Twitter for Nonvultures

image

Twitter for Nonvultures

I took a Twitter break recently, and it’s gotten me thinking about Twitter. So, a Twitter post.

I’m not one of those people who thinks Twitter is absolutely integral to your success as an indie writer. I think there are loads of ways to be successful as an indie writer, and I can see how Twitter might be one of them, but, well.

What Twitter’s really good for, at least for me, is promoting my blog. A lot of my views come from Twitter, and it’s not a wild coincidence. The Twitter gods haven’t smiled on me, and I haven’t sacrificed my soul for followers (I don’t even know how many I have, off the top of my head. It’s somewhere around 1400. Not a ton. If you’re visiting this blog from Twitter, by the way: heeeeey. This is, like, totally ironic.).

Twitter’s best, in my humble opinion, for promoting things that are serial in nature–a blog, or a Wattpad story published in parts, a weekly paper, etc. That way, you’re giving folks new content every time you link: or, well, you have the chance to vary up your content a little, at least. Most folks who are active Twitter users do, after all, have large lists of followers, and a link travels down their Twitter feed pretty quickly, likely to never be checked again.

Yes, you can promote your book on Twitter. You probably should throw a link to it in there, every once in a while. But if you do the same thing every time you tweet, you sound like a broken bird call, and that’s positively fucking annoying. People will mute you. They’ll unfollow you. And good luck selling your book to an audience that can’t even see you advertising.

So, for new tweeps, here’s my Twitter plan of attack for writers:

1) Make your profile. Put ‘writer’ somewhere in your bio: you are, after all, networking. Be brief. Be funny, Stand out.

2) Immediately–immediately, you hear?–start using Twitter Lists. Make a list for Advertising, a list for Writers, a list for Spammy Writers, and a list for Friends/Family. Basically, make whatever lists make you feel organized and perky, but please please please at least make a list for writers who actually do things other than post spammy book links. As you get followers, check out their feeds and add them to their appropriate categories. It might not seem so important now, but take it from someone who didn’t do this: a thousand followers down the line, your feed will be innundated with shittily photoshopped pictures of half naked women and aliens and other automated bullshit, and you will have no easy way of finding your actual Tweety friends on a list that moves at five to ten tweets per minute. Just because someone’s profile has ‘writer’ in it doesn’t mean you want to see every tweet this person fires off. Some writers spam. Y’hear? Some writers. Spam.

3) Use your hashtags, Junior. Big ones for writers include #amwriting, #writetip, #amreading, #amediting, #1lineWed, #FlashFictionFriday, and genre tags (#fantasy, #romance, etc.). You might want to get into #NaNoWriMo, come November, or peddle your blog on #Mondayblogs. Perhaps you’d like to vent? #writerslife and #writerproblems are there for you. There are better lists of popular hashtags elsewhere (like here: Erica Verrillo went to a lot of trouble to organize this fantastic list.,) but one thing to remember is: hashtags don’t always stay popular. Remember to check your actual hashtag feeds every once in a while (cue: don’t just toss your tweets out into the ether) to see whether or not they’re moving quickly (and, of course, to interact with others, which you were smart enough to know to do already, right.).

Why You Should Care About Hashtags:

Posting under certain hashtags gives folks with larger accounts (your new tweeps) the chance to find your post, check it out, love it, and retweet it. Retweets help you reach a whole new audience, and are the sweet, sweet, Reddi-whip nippled treats of the gods. For best results, I recommend combining a general and larger hashtag (such as #amwriting) with a more specific second (#writetip, genre tag, #indiepub. Etc.).

But don’t make the classic mistake of making a #tweet that is #almost #entirely #hashtags. It looks like an automated bill-pay service just had its way with your tweet. Seriously. 

4) Take your serialized content (your blog, your webcomic, whatever it is), and go to the settings. Make sure every damn post you make auto-posts to Twitter. Want to get more personal? Fine. Make a second tweet later with all your pretty hashtags and a catchy text line. Two tweets isn’t spamming. But keep that first one, because that way, if all else fails, you’ve posted it on Twitter.

5) Remember those hashtags we were talking about? Check them out. Follow people who post to them. Talk to people. Favorite and retweet things you feel your followers would like to see. Retweets, after all, aren’t for you–they’re for the folks who look at your feed. Your follower base will grow.

6) You might want to check out HootSuite, or another similar scheduled social media service. You might not need it all the time–hell, I don’t use it much–but if you’ve got a lot of stuff to post and, say, an actual job, it might help you get things out when you want them out, and not just when you have the time. No, I’m not using it right now. Why? Because I’m an idiot. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t be like me.

A note: I’m not trying to teach you how to have a million bajillion followers here. There are plenty of people far more qualified than I to post about that. These are simple, efficient things to get you started using Twitter–ways to get the most out of it without spending your whole goddamn life stewing in it. Twitter can be a great marketing tool, but it can also be a soulless, heavily-abbreviated time suck.

Trick is, it’s up to you which one you want it to be.

A (succinct) guide to Getting Followers on Twitter, Which Is All Anyone Really Seems to Care About Anyway, Because Engagement Totally Doesn’t Matter, Right?:

1) Post witty things related to your intended network.
2) Use popular writing hashtags. Check out what other people are saying under those hashtags. Friend people who also post witty things in your intended network.
3) Post more witty things. Retweet other people’s witty things.
4) Legasp! It’s undifficult!

Have a nice Saturday, kids. Go pick up a drink and stay the hell away from the internet.

How to Critique Correctly

image

How to Critique Correctly

At this point, as an indie writer, I’ve done some critique swaps and critique groups, and I’m going to be honest: nobody likes doing them. Constructive criticism is a necessary evil, and nobody likes receiving it or giving it. Doing it well takes time and effort, and you pretty much know you’re ruffling somebody’s feathers a little if you have a lot to say. And, of course, then there’s the end where YOUR feathers get ruffled: I feel like the emotions involved there pretty much need no introduction.

Here’s the thing, though: there are right ways and wrong ways to critique, and knowing how to do it right will serve you well. The members of your critique group are, after all, your allies–they’re not trying to hurt you, and you aren’t trying to hurt them. Handling your critiques carefully can save time AND animosity, and is a necessary skill in group editing situations.

1) The Compliment Sandwich

I learned this–and you’re going to laugh–at creative writing camp as a kid. Yes, they have creative writing camps. But, kid or not, it’s a very useful and painless strategy, and simple to employ:

Sandwich your criticism in between two breadslices of positive feedback, the first complimentary and the second constructive.

It’s that easy. For instance:

This was a great story, and I enjoyed your dialogue especially: it flows well, and you pass important information along with no stiffness or hesitation. However, you might want to back away from using so many emdashes: after a while, all the emdashes made it difficult to tell who was speaking. If you want characters to seem like they’re interrupting each other, emdashes are a good way of making it happen, but you might want to consider adding more speech tags to denote who’s who.

See how that worked?

You begin with an undisguised, unabashed compliment. Even if you’re NOT feeling it, do it. It’s just polite. You’d want others to do the same for you. (‘Why do I need to possibly lie to make some thin-skinned writer’s ego happy?’ some of you might ask. My answer: ‘is typing ‘that was a great story’ really so goddamned difficult? Are you betraying your core values that much? You don’t belong in a group critique.’)

Now, find a SPECIFIC thing you liked about this story. Compliment it honestly. Come on, there’s something.

