Based on a suggestion by my editor, I’ve committed to make a brief bio list for the characters in Dogs of War. This is meant to help people who didn’t read the first book and want to get up to speed on the second book. It may be considered as spoilers for the events in Peter the Wolf, so if you plan to read the first book, you may want to skip this post. For this reason all the details are behind a cut. In any case, here’s the cast of characters in Dogs of War: (more…)
Archive for February, 2012
I had a fatigue attack and dropped on the couch, and I woke up to another sale notification, with someone buying a whopping six titles from me, including Dogs of War. Wowee. As a result of my weekend ranting about Smashwords, I’ve just racked up enough money to buy another cover. One of my Twitter followers had been joking that my sale do better when I’m pulling aggro and being oppressed. Well it seems that’s true. =^)
I told hubby that this puts me in a problem spot. People don’t like angry folks, but I get my best sales after I’ve gone off on a rant. The trick is, I have to be negative, but not bitter. Bitterness leads to lower sales, but negativity leads to higher sales. Man, there’s a tightrope act for you. =^D
Joking aside, whatever decisions comes out of Smashwords in the next few days, I want to make it clear that I am totally feeling the love and support here, and I thank you for the help. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to ranting soon enough. And besides, it’s rare that I’m in the mood to take a knee and start smooching butts. But if I may say so, your butt, it is nice. And I don’t say that to every butt I smooch.
I really do appreciate all the recent support, so no matter what Smashwords does, thanks for being in my corner on this.
I want to separate this post from the bad news I got this morning and talk about how the launch for Dogs of War went. I got four sales, and quite a few RTs. It’s difficult to say exactly how many because of Twitter’s wonky interface, but I saw a lot while I was seated in front of the computer, and I did my best to thank everyone as soon as I saw them. But if I missed someone, I want to thank you here too.
I’m trying to remember more often to point out when I’m getting support, and to say thanks to the people who are lending me a hand. But this writing thing, it’s not so easy as just putting down words and finishing projects. There’s a lot of constant struggles to self-publishing, as you’ve just seen in the previous post, and this doesn’t include the difficulties I face in finding readers, or in getting reviews. This is always an uphill battle, but while I’m fighting with everyone, I still have to keep pushing multiple boulders up a hill. So it’s easy for me to get distracted by all the bad junk and forget to look at the good things that went okay.
I’ve had several releases recently that either didn’t sell any copies opening day, or didn’t sell anything more than two. I can probably think of which two those are, cause those are my super fans, the folks who will buy almost everything I release. So like I said, for me, four books sold on day one is a good number.
Now the book is on Amazon for the Kindle, so tonight, I’ll be trying to get four sales over there to match. I feel pretty good about getting some RTs for promotion, but the question is, will those RTs find any curious Kindle readers? I dunno, but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for four. =)
This thing with Smashwords pisses me off, but this situation is not the fault of my readers, or my Twitter followers, so I’m going to try not to snap at y’all when you’re doing your part and offering your support. So, again, with feeling, thank you everyone for the recent RTs, sales, and reviews. Words alone cannot express my gratitude for your continued support.
Some of you know that this weekend, Smashwords dropped a press release during the time when they hoped no one would notice. Effective immediately, Smashwords has embraced censorship, though they claimed this would only affect erotica titles. In my opening email to Mark Coker on this, I pointed out that this so-called erotica ban would also hit titles of mine that weren’t erotic. I said that if I had to drop a few of my books, I might as well drop all of them. I also pleaded with him to drop PayPal and move to a different bank.
However, I calmed down in the days of silence that followed because some folks said, “Oh, surely they’ll only want you to take down the one erotica book.” BZZZT! Wrong answer. Today, Angela answered for Mark and said that he’d “lobbied” really hard for us, but that ultimately, Smashwords was going to accept censorship and not leave PayPal.
Let me be clear: I’m aware of the paperwork and time involved in setting up a bank account for a business in the US. I know what it takes to get a new credit card vendor too. I had to do it while living in a foreign country while setting up my own failed online store*, so I know what I’m asking isn’t easy. (*It failed because no one ever bought a book through the site, only through other vendors. So it was a waste of money.) But what Smashwords has done is casual acceptance of censorship in the name of financial convenience.
