Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Leech Premiere Celebration.


It's finally here, it's finally here!  Leech, the third book in my Super series, premieres today, and I could not be more ridiculously excited.  I had a lot of trepidations when I began this little book for last year's NaNoWriMo: Super was originally going to be a one-off, J's voice came more naturally to me than anyone else in the series...what was I going to do with Mindy, the character I actually understood the least?  And in the series' major pivot point, at that?

I shouldn't have worried.  Leech turned out to be one of the easiest books I've ever written, with my very favorite villain of all time.  (Um, to the point that my beta readers were a little worried about me.)  I'm so glad to finally be able to present it to the world.  And don't forget!  As part of the premiere celebration and to mark its exit from the KDP Select program, Fire With Fire will be absolutely free on Amazon December 6-8.  I apologize in advance for how obnoxious I am going to be on Twitter.

Buy Leech on Amazon and Smashwords.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

And then I failed NaNoWriMo.

I'm throwing in the towel at 28K words and change.  Yeah, I know, there are four days left.  22K isn't an insurmountable goal in that timeframe, especially since I've been possessed of a white heat on all of my other projects over the past few days.  Throwing away four days worth of energy at a book that is fundamentally, fatally flawed seems like a waste of time.  (I know.  You don't edit during NaNoWriMo, every writer thinks they're shoveling shit from a sitting position at least once, but by now I have a certain sense for when I'm being crazy and just need to push through, and when something is going off the skids.  Eat went off the skids.)  In spite of not finishing, though, it felt good to get back in the groove after writing virtually nothing for the better part of five months.  It felt incredibly good to realize that my mental health is back on track to that degree.

And even if I didn't finish NaNoWriMo, buckling down and working on something again helped to unlock my other creative processes, to wit: finally figuring out where Bulletproof, Bonnie's book, fell apart and how I need to fix it.  Involving space zombies, because let's face it: there is nothing I can come up with crazier than what various superhero canons have already done over the years.  The trick is to be outrageous with conviction.  I also had this epiphany as to how to fix Bonnie's story during one of my customary three a.m. flails.  It's been awhile, I had missed them. :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leech cover reveal!

 


So, um, yeah.  I'm pretty excited.  Since Audrey's pregnancy is kicking the living hell out of her, I went with Graphicz X Designs.  They're closely affiliated with Mojito Press Plus, whose founders were incredibly kind and friendly to me when I first joined Twitter and had no idea what the hell I was doing.  I give Graphicz X two thumbs up; they're friendly, have fantastic prices, and are fast.  I had a cover less than a day after expressing interest.

With my cover finalized, I can announce with certainty that Leech will be premiering on December 5th, 2012, and in celebration Fire With Fire will go free for three days before exiting the KDP Select program.  So mark your calendars!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Leech Chapters One Through Three!


Hey', y'all!  There really is no point in my apologizing for my long absences at this point, is there?  In my defense, NaNoWriMo has been eating my face right off, but in a good way.  I haven't pantsed a novel in almost a decade, and it's been an interesting experience.  I'm still in the first act, so I'm kind of throwing guns up on mantelpieces with wild abandon right now.  I'll figure out which ones I need to go off later.  And, in other news, my regular photographer, Audrey, has confirmed that she's not going to be able to do the cover for Leech.  Her pregnancy is just kicking her ass way too hard right now; since the baby's not due until January, we would be looking towards March at the earliest if we decided to sit out her pregnancy.  Happily, I'm investigating a few other artists right now (I don't get the biffle discount with them, alas, but what can you do?) and am aiming to premiere Leech on December 5th.  Because that will get it out in time for the holiday bump and, well, I turn 28 on December 6th and want to look at my sales page as a present to myself.  :P  Here are the first three chapters, I hope you like them!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

When in doubt, just add zombies.

Why hello there, boils and ghouls! (I'm having trouble letting Halloween go.) I intended to make this post on the thirty-first, but my favorite holiday got away with me.

Yes, it's November, that special month when millions of people collectively lose their minds and decide to write a whole novel in thirty short days. This is my second year playing along, after spending most of the summer and fall alternating between lazy and crazy (of the not-fun kind). I had intended to write the last Super book for this year's NaNoWriMo, but after Bonnie's book imploded on me so hard I decided to step back and reassess. The plots of books four and five are just too tightly intertwined for me not to have them un-fucked before I try the grand finale.

So instead I'm writing a standalone horror novel I outlined in a white heat about three years ago, shortly after learning that certain members of my family robbed my father's house within twenty-four hours of his death. Yes, I am getting belated catharsis through zombies. I changed my mind about two days before NaNoWriMo began, so I have no idea where the original outline is at this point, but I still remember enough of the key scenes to get very, very excited about the chance to finally putting them to paper.

Now, in matters of my other work: Leech, the third Super book (and last year's NaNoWriMo project) is finally edited up to be all shiny and ready to go as soon as I get a cover for it. My photographer is in the last trimester of a hard pregnancy, though, so I'm not giving a release date just yet. I'm pretty excited about this book, I must say; I wrote it only weeks after deciding that Super would be six books long, and several themes and characters who will be important down the line make their first appearance here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Final Girl, Redux

I talked about this last year, but I love Halloween. I love being frightened, I love being pushed right to my edge, and I love reading about characters who hit their edges and find ways to vault above and become heroes. (I write about people with superpowers. Come on, you're damned right that I have a hero/heroine fetish.) I also believe that fiction reflects and informs life. Horror flicks don't work unless they hit us right in our guts. Big bug movies in the fifties talked about atomic fears, the wave of possessed/scary children movies in the seventies talked about counter-culture, and the slasher films of the eighties talked about sex. (Bay-bee, talked about you-and-me…I'm sorry, I'll stop now.) Given how recently feminism had emerged as a force to be reckoned with, you would think that demonic women vanquished by tough, manly men would emerge as a major trope in these movies, but that's not how it shook out. Demonic forces arose, all right, and only one person could stop them.

And the answer was a girl. It's probably no small mistake that slasher films were aimed at teenagers, they of the shiny-new freedom and disposable incomes. It would have been easy to go for the lowest common denominator and make the boys the stars of the show, since girls will usually consume media about boys while boys are much more hesitant to be associated with anything that could be construed as "girly", but they didn't. Slasher films decided to depict girls being strong, smart, proactive badasses, which is a big part of why I love the genre so very hard.

But enough love songs to horror, or we'll be here all day. I have a deep fondness for Final Girls, which undoubtedly informs everything I write even though I don't dip my toe into straight horror all that often. As I said last Halloween, Sidney Prescott is still the Final Girl to end all Final Girls for me. That doesn't mean that the genre doesn't have plenty of other awesome female characters to offer, though, most notably one Nancy of Nightmare on Elm Street fame. This movie's as old as I am, but I never get tired of watching it. Nancy's smart, tough, and doesn't even think about backing down in the face of evil. She's also, it has to be said, kind of a bitch, but by the end of the movie she's pretty sleep-deprived, and what can I say? I've always had a soft spot for the cranky ones.

Halloween's only a few days away. Who's your favorite Final Girl?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

REVIEW: Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep

Description: Investigative reporter Carmen Cole gets the surprise of her life on her wedding day when she discovers that her fiance and best friend are sleeping together – and that the two of them are her town's resident superhero and ubervillain. Shocked and hurt, Carmen reveals their secret identities and then decides to devote her life to unmasking every superhero and ubervillain who crosses her path.
A series of successful unmaskings lands Carmen a job at The Expose, one of the biggest newspapers in Bigtime, New York, a city that's full of superheroes and ubervillains. Carmen is in her element – until she gets kidnapped by the Terrible Triad, Bigtime’s most dangerous ubervillain team.
The Triad orders Carmen to uncover the secret identity of Striker, the leader of the Fearless Five, Bigtime's most popular superhero team – or else they’ll drop her in a vat of radioactive goo. With that threat hanging over her, Carmen sets out to unmask Striker, but what she doesn’t count on is falling for the sexy superhero. But with the Terrible Triad lurking around, this is one story that just might be the death of her ...
My Thoughts: For the first half to two-thirds of this book, I was ranking it as a solid five. There's enough plot in the first third alone to satisfy an entire book, and Estep is not afraid to let her heroine Carmen screw up hard and face the guilty conscience that comes with it. Carmen is tough, smart, and flawed in ways that are understandable and sympathetic even as you're screaming at her to knock it off before she ruins someone's life. The will-they-won't-they between Carmen and Striker is based upon actual conflicts of personality and philosophy, not authorial fiat.
If this book does one thing to knock it down to four stars by the end, it's that Estep can't quite seem to make up her mind when it comes to how she wants to approach her superhero world. You can play it arch, or you can play it straight. Trying to do both makes Estep seem at points as though she's laughing at her audience rather than with them. There are also several moments when female rivals of Carmen's are disparaged in especially gendered ways, which always makes me twitch. If you're a fan of both paranormal romance and comic books/superheroes, however, give this book a chance. I think you'll enjoy it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's that time of year again...

