Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: 2014

Mailing List

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Print Version of Exile Ready!

Happy holidays, dearest readers!

I've got good news! The print version of Soulwoven: Exile is ready, so those of you who've been waiting to read it on paper can now order it! You can get it here.

And remember, if you leave a review of it on Amazon by the end of the year, you can enter to win a kick-ass personalized copy. Full rules here.

Thanks, as always, for your time and support. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and Happy New Year to you all. I hope I've given you something wonderful to read this year.

Yours in sweat and ink as always,

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Update on Print Books of Soulwoven: Exile

Hello, dearest readers!

I know many of you are waiting for the print version of Soulwoven: Exile, so I wanted to give you a quick update. There have been delays at the printer and delays on account of holiday shipping, so the books are going to be late. I'm as disappointed about it as you are, but there it is.

The book should be ready next week, but it won't be available in time for Christmas, and there's a chance it won't be available until the end of the year.

In the meantime, you can get the e-book now! I know it's small consolation for those of you who wanted to get or give a big, beautiful, paper book this year, but it's the best I've got to offer.

Yours in ink and chocolate,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why Wattpad?

I get a lot of questions from other authors about why I have work up on Wattpad. The most common is, "What do you get out of it?"

I've answered that in bits and pieces before. I get encouragement and feedback. I get to test stories before I decide what kind of a budget to set when I publish them. I get fans.

But Wattpad recently rolled out a new feature that will let me show you the primary thing I get in a way I haven't been able to before.

This is a map that shows where the Wattpad readers of Soulwoven are from. Darker countries have contributed a greater share of readers. White countries have contributed none.

And this is what I get.

Not the map. Bla bla business intelligence, yes, there's some information that's economically useful there, but it's not important.

The darkest country on this map is a place I can (and do) reach by self-publishing. But there are also a lot of countries on this map that I can't reach that way. Maybe most importantly, there aren't that many countries on this map with no shading.

Think about that for a second. Someone has read my writing in almost every country on Earth.

How many people in human history have ever been able to say that?

So the next time someone asks me, "Why Wattpad?" I will point them here with great happiness.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Soulwoven: Exile is OUT!

Ta-da! Today is LAUNCH day! Soulwoven: Exile is out in e-book form. The print version is nearly complete as well; I expect it to be ready next week.

In the meantime, a quick rundown of some of the launch-time fun things you can enjoy.

  • The Speculative Post gave it a fantastic review and hosted a guest post from yours truly on why it's a problem when the black guy dies.
  • Susan Spann let me take over her blog for a day to talk about why mystery and fantasy get along so well together.
  • The launch contest is in full effect, so get reading and reviewing for a chance at that hand-annotated copy!
  • The first book has had its price dropped to $0.99 so new readers can get up to speed quickly.

I'll add more to this post as they crop up. There are some other guest-posty type things coming down the pipe.

One more time: you can buy it here. Tell your friends! Leave reviews! Share it on social media! Buy everyone a copy for Christmas! It's a Soulwoven spectacular!

And more seriously, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Soulwoven: Exile KICK-ASS COPY Contest!

Alright, dearest readers. It's time for a post of BIG NEWS!

Namely, I'm running a book launch contest for Soulwoven: Exile!

One of the most popular rewards among my Kickstarter backers was a kick-ass personalized copy of SOULWOVEN. These books were signed, and they had doodles and notes in them written and drawn by yours truly---one-of-a-kind additions to the text that were completely unique. Notes about the creation of scenes and where they came from, little scribbles of the way things look in my brain, that kind of thing.

They looked like this (click to embiggen):

I'm going to make one of these copies of Soulwoven: Exile and offer it as a reward to one of the first people to read and review the e-book.

Here's how you can get your hands on it:

1.) Pre-order the e-book of Soulwoven: Exile on (or buy it before Dec. 31).

2.) Read it.

3.) Leave a review of the book on Amazon that includes the words "I received a chance at a free print copy of the book in return for leaving an unbiased review."

That's it. I'll contact the winning reviewer via a response to their Amazon review in January, after the contest ends. Cool contest image below (share it far and wide!). Legalese at the bottom of the post.

I hope you guys enjoy! I love making these one-off books for people, and I can't wait to hear what you all think of Exile!



To be eligible to win, you must be at least 18 years old and live or have a mailing address in the US or Canada. No purchase necessary to win. To enter without purchasing, e-mail to receive a five-chapter electronic sample of Soulwoven: Exile for review. Other entry requirements apply. Odds of winning vary with entries received. One entry per household. One winner will be drawn at random from eligible reviews.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

All Hallow's Write 2014 - Horrid Little Nocturnes

So this year I thought I'd try something different for All Hallow's Write. I didn't have anything long and harrowing, like What Lies in Darkness, in me again, for a variety of reasons. Once you read the end of Soulwoven: Exile, you might understand why. I'm also in the middle of a campaign of Getting Enough Sleep that has done wonders for my mental health, and I judged that staying on that horse was more important than staying up all night tonight.

So, something different.

I haven't written poetry with the intent of sharing it since college, and I'm not much of a poet. I've got a vague idea of what the tools are, but little worked out in terms of how to use them.

Nevertheless, I have an imagination, and it can be wicked, and I have done my best to let it loose tonight.

So enjoy. Here are several short poems, some horrid little nocturnes, the result of my All Hallow's Write 2014.

Night Terrors

They come at night.
All these little horrors.
Broken-glass knives peeling
open my scalp, coercing my mind.

I shiver, scratch
and wait and wake
and toss and turn
and flail and gnash
while the darkness grows deeper
and the turn-bottle nasties turn over the graves
of dead dreads
and birth them anew.

In the morning they’re gone.

But each leaves new scars.

And deeper.

Like dead flesh on a stained-purple heart
after cardiac arrest.

The Blue People

They say it’s cold after death, but
the blue people know they’re wrong.
It’s not your warmth they want.

It’s breath they need, vitality,
and so they choose to stay.
Hover over you dreamers,
suck life from your lips,
eyes shut in ecstatic aspiration.

You never see them.
But when you wake, they scream.

Under the Ice

There are things (they are waiting)
Down under the ice.

While you slide along they float,
suspended in timeless misery,
aching for a moment’s touch.

Their fingers track you, carefully,
slip along the too-smooth ceiling of their world.
One crack, dear child, one crack.
And you’ll be down to join them.

Behind the Stars

There are watchers out behind the stars.
And not the ones you’d think.
No green men in shining ships,
with beams or rays or probes.

These are much worse.

The things out there are eldritch terrors
hid beyond the sky.
That dome of black is paper-thin.
Beyond it? Crawling, awful things.

The stars their eyes,
their grasping fingers made of gravitons.
And the dark sky-shards
that burn between the clouds?

Slivers of their fingernails,
breaking as they claw the night.

