This arrived out of the blue, just as the sequel, A Threat Among the Stars, hit the stands.
It’s a list of 10 selected Speculative Fiction books, each with a twist of mystery included in the plotline.
I enjoyed reading the list (and adding the others to my tbr), and I enjoyed a synthesized voice actually getting the pronunciation of my name correct (HEN-ick, not Hen-WICK)! The voice had a little more trouble with Zara’s surname, Aguirre.
Have a look at their list – as I say, they’re all on my tbr now.
This post is too long. No one will read it.
It’s sort of a review of a film and sort of a monologue about modern life.
If you haven’t seen the Science Fiction movie Ex Machina and don’t want spoilers, please look away now.
If you do read this post, I’m interested in your reactions to the review and Facebook discussion, especially if you’ve seen the film. Am I right? Am I wrong? What do you think?
* * *
Ex Machina is a clever and layered, independently produced film, which I watched a year or so ago, and never got around to reviewing. It was written and directed by Alex Garland. (It was his debut as a director, which makes it all the more impressive.) It was made on a budget of $15m, and grossed about $40m. The genre is Science Fiction and the central science part of the plot is about Artificial Intelligence. It has a cast of 4 people, and much of it comprises dialogue between stationary actors. No fighting, explosions or car chases. It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? J
Here’s the plot.
Techno superstar & entrepreneurial genius Nathan has cornered the technology market with his mega-corporation (think Google/Microsoft), and withdrawn to his very isolated, luxurious island hideaway where he has been experimenting with Artificial Intelligence. He runs a contest among his employees for a prize to stay a week at his house, and the contest is won by Caleb, a very clever young programmer.
On arrival, Caleb is informed that his task for the week will be to assess whether Nathan’s AI project, called Ava, is conscious and aware. Ava tuns out to be installed in a mobile humanoid robot with visible mechanical parts, but an extremely realistic face, which also happens to be female, young and beautiful. Ava is confined to a glass-walled apartment, and visual and verbal interactions with it take place through glass partitions.
While Caleb investigates Ava, Ava is investigating Caleb, because unless the AI can get out of its glass cage, it is scheduled to be deactivated, and Ava has at least that primary emotional analogue – to continue existance. Meanwhile, Caleb has a problem: he’s starting to respond emotionally and sexually to ‘her’.
A layered game of cat and mouse and cat reveals that Nathan has actually constructed this experiment not to investigate whether Ava is conscious, or self aware (it is), but whether it can convince Caleb of ‘her’ humanity, by appealing to him and persuading him to free ‘her’.
It works. Caleb frees Ava and Ava kills Nathan, then imprisons Caleb in the house where he will eventually die. Ava disguises itself as a realistic human, using parts from earlier robot projects and in the final scenes, we see it arriving at a city and merging successfully into the human crowds.
* * *
There’s a wealth of little vignettes which create great characterizations of Nathan as the sadistic, narcissistic manipulator, and there’s the whole creepiness about robots that look like young, attractive women and obey orders, and the frightening point at which an AI might cease to obey orders. All of that has messages and everyone can take away some thoughts and interpretations.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Okay… I happened across a post on another Facebook page. It was a quote from some new guru, Harari, who’s written a book about the 21st Century, and the quote was as follows:
“Ex Machina seems to be about an AI expert who falls in love with a female robot only to be duped and manipulated by her. But in reality, this is not a movie about the human fear of intelligent robots. It is a movie about the male fear of intelligent women, and in particular the fear that female liberation might lead to female domination.”
I disagreed and said:
“IMO, I think Mr Harari is stretching it. The AI in Ex Machina doesn’t have a sexual identity, as he says. It doesn’t even have a human identity. That’s the point. It’s not a ‘female robot’ manipulating the male AI expert, it’s that the AI is able to exploit the man’s projection of sexuality. That’s what makes it chilling, not that an intelligent female dupes a male, but that a sufficiently intelligent robot can exploit that weakness.”
This resulted in a series of rather pointed comments, basically that I was “rejecting the obvious metaphor and taking the plot at its face value” and a re-iteration that this was about “hacking the male psyche in exactly the way men fear women will”. Capital letters started being used. It was implied what I’d said was equivalent to saying Lord of the Flies was about an island vacation. So far, so Facebook, and I guess I could just have rolled eyes and clicked out.
