Shut up and take my money – a conversation about book piracy

Last week, a popular YA author Maggie Stiefvater posted this story on her blog. She essentially did a test to see exactly how much damage piracy was doing to her book sales. Her story has erupted into debate across the authorsphere, because her results are hard to argue with. But they’re also extremely interesting. Here is the short version:


I’ve decided to tell you guys a story about piracy.

I didn’t think I had much to add to the piracy commentary I made yesterday, but after seeing some of the replies to it, I decided it’s time for this story.

Here are a few things we should get clear before I go on:

1) This is a U.S. centered discussion. Not because I value my non U.S. readers any less, but because I am published with a U.S. publisher first, who then sells my rights elsewhere. This means that the fate of my books, good or bad, is largely decided on U.S. turf, through U.S. sales to readers and libraries.

2) This is not a conversation about whether or not artists deserve to get money for art, or whether or not you think I in particular, as a flawed human, deserve money. It is only about how piracy affects a book’s fate at the publishing house.

3) It is also not a conversation about book prices, or publishing costs, or what is a fair price for art, though it is worthwhile to remember that every copy of a blockbuster sold means that the publishing house can publish new and niche voices. Publishing can’t afford to publish the new and midlist voices without the James Pattersons selling well.

It is only about two statements that I saw go by:

1) piracy doesn’t hurt publishing.

2) someone who pirates the book was never going to buy it anyway, so it’s not a lost sale.

Now, with those statements in mind, here’s the story.

. . . .

It’s the story of a novel called The Raven King, the fourth installment in a planned four book series. All three of its predecessors hit the bestseller list. Book three, however, faltered in strange ways. The print copies sold just as well as before, landing it on the list, but the e-copies dropped precipitously.

. . . .

I expected to see a sales drop in book three, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, but as my readers are historically evenly split across the formats, I expected it to see the cut balanced across both formats. This was absolutely not true. Where were all the e-readers going? Articles online had headlines like PEOPLE NO LONGER ENJOY READING EBOOKS IT SEEMS.

Really?

There was another new phenomenon with Blue Lily, Lily Blue, too — one that started before it was published. Like many novels, it was available to early reviewers and booksellers in advanced form (ARCs: advanced reader copies). Traditionally these have been cheaply printed paperback versions of the book. Recently, e-ARCs have become common, available on locked sites from publishers.

BLLB’s e-arc escaped the site, made it to the internet, and began circulating busily among fans long before the book had even hit shelves. Piracy is a thing authors have been told to live with, it’s not hurting you, it’s like the mites in your pillow, and so I didn’t think too hard about it until I got that royalty statement with BLLB’s e-sales cut in half.

. . . .

Floating about in the forums and on Tumblr as a creator, it was not difficult to see fans sharing the pdfs of the books back and forth. For awhile, I paid for a service that went through piracy sites and took down illegal pdfs, but it was pointless. There were too many. And as long as even one was left up, that was all that was needed for sharing.

I asked my publisher to make sure there were no e-ARCs available of book four, the Raven King, explaining that I felt piracy was a real issue with this series in a way it hadn’t been for any of my others. They replied with the old adage that piracy didn’t really do anything, but yes, they’d make sure there was no e-ARCs if that made me happy.

Then they told me that they were cutting the print run of The Raven King to less than half of the print run for Blue Lily, Lily Blue. No hard feelings, understand, they told me, it’s just that the sales for Blue Lily didn’t justify printing any more copies.

. . . .

I was intent on proving that piracy had affected the Raven Cycle, and so I began to work with one of my brothers on a plan. It was impossible to take down every illegal pdf; I’d already seen that. So we were going to do the opposite. We created a pdf of the Raven King. It was the same length as the real book, but it was just the first four chapters over and over again. At the end, my brother wrote a small note about the ways piracy hurt your favorite books. I knew we wouldn’t be able to hold the fort for long — real versions would slowly get passed around by hand through forum messaging — but I told my brother: I want to hold the fort for one week. Enough to prove that a point. Enough to show everyone that this is no longer 2004. This is the smart phone generation, and a pirated book sometimes is a lost sale.