At the Heart of the Machine

No one knows what lies
at the heart of the machine.
We make our theorems, call them true,
but truth lies out of reach.

A misplaced variable.

One coefficient, slightly warped.

In these things lives the machine’s soul,
a broke-faced golem, shattered eyeballs of black
gaping nothing.

And inside the heart of that machine?

We run, little rats on moebius treadmills.
Devils behind us, urging.
Flaying our backs if we fall.

Imagine now.

One slip.

One trip.

And the cat o’ nine tails rips your back
with long-stick needles of rusted-nail teeth.

Leaving you,
at the heart of the machine.


Happy Halloween, everybody!

Monday, September 29, 2014

For the Locker: Maggie Gyllenhaal on Performing Ourselves

There are a number of reasons my blog posts have been sporadic lately. I've been wrestling with demons, and that takes up a lot of time and head space. It's tough to blog in the face of that.

So here's a little snippet for the locker. It's from an interview TIME Magazine did with Maggie Gyllenhaal.

"I relate to panic sometimes. One of the things that's happening to [my character] is that she's going from being somebody who performs all the time and feels that she has to be extraordinary to somebody is actually a human being. [...] I think it's something all human beings can relate to---performing themselves, thinking they're supposed to be what they imagined they were going to be when they were 20."

I found it comforting. I hope you do as well.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Soulwoven: Exile is Up for Pre-Order!

Hello, dearest readers!

Two news items for you today folks, and they’re big ones!


Soulwoven: Exile is up on Amazon for pre-order! E-book only for now, but it will launch in that format on December 12, 2014. Hopefully the paper book will be available on the same day, but I won’t know for a little while longer.

Just in time for Christmas! Hope you guys enjoy. And for your pleasure below: cover, blurb, and sneak peek.


Darkness is falling.

The dragon Sherduan is free, and the fate of the world balances on its claws. The Jin brothers and their friends are separated. Alone, they face shadows deeper even than those in their dreams.

Litnig wrestles with his heritage. Cole and Dil cling to shards of happiness as the world crumbles. Quay finds that, in the end, his weakness may outweigh his determination. Ryse and Leramis find in their homecomings not solace but soul-crushing ordeal.

And others enter the stage. Len Heramsun’s daughter follows Tsu’min as he tries to summon a force to oppose Sherduan. A prophet offers guidance to those he can find. In Nutharion, a boy of great power plots to reunite those spared by the dragon. And elsewhere, a ghost and a necromancer contend with the wages of sin.

Those who stood before the black wall when Sherduan was summoned were chosen. But by whom? And for what?

And will their courage create enough light to break through the darkness?

Sneak Peak!