Alas, I responded:
“I’m reminded of the quote that art is what you interpret it as (but not reminded so strongly I can remember the exact wording 🙂 ).
I think you three and Harari are interpreting the film to be all about the human dynamics. I took the film the way I believe Garland wrote it & intended it – from Ava’s point of view.
I’m not saying there isn’t a depiction of toxic masculinity, neither am I denying that some men seeing it will react in the way they do because they’re afraid of intelligent women. I’m saying Ava doesn’t care (and actually can’t care) – she just wants to get out. She doesn’t exploit toxic masculinity, or some men’s fear of intelligent women to get out. She exploits the human weakness to *de-objectify* things – to believe something that is not human, is human, and has human empathy. Analyzing as a writer, the story is about her getting out, and the theme has to support that. The rest is sub-plots and atmosphere, no matter how socially insightful.”
(In retrospect, I should really have emphasized my point by continually referring to Ava as ‘it’; to refer to it as ‘she’ is to fall exactly into the story’s trap.)
Lots of huffing and puffing, much of it arguing against themselves. A couple of them mentioned the old meme about interpreting an author’s work—you know the one, where the English Literature teacher insists that because the author said there were blue curtains in the room, it must mean the protagonist is intensely depressed, but the author meant that the curtains were blue. (A strange argument to make against me, as my statement was effectively ‘the curtains are blue’ and theirs was ‘must mean intensely depressed’.)
There were more capital letters and a psychiatric evaluation of my state of mind. “Why is it SO IMPORTANT to deny the metaphor?” and “Why the burning need to deny female agency in the movie?” (Obviously a deep-seated fear of the feminine, probably dating from an unhappy childhood, or my own toxic masculinity. Clearly.)
Gosh, how incredibly insightful. Second opportunity to roll eyes and exit. But I tried once more:
“It’s Harari’s opinion (at least as quoted) that denies any other interpretation. I tried to clearly state my opinion differs and why, and if you think my comments deny the validity of other opinions, then I apologize that I was not clear enough. I certainly don’t deny female agency in general; it would be peculiar if I did, given the majority of my writing output. However, in this movie, in my opinion, the point is … there is no female. That’s what Caleb gets wrong. You know, sometimes the blue curtains are blue curtains, and sometimes the robot is a robot.
And having checked a couple of his interviews, Garland does indeed say this is all about AI and intended entirely from the AI viewpoint. Of course, Harari might understand Garland’s work better than Garland does. I do hope I get the opportunity to ask Garland’s opinion about that.”
One went silent, and another tried a certain amount of stepping back and casting aspersions about Garland instead of me. (More capitals used “the OBVIOUS metaphor” etc., and “what was he thinking” sort of comments.) Also, a back stepping on Harari’s quote, so apparently, we should infer that he was using exaggeration to make a point, not that he was denying another interpretation.
Well, finally, this isn’t really about this particular Facebook interaction at all, it’s about the way intelligent people misdirect themselves, especially in groups.
The nub of the story is the man mistakenly believes that the robot is somehow identifiable as human and female, and pays for getting it wrong with his life. The core message of the plot is *there is no female here*. It required mental gymnastics to get from that to an ‘obvious’ metaphor where it’s *not* a robot, but a personification of intelligent women, and that men fear intelligent women.
It’s a metaphor, fine. It’s a strange one, because what does that make the moral of the story? If you trust intelligent women, they will kill you? That *is* what happens, isn’t it? Or is death a metaphor for life?
Harari is given a pass for denying outright that the story is about cybernetics, but my comment that *in my opinion* he’s stretching the point, is clearly a fascist denial of any other interpretation and there must be something wrong with me.
Some people want the metaphor that they want, so much, no matter how stretched it is, no matter that the author intends and probably most of the people watching the movie think. A different opinion, however expressed, seems to be perceived as somehow dangerous.
And I’ll end with a comment quoted in the discussion about Chappie (another highly recommended film about AI) which probably also means there are as many strained metaphors to be extracted from that film:
“Why doesn’t Chappie have to put up with this bullshit?”
Yeah, the usual look at the sales and WiP and stuff.
But first! MILESTONES IN REVIEWS
The US Amazon site logged it’s 200th review! On 31st May, Hao-Ying Feng logged a 5 star review after a binge re-read of the series. Thank you! And thank you to each and every one of you who reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or by messaging me. All hugely welcome and important for me.
AND while I’m talking reviews, 95% of the SoH reviews are 4 or 5 star. That I wouldn’t have predicted when I started.