After that, narrow down to your critique. ‘I really enjoyed your dialogue, BUT.’ Remember, as you critique, that you’re trying to be helpful here. State your problem specifically, and, if you can, offer a constructive solution. If you don’t have a solution for the problem, it’s best to mention it anyway: you can’t have all the answers, after all, but if you think it’s a problem then it probably is. (‘I don’t know how to tell you to fix this, but I really feel like Castor and Pollux sound out of character in the fifth chapter.’)

2) Consider the Writer.

An established writer, or, really, anyone who’s been doing this for a while, has a certain style. Consider, as you critique, whether or not your critique is style related. A writer who’s been writing short, terse sentences since 1978 probably isn’t going to expand into flowery page and a half long sentencegasms just because you advise it, and, furthermore, is probably going to get a little bit pissy over you suggesting they try.

Even if you think it’s an issue, basic style concerns aren’t going to change. Only comment on these if it directly affects the clarity or effectiveness of the story: for instance, if your page-and-a-half sentencer is writing a noir novel, it might be time to mention something.

3) Do YOU understand what’s going on?

Also: before you critique, please Jesus, make sure YOU understand what the author is saying. I’ve gotten a lot of critiques in my time from people who plainly only read the story once, and then not too carefully, and lemme tell you, I mostly just throw these out. The critique writer hasn’t made the effort to read my story, why should I read their critique?

A few years ago, someone criticized a story of mine pretty strongly because a girl was running, jumping, and climbing trees in a petticoated dress. This would have been absolutely fair criticism, if I hadn’t devoted the better part of a page to the girl changing her clothing early on in the story. Guess the critiquer just skipped around a little, eh?

A note: if you read the story carefully and still don’t get it, then yeah, the problem isn’t with you, and you need to mention it. You might not be the sort of person the story was written for, but, hell, any sort of person can read a story, and the author would probably like to know what makes sense to whom.

4) Watch your language.

Don’t curse at your writer friend, obviously. But, more specifically: choose the words in which you give your critique carefully. Avoid accusatory statements, such as ‘you didn’t —” or “you shouldn’t have —“. Actually, I’m tempted to tell you to avoid second person as a form of address altogether, except I don’t think that’s quite right, either: referring always to the writing and not to the writer can leave your critique sounding cold and impersonal, and besides, you know how it is. You insult a writer’s baby, you insult the writer anyway.

My final thought: try and employ second person more in the compliment parts of your critique than the negative parts. Just…try. It also helps to emply first person often: ‘I felt that —‘, ‘when reading the second chapter, I noticed–‘. I’m not sure why this is, maybe it just adds in a personal element, but it makes the medicine go down a little easier for me.

Long story short, avoid accusative statements, and loaded generalized words such as crazy, bad, mistake, stupid, lazy, etc. Comments that include these words aren’t constructive, and you can put in better feedback without using them. (For instance, instead of saying ‘first person was a poor choice for this story’, try saying ‘I think this character’s motives would be a lot clearer if the story was written in third person’. Not only is your point more concise and reasoned, but it comes across as a lot less negative).

5) Remember your goal.

Your goal in criticizing a story is NOT to tear someone down, or prove how great at giving advice you are, or just get through it so you can get your own critiques. Your goal is to HELP. It is to provide useful, directed advice that will, in your mind, make this story better. And, to that end, you want to be as clear as possible, without offending. After all, statements like ‘this story needs a lot of work’ don’t help anyone, do they? If it needs a lot of work, list the things that need to be done. As you’ve agreed to provide critique, this is quite literally your job.

Angry critiquers, who feel like this is ‘pussyfooting’, I would like you to note the things I have NOT asked you to do here:

1) Hide your opinion.
2) Lie, except in the most innocent general way.
3) Cover up your problems with the story (in fact, my method allows you to state them more completely).

The fact is, a proper critique should NEVER leave a writer with even an eighth inch of skin thinking their story is bad. (Yes, there are some super-sensitives out there. They don’t belong in group critiques, either).

How, you might ask, is this possible, if I have ten pages of negative critique to bestow?

My answer is, no critique should be downright negative. Constructive, yes. But not negative. It costs you very little to let the words ‘good story’ escape your lips, and it might make your ten pages of critique slide down a little easier. It might, even, be good for the story to compliment–a writer who doesn’t feel mortally offended is more likely to take your advice.

Next post, we’re going to do the version of this on accepting criticism with grace.

Yours,
E

Writing: Women in Fantasy

image

Writing: Women in Fantasy (and Four Common Tropes I’m Bored With)

I know, I know. It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these ‘Things I’m So Damn Tired Of’ posts. And you guys have been so lonely without them. So very, very lonely.

Today’s liberal dose of hatred and despair is leveled at four fantasy heroine types who, especially in YA fiction, have become alarmingly prevalent. Now, mind you, there are good ways to do everything, and even these four maidens of mystery can be done well. But what I describe here is not the right way to do them. It’s the right way to make my fillings ache.

A brief note about ‘how to characterize women in fiction’, a subject I see touched on periodically, and grace with a brief chuckle every time I view it: you don’t have anything special to prove, when you write a woman. You don’t have to go out of your way to make her ‘badass’. Women, like men, have a remarkable range of personality traits, and a woman is no more likely to be weak or unlikeable because she’s a seamstress than a man is because he’s a tailor. A girl doesn’t have to be a tomboy or hold a sword to be awesome. A lady can, in fact, be ‘strong’ and ‘badass’ with four kids and a job as a laundress. It’s one of the weaknesses of the fantasy genre today, I think, that folk feel the need to shove a sword in someone’s hand and wrap her in chainmail to make her ‘strong’.

On the other hand, if your lady is a fighting lady–make sure she really is a fighting lady. Not everyone in a medievalesque fantasy universe runs around with a sword and fighting skillz–why did your fighting lady choose this path? What’s made her a soldier? And, for the record–it doesn’t always have to be revenge. I mean, think about it–you probably have a few friends who’ve served in the armed forces. Did they join the military for revenge?

Really?

…or did they do it because they wanted to serve their country? For the pay, maybe? Because they came from a military family? Because Dad said it was either that or go to college? Or maybe, maybe, just because they wanted to. Not everyone clutching a hauberk has to be doing it for some Great Noble Purpose.

Anyway. Without further ado:

1) Princess Hellion
She’s a princess. Which is great and all, except she totally would rather be out in the woods fighting and stuff. Except when she’s forced into fancy (usually elaborately described) gowns, has to use all those somehow-still-considered-useless Courtly Deportment lessons, and attends balls which, for reasons unknown to the plot, take up like a whole chapter. Where she meets Prince Charmingly Not Like All Those Other Men Who Expect Her to Wear A Dress All The Time. And engages in witty and pleasantly hostile repartee. Because she’s badass, which means she Says What She Means. And she’s also a princess, which means she expects to have her own way all the time, which is what princesses are like always, right?

The Breakdown: I’m so tired of the plucky princess trope. Princesses learn to behave, too–probably more seriously than the rest of us, since being shitty and offending the NExt Country ambassador can have serious consequences. If she’s really that much of a spoiled pill, guess what? People–probably the whole court–are going to despise her. No one likes a brat. Especially not as many people as like this particular type of character in fiction. Her father always adores her, Prince Charmingly Et Al. falls in love with her. Why?

How to Do It Right: Aerin, from Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, is a little Mary Sueish, but she’s still one of the best heroines of this type. She’s a princess who likes to fight, sure, and she’s got a temper–but she’s also a genuniely likeable person, and she works hard for her dragon-slaying rights. She gets scarred, gets hurt, and makes sacrifices to save her country and earn the respect she deserves.

