Meridian

Grant Baines runs a specialty-tour company with his sister, Andie. The tour part is ushering frat boys around the Gulf of Mexico in his charter yacht. The specialty is that he’s an ex-military psychologist who does favors for the government. When Grant is asked to spend a week evaluating traumatized FBI Advisor Matty Sawyer, he agrees, thinking it will be just another babysitting assignment.

Grant is more relaxed in a bondage playroom than he is going on a date, so he’s amazed at how strongly he’s attracted to the damaged but brilliant man who arrives in his town. Grant’s job is to assess Matty’s stability to return to the FBI after Jaeger Koning— Matty’s former lover— is charged with multiple assassinations.

Knowing Matty’s past poses a danger to his family, Grant is determined to keep his distance, until Matty reveals a submissive side that Grant finds impossible to resist.

And that’s the premise for Meridian, a novel I finished in February, when it was cold and damp and I was pining for the sun. There’s warm salt water and a kickass boat, a charming villain, and two capable men who are absolutely on fire for each other, not to mention a good amount of bondage and sweet domination.  It’s the stand-alone first in a series, the second of which (Windward) will be released later this year. Check it out! 🙂

MERIDIAN_FINALsmaller

 

Release Date: May 17th.

Genre: Gay contemporary romance, m/m, crime, military, psychological

Warnings: Light violence, off-screen mentions of assassinations

Length: 61,00 words, 200+ pages

Pre-order at Amazon

 

 

 

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Giveaway Winners! (Malachite)

hey guys!

Everyone who commented on the Here Come the Pirates blog post has won an ebook copy of Malachite. I don’t have all the emails, so please use the About page (clicky!) to contact me with your email and preferred format (mobi, pdf, etc), or send me a direct message on Twitter. 🙂

MALACHITE PALADINsmaller

 

 

 

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The Temple Road

satww5

Even I have to say, hot damn. 🙂 Scarlet is a lucky, lucky boy.

The cover artist is Arianne Elliot, who created the beautiful Scarlet & Liall fanart last year! I was so impressed with her work. Hope you all are too!

In The Temple Road, Scarlet and Liall set out with the king’s army on a perilous journey to the frozen heart of Rshan. Although Liall is determined that nothing will ever part him from his beloved Scarlet, treason, death, and a terrible betrayal soon push him to his breaking point. When Scarlet’s magic suddenly turns lethal, Liall places their entwined fates into the hands of those who covet magic above all else, but will they save Scarlet or enslave him?

 

 

 

 

 

*Release date of The Temple Road will be announced at the end of January. Subscribe to my blog in the form below to stay tuned for future news (I know the text box is white, I’m fixing that today, sorry for blog weirdness!), and thanks for reading. <3 Love you guys!

 

Amazon Link

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(Giveaway) Here Come the Pirates…

And the wardens, the azures, the guardiers, the crossbones, and the old bastardo himself, Kon Sessane.  WOOT I’M SO EXCITED YOU GUYS  Malachite went on sale at Amazon.com today!

MALACHITE PALADINsmallerApple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Nook will begin carrying it in the middle of January. The print version will be available from Amazon and selected outlets in February, if not sooner.

Reviews (good ones!) have been coming in and I’m so, so happy that people are enjoying it!

It’s hard for me to express how much I love this book. It’s the first of a series, and even though it contains  murder, betrayal, sex, violence, and handsome men desperately in love, it’s the tamest installment you’ll read in the Paladin Cycle. Strap yourselves in, because it’s a hell of a ride from here.

I’m giving away 1 digital copy of Malachite at random for every 10 comments, so say hello, tell us all what you’ve read lately, ask me a question about the book/characters/howbigisnakedJean, or post a cocktail recipe. 🙂 Whatever you want! It’s all good.

Happy Reading!

 

*Giveaway ends Tuesday, January 5th.

 

 

Posted in Giveaway, Malachite, Writing | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

2 weeks!

I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait! 🙂

15

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Rainbow Awards, and a new release!

winner

The Rainbow Awards were a smash this year! 450+ books, 170 judges from all over the world, and $17,300 donated to LGBT charities. Elisa Rolle is a tireless supporter of LGBT visibility in literature and an amazing organizer and beautiful person. We love you, Elisa!

