What's in that free book?

I'm traveling for the holidays, so I loaded up my phone with e-books--mostly authors I know (Lindsay Buroker!) but also some free books from writers I don't know.

I finished the first one last night, boy did it make me wish I'd never started. The plot was basically Weepy Girl and the People Who Scream at Her, and at the conclusion, Weepy Girl, after losing everything that ever mattered to her (and weeping about it), dies. Weepily.

The End.

Wow, that really . . . does not motivate me to shell out actual money for the next book.

Now, the book was science fiction, so maybe Weepy Girl's not really dead and there's some kind of exciting sci-fi twist in the next book, but since I'm unhappy about having spent my time and energy on the first book, it's not like I'm going to bother finding out. If the author's other books are like the free book, I don't want to read them. Ever. If (as I kind of suspect) the author half-assed their free book because they saw it as just a teaser for their "real" books--well, that's obviously not much of a marketing strategy, is it?

I've also seen free books that are basically jacket copy for the actual book--the free book is very short and very basic, and it doesn't really give you anything more than a description would. ("Zombie Deer Hunter, Book 1. Fred is a deer hunter--but the deers he hunts are zombies!!! Also, he may have the hots for the mysterious doe-eyed priestess who provides him with special zombie-killing buckshot. The End. Follow these links to buy Zombie Deer Hunter, Books 2-347!")

I mean, I can see how writers convince themselves that it's OK to not bring your A game to a freebie--you can't possibly give away all your hard work, you want to be paid for your time, you're worth more than this, etc.

But you know the freebie that made me instantly shell out for the entire series? The first book of Hugh Howey's Wool.

You absolutely cannot argue that Howey did not bring his A game to that book--it's excellent all on its own.

(I'm gonna get spoilery about Wool here--be warned!)

Ironically, Howey did the same thing in that book that the author of that Weepy Girl book--the main character dies at the end. But it happens in such an unexpected way (unlike Weepy Girl, who dies exactly the way she'd been weepily expecting), and the book is so well written that I just had to read the rest.

And hey, that Lindsay Buroker! The first book of her Emporer's Edge series is a freebie, and while you could argue that it's not her finest novel, it's definitely complete--she wrote it as a novel, not as some marketing teaser to the "real" story. The same thing is true of the short stories she gives away or sells for very little money: They're actual stories that work on their own and add to the EE universe, not just "Click on these links if you'd like to receive some actual satisfaction from your reading!"

Like they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you waste my time with some crappy hack copy in your free book, why on Earth would I assume that you've got anything else in you?

Some things resolve nicely, others do not

As you can tell, writing has had to go on the back burner again--just a bunch of stuff going kaflooey all at once. The good news is that I have my car again, and it seems to be fine! The bad news is that spring is going to be really busy, so it may be a while before I can finish off the YA novel and start in again on Trials.

Anyway, I've been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Netflix. (I tried watching it when it was broadcast, but I just couldn't swing it--I've gotten really spoiled. And it was so much better on Netflix.) I finished the first season, and it reminded me of something that I've always really appreciated about Joss Whedon: HE ACTUALLY FINISHES HIS STORIES.

I mean, I'm going to try to not be spoilerly here, but there's this big plot arc and a lot of character arcs and a supervillain, and by the end of the first season, it's all wrapped up. It's done. Sure, they've set up the next season, but it's pretty much just, "Now that this is over, you'll have to go do the next big thing!" not some huge mass of quasi-nonsensical cliffhangers.

I've obviously been having a lot of frustrating story experiences lately because that struck me as damned near a miracle.

I know Whedon's attitude has always been to wrap up each season individually, because you never know when you might get canceled (you can tell he grew up in a television-industry family). It's just so nice to see--so nice to get a proper resolution for once. And honestly, it's a major reason why I seek out his stuff--I trust him to actually end things in a satisfying way. I don't make the same effort for the gazillion writers who try to jerk me around with cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger.

Progress report

Some family-related stuff has come up, and it looks like Christmas-to-spring is going to be pretty hellish for me. Hopefully it's one of these big-push type things that, once it's done, will mean less time-consuming and stressful lurching from crisis to crisis, but it's still going to be a bear.