One hundred days before the destruction of Nutharion City

The black rocks rose.
The black rocks fell.
The black rocks rose.
The black rocks fell.
“It’s not working,” Cole muttered into his sleeves.
He leaned on the railing of an old Aleani fishing vessel. The sea frothed and heaved. A wide, taut sail snapped and creaked over his head. In front of him, a series of flat rocks bobbed in the waves.
His stomach tumbled and rolled and dropped until he could barely pick out which direction was up anymore.
“Just hang in there,” Dil said. Her hand rubbed slow, gentle circles on his back.
His stomach tried to throw up, but there was nothing in it. He dug his fingernails into the railing and grimaced.
The fit passed, and he let his head slump again.
“I thought they said we’d see land by now.”
“They did.” Dil’s fingers continued their circling. “It’s out beyond the rocks, hidden in the fog.”
Cole raised his head. There was a heavy bank of clouds beyond the flat-topped rocks. He couldn’t see anything inside it other than spots of lighter and darker gray.
“Ugh,” he said.
He put his back against the rail and slid down until he reached the deck. Aleani sailors bustled in front of him in flashes of blue and brown and white. He shut his eyes and pressed his fingers against his temples.
“Do you want some water?” Dil asked.
He nodded, and her feet danced away.
The Aleani had sent a ship, but it hadn’t exactly been what he was hoping for.
The Skellup was maybe forty feet long and ten wide. It was crewed by seven tanned, bearded fishermen from some town in the Aleani borderlands that Cole had never heard of. The ship seemed seaworthy, but it was slow, the area belowdecks was crammed and stank of fish, and there almost always seemed to be somebody working its bilge pump.
Only the captain spoke any Eldanian. When Quay asked why the Skellup had been sent to find them, the red-capped Aleani had spit over the side of the ship and muttered about crimes and judgment.
Cole wondered what sort of welcome they’d get when they reached Du Fenlan.
The wind raced over his neck, and he shivered.
He felt squashed and adrift, as if all the months of pent-up change that had started with Litnig’s dream were crashing down on him all at once. He no longer had a mother, no longer had a home, no longer had the thieves who’d been his adopted family for so long.
All he had left was Litnig, Dil, and Quay, and Litnig was changing too. There were times that Cole looked in his eyes and couldn’t find the brother he’d grown up with.
Those times scared him.
A lot.
Thunder grumbled in the northern sky. Cole felt a storm coming, even over his pulsing nausea. The air was getting heavier. The wind ripped like a wild beast out of the endless ocean.
Dil’s footsteps returned.
“Here,” she said.
Cole took a cup of water from her and sipped it. He hadn’t been able to keep more than the thinnest broth down at sea, and his body was starting to feel weak and jittery.
The wind picked up again, and a curtain of frigid spray blew into his face.
“You sure you don’t want to head below?” Dil asked.
Cole stifled the urge to shake his head—doing that would set it spinning for minutes.
“No,” he said. “It’s better out here.”
He looked up. Dil’s eyes glowed golden against the gray river of clouds behind her. Her dark hair, matted and caked with sea salt and dirt, swirled in the wind.
“You know,” he said with a smile, “your head looks like a charging octopus.”
Dil grinned and rubbed his arm. “Yeah? Well your face looks like a dead one.”
Cole laughed. Behind Dil, three Aleani sailors and the captain broke into a shouting match. A gust of wind shook the sail and spattered him with water.
“How’re the others?” Cole asked.
Dil shrugged and settled down next to him. “Same as they’ve been. Litnig’s grumpy. Leramis and Ryse are whispering. Quay’s a million miles away. Tsu’min isn’t talking to anybody.”
Cole finished off the water in his cup and sighed. “How far are we from Du Nordt?”
“Still a few days, if the wind holds. Quay says we’re passing between Patch’s Fingers and the Bay of Reeds.”
Great, Cole thought. He’d heard stories about the Aleani expedition to colonize the Bay of Reeds. All lost but a few. Famine. Cannibalism. Disease. He shivered and stood up to look back over the rail. This time he spotted hazy strips of land swimming in the clouds—a stripe of light colors that might signify a beach, a darker line that was probably forest beyond, and mountains disappearing into the gray cotton of the sky to the southwest.
We’re too close, he thought.
As if he’d called it, a gust of wind hit the ship and knocked it toward the rocks. His stomach leaped into his throat. More shouting erupted from the Aleani.
Cole’s cup clattered to the deck, and he braced himself against the railing with both hands.
After a moment, the ship stopped pitching any more than usual. His stomach settled and he turned back around. Next to him, Dil peered into the wind, her nose high in the air like she was sniffing for something.
Cole thought he might be able to see the storm. A line of cloud darker than the rest masked the northern horizon. Rain, probably. Lots of it, falling hard. It was moving toward them.
“Yenor’s balls,” he muttered.
The wind got worse, and the ship rolled sickeningly to port. Cole clutched the railing and stared at the horizon, willing his guts to calm down.
Voices speaking Eldanian broke the air behind him.
“—don’t really care right now, Lit. I want to find out what the heck—”
“How long did you keep it from me, Ryse? Who else did you tell?”
The second voice was his brother’s, and it sounded angry.
Cole followed the sound and found Litnig, Ryse, Quay, and Leramis exiting the staircase that led belowdecks. Quay strode to the aft castle of the ship, where the Aleani captain was standing next to his pilot at the wheel, looking nervously at the rocks to portside and the storm to starboard.
Ryse made to follow him, but Litnig held her back. “Who else knew, Ryse? Who else did you tell?” The wind picked up, but his voice cut through it. His face was getting flushed. His eyes flashed.
Nine-tailed, stepdancing hells, Cole thought. He stumbled his way across the deck.
“Did you tell him?” Litnig thundered. He jerked a thumb toward Leramis.
Ryse looked at her feet.
That seemed to say enough for Litnig.
“Yenor’s eyes, Ryse!” He ran a hand through his hair and grabbed a tuft of it. “Why didn’t you trust me? Why didn’t you—”
The ship rolled to port again, and Litnig stumbled into Cole.
Litnig outweighed him by a solid eighty pounds, but Cole had always been good at leveraging his weight. Even the sea couldn’t take that from him. He caught Litnig and wrapped his arms around him.
“Easy, Lit,” he said. The ship righted and his head tried to turn a somersault, but he controlled it. “Calm down, all right? Just calm…”
Litnig turned his head. His hair had grown long and shaggy, and his cloud-colored eyes were red-rimmed and underlined with shadows. “Cole,” he growled, “stay out of this.”
Cole squeezed. It was the same thing Litnig had done to their father at least a dozen times.
He hoped Lit would get the message.
Cole squeezed tighter.
“I’m warning you, Cole. Don’t—”
A few fat drops of rain struck Cole across the face. The storm clouds were growing closer. The rain began to drum against the deck. The wind shoved them toward the rocks.
None of that mattered. He couldn’t control it. He couldn’t even affect it. All he could do was hold on to his brother, and if he was very lucky, make him listen. “Lit,” Cole said as quietly as he could, “do you remember when ’Ta would get mad?”
Litnig’s muscles bunched underneath Cole’s fingertips. “Don’t talk to me about ’Ta,” he growled. “You don’t understand, Cole. You don’t…”
“So tell me,” Cole said. His arms were starting to get tired.
Litnig mumbled something.
“I said, ‘I can’t!’” Litnig roared. He lowered his hips and broke free of Cole’s grip. His elbow slammed into Cole’s gut and sent him stumbling backward.
As he did, the ship rolled to port again, deeper than it had before.
Cole scrambled to keep his balance. His arms wheeled. The ship rolled deeper, and he found himself staring upward and northward into the darkening sky. Litnig reached for him, but he was too far away, and Cole was falling toward the portside rail, falling toward the sea—
He crashed into something warm. Something just about his size. Something that grabbed at his arm and yelped as it was knocked into the ocean in his place.
The Skellup righted itself and began to climb another swell. The wind screamed. Cole turned in a slow circle.
Dil was gone.
It took a second for him to register the fact.
Dil was gone.
There was a warm place on his shoulder where he’d crashed into her. He craned his head over the side of the ship, but the swells were so high he couldn’t spot her.
Gone, he thought again. The word didn’t seem real.
He faced his brother. Litnig’s eyes shone wide and panicked. His face had gone from flushed to ghastly pale.
The Aleani shouted and heaved and pulled at things. The storm grew fiercer. Another wave struck the ship.
Cole shivered in the wind and the rain, and then he began to move.
He spotted a coil of unused rope hanging by the stairs to the aft castle. Not too heavy, not too light. Enough to hold his weight but not drag him down. He picked up one end. It felt old and coarse.
Everyone was talking, but he didn’t care.
Dil was gone.
He fumbled numbly to tie the rope around his waist.
He used good knots. Climbing knots that had borne his weight as he scrambled up stone walls in Thieves’ Rise. He handed Litnig the other end of the rope.
“Cole…” said Litnig.
Cole stepped toward the portside railing. His body still felt shaky and weak, but that hardly mattered anymore.
Litnig’s hand landed on his shoulder, pulling him back, keeping him on the ship, keeping him from Dil.
Something inside Cole snapped.
“Don’t you fucking touch me!” he shouted. He whirled around, elbow first, harder than he meant to, harder than he’d hit Lit since they were kids. There was a heavy crack. A dark red welt formed under Litnig’s left eye.
Litnig let go and reached for his injured cheek. Cole spun around. The ship rolled and heaved. His stomach tried to jump out of his throat.
Cole ran forward, planted one foot on top of the railing, and leaped into the sea.
It was an ugly dive, and his face hit the water with a cold, wet slap. His chest contracted, but he’d spent enough time in thrice-damned freezing water not to lose his breath or his head anymore. He didn’t sink too deep, and soon he was back on top of the salty swells, treading water and sucking in breath while the wind sent drops of spray skittering along the heaving ocean surface.
“Dil!” he screamed into the storm. The Skellup’s low, rolling gait had already taken it past him. He took a few strokes away from the ship, keeping the rocks to his right. The swells pulled at him more strongly than he’d expected them to. He bobbed six or eight feet up and down with every one. The cold sapped what strength was left in his arms and legs.
“Dil!” he screamed again.
The water churned in dark, angry mountains. The rope around his waist played out foot by foot. He kicked and pulled and spat and shouted.
A voice called out in return, far to his right. Toward the rocks. The water swelled, and for a moment he was on top of everything.
He spotted a dot in the water near one of the rocks.
Cole’s legs scissored, and he swam as fast and as hard as his numbing body would take him. The line stretched out. The rock drew closer, even as his face lost feeling and the outsides of his arms and legs grew rubbery. When he was on the crests of the waves, he saw that the dot was coming out to meet him. It grew closer, closer, larger, larger. No longer a dot but a person. No longer a person but Dil.
He’d almost reached her when the line caught around his hips and dragged him backward.
He cursed and shoved down on the rope belt as it took him underwater. It didn’t budge. His knots were strong.
Cole rolled over. His head broke the surface again, but he was on his back, not swimming but trolling through the water like a worm on the end of a fishing line. The cold, briny sea filled his mouth. He spat it out and spotted Dil in front of him. She was just out of reach, struggling through the chop. She looked worried, and she was getting farther away. She wouldn’t catch him, couldn’t catch him—
His fingers closed around the handle of his knife.
Cold, confused calculations ran drunkenly through his brain. He pulled the knife.
He cut the rope.
It didn’t take much. He slid the blade back and forth twice, and then he was free—no longer being dragged anywhere but with the current. The frayed end of the rope skimmed across the tops of the waves and flew beyond his reach.
Arms grasped his shoulders. Legs kicked next to his in the waves. He turned to face them.
Dil wrapped her arms around him. Her eyes shone a bright, lustrous gold. “Cole—why?” she whispered.
Cole kicked to stay above the churning surf. The wind whipped sheets of spray into his eyes. A sheet of lightning forked across the bottoms of the clouds.
“I love you,” he mumbled into her shoulder.
As if it solved everything. As if it solved anything.
They floated together, a mile or more offshore, a mile or more from safety, surrounded by wind and water and black, jagged rocks.
And filled by desperate, flickering love.

