Really real randomness…

So yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “What the hell are you writing now that’s keeping your crazy ass so quiet?” Well I do have a project I’m working on, but this summer, the temperature has NEVER been stable, so I’m having a metric shit ton of fatigue attacks and brain fuzz to fight through. Where I normally bust out a book in three weeks, this one is likely to take me quite a bit longer. It’s also turning into a really big book. I mean, I’m 74K into it, and I’m only now getting around to the introduction of the bad guys. To add to my problems, I’m trying to do this whole series in one go, so when I’m ready to put out book one, I can promise the rest of the books are already done. Not that I think that’s going to help my sales numbers, but at least the few people who start the series will know I won’t leave them hanging.

So the new book is about a vampire princess and an alpha werewolf. It’s a lesbian couple, by the by. I wanted to do a story with real lesbians, since most of my stories where the women have sex, they end up being bi. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I realized I still had no L in my GLBT writings, and I thought, “I should fix that.”) I wanted this to be all dark and horror-y, and that’s not working out so well. I’m not really complaining, because I like the story. It’s just, I expected there to be more blood and bad guys, and instead, I’m getting Romeo and Juliet mixed with some romantic paranormal comedy. I even managed to turn a gory scene in a school restroom into something humorous, and I wasn’t even trying. I blame these damn teenage characters, always being so irreverent and stuff.

In reading news, I’m working my way through Brenna Yovanoff’s new book, Fiendish, which is awesome. I’m also reading Like No Other from Una LaMarche, but may very well skip the review and just go with a rating on Goodreads because this book is stroking my anti-religious buttons in all the wrong ways. The writing is good, and the story is too. But several of the characters have me thinking bad, bad things because of their views of women as breeding cattle with no rights. So…yeah, it’s probably best just to rate this one and walk away. Continue reading

About that Amazon letter…

Lots of authors have weighed in on this topic recently, so you might already know that Amazon sent all of us indie authors publishing through KDP an email asking us to write to Hachette and ask them to resolve this pricing dispute. I have to say, I don’t get why Amazon would ask me for my help on this when it’s none of my business. I’m not a Hachette author, and I can’t even recall the last time I bought one of their books. I absolutely do not care what they want to charge for their books.

You know what I do care about? I care about having the freedom to price my books however I want. I have a fan-fic book I’d love to give away for free on Amazon as a sort of loss leader like the big publishers get to do. But Amazon doesn’t let me do that. Kobo will let me give a book away for free. Gumroad will too. But Amazon will only grant me a few days for free as a promotion, and only if I agree to give them exclusive rights to sell my book. I don’t really like that deal, but Amazon is not open to talking to me about pricing because I’m not a big publisher. I’m just a little indie, and Amazon’s able to force me to agree to most of their terms. So, since I don’t want to give them exclusive rights, I don’t get to give books away for free. I don’t get to use Amazon’s shiny new Kindle Unlimited service. In several markets, I only get 35% royalties because I won’t work exclusively with Amazon. I don’t think any of that is fair, but Amazon is where I get most of my sales from, so I have to take whatever terms they give me and grin and bear it.

When it comes to pricing, I’m only allowed to offer what Amazon will allow me. So I can’t sell a book for 49 cents like I used to. If I wanted to sell a book for 99 cents, I’d have to accept a 35% royalty on all sales instead of just a few select markets. So what Amazon is really asking me is, “Please tell Hachette to take the same crap deal we’re giving you.” Uh, and what’s my incentive to do this?

What this is starting to remind me of is a pair of divorcing parents who both want their kids to get in the fight with them. Mommy Amazon doesn’t like that Daddy Hachette still won’t give in to her demands, so now it’s time to bring the kids in and make them repeat her demands. Well with all due respect, no, Mommy Amazon, I’m not going to do your job for you. I was never your favorite kid to begin with, and you’re not exactly doing me any favors with your constant demands that I be exclusively loyal to you. I do wish you and Daddy Hachette would come to some kind of resolution and stop all this useless bickering, because I hear a LOT of people talking about boycotting Amazon, and that could be very bad for me. So please, kiss and make up, or get the divorce over with and stop making your dirty laundry public. You’re just embarrassing yourselves at this point.