2) The Tortured Waif
It’s A Tragedy, Whatever Happened.

It’s a tragedy, because it left this young woman with total, like, scars. Not real scars, no. Those make people ugly. But emotional scars, totes. Usually, this is a princess or duchess or some other purebred lovely floaty ladything. Often, for reasons I can’t figure out, she’s associated with magic.

The Breakdown: Something happened, and now a whole major plotline just has to be devoted to this girl getting over it. Because there is nothing more fascinating than watching pretty people not-cry in public after weeping in private. (The villainess version of this, by the way, is even more common: the Lady Twisted With Revenge).
But she’s so strong, you know? So strong it takes her three hundred and fifty pages to ‘let go’, whatever that means.

How to Do It Right: Gonna be straight up honest, I can’t think of a single good example of this being done well right now. Usually, it’s employed more in soppy fantasy romances, anyway. My long term feelings are, if you need Great Trauma to prove how strong your character is, enough attention hasn’t been paid to characterization.

3) The Innocent Rogue
Her eyes twinkle, her fingers are nimble. She usually has freckles (and she is, entirely too often, an unknowing heiress to something or other, hidden away or abandoned at birth, etc.). She’s got a set of daggers on her, when she’s scaling buildings and scampering along roofs in the underbelly of the city. When she’s acting as the blind at a fancy ball (because there’s always a damn fancy ball in these stories) she’s charming and devastatingly beautiful and full of bon mots.
But, much though she loves a rogue’s life, she never really does anything nasty. Because thievery, as long as it’s happening in a fantasy world and not to you, is charming. Right? Right? It’s okay. She’ll save the world somehow in the end.

Breakdown: Why do people steal? Usually because they don’t have enough of stuff. This girl would either be a fairly unwilling thief, or have some nasty personality parts hidden deep, deep down. Either way, I don’t know that she’s the lady you really want as your queen later on, when she discovers her ‘heritage’ and suddenly goes legit. That whole ‘taxes’ thing is going to seem tempting.

Done Well: There were parts of this novel I disliked, but Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn deals with this character type well and believably. The main character’s brief life of crime happens first unwillingly, and then to a reasonable purpose. She’s also refreshingly clumsy at balls. Because, you know. She’s never been to one before.

4) The Woman Warrior
She’s mean with a sword. She’s struggled, sometimes quite a bit, to become The Woman Warrior (usually the only woman warrior in the story). She doesn’t have much truck with girly shit, like wearing dresses and balls and stuff (though she will, like fricking always, wind up at one eventually. Because even this attitudinal lady has to be seen in a dress. Because she’s a lady, and she has to have a softer prettier side for Love Interest to be Interested). Her movements are graceful, her sword is swift, her attitude is either repressed anger or more of those damned witty bon mots. She’s the fantasy world’s tomboy: and, like all tomboys, nobody would like her if she wasn’t still pretty. Right? Right?

Breakdown: A real soldier has spent some time being a soldier. If you’ve led a lot of campaigns, you’re probably sunburned, scarred, hoarse-voiced from shouting commands at all those assholes who don’t know as well as you do. Even if you’ve managed to escape all that, there are points when you’re on a battlefield killing people where you’re covered in blood and effluvia and your hair looks like shit. You’ve got some serious muscle, and, since you’re a warrior through and through, you don’t immediately lose your famed fighting abilities as soon as you gain a love interest.
Because no one really looks good in chainmail. No one.
I’m not saying a gal has to ugly up to do this, but come on. Soldiery is hard. Being in battle is hard. It doesn’t leave you with flawless moon-pale skin, and being around a ton of soldiers doesn’t leave you full of social graces.

Done Well: I’m going to be a self-promoting bitch and refer you to my own book here, of course. Because I do things well. I do.
The other thing that comes to mind, curiously enough, is from a YA series I loved as a kid: Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books. While Alanna gets irritatingly close to the word ‘plucky’ sometimes–and you guys can imagine how I feel about ‘plucky’–she fights hard and trains hard to become a knight, and her fiery personality comes across as a drawback as well as a bonus. And, though I think Pierce still pretties her up sometimes, she takes no shit. She’s also short, which I think is what endeared these books to me as a kid. Short people power.

Notice some trends here? These hated ladies are always pretty, always young, almost always white, usually noble, and there’s always a ballroom scene. (A ballroom scene, for those not operating at full capacity this morning, might not actually take place in a ballroom. It’s that reveal scene, where you see your ‘rugged’ heroine in a dress for the first time. You know the one. Oh, god, you do.)

There’s no proper way to portray a woman in a fantasy world. Laundresses, farmgirls, and servants are just as common–honestly, probably more common–than the nobility that makes up 90% of fantasy novels.

And another thing–women aren’t always young. Or single. Or childless. Or beautiful. ‘Strong women’ don’t always hate dresses and despise the court. I think it’s time we moved away from the pretty young tomboy and looked in on the other ninety percent of fantasy womanhood.

A badass is still a badass, even in pink–and I’m tired, so very tired, of that Disneyesque ‘ballroom scene’ where a tomboy has to dress up and let her hair down for some forsaken notion of ladyhood and ‘becoming beautiful’. When you do that one scene, you’re discrediting femininity terribly. You’re saying, essentially, that no one has noticed this woman is a woman until she puts on a dress. And, through elimination, you imply that there’s only one way to be a woman–and that way isn’t ‘strong’ or ‘badass’.

So, really. If you want to write a good fantasy female, take out the motherfucking ballroom scene. Tempting though it is, it’s cheap, and it doesn’t do anyone any favors. You can write a lady who is young, attractive, ‘plucky’, mysteriously parentless, and all those popular things. I’m not saying you can’t. But please, please, be realistic, and take a second before you do to consider the other ninety-eight percent of women out there, and whether or not you might have a stronger story with one of them.

Excerpt: Little Bird Prologue

image

Little Bird, sequel to Aurian and Jin, is out soon. Are you excited? Eh? WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU?

I mean…something non-caps.

Figured I’d be a sneaky creature and post the prologue here, because, you know, three of you might want to read it. (A note: the first part of the first chapter is posted in the back of The Antidote, the Aurian and Jin novelette closing the gap between A&J and Little Bird, which you’ve totally read, of course. This prologue is before all that noise.).

You guys remember Beauland, right? That kid who healed Jin? Well, here’s what became of him.

PROLOGUE:
The Beans of Mantic Fortitude

Thirteen Years Ago

Beauland Bornsson, newly returned from the Aithar Smiles Blessed Healing and Conscious Loving Coven in Kartok, was
about to become a coven master.

He was, in fact, sixteen days away from it–give or take a day, with an eighty four percent chance of relative accuracy (and barring, of course, Unforeseen Dimensional Flux (UDF)). He had it marked on his calendar with a little red star.

The current master of this coven–the coven, as it happened, formerly known as the Coven of the Ursine Shattermath–had seen this outcome as well, at seventy eight percent accuracy levels, and this was so close to certain that he had done Beauland the immense favor of getting the garden servantry to go ahead and dig him a grave, which he was currently napping in until teatime.

The grave, the coven’s current master had informed Beauland, was nice and cool and quiet. Dark, even in the daytime. Much more pleasant, in fact, than the shit Beauland would presently have to deal with–this last bit being said, always, with an old man’s knowing quaver.

Beauland was fairly sure the Coven Master had seen more than he had. He was all right with that–it was better not to know everything.