...the weather's getting colder. We're spending more time indoors, seeking something to entertain during those long upcoming winter hours. And what better to serve the purpose than the bloodsport of pitting the best against the best, knowing without pity that only a few of those bright-eyed hopefuls will make it?

I'm speaking, of course, of the upcoming television season. (Not to disrespect football fans. Let me know if your favorite team scores a home run, all right?)

I used to be in fandom; honestly, I still am, even if I'm much more of a consumer than a producer these days. If there is one thing I am constitutionally unable to do, it's dismiss pop culture as "just" anything. I live for television, for storytelling. So here's what I'm keeping an eye on this fall:

Elementary: I've been a Lucy Liu fan ever since she was an Angel, and I thought she was brilliant during last season's turn on Southland. Johnny Lee Miller has taken longer to grow on me; he's one of those actors, I think, who is going to wow you as he ages even while he was lost in a sea of pretty as a younger man, but he grips me hard now when he didn't before. On top of liking both of the primary actors, I got a chance to peek at the pilot a few weeks back. I give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up: character-driven, aware of its ridiculousness in a wry way, and engagingly acted on the parts of Liu, Miller, and Quinn. If I had to pick one new show I'm hopping up and down over this season, it's Elementary, and only part of that is because I'm contrary and Lucy Liu has been treated abominably by Sherlock fans. (Which is why I'm going to say this: it's possible to have entirely legit reasons to be dubious about Liu as Joan Watson, but I would prefer you didn't air them here. Lucy Liu has had so much racist, misogynist shit thrown at her since the casting news broke, I kind of have a knee-jerk thing happening at this point.)

Arrow: I watched Smallville. I liked Justin Hartley as Green Arrow. I kind of dig antiheroes. A friend of mine who has an automatic nose-crinkle reaction to Hartley and sort of loathes everything about SV's Green Arrow watched the pilot and gave it a thumbs-up. That means I'm most likely going to love it to the point of rolling around like a puppy. Not to mention that it features Katie Cassidy, who does snarky badass incredibly well, as...wait for it...Dinah Freaking Lance. I will defend Smallville in its cheesy, lost-opportunity, good-hearted glory until the air runs out of my lungs, but they shanked Dinah hard. I am stupid kinds of excited about a show featuring her as a regular. (Just let her yell. Just let her yell just once.)

Beauty and the Beast: I am not old enough to remember the original B&B. I have seen clips, though, and the amazing thing is how inhuman they make the Beast look. In the reboot, he has a cheek scar and a golden eye, like that wouldn't get him more women in, oh, any bar or club whatsoever over the past twelve years. I like Kristin Kreuk, though, so I want this to succeed. At the very least, I want it to be beautifully terrible and fun. Hey, The Vampire Diaries started the same way, and grew to be kind of amazing by the end of its first season. (Fell apart utterly in the second, but let's not speak of that. It still hurts too much.)

And let's not forget the returning favorites!

Nikita: Honestly, this show is my very favorite thing on television right now. Nikita is a brilliant, layered heroine, acted close against her chest by one Maggie Q. I didn't think she was a good actress when I first started watching the show, but she deliberately tamps down her affect to show Nikita's constant emotional control, even if you have to re-watch to get everything Q is actually doing. And when she bursts out? Oh, lord. Nikita started in a fairly mediocre fashion, but over the last half of the first season and the entirety of the second became a smart, exciting, amazing piece of television. If you've hung around this blog even a little bit, you know that I love powerful women in my fiction, and this show has been incredible in its dedication to diverse ladies being badass without apology.

Raising Hope: Okay, so I'm redneck. I also grew up very poor. As a result, I'm very sensitive to LOL REDNECK bullshit, and that is why I love Greg Garcia. He understands class issues intimately, and he writes comedy about them in a way that is hilariously on-point, but in a strangely gentle way. I laugh my ass off until I have a brand-new set of abs, because I have lived that life, but he never crosses the line into meanness and always seems to believe in people's best qualities.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: How to Sell a Gazillion eBooks In No Time by Russell Blake

Description: How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (Even if Drunk, High or Incarcerated) is a parody of all things related to writing, self-publishing and self-promotion. Featuring 59 Writer’s Tips running the gamut from selecting a blockbuster title to creating compelling narrative and dialog, Russell’s relentlessly evil humor mocks everything sacred to the writing profession. Described as “…the literary equivalent of Ebola” and “vicious, demented, reprehensible brain poison,” Blake’s book is sweeping the publishing industry and garnering rave reviews. A must buy for authors, friends of authors, and readers everywhere.

”How to Sell a Gazillion eBooks In a Year is by far the most important book ever written on any topic, although I exclude the Bible since the Bible wasn’t exactly written in the way we mean the word “written.” But other than that, Gazillion does it all. For everyone. A can’t miss, sure fire Gazillion hit-a-thon from the master of them all.”

My Thoughts: I laughed so hard I threw myself into a coughing fit several times. Admittedly, this is not difficult in my current state of health, but Blake has still written a hysterically funny satire on the glut of self-publishing how-tos blooding the internet over the past couple of years. I caught John Locke (even funnier now that he's revealed himself to be a fraud who buys reviews), JA Konrath (not a fraud, but sometimes a bit of an acquired taste), and a few others that I'm not going to name because they're obsessive self-Googlers and I honestly do not need to deal with their shit right now. (The chapter mocking existentialists and anyone else who stands behind half-understood jargon as a substitute for argument had me wheezing so hard that I now have a brand-new set of abs, however. Do you know how long it's been since I had abs? Since never.)

What I enjoyed most about the book, though, is that it's satire in the truest sense: Blake is making fun of certain behaviors because he knows these people are capable of better. He's snarky as hell, but never trips over the line into the mean or personal, and there is a lot of genuinely good writing advice buried under the pigtail-pulling.

And, I have to stress this again, he mocks existentialists. Everyone should mock existentialists, all the time.

(I apologize for how little I've been around lately, either in this space or on Twitter. I haven't descended into another terrifying depressive episode; my reasons for being scarce around these parts are much more mundane. I'm doing line edits on Leech, finally throwing up my hands on Bulletproof and admitting that I need to stick it in a drawer for a little while until I figure out where it twisted wrong on me, and dealing with a truly ugly cold. Since I'm already on antibiotics for another condition, I have to assume that I 1) have the most apathetic immune system in the world, or 2) I am unleashing Captain Tripps upon you all. I am truly sorry if I have inadvertently caused the apocalypse.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: How To Be a Woman by Caitlan Moran

Description:Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children—to jump-start a new conversation about feminism. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself.

My Thoughts: Oh, lord, where do I even start? I laughed until I wheezed well over a dozen times in the reading of this book; frankly, I owe Ms. Moran a fist-bump for bringing me closer to actual abs than I've managed in years. Half memoir and half feminist manifesto, she uses her own life to examine the state of modern feminism, how far it's come and how desperately much there still is to do. What I loved most about this book was how optimistic and ultimately joyous it is even as the author is working herself into a frothing rage over genuine injustices; she never loses her ultimate conviction that we're heading somewhere, that the wrongs of this world will get better through women being smart, creative, and more than a little crazy. I also found her attitude towards pornography to be incredibly refreshing (and fairly well encapsulating my attitude towards 50 Shades): what we need is more porn, not less, so that one half of the human species don't make up 99% of the ids presented.

(And Ms. Moran, if you're taking requests? Caz needs her own book, as well.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seriously. Don't do this.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my brother's death. Just like clockwork, about a week ago I started getting postcards and letters from complete strangers assuring me that they know exactly how I feel. Um, no, you don't. Most of the people writing to me have never lost a family member in the first place, fewer still have lost one to warfare, and none at all are me. Don't presume to tell someone you know how their grief feels, especially when it's new. (And I started getting these letters in the first week after my brother's death, without any explanation of how they got my address in the first place. I'm not in the book.)

I've always had a knee-jerk cringe reaction to people who spin out elaborate mourning rituals for the deaths of celebrities (or worse, the relatives of celebrities). You don't know these people. You aren't a part of their family. You show more respect by keeping your distance, especially when the person you're pretending to mourn wasn't a public figure to begin with.

Granted, I realize that the people writing me are acting out of a sincere desire to be patriotic. If that's the case, lobby for the Veterans' Administration to get better funding. Pay attention to international events so you actually know what's going on in the world. Sit with a veteran for awhile. Please don't send me letters and postcards (most of them acting as if it happened yesterday, too, which makes it even more surreal) when you don't know me, my brother, or, more often than not, any soldiers either alive or dead. That's not grief, that's macabre performance art.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Everyone has to make a 50 Shades post sooner or later, right?