It gets worse, though, because Angela said that they want me to unpublish ALL books that have objectionable materials. By Angela’s interpretations of Smashwords rules, many of my books should have never been published. But, by her interpretation, the site could not sell Stephen King’s IT, or many of Anne Rice’s titles, like Lasher, Belinda, or that godawful Claiming Beauty series. What’s fucked up about her stance is, you can walk into a book store and buy these books, as a kid, and without ID, but you can’t buy them online even if you’re an adult because the moral standards online these days are higher than they are for a real book store.
In my answer, I told Angela that her interpretation would allow for banning books by King and Rice, and I told her that I will not unpublish my titles. If they wish to remove my books, they will have to ban my account from Smashwords altogether. I have no doubt that they will, and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure where I go from here. But I want to make this post so you understand: Smashwords isn’t just banning a little porn here and there. They’re about to embrace censorship wholesale because Mark Coker is too lazy to get a new business account at another bank. Period. Don’t heap sympathy on his company and claim he’s an innocent party. The innocent parties are the authors who Mark has already censored in the name of maintaining the status quo.
And I need to be clear that I have spoken to Mark before about his site design, and about the large volume of hardcore bestiality and incest porn that was showing up on the front page. That was two years ago, and Mark never changed the site design. He barely acknowledged that the front page could be off-putting to new visitors. He just didn’t care. One year ago, when I asked him about it, he whined at me that they were only a few people.
And on this point, Mark is a constant see-sawing hypocrite. He loves to brag about how big his site is in his blog posts. He loves to say how many more authors were added, how many more words are on his site. But when it comes time to point out all the flaws that still haven’t been fixed, suddenly, Smashwords is so small and helpless.
And so it is here with PayPal. Mark is using the same tactic that they’re so small and frail, they couldn’t possibly survive the move to another bank. They couldn’t survive just taking credit card orders, even though that’s how Amazon became a giant, by taking credit cards. So no, I do not buy Mark’s story that he has no choice. He has a choice, and he doesn’t want to do the work needed to protect his authors. Soothing the offended sensibilities of his cash supplier is more convenient, so that is what he will do.
Like I said, I fully expect to be banned from Smashwords soon. I have no recourse, and the only person who could have helped me is siding with censorship. I wish I could say I’m surprised, but over this last year, we’ve seen corporate control seep so far into the creative process that even little shit indie artists like me cannot avoid corporate censorship. But it isn’t happening just because PayPal is a big meanie. It’s happening because Mark Coker can’t change banks. That’s laziness, people, and it’s how all censorship is accepted. Because it’s easier to censor than it is to fight for what’s right. Mark chose his path, so don’t you people let him believe his own hype that he’s really one of the victims here too. Mark had a choice and a chance to do the right thing. He chose to take the easy path to the money instead.
Today, I’m going to talk about my new release, Dogs of War, available now at Smashwords, and coming soon to Amazon, but before I go all rambly, let me cover the important parts. First here’s the cover:
The first cover featured the main character Peter, and this second book is showcasing Alice Culpepper, Peter’s girlfriend. Now, here’s the book blurb:
After moving in with the Preston family, lycanthrope Peter Holmes is finally coming to terms with the side effects of his parents’ sexual abuse, his cursed animal nature, and the death of his twin sister Heather. But Peter’s steps toward a more peaceful life are halted when school rival Jake Forrester tells him that his sister isn’t dead, and that Heather has been held prisoner, forced into a lifetime of torture porn.
Feeling guilty for his past attacks on Peter, Jake is offering his help in finding Heather, and he’s bringing along some of his friends for backup. But even if this ragtag group can mount a rescue mission, the ancient creature keeping Heather prisoner is too strong for anyone to fight. Someone will have to pay the cost for Heather’s freedom. Peter is prepared to pay anything, but Heather’s owners have a price in mind that even he may not be able to pay.
Along with this burden, Peter must also sort out his relationship with Alice, maintain a perfect poker face around his other friends, and keep the peace between Heather and his foster family. The stress causes Peter’s wolf to act out, and as Peter’s self-control fails, his family and friends pay the price.
When the time comes to pay the final price for Heather, will there be anyone left to stand with Peter?