Then, on midnight of my book release, my brother put it up everywhere on every pirate site. He uploaded dozens and dozens and dozens of these pdfs of The Raven King. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one of his pdfs. We sailed those epub seas with our own flag shredding the sky.

The effects were instant. The forums and sites exploded with bewildered activity. Fans asked if anyone had managed to find a link to a legit pdf. Dozens of posts appeared saying that since they hadn’t been able to find a pdf, they’d been forced to hit up Amazon and buy the book.

And we sold out of the first printing in two days.

Naturally, the discussion on this got very interesting. Comments on the Passive Voice blog pointed out that Maggie’s ebooks are priced anywhere from six to twelve dollars. She doesn’t set the prices–the publisher does. Someone also pointed out that the time of her Lily Blue book launch coincided with the huge spike in ebook prices from publishers in 2014-2015. That was when publishers won a big contract battle against Amazon, keeping Amazon from discounting prices on ebooks.

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Aye, here there be pirates. “The Ship” by FantasyArt0102

This is why there’s so much talk in the news about “ebooks are over” and “people prefer print”. When the ebook is 15 bucks and the print copy is 12, people grudgingly buy the paper copy. Or they go read cheap indie books. According to the Author Earnings Reports, ebooks are booming–but not for the overpriced publishers. Imagine that.

But that’s only the most obvious problem. Blogger/author Joe Konrath commented,

Years ago, I was in touch with an author who had a decent debut novel that did well for him and his publisher. I don’t remember the details, but there was some sort of contract issue and he decided to self-pub the next book. After some great success self-pubbing, things were worked out with his publisher, or maybe it was a new publisher, and they bought the book. That meant he unpublished his version, and he asked fans who hadn’t read it yet to wait the 12 months for it to come out through regular channels.

You can guess how that went.

The problem isn’t piracy. As long as your book is available, and reasonably priced, piracy isn’t going to harm your sales.

But if your book isn’t available yet, such as the case with ARCs and galleys, your fans are going to do whatever they can to get ahold of it. There is a whole market for selling ARCs, and always has been. Many indie booksellers can only stay afloat by selling ARCs. I’ve visited hundreds of bookstores and have seen this firsthand.

With digital, it is much easier to get your hands on a copy of a yet-to-be-released title. Rather than buy it, you pirate it. And that will almost definitely result in a lost sale.

Piracy isn’t going away. You can’t fight it. The answer isn’t releasing fake versions on torrent sites. The answer is to stop releasing ARCs.

So, basically, the problem is impatient fans. We have an interesting generation of people right now who are used to instant gratification. In fact, they’ll pay extra money for it, like binge-watching entire series on Netflix (Stranger Things, anywone?). And if they can’t pay for it, they’ll steal it, with nary a twitch of the conscience.

But another problem is desperate authors. Another commenter on the Passive Voice said,

You can tell ’em, as I’ve been telling authors, do not upload ARCs to NetGalley other – its the main source for pirate books sites to obtain advance copies of upcoming new releases, but do authors listen? Anyone can sign up at Netgalley as a reviewer and gain access to thousands of books for free.

Also I’ve told authors never send PDFs to book review blogs, no matter how friendly or Kosher the site looks, aside from the fact Mobi other can be cracked with specific software by determined thieves. As for sharing of PDF ARCs on groups and forums (shareware) who didn’t think that would happen between friends in the same way friends will exchange paperbacks.

Authors are so desperate to be noticed (read) common sense escapes them, and it’s another reason so many are obsessed with paying for book reviews, for big splash Bookbub ad days, and gifting books in exchange for reviews. Fame comes with a “price tag” and it’s not always as authors would truly wish for.