Jennifer Armintrout takes apart 50 Shades of Gray.

Oh, lord, 50 Shades. I have so many mixed feelings about this book. (Not about the quality, however. Never about the quality.) On the one hand: ye gods, it is a terrible, awful book that puts forth the same gender stereotypes and romanticized abuse as Twilight, James just takes the erotic undertones of Meyer and makes them explicit. It makes me twitch.

On the other hand, just like so much of the criticism of Twilight centers around icky girls daring to like icky girl things, much of the criticism of 50 Shades centers around icky women daring to like icky women things. (Plus a general "ewww, kink" reaction, which--um, if your objection is that Ana and Christian have a fundamentally abusive relationship, that's 'cause they do, and would even if they were vanilla enough to make an ice cream cone blush. Bedroom dynamics and accessories have nothing to do with it.)

Armintrout's review of 50 Shades has me howling with laughter because she appears to have grown a penis solely to accommodate the hate-boner she has for this book, and yet she can't look away. And that's sort of Meyer and James in a nutshell. Armintrout does a wonderful job of going chapter-by-chapter and discussing why Christian is an abuser, though, and she does it without once heading into a kink-shaming place. It also doesn't hurt that she's screamingly funny.

(I have womanfully resisted doing any Twilight reviews on this blog even though I read all of the damned things, because it seemed like a bit of piling-on. But when The Host comes out in theaters, I will probably not be able to stop myself. That book was--it was like looking into Meyer's psyche on so many levels, and it was horrifying. I screamed at the book as if Meyer could hear me through it. More than once. In public places.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Character Spotlight: J

If you had superpowers, would you automatically use them to do the right thing? Uphold law and order, stop supervillains and rescue stranded kittens from trees? In Super, the answer is an unequivocal "yes." Ophelia has a clarity of purpose that few of the other women in the series can touch. She wakes up in the morning knowing exactly who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

J is nothing like Ophelia. Being good doesn't come naturally to her. She's a smartass, a fighter, a drinker and general rabble-rouser. (And she would mock the hell out of you for saying "rabble-rouser", too.) The world's been kicking her around since she was very small, and she decided along the way that the only smart thing to do was kick back, both for her own sake and for the people who couldn't do it themselves. And because it's funny. Did I mention that J's not really a color-in-the-lines kind of girl?

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that I unabashedly, unequivocally love heroes. Why am I so fond of J, then, given that she treats the law as something to poke at with a stick while giggling? Because I also think it's interesting to see how heroes are made, the struggle to do the right thing. J's a fun, complex character precisely because she and Ophelia approach the world with such different viewpoints. The dialogue between them is my favorite of the series.

I also really like blowing things up. Probably best to get that out right upfront.

Check out Fire With Fire on Amazon, only $.99 for a limited time!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Leech and Sea Change

Twelve whole sentences? Why, doing two books at once comes remarkably close to being a post of substance!

The first of our offerings comes from Leech, the third book in my ongoing Super series, which I'm aiming to release late this summer, perhaps early fall. It's Mindy's turn to stand in the spotlight! I enjoyed the writing of this book immensely, as whispers of the end game start to come into play, and I got a chance to hang out in the head of a character who really didn't get much depth in Super. Here we go:

"Mindy didn't get angry often, but all of the sudden it was hard to keep her fingers from shaking, and harder still to keep them from squeezing down. Mindy took several deep breaths before she trusted herself to speak.

'What are you doing here, Jane?' she asked the woman who had worn her face for more than a month while Mindy herself had been trapped in Evelyn's hell, the woman who had gone through her house and touched her things and stolen her life.

Jane's eyes were wide. She swallowed several times and at last managed, 'I need your help.'

Mindy startled enough to loosen her grip on Jane's throat."

The second excerpt comes to use from a little book called Sea Change, which is a ridiculously trashy paranormal romance that I wrote to blow off steam while Siren, Naomi's book, was kicking my ass in its first draft. It makes me so happy. It's about a young woman named Odessa who's running away from her life and finds herself in Key West, Florida, an island that has become very near and dear to my heart over the course of the past few years. When you don't fit into your old world any longer, there's nothing better than an island specializing in taking in weirdoes:

"She arrived in Miami after three days. Odessa stopped at a gas station, telling herself that she was only pausing to buy a gallon of water for the old man's radiator and a donut for herself. She was still sitting in the parking lot over an hour later with the water jug in one hand and her pastry in the other, thinking and ignoring the people who walked past the truck and snuck peeks at her. She was sure she was a sight after over seventy-two hours of driving across twelve states, her auburn hair sticking out in frizzy tangles where it had worked loose from her ponytail and red lines burned into her face from where she had remembered sunglasses but not sunscreen. Odessa looked like someone who had broken into the truck and was going to get her ass kicked once its real owner came back and found her there. And she still wasn't as far away as she could get yet."

Sea Change is still in its first draft, and I don't know when I'll have it ready for full human consumption. I'm aiming for the winter holidays, however.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Bisexual Women and Super

I've got to stop making promises I can't keep. Every time I swear I'm going to rededicate myself to using this blog regularly, I disappear again for weeks on end. I won't promise yet again that I'm working on it, because…well, I've done that a few times before, haven't I?

I'm here today, though, and wanted to talk about this insanely flattering review of Super that came to my attention a few weeks ago. My first reaction was to dance in a circle like a lunatic, because everyone loves being told they've done good work. If I weren't a bit of an attention whore, I would be content to write my books and then stick them in a drawer; to paraphrase Rachel Berry, "I'm like Tinker Bell. Without applause, I'll die." Seriously, Dear Reviewer, you made my day.

And then my second reaction hit me, which was to strangely feel a little guilty, because what I do in Super and its sequel, Fire With Fire really isn't all that special, or at least shouldn't be. I'm bisexual myself, and part of the first flashing spark that led to the Super series was my annoyance at the lack of bisexual characters in media. (Or at least the ones who are treated rightly--which doesn’t mean exactly to my tastes and specifications, either, lest you fear.) Bisexual women are in a very strange place with regard to their representation in media. We have more exposure than other queer folks, but the focus always seems to be about how we can titillate men. Katy Perry kissed a girl and liked it--but made sure we all knew she was going back to her boyfriend. Likewise, while there have been pretty big strides towards more acceptance of queer folk in books who are written to be characters rather than lust objects, the queer character in question is almost always a gay guy. (You want to get on my bad side and stay there? Use "GLBT" rather than "LGBT". Every single person I've ever encountered who does that has made sure that I knew abundantly well, as a woman, and a bi woman at that, where my place in the hierarchy actually was.) Lesbians and bisexual women are few and far between.

So when I decided to write Super, it was very important to me that I treat Ophelia fairly, perhaps in the way I wished I had been. She's bisexual, and it doesn't mean that she just hasn't made up her mind. She's bisexual, and it doesn't mean that she can't be faithful or that monogamy is weird to her. I went 'round and 'round with myself on the amount of tension to write between Marcus--Ophelia--Naomi, because all three of them are members of marginalized groups, and thus--I worried. About doing right by them, since there are still so few characters that break the mold out there. Which brings me back to the embarrassment factor: I don't think I'm doing anything special with Ophelia, I think I'm being honest. She doesn't get treated differently from any other character. (Oh, poor little J, because sex didn't fit in Super, she doesn't get to get laid for…awhile.) So I love the reviews and reviewers who praise me for doing right by Ophelia and Naomi (and I'm not pissing on y'all's shoes, oh, God, no, I would cuddle you to my bosom if that wouldn't be weird), but I also think that I wouldn't be as special if queer women in media being treated matter-of-factly weren't so unique. It's an odd place. I don't know what to say to mitigate it--it's always easier to complain about the gap than to fill it--other than to encourage people to break the mold, and praise everything good about their works straight to the high heavens.

I'm not going to make any hard or fast rules about when my next post will be, since that just seems to be tempting fate, but I do have a list of potential blogging topics that I'm working on. Cabbages, kings, why infomercials insist on making the very people they want to buy their products look like functional morons. See you then.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

As it turns out, Channing Tatum can act.

(So can, to a lesser extent, Alex Pettyfer, but I'll get to him in due time.)

Until about a year and a half ago, I didn't get the Channing Tatum thing. He hadn't been in any roles that required more than diamond-cutting abs, I didn't really dig the Step Up franchise as a whole, and he just had--and has, but with age he's gained depth--a face that...lent itself incredibly well to a dumb, blank expression.