So, I figured I'd better get on the ball if I want to finish the first draft of the YA novel by the end of the year, and today I wrote 2,800 words!


Today I was putting what will hopefully be the final touches on the paperwork to list the old house, and . . . DUN DUN DUNNNNNHHH!!! . . . I started working on the YA novel again! Yay!

I went over the first eleven chapters before hitting the wall (there are 16)--sometimes its nice to have a break because then when you go back to the book, you don't remember what you did and are actually surprised by the things intended to surprise the reader! The early chapters are definitely more polished than the latter (nice to know that previous edits haven't been in vain), and I may start a little earlier in the book tomorrow so that my mind is fresher with the rougher chapters.

Yay! I'm working again!

What's been going on

So, the evening before Halloween I went to run an errand at the grocery store, and this extremely intelligent and well-adjusted individual ran the light (or, as the police like to say, "failed to yield on a left turn"), hit another car, and then hit mine.

That's been a lot of not-fun. Everyone walked away (except my car, which had to be towed), and the police issued the fellow responsible a citation. Of course, he had a really funny story to tell the insurance about how me and the other car plotted together to simultaneously run a red light. That we were stopped at. Because we're wacky! But a copy of the police report helped "clarify" matters. Anyway, I'm glad the dude didn't flee the scene, but I kind of suspect now that that was because I quite obviously started to memorize his license plate before I moved my car out of his way.

The main thing is that right now my neck is still kind of wonky (yes, I feel like Stereotypical Insurance Fraudster saying that, but it's true), and it's hard to work at the computer for substantial lengths of time. That seems to be getting better, albeit slowly, and I kind of have my fingers crossed for actually writing tomorrow...? Hopefully?

Further-non-progress report

Well, there's progress on the house front--it's painted! Wonders never cease! Of course, this being the old house, the very act of painting uncovered a couple of things that need to get fixed ASAP, so that's what I'll be doing today. I have an appointment with the carpet people for Tuesday--that may take a few weeks just because of the time it takes for the carpet to get ordered, but it shouldn't require a ton of active management on my part.

On the other hand, I've really been neglecting the place, so the yard is beginning to get that abandoned look. I'm living in a better environment now, so I've lost my tolerance and everything about that place enrages me--the across-the-street pervert who gets into his truck and watches me whenever I work in the front yard, the tire tracks the drunk fucks who live there regularly leave in the lawn--but I know it will just get worse if I don't keep the place relatively tidy. So I just need to suck up and do some yard work there--not that the weather is cooperating (grinds teeth audibly).

Anyway, I guess my point is that I'll be somewhat occupied with getting the house ready to sell, but I feel like it shouldn't take up THAT much time, so hopefully now that my killer sinus/ear infection has cleared up, I can actually write again soon. Fingers crossed, anyway--a girl can dream.

Non-progress report

One of the reasons I got a flu shot this week was that I could tell I was getting a sinus infection, so I figured I'd have all my illnesses at once. And it's worked brilliantly--I'm a total mess. It's bumming me out because everything else has settled down more or less, but the painting and related fixing-up and finally putting-on-the-market of the old house is coming up soon...uuugh.

OK--I'm going to try to set a realistic goal here: I'm hoping to have the first draft of the fantasy novel done by Christmas. There we go.

Some of this is interesting, and some of this is dumb

The Wall Street Journal has an article on the Author's Guild meeting with the Department of Justice about how Amazon is a big, evil monopoly that should be burned at the stake.

I've done a number of posts about how Amazon is not in fact a monopoly, and I've done other posts on how the Author's Guild is comically useless. I'm not seeing anything here to change my mind about either topic (which also explains why I don't do much industry posting any more)--I mean, it's only been two years since the DOJ ignored the Author's Guild and successfully sued publishers, and the Author's Guild is already running back to them with the exact same argument? Really? I bet the DOJ had a good laugh about that one.