It’s a thorny problem, and there’s no easy way around it. People are greedy. Authors are desperate. And books are a funny commodity–people have this idea that pirating a book is like borrowing one at the library. The difference is, the library bought the copy at some point, sending a little money the author’s way. The reader of a pirated book will never pay for that book.

What do you think? Is there another answer that you’ve thought of? Does this steam you as much as it does me?

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Confession: I’m a faker

When I was fresh out of college and needed a job, I took a position as junior art teacher, working for another art teacher I had studied under for years. I was nervous. Jittery. Inclined to talk too much.

“Remember,” my boss told me, “people don’t know this is your first day unless you tell them.”

This was a staggering revelation to me. How could people not tell that I was a freaking noob with no job experience who was scared out of my mind? So I smiled and I worked and I faked it. And you know, nobody knew I was faking it. They thought I knew what I was doing, and treated me like a professional.

It was a lesson I proceeded to apply to everything in life.

Don’t know anything about raising kids?

FAKE IT.

Don’t know anything about writing books?

FAKE IT.

Don’t know anything about publishing or marketing?

FAKE IT.

I heard a story one time about an AA group, where the members were told to pick a religion. One of the addicts asked what would happen if they didn’t believe in anything. The leader told them, “Fake it ’til you make it.”

mimikry
Mimikry by Merinid-DE. One of these things is not like the others …

I think it ties into Imposter Syndrome. Everybody has it. I think it was John Maxwell who says that every CEO has this secret fear that their second grade teacher will run into the room and yell, “He’s an imposter! He failed spelling!”

If you talk to me, you’d think I’m a calm, collected person who has her life together. You don’t see the inside of my head where I’m screaming, “Oh my gosh, what do I say? Am I coming off as a complete dork? Are my kids embarrassing? Did they read my books and did they notice that dangling participle I left in chapter 3?”

I’m really bad about this when streaming with my hubby. Get a camera pointed at me and I turn into a complete clown. I’m cracking jokes and being silly and making fun of the game we’re playing. Inside, I’m just one continuous AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH.

Eventually, I do wind up knowing what I’m doing with writing, or publishing (haha, it changes so fast, though).  Jury’s still out on raising kids. But faking it is better than being paralyzed and doing nothing at all. Because that’s pretty much the alternative. Sit where you are … or pretend you know what you’re doing, and move forward.

 

What’s scarier than Halloween? (The struggle is real)

Halloween is careening toward us, rife with ghosts, monsters, princesses, and jack o’ lanterns. Pretty much everybody loves it, if only for the cooler weather and the changing seasons.

And the pumpkin spice.

pumpkinspice

Today, I just did something scarier than dressing up and wearing fake fangs.

I finished editing Malicious.

This means preorders and cover reveals and hammering out a decent summary that doesn’t give away every last detail about books 1 and 2. (Is that even possible with the third book in a trilogy?) And worst of all: The Resistance.

Seth Godin defines the Resistance as the lizard brain, the part of your psyche that wants to survive. It doesn’t like changing the status quo. “We’re safe right here,” it says. “Why should we do something scary like publishing a book? We might get bad reviews or something! Let’s just sit on it and never show it to anybody.”

I think there’s something spiritual that goes on, too. I’ve seen other authors talk about it. These voices start whispering, “Why should you even bother? You’ll never amount to anything. The book isn’t any good.” And so on. It’s like, really extreme negative self-talk. I generally have pretty upbeat self-talk, so when this negative stuff starts, I always notice it. Once I address it in prayer, it stops.

And publishing a book is pretty terrifying. Particularly the end of a trilogy. The story has to pay off all the plot and tension set up in books 1 and 2. I want my readers to put it down with a satisfied sigh and walk around with warm fuzzies for a day or two. You know, the kind you get when you finish a REALLY good story and you’re all contented inside.