And then I watched The Eagle, mostly for Jamie Bell, but along the way encountered a lot of press for the Taters in which he was a funny, even witty guy who displayed a remarkable self-awaresness about the LOL REDNECK bullshit that really boils down to classism. (I have strong feelings on this subject, but I'll save them for another post.) So, okay. Dude's a worthy specimen of the human species. Doesn't mean he can act. Until 21 Jump Street came along and proved that Monsieur Taters is actually pretty damned gifted as a comedic actor, even if with dramatic roles he's maybe not so talented. Or so I thought.

Y'all, based on the previews, you probably think that Magic Mike is a Big Dumb Fun Movie about men being candy, and to a certain extent that's correct. I thought I was going to to have to do CPR on one of my girlfriends several times; given that she has an extreme aversion to being touched, this likely would have ended with me being punched in the face. The unexpected burdens of friendship. Anyway, the men in this movie are staggeringly beautiful specimens of our species, each one lovingly and lingeringly objectified in ways normally reserved only for women. That alone would have earned this movie a thumbs-up from me. However, it's also solidly written and acted, with a particular gift for witty dialogue that still sounds like normal people just talking while we spy in.

And Taters. Mr. Tatum, known with varying amounts of affection about the internet as Charming Potato, delivered far and away the best performance of his career. Though that could sound as damning with faint praise, given that he turned in the first of many pretty-boy stinkers over five years ago, it's really not. Tatum carries the movie with a performance that is hilarious, subtle, and layered. I didn't even known he could do those things with his eyes. He makes the movie. I feel like over the top gushing will ruin the review or make it seem like I'm giving him nods out of pity or something, given how much he didn't work for me in the past, but I'm not kidding: Channing Tatum refutes every negative thing ever said about his skills as an actor in this movie. A late bloomer, maybe, but undeniably a talent.

Which is not to say that an honorable mention doesn't also go to Alex Pettyfer, himself not exactly known for nuance and brilliant portrayals. I'm not giving him quite as much credit for playing an asshole, since backstage scuttlebutt is that he's every bit as difficult to work with as Taters appears to be a kind and decent guy, but his character is so painfully nineteen that I had to peek at him through my fingers a few times. I hope I wasn't that much of a little shit at the same age, but I kind of think I was.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

REVIEW: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Description: Every year in Panem, the dystopic nation that exists where the U.S. used to be, the Capitol holds a televised tournament in which two teen "tributes" from each of the surrounding districts fight a gruesome battle to the death. In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, the tributes from impoverished District Twelve, thwarted the Gamemakers, forcing them to let both teens survive. In this rabidly anticipated sequel, Katniss, again the narrator, returns home to find herself more the center of attention than ever. The sinister President Snow surprises her with a visit, and Katniss’s fear when Snow meets with her alone is both palpable and justified. Catching Fire is divided into three parts: Katniss and Peeta’s mandatory Victory Tour through the districts, preparations for the 75th Annual Hunger Games, and a truncated version of the Games themselves. Slower paced than its predecessor, this sequel explores the nation of Panem: its power structure, rumors of a secret district, and a spreading rebellion, ignited by Katniss and Peeta’s subversive victory. Katniss also deepens as a character. Though initially bewildered by the attention paid to her, she comes almost to embrace her status as the rebels’ symbolic leader. Though more of the story takes place outside the arena than within, this sequel has enough action to please Hunger Games fans and leaves enough questions tantalizingly unanswered for readers to be desperate for the next installment.

My Thoughts: I was warned that the second installment of Collins's trilogy differed significantly in tone and, perhaps, quality from The Hunger Games. I'll agree to the first, but not to the second. (At least, not to the argument that the quality difference is a significant one.) The things I loved: that Katniss spends all of about thirty seconds dithering about whether or not she wants to lead a revolution before deciding to take every last one of those muthas down, one way or another. I will never apologize for how much characters unapologetically stepping up to right a wrong because it's the right thing to do makes me kick my feet with glee. I will also state that I didn't mind the increased focus on romance in this installment of the trilogy. Bleak and hopeless dystopia or not, Katniss is seventeen, and teenagers are hormone bombs. She's also for the first time in her life in a place where she can think about something other than her day-to-day survival. The girl's got a lot going on. And finally, Collins's world-building is every bit as original, strange, and gripping as it was in The Hunger Games.

Now, to pull the bandaid off: all right, the second book still isn't as good as the first. Part of it is a fine-line issue, as the descriptive writing simply doesn't pop as much (and Katniss says "Yeah" every other word now?), and part of it is Katniss. She's frequently petty in her anger in ways that she wasn't in the first book, and I didn't like her lack of self-esteem compared to Peeta in the slightest. The Hunger Games Katniss might have agreed to sacrifice herself for Peeta out of the pragmatic realization that he's a better orator than her, but she wouldn't have dithered about calling herself unworthy for being a survivor. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Katniss being a pawn to the revolution rather than a participant, but I'll save my feelings and thoughts on that until reading the final book.

Oh, and Cinna is a freaking BAMF, but I hardly think that needs restating.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Writing As Therapy

I won't lie to you, Blogger, I'm not exactly having a great time in my personal life right now. My new day job is extremely stressful (quite apart from my admitted, ah, Type A tendencies*), and I've been feeling a little ragged over the past six weeks or so. To put it mildly. The last time I went through a dark period like this, it culminated in two straight nights sobbing on a bathroom floor and my friends calling me every hour on the hour to make sure I was okay. I never want to go through something like that again.

I also did some of the best writing of my life. I think you have to go through despair in order to write it; it's like trying to describe green to someone who's never seen it before. While going through a deep depression might have made me a better writer, more importantly to me, continuing to write even though I was going through a deep depression kept me sane. A similar situation arose last fall, though my dark period wasn't nearly as bleak. Upon being told that I would be laid off, I jumped into my NaNoWriMo project with a zeal and wound up writing one of the most viscerally creepy villains of my life. Likewise, in the middle of this meltdown-in-waiting, I've been able to distract myself by working on the fifth Super book, Bulletproof. Channeling Bonnie's PTSD and issues has helped me both deal with and distance myself from my own. Also, I get to blow up a lot of shit.

What? It's hardly a secret that I have some rage issues.

I'm starting to see the other side of this particular bad spot, and thank deity-of-your-choice for that, because I'm not sure how much more of it I could have taken. I did some pretty good writing during it, if I do say so myself. More importantly, though, continuing to write even when I basically just wanted to curl up in a ball and let people poke me with sticks made the depression endurable until it started to lighten. Screw my sales figures (actually, not really, people buying my books makes me really happy), I'm never giving that up.

(No, that's not sarcasm. I really don't know how I could cope if I couldn't write.)

*The words "chinchilla on meth" have been used before.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hello!

I haven't been around much lately; I apologize, and I'm working on it. I've had a new day job for a month as of tomorrow, and it's been...well, it's been a steep learning curve, let's just say, and has put me in some unpleasant mental spaces. Since this is a professional rather than personal blog, I decided to err on the side of discretion.

But I'm back! Or I'm going to consistently pretend to be back! In news of my own books, Super has undergone a strange renaissance over the past month, which makes me laugh. (And wonder if KDP Select free days don't have some life in them yet.) I hope that you like it, new readers, and check out Fire With Fire when you're done. Leech, the third book in the series, is chilling with some beta readers as we speak. Meanwhile, I'm keeping up with my GYWO 2012 count by plowing away at the first draft of Bulletproof, aka the last book before the Thrilling Finale, aka Bonnie's book. Let me tell you, working through Bonnie's PTSD issues has done wonders for keeping my work-induced stress and occasional bouts of rage at a manageable level.

And in news of other people's books: I like to read, period, but unless a book really blows my doors off, I prefer to keep my review time here reserved for indie books. (You can always check out my general thoughts at my Goodreads page here. And as I've mentioned before: auto-add me as a friend solely for the purposes of promotion, get a permanent black mark. My biggest offender is now up to twenty-seven attempts.) Indie authors still have a stigma; I like to help. So give me your recs! I'll read virtually anything, but I prefer: urban fantasy, sci-fi, dystopia, and anything with women being awesome. It might also go without saying, considering my favoritest heroine in the Super series is bisexual and dating another woman, but queer-friendly recs are extra-especially welcome.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

REVIEW: The Hunger Games

Yeah, yeah, insanely late to the party. However, this book is worth the hype.