Anyway, what really interested me in the article was some numbers on Amazon's market share, done via a survey of book buyers, not book publishers:

Amazon had 40% of the new book market, 62% of all print books sold online, and 64% of the e-book market, according to a June 2014 online survey by researcher Codex-Group LLC, based on a survey of 3,672 adults who purchased books in the prior month.

The e-book percentage was lower than I thought it would be, although it is in line with the publisher figures the Author's Guild regurgitated two years ago. So, yeah, Amazon's choke-hold on the industry resulted in them . . . not really increasing their market share at all over the past two years. OK.

And just FYI, a similar survey of customers who bought digital music found that roughly 80% use a single retailer, namely iTunes. This is why the Amazon-is-a-monopoly argument just isn't going to fly--it's not about market share. There needs to be anticompetitive behavior, and it's just not there.

The whole Hachette dramarama is nothing more than a standard-issue conflict between a supplier and a retailer, just like the Macmillan one was. It's just that there's a lot of people out there who don't understand business very well and are willing to act as Hachette's unpaid publicity agents.

Oh, look, training wheels

This week is turning into such a lost cause that I got a flu shot today--I mean, why not? Stuff is getting done on the house at least, albeit nowhere else.

Anyway, I started reading Game of Thrones last night--I'll probably just start watching the TV series once I finish the first book, considering the length of the others and the reputation they have for diminishing rewards.

I'm about 100 pages in of the first book, and while I think overall it's pretty good, you can definitely tell when something is written for the mass market, you know? I mean, I don't begrudge anyone their success, but I seeing some really familiar things that I think the book would be better (but probably less successful) without.

Namely (spoilers ahoy!):

The repetition. "Winter is coming." "Waken the dragon." "Catchphrases must each be repeated two dozen times within the first 100 pages."

The over-the-top bad guys. "Quick! Let's murder this child to protect our incestuous relationship!" Jesus Christ, Snidely Whiplash is subtle in comparison.

The unbelievably clueless authority figure. The king--the king--is concentrating all his kingdom's power into the hands of a family that is not his. Isn't keeping potential rivals from amassing too much power like, Step #1 in the Ten Easy Steps to Maintain Your Throne?

And who is the family? It's his wife's family. Guess who never much cared for his wife? Guess whose wife has ambitious male relatives about the right age to take the throne?

The well-meaning but incompetent advisors. "OK, you remember back, like, 10-15 years ago, when you first took power? This guy made it really clear back then that he wanted your throne. Yeah, I dunno why I didn't tell you this back then either, but I'm really worried about it now. What? You're saying it's water under the bridge? You think that if I felt like I could sit on this warning for more than a decade, it must not be that important? Hm--I never saw that one coming."

The sex scene that probably should have been way less explicit. Let's say your book features a young man who is easily cowed and is being treated abominably. This young man, who is VERY, VERY, VERY MUCH a virgin, is sold in marriage to an older, beautiful, but extremely forbidding woman. On their wedding night, much to everyone's surprise, the woman turns out to be a gentle and considerate lover who warmly initiates this young man into the joys of an erotic life.

You do this via a fairly explicit sex scene.

And in the course of this fairly explicit sex scene, the experienced, considerate women never once touches the young man's penis.

That would be ridiculous, right? But guess what Martin does with a young virginal woman and an older, oh-so experienced man, who with all his abundant expertise and profound commitment to making the sex good for the woman, doesn't seem to know what a clitoris is?

I mean, I understand discomfort with writing this kind of thing--I myself will probably never write an explicit sex scene--but once you've decided to do it, you can't pretend that certain anatomical realities don't exist. Especially not when it's written from the woman's point of view!


This has also been a tough week for writing--lot of family crapola. Hopefully things will improve sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, I've been watching the television series Longmire, which I started after reading this article on how it was canceled despite good ratings. (An interesting case of the network's business model not being aligned with ratings per se: Advertisers think the audience skews too old, while the network doesn't own the program and won't get any revenue from streaming or DVDs. ETA: Netflix has decided to ressurect the show.)

It's a very good show. I'm almost through the second season, though, and one decision they made really bothers me.