Beauland had spent the last few years of his life at the Aithar Smiles Coven, learning that the healing arts were, profoundly, not for him. It was strange to be back here, after so long away–the multi-dimensional effects of the place were even wearing on him a little, the constant white of the Gauntlet was blinding and mind-numbing. Yesterday he had caught himself trying to brush his teeth over the wash basin–which was a mistake, as every boy raised in the Shattermath should have known. The wash basins liked to bite. It was far safer to do it over your dresser, and trust the Spit Sentinels of Gorshdrkr Dimension to redirect as necessary.

Today’s multi-dimensional failure had occurred only seconds ago, in the lunch line. It was simply enough expressed, though it was having disasterous consequences:

Beauland had gotten the beans.

He sat now in the dining hall, fork raised, next move uncertain. The damage had already been done: he had eaten a few of them. They were Xyclian beans: he could tell from the meaty aftertaste. And Xyclian beans, for a fellow of his delicate constitution, meant gas. And ever since that Evinanjin woman had destroyed the Astartian Pact a few years back, magic was intense and unpredictable, so who could tell what else they’d mean?

Beauland liked exploring new dimensions. He liked the power-pinnacle destruction of the Pact had lifted him to. But there were nevertheless times when he missed knowing that the limits of a magical reaction were, in fact, limited.

His fellow Sights sat clustered around him, pity evident on their faces. Every single one of the bastards had gotten the cabbage.

In the dining hall’s high narrow windows, scenes from the streets of seventeen separate cities flashed, in twelve separate dimensions. With the strangely meaty bean taste still in his mouth, Beauland watched a merchant in the Xolitol dimension crash a cart drawn by two snail creatures into a tea shop nestled inside a hollowed out mushroom. As much as inter-dimensional episodes could seem like something, it didn’t seem like a good sign.

“This is going to be bad, isn’t it,” Beauland said.

“I wouldn’t say bad, exactly,” said the woman next to him, waving her fork. She had the facial tattoos of the North Darklands all over her cheeks and brow, and the bone rings of a Far North Headsplitter braided into her hair. This costume, when combined with pointed teeth and the bloody mess on her plate, did nothing to console him.

“Pardon me,” he said delicately. “But aren’t you a Darklander? Don’t you people like cannibalism, and violence, and such? Why’re you here, in a Sight coven?”

“Right in one!” The woman smiled. “Without violence, how’re you supposed to solve your problems? But that’s all neither here nor there. This Darklander is also a pretty talented Sight. And this Darklander says the beans aren’t bad for you.”

“If not bad, then what?”

“Interesting.” She extended a hand for him to shake, nails rimmed in something dried and black that Beauland did his very utmost not to turn his sixth sense upon. “Dax the Destroyer loves interesting, and those beans are from an interesting dimension. You’re about to fart so hard your parents’ll feel it.”

“My parents are dead.”

“I know. S’what I meant.” She pointed a grimy finger to her robes. “Sighted, remember?”

“Could you…could you be a little more sensitive, maybe?”

“Nope.” She picked up a piece of whatever the red stuff on her plate was and gnawed it. “Name’s Betz, by the way. They tried sensitivity training when I got here. I ate the instructor.”

“Oh.” Beauland looked back down at his empty fork. Aithar only knew how long it would be until the beans caught up with him–or how much of a warning he’d have. Just thinking about it caused an ominous growl to rise from his abdomen. “I’m Beauland.”

“I know. You’re the man who’s going to lead the Coven.” She rolled her eyes. “Apparently, I’m not a good choice, even though my accuracy rating is two and a half points higher than yours. Old Master seems to think I’m going to tear down the coven and eat all the apprentices, or something. Lies and calumny, o’ course. I never eat where I shit.”

Beauland, who was beginning to feel an unpleasant pressure building in his stomach, shook his head. “Higher than mine? Impossible. Mine’s the highest since Riktau Gaugh founded the place four hundred years ago.” Sights, who for obvious reasons weren’t fazed by much, got awfully shirty over accuracy ratings. It was the first thing Beauland had been asked, along with his name, when he returned. He had taken to the practice wholeheartedly–easy to do, as his was exceptionally high.

Beauland’s overall accuracy rating was, in fact, eighty-nine percent. The current Coven Master, napping peacefully in his grave, stood firm at eighty-five. Ratings in the seventies were considered respect-worthy, ratings in the low eighties impressive. High or mid eighties were the stuff that set Sights to whispering in the hallways. Close to ninety earned you instant forgiveness in the Shattermath Coven if you should, say, go off for a few years to study Healing, jump dimensions at night more or less just to explore what was around now, and come back, shrugging, claiming it hadn’t ever been serious, really.

Not that Beauland had done that.

But, if this Betz was two and a half points higher accuracy than he was, then…

…then she was in the nineties.

It was unheard of.

Literally. No one had ever heard of it.

“Quit gawping,” Betz said, not unkindly. “At any rate, all that’s about to change.”

“Eh?”

“You’re about to have your anal awakening.”

“My–”

“You heard me.”

Beauland was about to ask the fatal question–what precisely constitutes an anal awakening?–when he found out.

The gas, which had been building relentlessly in his intestine, released itself with dimension-bending vengeance.

It was funny, he thought vaguely, as the gale-force winds blew his chair out from under him. This hadn’t happened before, but he got the strangest feeling it had. Perhaps, in some other close continuum, he’d been doing this from birth. Perhaps, in that continuum, he’d eaten Xyclian beans every day. Perhaps, in that continuum, he was Xyclian.
He made a mental note to visit Xyclia, next chance he got, and find out. It was fairly rare, for a Sight to find a double of themselves in another dimension, but it wasn’t unheard of. He’d rather like talking to himself a little. He might be able to give himself some good life advice.

His attention meandered back to the present, where strange things were going on. For one, everyone in the dining hall was staring at him–their upturned faces, hovering over their blue Sight-robes, wore almost identical expressions of horror. Betz herself, who didn’t seem like she’d be scared of much, had her mouth half-open.

Beauland realized, suddenly, that his chair had blown out from under him, but he was still very much in a seated position. Hovering, somehow, three feet over the Dining Hall floor. He had spilled the beans, and the grey goop of them had turned the floor underneath him into a legume murder scene, an edible splatter painting of considerable scope.

“Don’t freak out,” Betz whispered to him, “but you’re glowing a little.”

Beauland opened his mouth to tell her he felt fine, he was fine, this was probably just some weird side effect of being Sighted and eating Xyclian beans.

Instead, he spoke in a deep gravelly voice and an ancient tongue. Or, well. The voice came from somewhere, and that somewhere was loosely around him.

It said:

When the King is a woman and then is a man,
The looming red light spreads over the land.

One becomes two and two becomes one,
Brother and mother, mother and son.

Backwards and forwards, black and white.
Grow it in darkness. Kill it with light.

The mage’s bright promise to end with the king;
A song, a fine hat, and a bird on the wing.

For a few minutes, there was crystalline silence in the dining hall. Even the extra-dimensional scenery in the windows seemed to be waiting for Beauland’s next move.

The Darklander, Betz, was the first to recover. She grinned, shook her head a little, went back to her horrifying plate of near-raw entrailery. She slurped up some small creature’s liver: the sounds of her enjoyment echoed throughout the quiet room.

“Nice,” she said, dabbing her lips with her napkin.

Beauland said the one thing left to say, in such a situation: “excuse me.”

The room dissolved back into its previous chattery atmosphere. The intrusion of prophecy, Beauland remembered from his youth here, was a regular fixture in the Coven of the Ursine Shattermath–though, to be fair, it wasn’t usually paired with indigestion. Young Sights interrupting a Maths lecture with rolled back eyes, a blue glow, and utterly useless information about the winners of a pigskins tournament fifty years in the future hadn’t been uncommon.