Book review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

My feelings for Isabel Culpepper and Cole St. Clair’s relationship in both the previous books, Linger and Forever, was that I didn’t feel anything for them. However, in the finale of Forever, Isabel finally realized she needed to stop telling other people that they had to do something, and she needed to grow up and do something herself, which ultimately saved everyone from mass execution. So it was thinking on this change that I hoped Sinner would show a slightly more mature Isabel reuniting with a slightly less obnoxious Cole St. Clair.

But no, I only got half a wish granted. Or more like a quarter of a wish.

Sinner is about Cole coming to L.A. to reunite with Isabel, and since he kind of needs a job to afford living there, he agrees to do a web-based reality show with a woman famous for filming celebrity train wrecks in which he will make his return album. I kind of knew the tone and direction this story would take when, after finding out that Cole had a job, Isabel stomped off because darn it, he wasn’t really there just to worship her.

So this is the story of how a spoiled brat and a reformed drug addict crash into each other. And just as in previous books, I feel nothing for their relationship. Continue reading

Book review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The first Helen Oyeyemi book I read, White is for Witching, the blurb lied and I could forgive it because the story about a predatory house would be hard to sum up. This second time with Boy, Snow, Bird, the blurb lied and I not only can’t forgive it, the more I read past the point of revelation that the blurb was a lie, the more I hated everything about this story. I had already found my dislike of the main character, Boy Novak to be near disgust. But then…

Let me quote the blurb. “When Bird is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow, and Bird are broken apart.”

No. Not even fucking close to the truth. Continue reading

Right, about that sales report…

As Nobody Special was published June 12, I ideally wanted to make a sales report of all four new releases following a full thirty days with the last book on the market. Well the muse came along and distracted me with a story, and then I finally got my season box sets of Teen Wolf. (All three boxes damaged, no less. But hey, the discs work, so I’ll let the mailman live.) I’m also working my way through three books, playing my way slowly through Transformers: War for Cybertron, and still trying to decide how I feel about Battleblock Theater for its review. What I’m saying is, I’ve gotten slightly distracted, and blogging a few random numbers keeps slipping my mind.

But so here we go…
Third Wheel Romance Blues: 4 sales
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: 18 sales
Adventures In Trolling: 6 sales
Nobody Special: 4 sales

If there’s a lesson learned here, it’s that I clearly have no business writing stuff outside of fantasy. Although that lesson is kind of ruined by the performance of the Tobe White books, I guess. The thing is, I spent the same amount of time promoting all of these books when they came out. I don’t know why Alice’s book got the extra boost in sales that it did. Maybe it was the people who’d read Peter the Wolf coming back to check on Alice. Maybe the blurb for Alice’s story was just better or more compelling.

I did get a good review on Nobody Special that called it mainstream, and that made me feel like I’d done a good job of telling the story I wanted to without getting preachy on any topic. Maybe in the future when I figure out how to write a bestseller, the long tail will bring more readers for the contemporary fiction books.

Anywho, that’s the sales report. Pretty crappy if I were a pro, but not bad for a nobody.

About that new story…it’s a lesbian romance that’s flirting with being dark fantasy or YA horror. The main characters are a vampire and a werewolf, and the fun part so far has been the contrasts between their perspective. The vampire is obviously a monster from the opening chapter, but the werewolf only gives subtle hints at first that she isn’t human. I like this, and I’m curious when the muse is going to let the fur fly and reveal the werewolf’s darker side to balance out the vampire’s creepiness.

There’s also soccer in this one. I guess I feel like maybe the jocks should get a chance to be something besides the de facto bullies all the time.

So, that’s it for now. I expect I’ll have new book and game reviews up soonish. But I’m now committed to a release vacation until at least the start of fall. I’m using this time to update some previous releases and fix typos with the help of a kind reader who’s been sending me mistakes during an impressive binge read of my titles. I’m also going through those books to look for anything else that sticks out, and between this and the writing, I just don’t have the energy to handle new releases or the promotions they require.