Description: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games," a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

My Thoughts: Yeah, consider me a fan without any reservations. In a world swimming with YA heroines who think of little else other than getting a boy to love them (and more often than not express that love in ways that deserve a VPO), Katniss is sharp, clever, and focused. In every chapter, it seemed, she found another way to please my competence kink, and I laughed out loud when she thought to herself, regarding Peeta, "Geez, I hope I'm not the one who has to kill him." (In a black humor kind of way, admittedly, but come on. It is not news at this point that I'm kinda creepy.) While your basic brooding, socially maladjusted hero would be simple (though admittedly remarkable for being applied to a female character), Katniss isn't cold, just a survivor. I loved how sweetly her relationship with Peeta played out, and how inevitable their rift. Yeah, Peeta is probably sweeter to be around, but Katniss keeps people alive. I will always root for the pragmatic, fast-thinking utilitarian over just about any other character archetype.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Okay, Goodreads members, let's have a talk.

I will admit, I have a fairly laid-back approach to marketing. (And I have the sales figures to prove it.) It sort of grosses me out to be in 24/7 sales mode, to the point that it ruins all enjoyment I get from actually writing the books and talking to people about them. I also think that consciously setting out to be cool doesn't work any better in marketing than it did on the playground. We all remember that kid who just tried so hard and so painfully that it actually hurt to be around them.

I get that not everyone feels this way. I understand that there's a hell of a lot of book promotion going on in internet spaces, and that everyone is looking for the next thing to set them apart from the pack.

With all that being said, there still have to be lines. Look, I have a Goodreads author account. And I don't aggressively use it to sell books. I am on Goodreads because I like books and like talking about them. I will happily friend anyone who shares these interests.

If you friend me on Goodreads, and I see that you have 3000 friends and yet only 50 books (one person had no books at all), I am not going to friend you back. If you attempt to friend me several times in spite of this (one person is up to eleven attempts; good luck, Cupcake), you are now actively pissing me off. I will never buy anything you write, because you are either a soulless automatic process or someone doing a damned good job pretending to be one.

A little personality and thought, people. You can't be a half-decent writer without it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fire With Fire is finally here!

"J isn't what you would call a follower. In fact, most people would say that she's downright dangerous. J can create and control fire, and she doesn't always use this ability to uphold the law. Nevertheless, when a shady real estate developer threatens to buy up her neighborhood, she knows this much--sparks are going to fly."

At Amazon and Smashwords.

And not only that, but as a special release celebration, Super will be absolutely free on Amazon for the next four days! Check it out!

Monday, May 7, 2012

REVIEW: The Avengers

Fair warning, y'all, I'm going to play fast and loose with spoilers.

Looking back on my formative years, there were three major influences on me: Katherine Applegate, Xena, and Joss Whedon. (And when you think about it, that explains so much. It's miracle that I turned out as borderline-normal as I did.) So when I learned that Joss Whedon was going to be both writing and directing the Avengers movie, which I already had high hopes for, I...might have squeaked and flailed my arms about like a Jibbles the Gerbil/Muppet hybrid. But, you know, in a dignified way.

It was even better than I had hoped it would be.

Marvel's been knocking it out of the park with its superhero movies for a long time now, for reasons that I've listed in this blog before: they all feel as though they belong to a coherent world, they don't forget to be fun, and they actually treat the women in their audience and their casts as people. (Looking at you on those last two, Mr. Nolan.) Joss Whedon was the perfect person to take on this movie. He toned down his particular dialogue quirks enough so that there were tons of punny one-liners, but no one beat you over the head with their quippiness. He got to the emotional meat of these screwed-up people finding common ground and becoming more than the sum of their parts, and he whupped ass with Natasha Romanoff (and pulled ScarJo's best performance yet out of her). Seriously, Marvel, get on the Black Widow movie, already, these flicks have been a boys' club long enough. He does give in to the Joss Whedon School of Killing Everyone You Love, but I honestly think it was earned. (And it's comics, okay. Do you remember the Bucky Rule? Yeah, well, he has his own comics line and Sebastian Stan is contracted for six movies. IJS.)

Apart from Joss's writing, the acting in this movie is seriously top-notch. I raised my eyebrows when I heard that Mark Ruffalo was going to be playing Bruce Banner (you would think I would know better by now, given Chris Evans as Captain America), but he's the first actor to get Banner right. Much has also been made of Tom Hiddleston's turn as Loki, and he deserves every second of it. Between his acting and Joss's writing, a bridge is drawn between the flailing, damaged Loki of Thor and the homicidal lunatic of Avengers. I would commit minor crimes to find out what really went down between Loki and Thanos in deep space, and I cannot wait for the potential villain(s) of Thor 2.

Seriously. Go see this movie. If you like comics, heroes, or shit going BOOM, you are in for a treat.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fire With Fire Cover Reveal!

We're down to one week, guys, and I think I might be even more excited for this release than I am for the Avengers movie. (It's close, though.) As I did last time, with Super, here's a shot of the model humoring me:

And now here's the final result, once it's been in the hands of someone who actually knows what they're doing:

Whatcha think?

Monday, April 30, 2012

And now we talk of business.

On May 9th, the second book of the Super series, Fire With Fire, will go live. (And I'm very close to being able to do the cover reveal, which has me so excited; the model, Audrey as photographer, and Tanner as graphic designer have produced an amazing work of art on very few resources.) On May 13th, Super will exit the KDP Select program. After considerable thought on the matter, I've decided not to reenroll it. The results of the experiment, while favorable, have not been favorable enough to salve my lingering unease about making my books available through only one retailer. A friend of mine recently wanted to purchase SM Reine's Death's Hand based upon my glowing review of it and was utterly crestfallen to discover that she couldn't have it because she uses a Nook; I don't want to do that to readers of my own books. So, as of May 14th, Super will be available once more via Smashwords, Apple, Diesel, and Kobo.

You'll notice that I'm leaving a significant retailer out there. Yes, after dithering and pondering for the two months and change that Super has been enrolled in KDP Select, I've decided not to distribute to Barnes and Noble any longer. This wasn't a decision I came to lightly, and nor is it connected to the Amazon vs. Barnes and Noble ideological slap-fights that have been making their way about the web. As far as I'm concerned, Amazon and B&N are equally amoral. B&N, however, have established a way of doing business with regard to ebooks that actively costs me money. It takes them weeks to adjust prices (whereas Smashwords does it instantly, Amazon does it in a matter of three-four hours, and Apple, Kobo, and Diesel make their adjustments within one-two business days, which I consider reasonable given that I'm playing telephone with Smashwords to pass along the message), which simply does not make sense in the digital age. As a result of this lolly-gagging and Amazon's policy of price matching, I lost a significant chunk of money through B&N keeping Super at a lower promotional price long after the promotion had ended. This may seem as though it's also shanking Nook users, but B&N is also notorious about not making indie books searchable (I can attest to this), so I don't think that I'll be losing much in the way of sales. My books will go back to being available as .epubs on Smashwords, which was the only place save for Amazon where I experienced notable sales prior to KDP Select.

And here's what else the return to Smashwords means: my books will be truly open to international readers in ways that I cannot do with Amazon. I've always admired Smashwords for not geo-locking and for providing books in so many different formats; their Meatgrinder is also the cleanest, easiest conversion software I've encountered yet, and I'm very happy about working with them again. I will continue to roll books into KDP Select and then out again in order to promote the next release, but I'll be sure to issue plenty of advance notice each time.

In other news, I'm starting a new day job tomorrow, so my writing time is all over the map, but I'm currently editing Leech, with Siren doing its requisite drawer-time as a first draft. Meanwhile, Bulletproof's outline is stalled out at about three-quarters of the way through, as the end game kicks into high gear in that book and I've had trouble getting into gear on it until I finally cried uncle and started outlining the final book, Legend at the same time. Clearly, I lack a lot of things (a sense of balance, many would say), but a work ethic is not one of them.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

On the Dearth of Bisexual Literature, a great guest post at the Lesbrary.

Link here.

Check out the comments section, too, there are some great books being recommended in there.

I can absolutely empathize with Walkley's frustrations here; I've had a bitch of a time figuring out how to market Super as a book with a bisexual lead that's not erotica. (Actually, since sex wouldn't fit into Super's plot and I wanted to make sure that the queer couple isn't treated any differently than the straight couples, there's a "no one gets laid onscreen" rule for the duration of this series. So, um, spoiler alert.)

I'm not entirely sure how the best way to correct this issue of very narrow expectations when it comes to literature featuring queer protagonists, save to talk up the books that break the mold as much as possible. So check out the link, and check out the Lesbrary in general, they have some of the best f/f book reviewers around.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

REVIEW: Dragon Warrior by Shea MacLeod

Uh...I am not digging the new Blogger terribly much, so this may be tweaked if it comes out wonky on me.


Description: A man without a past.
A woman without a future.
A world destroyed by monsters.
All that's left is hope.
In Rain Mauri's post-apocalyptic world there are no shades of gray when it comes to survival. Until she meets a Dragon Warrior and discovers nothing is as simple as it seems.
Together, Rain and the Dragon Warrior must uncover the truth behind the nightmare their world has become. Their quest will put them in the crosshairs of a ruthless enemy, but with her determination and his skill, they might just save their race from destruction. If they can save each other first.

