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Saturday, September 29, 2012

RIP Figaro & Delaney

Sometimes my worst fears come true. Like that time that I had a nightmare that Inception didn't come with audio commentary by Christopher Nolan, and then when it came out, it didn't have audio commentary. (The dream entailed me looking at the DVD, becoming enraged, putting it in, and then scrolling the Special Features menu and swearing with a Hans Zimmer playing.)

One thing I have legitimately been afraid is cleaning a fish tank. Not because it's scary, but because one time, my friend had these goldfish named Kyle & Steve, and I liked them a lot. She had them for a couple years, and then the last time she cleaned their fish tank, they got really sick and died. And every since then, I've been terrified of owning fish, because they're tricky and they can die if the water is the wrong tempature or has too much chlorine or the pH is off or just something is off and you don't even know what it is, and then you can't do anything.

But I got goldfish in May of last year, because I really like goldfish. Their names were Figaro & Delaney.

Here's a video I made the day I got them:

They ended moving into a different tank shortly after that, because that one was too small. But they quickly outgrew the second tank too, and then they moved into their third tank about six months ago.

On Thursday, I cleaned their tank. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but I definitely did something, because within an hour they were both acting funny. I tried many different things to save them, but they both died with 12 hours of me cleaning the tank.

So RIP Delaney & Figaro. You were very cute, and I enjoyed your company, and how excited you got when I fed you.
 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Good News & Horrible News

I have good news and horrible news you guys. First the good news: I updated my FAQs and the Watersong page. Now the horrible news: I saw the cover for Tidal (the third book in the Watersong series), and it's the most amazing cover. When I showed it to my mom, this was her reaction:


My mom has never used the phrase "OMG" before.

So you may be asking yourself, if this cover is so awesome, how is this horrible news? Because I can't show you yet. I want to show the whole world, but I still have to wait a little bit.

But if you have even tepid feelings about Wake, trust me when I say that you'll dig this cover so hard. Tidal is also one of my favorite books ever to write (probably tied with Ascend or Torn). (Not that I didn't enjoy Wake or Lullaby - because I did, but Tidal was just extra fun.)

When I write serieses (is that plural for series? is there a plural for series), I tend to think of them as steps. The first book in the series is the bottom level, but each book needs to progessively take a step up, amping up action, romance, and danger.

I also use the "horror movie rule" when I write. That means that the body count needs to be higher for each book. Or if not higher, then at least more powerful. (If I kill 2 minor characters in the first book, I need to kill 3 minor characters in the third book, or at least one important character.)

So Wake is setting things up, introducing characters, revealing the danger, and asking questions. Out of the four books in the Watersong quartet, Wake is definitely the slowest. A big part of that is because I had to introduce six main characters - Gemma, Harper, Alex, Daniel, Penn, and Thea - as well as several side characters, like Lexi, Marcy, Brian, Nathalie, and Bernie. I wanted to really take my time and establish who they are and what drives them, so when their motivations and integrity are challenged in later books, it makes more sense.

In the first book, I really focus on Gemma, Harper, Alex, and Daniel. I especially wanted to establish the romance between Gemma and Alex. But in the second book, since I've really set up the principals, I get to dive more into Penn and Thea, and deepen the relationships between all the characters, and delve further into the mythology behind the series.

With Wake, I wanted to keep the mythology as clean and simple as possible. The mythos behind Watersong is based on Greek mythology, which is so rich and epic, it's easy to want to include too much and make things more complicated and harder to understand. So for the first book, I definitely wanted to keep it on a need-to-know basis.

I actually originally had more, with the characters really explaining their ancestry and getting into it, but when Eric (my assistant/best friend/alpha reader) read through it, he found it hard to keep straight all of the names and characters. He was right, so I cut it down and streamlined the history.

But as the series continues, I get to incorporate more aspects of the mythology and explore more of what is behind the series. Some of my favorite characters and stories from Greek mythology get to make their way into the series.

What I think made Tidal so much fun for me to write is that I got to add more layers of the mythology, but also the romance gets hotter - and more complicated. Some of the peripheral characters really come into their own, and the stakes really get high. Plus, I think it has an ending that you won't see coming.