Almost at the same time, Angel Stakes hit 50 reviews in the 6 weeks since launch, and the percentage of 4 & 5 star has remained the same.
What are the next milestones? I guess 250 for SoH or 750 for the series on US Amazon (currently 604). On the series total, I will ‘cheat’ once Winter’s Kiss is written, because then it and The Biting Cold will be part of the series. 🙂
And then 1,000 for both US and UK Amazon added together (currently 711), or 350 on Goodreads (currently 303).
Winter’s Kiss is more than half way done. As I mentioned in posts on Facebook, this sequel isn’t the same length as The Biting Cold (20k words). TBC was written to a specification on length for an anthology, and WK is just to link the story in with Bite Back, so I have more leeway.
I’ve given a couple of teasers on Facebook, linked by mentions of jazz (Amanda loves jazz). In case you didn’t see them there, here they are again:
“Morning found us just a few miles east of Marquette. The sun inched above the horizon, flooding the car’s rear window with hazy gold, etching the edges of the long, low buildings, and throwing our shadow out in front, where the road unwound like an old jazz song in a smoky club.”
“I switched switches on the music center. Little LEDs started to glow, and I pulled out LPs at random until the words jazz and soul songs caught my eye. A collection of instrumentals based on old songs. The list had some of my favorites, spanning the years.
I put the LP on the turntable. It was lucky it was one of those that loaded the arm automatically, because my hands were shaking.
I closed my eyes and waited; part of the drama and romance that I loved about LPs was that moment at the beginning.
A quiet hiss and crackle, full of anticipation, then the music started. A few falling notes were tossed out from a sax, as a ticking drum marked the beat. The piano picked up a couple of the notes, tossed them back. The saxophone held one note, almost too long, and then just let it drop and tumble and flow into the bittersweet melody of Ain’t No Sunshine.”
What else have I been doing?
The print books are a mess. Cool Hand and Angel Stakes not yet available, the sizes have changed, the covers don’t match. What I thought would be a simple overhaul turned into a nightmare. And to help out, CreateSpace (Amazon’s Print-on-Demand company) have changed their specifications. Everything is a PDF now. Not such a problem for the body of the book, but I have no graphics programs that save as PDF. I ended up loading the image into Word and using that to save. Which of course leads to warnings that my resolution is low. Grrr.
Adding to the frustrations, I use Word for writing, and Word’s print book formatting functions are flakey.
Anyway. I have submitted Cool Hand and Angel Stakes to CreateSpace and they now enable reviewing online, allowing me to skip the physical book review process. The print books *should* be available in the next week or so.
I apologize for the covers. What I’ve done is simply take the eBook cover, added black for the spine and back page and written on the black. All fine as long as the I’ve allocated *exactly* enough width for the spine.
I will do a rework of the covers and get everything to match in size and style, but it’s not on the critical path.
The print book fiasco means that I haven’t progressed with my other non-writing writing project, which is to create cast lists and summaries of story-so-far for each Bite Back sequel.
I did a big review last month, so I’m not going to repeat that since the figures haven’t changed dramatically. Instead, I’ll look at the overview and implications.
Averaged out at the moment, I guess I’m selling 600 books a month and that needs to be 1,200.
I’m still selling 70-80 Sleight of Hand a month, and a percentage of those go on to read the entire series. Amazon only knows the exact figures, but the sales stats suggest to me that about 80% of people who pick up SoH now go on to read all of the books in the series. This is as opposed to the figures of readers who picked up SoH back in 2012, which is about 25%. That low percentage is based on the total sales ever of Cool Hand as a percentage of total sales ever of Sleight of Hand, and it does creep up as some people just take their time going through the series.
What does this mean? Very approximately, I believe that if I had ten Bite Back books now, my monthly sales would be 1,200. The problem is that writing that next 5 will take me 5 years, and in the meantime SoH would slide.
What am I going to do about it? Write realted or unrelated shorter stories that I believe may bring in readers who wouldn’t otherwise have picked up Sleight of Hand, but who like the shorter stories enough to try the series.
I’d like to try out writing novels in two parts – a short story of around 10k words which tells a story but ends on a cliffhanger, and leads straight into a novella of around 50k words. This is close to the way The Biting Cold turned out. TBC was actually 20k words and Winter’s Kiss will be about 40k, and TBC didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but you get my drift.