This was also the hardest book to write. I’ve rewritten huge chunks of it over the course of a year. I’ve slaved and fretted and brainstormed. But when I got it back from my editor, she said this was the smoothest of my books she’s edited so far. My beta readers were enthusiastic, saying this was the best book I’ve written yet. That kind of encouragement should make me feel invincible.

But the Resistance drags its feet. The struggle is real.

How about you? Do you get scared when you’re about to finish a huge project? Or am I just weird?

Confession: I love similes

I’m knee-deep in editing the final book of Malevolent right now. In the big battle in the middle of the book, my editor keeps saying, “Too many similes … too many similes … can we have some metaphors instead?”

This is my confession. I love similes.

I never thought about them very much until I read Signal to Noise by Eric Nylund. It’s a cyberpunk book in which everybody has brain implants that let them interface with computers. They all work in these “bubbles” instead of offices. The bubble interfaces with their implant and lets them visualize their own thoughts and ideas as metaphors. For instance, one character’s office is a steel plant with lots of machinery running. When the hero gives her bad news, in the background, the steel plant has an accident and molten metal spills everywhere.

The whole book is like that. It’s crushingly vivid because there’s a powerful visual metaphor in every paragraph. I counted, once. Every single paragraph. But it has to be that way, because the things he’s describing are impossible to imagine otherwise.

So I developed a habit of way over-describing the crazy things I was trying to write about. Here’s a sample of what my poor editor was talking about, from the middle of Malicious:


As before, I felt the barrier as hot and cold at the same time, like having a fever. I slipped into a weird trance state, almost dozing with my eyes open. There were life motes here. I could use them–this barrier was like a water main under high pressure. All I had to do was give it a crack.

Instead of blocking out Mal’s immense death power, I reached out and grasped it. He made an awful sound, a soft scream I had never heard before.

“It’s okay!” I said, unwilling to break out of my trance. It hurts to have your motes yanked, so I tugged as gently as I could. His motes had a pull like a gravity well and a definite shape. Wielding them like a magnet, I aimed them at the mote stream of the barrier at my feet. Life motes poured into both of us, hot, violent, unpredictable. I pulled in more and more, the pressure building as a fever-heat behind my eyes.

The ghouls were twenty feet away and galloping toward us like apes. Mal stood paralyzed, eyes closed, suffering as I used his power. He wouldn’t be able to stop them.

But I could.


See? Six similes in three paragraphs. I’ll have to revise this. I think I have a problem.

In the meantime, have a few Inktober sketches!

inktober-17-treeswift
Tree swift

 

inktober-17-monitor
Monitor lizard

Finally old enough to write fanfic

Yesterday I finally finished writing a fanfic trilogy. Good grief, I am so fried.

I wrote the first story a few years ago as an experiment with a new world. I had tentatively planned it as a trilogy (three is such a nice number), but I didn’t expect a lot of feedback on it. After a while, comments trickled in. Very positive comments. So earlier this year, I wrote story #2. The comments on that were even more positive.

So I just finished writing the third story. I took the conflict deep. I was laughing at it, though. The big finale is basically everyone standing around talking about all the things they’ve been hiding from each other. And it’s massively intense. Yes, it’s Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic. You can find the trilogy in order here.

(That’s why my poor blog has been neglected this month. Every spare second of writing time has gone into that story.)

As I was cooling down from the final intense writing session, I got to thinking about the difference between my old stories and these three new ones.

As a teen, writing my Sonic stories, I tended to come up against things that I didn’t know how to write. Like romance. The depth of love between friends. The true meaning of sacrifice. I knew all these things in a theoretical way, but I had never experienced them. So I wrote about them as best as I could and hoped nobody noticed that I had no idea what I was talking about.

Fast forward eleven years. I got married, had five kids, moved across country. I experienced joy, grief, homesickness, poverty, plenty, you name it. A lot of furious living in those eleven years.