He’d done it himself, once or twice–faked it once or twice more. The problem with faking it, of course, being that someone in the Coven had doubtless had a mantic episode previously that foretold your faking. And, more than likely, it was the Coven apothecary.

This wasn’t fake, however. This had felt, in fact, very strange.

“I’d remember that prophecy, were I you,” said Betz. She had finished her plate, and was now sopping up blood with a crust of bread. “In thirteen years, there’s a high percent chance it’ll be important.”

“I guess I should listen to you,” Beauland muttered. “You’re in the nineties.”

“So’re you, now. Tomorrow, you’re going to check up with the accuracy reader. Mantic gases unblocked, you’re running at about ninety four.”

“No,” Beauland said weakly. “That’s impossible. That’s almost–Aithar bless, that’s almost one hundred percent accurate.”

Betz winked. “Yes, my friend. You’re very good. Of course, there’s still the occasional hitch–”

She was interrupted by three mournful horn blasts, some minor hubbub near the doors, and the appearance, in soil-stained blue, of an out-of-breath messenger.

“Hail,” the messenger panted. “Sad tidings, Sights of the Shattermath! Our Master, Rectix Vlarsson, has died! Nice and tidily in his grave, with a will left right next to the tombstone. Thank Aithar it happened before teatime. Oh–and long live our new Master, Beauland Bornsson.”

Beauland blinked. “But–”

“Remember,” said the Darklander. “Not quite a hundred.”

Writing: Popular Pedantry

image

Popular Pedantry

I’m going to start this story with its own little story. We’re going to talk, for a few seconds, about the food stamp ‘issue’ in America.

See, there are people looking to beef up food stamp regulations in this country–beef them up to keep folks from buying ‘luxury items’ such as soda, junk food, steak, or lobster. I don’t want to get too into the politics of this–I’ll just say that, if I were on food stamps and they banned me buying soda, I would be a quivering pile of unhealthy and certainly unemployable jelly for a period of months as I got over my Diet Dr. Pepper addiction. Afterward the state would undoubtedly be paying my living wages, as well as for my breakfast, while I picked up the pieces of my shattered sodaless life.

Anyway.

The reason I’m bringing it up is the same reason lawmakers and pushy online commentators bring it up. The reasons folks have been giving for supporting such a bill have little to do with an overextended budget, or a lobster shortage, or what have you. While the purpose of the bill is essentially to curb abuse of SNAP benefits, that isn’t why people support it. The reason folks support this bill is because, at some point in their lives, they’ve been standing in line at the grocery store, and they’ve seen someone pay for steak or lobster or what have you with food stamps. This whole issue blew up because of a receipt some lady found in a parking lot this one time.

I know, right?

Your first question, upon reading this statement, was probably the same as mine: why the fuck were you paying this much attention?

I can honestly say I’ve been standing next to a stranger while he or she pays for groceries maybe, oh, .05% of the time I’ve spent in a grocery store line. Usually, I’m back a polite distance, reading the tabloid headlines. Sometimes, it takes me a minute to notice they’ve left.

I don’t think I’ve ever noticed what card they used to pay.

And that’s been my main reaction to these restriction attempts. Not oh no poor people don’t deserve lobster or gah rich entitlement. It’s been: wow. Are we really this open about our own nosiness now?

We spend a lot of time (and I blame the internet for this, though it’s always happened to a lesser degree) concerning ourselves with other peoples’ business. What women wear, what poor people eat, chance remarks by some C-list celebrity.

And, in writerly circles: about typos and grammar.

Why are we all so suddenly concerned about the Oxford comma, someone’s placement of who and whom?

Don’t get it twisted, if someone published a novel and the grammar therein is execrable, by all means, point it out. This is a serious problem, and it denotes sloppy editing. If you didn’t care enough to figure out the basics, I don’t care enough to give you five stars. My reasoning for this has nothing to do with me liking you as a person, or caring deeply about English grammar–your lack of care interfered with my ability to read your story. It made your story crappier. It lessened my ability to enjoy your novel. A more conservative person than I might point out that your tax dollars are going into that food stamp purchase–so I might argue your money went into the purchase of this sloppily edited book. Therefore, if the grammar got in the way of you enjoying your money’s worth–well. Mayhap the literary steak and lobster of grammatical license isn’t to be given.

Y’see, grammar exists for one reason, and one reason only. English grammar is the set of rules that help a reader decipher meaning in the complicated code of the English language. If your shitty grammar gets in the way of someone understanding what you said, you have a major problem, and you need to correct it.

If, however, your use of the fucking Oxford comma doesn’t meet Chicago style handbook regulations, boo hoo. The situation where an Oxford comma is necessary is relatively rare, so why is the internet blowing up about it?

The fact is, typos and grammar errors happen. Every once in a while, you’re going to make one, and you (and your proofers) are going to miss it. It’ll burn you, when you’re rereading your published masterpiece. It sure will. But it happens. Even if you think it hasn’t happened. You might not even have noticed it yet.

I’m mentioning all this because I picked up an indie novel recently. I noticed, in perusing reviews, a reader had complained about the grammar in the novel, and had given a three-star review for that reason. So I opened the book with some trepidation, but hell, it was only a buck.

Imagine my surprise when the grammar was just fucking fine. There were a handful of typos, and a few occasions where I might’ve made a run-on sentence a little shorter, but overall–just fucking fine.

Were those small infractions really worth dinging a story two stars?

I didn’t think so. The story was good, the plot cohesive, the characters well drawn. I enjoyed it. I had no trouble reading it. I’ve occasionally seen more typos in ebooks released under a major publisher.

My point: we sometimes use grammar criticism for our own nefarious purposes. We use it as a way to bolster our own literary appearance and writerly status. This needs to stop. Grammar is a tool, and a story is infinitely more than the tools it was built from. I’m a grammarian and an amateur etymologist by nature–I love me some words, basically–but even I recognize there are occasional faults in the machine, even (grammar gestapo, go ahead and gasp) places where poor grammar works better than perfect. If it works, reward that.

Writing is a magical and mystical process, in which you put a bunch of typed characters together and, if you do it well enough, images are generated in someone else’s brain. It’s a little bit like telepathy. If poor grammar stops or damages the flow of these images, by all means, ding someone a star. If it doesn’t–if, basically, you only noticed it because you were looking–consider letting that dangling gerund phrase go.

In short: stop looking in other people’s literary carts. Mind your own business–when reading a novel, the business of a reader–and ask whether or not the story worked for you, not whether or not it plays by the rules.

And, again, to quiet the hounds: if you feel your literary ‘tax dollars’ are being misspent, do what the food stamp folks are doing. Take to the internet and complain about it. Bad grammar might be a reason the story does not work. Ruinous grammar is, well, you got the idea from the adjective.

But a typo or two? Not the mistake of the century. Not lifting your out of the story too much.

And a note: if you must be Gina Grammar to someone’s self-published ebook, at least be helpful. You ‘found a few typos?’ List them, and where they are. Ebooks can be republished at a few hours’ notice. If you’re kind enough to list, the author will probably thank you. Nobody wants typos, and it’s far easier to correct them when someone tells you where they are.

Writing What You Damn Well Please

image

WRITING: Writing Whatever You Damn Well Please

That’s right, you guys get a ranty-rant this week. I’ve got one other post coming up (a request post, woo!) but it might be an hour or two until then. So, in the mean time.

