Saturday, December 26, 2009

On piracy and free fiction

I've recently read a few blogs and articles by authors complaining about the fact that fiction is being pirated online in much the same way that music and movies have been being pirated (wow, that's a crappy sentence construction. And I call myself a writer. Yuck.) for the past few years.

Today, while working on some stuff for the science fiction book I'm trying to write (fingers crossed, people. I'm REALLY excited about this one, which means I won't say anything else about it. This writer's block has been KILLING me.) I stumbled across a google books result for Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. After reading the excerpt, I determined that the book was pretty sound and that I'd like to read the whole thing. Of course, child of the 21st century that I am, I wanted to read it NOW, not in a week. So I checked out Amazon--no Kindle edition. I just downloaded Kindle for PC, and I dig it. Saddened, but still not willing to order the book and wait for it to ship to me, I googled the title and ebook. About five search results in, I was directed to megaupload.

And there it was. The whole book. For free. Just waiting for me to wait 45 seconds and then click the download button.

What did I do? Did I say to myself, "Now Valerie, if you download this book, you'll be cheating poor Mr. Card out of his $.45 royalty. Don't do it!"

Um, of course I didn't. (And I also know that had I actually bought the print book, I would have bought it used, so Mr. Card would never have actually gotten his royalty anyway.) This, of course, begs the question, how would I feel if I knew that readers were downloading my stuff for free and not paying me.

On some levels, this is kind of silly. After all, Breathless and Tortured are available for free online. Trembling and Mischief aren't, but they will both eventually be available for free. Since I do provide free content, I can't get too bent out of shape when it's offered for free somewhere else.

In fact, Breathless's pdf versions have been uploaded to both scribd and wattpad. In neither case was I asked before the versions appeared, nor has the person who did it contacted me. Furthermore, if I google my name, I run into someone who's asked on yahoo answers where to download Trembling for free.

Overall, this does not bother me. It makes me feel pretty excited, actually. The scribd business is further exposure for my book. More people get to read it. Yay! The business about someone trying to "steal" Trembling just makes me feel like I've arrived. I look at it this way. There are people out there who are so into my work that they are making it available on alternate sources or looking for it. Either way, these people are investing time in my product. Time is valuable, like money. A person who invests time in my product is a fan. I can use as many fans as I can get.

(That's not to say that I don't wish the scribd stuff would link back to my page. I do.)

The way I figure it, if a person is going to take the time and effort to figure out how to download your book for free, that person wasn't ever going to spend money on you anyway. At least this way, I get a reader.

Furthermore, in the case of indie authors like myself, I doubt that many people even KNOW WHO I AM. Let alone try to "steal" my books. The more people "stealing," I figure, the more people buying.

Overall, you can't fight this kind of technology. You HAVE to embrace it. If you don't, you become Lars from Metallica, who I used to find really attractive. Oddly enough now, I really, really don't.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The year in self-publishing

It's been a little over sixth months since I decided to give this indie publishing model a go. What have I learned?

A-When people tell you that self-publishing fiction doesn't make you any money, BELIEVE THEM. Seriously. :)

B-Writing for an audience is about seventy zillion times more rewarding than writing stuff to send to agents and then shelve indefinitely. Rejection letters don't prompt you to get words on a page. Myspace comments exclaiming that your novel is better than best-selling novels do. :)

C-Serial fiction may be the current model that everybody and his brother is going for, but it doesn't work for me.

A (expanded)--Here's my money earned from my books this year. Okay, first, the expenses: $275 for a block of ten ISBNs from Bowker. $40 for the Pro Plan from Creatspace x 4 = $160. $20 for registering my domain name and for web hosting service for the year. For a total of: $455. Darned cheap, if I do say so myself. :)

Earnings: Createspace & Amazon (print books): $273.62. Kindle earnings: $56.54. Smashwords earnings: $307.32. For a total of: $637.48.

Meaning that my total net profit is.... $182.48.

Do I have to mention the $1.50 I've earned in ad revenue from Project Wonderful?