My novel Hammer and Bone (Riptide Publishing) took Rainbow Awards in Best Cover Illustration, Best LGBT Novel, and tied for 1st place in Best LGBT Anthology or Collection with Keep the Stars Running, an anthology by by Andrea Speed, Talya Andor, Lexi Ander, Leona Carver, and Cassandra Pierce. (Less Than Three Press). The King of Forever also took 3rd place for Best Cover Illustration

(So that’s like 4 wins for moi. Not that I’m bragging or anything. *decorates self in awards like tinsel on an Xmas tree la la la* )

Thank you, judges! I know the workload was especially heavy this year. If I could give you all an award, I would. But not mine, because… MINE.

And… Malachite is finally here.

MALACHITE PALADINsmaller

I thought about Malachite for a long time before I wrote the first draft of a short story that eventually became the 115,000 word novel that will be released on January 1st. Malachite is an Alternate Earth story, more speculative/steampunk than fantasy, where an ancient island city-state populated entirely by males has become isolated from a female-dominated world. The city is now surrounded on all sides by pirates, gangs, and just plain bad blood. It a solid m/m romance with angst, sex, and an HEA. Though it’s the first part of a series, it’s a complete story in itself (no cliffhangers). And if you want an early look at Jean, Marion, & Tris, I’ve been posting chapters of Malachite on its Tumblr blog, and will continue to do that until December 31.

I’m so excited about this book!

 

 

 

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Malachite

I know I’m lazy about updating my blog. I’m trying to fix that. You can throw pies at me later. 🙂

I’ve been sharing chapters of my new novel Malachite over at Tumblr, I guess because it’s really easy to post there, and WordPress? Not so much.

Malachite will be released in 2015. I’ve got some CRAZY deadlines this year and Malachite is one of two novels to be published by 2016. Anyway, I’m posting part 1 below. Parts 2-4 are also on Tumblr. *update, part 5 is up!

Tumblr Link

1

Thirty years ago…
“Well, if it isn’t Aureo’s pet cat. Didn’t think you’d show!”

Jean shrugged. “Here I am.”
read more
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Havin’ a sale, yup!

If you STILL haven’t read Scarlet and the White Wolf, Book 1, a new revised edition is on sale at Amazon Kindle for 1/2 price for a short time. Getcha one!

Or, if you’ve read it and liked it, how about recommending it to a friend? 🙂

Totally cute, dat ass!

Isn’t he cute?

 

I’m working on revised paperback editions of the first Scarlet trilogy today, but they probably won’t be for sale until the end of the month. If I finish work on The King of Forever paperback edition over the weekend, I’ll announce it, but I’m pretty sure I won’t have the proof before next week. I know that Amazon lets you see the finished paperback digitally, but I prefer to have it in my hands and makes sure its perfect before it goes on sale. 🙂  Gotta look out for you guys!

 

 

 

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The King of Forever

FINALLY, right?

satww4newsmal

I know you guys have been very… Very… VERY patient, so hugs and virtual chocolate to everyone who sent me asks about the series and have been anticipating its release. I love you all!  🙂

This week has been brutal with the heat, the AC conking out, and my computer just refusing to work if it has to, you know, be all hot and stuff. I was working really late (because my office stops imitating a steam chamber when the sun goes down) on some last minute touches to the cover artwork, my Wacom pen was on its last legs, and my poor, tired brain went into vapor lock. I completely messed up the cover in CS5. While trying to merge a layer, I accidentally flattened all the layers, and then I saved over it and closed it. Not a huge deal for the digital cover (since it was almost finished) but a really big deal for the paperback cover. That’s what I get for sitting at my desk until Stupid O’clock

Luckily, I remembered that I may have had a wonderful moment of paranoia and backed up that folder with its  umpteen hours of artwork to an external drive, and there it was. So, yes, the paperback version will keep chugging along.

Scarlet and the White Wolf, Book 4 is available for Kindle pre-order on Amazon with a release date of July 10. The date can’t be moved back, so there won’t be any more delays. I wanted desperately to make the end-of-June date on my website, but I really need this extra time to put some last-minute continuity work into the manuscript(s) and to firm up the date for when The Temple Road will be available.  That’s SatWW Book 5, in case I haven’t mentioned it.  The Temple Road is already completed and well into the editing process. I hope to have the paperback editions for both books available close to the ebook release dates, but I won’t give out an exact date until I’m positive.