I wanted to talk about something I’ve gotten very tired–very, verrrry tired–of seeing around the internet this week.

I can’t say it’s a trend. I’ve seen a lot of these articles (particularly about women–there’s something intrinsically wrong with a post titled ‘How to Write a Female Character’), over a long span of time. But this week, for some reason, I keep running into them–and every time I do, whatever the subject, I feel that special little twist in my cackly heartmuscle that means I’m going to go motherfucking crazy soon, so I should probably post a rant.

There are a lot of people, on all sides of the political spectrum, all of them well-meaning, who seem to feel your characters should be a certain way, say certain things, react certain ways. Your female characters should be more assertive, your black characters more liberal, your male characters more masculine, your priests less stereotypically mild, take your pick. I’m not kidding. Pick a way you want your character to be, and someone’s written an article about how incorrect it is to portray a character that way, or how unpopular it now is, and how you ‘should’ do this, this, and this, or people will be offended/no one will ever read your story.

Guess what, guys?

It’s a story. It’s a motherfucking story. It’s fiction.

Not only that, it’s my story. You’re welcome to approve or disapprove of the way I’ve written a character. Of course you are–it’s a free country. But if you don’t like it, the answer might be, instead of telling me to write differently, to read someone else’s book.

There are assertive ladies out there, yes. There are also timid ladies. There are assertive men and there are timid men. There are mild priests, sanctimonious priests, raucous priests, blasphemous priests (if you don’t believe me on the last one, cut one off in traffic). There are gentle and kind Muslim men. There are Muslim men who’re real assholes. There are Muslim women who have been helped and healed by their religion, and Muslim women who have been hurt and repressed by it.

We’re all writers here. Why is it–why the hell is it–we can’t seem to understand that a character is just a character, and a story is just a story?

If I write a story about (just for example) a Muslim woman who takes strength and courage from her belief in Islam, I am by no means saying all Muslim women are happy with Islam. If I wrote the opposite story–the story of a woman oppressed and beaten down by her own faith–I would by no means be saying all women are. If I wrote either one of
these stories about a Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, take-your-pick woman–the same goes.

You see, here’s the thing. We don’t exist in a saran-wrapped bubble of our own little economic/racial/religious/gender-based identity. I don’t, for instance, only interact with and write about straight white atheist liberal women.

But, if you do or don’t–you’re damned whatever you do. I go into writing knowing that. I’m encouraging cishet cultural norms if I don’t write a few queer characters, I’m misrepresenting queer people if I do. Some people are thrilled I’ve chosen to write about a queer character at all. All of which is fascinating to me as, you know, I write fantasy, and therefore don’t represent anyone on this earth particularly.

But that’s the nature of the beast. Some people are going to love what you’ve done and some aren’t. That’s how it is, and that’s fine.

Just don’t try and tell me how to write, and I won’t try and tell you how to review.

This person is in my story because my story needs them. They have many other characteristics than the one I’m apparently portraying incorrectly. A green person in a story might be a part of green minority culture, but he’s also a loyal man, good to animals, generous to his family, a pretty mean cook. Who knows? You do, because you wrote it.

We are all–all of us–part of a very big, very complicated, and very multilayered world. Our characters, whether you write literary fiction (whatever the hell THAT is precisely) or F/SF, are based on the voices of our world. You should always remember that each voice is different, and the color of our skin, our gender, our sexual orientation, etc., has nothing to do with that. Our voices would all be different even if we were all green, four hundred pounds, and female.

So write the voice you hear.

Don’t write the voice you think is truest to you belief system, or closest to what Donald Trump says it should be, or is most politically correct (is it sad that Item B was what I thought of as ‘precise opposite of Item C’ in forming that sentence?).Or, the saddest yet perhaps the most common–don’t write the voice you think is most popular. If your character is a shy and timid girl, don’t write her brash and assertive because that’s how women are ‘supposed’ to be now. Women aren’t ‘supposed’ to be shit.

Write the voice you hear.

Let me repeat it, to make sure you understand this:

Write the goddamn voice you goddamn well hear.

And all that stuff people might say afterwards?

Fuck ’em.

You wrote your story, and now you’re going to reap the benefits (or punishments) of doing so. And that’s just how it is–writing is open to interpretation, and people are going to interpret. You can’t stop ’em–nor should you.

But don’t let them (or fear of them) stop you.

I say it over and over on this blog, but I’m going to say it again.

Write whatever you damn well please.

It’s the only thing you can do.

Writing: The King’s Might

Hay there, honey boo boos.

That’s right, I just collectively referred to you guys as that dumpling-shaped little blonde child on TLC. Now that I have television, I’m picking up pop culture references faster than a hoover picks up dirt on hardwood floors. We’re up to about 2013 in pop culture. Soon I’ll be able to make jokes about current things, like…like…

…well, we’re not there yet. But I have faith.

Anyway. I’m here to make exciting brand-new announcements!

My next novel, The King’s Might, is coming out in a week or so (7/21/15, but don’t quote me on that). It’s a story I’ve had kicking around in my head for ten years or so, and I’m sooper dooper excited to have it all finished up and committed to paper. I’m EVEN MORE EXCITED because…

…it’s gonna be free. Totally free.

I’ll warn you–the fancy paths you have to walk to make an Amazon novel permafree means it might take a while to appear as such on Amazon. But it’ll happen eventually, and it’ll be across the board. I know I’m putting it up on Smashwords and Kobo too, but there might be other places. Why the hell not, right?

Anyway, here’s the cover. Isn’t that an awesome cover? Isn’t that ice stuff cool and serious-looking? The skilled graphic designer behind it, whose identity will remain a mystery (if she doesn’t comment about it on here…HI MOM) has totally outdone herself. I love it.

If the cover doesn’t clue you in, The King’s Might is unrelated to Aurian and Jin…it’s epic fantasy still, don’t worry, but it’s a little more serious, a little more epic, a little more fairy tale and legend. It’s about the importance of knowing who you are, and accepting what you are regardless of how unpopular what you are might be–and, of course, it’s about magic and danger and war and friendship and all that fun slushy stuff. Oh, and putting someone’s eye out with a comb. It’s definitely about putting someone’s eye out with a comb, too.

God, I know how to make things sound good.

Anyay, blurb and cover, go buy it zomg. Wednesday’s post will be the first section, so get excited already.

image

In the deepest parts of the earth a magician sleeps, dreaming of a deadly white peace.

A young orphan, yellow-haired in a country of dark people, must take on the burden of Kingship, and accept his fate as an unwelcome heir to the Southern throne.

Journey with Jalith Silverhanded, First Prince in the Southern House of Heirs, as he travels the civilized South and the cold and mysterious north in search of his heritage, and a chance to end a war his country was unprepared for. As he travels deeper and deeper into the land of his birth, however, he must ask an important question–which land, North or South, does he belong to?

Before coming into his own Jalith must learn to accept himself for what he is, and discover the secret of The King’s Might.

WRITING: Book Advertising For Broke Slackers

image

Book Advertising For Broke Slackers

Let me start this off by saying: I don’t advertise often enough. I’m terrible at it, I have a job, life, family, etc. So if I ever start giving you in-depth marketing strategies, run for the hills. I don’t know what I’m talking about, and, frankly, I find the ‘paste your novel everywhere’ card a little annoying. I mean, I’m sure it’s effective–sheer numbers suggest it has to be, right? But damn.

But there are a few common-sense type things I do that everyone should at least try once. And the best part: they’re for lazy broke people, like me. So, if you don’t have the time and money to launch a proper campaign, here are some things to do.