There you have it kids. Writing doesn't pay bills. :P

C (expanded)--I've decided not to post my books as serials anymore. There are two reason for this. The first is that my books are not serials. I never wrote them to be broken up into chapters and posted piecemeal on the internet. I wrote them to be read all at once. (In one sitting, if you've got the time. I certainly aim to make them as page-turny as possible.) Breaking them up into episodes, I think, only serves to stunt the forward motion of the plot, and does next to nothing for the experience of the book.

The second reason is that posting serials is a little tiring. Updating twice a week may not seem like a big deal, and honestly, most of the time, it isn't, but it does mean that I'm constantly trying to think about the book that I'm updating. It divides my mind between the book that I'm marketing and the one that I'm writing. (Well, okay, I haven't written a book since Tortured, but, still, theoretically...) Anyway, I feel like if I weren't constantly trying to update my website, I could spend more time writing, which is important, because that's the whole reason I have a website in the first place.

So...what to do? I'm going to play with some ideas, but what I'd like to be able to do is this: Keep all the J&A books up for free on the site. Post 50% previews of Mischief, Death Girl, and Brighter. Leave the website like that for...months. So, if you like the new books, you can buy them. If someone new stumbles across the site, they've got three free books to read. As I get some new stuff written, I'll transition the preview books to free books.

I'll be starting an email list for those people who'd like to receive updates from me. That way, once you've read everything I've posted, you can go on your merry way until I send you an email, telling you that a new book is up.

On the marketing front, I'm toying with the idea of allowing my readers to help me market. Some people, I understand, don't have the money to buy new fiction. So, if you'll instead plug my stuff--write blogs, facebook notes, reviews on Amazon and smashwords, etc--then I'll send you free ebooks. I haven't worked out the details on that yet, but it will be coming soon.

So, that's it. The year in self-pubbing. It's been an adventure guys. 2010 is going to be even cooler.

Friday, December 18, 2009

OMG--Chuck Bass as Heathcliff (I think I can die happy)

So...I'm really behind the news here. (This broke in May apparently), but check it out:


Okay, remember the scene last season when Chuck was completely drunk and had all this facial hair growth and he was standing on the edge of a building and Blair was all like, "Chuck, I love you," and Chuck was all angsty and gorgeous?

Okay, yeah. Channel that. Now put Chuck (Okay Ed Westwick) in Victorian clothing, transport him to the moors, and if that doesn't leave you salivating...then I just can't find it in myself to understand you.

Wuthering Heights movie with Ed Westwick?? Hell, yeah. Count me in!!

(And wait till I tell my AP students about this. They know how much I love Gossip Girl, and I just subjected them to three weeks of Wuthering Heights.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Website Issues-Episode 12

I'm having off and on issues with the website. Don't know why. I think it's Dream Host.

Anyway, here's episode 12:

episode twelve

Chapter Twelve

September 5, 1990

Arabella Hoyt has opened my eyes. In the time we spent with her, I have realized that I have been completely wrong about everything I thought about Ted. He has used me. He destroyed me. And the thing that may be growing inside me is not a force of good. It is a force of pure evil. I have been deceived. I must do what I can to end this horridness.

Jason sat up straight in bed. "Did you hear that?"

I was up too. It was midmorning. The sun was up. Streams of light came in through the narrow windows, drawing bright rectangles on the floor.

Jason was on his feet, shrugging into a shirt and checking to make sure his gun was loaded. I followed suit. I wished my hair was longer. I would have liked to pull it back into a ponytail. Instead, I just shoved it behind my ears. Our guns drawn, we crept to our door. Jason kept me behind him as he opened the door. The hallway outside our room was silent. We listened again.

"I heard shooting," Jason said to me.

"So did I," I said, peering around him.

We listened. There wasn't any noise now, but it wasn't dead silent. We could hear the sounds of the streets coming from behind us. Cars beeping. People chattering in Italian as they passed by. But within the monastery, we heard nothing. Jason pulled the door shut.

"What do we do?" I asked.

"Maybe nothing's wrong," said Jason. "Maybe it was a firework or a car backfiring or something."

"Maybe," I said.

Another gunshot. A scream.

"No," I said. "That was a gun."

"Yeah," said Jason. He took a deep breath. "Okay, then. Say goodbye to your clothes."

