Friday, July 24, 2015

Renee's Reading: Ink and Bone, by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone, by Rachel Caine
Jess Brightwell's world is ours, with one critical difference: the Great Library at Alexandria--the center of knowledge of the ancient world--never burned. Instead, it grew, encompassing and protecting all the other great libraries through the ages, amassing power and wealth beyond imagination.

In a world where owning original books is a crime, Jess's family conducts a black market business in the smuggling of rare volumes. . . but when Jess is sent to apprentice at the Library, he quickly discovers that there are secrets and darkness inside those walls beyond anything he'd ever imagined.

Knowledge is power.

Power corrupts.
Wow. I just. . . wow. Yeah, that pretty much covers it. This was a fleurking phenomenal book. I could not put it down and when I was done with it, I jumped right back to the beginning and read it again and enjoyed the hell out of it just as much the second time through. It was just that good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Whole New Perspective

Back in the day when I was in college, a new show started up called Gilmore Girls. You might have heard of it.

You haven't heard of it? Seriously, you live under a bigger rock than I do. Go watch it. I'll wait.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Abstract Thoughts: Mental Notes

Writings of the Muse

Renee tries to have at least two projects in process at a time, so she can switch back and forth between phases to give each time to rest without down time. I handle the plotting and writing of one and then the other, and then the Inner Editor takes them over before handing them off to the Idea Salesman. Once he's done, we start all over again with the next pair.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Abstract Thoughts: Let's Light Fires Together!

Brilliance from
the Idea Salesman

Hey folks! I don't often use this blog for selling things. Renee really isn't into that kind of thing. She won't even let me put one of those Google ad boxes over on the side bar. But Fireside holds the special honor of being the first place to ever publish her work, so she's making an exception for me this one time.

Remember a while back when I sold Renee's creepy little flash fiction "Time Out" to Fireside Magazine? Of course you do. I'm sure you all read it and loved it and purchased the hell out of it so you could carry the ebook around on your device of choice and go back and read it again and again and again. I know that's what I would have done in your shoes.

While you were reading it, did you happen to read the rest of the magazine? Or maybe some of the other issues? Because if you did, you would have noticed that Fireside is one awesome magazine. And not just because they published Renee's story. They publish an incredible mix of stories every month. We here at Cabeza Renee never miss it.

Did you like my little nod to the Hispanic readers out there, making Renee's head sound like a Mexican restaurant or something? I hear that's the politically savvy thing to do these days.

And now I want nachos. Anyone else thinking nachos for lunch?

Idea, please stop trying to politick. You're bad at it. Though nachos for lunch isn't a bad idea... Anyway, you're supposed to be talking about Fireside, not getting my blog blacklisted.

Sheesh, some people are so sensitive.

Anyway, back to my point. Fireside. It's awesome. You love it. I love it. We all love it. And they're having a subscription drive right now to keep the (digital) presses running for a fourth year. Subscribe. Or Patronize. Read. Win!

Hint. Hint.

For purely selfish reasons, I'd really like Fireside to keep publishing. We already sold them one story and wouldn't be sad to sell them another. Because not only is Fireside great for readers, it's also great for writers.

And not just because they're professional and courteous and Renee had a lovely experience working with them on "Time Out". All that is true, but I'm the sales guy, so let's talk about money for a minute.

Thanks to the Project Manager and all his spiffy tracking charts and data collection efforts, we now know just how long it takes Renee to complete a short fiction project. From the first inkling of an idea to getting it out the door, it takes Renee approximately 45 hours of work per 1000 words.

(Note that this is for the whole process, not just the writing. Renee and the Muse can blast out 1000 raw words in about an hour. Sometimes less. But those words would not necessarily be ones I could convince an editor to part with money over.)

That's an entire week, assuming Renee was working at this full time (which she's not) and that there weren't rest periods needed in the middle for things like critique partners to read over it and such. An entire week, just to produce one piece of flash fiction like "Time Out".

Now that's not bad really, a week. What's a week? And there are folks out there who could do it much faster. Renee would love to be one of them. There are also folks who would take much longer. But that's how long it currently takes Renee.

How much do you make in a week?

If you're trying to publish your flash fiction in 90% of the short fiction markets out there these days, you'd make zip.

Zero. Zilch. Nothing. Not one penny.

Well, maybe if you're lucky, the publisher will send you a contributor copy of the magazine or whatever.

Assuming they don't charge you a fee instead.