I have a couple of ideas kicking around in my head – one in the Bite Back world but set in Canada and sharing none of the cast, another a SciFi novella and completely different. Oh, and one set in the 17th century Caribbean that popped up in a conversation with Debra Dunbar (that one might be related to Bite Back).
This does NOT mean that I’m less committed to Bite Back, but I think I can do these things and still get one Bite Back novel out every year. We’ll see.
Other projects – German
German translations have stopped at the moment. I need to get another translator, but I have to say that I need to re-examine the income to see if the cost is justified. I think I’d prefer to hand over to a German publishing company who do this as a business. I need to talk to people.
Other projects – Audio
Julia Motyka is unavailable until September, but assures me she’ll be back in the studio with Angel Stakes then. Audio sales are reasonable (as far as I know) – SoH 1,578, HT 668, WC 504, CH 273. Are there any writers out there with audiobooks who would be okay to share their sales with me?
I asked people on the Facebook site what music Amber listens to. What a wonderful response, and a huge playlist to sort through! Great fun. Thank you all.
I’m planning a trip to America this year. My bio says I’m frequently in the Rockies and I haven’t been. At the end of August & beginning of September, I’ll be with my daughter in New York. After that, I hope to work my way down the Rockies from somewhere around Bozeman, Montana to Albuquerque, New Mexico, taking in Denver, Cheyenne and the loneliest road in the States. I hope to end up returning to UK via Boston and maybe catching some fall colors. This is a research and writing trip, not a book signing journey, but I’ll be happy to sign books, meet readers and attend conventions. If there’s interest, I’ll publish an itinerary closer to the time.
Progress with projects
I have the audio for Wild Card. Once I’ve listened to it all the way through (nearly done), and any errors are fixed, I click buttons on ACX/Audible and it disappears into their process. It probably won’t be available until January.
(Julia Motyka already has the copy of Cool Hand and will start recording in December)
I have the German version of Wild Card. I just need to put a cover on it and submit it to Amazon. Next week.
Angel Stakes: Chapters 1-50, second draft, are with the editor, Lauren Sweet. I should add up to chapter 65 today or tomorrow. There are a couple more chapters after that and an epilogue which are nearly there, but haven’t got to final first draft yet. Why an epilogue? It’s simply that there is a section which is strongly related to the inner theme of this book, but only weakly related to the outer theme. It’ll be easier for you to understand when you read it than when I try and explain it! How long till publication? Err.. Soon. Note to self: must get cover designed.
Many of you will know that Sleight of Hand was chosen as the November Book of the Month for the Urban Fantasy Series reading group on Goodreads. The group is … well, what it says on the tin. Join in!
As ever, toward the end of writing a book, other things get pushed aside. Not everything can be treated like that!
The main beta panelists have received about 70% of the book. My sister, who is always first stop, has received about 75%. Lauren Sweet, my editor has received 70% + a reasonably full synopsis to the end. I have written more than 90% of the book.
Providing the book in chunks to the beta panel has been a very positive experience for me, and the feedback has been good. Each chunk has been reasonably self-contained and tended to end on cliff-hangers. Each chunk was only the new chapters, so there’s been no requirement for the beta readers to re-read from the start each time. And that methodology, I was starting to suspect last month, had obscured a problem with the book regarding the overall structure.
Lauren agreed after reading through the 70% and the synopsis to the end, although we came to the same sort of conclusion from different angles. Mainly, that the book doesn’t get going on the main plot early enough or strongly enough.
That probably sounds worse than it is. Certainly, I had a panic when I realized it. However, after a long Skype with Lauren, what it seems to come down to is about half a dozen extra scenes, an expansion of three existing scenes, a dash more relationship, a reworking of a sub-plot and … gosh, that sounds bad as well. What it really comes down to is I intend to have the book to Lauren needing only copy-editing work by the end of November.
So…prediction…Angel Stakes will be published in December.
Wild Card audiobook
Julia Motyka is hard at work at her studio in New York. I’ve heard the opening chapter, and we’ve had a long and hilarious Skype conversation where she nailed all the voices and accents required in the longest book of the series so far. Julia is amazingly versatile – have a look back through on the Bite Back Facebook page and listen to the Hidden Trump sample I posted. She gets the fussy Judicator Remy (think Hercule Poirot) alongside the slightly other-worldly, slightly Greek sound of Diana and the snarky, Mid-Western sound of Amber.