Thanks for reading! Pre-order here!

SECOND bit of news!

I’m going to make an audiobook of Soulwoven. I’ve gotten a lot of interest from people I talk to at signings and conferences, but I also want to poll you the hardcore fans so that I can make sure you get what you want. To that end, I’ve put together a quick survey about your audiobook preferences. If you’ve got a minute, fill it out and let me know what you’re after!

That’s all for now, friends and readers. Thanks as always for being the wind in my sails. I am so, so excited about Exile. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written, hands-down. It’s tighter, deeper, darker, and more beautiful than the first book was. Early readers have been excited about it, and I hope you will be too. I can’t wait to get it to you. :-)

Yours in sweat and ink as always,

Monday, September 8, 2014

Soulwoven Audiobook?

Okay guys, it's going to be a busy week here in Soulwoven land. Lots of news to relate, and we're starting with this:

I'm going to make a Soulwoven audiobook.

I've been going to conferences and talking to readers this summer, and two trends have emerged in my conversations:

1.) People love audiobooks. People who read lots of books love them even more.

2.) People like the way I read my own work. A lot. Every time I do a reading, I get lots of love afterward.

So I'm putting those two things together and thinking, "Alright, let's do an audiobook."

I've put a lot of time into researching how to do it, and I have a basic plan in place. I also fully expect there'll be lots of experimenting and failing and fun things to share along the way.

But before I do any of that, I want to hear from you.

I've put together a real quick survey for my readers about their interest in an audiobook version of Soulwoven. I want to make sure I give you guys what you want. And I have to decide how to much to invest in the project in terms of time and money.

So if you've got a few minutes, I'd be everlastingly appreciative if you filled it out. You can find it here.

Cheers, and come back tomorrow for bigger, better news.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Jeff Seymour, Patron of the Arts

In the old new always days, very rich people gave artists money to make art. I've always thought that sounded awfully nice. Nice to be on the rich-person-giving end, I mean. Every once in a while (twice, in the last two years, actually), I come across an author whose submission is so freakin' good that I would pay them outlandish amounts of money to write more, just so I could read it, were the funds available, and then that submission fails to get through an acquisitions board. Those are sad days.

But there are other ways to be a patron of the arts, even if you're poor broke desperately hoarding your resources for one reason or another.

I'm a huge fan of Clarkesworld Magazine. Have been for years. They publish such. good. fiction. The stories aren't always perfect from a technical standpoint, but they almost always sweep me up and carry me away and make me think. The rate of success that magazine has at doing that is, frankly, astonishing.

So a few months ago I signed up to be a patron of Clarkesworld, via this thing called Patreon. Mostly I did it because I wanted a print copy of the magazine, and mostly that's the enjoyment I've gotten out of it. I've thought of it more like a subscription.

But today I read perhaps the best Clarkesworld story I've come across yet ("Five Stages of Grief after the Alien Invasion," by Caroline M. Yoachim), and I realized, with pride, that I helped make it happen. See, the August issue of Clarkesworld is noticeably bigger than the previous issues have been. That's because they've taken their Patreon money (my money!) and used it to buy more stories. Maybe Caroline Yoachim's was one of them. Maybe it was in the magazine because I (and a few dozen other people) are chipping in $10 every month.

So now I will call myself Jeff Seymour, Patron of the Arts, proudly. Because despite being a starving tinypotatoes writer and editor, I am wealthy enough to help make the publication of great art possible.

And my God, how awesome is that?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sale! New Story! SO MANY THINGS!!!

Okay you guys, I've been pretty pathetic about keeping up on the blog lately. I apologize for that. But I've been busy, and now there's news that cannot possibly ignored, meaning I'm back here again to share it.

Said news is on three fronts:

First! SOULWOVEN is on sale! Today through 8/31 it’s available for $.99, and on 9/1 and 9/2 it’s available for $1.99. If you don’t have your copy yet, now’s a great time to get one, and if you’ve got friends who might be interested in reading it, now’s a great time for them to get one too!

Second! The e-book version of SOULWOVEN has been updated to include a teaser for Soulwoven: Exile, the next book in the series, which will be out on December 5 or 6 (see how I snuck that announcement in there?). I’m working on getting Amazon to update it for people who’ve already bought the book, and I’ll post again once I have that done.

Third! You may remember that I wrote a short story for All Hallow's Write last year called WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS. Well, I read it to some people at InConJunction this year and they loved it so much I decided I ought to clean it up and put it on Amazon. So now I have. It’s just $.99, and it’s a hell of a spooky read. If you like scary stories, click through and check it out. If it doesn’t hook you, I’ve done something wrong. Description and opening chapter at bottom, for the click-shy.

Also, it's currently sitting at #62 on Amazon's Horror Short Stories bestseller list. Feel free to join the crowd on this one. It's a good crowd.

Finally, as always, thanks for reading. Readers are the wind in my sails and the reason I do this thing. I hope you enjoy what I’ve got on tap for you this weekend. Let me know if you do! I always love to hear from you.

Yours in blood, sweat, and ink,

Ellie Mailer can’t sleep. When she tries, the darkness over her bed sticks its fingers down her throat and squeezes. Her uncle’s footsteps rock the floorboards above her head. And there are bad storms coming through every night.

All these things she can handle. But when a man with darkness where his face should be comes to her door, she enters a world of shadows and secrets and death, where she’ll be all that lies between her little sister Georgie and a creature that enters homes and eats the hearts of those who live within.

This is the story of the summer Ellie cut off her uncle’s fingers and heard her best friend die. This is how she learned what lies in darkness.


