Monday, March 25, 2013

Random House and SFWA

A few weeks ago, John Scalzi, author and president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), published this article on his blog:
Basically, he rails against Random House's digital imprint, Hydra, for not providing an advance against royalties and for having other poor terms in their contract.

He wasn't the only one. Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware had this to say on the subject:

It didn't end there. Random House responded in an open letter, attempting to explain the terms of their contract:

To which SFWA replied:

And Victoria Strauss:

And, somehow, John Scalzi got ahold of an Alibi contract, which he goes through here:

Random House ended up offering a contract closer to traditional publishing, but still offers the original 'profit-sharing' option for authors who prefer to go that route. Here's what they have to say:

John Scalzi responded, calling this an open discussion with no winners or losers:

And Victoria Strauss said the changes are a significant improvement:

Truly, it has been a dizzying month. :)

Personally, I find the new kind of contract intriguing. I'm not sure I would go for it as is, but this 'experiment' from a traditional publisher is quite interesting. I'm curious to see what comes of it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fiction Fun: Jake, Stop That! Part 3

The last couple weeks, I've posted part one and part two of a short story I wrote about fifteen years ago. It's based on a true story from when my aunt was a kid. As promised, here's the conclusion (and the best part, imo). Enjoy!

Something grabbed the scruff of Jake’s neck and his legs went limp. The something let go, and he was falling. Jake kept his legs under him (as every cat knows how to do), landed neatly, and was back in the air again. That gold band wasn’t going to get away!
“Uh, nice kitty,” said Mr. Finklestorm. He tried to peel the cat off his arm again, but Jake wasn’t letting go!
“Jake! What are you doing?” said Abigail.
Mom snickered. “I’m—” She covered her face, trying to hide a smile. “I’m terribly sorry. He’s still a kitten, you see.”
“Yes, yes of course.” Mr. Finklestorm finally managed to dislodge Jake, then held him with one hand while he packed up his books with the other. “Thank you, uh, for your time. And, uh, here is your…kitten.”
Abigail took Jake, who promptly tried to launch himself at Mr. Finklestorm’s wrist again.
“Yes, um, have a good day!” Mr. Finklestorm scooted out the front door and down the sidewalk, his long legs swishing furiously.
Mom burst out laughing. “Well, Jake, you’re a good cat to have around when pushy salesmen invite themselves inside.
Jake was sad to see the shiny band go.
A week later, another knock came at the door. Jake hid behind the sofa. Maybe the shiny gold band was back!
Mom opened the door this time, and a different salesman smiled at her.
“Good morning, ma’am! I’m from Encyclopedia’s Galore, and I’ve got the nation’s finest encyclopedia’s here. May I come in a show them to you?”
“Oh, no thank you. We’ve already been visited by your company.”
“Oh?” The man’s eyebrows raised. “We don’t have any record of a visit to your home.”
“Oh, yes, we’ve definitely had a visit. But, you see, our cat ate the last one.”
She nodded at Jake, who calmly licked his paw.
“Ah, I see.” He cleared his throat nervously. “Well, have a good day then.”
Mom shut the door, giggling.
Jake was disappointed. He was hoping for another gold band to play with. Oh well. At least he still had the sofa, shoelaces, and towels. And Mom’s toes, too!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

The summary for this story didn’t really grab me, and I might have passed on this book if I hadn’t already read the author’s Theodosia series. I thoroughly enjoy those books, so I decided to give Grave Mercy a try.

I am *so* glad I did. I wasn’t so sure I was going to like it when I first started reading it, but then it grew on me until I could not put it down. Seriously, could NOT put it down. Ismae is a little flat in the beginning and I didn’t fully feel her suffering—which kept me from connecting with her—but when she’s sent out on her first assignment, everything changes. That’s when this book hooked me.

I love the way the romance progresses, on both sides. Ismae and Duval start off hating each other, but in a believable way (not over-the-top dramatics, just normal dislike and annoyance that made for some funny dialog). Gradually, they grow to understand each other, and that’s how they make a connection. It was wonderful to see.

Ismae’s belief in Mortain, the god of Death, and her obedience to the convent was also well done. She starts off the story as a blind follower, but then grows into herself and pursues what she believes is right. There is no fairy tale ending, and she ends this story by putting herself on a new, unknown path, which I loved. After all, that’s the way of life.

I do wish we’d have gotten to see her at the convent a bit more because I wanted to see the friendships develop between Ismae, Sybella, and Annith. And, I think I could have connected more with Ismae’s skewed view and dislike of men, which would have made her transformation that much stronger. I also wanted to see instruction from more of the Nuns in the convent to better understand their views and beliefs. Not having that made it difficult to get into, but once I got past that I was sucked in.

FYI—I am currently reading the next book, Dark Triumph, and can’t put it down. It’s from Sybella’s perspective, and picks up where the first book leaves off. I’ll be writing a full review when I’m done.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fiction Fun: Jake, Stop That! Part 2

Last week I posted the beginning of a short story I wrote about fifteen years ago. It's based on a true story from when my aunt was a kid. I thought I'd be able to post the conclusion today, but the story is longer than I remembered. So, here's the middle. Enjoy!