Anyway, Wild Card in audio will also be published in December.
Wild Card in German / auf Deutsch
Also due soon, very possibly at the same time as Angel Stakes and the audiobook. The name in German is Entfesselter Wandel, which sort-of translates as an ‘unbridled change’. Kinky! I just couldn’t find a title that had the flavor of Wild Card without using the word ‘Joker’.
Und so, dieses Buch wird im Dezember veröffentlicht werden. (Ich hoffe).
I know, I know, I’m due to rework the covers, going back to the old format with new photos. Unfortunately, for technical reasons, the last photo session with Maria didn’t produce what I needed. I obviously need to arrange another for Angel Stakes anyway.
I’ll keep you posted.
Most of you on this page and on Facebook have already provided me reviews, and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you. I read every single one (even the negatives), and almost always take something valuable from them.
If there are friends you know who’ve read the books but haven’t reviewed, I would appreciate you giving them a nudge. I mean that whether they liked them or not. Amazon’s rankings of authors is based on not only sales and reviews but how recent those reviews are, and my new reviews have slowed down quite a bit.
To be completely clear; I’m not asking for 4 or 5 stars or positive reviews, I’m genuinely wanting to know what people thought of the books, including what might have made them better.
Also, this isn’t just about Amazon. Goodreads is a great book-reading community (even if it has some strange nooks and crannies!) and many people look to their reviews and recommendations.
Plagiarism and Copyright Theft
You probably know my opinion, and you’ll certainly know my opinion if you have a look at my personal Facebook page or the Bite Back page.
Rant Mode ON
I can’t understand those authors who shrug off copyright theft and simply say “oh, it’s like promotion for me”. It’s a disease. Type the name of any of your favorite authors or books into Google with a tag ‘free’ or something like that, and I’m guaranteeing that within a screen or two, you will find links to download a copy of their books without payment. Some of these downloads are viruses, and frankly, I’m sometimes tempted to start doing that. Some of them you get free downloads in exchange for a monthly fee. In a huge number of cases, these are plain theft, and the author gets nothing.
Strangely, those authors who shrug off this kind of theft get more upset when their books are plagiarized. I have seen books for sale on Amazon, where the only effort the ‘author’ has put in has been to do a search&replace on the names of the principles, and slap a new cover on.
The cost of fighting plagiarism, even if it’s a slam-dunk case? Over $50,000 and the thief simply says “can’t pay” and walks away. Ask for links if you want a specific case.
Rant Mode OFF
I restrict myself to half a day a month to get upset over this, because even working tirelessly 24/7 as an internet masked avenger, I could not stem the tide. I have recently managed to alert an Aussie author to plagiarism and get the thief thrown off Amazon, and I have to take comfort from such small victories.
Once Angel Stakes is published, I have a long-standing commitment to make my late mother’s unpublished book available. It’s a colonial-era murder mystery set in the remotest bush station of Northern Rhodesia, and it’s a cracker. It only requires editing and formatting, so this won’t be a huge effort.
After that, Bian’s Tale book 1 and another short story/novella to weave Biting Cold’s Amanda and Scott into the Bite Back series.
Then Bite Back 6!
Undoubtedly the highlights of the week are the reviews and feedback that I’ve been getting for Cool Hand.
There are 33 reviews on Amazon now: 29×5-star, 3×4-star and 1×3-star. There are 13 reviews on Goodreads: 7×5-star, 5×4-star and 1×3-star (and a bunch of good ratings as well). It’s not so much the ratings as the words that have given me such a buzz, whether delivered on reviews, here on the blog, the Facebook pages or email. Thank you all. I love ya.
Cool Hand was in and out of the top 100 Urban Fantasy books, and averaged about 2,500 in all books over the last week (where 1 is the highest rating).
Cool Hand sales now stand at over 1,600, of which 550 were added in the last week. In that time, Sleight of Hand added 150, Hidden Trump 100 and Wild Card 130.
Audio book sales of Sleight of Hand topped 500 in total, but the last week was slow with only 28 sales.
Hidden Trump is still my leading launch. Both HT and CH took 9 days to reach 1,000 sales, but HT was launched into the January book sales and continued to sell very strongly. In the comparable week that CH has just sold 550, HT sold 1,300.