Chapter One

Fingers in the Dark

I DIDN’T SLEEP A LOT when I was fourteen.
It was the darkness above my bed. Not the lack of light but what was in it, lying there, waiting for me. Every night it dripped down from the ceiling and into my mouth, seeped into my shirt and over my chest and my stomach and thighs. Squeezed.
The school psychologist told me it was just night terrors, but it wasn’t. I know that now. I was never asleep before the darkness came.
The summer storms were especially bad that year, and that didn’t help. They were big rollers that came crashing across the plains and broke on our little suburb like it was a rock out on the ocean. The rain drummed on the roof like an army of gnomes with gnarled fingers, and the wind pushed against the side of the house as though it wanted nothing more than to roll it over and crack open its belly to get at the good stuff inside.
Me and my little sister Georgie, we were the good stuff.
My uncle stayed with us that summer. His bedroom was right above mine, and he didn’t sleep much either. Even when the storms were going on, I heard his feet on the floor. Pacing. Turning. Pacing. Turning.
That’s all the setup you need. The rest I’ll tell like it happened.
You asked me about darkness. About what’s inside it.
I’m going to tell you about the summer I found out, and I cut my uncle’s fingers off, and my best friend died.


The darkness is in my mouth, and it feels like a handful of fingers. It’s pulling my cheeks out, pinching my tongue and trying to push it to the side so that it can go deeper. It feels so real—like there’s a man wrapped in it, floating up in the dark spaces near the ceiling, and his arm’s behind the fingers, pushing. If he gets them to the back of my tongue, he’s gonna tear it out and eat it, and then he’s gonna stick his arm down my throat, rip a hole in my esophagus, and yank out my heart through my mouth.
So I grab the sides of my bed and I fight it.
Uncle George is still awake, somewhere up above me. The red lights of the clock by my bed read 2:30 a.m. My parents have been asleep for hours; I heard them stop arguing around midnight.
There’s a storm outside too—a real rager by the sound of it. The gnome fingers are hammering, hammering, hammering on the roof. Even in the basement, I can hear it. The house feels like it’s about ready to give up the ghost, and me and Georgie with it.
Georgie’s the reason I can’t let the darkness win, even though sometimes I want to.’Cause if it gets me, it’ll go for Georgie next, and I won’t let that happen.
Our daughters, Frank. It’s not right… Mom said before Dad hushed her for the last time.
Most nights I beat the darkness. The man and his fingers get weaker, and then he goes away, and I can breathe and sleep.
Uncle George must be pacing real slow. There’s only one board in his room that creaks: the one by the door.
Some nights it feels like the darkness is gonna beat me, and I give up on trying to sleep and go stand in the living room to watch the storms roll through ’til dawn. This is gonna be one of those nights, I think, and I might as well just admit it.
The fingers have got hold of my tongue pretty good now. One of them grazes the dangler in the back of my throat, and I choke.
I roll over and slip off the bed, spit out the darkness’s fingers. They try to work their way back in right up ’til I walk away, the bottom cuffs of my pajamas dragging on the cold wood floor.
Uncle George rattles the door upstairs, and I freeze. My heart jumps into my throat.
The door doesn’t open.
I sigh in relief.

GEORGIE’S NOT IN HER ROOM across the hall. I can tell ’cause her door’s cracked. She’s only five, and half the time when she thinks she’s got the door closed she doesn’t.
She gets up in the middle of the night sometimes too. It must run in the family, ’cause my mom and dad take pills for it.
Our house is a split-level, and the living room’s on the middle floor. I bet that’s where Georgie is. She likes watching the storms too. My heart’s still pounding from my fight with the darkness, so I take my time walking down the hall, let my toes squish in the brand-new carpet Mom made Dad put in last winter. It’s the nicest thing in the house. I’ve heard her say so.
The new carpet ends at the bottom of the stairs. I sigh and put my toes on the old stuff. It’s rough. Feels like a cat’s tongue. I hate that feeling. Like the stairs are tasting you, trying to decide whether to eat you or not.
Georgie’s not in the living room.
There are two big picture windows in the front wall. Just as I get up the stairs, the lightning flashes and the street lights up behind them. Everything’s stark white and black for a split-second—the crabapple tree in the yard, the Dawsons’ house across the street, everything. The sheets of rain are so thick I can see them.
When the lightning’s gone, I catch a flash of something white near the front door.
Georgie’s nightgown, I think.
The floors up here are hardwood. Better than the licking cats on the stairs, but cold at night, even in the summer.
Thunder rattles the windows. I flinch, close my eyes, take a deep breath. I’m old enough I should be used to the storms by now.
When I open my eyes, I see Georgie.
She’s standing by the front door. Two little windows run up next to it, and she’s pulled the gauzy curtain that covers one of them aside and is peeking out at the rain. I join her.
“Whatcha doin’, Georgie?” I whisper.
My parents wouldn’t hear a freight train come through, but I don’t want Uncle George to know we’re up if I can help it.
“Watchin’,” she says. Her voice sounds like it’s coming out of a toy or a cartoon.
“Watchin’ what?”
Her hair’s brown, and it curves down around her ears. Mom gave her a bowl cut last week, and she loves it. Georgie giggled while Mom tickled her neck with one hand and worked the scissors with the other.
I squat next to her, ruffle her hair, and plant a kiss on her cheek, like Mom does. She squirms when I do it, but I don’t care. It’s more for me than for her.
The street looks pretty much the same through the little window as it does through the big ones, ’cept you can’t see the Dawsons’. You can see the long shadows from their porch light though. I’ve watched them from the living room. They sort of look like people, if you catch ’em from the wrong angle.
They’re sort of doing it now.
One of the shadows is moving. Coming toward us, strolling across the street like a human being.
“Georgie,” I whisper, “get away from the door.”
It’s just a feeling, but Georgie’s only five, and she doesn’t care if what I tell her to do doesn’t make sense. Thank God for that.
She moves away from the door.
Uncle George’s door opens, down the hall that leads to my parents’ room.
“Ellie?” he whispers. “That you? You girls need something?”
My heart jumps into my throat. My tongue sticks when I try to answer him, and for a second I feel the fingers again, pinching, trying to reach inside me and pull something out.
I open my mouth and croak out nothing.
Creak. The other foot. He’s about to leave his room and come into the hallway. Our space, mine and Georgie’s.
“No.” The word comes out in a gasp. “We’re fine. Just getting some water.”
Uncle George stays silent for a second.
“Okay,” he says.
Creak. Creak. The door shuts.
The fingers in my mouth float away.
I stalk back to Georgie, grab her by the arm, and yank her toward the living room and the stairs. We’ll spend the night in her room, and I’ll sit in the rocking chair and read while she sleeps. I don’t want to watch the storm, and I don’t want to be upstairs with Uncle George.
I freeze. Something cold cracks open on the top of my head and oozes down my neck. The feeling’s so real I touch my skin. My fingers come up a little clammy, but it’s just from sweat.
Before I can tighten my grip on Georgie’s arm, she snatches it away.
“I’ll get it!” she sings.
Mom taught her to answer the door last week. It’s her new favorite game.
“Georgie, no!” I whisper.
But she’s fast as hell when she wants to be. She gets to the door before I’m even all the way turned around. Flicks the deadbolt over while I’m closing the three feet between us. Opens the door.
The chain stops it. It’s too high for her to reach.
There’s a man outside, wearing a black double-breasted suit and a hat. I can’t see his face. I’m looking straight at it, but I can’t see it. All I see is darkness.
“Hello,” he whispers. The sound feels like the edge of a knife in my ears. “Can I come in?”
My palm hits the door and slams it. I flick the deadbolt back and tug the curtain over the windows. I bundle Georgie up in my arms, and I run like hell back downstairs. When we get behind her door, I prop the rocking chair against the knob—We don’t have locks we don’t have locks why the hell don’t we have locks?—and drag her dresser over, and then I sit cross-legged on the ground and listen.
No footsteps.
No one coming.
No one trying to get in.
Just Georgie crying because she doesn’t understand and the storm thundering away outside.
And the feeling of fingers, trying to rip out my tongue and get down my throat.