So, this time when I sat down to write about love and sacrifice, I was able to handle it in a completely different way. These characters feel it, man. Especially in this final story, when the conflicts of the whole trilogy come to a head. Here’s one of my artworks and the scene that it’s from:

perfect_chaos_confrontation_by_netraptor-dbn25et
Perfect Chaos Confrontation by me

The island settled beneath Knuckles, touching down in the sea with a light shock. Now he was lower than Chaos, looking up at the huge, rippling head in the morning light. It was impossibly blue, turquoise at the edges, indigo in the middle. Could it really eat him? Did it have a stomach? It didn’t seem to have any organs at all, aside from the suggestion of a brain between its eyes.
Knuckles drew quick, panicked breaths, the floating feeling of unreality settling over him again. “I want to negotiate the outcome of this sacrifice,” he heard himself say.
In his headset, the AI Ramussan said slowly, “What did you just say?”
Chaos studied Knuckles, the huge head swinging closer. “I will hear your terms.”
Knuckles drew a deep breath, trying to speak without screaming. “Lift the blood curse from the line of Solaris.”
“Guardian, no!” Ramussan screamed. “Someone stop him! He’s about to throw himself to Chaos!”
His friends’ voices broke into a panicked clamor. Knuckles ignored them. He gazed into the monster’s nearest eye, which was focused on him intently.
“Much depends on you,” Chaos replied. “I will draw power from your death. If you contain enough, I can, perhaps, lift the curse. It was laid with the power of my beloved’s death. Perhaps you can match that. Perhaps not.”
It was a good a bargain as he was likely to get. “And you’ll keep your word?” Knuckles said, his voice faltering. Annihilation stared him in the face. His entire being wanted to turn and run for his life.
“I can’t find him!” Sonic was yelling. “Shadow, where is he?”
The black hedgehog teleported to the path up the hill from Knuckles, a hand pressed to his headset. He and Knuckles exchanged a long look.
“He’s not at the dock,” Shadow said coolly.
Chaos lifted his head higher, stretching upward on a thick neck made of water. “I always keep my word.”
The huge head curved over Knuckles, the jaws opening. Teeth made of water lined the jaws, clear as icicles. Knuckles looked up into the maw, detached, terrified, and saw there was no throat. It was all just a shape made of water with no real body.
Then the shape fell apart into a crashing waterfall. It struck Knuckles like a tidal wave, sweeping him off the rock and into the sea with the speed of a rip tide.
Shadow watched. “We’re too late,” he said into the headset. “There was nothing I could do. Chaos took him.”


I feel like I’m finally old enough to write fan fiction properly. Isn’t that funny? Most people who write it are young people, like teens. Maybe most teens don’t try to write the grand epic stuff like I wanted to.

Tell you what, though, it’ll be so nice to dive into editing Malicious for the next few weeks. In the the meantime, I’ll be catching up on my reading. Got to fill the creativity tank!

Fantasy angels

There’s a saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I was pondering that today as I was playing with story ideas.

As I finish the final Malevolent book, I find that I have a clean slate. I can write anything! Any new book I want! Any new series I can dream up! So I started jotting down ideas.

In the old Spacetime series, the Big Bad was a fallen angel named Inferna. She was flat and mustache-twirly. “Mwahaha, it’s good to be bad!” By the end, I couldn’t take her seriously. It’s one reason I scrapped it all and started over. She was a good enough villain when I was 18, but not now that I’m older.

Since we’re reworking everything in the Spacetime universe, I’m pondering if I can do the fallen angel thing a different way. For one thing, these are mortal angels. People with wings and divine powers. But they die if you stab them enough times. (With a wooden stake? Hm. It would be fun to put a bunch of rules on them.)

One of the things an angelus can accomplish is becoming a world ascendant. Through some process my worldbuilding hasn’t yet covered, a mortal angelus can become an immortal world ascendant, that is, the caretaker of a planet. They’re in charge of keeping it life-supporting, managing gravity and other physical forces, and most of all, overseeing what magic is used, and how much. They also watch out for invading races from other worlds who might be out from under the eye of their own ascendant.