On July 10, I’ll have a firmer date for SatWW 5’s release. All I can tell you right now is that it’s coming out in 2015, hopefully closer to fall than winter. SatWW 6 will be released in 2016, BUT it will be the beginning of a new chapter for Scarlet and Liall, and the story will be separate from Books 4 and 5.

Got that? 4 & 5 connected, 6… not so much.

And that’s all, you amazing folks. Thank you so, so much for all your kind words and encouragement (and prodding! I needed that!) and for reading my novels and hanging in there. I hope you’ll feel it’s been worth it. 🙂

-Kirby

 

 

 

 

 

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Hammer and Bone

hblj

So this is my new book, a novel-length collection of short stories tied together by themes of retribution, hatred, prejudice, loss, and love. I’ve been pitching this book hard all week (as authors do), so before I drive anyone away with my (amazeballs) sales patter, I’m just going to refer you guys to The Novel Approach and Goodreads. You can see what other readers have said about it and decide whether or not this book is for you.

Have a great weekend! 🙂

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I need a virtual vacation

I’ve discovered that whenever I’m in full-swing writing mode (LIKE NOW OMG fingers ow!), I tend to neglect some important stuff. Like laundry, the clock, cooking dinner, forgetting to pay the phone bill, and… oh yeah, playing games.

You wouldn’t think the last one would matter so much, but for me, it really does. Like reading books and watching movies, gaming is my recharge function. It’s the headspace I crawl into where I just absorb, unwind, and I can appreciate someone else’s creation, some other artist’s world. It’s a poor writer that doesn’t read, and it’s an uninspired Crow that doesn’t game.

I’ve been looking at some of my old game screenshots. EVE Online, mostly. I miss it. I haven’t played for about 4 months now. Not for lack of wanting to, but it’s a subscription game and those add up when you have more than one. Plus, I have to choose where my energies go. I get just as frustrated by not writing as I do by writing too much.

I’m almost never still and I’m almost never bored. Too much holds my interest, so many things I want to do, so much stuff I want to learn. I have a restless mind. I only truly relax when I’m in a virtual world somewhere or in the woods. Even asleep, I dream constantly and vividly.

Maybe there’s something about a virtual world that pulls a blanket over some part of our consciousness, frees it to drift away with our eyes wide open. That could be some of that unexplainable lure that gaming addicts experience; the ability to truly cut ourselves loose from who we are for a little while. I’ve read about gaming addictions, but it’s never happened to me. When it’s time to turn something off, I do it. There’s always some real-life klaxon going off anyway, calling me to this or that chore, so my gaming binges are short-lived perforce. I have a much harder time closing down CS5. I can be too frazzled to write or too distracted to play, but I’m never too sick to paint. If I’d chosen to be an artist instead of a writer, who knows how it would have turned out?

Good thing I decided to be both. 🙂

 

 

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Crow Compromises. Sort of.

I haven’t posted much about gaming lately, like I haven’t posted much about art and drawing, for the simple reason… I haven’t been able to do it. My right hand went wonky (de Quervain’s tenosynovitis) in early spring of 2014, and when I say wonky, I mean it didn’t work. I couldn’t grip a bottle, a pen, I couldn’t open a jar, turn a doorknob, nothing. My hand was this useless fleshy stump-thing on the end of my arm. Worst of all, I couldn’t type very well or very long and I couldn’t hold a game controller. At some point in late August I could begin holding my Xbox controller, but it was painful and I realized after an hour of Assassin’s Creed that I was damaging my wrist again. If I wasn’t careful, I’d need surgery and I’d be looking at even more months of recovery.

How did this happen? Blame my green tea plants and tomatoes. I’d noticed my wrist and thumb feeling sort of weak and stiff over the weekend in March. I put it down to the fact that I did catch my thumb in the bathroom door handle and wrench it something awful (it’s a narrow hallway, the handle is antiquated, it’s just clumsy all around in that old hall) and I remembered feeling lucky that it didn’t really hurt at the time, despite how bad it was twisted. Welp, it caught up to me that Monday. I dug out the bed for the tomatoes and moved a 50 lb bag of mulch for my tea plants. My thumb was stiff and the bones of my wrist felt like they were separating whenever I lifted something. But I’d wrap it that night, put some ice on it, a little Ben-Gay maybe (stinky!) and I’d be fine in the morning.