Thanks for reading. Get the rest here!

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Sunsets

I'm away right now. Not doing normal things, like working and writing and e-mailing and whatnot. Really, I shouldn't even be blogging. But I had a thought yesterday, and writing it down will help me remember it better. So I'm going to do it here where I can share it with you.

Watching sunsets is important.

For me, anyway.

I used to do it a lot. Like, whenever I could. And I've had a lot of great ideas while doing it. Somehow over the past few years, I've been doing less and less of it. Yesterday was the first time in recent memory that I sat down and watched a sunset. I had nothing else to do during that time. No one to talk to. No task that needed to be completed. It was just me and the world, reenacting a human ritual I suspect is an ancient as anything that could even remotely be called humanity.

And I felt more at peace and connected with the world than I have in some time.

So, sunsets. Stop and enjoy them. Even SANDMAN's Lucifer got something out of it. You will too.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hairy-Footed Women, and Other Protagonists We Need More Of

Today's post brought to you by this, which is awesome.

Also of note! The price for the Soulwoven e-book has dropped to $2.99.

Gender norms are a topic of note in my house, my family, my reading, and, sometimes, my writing. I will admit that discussions of them often make me uncomfortable (aka aware of my privilege) and fill me with doubt as to whether I'm secretly a reprehensible human being despite all my efforts not to be.

But sometimes, they're just awesome.

Like today, when my fiancee sent me a link to this post about someone changing The Hobbit so that Bilbo is a girl. I am, I will admit, an unabashed fan of swapping the genders of protagonists and seeing what happens. So this is really in my wheelhouse. But also there's the picture. And in the Facebook link I was sent (embedded at bottom), there's an even better picture of a woman cosplaying the hell out of Bilbo, hairy feet and all.

I'm sure I'm late to this party, because this blog post went up seven months ago and I'm always late to the Internet party, but it's still cool.

And it made me think how much the world could use more female protagonists with hairy feet, hairy legs, hairy armpits, etc. Because hairlessness is a feature of childhood, and that's, well...problematic. I'll let you fill in your own dots on that one.

So what other kinds of protagonists could we use more of? Let me know and maybe I (or someone I know) will get a great idea for a story built around them. :-)

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Coolest Thing

This is mostly just a chance to be happy, which I don't do often enough on this blog. Because writing really does make me happy. Sharing stories makes me happy. Touching lives makes me happy. Moving people makes me happy. That's why I do this instead of something else.

Yesterday I found out that people have been sharing a quote from Soulwoven:

"And of all the futures she could have, she didn't want a single one that didn't have him in it."

It's from the end of chapter thirty-seven, and it means a lot to me.

And I am absolutely beside myself with joy that other people feel the same way.

Wattpad, at some point, made a graphic of it. You can see it here. And now it's turning up on Instagram and elsewhere, and I'm just absolutely tickled.

This is why I write, plain and simple.

Thank you to whoever at Wattpad made that graphic and put it up on Pinterest. And thank you to everyone who's shared it, and everyone who's read the book and been touched by it. You guys are wonderful.

Friday, July 11, 2014

More Thoughts on Amazon, and Fear, and Desirable States of the Publishing Industry

I've been continuing to noodle everything that's going on between Amazon and Hachette these days, and last night as I was falling asleep, I had a very interesting thought:

I've spent plenty of time wondering what would happen if Amazon "beat" all the major publishers and attained Crushing Market Power (THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!). But I have spent very little time considering what would happen if the reverse were true. So I thought about that, and, in short, it would be bad.

I talk a lot about how publishers are shooting themselves in the foot by not selling directly to consumers more actively, meaning readers have to turn elsewhere (usually Amazon) for e-books. Well, some of them are changing gears. And if they do it well enough (which I suspect is unlikely), they could conceivably drive readers away from Amazon. This would be a terrible thing for authors, and, I suspect, for readers as well.

Amazon, for all its evils, has vastly expanded the options an author has for building their career. Ditto for selling backlist titles. Amazon has also created markets for very cheap books that did not exist before, which is good for readers. Frankly, if I have $.99 to spend on a book, I'd much rather grab a new, cheap e-book than a paperback copy that's falling apart out of a bargain bin somewhere.

In world without Amazon, or where Amazon sold as few e-books as B&N and Apple do, it would be much harder to start a career as an independent author (which, for the record, is how I think most authors should start their careers). That would be at least as bad as a world without traditional publishing, in which Amazon had no reason not to dictate draconian terms to independent authors.

Which leads me to my newest thought on where the publishing industry is: right where it should be.

If Hachette and Amazon are battling each other tooth and nail over publishing terms, that's a good thing, unless you happen to be a Hachette author. But most authors aren't Hachette authors, and eventually Hachette will make peace with the beast, and those authors' lives will go back to normal. It will then be someone else's turn.

It would be best if Amazon and large publishers made war on each other without putting their business disputes between authors and readers. But in the end, I think, I'm glad that they're warring with each other at all.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Upcoming Events!

Hello, dearest readers!

Over the next few months, I will be venturing out of my comfortably cool writing hole, braving the heat, and doing some events. To wit:

- This Friday through Sunday (July 4-6), I will be at InConJunction 34 in Indianapolis, Indiana. I'll be spending most of my time chilling out in the creators' alley, signing books and chatting with anybody who drops by, so please come see me! I've also got a busy panel schedule. It looks like this:

Friday15:0050Main ProgrammingBook Publishing: Your Options Today
Friday16:0050Indianapolis Ballroom ASo you've written a novel...NOW what?
Friday17:0050Indianapolis Ballroom DWriter's Roundtable: Publishing
Saturday10:0050Indianapolis Ballroom BAuthor, Agent, Editor, Publisher: Who does what?
Saturday22:0050Grand Ballroom 7-8Candlelight Horror
Sunday10:0050Indianapolis Ballroom DWhat to write...