One thing about Wake is that it may seem like there are lot of coincidences in it - that things just happen. I don't believe that much in coincidence, so I don't use that much of it in Watersong.

I'm writing Elegy (the fourth book) currently, and it's really fun to write. My favorite part about writing the final books in a series is that I get to put all the pieces together. Things from the previous three books - some that were obviously important, and others seemed insignificant - and put them all together to make a picture.

Really, that's my favorite thing to do, and I think it's something that I did well with all the books in the Watersong. I like showing you the picture at the end. The first 3/4 of the book are filled with things to set up a fast-paced and climactic last quarter.


I really like making collages, and I've always compared my writing to style that. I like taking bits and parts of the beginning of the book and putting them together to make the picture at the end.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Scandalous

Several people have asked for my opinion about the whole "fake review" scandals that are buzzing around lately. So I decided that I'd share my thoughts on it, and you can make of it what you will.


If you're unfamiliar about what I'm referring to, it's really two separate things. There's authors paying for reviews of their books (John Locke being one of the more prominent names thrown about), and then there's RJ Ellory and faking reviews on Amazon. (Here's a link about paid reviews: here, and here's a link about the Ellory scandel: here

They're really two separate issues, so I'll start with the paying for reviews. I have personally never paid for a review, and as far as I know, none of the authors I associate with have paid for reviews either.

I have and continue to send out Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of books for review. If you're unfamiliar what an ARC is, it's an uncorrected proof of a book usually sent out before it's release so reviews and buzz will be ready at the time of a publication. (If you're still curious, here's a link to The Story Siren where she really breaks down what is an ARC is: here.)

When self-publishing, I pay for the production of ARCs myself, and with a publisher, they pay for them, but that kinda comes out of my royalties. Well, not literally, but ARCs are part of the reason why my royalty rate is what it is and not like 90%.

Anyway, I do send out ARCs, and most of the time, the reviewer has a disclaimer that say they did receive the book as an ARC.

There is a difference in paying a reviewer and sending out an ARC, though. When you write a review based on an ARC, you're payment for the review was the book itself, so if you think it's a crappy book, then it was kind of a crappy payment. So you're more likely to be honest, because you're not really losing anything. (And I have gotten negative reviews on ARCs, and that's as it should be).

But when you get paid to write a review, it makes it harder. I try to think of myself as an honest person, but if I pay you $50 to write something about my book, and you give me a scathing 1-star review, I'm probably not going come back to you and have you write another review. Not out of anger, but because I don't see the point. If you hated the first book, you'll probably hate the second one, and why would I pay $50 for that? So then you're out of a job.

To keep me coming back, you'd have to write at least a 3-star review, and for some authors, it'd probably have to be a 4 or 5-star review to get repeat business. So to play it safe, and keep yourself working, most of your reviews would probably have to be 4 or 5 star.

Also, as I said earlier, I've never paid for a review, and I know of many other authors who have never paid for reviews and are doing well. So even from an objective marketing plan, I don't really think it's worth it. It's more time consuming, but I think it's better to give out ARCs and build a relationship with readers. People who genuinely love your books will do much more for them than people who are paid to love them.


I do think that "paid review services" will be far more likely to hurt writers than readers, though. Readers are generally pretty good at figuring out what they'll like and what they won't, and readers usually by books based on the recommendations of friends or people they know. Readers tend to be a savvy bunch.

But newbie writers, who just want to get their foot in the door, and think they have a good book and are pulling their hair out to get noticed, they'll see it and think, "I just need to get a few good reviews so people will take a chance on me, and I'll get picked up by Amazon algorithms. If I can pay for 5 reviews, and get my name out just a little, then my book will pick up and it'll take off from them there."

The sad truth is that, sorry, probably not. It may work for some, yes, but the fact remains that only a few books become best-sellers. Every book cannot be a best-seller. That's just a fact. And many other newbie authors out there are paying for the same paid-review service you are, becoming the same white noise you are. So you're shelling out $50, $100, even $1000 or more for reviews that aren't going to generate enough sales to earn back what you paid for the reviews themselves. (I'm not going to go into my suggestions for marketing, because that's much too long for me to get into here. But maybe I will another day.)