I got a PS Vita on launch day. Woohoo! This, for me, is very exciting because I usually have to wait a few years for a price drop before I can afford the price of entry. To put it in perspective, I couldn’t get an Xbox on my own until July of last year. But I saved up my Christmas money and added a bit of extra cash to pay for the system, a 16 GB memory card, and one game. (And I am now totally broke, so please, do consider buying copies when Dogs of War is released.)
I had my heart set on Gravity Rush, but it appears the reports claiming it would be available in PAL markets were inaccurate. It won’t be out until May 29th as near as I can tell, so I had to go with an alternate launch title. I chose Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which looks gorgeous. But I’ll wait to review it only after I’ve completed more levels. It’s too early to critique the game beyond a few impressions about the control scheme and graphics quality. For now, consider this ONLY a first impressions review of the PS Vita device, and not as a critique of any games I mention here.
First, the screen is gorgeous, whether I’m playing a video game or watching a film. The sound system is also top notch, and the equalizer presets seem to work okay. Once I sorted out how to get my music library loaded, I found that I could play my music as the background for my games too. This is a feature I love on PC games, using my own MP3s for backing tracks, and here it’s available on every game. Awesome.
I’ve sampled sound using the free earbuds I got with my pre-order, with my own set of AKG headphones, and through the system speakers. Obviously, my AKGs sounded the best, but they’re 79 euro speakers. You’d expect that. But the quality of the system speakers is very good, and unless I was gaming in a noisy restaurant, I could probably keep the volume set at about half without missing any sounds or whispered dialogue. I wouldn’t throw out the free set of earbuds, as they’d make fine backups to the earbuds I already own, also from Sony. (Actually, I own like five pairs of headphones in two styles. Some women get a fetish for covering their feet, and I got a fetish for plugging my ears.
Let’s say you hit a song in random shuffle that isn’t right for the mood of the game, like getting Blue Danube in a fighting game when you wanted Of Wolf and Man. Well, you hit the PS button on the lower left side and the game pauses and drops back to a tabbed app. Tap the lighted arrow on the side to open the music app that’s still running and tap the next play button. Then flick back to your game and tap “continue.” If I made this sound complicated, it took me all of five seconds to do this. (I debated just playing through, but it felt really wrong to be killing mercenaries while Justin Bieber is singing “If you give, give the first dance to me! Girl, I promise I’ll be gentle, but we gotta do it slowly!” (Okay, actually, I skip that song almost every time it comes on, because I don’t know if my mind ever takes the lyrics the right way. *>_> (Don’t judge me.))) (more…)
I picked up Enslaved: Odyssey to the West because I’d heard it got an award for best game of the year from a writer’s guild. I did some research and found the developer talking about how they wanted to make a game where character development was just as important as good graphics and game play. These were all siren calls to me, but what I discovered was a game so good, it’s going to spoil me to have high unrealistically expectations for other developers. This will be a long review, and one prone to gush. But trust me, I will have some complaints to balance out my squeeing. The game isn’t perfect, but damn it’s really close.
Let’s starts with what the designers did right consistently, which is the character’s “acting” skills. The Unreal engine is used to animate the world, and I have never before seen 3D models in a game with such expressive and “alive” eyes. Often video game makers botch this and don’t add any secondary motion to eyes during cut scenes, resulting in staring “dead eyes.” Also, a lot of the times a voice actor is aiming for an angry voice, yet the character’s expression doesn’t fit. Or worse, the game makers don’t bother with any expression and just make a sloppy 3D puppet show. This is not so with Enslaved. The expressions are so realistic, and this combined with their eyes makes for an acting experience on par with a Hollywood film.
But there’s more to the eyes than just realistic movement. Take Monkey’s red war makeup for instance, which makes a strong contrast to his blue eyes. This is an intentional artistic effort to draw the viewer’s attention the character’s eyes, and it makes one even more aware of their depth and realistic appearance. Trip’s green eyes are just as lovingly rendered and during certain scene, I found myself dawn into her eyes as effectively as Monkey was in the game. So yes, fantastic art skills went into making these eyes, and as a lover of expressive eyes, this game was totally pushing all my happy buttons.