One sunny Saturday morning, Jake was trying to figure out how to get onto the fireplace mantle when a knock came at the door. Abigail opened it, and a man’s head popped inside.
“Hello there,” he said. “I’m from Encyclopedia’s Galore. Is your mother at home?”
“Um, yes.”
“Wonderful!” He stepped through the door and set a huge suitcase on the coffee table with a loud thunk.
“Mom!” yelled Abigail. “There’s some encyclopedia person here to see you!”
The man began to pull books out of his case, and something shiny peeked out from the cuff of his shirt. It appeared and reappeared, sparkling in the sunlight. This was even better than Mom’s toes! Jake crept behind a chair to get into perfect stalking position.
Mom came into the living room, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. Her brow knit into a tiny frown. “May I help you?”
“Hello, ma’am.” The man stood, smiling. “I’m Peter Finklestorm from Encyclopedia’s Galore, and I’ve got the nation’s finest encyclopedia’s here.” He swept his arm across the array of books on the coffee table, his wrist sparkling again. “And, today, they’re for sale at a price that can’t be beat…”
He went on talking, but Jake wasn’t listening. Mr. Finklestorm’s arm waved up and down, up and down. Jake would have to time it just right. As his arm went up once more, Jake sprang from behind the chair, leaping as high as his little legs could propel him. He extended his claws, bared his teeth, and wrapped his paws around that shiny gold band.
“Jake! Stop that!” yelled Mom.

Next week, I will post the conclusion. I promise. :)

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success, Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

I heard the hype around this book when it was first released, and I flipped through a copy to see what it was all about. I didn’t make it past page five before it was clear that this is not my kind of book. I put it back with no intention to pick it up again, until I heard that it sparked a public conversation about why this book is so popular, and that one of the reasons is because women secretly want to be dominated. Knowing this to *not* be true, I decided to read this book to see where people got this impression.

I want to say right off that I didn’t like it. However, I’m not going to rant and bash it to pieces, either (I could be here all day listing the plot holes and improbabilities, but I’ve got better things to do). Specifically, I’m going to give an opinion on why I think this book garnered so much popularity, and why many books like it receive the same. There are some spoilers ahead, so read with caution.

Anastasia Steele has no self-esteem. She thinks she’s ordinary. She’s clumsy. She’s inexperienced. The list goes on. And yet, wealthy, handsome, charming, successful Christian Grey finds her interesting. He thinks she’s beautiful, and worthy of pursuit. I think this, more than anything, is what many women dream of. So many women out there have low self-esteem and think of themselves exactly how Ana thinks of herself. So, to have a hot, rich man telling them otherwise is irresistible.

But, there is no story if there’s no conflict, right? So, authors give their dream-guys flaws—some obstacles to overcome. Unfortunately, that often turns them into horrible human beings. The relationship between Ana and Christian is textbook abusive. Ana has conversation with herself about how Christian is so sweet and wonderful at times, and then other times he scares her. This is why people stay in abusive relationships, because it’s not all bad all of the time. There are good moments, too, and that’s what they cling to, making it near impossible to break the cycle. And, since the abused party has no self-esteem, they put everything on themselves to ‘fix’ the relationship, sometimes changing who they are in the process.

This is where stories like these get dangerous. Ana agrees to give up her individuality when she agrees to try Christian’s way, so she can try to give him what he needs. This is scary. If you have to change who you are in order to make someone happy, then you don’t belong with that person. Ultimately, she does decide to leave Christian—many have touted her for being strong and independent for doing this, but I don’t agree. She’s still stuck in that abusive mentality because she still believes she’s worthless for being unable to give him what he needs (total control). She’s still stuck in the cycle, she’ll fall into another abusive relationship, and she won’t know it until it’s too late. This happens again and again in the real world, and to have books romanticizing a relationship where one party feels scared is glorifying the abusive cycle. BTW, before anyone says that this is just fiction so let it go already, I invite you to read this article.

Anyway, I guess I feel that books like these are popular mostly because the heroine is someone who thinks she’s ordinary (or worse), but an extraordinary person sees someone worthwhile. The only way books like these will fall by the wayside is if we figure out how to empower these women and help them to see that they are wonderful and worthwhile on their own. They don’t need validation from anyone but themselves, and their lives don’t need to be defined by whether or not they have a significant other.

Just my opinion…

Monday, March 04, 2013

Fiction Fun: Jake, Stop That!

Here's a short story I wrote probably fifteen years ago. It's based on a true story of when my aunt was a kid. She had a cat named Jake, and he behaved pretty much like this...


San Diego, 1957
Abigail burst through the front door of her house. “Mom! Guess what? We got a kitten! And he’s the most wonderful kitten in the world!”
Mom laughed. “Then we’re lucky to have him. Where is he?”
“Dad’s bringing him in from the car.”
The front door opened, and Dad came in with a small gray and white striped bundle in his arms. “His name is Jake, and he likes to explore. He was so interested in what was under the seats that I almost couldn’t get him out of the car.”
“Hello, Jake.” Mom scratched him behind his ears. He purred. “Abigail, why don’t you show him your room?”
“Yes, and other important things,” said Dad, “like the litter box.”
Abigail showed Jake that the litter box was in the laundry room, the water and food bowls were in the kitchen, and her room was upstairs—second door on the right. Then Jake set off to explore on his own.
He discovered that the soft cloth covering the sofa was good for climbing, the laces on Dad’s boots were good for scratching, and the towels in the upstairs bathroom were good for napping. But what he loved most of all were Mom’s toes. Her toenails were always painted with bright colors, and as she walked they seemed to sparkle. Jake loved to stalk and pounce on them.
While he was indulging in his favorite treasures of the house, everyone seemed to call him by a new name: “Jake! Stop that!” He didn’t know what it meant, but he liked the sound of it.

Next week, I'll post the conclusion. Hope you enjoyed it!