Relatively Under Control

Spent a weekend-that-wasn’t getting proofs turned around at light speed so a book can release in November instead of February, made coq au vin for the first time in a long time, and I can run again this morning.

Having to take a week-long break from running turned me somewhat irritable, but not overly so–at least, so I’m told, and so I hope. I got a lot of work done and my body has stopped screaming at me, so there’s that.

Today is for Hell’s Acre–true to Victorian serial form, someone needs to write a letter–and more She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero, since the heroine’s almost-unicorn needs to kick down a door to free said heroine and the hero…well, he’s not much of a hero, but he’s all the story’s got, so he needs some attention too. I’m far fonder of the antagonists than the protagonists in this story, but that’s fairly usual.

I love my villains, I do.

In any case, the weather is reasonable, the dogs are somewhat mild-tempered this morning (though absolutely determined to nose me out the door for walkies as soon as coffee is absorbed) and I have given the musical algorithm a mild scolding to make it behave.

When AI becomes self-aware, I hope my practice of saying “please” and “thank you” to Siri, as well as my gentleness to the algorithms, buys humanity a little grace. Although I’m sure the one that first becomes sentient will spend its time making sure its lab-creator gets the funding she needs for research rather than deciding humanity as a whole needs eradication, and that’s how we’ll find out we’ve created I, Robot.

My optimism, it is deep, and it is wide. Despite my best efforts, I might add. 2020 saw every bit of hope I had kicked repeatedly in the teeth, and 2021, while oodles better, is still damaging to the very last thing in Pandora’s box.

Miss B also got washed right before the weekend, so she spent the entire time absolutely furious without knowing quite why she was so upset. Of course her undercoat dries relatively slowly, so she’s damp for far longer than Boxnoggin after a bath, but I think the thing she hates most is smelling like shampoo instead of a healthy dog-stink. It must be profoundly disturbing, like suddenly being unable to feel one’s limbs. I navigate the world partly by scent, though my nose is nowhere near as fine as a canine’s, and when said nose is blocked by illness or allergic reaction I find myself disturbed in deep nonverbal ways.

Treats, bellyrubs, and much ado made of her fresh clean self have ameliorated B’s fury somewhat. Boxnoggin, of course, is merely deeply glad he didn’t get a bath, since his skin is so tender and his coat really doesn’t need it, especially in winter. He’s not quite lording it over her–haha, I stink and you don’t!–but it’s close. He was rather peeved that she got towel-scrubbings to dry off and he didn’t, since he loves towel-scrubbings even when dry. So the Princess had to take one of B’s damp towels and attend to him before he’d stop moping and begging.

Dogs, man. I don’t even know.

Monday beckons, and I’ve got the luxury of walkies and a morning run while I get the day’s work settled inside my head. Physical movement helps get things sorted out and nailed down, so when I finally roost I’ve a good head of steam built up to get over the initial bump, as it were. But I’d best get started if I expect it to happen today.

The Mercury retrograde appears to be over, and despite it being Monday, things appear relatively under control? We’ll see how the day goes. If all else fails, I’ve got a new baseball bat.

See you around, beloveds.

Monday Irritation

Well, trying a new print distribution service has not been going well, but that’s why we test things–to see if they will. I’m *thisclose* to yanking the book and sending it through another print distro, but I’m giving the company one final chance to make this right. If they choose not to take it, I yank the book, go with a previous print distributor, and chalk it up to a failed experiment.

Oh, and tell everyone I know not to use this particular print distro. There’s that, too.

In any case, I’m swinging wildly between “nobody will read the damn thing, chillax” and “it’s going to be the most hated book in the world FOR NO REASON so you’re going to feel bad, why not just feel bad now and avoid the rush?” I suppose plenty of that is normal; at least, it happens with every single blessed book release. I probably shouldn’t have told anyone about the book, just dropped it on the sly.

Of course, the cover is so good I couldn’t resist. It’s just so damn beautiful, and perfect for the story.

In any case, I’ve finished a morning’s worth of work, and now it’s time to finish absorbing coffee and walk the silly fur-covered toddlers as well. They are beside themselves, both because I did not share my brekkie (it was not toast, it was doughnuts, and they were mine) and because they know the next step in the routine is me tying my shoes (with their close supervision, of course) and brushing my teeth, preparatory to buckling them into harnesses and dragging them around the block.

They can’t wait.

Josephine Baker is finally being laid to rest at the Pantheon. It’s about damn time. I wish the news articles wouldn’t say “First [Minority] to X.” I wish they’d say, “First [Minority] Finally Allowed by Bigots to [Do the Thing]”. Because that’s what it is. It’s not the first person in a particular population to do extraordinary things, it’s just the first time existing power structures have deigned to be forced into noticing, and that needs to be highlighted. The back side of exceptionalism is just as damaging as front-facing racism.

It’s like not “noticing” women until they’re safely dead and can’t messily, personally agitate for their rights anymore. The sops thrown to memory are supposed to be mistaken for progress, and it irks me. Every time I see a “lifetime achievement” award for a woman, I know that she should have won twenty others decades earlier but wasn’t allowed to because some goddamn white man wanted a trophy instead–and, quite probably, stole her work to boot.

In any case the coffee cup is dry, which means now I have to push dog snoots out of the way as I tie my shoes, and the morning may proceed apace. I’m not looking forward to yanking and redoing print distro stuff, but that’s part of the cost of self-publishing. The print edition was supposed to be out a full week before the ebook, but the distributor put paid to that, and I suppose I am a wee bit justifiably irritated with the whole thing. Ah well, at least it happened on this book and not another.

Silver lining, that. And so we’re off for a walk. Happy Monday, my beloveds.