I glared at him. "Are we going to try to go out the front door?"

"Don't see why not," he said.

I grabbed a bag and shoved some clothes and one of the laptops into it. "Let's just try to take some stuff with us, okay?"

"Whatever," said Jason. "Let's go."

He opened the door again and we eased out of the room. Our backs against the wall (well, my stuffed-full bag against the wall, anyway), we crept down the hall, holding our guns. We didn't see anyone.

Our room was relatively close to the entrance. We only had to go down one hall, make a left, and then we'd be right at the door. We moved quickly but cautiously, glancing around for danger. At the end of the hallway, Jason stopped me. He peered around, gun out.

We heard another gunshot, much closer now.

Jason snapped back around the corner. "The Sons," he reported.

"You can see them?" I asked.

"They're at the entrance," he said. "They shot a bunch of monks."

"Oh my God," I breathed. "I thought we were safe here. I thought this whole city was sanctuary."

"They attacked us in a church before," said Jason. "I don't think sanctuary much matters where we're concerned."

"How many?" I asked.

"I don't know," said Jason. "But a lot. Maybe twenty. And who knows if they don't have reinforcements waiting somewhere."

"Should we kiss and try to drive them crazy?" I asked, trying to make a joke.

Jason grabbed me by the neck and kissed me fiercely. "No," he said, pulling back. "I think we should look for a back door."

He grabbed my hand, and we fled back down the hall. It had been a while since Jason and I had lived in this monastery. Still, we knew our way around pretty well. I didn't remember there being a back door, though. "What back door are you talking about?" I asked Jason.

He shot a look over his shoulder as we ran. "The kitchen," he said. "There's a door in the kitchen."

"Well, we're going the wrong way!" I said.

Jason yanked me to the right, hard, and we emerged in the cloister. The cloister was a covered walkway that surrounded a square courtyard. I pointed across the courtyard to the other side of the monastery. "The kitchen is over there," I said.

"Yeah," said Jason. "We're going across the courtyard." And he pulled me along with him.

More gunshots echoed from inside the monastery. Jason and I scurried across the courtyard and back inside the monastery. We emerged in a small hallway. The door to the kitchen was right in front of us. We could hear the sound of screams from the main entrance. Jason threw the door open, and we rushed inside.

We were greeted by the sight of several ex-members of the Council cowering in front of the sink. At the sight of us, they immediately bowed their heads. Geez. They were in fear for their lives, and they were still doing the bowing thing?

Jason pulled me forward. "Ignore them," he said. We headed for the door.

"Don't!" said one of the ex-Council members.

"They've sealed off all the exits," said another.

Jason stopped short as we saw that there was body in front of our exit. Immediately, he pulled me away from it. We clattered into the stove. He addressed the ex-Council members. "They're outside the door?" he asked.

They nodded. "Briggs tried to get out. They shot him."

"This is sanctuary," said Jason. "What is Hoyt thinking?"

"We think they're going to go through every room and just shoot everyone," said another ex-Council member. "It's Hoyt's way of showing us what he'll do if we stand up to him."

"They're looking for us, though, right?" I said.

They nodded.

"Jason, we've just got to go engage," I said.

"What?" he said.

"They're killing all these people because of us. We can't just let them die."

"No, it is an honor to give our lives in your service," said one of the ex-Council members.

"Maybe for you," I conceded. These guys were messed up in the head. "But not for the monks here. They don't want to die for us."

"It's screwed up," said Jason. "We should have gone to freaking Africa!"

"Jason, we can't let them shoot monks!"

"There are twenty of them at the main entrance. Who knows how many of them are surrounding the monastery," said Jason. "We go out there shooting, we could maybe take down half of them. But not all of them. They'll kill us."

I sighed. He was right. But it was sickening the amount of people who had been killed in the crossfire of this hunt for Jason and me. At the Sol Solis School, it was one thing. At least those men had been Brothers, trained to fight and prepared for dangerous situations. These monks, however, were peaceful. They'd offered us a place to stay. They'd hidden us. I leaned against the stove, scratching at the bandage on my arm. It was still itchy.