Also, I never trust a book that only has 5-star reviews. If I see a book that has like ten 5-star reviews, and that's it, I assume all the reviews are fake. (No matter how great a book is, somebody hates it.) So then I'm annoyed that someone is faking things, and I won't buy the book.

So what I'm saying is that in the end, paid reviews might work for a few people, but it won't work for most. And if you're exposed as paying for reviews, you can turn off readers and lose fans forever. I don't think it's worth the cost or the risk, and I don't think it's honest, no matter how hard the paid-reviewers try to be honest.

That brings me to the RJ Ellory thing. While paid reviews could be construed as fraud, what RJ Ellory did and sock puppets do is malicious. From the article on the link: "Ellory writes 5-star reviews of his own work on Amazon. Long, purple tributes to his own magnificent genius," Duns tweeted. "RJ Ellory also writes shoddy, sh***y sniping reviews of others authors' work on Amazon, under an assumed identity." 

Here's my thoughts on that: NEVER EVER EVER DO THAT.

It is NEVER okay. If you hate a book, that's fine. You can even talk about how much hate a book. Write as many reviews as you want. But write them UNDER YOUR NAME. If you are unwilling to publicly say it with your picture next to it, then don't publicly say it at all.

And the fact that an established, critically acclaimed author would write reviews of his own book like that? It's gross. That's the only way I can describe it. The first thing I said when I read the article was, "Gross."

Ellory isn't the first person to do it. I don't track it as closely as some of my other author friends, but I know they keep tabs and have lists compiled of various sock puppets. But what irritates me the most about Ellory is because he should know better. He's been at this long enough that he should know what he's doing is wrong and cruel and pointless. 

Here's the thing, people. If you do these things, and you have any amount of notoriety to your name and books (which I assume is what your goal is when writing fake reviews), someone WILL find out. You will be exposed, and people will publicly call you a jackass and boycott you.

And it's a total waste of time and energy. I'd rather be working on my own books than talking about how shitty I think someone else's book is. What a waste of energy and emotion. Seriously. I have absolutely no time for bitterness or jealousy or entitlement. It's just a total waste of life.

So in conclusion: Fake reviews aren't good for writers or readers. If you want to sell more books, write more books and interact with readers.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bloggy Blog Title

When did writing blogs become so hard? I think it was when I became aware that people were actually reading them. Pro-tip: Writing is much easier when you don't think anybody will ever see what you write. Words just comes out, and who cares what they say as long as they were fun to make?

Anyway, before I forget, all the winners for the Under the Seapalooza have been chosen, and emails have been sent out to notify the winners. So please check your emails. We've sent out some of the prizes, but some we're still in the process of getting together, and there's several that we haven't heard back from the winners yet. Ideally, I'd like to have everything out by the end of the week, so I need the addresses to make that happen.

Now back onto what will most likely be a slightly rambling post, but I don't care.

Oh! Good news! The first chapter for Lullaby is up now. It is a bit spoiler-y if you haven't read Wake yet, but if you have, there's a link for the excerpt: here. And just as a reminder, Lullaby will be out November 27, 2012.

I haven't blogged about The Dark Knight Rises yet, but I will. Just not right now. I feel like I should a little more focused on topics like myself and books and what not.

So the book tour was fun. It was neat meeting people, but I need to work on some kind of witty tag to sign books with. Right now, it's usually, "Thanks" or "Thank you," and while neither of those are bad, they're not that much fun.

Today is my first official day back to "work." After the tour, I took a week off to reorient myself with real life. And also catch up on sleep. Mostly sleep.

I just accidentally took a drink form a can of Red Bull that had to bee sitting on my desk for a month, at least. And it smelled like nail polish remover. And my office is infested with spiders, so there's probably a dead spider floating around in it somewhere. I'm going to die soon.

That seems like a good place to end the blog. With my death imminent. So with that, I will bid you all good day.