Something else I liked about this game was having mechs for enemies. This is because it frees me from a complex moral quandary. When I’m fighting people in games, I always wonder if the game might give me other options to just sneak around instead of using the kill ‘em all approach. In Enslaved, you do have that choice available. You can fight all the mechs, or you can sneak around most of the clusters while they’re still inactive. But either way, there’s no guilt for blowing up a robot that’s express purpose for existing is exterminating me.
Now on to the plot, the meaty, sweet, deep plot that rarely had to resort to clichés to keep the tension and pacing. On a slave ship, a prisoner, Monkey, sees another prisoner, Trip, escape her pod and hack the ship, resulting in the ship beginning a crash course. Monkey gets out of his prison cell, and the first level is his attempt to chase Trip to the escape pods. This plays out like a blockbuster film, and when Monkey accidentally destroys one on the ship’s engines, the look on his face is perfect for the moment. It’s one half of the classic Urkel “Did I do that?” look and one half, “Now what, stupid?” Brilliant.
Monkey is forced to ride outside Trips escape pod and makes a hard landing on a well placed old mattress. When he comes to, Trip has fitted him with a command headband, drafting him to get her safely back to her village. A great deal of the early game is Trip and Monkey crossing New York to get to the crash site and recover Monkey’s motorcycle. After that, the story picks up a third character, Pigsy, and now I need to pause for a moment of culture.
You see, Monkey, Pigsy and Trip are actually Songoku, Pigsy and Sandy from the classic epic Journey to the West. “Aaaah,” you say, “so the name of this game is a hint at what the inspiration was.” Yes, exactly, and the visual clues are all there if the naming convention of the men didn’t make it obvious enough. Monkey has a sash acting as his tail, but in all other respects, he’s a proper Songoku. He has an extending power staff, a monkey like way of moving and a number of martial arts moves at his disposal. Oh, and he rides a “cloud” although this only works in certain segments of the game. (More on those later, both bad and good.) But if his appearance and affectations aren’t good enough, Pigsy has some cyber additions that help drive home the pig theme, in more ways than one. He’s a proper male pig, which here is used to some comedic effect well enough that I was laughing at his attempts at machismo.
No sooner had we rested up at home before hubby asked if I wanted to visit a game con in Cannes, and since I’ve only been to France once, I decided to pack up clean clothes and head out be train with hubby and his coworker Valentina.
First, let me say that the French know how to throw a con. The convention center was nicer, being fully heated and in nicer condition than Fiera Roma. There were more vendor, more demo tables, and more presence by video game companies. It was a smaller con than Lucca, but it was organized well for heavy traffic, and there was rarely a long line to sample games of any sort.
I bought a new puzzle ball called Perplexus Epic, a strategy game from Africa, Awele, and a few used Xbox games, Red Dead Redemption, Prototype, and Resident Evil 5. I would have bought more, but I pretty much blew my budget on day one. Oh, did I mention that I bought a jacket and a new pair of gloves? Yeeeeah, way over budget.
The food was fantastic, although obviously being Cannes, it was expensive. Still, I couldn’t complain about anything aside from sore muscles. The people were friendly and extremely forgiving of my goofy behavior. The hostess for our meals both nights seemed to love us. Can’t imagine why. But the food, so incredible. My only regret is, I don’t have two stomachs.
But of course, I’m paying for two days of walking, even if it was walking on level terrain in pleasant weather. Today my legs and hips are screaming at me, and I’m suffering a massive headache due to sore neck muscles. I think two cons in the same month is my limit. The other nice thing about this con was, no one was waking me up and telling me to rush. On the second day, even taking things at a casual pace, we still had to wait outside for an hour. Which woulda sucked if it was cold, but it got so warm that I took off my coat and scarf. Then I unpacked a book and read until it was time to go inside.
I’m tired, but I’m still really hyped about games of all kinds, and I find I’m so keyed up on how great that con was, and how much I want the next Ludica Roma to be more like that con, or more like Lucca. I’m so fired up on this, I’m going to do the unthinkable and approach hubby’s boss to discuss better organization and more pushes to invite game makers instead of just the platform makers and used game vendors. Ludica Roma was fun, but it was badly organized and didn’t used the space it had very efficiently. Cartoomics and Ludica Milano aren’t much better. There’s no attempt at grouping vendors together for better traffic control, and there’s no obvious signs up indicating what is where. This was not the case in Lucca, nor in Cannes, and it shows how much more involved the organizers were in thinking about foot traffic and congestion.