As always, thanks for reading my stuff. I’ll hopefully have something new for you soon, at least here on the blog, that is.

Book review: Roses White, Roses Red by Leigh Wilder

Roses White, Roses Red is a really short story, so short that I almost feel guilty calling this a book review. But what the hell, it’s an ebook no matter how short the story, so here we go. Oh, and this is going to be a really short review because I don’t want to give too much away, or no more so than you’re likely to see in the blurb.

It’s inspired by a fairy tales, which are also usually just as short. This one tells the story of Reynard, a young man who lost his mother at a very early age and lives in a cottage in the woods with only his father for company until his father also dies when Raynard is twenty-one. Loneliness weighs down on him until one night when in a fit of cabin fever, he wanders out in the snow and finds a strange bear with blue eyes, a bear who strangely transforms into a man every night at the stroke of midnight.

I can’t really explain any further without spoiling the story, so I’ll just stop there and say that I liked this tale. It’s just enough information to make Reynard a relatable person before it winds up to the ending and the explanation for Bear’s transformations. Oh, and there’s also enough time for a gay sex scene, which was also rather good.

So, I give Roses White, Roses Red 4 stars and recommend it to fans of gay romance, dark fantasy, or both.

Game review: Child of Light for PS Vita

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh God, another video game review from Zoe. I wonder how much she hated this game.” Well in the somewhat less than immortal words of Hatty Hattington, hold onto your butts, because for once I actually liked a game. YES. Shocking as it may seem, Child of Light is for me a highly entertaining and addicting game, and I say this because after starting it on Friday night, I played for something close to 36 hours straight with no sleep and only a few breaks for food. Then after sleeping to recharge, I went right back in for another 14 hour romp to the ending. And unlike most games that I binge play in one sitting (because I hate them and want to get done with them), I really loved every battle and puzzle in this pretty world.

It’s not a total love affair, so I can’t give this a perfect score. I had issues with the writing (big shock, I know) and the story, and I saw the ending coming from the opening scene and still hated it. But before I get to any of that negativity, let me talk about all the stuff I did like. That’s going to be a longer list than usual.

For starters, there’s the story putting a young girl in the protagonist’s spotlight, a welcome change of pace from all the growly-voiced middle-aged white psychopaths that usually take the top spot. (And yes, I mean psychopath. When you murder a thousand people to accomplish any goal and never consider any solution besides violence, you’re a psychopath no matter what side of the law you pretend to be on.) Aurora’s story intro is a bit of Snow White and Harry Potter, as her father marries a wicked queen to replace his deceased wife. (Though how he didn’t notice the obvious evilosity of his new wife eludes me. (Yes, evilosity is totally a real word.)) Soon after the new queen moves in, Aurora seemingly dies and ends up awake on an altar far from her familiar home. Here she learns that she’s no ordinary girl, and she has a special destiny to fulfill. Her quest to return home takes her through the villages of several fantastic peoples, and along the way she is asked to help with their plights. Each of these missions ends up bringing her another party member to help her in her fights, and each of these companions have their own unique skill sets. Continue reading

Book review: Satan’s Sword by Debra Dunbar

I’d read A Demon Bound back in March and enjoyed getting to know Sam and her friends and frenemies, so that helped push the second book in the series up in my TBR pile. Coming into Satan’s Sword, I was happy to see that the werewolf Candy would be returning, and to find out that this story would forgo the usual “choose one” romantic triangle in favor for a much more accommodating “fuck ‘em both” approach. (Take that, heteronormativity!) Sam’s imp character is just as wicked this time around, and some of her rambling moments are hilarious just like the first book. At one point, she turns a normally placid and emotionally reserved vampire into a bellowing cauldron of rage over…Doritos. It was glorious, really.

There’s a lot going on in this story, with Sam being asked by her brother Dar to fetch a demonic artifact from vampires, with each and every meeting leading to another wild goose chase. At the same time, Sam’s slum lord act is bringing with it duties she didn’t want when the squatting tenants begin demanding that she protect them from a killer who likes taking ears as trophies. She’s still having drama with the angel Gregory, who half the time can’t seem to decide whether he wants to kill or fuck Sam. Oh, and back in Hel, some very high-level demons are requesting that she come home for exclusive breeding contracts, demons so high-level, it’s hard to believe they’d want a “lowly imp.”