My Thoughts: At 45,000 words, this book squeaks in just under novel sized. It's also the start of a series. Both of these things factor into my fairly complicated feelings on Dragon Warrior. I enjoyed the world-building, Rain, and Micah together and separately, but overwhelmingly I wanted the book to slow down and chew its food a little more. Without going too deeply into spoilers, some major events went down before the beginning of the book (quite apart from the basic apocalypse-starting hijinks), including a potentially intriguing villain. Telling that story via flashback, and in such compressed format, left me feeling more hungry than fulfilled at the end. I enjoyed the book, and will probably buy the second if another sale comes along, but...ack. Still have the feeling that there was a wasted opportunity here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fire With Fire, Chapters One through Three

Hi, guys! As I've been babbling about basically nonstop for the past month or so, Fire With Fire, the second book of the Super series, will go on sale May 9th. (And in the meantime, you can purchase the first book, Super for just $2.99 right now!) I am incredibly excited about this book; writing dialogue for J is one of my favorite parts of working on this series. You'll see why as soon as she opens her mouth. Here are the first three chapters, enjoy!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

REVIEW: Death's Hand by SM Reine


Description: Policing relations between Heaven, Hell, and Earth is messy and violent, but Elise Kavanagh and James Faulkner excelled at it--until coming across a job so brutal that even they couldn't stand to see one more dead body. Now they've been pretending to be normal for five years, leaving their horrific history a dark secret. Elise works in an office. James owns a business. None of their friends realize they used to be one of the world's best killing teams.

After years of hiding, something stirs. Bodies are vanishing. Demons scurry in the shadows of the night. A child has been possessed. Some enemies aren't willing to let the secrets of the past stay dead...

My Thoughts: Okay, let's get this out of the way right quick: this book is great fun, and you should buy it. I mean it. I'll wait.

If you want to be all needy and get details or whatever, Reine has created a pretty standard urban fantasy world, complete with badass, emotionally damaged heroine and the mentor with which she may or may not have UST, depending upon how you squint at it. It's the way that Reine dances about through this world that makes it special, however. Let's face it, a character who has as many reasons to angst and brood as Elise does probably...won't. Her thought processes are going to be so different from those of a person without trauma that normal human responses won't even occur to her. That's what Reine does with Elise, while at the same time moving the plot along at a breakneck clip, casting wonderful and diverse side characters, and keeping Elise sympathetic even as she's a very strange, often frightening person. Again: buy this book.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CL Raven's Se7en Challenge!

So, a fantastically fun tweeper, Anya Breton, has challenged me to a fun blog game. Here are the rules:

Go to page 7 or 77 of your manuscript or WIP. Go to the 7th line down then copy and paste the next 7 lines into your blog. Then tag 7 other people and ask them to do the same.

From my upcoming book, Fire With Fire, premiering May 9th:

J didn't often get the urge to apologize, but she had a hunch that Christian wouldn't have been nearly as eager for Ophelia's help if he had known who she was bringing with her by proxy.

"Browne," Ophelia mused. Her fingers stilled on the keys, at least for the moment. "Nothing particularly promising at first glance. He grew up poor in a neighborhood like this one, rose to prominence first on an athletic scholarship, then academics after he injured his knee in his second year of college." The man frozen on Ophelia's screen was younger than the one from Browne's office, though he still carried with him the patrician air of money a lot older than one generation. It was amazing how a good haircut changed a man.

AND NOW! I solemnly tag Lenore Wolf, Angela Goff, Kathy Lynn Hall, Chris Smith, C.C. Cole, Tiffany King, and Zoe E. Whitten. Have fun, guys!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In order to build anticipation, apparently, you need to be present.

Which is a completely unfair rule, so consider this my lodged formal protest.

Anyway, I haven't been around much to promote the upcoming release of Fire With Fire mostly because I've been busy getting it ready for said release on May 9th. It's going well; I do not anticipate any problems getting it done with as much as two weeks to spare. I'm a bit of a lunatic Type A, though, so I won't relax until it's ready to go and contingency plans A through H have been notarized. *shrug* I no longer try to fight my basic nature. I've also been wrapping up the first draft of Siren, Naomi's book, which I am frustrated to say has not been going so well. I anticipated Leech being the one to kick my ass the most, since Mindy and I have virtually nothing in common other than that we're both Texan, but that one was a peach. (Leading me to wonder if I have some unpleasant surprises waiting for me once I crack it open to edit, eek.) Ah, well, there's nothing to be done now but push through, knowing that it'll be months before I have to face it again in editing.

Now, in news of the book that's actually coming out in a month rather than the two who are six months and a year out, respectively, I have a date to shoot the cover! April 14th, and the woman who has agreed to be the model (and will also be portraying Naomi on Siren's cover, because she's a wiz at changing her appearance and wants the chance to glue things to her face) is fairly well-known in my area for being an incredible makeup artist in addition to being staggeringly beautiful herself. She has brought so much artistic insight into portraying J's look that I can hardly stand how excited I am. Truly one of those rare kismet situations. In addition to doing the cover reveal over the next two weeks, I'll be posting the first three chapters of Fire With Fire to whet your appetites for the whole thing. Stay tuned, and don't forget that Super is available for $2.99 in the sidebar right now and will be available free as a very special promotion May 9th-13th!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

March Check-In Post

Words Written, Year to Date:



And then Sea Change, the paranormal romance that I bugged everyone on Twitter about for a solid month:



No, really, the first draft came in at exactly 65000 words. A little weird, actually.

As for Fire With Fire, most of my beta readers have checked in, and they've been pretty uniform in their suggestions. I'm one of those weirdos who actually doesn't mind editing; it's kind of like picking at a scab, oddly soothing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

REVIEW: Dead Grid by David C. Waldron


Description: In the wake of a solar event, the likes of which hasn't been seen since 1859 when the height of technology was the telegraph, the northern hemisphere is faced with a new reality...a life without power. The electrical grids of virtually the entire planet have shorted out as a result of expected but completely unplanned for sunspot activity during the peak of the current solar cycle.

Joel Turner and his family, along with a few close trusted friends, have to decide how and even if they can survive in their suburban Nashville neighborhood as things deteriorate within a matter of days with no electricity. Once they decide to strike out on their own, the only question that remains is where? Through the recent prior military service of Eric Tripp, one of the small group to leave the neighborhood, they are allowed to attach themselves to the local National Guard Unit until they decide where they are headed.

With the power out and no communication with higher authority the Guard is on its own, and downtown Nashville is becoming a less safe place to be. The entire Armory, group and all, relocates to Natchez Trace State Park to set up operations for the duration of the crisis…however long that may be.

My Thoughts: Waldron clearly knows his stuff. The plot was strong and interesting (I'm morbid; I love learning of new ways that the world can end), and the research is integrated without becoming overwhelming or show-offy. That being said...

I did not enjoy this one. At all. I was willing to cut it a certain amount of slack at first, because most of the early issues appeared to be line-editing. (I don't begrudge self-published titles for mistakes commonly seen in traditionally published books as well. It's just not fair.) But the deeper we got in, the more I realized...I just didn't like these people. Part of the joy of dystopian fiction is smashing the world to pieces, but I have an issue when the characters themselves appear to be enjoying it. At one point early in the book, a character actually laughs as he slams the door in a pushy neighbor's face. LOL, DON'T YOU GET IT, IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE!!! A real knee-slapper, that one.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On Trayvon Martin

Hey, all:

I don't normally use this blog for political purposes (or political purposes that don't dovetail into self-publishing and/or books, anyway), but this is too big an injustice for me to let to go by without comment. On February 26, 2012, a 17 year-old black youth named Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a Latino neighborhood watch captain. Mother Jones has a pretty good write-up here. While the comments sections of these types of articles can be dangerous spaces, I'm going to cautiously say that it's all right to read this time. There are some smart cookies running around in there explaining why the Stand Your Ground law might not protect Zimmerman here, and that it's certainly cowardly of the state attorney's office to not even try. But here are the pertinent details all the same.

1) Trayvon was unarmed.

2) He was doing nothing more suspicious than walking.

3) Zimmerman, according to his neighbors, had an obsession with crime among young black males and said, "These assholes always get away" when he was speaking to the 911 dispatcher.

4) Trayvon ran away from Zimmerman, and Zimmerman pursued him.

5) Trayvon screamed for help before he was killed.

6) Police officers belonging to a department with a history of racism attempted to pressure a witness at the scene into changing her statement.

7) Regular police procedure in potential homicide cases was not followed.