That reminded me that the bandage hadn't been changed recently. I planned to do it this morning. I hoped it wasn't getting infected. I tried to examine my wound through the bandage.

"Don't play with that," Jason said.

I dropped my arm, studying the gun in my hand. I'd already been shot once by the Sons. I didn't think I wanted to be gunned down, even if it meant that they stopped shooting monks. I was lucky they hadn't killed me at the prom—

Lucky. "Jason," I said. "How likely is it that one of the Sons would miss a shot? You know how the Brothers are trained. If you meant to shoot someone in the head, would you miss and shoot them in the arm?"

Jason looked at me like I was crazy. "If I shoot someone in the arm, it's because I meant to shoot them in the arm," he said.

I held up my arm. "Why didn't they kill me? I was standing in the open. I was an easy target."

Jason's eyes narrowed. "That is weird," he admitted. "I was so glad you were alive, I never thought to question it."

"Maybe they're not trying to kill us," I said. "It's only hearsay that they are."

"So then, what are they doing?" Jason said. "Why are they here with guns, shooting everything in sight?"

I didn’t know. I had no idea.

"Even if they don't want us dead," said Jason, "they aren't trying to do anything nice to us."

No. I guessed they weren't. I sighed. "So, I guess we try to get out of here."

"There was another plan?"

No. It was just that I had wanted to minimize the violence, somehow. Keep people alive. I turned to the ex-Council members. "How many of them do you think are at the door?"

They shrugged. They didn’t know.

Were there more at the entrance than at this door?

They thought so. Probably.

"So," said Jason, seeing where I was going with this. "You think we should just try to shoot ourselves out of this door?"

I shrugged. "Unless you have a better idea."

We surveyed the door. It opened into the kitchen, which wasn't great. If it had opened out onto the street, we might have been able to use it as a shield. Maybe. It was a wooden door, after all. It wasn't exactly impervious to bullets. We decided to stay low. We figured the Sons outside would assume that whoever was opening the door was standing. So we would lie flat, our guns out. Jason would reach up and open the door a few inches, just enough so that we could see what we were dealing with. From there, we'd just have to see what happened.

First we had to drag Briggs' body away from the door. His wound left a smear of blood on the floor. We were going to have to lie on the blood smear. Gross.

Jason and I got in position. He reached up for the knob and eased the door open. Almost immediately, there was a volley of gunfire, but it went over our heads. So far, so good.

I was watching through the opening of the door as Jason pulled it open. Quickly, I assessed the situation. There were seven members of the Sons in the street. I shot as soon as I had a clear view. Carefully aiming, and remembering to breathe, I squeezed off three shots. They hit home perfectly. Three head shots. The men I'd hit crumpled to the ground. Jason was with me. He shot the other four.

Well. That had been easy.

We scrambled to our feet and out the door. Jason pulled it shut behind us.

"It's them! It's them!" yelled a voice.

And Jason and I were immediately swarmed by at least ten more members of the Sons. We opened fire.

They were everywhere, coming from all sides of the building. Some had been hiding behind cars. Others had been on the roof of the monastery. I got off several good shots. Jason got off even more than me. We took down at least five more of them. But there were so many.

Then someone kicked the gun out of my hand and someone else tackled me from behind. I went down on the ground, my chin skidding against stone. I bit my tongue and tasted blood in my mouth. I cried out.

They were on my back, handcuffing my arms and feet.

I twisted, looking for Jason. He was fighting with a group of men who were on him, slinging punches everywhere. "Azazel!" he yelled to me.

"Jason!" I screamed.

The Sons who had me hoisted me into the air. Two men had my feet and another three held my head and upper torso. They were taking me away. "Jason!" I screamed again.

The last image I saw of him was the Sons finally overpowering him and forcing him to the ground. He was struggling and yelling my name. I strained at the handcuffs. I tried to wrench my head so that I could bite at the hands of the men who held me. But I was trapped. We rounded a corner. I couldn't see him anymore.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What is Web Fiction?

Jan Oda tries to tackle this crazy subject:

Check out the link:

And, honestly, if you're into reading on the web, you owe yourself to subscribe to this new e-zine she's put together. :)