This is going to get VERY spoilery, so be warned. Again, the show is excellent, so you very well might want to stop reading this and go watch it first.

If you're still reading: Longmire is the title character, and he is the sherrif of a rural county in Wyoming. His wife died the previous year, and he is still very tramautized.

You discover through a gradual series of reveals that he has especially good reason to be tramautized: His wife had cancer, but that's not what killed her--she was murdered while getting treatment in Denver. Longmire kept the fact of her murder a secret from everyone except a particularly close friend of his who owns a restaurant. Longmire traveled down to Denver, found out who his wife's killer was, and murdered him.

Now Longmire is desolate and remorseful--and no one other than the friend knows why, because he's still keeping everything a secret. He talks a lot about how he never realized the horrible things he was capable of, and he throws himself into high-risk suicide missions whenever he can.

Except that, in! a! shocking! twist! it turns out that Longmire didn't murder his wife's killer--his friend did.


I don't know if this was just a twist-too-far decision or a preserve-the-main-character's-purity one--or maybe the writers wanted Longmire to have yet ANOTHER secret, because he just didn't have enough already--but in any case, I don't like it.

Think about it: Before, Longmire was tortured because he did something very bad. Now's he's tortured because somebody else did something very bad--that's called being an emo drama queen, dude.

Before he was throwing himself into these high-risk suicide missions because he felt despair and remorse. Now he's doing it . . . I guess because of his frustrated homicidal rage, right? That makes me kind of worried for the residents of his county, to be honest.

And before a lawman crossed a line and applied a harsh and inappropriate form of justice because his beloved wife was murdered. Now a guy who serves burgers and mixed drinks committed murder to keep his buddy happy. (Hmm. A lot of homicidal people in this county, apparently.)

I hate it when the integrity of a character (or two) is destroyed because someone just had to tack on another twist. You have to have these things make sense. If it's going to turn out that a person didn't do what everyone thinks they did, then they need behave from the beginning like someone who didn't. Otherwise it's just cheap.

Life is doing its thing

This has been a bad week for writing, and it will continue to be for a little bit--it's definitely autumn here now, and there's some stuff that needs to be done around the house before the rains start. (I do have a painter lined up for the old house--for October. You can't beat Mother Nature.) Plus there's some other things that I have been kind of neglecting in favor of writing, and they're demanding my attention now.

I did an overall word count of the fantasy novel, and it's 23,000 words. I'm probably two-thirds or maybe three-quarters of the way through it, so I think it will come out at a reasonable length for a YA book.

Progress report

Yesterday was busy, and the cats have been waking me up bright and early just to prove that they can, but I managed to crank out 1,030 words today.

More exciting for me, I think I've figured out how the third act of this sucker is going to go, so that's happy--I felt like I went into this with a good idea about the beginning and middle, as well as how it was going to end, but getting from the middle to the ending was kind of a question mark. But as so often happens in the writing process (at least for me), stuff has suggested itself, and a lot of things that started out as just kind of being in there have wounded up threading together and becoming really important to the plot. That's always a good thing, and a reminder to me to have faith in the process--I don't always know how things are going to go, but sometimes the best thing to do is to stop planning and start writing.

And I wanted to set part of the book in a volcanic wasteland, but I've never really been to one, so I was poking around and found Dankalia/Danakil. Wow.

Progress report

I'm still a little messed up from the night before last (I didn't fall asleep until very late, so then I slept late, so last night I couldn't fall asleep until late), so I wrote only 625 words. But I'd better quit now because I am nodding off in my chair.

I'll have the kids tomorrow or Thursday, so one of those days will not be productive, but the other should be.

Things to think about

I took yesterday off on purpose, but then I didn't get much sleep last night, so I'll probably be taking today off as well. Tomorrow should be good, though.

Anyway, this is an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal about entrepreneurs and the pitfalls they run into starting a new business. It's definitely applicable to new writers: Don't assume you know what your sales are going to be, don't hesitate to get outside help, learn about the industry (that's something I'll need to get back into when I get further along with this novel), etc. Good stuff.