There's a petition here urging Florida law enforcement to prosecute George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin's death. I highly encourage you to sign it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Paddy's Day Sale, and also a little bit of linkspam.

David Gaughran is hosting a sale of 30 books by 26 authors, all of them reduced to $.99 for this weekend only.

I feel a binge coming on.

And then in other indie-related news, the Department of Justice has given notice to five major publishing houses as well as Apple that they intend to sue them for price-fixing e-books under the agency model. Authors Guild president Scott Turow weighs in here. David Gaughran (you know what, just follow him already, he's a hoopy frood) weighs in here, with JA Konrath and Barry Eisler adding their two cents here. I don't agree with some of the points made (umm, monopolies are bad, mmmkay, and the average person cannot make an Amazon like they can make an ebook), but I think that it's incredibly fascinating that Turow is focusing almost entirely on an emotional argument. Big red flag, y'all. Big, big red flag. In fact, it's almost as big a red flag as Barnes and Noble trying to pull a moral argument out of their asses when they were the ones who put most of the indie bookstores out of business in the first place.

And I'm still stuck on the fact that an organization called The Authors Guild is so desperately shilling for publishers against the average author.

Monday, March 12, 2012

REVIEW: Towards Yesterday by Paul Jones


DESCRIPTION: What would you do if you suddenly found yourself twenty-five years in the past? For the nine-billion people of the year 2042 it's no longer a question ... it is a reality

When a seemingly simple experiment goes disastrously wrong, James Baston finds himself stranded alongside the rest of mankind, twenty-five years in the past. A past where the old are once more young, the dead live and the world has been thrust into chaos.

Contacted by the scientist responsible for the disaster, James is recruited to help avert an even greater catastrophe. Along with a team of scientists, a reincarnated murder victim and a frustrated genius trapped in her six-year old body, James must stop the certain extinction of humanity. But if the deluded leader of the Church of Second Redemption has his way, humanity will disappear into potentiality, and he is willing to do anything to ensure that happens.

A serial killer, a murder victim, a dead priest, and James' lives are all inextricably bound together as they plummet towards an explosive final confrontation, the winner of which will decide the fate of humanity.

My Thoughts: Jones writes one of the most original apocalypses that I've ever read. The kind of devastation that would be wrought by everyone slamming back into their past bodies (and everyone who had been born between those two points just disappearing) would be immense. Nearly unimaginable, frankly, but Jones does a great job of painting a world on the verge of completely unraveling. So good a job that I wanted him to spend a little more time taking the world apart rather than putting it back together, but that could be because I'm a little twisted. The book's four main characters, a scientist-turned-writer, a math genius who is also a murder victim, a priest who committed suicide and then was brought back, and the math genius's killer, are vividly drawn; I couldn't wait for them to collide. (My favorite character, though, is a scientist who gets slammed back into the body of her prepubescent self and is about as happy over it as you can imagine.) The book does drift into a few moments of fridge logic at the end, and the four didn't have quite the screamer that I wanted them to when they finally crossed paths, but Jones's writing is so crisp and evocative that the ride is still well worth it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The results of Super's free day!

Holy crap. So, if you were following me on Twitter yesterday, you might have noticed me acting like something of a dork. Okay, a lot of dork. Super was absolutely free yesterday, and the results were incredible. Almost three hundred of you downloaded copies; over eighty of those copies were downloaded between nine p.m. and midnight, when I stopped promoting. Super got as high as fifteenth place in the Contemporary Fantasy category. For one hour, I was even ranked ahead of Jenny Pox, a book that I have nothing but love for. That's huge, and a pretty good reason for me to stay in the KDP Select program. Now, here's what I'd like to ask of all you guys who downloaded the book: please review. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are my major weak point right now, so if you like what you're reading, please review!

For now, I'm saving my four additional free days for May 9-May 13 to coincide with the release of Fire With Fire. I'm still undecided on staying with KDP Select as a permanent thing as opposed to rotating books in and out to promote new releases (I'm also not sure if my Twitter feed will tolerate me, as I was fairly...aggressive in my promotions yesterday), but this is a promising start. I have nothing but effusive thanks for everyone who retweeted and cheered me on yesterday, I could not have done it without you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fire With Fire release date.

Yes, boils and ghouls, I am setting a hard-and-fast release date for Fire With Fire, the second book in the Super series: May 9th. Firstly, nothing gets me off my butt faster than the prospect of public humiliation. Secondly, this will give me the opportunity to, uh, build suspense rather than throwing a book at the internet, giggling wildly, and running away like I did with Super. (What? I thought formatting was going to be a lot harder than it was!) Then the third book, Leech will come out this summer/early fall, with the fourth book following in early 2013. Don't worry: I'm not Type A enough to set specific release dates that far in advance. (Quite.) The release of Fire With Fire will also come with four days of Super being absolutely free, free, free.

In celebration of this smaller victory, though, I still feel an urge to throw glitter. With that in mind, Super is going to be free on Amazon for one day starting at midnight tonight. Mark your calendars. Or at least your cell phones. I don't know about you, but I am totally absentminded enough to forget about an event within twelve hours.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A bit of this, a bit of that.

Firstly, my February sales for Super held steady in spite of the dreaded mid-winter slump. I'm making gas money, but I'm not selling to friends and family who are contractually obligated to love me at this point, and that is amazing. That is something that I almost doubted would ever happen. (Eh, cynic at heart, what can I say? It means that good news is such a delightful surprise!) I have the fabulous MGShogun on Twitter and the incredible Alejandra Aponte on Wordpress to thank for this. Y'all's enthusiasm is staggering and humbling.

*

In news of the Super series, Fire with Fire is in the middle of its third draft and is still on schedule for an April release, though not April 1 as I had envisioned. I always hate the third draft and have to kick and stomp a bit before I get down to it, as that's when my beta readers take great delight in telling me everything about my baby that is ugly. The final edit, the copy-edit and typo search, is much less aggravating. As far as drafting goes, I cringe to say this, but...I've put Siren, Naomi's book, on hiatus at 38,000 words while I work out some other issues. I wasn't having any fun at all, and it was showing in the writing. Part of it was pressure from the series endgame revving up, part of it was structural issues in the book itself (which I think I have identified), and part of it was pressure from the day job seeping into me, but I was dragging along at about two thousand miserable words a day and calling it lucky to get that much. I've been writing a ridiculous PNR that I outlined in a day since then; it's been delighting me and providing a wonderful mental respite so that I can go back to the Super series with all of the joy that it deserves.

*

In news of the Smashwords censorship scandal, Mark Coker has sent this message out to all Smashwords authors:

"HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Although erotica authors are being targeted, this is an issue that should concern
all indie authors. It affects indies disproportionately because indies are the
ones pushing the boundaries of fiction. Indies are the ones out there publishing
without the (fading) protective patina of a "traditional publisher" to lend them
legitimacy. We indies only have each other.

Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects
women disproportionately. Women write a lot of the erotica, and they're also
the primary consumers of erotica. They're also the primary consumers of mainstream
romance, which could also come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies
were to overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obsenity clauses (I think
this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious consent be okay in
mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If your write paranormal, can your
were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that bestiality? The insanity
needs to stop here. These are not questions an author, publisher or distributor
of legal fiction should have to answer.).

All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial
services companies censoring books. Authors should have the freedom to publish
legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want.

These corporations need to hear from you. Pick up the phone and call them.
Email them. Start petitions. Sign petitions. Blog your opposition to censorship.
Encourage your readers to do the same. Pass the word among your social networks.
Contact your favorite bloggers and encourage them to follow this story. Contact
your local newspaper and offer to let them interview you so they can hear a local
author's perspective on this story of international significance. If you have
connections to mainstream media, encourage them to pick up on the story. Encourage
them to call the credit card companies and pose this simple question, "PayPal
says they're trying to enforce the policies of credit card companies. Why are
you censoring legal fiction?"

Below are links to the companies waiting to hear from you. Click the link and
you'll find their phone numbers, executive names and postal mailing addresses.
Be polite, respectful and professional, and encourage your friends and followers
to do the same. Let them know you want them out of the business of censoring
legal fiction.

Tell the credit card companies you want them to give PayPal permission to sell
your ebooks without censorship or discrimination. Let them know that PayPal's
policies are out of step with the major online ebook retailers who already accept
your books as they are. Address your calls, emails (if you can find the email)
and paper letters (yes paper!) to the executives. Post open letters to them
on your blog, then tweet and Facebook hyperlinks to your letters. Force the
credit card companies to join the discussion about censorship. And yes, express
your feelings and opinions to PayPal as well. Don't scream at them. Ask them
to work on your behalf to protect you and your readers from censorship. Tell
them how their proposed censorship will harm you and your fellow writers.