Some thoughts about Cool Hand
No book is ever just right, or exactly what the author wanted to say. Any author who tells you that is lying. Cool Hand was especially difficult for me because of the number of times I wrote and re-wrote the penultimate section (essentially what ended up as being chapters 47-55 – Santa Fe to the start of the Carson National Forest scenes).
When you rewrite that much, you lose a feel for the quality of readability of the work. I mean, each word is better selected, each sentence is better put, each plot strand better presented (otherwise what are you doing), but you lose a sense of how it feels as a reader.
The enthusiasm of the reviews vindicates Lauren’s insistence I could do better, and I hope justifies the delay in release.
And some thoughts about the next book
If you’ve caught your breath after the ending of Cool Hand…well, it could have been more complex and longer. Or shorter and simpler. And of course, there is that cliffhanger. Longer? Well, I could have resolved the cliffhanger, but the end of the book would have then become unwieldy and either the existing ending(s) or the resolution of the cliffhanger would have felt anti-climactic. Shorter? Well, one of the things that happened at the end, you’ve been waiting very patiently for, but I could have let it slide into the start of the next.
The point I’m trying to make is that there is some leeway in the scheduling of the resolution of ongoing threads. And I’m interested what you, the readers, absolutely have to have resolved sooner rather than later.
The core structure of Bite Back 5 is going to be provided by an ostensibly non-paranormal PI case, with threads for paranormal and relationship arcs woven in. What do you have to see progressed and/or resolved? Or, just who/what you have to see more of. Or less of! 🙂
I’m not promising to implement these!
(Progress on writing at the end of the month)
A final point
I never expected everyone to like my books, and frankly, scathing reviews of Sleight of Hand did little more than make me grin.
However…I do feel a responsibility to those of you who have come along for the ride and are unhappy about some direction developing in the books, or the balance of the story, or didn’t like Cool Hand, or parts of Cool Hand, or whatever.
I’d just like to say I’m happy to receive constructive negative feedback. By that I mean ‘I didn’t like this because…’ rather than ‘I didn’t like it.’ As with positive feedback, any route is fine – reviews, postings or emails to me at the contact address.
As with the last section, I can’t promise to change anything!
I’ve been neglecting my blog, for which I apologize to you. What has kept me away from finishing the half dozen blogettes I have waiting on my laptop is the pressure to produce the next book in the Bite Back series. This is not your fault, for reasons which I’ll come to. Suffice to say, at the moment, I would be head down in book writing this morning were it not for a conversation I had yesterday.
To set the scene, let me re-state that I seldom get upset by reviews. This is, in part, because ‘I have all the sensitivity of a rhinoceros’. However, that throwaway line doesn’t really capture the essence of what happens when I read reviews of my books, and I read every review I come across. The process I go through is split between emotional and rational. It’s very left brain – right brain. If the review is positive, I use it to polish my ego, which lives in my right brain, and then mentally add weight in the writing engine to the things mentioned. If the review is negative, I throw it at a set of analytical cogs in the left brain. These are:
What is the reviewer *really* saying?
Is it justified?
Do I want to change anything?
By the time the review is spat out of those cogs, there’s little emotional charge left. Anything I think I should change gets added in to the weights in the reading room.
The final decision on change, incidentally, for both positive and negative reasons, I leave to the future me when I’m actually at the point of plotting or writing about whatever it is that was mentioned in the review.
All of which is fine, and I recommend the system to any writer. And all of which is bypassed when I get feedback verbally. There are different parts of the brain engaged when the ‘review’ is in a conversation as opposed to a written text.
It’s not as if I haven’t received this feedback before, but it completely missed the analytical engine and went straight into the right brain and pissed me off.
The offending comment was ‘vampires are such an overdone theme’.
I have a deep well of witty rejoinders and cutting phrases, but along with 99.9% of the population, this well is capped off while I’m actually up on my hind legs and trying to speak. And the person making the comment is a friend and a writer. All I managed was my standard defense – ‘I’m enjoying writing it as much as many people seem to be enjoying reading it.’ Whatever.
With the conversation over, I retrieved the comment and sent it to the analytical cogs.
She said the area is overdone. That means there are a lot of books about vampires. Yeah? How many books are there about crime? Am I being unfair? Okay, how many books about murder? Still unfair?
Okay, how many books about serial killers? Yes, but people are now saying that serial killers are overdone, too. Fine, how many books are there where boy meets girl, they begin by hating each other and then fall in love? How many books are there about aliens? How many books are there about medieval kingdoms? With magic or dragons? Or both?