1) A link in every blog post.

Sure, I forget occasionally. But for the most part, I have a discreet link to Aurian and Jin embedded in everything I write here (d’you see that? See it? Discreet. Totally.).

As much as we’d all like to think new readers see your posts in their blog feed, are immediately awed by your versatility and eloquence, and go straight for the ‘about’ page, this isn’t true. Most people aren’t going to go further than that one post, or maybe your home page.

So make sure you drop a link in the place they’re looking. Make it EASY for them to find your story. And you can do it again and again and again, a new link with every post–increasing your visibility with very little effort. Almost every time I do this, I get at least one click on that damn link–which might not sound like much, but hell, it’s better than not doing it.

Best part is, it’s a nice and non-invasive way to do it. You aren’t bothering your fans and frequent readers, who’ve already read it/know about it. And keeping these folks happy is sooper dooper important, right? HI FREQUENT READERS, I LOVE YOU.

On a related note: SHARE YOUR BLOG POSTS. Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, whatever you’ve got an account on. Hit that ‘autoshare’ button if you have to, just do it. This way you’re giving folks information and not just a static link to your novel–and well, there’s a link in that information too, if they want to click it.

2) Let your buddies help you.

Sounds basic, right? But the best advertising is word of mouth, and your friends and family can’t tell everybody about this great book Johnny at the bar wrote if they don’t know about it.

So make sure your friends know. They’re your friends–they’ll be super proud of you. Don’t pressure them into reading it–your friend Li who hasn’t cracked a book since high school probably isn’t going to give two shits about the fineries of your plot development–but your friends will be proud of you, and those of them who’re interested in that sort of thing will probably read it just because it’s you. And even the ones who don’t have friends who do, and they’ll likely mention it to them. And those friends’ll mention it to their friends, etc., on and on. A lot of my readers who’ve talked to me have some weird six degrees from Kevin Bacon style relation to me– they’re friends with the mechanic who fixes my aunt’s car, children of the substitute teacher who once taught my friend AP English, etc. It’s fun to figure it out, and it starts a neat conversation.

3) Make your visibility count.

I know we’ve all seen the ‘you need an online presence to sell books’ sort of posts. And it’s true, don’t get me wrong. You need someone to see your link for people to click on it.

But quality over volume every time, people. If you can manage both, go you–but not all of us have a job where we can sit there checking the phone every time it beeps in a Twitterward fashion.

So be pithy. Be clever, be funny, be sweet. Make the time you spend on the internet look like YOU–not just a collection of links, retweets, and jumbled characters. Fill out the ‘about’ sections on profiles when you have one, and make it funny and/or informative. Show your personality, not just your product. This does the dual task of warning away possible haters (‘well, I don’t like what this person has to say, so I probably won’t like this book they wrote’) and inviting possible fans to the table (‘Haha, that was funny! I wonder if this book here is just as funny.’)
Again, it seems basic. But judging from my Twitter feed, we could use this reminder.

4) RESPOND. RESPOND. RESPOND.

Has someone messaged you? Commented on your post? Sent you an email?

For the sweet and salty love of Jesus Cashew-crunching Christ, RESPOND TO IT. How would you feel if you plucked up the courage to send a note to a stranger, and it totally never got responded to? This is alienating behavior, and nobody who wants a fan base should engage in it. Especially if, like me, you only have like five fans.

People like attention. Of course we do, we’re needy bastards and our emotional lives are complex and fraught with peril. And it takes so little, little effort to recognize somebody. Just a simple ‘so glad you enjoyed’ goes miles, and takes half a second to type. If someone has a complaint or a question, answer honestly and non-violently. You’ll get a happy person out of it, possibly a fan, someone likely to remember you and pass the remembrance on to others.

If they reviewed your book–even if it wasn’t a positive review–well, don’t respond. That’s kind of bad manners. But on Amazon, you can always click ‘yes’ on the ‘was this review helpful to you?’ question. A sort of tacit acknowledgement that you noticed the review and you appreciate the time it took, without getting into the nasty territory of responding to reviewers.

AAAAND–

5) Free books, baby.

I’ve already written a post about KDP Select and how I feel about it here, so I won’t trouble you with more of the same. You’ll either do Select or you won’t, and there’re legitimate gripes about it amongst Amazon authors. I happen to love it, and I see a sales spike every time I do a free giveaway.

That being said–nothing gets you advertisement quite like the word ‘free’. Just as an experiment, I did a cold-sell style KDP giveaway a few months ago–even though I did absolutely nothing to advertise it, except (I think) mention it on Twitter, I still gave away about 300 copies in one day, and sold quite a few the day after (I think it was, like, nine. Not one hundred percent sure).

I’ll be honest, the thing I like most about KDP Select free giveaways is my ability to get a spike and some oomph for very little work.

I’d like to repeat: these things won’t make you an instant best-seller. They won’t catapult you to the Top 100 Paid section on Amazon. But, for very little work and no money, they’ll give you positive results. If you want breathtaking results, the sad fact of the matter is you need to put time and money into selling your book. Which some of us don’t have. So. Priorities.

Much love.

Why I Won’t Buy Your Novel

image

Five Reasons I Won’t Buy Your Novel

I give you guys a lot of writing advice. It’s heartfelt. Some of it might even be good (hell if I know, right?).

But it occurred to me the other day, as I was out buying YET ANOTHER bookshelf, since my most recent one was slowly sagging under the weight of three different layers of trade paperbacks–it occurred to me that, you know, some of the best advice I can give you has very little to do with me putting my pen to paper.

It has a lot to do with the fact that I read. An assload. Possibly, if the academy will pardon my French, a metric fuckton. If my library were leatherbound and perched on mahogany shelves, Garden and Gun would do a four page spread on it and toss me a free whiskey decanter into the bargain. (As it is, it’s in a two bedroom apartment, piled ass-deep on the cheapest shelving units Target can mass-manufacture. Maybe if I tape a cutout of Hemingway to it and poop out a few Audubon prints…how about that, Garden and Gun? Eh? EH?)

At any rate, I think I know a lot about writing, but the messy fact of the matter is, I know even more about reading. Why would that interest you, you ask? Eh?

Well, let’s fill in the blank. Work with me here:

I am a writer, and I want people to ____ my book.
A) slather whipped cream on
B) read
C) ,in zero G, have a lot of difficulty closing
D) All of the above.

Much as I like to imagine you’re creative and the answer is D, it’s probably B, right?

Well. As a reader–who also knows a little bit about indie pub and What You’re Going Through–I am going to straight up no frills TELL you the reasons I don’t buy books. Because I can’t imagine I’m so different from the mainstream reader that most of these don’t apply across the board.

1) YOU PASTE IT 24/7 ACROSS MY TWITTER FEED.

You know what this behavior is? It’s motherfucking ANNOYING. It is SO, SO annoying. And if my feed is drowning in your book advertisements–if I can’t see one person’s two-part tweet because your fifteen mass-released twitbominations come between the two parts–I will go to desperate, unheard-of lengths to NOT purchase your product. I won’t mute you, because I want to REMEMBER YOUR NAME. I want to remember it so, when the book comes up in my list of Amazon recommendations, I’ll go ‘oh, that asshole’, and IGNORE IT. And I do buy books. Indie books. Just not yours.