Let’s jump on a rabbit trail for a minute. In World of Warcraft, the blood elves are only called that because the source of their magic got corrupted. So they somehow managed to procure a Naaru (the WoW version of angels), and sucked magic out of it to get holy magic for their paladins. In game, it was one of those awful mixed-emotions moments when you find this out.

Anyway, over the course of the story, the Naaru gets so much power drained that it becomes a void creature that you have to fight. It’s a raid boss, actually.

So, while thinking about this, I wondered what might happen to one of these world ascendant angels if they were corrupted. Would they abandon their world? Would they destroy it? What might happen to the people living on a world with a corrupt ascendant? And would there be any way for my heroes to kill the angel/redeem it?

Talk about a fun story arc.

Anyway, playing with this idea of a corrupted world and a fallen ascendant, would redemption even be possible for a creature like that? In real life, the rules for real angels are different than for humans. Jesus died for man, not angels, offering them redemption.

But what about a fantasy world? What if this ascendant was ruined against its will (like blood elves draining all the holy magic from a Naaru until all that’s left is void)? Would it be fated to die? Would the heroes be fated to kill it? Is absolute corruption reversible?

In a world where time travel is possible, fate becomes a fluid thing. Pasts and futures can be changed. Effects can come before cause.

What do you think? Would a being corrupted by the deeds of others be barred from salvation?

When we jam non-fiction into our fiction

My post Shouting into the Void a few weeks ago got a bunch of interesting responses. I’ve been processing them ever since. To sum up:

I observed that in Christian fiction, God is silent. All the other monsters, gods, and mythical creatures talk, though, whether it’s Medusa, a dwarf, or Percy Jackson’s deity problems.

This actually flies in the face of the Bible itself, where God scoffs at the other gods, who are fake and made of stone and don’t talk.

But we’re writing fiction, right? If we want to have God or a talking lion or a couple of ravens that give prophetic dreams, we can write it. We’re writing FICTION.

Ah, but that’s where things get sticky. It’s all fiction until it’s non-fiction.

Let me explain.

Christians aren’t the only ones who launch into sermons in the middle of their books. Eoin Colfer waxes eloquent about the plight of the environment in Every. Single. Artemis Fowl book. Eventually you just start skimming when you see the rant coming. Heinlein spends the majority of a chapter in the Rolling Stones praising that worm in the mud that we all evolved from.

We’ve all encountered this. There’s nothing like reading along, enjoying a good story, when suddenly the author wallops you with their political views. Even if you happen to agree with them, it’s still annoying. If you don’t agree with them, sometimes you put that book down and move on to a different author.

The intrusion of non-fiction into the fictive dream is annoying and unnecessary. It’s the author saying, “My story’s not strong enough to show you the truth of my message, so I’m going to lecture you directly.”

Christians do this with God. As soon as He’s mentioned, we’ve stepped out of fiction into non-fiction. It’s not a story anymore–it’s apologetics. And often it’s poorly-written apologetics. If the author had stuck to fiction and used illustrations and different kinds of characters (even–GASP–gods) to prove their point, it would be a stronger story.

The sad thing is, usually they’re telling a redemption story. We LOVE redemption stories. Don’t we all wish that Loki would join Thor and fight for the good guys? As a kid, I wanted Catwoman to join Batman SO BADLY.

 

Internet-Catwoman
Mother of Cats by Michael Matsumoto

 

The good vampire and the good werewolf fill our TV shows and movies. The story of a bad person or creature who changed their ways and now fight on the side of Good: we eat it up. We love redemption, whether it’s self-improvement or one person saving another from certain death.

But this is where Christians stumble. I’ve complained before about authors who mess up the Hero’s Journey formula. Instead of the hero going on his quest and becoming a man, the hero is enfeebled by having to be saved over and over by the Jesus figure. It’s poor storytelling. It’s apologetics intruding into the fiction.