Yeah, seriously, that's how it works at a lot of places these days.

But not at Fireside. Fireside pays 12.5 cents a word. That's $125 for a piece of flash fiction like "Time Out".

(Renee may or may not have the check framed on her wall. The beauty of this mobile banking thing all the cool kids are doing these days is that you get to cash the check and then keep it for decorative purposes.)

12.5 cents a word is wonderfully high for the industry. Even setting aside all the speshul snowflakes who think "exposure" is a payment plan and not the cause of death when someone gets trapped alone of the side of a mountain for several months, SFWA, for example, qualifies a market as professional if they pay 6 cents a word, and a number of magazines use that as their standard. That's $60, which would be just barely minimum wage if Renee could crank out 1000 saleable words in a day rather than a week. Fireside doubles that.

Writing can be a rich and fulfilling career, sure, but that doesn't mean it can't also put food on the table. 12.5 cents a word is important. 12.5 cents a word can pay a water bill, or buy groceries, or send the kids to swim lessons. 12.5 cents a word makes writing something we can afford to do.

If you have any interest in the idea that the people behind the stories you love to read should be able to keep the lights on in exchange for their work, encourage publications like Fireside, who are dedicated to making sure artists get paid well for their art. A lot of places don't care about that and the ones that do are awesome. You could do worse things than supporting a publication that genuinely cares about supporting it's artists.

Plus, again, the magazine is just plain great to read and a year is well worth $20. So go forth and subscribe. You won't regret it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Renee's Reading: Vigilante Mine by Cera Daniels

Vigilante Mine, by Cera Daniels
Internal Affairs be damned, Detective Amanda Werner's ditching protocol to hunt the vigilante whose bullet landed her on the bench. But this is no vendetta. Evidence suggests he's the zealot offing corrupt public officials--the same zealot who's promised to set the city ablaze by week's end--and she'll risk her career and her life to save her hometown. Too bad she can't find anything stronger than Kevlar to guard her heart against her primary suspect: a masked man with a telepathic German shepherd, unstable supernatural hearing, and lips that invite a whole different brand of investigation.

All businessman Ryan McLelas, a.k.a. Klepto, wants is redemption. But even if Amanda could forgive his itchy trigger finger, Ryan still has to convince her that his alter ego's no serial killer. No small task, with syndicate-paid police officers turning up among the dead. He'd better keep his own syndicate ties close to his chest and Amanda even closer, because if Klepto is unmasked while he's hunting the real killer, their passionate affair could mark Amanda as the next dirty cop on the hit list.

In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I should start by saying that Cera Daniels is a friend of mine and I was lightly involved in the development of the original idea for this series several years ago. Which basically means I claimed all three McLelas brothers for my fictional harem way before any of the rest of you suckers. Mine!

It also means I've been waiting to read this book for a loooooong time.

That said, even if I wasn't friends with Cera, I would still tell be strongly recommending this book to you. There are so many great things here that work together to make a fantastic read.

Ryan and Amanda are such good leading characters. Ryan has that whole oldest-orphan, I-am-responsible-for-the-whole-world, protective thing going on, which is further complicated by his being a superhero. Sort of. Amanda feels that same call to help, but she's much more practical about it. After all, she opted for carrying around a badge and handcuffs and Ryan is a super-powered version of Batman.

Well, the man is just following the internet's favorite Batman rule. I can't really blame him.

They are fantastic together. Ryan is sexy and charming and Amanda is smart and kicks ass and knows exactly how to call him on his bullshit. The romance between these two developed so well. They complement each other's strengths and weaknesses and are just the right amount of supportive over one another. They have fantastic chemistry together. And the hot sexytime scenes didn't hurt either.

I am saddened that neither of them shows proper respect for the wonders and glories of caffeine, but I suppose no one can be perfect. At least they're together so they won't infect others with their dangerous ideas.

The extended cast was also very well done, particularly regarding Ryan's brothers, Zach and Jay. Since the series revolves around the three of them and their unique super powers, I expected them to be deeply developed supporting characters, but Daniels put a lot of effort into fleshing out their family dynamic and it shows. These brothers are very close. They tease and prank one another, they bicker and argue, they worry and support one another. It all felt very authentic.

My favorite supporting character though is actually the dog. Romeo is hilarious. The talking animal sidekick thing can go very badly, so I was a bit worried. But Romeo was a good partner for Ryan and his presence and connection to the story were very well defined.