So if you've ever wanted to watch me expound on writing and publishing in person, now you can (if you're coming to InConJunction, anyway). And if you've ever wanted to hear me give a thoroughly chilling reading from What Lies in Darkness (really, I'm going to do voices and everything---it'll be fun), you can get in on that as well.

- August 30 I'll be back at Robots and Rogues in West Lafayette, Indiana, to sign books during the Mosey Down Main Street. So go get a giant cup of beer and then come talk to me. It'll be fun.

- September 5-7, I'll be in Denver, Colorado, at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference. I'll be signing books at their big author shindig on Friday night (open to the public, I'm pretty sure) and would love to see any and all of you in the Denver area there. I'll also be giving a workshop on Sunday called "What the Heck is a Kickstarter?" There's still plenty of time to register for the conference, if you're into that sort of thing.

- March 13-15, 2015, I'll be at EPICon in San Antonio, Texas. More news to come on that front as it gets closer, but I'll be presenting two workshops and will be around to hang out and chat as well.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Today's post inspired by this post, written by the inimitable J.A. Kazimer. Julie's going blind, which is sad for a nearly endless host of reasons. And she's thinking about her legacy, and in her post she asks other people to do the same.

So I'm going to, because this is a question I have struggled with over the last year.

To me, the question of legacy is one of what you want to be remembered for, which boils down more or less into what will make you consider your life a success. And that, in turn, translates into the question of what it's most important to do with your time. Because time is the one thing we can't get more of.

All this interacts with the writing lifestyle in complicated and terrible ways.

The writing monster will consume as many hours as you throw at it. You can always write more. Do one more revision. Sleep less. Quit your job. Abandon your family. Live for the art and the art alone.

Really, you can. There's nobody who can stop you from doing so but yourself. And there seem to be (and I place a lot of emphasis on seem to be here, because our culture loves narratives of hard work) a lot of successful writers who, at some point in their lives, did pretty much nothing other than write.

So for me, struggling and struggling and struggling to build a career out of hard work and dedication glued together with a little bit of talent, I had to confront a very difficult question last year:

What is most important to me, in life? Is it being the best writer I can possibly be, or is it something else?

And I decided (more accurately, I remembered) that writing successfully is not the end-all be-all of my existence, even though that poses certain challenges when making a career out of it. A long time ago, I decided that the measure of success in my life would be how many other lives I improved.

So that will be my legacy, I hope. When I cross paths with people, I want them to be glad they met me. And when I'm gone, that's what I want people to remember.

Writing is one way I hope to do that, but it can't be the only one.

And if I succeed at writing well, I suspect that will be why. When writing is all you have, it's easy to get desperate---for praise, for money, for validation. And you can't be desperate when you write. People can smell desperation, and they tend to stay away from it.

But if you build a balanced life and give writing only as much of it as it deserves, you can avoid that, I think.

So cheers. Legacy. And if you're into it, go read one of Julie's F***ed-Up Fairy Tales.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Speed Update!

I've got about twenty minutes to write this before I have to finish cleaning up the house and catch a flight. SO! Here's what I'm up to at the moment:

- Putting the finishing touches on that novella about the goblin officeworker with the heart of gold.

- Setting up edits, cover art, and other logistical bits for Soulwoven: Exile. So far everything is looking gold for a pub date before the end of the year.

- Combing through feedback on Soulwoven: Exile as it comes in and making a plan for revisions.

- Twitching frequently because I have two short stories I really want to get finished up before I have to dive back into Exile full bore at the end of the month, and I'm not sure where I'll find the time to do so.

- Getting ready for InConJunction, where I'll be appearing on a bunch of panels and selling and signing books in their creator's alley.

- Figuring out my logistics for RMFW Gold 2014 in September, where I'll be presenting a workshop on Kickstarter and signing books.

- Taking a worldbuilding class from Scott Lynch, learning much and writing little bitty exercises.

And probably several other things I'm forgetting about. Now to pack! And fly!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

One for the Locker: Charlie Jane Anders on Worldbuilding

Like I said last week, I'm taking a class on worldbuilding, and we just got a great link to a worldbuilding checklist. I want to have it to hand, and I want to share it, so here it is, preserved in the locker for posterity.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Some Thoughts on Markets, Authors, and Submitting Short Stories

So while I'm working on my various summer short fiction projects, I've been doing a lot more thinking about traditional publishing and submitting stories to the few markets that pay very well.

Really, there aren't very many.

I've also been reading more of them. I work my way through a story every morning at breakfast now, and it's been a fantastic addition to my day. I've also learned that there are an awful lot of very good writers creating very good short fiction out there, and that many of them have never published a novel.

And because let's go ahead and form a trifecta so we can triangulate my thoughts, I've also been thinking more about writing fiction for a living and how simultaneously terrifying, liberating, and exhilarating it must be.

These three things have come together and forced me to ask myself a new question every time I write a story. They have also shed some light on why traditionally published authors can be so darn hostile sometimes.

The question is this: Is what I'm writing so good that it deserves to take bread off someone's table and put it on mine instead?

Because that's an undeniable reality. Clarkesworld,, Asimov's, Lightspeed, Apex, et al. only publish a few stories each every month. Depending on the particulars of a story (length, especially), the markets for it might be even more limited. There really isn't that much money to go around (and for the record, it's better in SFF than it is in other genres), and if some of it goes to me, it's not going to someone else. Someone else who's probably writing something great, and who may be depending on the sales of their short fiction to stay afloat.

I won't feel bad about that, but only if I'm writing something that's so damn good that when they read it, they'll agree with the editor for buying it.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't write and shouldn't seek markets for your writing once you've finished it. But it's a piece of the puzzle that I had forgotten about, and it's worth remaining conscious of.

Cheers, and Happy Monday,

Friday, June 13, 2014

Some (More) Thoughts on Worldbuilding

Hello, dear readers!

I'm back from my trip to the Great Upstate, where much planning of weddings was done and I even managed to read most of a book. Hazah! Now it's back to work, and I feel quite refreshed.

I gave up on the idea that I was going to an authorial wunderkind years ago and resigned myself to what I think of as the Rod Smith approach (Denver Broncos fans will probably know what I mean here, but the tldr is that he thought of himself as much less talented than the other top guys people in his field, so he made sure to work twice as hard). Part of that, for me, is a constant drive to improve various aspects of my writing from book to book. I have a long list of things I want to get better at, and one of them is worldbuilding.