So, while we have all the elements of grand myth, we spoil it with too much non-fiction.

Sneak peek at Malicious

Ah, the Puzzle Box trilogy. It was supposed to be published, all three books, in one year. And then I got pregnant. Here we are, two years later, with the final book almost ready to launch. I’m aiming for November, since I’m still deep in revisions before I hand it off to my poor editor.

It’s a YA paranormal romance trilogy that I wrote after reading way too many paranormal romances. I was tired of the girl never having any inkling that vampires or werewolves existed until her new, alluring boyfriend flashed a fang. I mean, really? How can a girl exist in this world without ever having seen a vampire on TV?

warrior-angel-high-fantasy

So Libby, my heroine, is what they call genre-savvy. She plays videogames and reads fantasy books. She pegs Mal as a vampire straight off, even though he’s a different kind of monster. (White skin – check. Super speed – check. Unusual strength – check. Never seems to eat food – check.) Later on, when she finds out that he’s a lich, she knows what that is because of videogame knowledge. Same for other monsters like revenants, ghouls, zombies, and so on. Mal is always astonished at her knowledge. And all she does is play videogames.

Mal is a lich. That means that he’s only sort of undead. His soul has been removed and stored in a container called a phylactery. He still has his mind and spirit, but the human part, with all positive emotions, are in his soul. Without it, he’s a creature of negative emotions: anger, hate, loathing, all that jazz. It also gives him massive death magic powers. But Mal never wanted to be a lich, and is desperately seeking a way to return his soul. So he keeps specially-bred bees that collect life magic from flowers and store it in their honey. By eating their honey, he can simulate human life, which keeps his death magic in check.

And then there’s the Necromancer, who is intent on turning Mal into a proper evil monster who can follow in his footsteps.

Book 1 is on sale right now at all retailers. If you’ve already read the first two books, here’s a sneak peek at the beginning of book 3, after the devastation that was the ending of book 2.

Continue reading “Sneak peek at Malicious”

Rebooting Spacetime

It was time. Time to write the final Spacetime book. I grimly faced the computer screen, forcing myself to read the first book in the series. I had to reread the whole series in order to write that final book, and I couldn’t put it off any longer.

Except I did. I read Facebook. I watched videos. I chatted to friends. Everything except read the book.

Finally I confronted myself. I usually love to read my own work. Why was this so hard? What was wrong with me?

As I began to answer those questions, I realized what I needed to do.

Spacetime was my “learning to write” books. I experimented. I tried things. I practiced editing. And the books are terrible. Downright awful. I could detail all the ways that they suck, but I’ll spare you.

The point is, I unpublished the whole series this week. As of next month they will be unavailable online any more. It’s been a regular ice pick through the heart.

I still like the characters, though. I feel like I didn’t do them or their world justice. (I even had a review that mourned that the ideas were good, but the execution was lacking.) I’ve been dying to reboot their world as a tightly-written urban fantasy joyride. So I talked it over with my husband, and he agreed.

Spacetime is going away. It’ll be reborn as a trilogy that will be so good, I’ll actually want to read it. Right now the world building is consuming my consciousness. We’re revamping the magic system, combining and rethinking characters, and basically doing all the things I couldn’t do before. Lesson learned: don’t write fantasy books when pregnant/nursing. My brain cells just don’t operate at full capacity.

The five books will be condensed into a trilogy. Here is the rough summary of the new first book:

If you can’t kill them, catch them.

When a wild kelpie rampages through downtown Phoenix, James “Carda” Chase captures it using forbidden space magic. Hired as part of a secret coalition of mages defending Earth, Carda must figure out who is breaking the World Wards and letting monsters through before the wards fall and magic creatures overrun a world unprepared for them.

Yeah, there’s a tiny influence from Monster Hunter International in there.