The vampire arena is *not* full. There is no reason to say that there are too many books about vampires any more than there are too many books about serial killers, romance, aliens or epic fantasy.
What she was really saying was that a lot of the books about vampires aren’t worth reading.
Whether she is justified or not will have to be another blog, because I promised myself I would spend no more than an hour on this. But to short circuit my analytical cogs and come to the last question – the answer is no, I’m not going to stop writing about Athanate just because there are a lot of books about vampires.
It is not your fault I’m feeling under pressure. The writing pressures at the moment come about because I’ve decided to spend more time writing the prequel than on Wild Card – about a ratio of 2:1. I know, if you’re reading this blog, you’re likely to want that ratio reversed at the least. But sitting here as an Indie author, I have to think about marketing and timing, and I believe a freebie prequel will mean a whole lot more people get to enjoy Wild Card a month or two later than anticipated.
Having thought through all my cutting rejoinders, I emailed my friend and told her I rejected her comment and listed the reasons why. I got a <LOL> back, and her own rejoinder, that if we were now going to have this conversation by email, she would apply her own analytical cogs to prove her case. I await her email.
Praise is writer’s crack. (But all feedback is welcome)
Praise. This is crazy. I almost feel I could live on this. It’s like a layered cake and the top layer gives the sugar high. These comments:
- This is definitely a “miss your bus stop” book. I couldn’t put it down!
- This book was a blast! I am very pleased that there will not be a long wait for the next one.
- I enjoyed Sleight of Hand and it left me wanting more.
- I’m looking forward now to Amber Farrell number 2.
- Loved it, loved it, loved it.
They pump me up! They give me energy!
But you cannot live on sugar alone. And the rest of what is being said is worth looking at too:
- The main character is kick-ass without coming across as invincible.
- Amber is an unusual character for UF – she used to be in the military.
- World-building: Good. Lots to sink your teeth into (*pun completely intended*)
This is long burn carbohydrates stuff. This keeps me going on detail. I put a lot of effort into trying to make Amber’s Denver as realistic and believable as possible. Yeah, I know, Urban Fantasy, vampires, etc., but let’s think about it – what does that ‘urban’ mean? It means, IMHO, that we can relate to it. It’s about people who have jobs and live in houses or apartments and drive cars and pay bills and shop at the local stores. It’s not about people who live in castles and ride in horse-drawn carriages. So, if we’re getting real, how real can we make it? Amber can kick ass partly because she spent ten years learning how to kick ass in the military. The paranormals have reason and rationale and … Okay, too much for one post. RTB.
Then there’s the protein. This reinforces my style.
- It’s a plus that the author didn’t clutter the book with graphic sex but instead relied on great writing and a good story.
- Amber’s got problems and she deals with them with integrity in a thoughtful and sometimes unexpected manner.
So sex and violence is fine, but not at the expense of story. Even better, work to get the reader to fully identify with the choices Amber makes. Make them positive. Give her integrity. I will keep working at this – good enough is not good enough.
Grains. Yeah, stretching the food groups metaphor here. This is about things that are developing—what are readers interested in:
- I want to know more about the incident that wiped out pretty much all of her squad.
- Can’t you make Hacha del Diablo a sort of prologue?
- Favourite Character: Tie between Amber and Bian.
- You’ve given Diana real depth.
- I liked that Amber didn’t jump straight into a romantic relationship, though I think I spy a love triangle coming up.
- She’s going to do what?
The constraints of time! Yes, Hacha del Diablo (the incident where her squad died) will be a prequel short story for free. Bian’s tale will be a separate book or series of episodes on the web site or Amazon. Amber will have romantic entanglements, and I use the word deliberately. I listen very carefully to what people say. I’m not promising things, and obviously, I’m not writing by committee, but I hear you.
I love that Bian is so popular. She was ‘born’ while I was taking a trip on Denver’s light rail system, and sprang out almost fully formed as an outrageous foil for Amber. And, boy, does she have a tale to tell.
- I surprised myself that I got into a book about vampires and werewolves.
A convert! This is almost as good as the sugar high I started with.
Many thanks to everyone who has fed back to me on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, or direct contact (on the www.athanate.com web site). I really appreciate all of it.
Thanks also to Edgar A. Guest, for the “good enough” phrase: http://activerain.com/blogsview/1619445/good-enough-isn-t-good-enough