With 5 other books in this series and more probably coming soon, it may be too early to be guessing like this, but I get the feeling Sam isn’t as low level as she thinks she is. Is she a reincarnated higher demon now inhabiting a younger body? Or have her many years of energy collection on Earth given her an elevated power level without her realizing how strong she is? I can’t say for certain, but I do know that Sam isn’t all that she claims to be. Demons do tend to lie, but I wonder if maybe she’s somehow even lying to herself. There have been some clues that she’s more powerful than she gives herself credit for. In this book, for instance, she demonstrates perfect control in shapeshifting to other identities she’s Owned in the past, and both demons and vampires repeat something Gregory said in the first book, that Sam doesn’t leak energy like most demons do. That seems to suggest that she’s not just a lowly imp. Continue reading

Nobody Special got a review…

Yes! Though Nobody Special only managed to make four sales in the first month, it still got one review, and the reviewer felt that it may be one of my more mainstream stories. Which I’d say is a good thing even if it makes me feel a little weird. Like “I wrote mainstream? What’s wrong with me?”

Anyway, check out the review on Frodo’s Blog of Randomness. I want to thank Eric for buying and reviewing the book, and I’m thrilled that he enjoyed it.

This is a really short post, isn’t it? Well then, in other news, the muse has convinced me to start a new paranormal romance called Anna and Iris. It will be the first time I’m writing about a “true lesbian” romance, as most of my stories featuring women in love are about bisexuals. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it means I still have a gap in my coverage of the GLBT spectrum. Time to fix that. So this story is about a werewolf falling in love with a vampire princess. There will also be a lot of soccer involved. Should be fun.

I guess that’s about it for now. I should have some new reviews up in the next few days. I know I haven’t done a sales report recently, but I’m waiting until the end of opening months for Nobody Special to report on all four new releases at the same time. As always, thanks for reading my stuff.

Erasing abuse…

This is a post I debated most of the day about writing after reading this blog entry from Jim C. Hines about Marion Zimmer Bradley and her abuse of her daughter and defense of Walter Breen, her husband who was a pedophile. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to drag this topic back out because I feel like I’ve beaten it to death in past posts. But there’s part of that post that speaks about people willing to defend abusers if they’re famous writers, and that raises in me a need to address the point and expand upon it. Because as we’ve seen with the Steubenville rape case and with the case of Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, it’s not just writers who can be given this kind of treatment. All someone needs is a little power or authority and suddenly people who claim to hate child abuse will begin to question the victims, or when that is not possible, to defend the abuser.

I’m reluctant to bring this back up not because I’m polishing my image lately, but because there are people who have written to me and told me never to talk about this. It’s apparently embarrassing to them that I should talk about things that fill me with regret and guilt. But the thing is, I cannot ever let this go and act like I’m Saint Zoe. For a long time, I had a problem taking the compliment, “You’re a good person,” because deep down I knew I would never be worthy of that praise. It doesn’t matter to me how many good deeds I do, or how much money I give to charities. It doesn’t matter that I suffered sexual and physical abuse starting from a very early age. All that matters is, I ended up being an abusive person. I’ve cleaned myself up now, and I never let myself forget how easy it is to slip into old mental traps that might excuse my past. I don’t go into them.

The thing I’ve noticed is how much people want to make abuse go away so they don’t have to talk about it or think about it. Abuse victims are encouraged to not talk about this stuff because it’s so upsetting to other people. Abusers who reform and feel regret are told not to talk about it either because that’s supposedly normalizing deviant behavior. Both the reformed abusers and the victims could teach the general public how to recognize the warning signs that someone else was being preyed upon, but the general public has never wanted that education or that responsibility. “Am I my brother’s keeper” are just empty words even to the most devout people. We keep our heads down to avoid reality as much as possible, and when someone asks us to look up and see the danger signs that a predator is among us, we tell the person warning us not to make trouble. Continue reading