There was so many ideas in the original Spacetime drafts that got cut, like angeli ascendants, and geomancers, and various other worlds and characters that never saw the spotlight. The original series was closer to superhero fiction than real urban fantasy. Casting it as actual fantasy means fantasy creatures running around our modern world. I get to play with modern applications for magic (like, for instance, powering a car’s engine purely by fire magic). I get to write a character in a codependent relationship with an elemental. My werewolf doesn’t have to be so sciencey anymore–he can just be a dang werewolf.

I’m so excited to write a proper couple of books in this genre. Everything about urban fantasy excites me. Imagine if Harry Potter grew up and roamed Muggle London, beating down magical creatures that threatened to expose the wizarding world to Muggles. That’s urban fantasy. And it’s awesome.

the_dresden_files_gm_screen_by_charro_art-dam61wj

Writing is hard (or why my brain is fried)

I’ve been working hard on the third Malevolent book, Malicious. I’ve almost finished this revision cycle, and the book is awesome. But man, it didn’t start out that way.

I wrote Malcontent and Malicious when I was pregnant with our youngest. She’s seventeen months old now, and I’m just now finishing revisions on Malicious.

Malcontent was easy to write. I knew the conflicts and the villain. But I didn’t know what the heck I was doing with Malicious. The villain changed, the conflict changed, my hero and heroine’s relationship changed. The first draft was me flailing around going, “What am I even writing?”

When I got to the end, the lights came on. I spent the whole book brainstorming my villain. Only when they defeated him did it finally click. Then I had to go back and rewrite swaths of the book to make the villain fit my new understanding. (And a book came out last year that did almost my exact same ending twist. :facepalm:)

So, after pass after pass after pass, the book is finally approaching readability. I’m confident that my editor won’t curl up in the fetal position now.

It’s so weird to finally be finished with this trilogy. I didn’t realize what a huge project it would be when I started out. “Hey, it’s only three books. No problem!”

News flash: writing books is hard. Especially if you want other human beings to read them.

So now I’m in that downtime between projects, unsure what to do with myself. This is compounded by summer vacation setting in. The kids don’t know what to do with themselves. I’m thinking we should sign up for the library’s summer reading program this year. Last year, when it started, the kids book section was empty. I couldn’t figure out why all the books were gone. Surprise! The summer reading program had kicked off. The books were all back a few weeks later.

I’m working through my own TBR pile. Amazing how stuff just accumulates in your Kindle–out of sight, out of mind. Right now I’m reading a shlocky, clunky space opera–but hey, it’s light. I’m also playing some Minecraft mod packs. Amazing how many story ideas you can get from those. Right now I’m learning Thaumcraft, a kind of crazy alchemy pack.

I’m going to read through my Spacetime series, correct the commas and make the dialogue funnier. Then I’ve got to write that fifth book, which is an epic boss fight that wrecks the worlds. I think I need to binge on superhero movies for this one.

Figuring out that Spacetime has more in common with superheroes than with real urban fantasy has been such a relief. Urban fantasy usually features a tough protagonist in an urban setting tracking down fairy tale monsters.

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Harry Dresden by theglyph

Superhero fantasy involves people with super powers fighting each other. While there can be monsters, they’re more the “victims of science” kinds of monsters. Genetically-engineered mutants, robots, that kind of thing. Superheroes also get away with having aliens. Urban fantasy? Not so much, unless it’s a Men in Black kind of thing.

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From Final Fantasy XV, which kind of blends superhero and UF, depending which game you’re playing

I also want to write more cozy dragon mysteries. They’re like curling up with a blanket and a mug of hot cocoa. I’ve got a second one nearly finished. I want to write a third one where my little dragon sleuth is hired by a cat, who thinks her mistress has been murdered but can’t prove it. Because this whole series is one long wishful thinking about talking to animals.

So that’s my long ramble about the various projects I’m working on. How about you? Got any projects simmering away?