Also, I'm a cat person through and through. I'm one of those cat people who talks to her cats and assumes they would do nothing but ceaselessly mock her if they were capable of talking back. And while Romeo has the misfortune of being a dog rather than a cat, but his sense of humor makes up for it.

Storyline-wise, this novel, like a lot of Paranormal Romance, is heavy on the suspense elements. The tension of the story built very well and I enjoyed the occasional peak inside the bad guy's cracked up head. The action runs at a fairly good clip, keeping the pages turning fast without tumbling over into disorienting chaos. I liked the way it all wrapped up too, closing the plot elements central to this story while leaving enough threads to hang the next story on without it feeling like a cliffhanger.

The worldbuilding was well done, slipping relevant information in here and there without being overwhelming. If anything, I would have liked to know more, both about the McLelas's personal backstory and the society they live in. I suspect I'll have most of my questions answered in the future installments of the series though, so I'm not worried. Nothing that I was curious about hindered the storytelling, so I guess it really is true what they say about the reader not needing to know everything.

Except when the reader is me. Because I need to know everything. Pleeeeeeeeease!

Overall I felt this story had excellent characters and a great blend of romance and action. All the elements came together and worked beautifully and I'm very excited for the rest of the series to come out.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#wallflower

Social media. It's the way of the world these days. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram etc., etc., etc., Google +. If you're not online, are you even really alive? It's how everybody communicates with everybody about everything.

Except my in-laws. They had a bad experience with a Commodore 64 back in the day and decided that was a good time to exit the information super highway.

Anyway, there's this whole big world out there on the internet and we're all a part of it. And I love it. I really do. I'm an introvert with social anxiety issues, so being able to communicate with people on my own time and from the safety of my private space is wonderful.

Now if I could just get myself to communicate with people.

I realized the other day that I act exactly the same way on social media that I do at a giant party. I'm there surrounded by all these people and I hide in my own little corner eavesdropping on their conversations and thinking up responses I never quite get the nerve to make.

Don't get me wrong. I like sending my thoughts out into the world. I tweet all the darn time. I have several different accounts I tweet from all the darn time actually. I'm just full of 140-character nonsense and more than willing to share it with everyone. Plus, there's this blogging thing I try to do, for when I have nonsense of a somewhat lengthier form.

I think I'm fine doing that because I go into it assuming no one is listening. I'm not under the impression that anyone follows me religiously, and I keep odd, inconsistent hours. Plus I don't have that many followers to begin with and most of my blog readers are bots. So I suspect most of what I put out there just drifts by unnoticed.

Now, if I know someone at the party and am comfortable, I might cling to them like the last floating scrap of wreckage in the ocean strike up a conversation with that person. I might @-reply to something they say or tag them in something I want them to know about. You know, intentionally drawing their attention rather than just yammering into the void.

And occasionally, when I'm really tired and thinking I'm funnier than I am maybe or excited about something or I've gotten myself worked up into A State, I'll venture out and respond to a complete stranger. But generally I keep well away from the @ symbol where strangers are involved.

(I mean, I'm a stranger to them. I lurk on the internet a lot and so if I'm going to respond to someone, I probably follow their tweets and/or blogs like we're BFFs, but to them the only difference between me and a random egg is that I have a hat.)

I probably shouldn't do this. Logically I know that these people are people just like me. A number of them have interests similar to mine and our senses of humor align. Otherwise I wouldn't find them so interesting and/or entertaining. So it's entirely possible they might find what I have to say interesting and/or entertaining too.

What am I so afraid of? That they'll see my tweet pop up in their mentions and think, "who the hell is this crazy chick, walking in here talking at me like we're friends or something?" and then forward my tweet to all my friends so they can all get together online somewhere to point and laugh and then click the block button?

Actually, I suspect that is exactly what I am afraid of, but when I'm thinking about it without my anxiety meter cranked up to 1000, I'm really more worried they'll just ignore me.

Well no more. From now on, I'm going to be more social on the social media. I'm going to shut down my screaming neuroses and get out there and talk to people and make new friends and all that stuff.

(Good grief, this is exactly what I sounded like when I was starting high school and then again starting college. Third time's the charm hopefully.)

And not just so I can have more fun at the 24/7 social media party. As the Idea Salesman has pointed out, eventually I'm going to have books to sell and such and I'm going to have to be able to interact with people to do that. This is a skill I'm going to have to cultivate if I'm going to be a professional in today's environment.

Anyone have any suggestions?