So I'm taking a class from Scott Lynch of Gentleman Bastards fame, and I'm learning more about worldbuilding and spending a lot of time thinking about it. Fairly early on, it became apparent to me that I build my best worlds in a way that's often been described to me as "lesser." To wit: my best worlds seem to be the ones I build as I go. When I build a world and then try to set a story in it, the story, and by extension the world it's set in, usually feels a little flat. I really have to struggle to get all the elements to line up. On the other hand, when I start with a story and then build a world around it, everything seems to fit together much more tightly and harmonize much better.

With the help of my classmates, I've come to call the second way "discovery-style" worldbuilding, because you discover things about the world as you write.

I was working on an exercise for the class last night, one for which I'd been tasked to write a short bit of description to accomplish some worldbuilding goals. I wrote it. It read like crap. Absolute crap. I even cheated by setting it in the Soulwoven world and choosing an interesting scene from the backstory to write (for the curious, it's the moment when Eshan and Crixine leave Duenel).

As I was describing a river in the distance (again, for the curious, the Soulth'nth---the one the characters travel up to reach the mountains in the end of the first book), I realized why.

When I do "discovery-style" worldbuilding, I get to create the setting to match the theme. A river only exists in a discovery-style narrative (that I write, anyway) because it serves a thematic purpose; it's a metaphor for a journey, or a point that must be crossed and can never be uncrossed (like the Rubicon, the Lethe, etc.), or one of any other number of things. When I set a story in a world that already exists, the river is there, and I must describe it if the characters are looking at it. That's very limiting to me as a storyteller.

I'm glad that I spent months building the Soulwoven world, writing history and language and geography and myth. Doing that taught me a lot about how to build worlds, and I have a better sense now of what I need to discover when I'm writing them discovery-style (though I'm still learning and probably always will be). Plus, that was how Tolkien built his world, and given how much the traditions I work in derive from his work, it felt good to follow in his footsteps for a while.

But I don't know that I'll build any big worlds like that again; they just don't quite fit my style.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Amazon Problem

(Note: This is replacing Friday's blog post, because I'm going to be on the road)

For those who don't know: Amazon, who has made self-publishing what it is (i.e. a path to a living for some and to readers for all) today, is brawling brutally with Hachette, one of the largest traditional publishers, over the terms of their distribution relationship. You can read up on it here and here, but the gist is that Amazon is basically doing everything short of not selling Hachette books at all in order to get them to capitulate to whatever new terms it wants for selling their books.

Charlie Stross has hit the nail on the head in describing what this means for authors. In short, it is bad, bad news. Most salient passage (emphasis mine):

By driving down the unit revenue, Amazon makes it really hard for publishers—who are a proxy for authors—to turn a profit. Eventually they go out of business, leaving just Amazon as a monopoly distribution channel retailing the output of an atomized cloud of highly vulnerable self-employed piece-workers like myself. At which point the screws can be tightened indefinitely. And after a while, there will be no more Charlie Stross novels because I will be unable to earn a living and will have to go find a paying job.
This is the nightmare scenario. It's one I have been worried about since Amazon started doing this to publishers years ago. There is nothing---absolutely nothing---underlying the amazing royalty rates that Amazon pays authors like me other than either a.) Amazon's goodwill or b.) this business strategy or one much like it. And Amazon is not a company that has gotten where it is today because of its goodwill toward suppliers.

For traditional authors, the hope is that their publishers will band together (probably through mergers, because they were sued successfully by the Department of Justice, largely at Amazon's behest, for banding together without merging---admittedly illegally, from my point of view) and survive strong enough to remain a counterweight to Amazon.

For indie authors, the hope is that Nook Press and Kobo (and to a lesser extent Apple, but they're much less friendly to indies than the other two) will remain just enough of a threat to Amazon in the realm of e-books to keep Amazon from turning the screws on self-published authors.

I went into self-publishing knowing this.

But this month I removed my titles from Nook Press and Kobo anyway.


Because I'd sold a handful of copies of Soulwoven in each venue, lifetime, and zero of Three Dances. Because Amazon gives me valuable promotional tools in return for exclusivity, and Kobo and Nook Press don't give me any promotional tools at all. Because the increasingly powerful handlers of the best marketing tools available to indies care more than anything about how many star reviews a book has on Amazon.

After writing a good book in the first place, reaching readers is the great issue in self-publishing, and by taking and holding the lead on ways to promote books, Amazon is making itself indispensable to indie authors. By requiring exclusivity to use its best promotional tools, it's also making publishing e-books anywhere else a losing proposition.

At this point. It could get better. Kobo and Nook Press do a lot of things right. Maybe someday Apple will decide it wants to be a player in the e-book market rather than try to leverage its small market share to sell hardware to self-publishers. Google may get their act together too.

It could also get worse. Amazon could start dropping royalties anytime, and I'm willing to bet Kobo and Nook Press would follow suit. Nook Press's royalties are already worse than Amazon's, and both of those companies need all the revenue they can get.

Everybody in traditional publishing fears Amazon, for two reasons. The first is that they're brutal. The second is that they're so damn good. They're light-years ahead of everyone else, and they're experimenting and rolling out new ways to connect authors and readers so fast that the best the industry can do is laugh at Amazon's failures to hide its tears over Amazon's successes, and rage when it gets the opportunity to.

Indie authors should fear Amazon too. Yes, it's the hand that feeds us, but the open palm has turned into a fist at some point for everyone who's ever been in our shoes before, and we are fools if we refuse to recognize that.

I titled this post The Amazon Problem, but Amazon is not THE problem. It is A problem. THE problem is that nobody is competing with them effectively.

P.S. Filed under "Decisions I may come to regret" because of hands that feed, and biting, and concern thereof.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Here in the United States, today is a day to stop and think about the people who have died in the name of and wearing the uniform of the country. For some people, it's very easy to forget that. It's easy to think it's a day off, or a day for seeing family, or a day to get all that yardwork done. It can be all those things too.

But first and foremost it's a day to remember, and to honor, and to respect. I say this as someone who has a troubled relationship to this country's history and the things people have done in its name. My reading tends to include a lot of articles designed to remind us of all the horrible things the U.S. government and its armed forces have done.

Despite that, I find it superlatively important to remember that "the government" and "the army" are and always have been made up of individual human beings with thoughts, dreams, personal lives, struggles, strengths, weaknesses, failings, successes, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect until they, personally, lose that through their own actions. Soldiers, in particular, are people whose lives are forever changed by something larger than they are---ideally the collective will of their society, but sometimes the collective will of a small part of it instead. They are never the same when they come back as they were when they left. And when they die during or because of their service, the loss of all the potential their lives held is a tragedy as deep as any other.

So stop. Remember. Mourn.

It is more important than other things you have scheduled today.