A note–posting about it once or twice a day won’t bother me. After all, you wrote something and you’re proud of it. I’ve picked up a few books after seeing seemly and interesting tweets about them. The writer Twitter accounts I follow and remember aren’t spammy or even advertisey, but teach me a little bit about the writer in question or the craft. So please, for the love of JESUS, stop spamming up my goddamn feed with posts like this:

**FREE**TODAY**
#mustread#fantasy#romance#amazon#advertise#advertise#advertise
YOU’LL LOVE IT!!!!
REALLY!!!
**AMAZONBESTSELLEROMG**
(Include picture of unreadable book cover with half-naked girl on front, with or without vampire.)

If you must spam on Twitter–if you absolutely must–have the tact to pay someone else to do it for you. Go through one of the multi-tweet accounts that offer this service (and good luck with that, by the fucking way). Or join IAN, or use #iartg. Because if I follow you, in the naive idea that you sound like a real person and not a mindless spam-spewing automaton, and you spurt your advertisements all over my feed, I will personally become VERY unfond of you, and this lack of fondness will be expressed by not buying your product.

Got it? Good.

2) YOUR BLURB IS POORLY WRITTEN.

This, after tweetspam, is my number two turnoff. Seriously, you couldn’t get through two hundred words without slathering crap all over your own project? After this behavior, I have no hope whatsoever for the 90,000 or so words that make up your novel.

Please, when you hit that publish button, make sure your blurb is typo-free, the grammar is good, and you’ve considered your words carefully. I don’t know how important your first sentence is, but your blurb is literally the FIRST TASTE people get of your writing, with no commitment whatsoever already made, so make it count. Most of the books I buy, I buy because the blurb itself sounds like a cut above the rest.

3) PRICE.

I’m sorry, but this is just too true. If I’ve never heard of you and you’re charging $9.99 for an e-book, I better love that sample so much I name my firstborn after it.

People are less willing to pay ‘big’ money for something virtual, folks. After all, they get no physical object to look at, hang on to, pet covetously, etc. Much as I’d like to pretend I’m loaded, there are times I simply can’t afford to pay the five bucks you’re asking for. Or, more accurately–would rather use it for lunch one day. Does this make me a traitor to bookdom? Maybe. But unless you can sell me on it, convince me in a blurb, cover, and sample that I’m about to discover my new favorite book, I’m spending that fiver on a cheeseburger.

I think just about everyone’s heard this by now, but you should probably looking at $2.99 or under for pricing your self-pubbed novel. I stick with the $2.99, myself–anything less feels like giving my work away (which, I may add, I’m not too proud to do semi-frequently), and anything more is unlikely to find an impulse buyer.

And that’s another thing. Your $2.99 indie novel on Amazon? That’s someone’s impulse buy. No one’s plotting that purchase out, saving up the money for it. So keep that in mind as well, when pricing and advertising–what makes this book worth three bucks right the hell now?

4) NOT IN MY GENRE.

Admittedly, there’s not a lot a writer can do about this–but for the record, I’m a pretty dedicated genre reader, and someone working outside of F/SF or the occasional historical fiction is going to have trouble getting my attention.

So make it easy on your readers to classify you. If your book is fantasy, it should look like a fantasy novel. If it’s SF, it should look SF. If it has romance tinges, give me a girl in a corset or whatever sells romance novels. Same with your blurb.

A quick note about covers–contrary to popular wisdom, a bad cover won’t necessarily keep me from reading something–not like a bad blurb will. So, while I recommend a nice looking cover, as should be blatantly obvious to you anyway, I’d pay more attention to the fact that your cover needs to encapsulate what your book is about. Got it? Pretty half-naked people won’t necessarily sell your fantasy novel to someone not looking for a romance read, and the nicest castle at sunset in the world won’t sell it to someone who is.

5) TITLE.

I share a vital fact with you: there are times when I can tell, just from the title, whether or not I’m going to like something. Am I occasionally wrong? Sure. But by that point, the purchase has already been made or not made, and unless that book comes up in my aimless internet wanderings again, I’m unlikely to think twice about it.

The titles that grab my attention most, actually, are short and original, but still understandable– J. Zachary Pike’s Orconomics (which is an awesome book, by the way, and one you should read if you’re a fan of fantasy satire) got me on title alone. I mean, what a great title. It suggests the fantasy nature of the book, hints at humor, lets me know up front that this author can at least come up with some on point compound words.

A title should, in VERY few words, let me know what it is I’m going to read. Think about that, when naming your work–is the very TITLE of your book advertising to the people you want reading it?

So there you go. A brief look at what makes me buy things. Really, the long and short of this post is: is the small amount of explanation you’re allowed to do on your book’s Amazon page reaching out to the people you want to buy that book? Maybe that’s people like me–I hope it is, I need some new reads–and maybe it’s not. At any rate, market it to your intended audience. Don’t just blather it out into the ether.

What’s Up With Me III

image

What’s Up With Me, III

It’s time for another all-encompassing ‘what I’m doing’ sort of post.

Obviously, the answer right now is typing.

Anyway.

I have new and exciting crap to tell you about my own crap, which you hopefully read. While I know this post will leave you with a spring in your step and the tender refrains of love music by lute echoing in your ears, please, try and contain your joy until I’m done typing. Really. I hate it when dreams soar prematurely.

1) The King’s Might
My Aurian and Jin unrelated novel, The King’s Might, will be out 7/21/15. Will you like it? I bet you will. It’s more serious than A&J, and far grimmer, which people seem to like, for some reason I don’t completely understand. It’s also about princes, which people also seem to like.

Oh, and one other thing. It’s going to be free.

Yes, you read that right. PERMANENTLY FREE OH SWEET BABY JESUS LOVEJOY JUMBLEBUBBLES. So even if you don’t like it, you haven’t lost a fucking thing, honey. (There will be a post in not too long about my decision to do this, and why I’d do such a silly thing. It’ll be edumacational.)

2) Bonemaker
I wrote another novelette. Sorry, I can’t seem to stop doing it for some reason. It’s about Morda the Bonemaker, and his time as a child in the Joyous Wood. I’m still trying to decide what to do with it, but hell, it’s there. I have this vague plan where I do a few of them–I had a great idea for one about the making of the Sundering Sword–and maybe do a little compilation bookthing. But I don’t know. Just in the throwing-stuff-around phase on this one.

3) Dehydrator.
I haven’t talked about this enough yet. You know what’s surprisingly delicious? Cucumber chips. Put a little salt and vinegar on those bad boys, a light dusting of chili powder, let ’em dehydrate for fifty years or however long it takes where you are. SO TASTY.
Anyway. Lemme try this again.

3) Aurian and Jin.
I’m going to start running free sales on the ol’ A&J through Amazon once more. The first one of these, for one day only, is this weekend: Saturday, June 28th, 2015. I’m hoping to get a few more reviews in time for Little Bird’s release this September, so, you know, buy my stuff and whatnot. (The Antidote will not be free. Because, come on, it’s ninety-nine cents. If you’re that bad off and you want to read it anyway, contact me and I’ll damn well buy it for you.)

4) What the hell should I do next?
I’m going to stick a poll in this post to ask YOU, buddy. Because I’ve got like twenty thousand things going right now, and, while I’ll probably finish at least half of them, I’m curious as to which ones you guys want me to finish FIRST. I like to feel important and liked. Or, well. Important, at least.

And I like to do things for you guys. And about the only thing I’m good at other than writing is baking, which doesn’t transfer to the internets too well. So, tell me what to write and I’ll do it.

A note: all of these projects now have at least 10,000 words on ’em, which is about where something has to be for me to be fairly sure I’m going to finish it.

1) Things That Go Bump In The Night
2) Night Shift
3) Balancer
4) Hesperides
5) The Apple and the Tree