This is not to say I don’t like Ludica or Cartoomics. I love them, but I can see from other cons how ours are suffering from inattention. I would love for Cartoomics to be as big as Cannes’ efforts, but from what hubby tells me, the Italian commune offices actively HATE setting up cons, so they do everything they can to discourage organizers. I’m told this is the case in Lucca too, and this attitude drives me nuts.
Anywho, that’s the latest update. Didn’t want you to think I’d dropped off the planet. I just went to France, is all.
Over the last few weeks, a number of stories hove broken out about Kickstarter funded projects that have had great success. But while the media’s attention is on the game companies and their bigger results, I was watching the fast rise of funds for MeiLin Miranda’s fiction project, which surged way past the author’s stated goals and gained her over $5,000 from just 102 backers. This kind of money means the author will be able to afford polishing her ebook to near perfection before release, handle a promotion budget, and still have money left over for stuff like bills and paying the dentist. That’s a respectable finish, in my opinion, and it’s an amount I’d be boasting about if I’d had similar results.
Sadly, I can’t use Kickstarter, being outside the US. But I could use IndieGoGo if I could just think of a project that I could find 100 or so backers on. But I’m not really thinking about using these services so much as I’m interested in seeing how other authors are able to use these services for presale orders and promotion. With MeiLin’s story, she originally started the project as a web serial, so some of her backers are past readers who are donating to help polish the story and make it even better for new readers. That they get a book out of the deal is just gravy, because they’ve already read the story, and they already know how good it is.
But these backers also promoted the Kickstarter project and brought in new readers, and then there’s backers like me who haven’t read the series online yet, but who knew about it and we were waiting for the ebook. So for me, I figure I’ll send in some funds, and now I get a download link to the book with a discount code for 100% off. Now, in truth, I paid $10, and the book is $4.95, so I paid more for it than I had to. But it’s a good project, and I’m happy to support a fellow indie artist, even if it means paying more than the sticker price on her book. We can even call the other fiver a tip. (more…)
Winter is showing an impressive display of constant sub-zero temperatures, so this poor chick hasn’t left her shell of the apartment in close to three weeks. But, hubby asked nicely for me to go to Rome with him for Ludica, a gaming convention, and I will be getting out before my cabin fever gets worse. There’s not much for me to do on the trip, but this will be my first chance to visit Rome, and at long last, I can sing the lyric “I’ve been to Rome, Dallas Texas, man, I’d thought I’d seen it all.” I have not however, been to Cabo San Lucas, nor to the Cabo Wabo. But, I lived in Dallas, and this week I’ll see Rome. And that is something.
So, I made my attempt at a short promotion phase, which I’ll continue on Twitter for one more day. But currently, the results are…predictable. There were two sales, and three preview downloads. And being honest, I think one of those downloaded samples was me, when I was proofing the first few chapters. But given the topic of the book, I expected this, and like I said, no hissy fits. I’ve had quite a few RTs from a wide variety of followers, I think mainly because I’ve been posting a tweet every hour, or every two hours. So I’m getting more people when they’re online to see the tweet and run with it. So the promotion signal boost is there, and I want to take a moment here to express gratitude to any of those followers who also read the blog. What I’m saying is, the problem isn’t with the signal strength, but with the book.
Sadly, I wish I could say, “Better luck next time,” but I totally queue-screwed myself. I held back a lot of titles over the years because I was still working on writing problems in each book, like not enough visual details in establishing scenes or character description, or because the plots still felt inconsistent or lacking, and I just hadn’t stumbled across the best way to fix them. My queue filled up with other newer work, but since these titles were missing that little something extra, I couldn’t go back to them. I let them stew while I worked on projects that I felt more comfortable polishing after a few months of thought here and there.
The fact that every book I was holding back also had controversial material probably factored into my decision, because I suppose I wanted to follow the general market advice of establishing myself with other safer titles first. Plus, I always work faster on stories that I feel have a stronger chance of being liked by more people. I’m usually wrong on this, though. (more…)