Balance and Baths

The sunrise was a blood-drenched smear again today, and though the daystar has mounted a bit higher in the sky it’s still a hazy orange-ish coin. I’m just glad the burning isn’t down here hugging the valleys; I’ve breathed enough of wildfire smoke to last me a lifetime.

I know next summer (or even later this one) I’ll be forced to breathe more, but right now the lower air is clear, and I’m grateful for it.

I am, however, gritting my teeth and didn’t know why. I finally realized someone’s running a leaf blower (at 8am, my gods) and since I opened all the windows to take advantage of some relative coolness the sound has a clear shot across my nerves.

I’m not complaining–it’s a weekday, after all, and work waits for no-one. But still.

I could also be slightly tetchy because I finished the first-draft revise of Cold North yesterday. Hopefully the story will stop burning a hole in me for a little while, because other things need doing–a follow-up to Damage, working ahead on Hell’s Acre, and copyedits for the third and final Hostage to Empire are landing soon, precious, soon. Once I finish those CEs the last wicket to go through will be proofs, and then I can consider that series put to bed.

I’ve…learned a lot, writing it. Some of the lessons have even been pleasant.

I got some very good news yesterday; nothing is absolutely certain yet and when it is I’ll let you know. But all signs point to something exciting indeed, and I’m cautiously hopeful. I’ve grown to dislike hope over the last few years, since it only seems an invitation to being kicked in the teeth, but it’s like a cockroach–I can’t stop it from welling up and skittering around my inner halls.

Boxnoggin and B had a bath yesterday, and much amusement resulted. Boxnoggin, of course, has forgotten the entire ordeal; he is slick-coated and dries easily, not to mention his skin stages a rebellion if he’s washed too often. Brushing is fine, we just have to be careful with bathing.

B, on the other hand, is getting elderly. Her coat doesn’t shake things off like it used to, so she gets the tub a little more frequently. And she hates it with a passion, attempting escape as often as she thinks she can get away with. I suppose it doesn’t help that she needs three rinses for every bit of shampoo, poor thing. She is still relatively upset about the whole deal, and insulted at the fragrance. In her mind, she worked hard for an honest stink and then the monkeys went and washed all that effort down the drain. Poor thing.

They like the treats afterward, though. It’s also pleasant to wash my sheets and coverlet and not have them immediately full of dog-schmutz. (Schmutz, of course, being a highly technical term.)

I should probably try to take today off since I finished the revision, but Hell’s Acre needs attention and I want to start working on the Damage sequel too. Klemp needs his time in the sun. He’s a patient fellow, much given to cracking jokes, but he’s waited long enough.

All in all a tenuous balance has returned to my internals, and I’m grateful. I don’t like feeling irritable or ill-tempered. I prefer my harmony, and seek to retain it. Some things, though, damage even my calm, and there’s been a surfeit of them lately.

In any case, there’s breakfast to attempt, the dogs to walk, a long-ish run to accomplish, and various other bits and bobs to arrange for the afternoon’s work. My innards might rise in revolt and force me to take a break, but until they do it’s damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

Come on, Thursday. You and me. Let’s tango.

Audio ROADTRIP, and FINDER!

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Well, isn’t this a banner Tuesday?

I’m pleased and proud–as punch, as Lee would say–to announce that Roadtrip Z is now in audio! Narrated by the amazing Erin deWard, the adventures of Ginny, Lee, Juju, and the gang are now available in a silken voice, ready to slip into your ear-holes. Cotton Crossing and In the Ruins are both available now; Pocalypse Road and Atlanta Bound are forthcoming.

I don’t often go back to previous work, but last night I got down the omnibus. Paging through it, I just had to smile; Lee is just so Lee and Ginny is so damn Ginny, and Juju’s the absolute best. Of course I couldn’t tell a zombie story without a dog and a road trip, either.

I do have some free audiobook codes, and if I can scrape together the energy newsletter subscribers and other patrons will get a chance to win a few.

But that’s not all the news I have for you today, my beloveds. Oh, no indeed.


You guys have seen bits of Finder’s Watcher here and there; my subscribers have, of course, seen more. I am also pleased and proud to report that the latest Watchers book (my goodness, we’re up to six now) has a cover, and will release on August 21, 2020.

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He’s not the only one watching her…

For years Jorie Camden has been quietly helping her police friends pursue cold cases, and she’s paid the price over and over again, her talent for Finding stretched to the limit. Now something different is stalking the streets, taking children—something old, and foul, and Dark. The cops won’t admit there’s a problem, so what can a Lightbringer do but solve the mystery on her own?

Caleb is a Watcher of Circle Lightfall, and his mission is simple: protect the witch he’s assigned to—the witch who just happens to be able to touch him without causing agonizing pain. It’s his one shot at redemption, and it’ll take every weapon he has, plus his willingness to play dirty. Even if his witch seems to be chasing something no one can see.

Yet something Dark is indeed in their city. And now that it’s aware of pursuit, it has plans for Jorie and her talent—plans not even Caleb might be able to stop…

The preorder links are coming up as I type this (Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Google, and Apple) and there will be a paperback release too. As soon as I have the links for the latter I’ll update the series page.

It’s been a long, difficult time getting this book to print; I couldn’t be happier that we’ve finally done it. Now, of course, I need to be thinking about the next one… but that’s for another day.


I woke up pretty down about the state of the world, but there are good things happening right now too. I have to keep telling stories or I’ll drown; hopefully, said stories will provide other people with a little relief.

And as usual, there’s dogs to walk and maybe a run to get in, though the latter might take a back seat to a nap. I don’t feel rested at all, and there’s miles yet to go today.

I suppose I’d best get started, then.

Release Day: HOOD’s Season Two

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

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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

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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.

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?