a function of reading Caroline Kepnes’s You and Providence in the same weekend; I got halfway through Hidden Bodies and decided that the Very Angry White Guy Joe Goldberg was going to get everything he wanted and I didn’t need to be around for that. You was pretty amazing, but Providence left me wanting something quite different. I’ll probably return to Hidden Bodies later, just because I’m a completionist and paging to the end to see what happens doesn’t quite satisfy, especially when I’m reading critically.

Having a monster without consequences just isn’t my jam. There’s nothing wrong with wish-fulfillment fic, far from. I just usually want something different and I’m a little bemused at my sudden urge to write it myself. I suppose one could do wish fulfillment and consequences, that would be a worthy hat trick.

Anyway, I’m just noodling. I have HOOD‘s Season Two to work on, and Memory Game, which I think will be the next project-of-my-heart finished. Then I can make decisions about Dracula reboots. I have all the major parts for the last bouncing around inside my skull; I should probably just get them into a Scrivener doc so they’ll stop dancing around and making noise…

…stop laughing, dammit, I swear I’m not going to work on it, I’m just gonna write a few things down.

STOP LAUGHING.

Okay, yes, I give up, if you’re thinking I’m probably going to play hooky and write at least the first few scenes of a Dracula reboot wish-fulfillment thing today, you’re right. Like REO Speedwagon, I can’t fight this feeling anymore.

Goddamn Muse. I suppose I’d best get started so I have some time left over for actual work today, too.

Over and out.

Body Detente

So I wrote out the end of the Battle of the Rhodies yesterday…and WordPress promptly ate it. No amount of weeping or digging through caches would find it. Autosave isn’t a selling point if it doesn’t work.

Suffice to say the entire thing went through Dame Barda!Squirl losing a bit of her tail fluff, Boxnoggin falling on Miss B not once but twice in the process of chasing her, and me having to hold a squirming B in my lap while I picked out bits of squirrel hair flossing her front teeth. And, true to form, I was barefoot, screaming, and uncaffeinated. (Yesterday’s post was a lot funnier, but after losing 900+ words of squirrelterror, I’m just not in the mood.)

I ask you, have you ever picked wiry rodent hair out of your dog’s teeth while she grins, well pleased with herself, and tries to wriggle away? It’s one of the gods’ little joys in life, apparently1

Anyway, that set the tone for the entire day. I managed to get seven Poison Prince scenes revised, so at least there was that. As soon as I get that book off to the editor, I swear I’m going to spend a weekend doing nothing but staring at the walls–just like last weekend, I guess. I’m in a pattern of burning myself down to wire and then re-wrapping my insulation, over and over again.2

It gets the books done, though, so I can’t complain. At least, I can’t complain much.

Today is all revisions, all the time, with only short breaks for a run, a shower, and the constant need to feed and coddle this body of mine. Said body has carried me, mostly uncomplaining, for a number of years now, and though I didn’t treat it well in my youth, I’m slowly beginning to approach a detente with it. My frustration at having to stop working to fill it with fuel or dump excess waste is sharp and total, but rarely lasts long.

I’m getting to the point where I resent anything taking me away from the work. Except the kids or the dogs, they get a pass. Otherwise, I’d rather write than eat, sleep, or any number of other things humans are forced to do at regular intervals.

Ah well. Sooner or later I’ll shed this coil like a butterfly, and perhaps there will be books where I’m going next. If not, then by the gods, I’ll make them.

Over and out.