Visa:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=V+Profile

American Express:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=AXP+Profile

MasterCard:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=MA+Profile

Discover:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=DFS+Profile

Ebay (owns PayPal):
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=ebay+Profile

_________

Starting Sunday, if our email systems can handle it, we will send out an email
to several hundred thousand registered Smashwords members who are opted in to
receive occasional Smashwords service updates. The email will combine Read an
Ebook Week with the censorship call to action. Let's start a little fire, shall
we?

Thank you for your continuing support of Smashwords. With your help, we can
move mountains.

Best wishes,

Mark"

He lays it out much better than I ever could. Even if you're not a Smashwords author, I highly, highly encourage you to contact Paypal, Ebay, and the listed credit card companies and make your voices heard. Ill-defined standards based upon emotion, historically speaking, really don't end well.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

REVIEW: Sleep of the Gods by James Sperl


Description: It had been six long years since Catherine Hayesly’s last vacation. In another few weeks she and her family would finally commence their dream trip of a lifetime. But then came the call. The one her high-ranking military husband, Warren, had warned might someday arrive. With a fateful string of cryptic words, and violating every security protocol, Warren informs Catherine of an impending world-altering event.

With the clock ticking and her mind reeling, Catherine finds herself suddenly thrust into a nightmare of global, apocalyptic proportions. Left to fend for herself and her three children in the wake of Warren’s information, Catherine must abandon any semblance of her former life and commit to the only thing that now matters: survival. But confronting her at every turn is the event itself and the enigmatic origins surrounding it and all that it has wrought.

My Thoughts: The world-building and ultimate big bad of this book is fantastically original. Human instincts are geared towards avoiding the dark and sticking in the light as much as possible; by turning daylight into the enemy, Sperl creates an imaginative and suspenseful dilemma for our heroes. I also loved the idea of a parasitic but sentient life form being the thing that ultimately took out humanity, the parallels to our own effect on the planet were obvious. It also gave the villains some damned chilling lines.

If I sound a bit lukewarm about the book, I have to admit that Catherine herself is my main problem. For a good two-thirds of the story, she's completely insufferable. She's okay with leaving people to certain death, but don't they dare point out they she and her daughters would have been raped to death without them! She spouts lines about tough utilitarianism (an ethos that doesn't particularly bother me, as they can save a few or they can save none in the book's scenario), but then risks the entire group so that her children won't have to witness the death of someone that they cared about, AND she smugly congratulates herself on being so good and warm in helping them. The hypocrisy became more and more grating as the book wore on. I'd still give the book a good 3.5 out of five stars for the supporting cast and for a spectacular and imaginative chase scene through a pile of stacked cars, but Catherine requires a pretty strong stomach.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Smashwords begins to censor its erotica titles.

Further details here.

Selena Kitt also weighs in here. (Following the link embedded in the first article doesn't take you to the correct page.)

I don't think that it's helpful to be pissed at Smashwords, as they are clearly unhappy with the decision. The only online vendor in my memory who has stood up to Paypal making an ultimatum like this is the Dreamwidth journaling service, which has an ideologically unique and dedicated user base that was willing to tolerate a lot of inconvenience while Dreamwidth found a new payment processor. Smashwords can't claim that; users are not going to wait weeks for a $.99 impulse title. And I'm honestly not sure what a good plan of action would even be to deal with this, except to spread the word and get an especial chill at the inclusion of BDSM titles under "rape." While rape, bestiality, and incest are all illegal and immoral in their real-world incarnations, consensual kink is not, but practitioners are still often targeted for persecution.

Anyway. I'll defend to the death your right to say it, then they came for me, I'm sure you can fill in your own cliche at this point.

Edited for my inability to walk away from ANYTHING: It has been pointed out hither, thither, and yon that this is not a First Amendment issue of free speech. This is true; a retailer does not have to carry any products, or businesses entertain any customers, that they do not wish. The First Amendment protects against government interference in free speech under most conditions*. It does not guarantee that your speech is protected from criticism or that you are guaranteed an audience. However, the fact that there is no real legal issue of free speech at work here does not mean that there is no moral one. Acts depicted in fiction, no matter how personally distasteful you might find them, do not do material harm to real world persons. I don't like tapioca pudding. (WHY WOULD YOU EAT SOMETHING THAT LOOKS AT YOU.) Without being able to come up with a rational and verifiable basis for its causing harm, though, I cannot on moral grounds object to it being sold. This is most apparent with the inclusion of BDSM in the list of banned themes. (I'm still waiting for one of the pro-Paypal people to provide a good explanation for this on moral grounds, by the way, or even to address it at all.) Incest, rape, and bestiality practiced in the real world would cause material harm to persons and animals. Though I think that it can be successfully countered, the argument can be made that the portrayal of these acts in a fictional context encourages their real-life practice. Consensual BDSM, however, is neither illegal nor immoral in its real-life context. It is simply, to some, "yucky." Yeah, that's not an impressive ethical or moral stance among grown-ups.

*Stop citing the Miller Test until you know what it means, though. Just stop.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Does it? Or at least, the way you say?

Telegraph UK: the paper book survives yet.

Gracefully, they do admit that the title of "recreational reader" is snobbish. They are correct in stating that making citations, looking for quotations, etc., is much easier in a physical book. Those of you who adapt to new technologies more easily than I will be quick to point out how easily the Kindle, Nook, and their like allows you to make notes and find quotations, but I will counter-argue that most academic writers work by spreading sources around themselves in a quasi-religious halo of productivity. Even the technology-forward and easily-accessible JSTOR articles wind up being printed out. This could, granted, be changing as tablets become more and more available (and colleges start pushing their use as incentives for attending as they do with laptops). However, I've read more classical literature over the past year than I did during the previous ten due to an e-reader, specifically because the classics are out of copyright and thus free or at least very cheap. (I will not begrudge some poor volunteers their three bucks for formatting the entirety of Shakespeare, come on.) I raise an eyebrow at the article's assertion that some literary in-jokes from the days of authors breaking the fourth wall and addressing readers directly being lost, however: give people some credit for being able to understand metaphorical language, please. Paper books aren't going to disappear from the collective consciousness for a long time yet.

What do you think?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Heads up, buttercups.

Passive Voice Blog takes on the latest Authors Guild post.

My personal favorite is the takedown of this statement:

Without it, browsing in a bookstore would become a thing of the past for much of the country, and we would largely lose the most important means for new literary voices to be discovered.

Yes, the thousands upon thousands of people finding money (maybe a little, maybe more) and fulfillment through self-publishing that they almost certainly never would have managed by going through traditional channels, they don't exist, right? I'm imagining 85% of the books on my ereader? Gotcha.

Look, Amazon has no one's best interests at heart but their own. They're an amoral entity in the truest sense of the word, and I don't for a second think that zealotry should overtake common sense in working with them. However, they've done more and for more authors than any other publishing breakthrough in the past fifteen years. Lining up with the monster book chain that actually put more independent book stores out of business than any other against Amazon and pretending it's a moral crusade is a bit silly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

And now for an experiment.

In an effort to avoid the dreaded February/March sales slump that so many have gone through before me, I lowered the price of Super to $.99 here. I've talked about ebook pricing briefly before from the perspective of a reader, but this is my first time experimenting as an author. The price has actually been lowered for about about a week without a big enough hitch in sales to make up for the fact that I'm getting one-sixth of the money per book sold, but that brings me to my next part: I'm taking the plunge and enrolling in KDP Select. I've been reading a lot of blog posts by people both in favor of KDP Select and against it, and I think that I have enough information to cautiously give it a try. And to be quite honest, save for a handful of sales on Smashwords during the first month, every single one of my sales thus far has come from Amazon. All of them. So I've put in my opt-out request on Smashwords and will un-publish there just as soon as they notify all of their various distribution partners. In the meantime, everyone who agreed to review Super has already collected their copy, and I'm not taking it out of my archive altogether. It will still be available to anyone who has already purchased in one form or another to get an additional copy if they need it. If you prefer epub format, just shoot me a line via email (MariStroud@gmail.com), Twitter (MariStroud), or right here on this post and I'd be happy to help. (Actually, I'm still fairly impoverished when it comes to reviews--I had a high number of acceptances when I first made the rounds, but I'm of course at the bottom of all of their TBR ples--so if you're the type who likes to talk about books while getting free stuff, I might cling to you like a baby monkey. But gently.)

So, rawr. *makes grar fingers* The next few posts will get back to business with book reviews for the Apocalypse/Dystopia Challenge, writing check-ins, and a tale of the day I finally snapped and threw out my day planner like the neurotic heroine of a rom-com. (The last being something that everyone should do at least once.)

In the meantime, check out Super for just $.99: costs less than a soda, has no high-fructose corn syrup.