Nope.

I thought it was a sprain and I treated it like one, wrapping, ice, heat, Ibuprofen, etc. We went on vacation in May and I couldn’t swim in the ocean because the waves hurt. Then I swam because I wanted a shark to bite it off. It just wouldn’t stop. Just ow ow ow every time I moved my thumb. It went on far too long for a sprain.

Anyway, it was a type of tendonitis caused by use, or rather overuse. I couldn’t garden and spend hours typing and game through the night. Something had to go. I compromised. I updated my speech-to-text software and began using that more to write. I turned the vegetable garden over to the menfolk. I typed with a chopstick taped my brace. I gave up my Xbox controller for the foreseeable future. Oh yeah, and I gave up washing dishes. That was someone else’s job all summer.

I didn’t have to give up PC gaming so much because the hand movements you do with PC are smaller than your fingers spanning a console controller. But it was still awkward trying to game with a ring mouse (it fits on my index finger) and after a dozen sessions of getting my ass handed to me by Orcs and pirates rats, I stopped playing. I could draw on my Wacom tablet and CS5, but not for very long, and it came down to short-term denial vs long-term benefits. So all summer and fall and on into winter, I was not an active gamer. I followed the news, enthused over new releases, kept up with my favorite people at Gamestop, watched the guys play, but I couldn’t participate beyond that. I read a lot of Game Informer magazine. I watched a lot of Netflix.

It was depressing. 🙁

Anyway, I stopped sleeping with the brace on my hand in October. I’d put off some orthodontic (toofypegs!) surgery as long as I could by then, so I exchanged one pain for another and there were complications (naturally!) and it was a crappy Autumn altogether. My left wrist is also beginning to show signs of wear now from compensating for the right. It’s not nearly as bad as the right and it won’t get that bad, it’s just tight and achy and I have to baby it a bit, now that the right is healed. But this type of injury tends to happen again after the first time. You never really get rid of it. I’ve had to make some adjustments in how I do things, mostly using athletic tape on my hands if I’m going to play for a long time on console. I wish I was kidding. And wearing a really stiff hand brace if I use gardening tools. No more slogging 50 lb bags of topsoil or mulch across the yard, either. That’s what a wheelbarrow is for. Or menfolk.

Alas, I still have to do the dishes.

For everyone who reads this blog for the gaming meta and virtual life thinky-thoughts: I’m back.

If you’re waiting for books from me (and I hope you are, because I really do love my readers) it was a frustrating 2014, but I’m back.

To the Orcs, Spiders, Uruks, and Wargs of Ettenmoors: I’m back. Hide your collective hairy asses.

 

 

 

 

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Pin the stocking on the Grinch

If you’re like me, you look forward to Christmas, but not the poundage you’re destined to pack on from all the goodies. To that end, I’ve been choosing alternate stocking stuffers for years. I get sick of chocolate by Halloween, so by the time Christmas finally rolls around, I don’t want to see one more bon-bon, truffle or chocolate orange. NO MORE.

However, in my family, a stuffed stocking is non-negotiable. You either take your damn candy with a smile or you’re a Grinch! But substitutions are allowed…

To that end, I’ve made a list of alternate items I’ve placed on my stocking list over the years.  One of your Grinches might like them!

Numi Tea
You can’t go wrong with Numi. Every flavor is delicious. They’re also the perfect shape for wrapping.

Freeze dried strawberries and bananas
Dried bananas can be quite hard and dries strawberries can be chewy or sour or both, but freeze drying is a different process. They’re delicious!

Dried fruits and nuts
Apricots, cherries, cranberries, blueberries, walnuts, pecans, papaya, pineapple, almonds, dates, figs, anything you can imagine. Dress them up in decorative jars with a pretty ribbon or piece of fabric. Don’t just chuck a bag of trail mix in there because THAT’S CHEATING.

Gourmet coffee
Bag or single-serve pouches, doesn’t matter. Starbuck has great little packs of single serve instant coffees called Starbucks VIA. They’re my favorite.

Herbs and spices
Small, delicate jars of saffron, vanilla bean, organic curry, or smoked chipotle. I love chives but they’re kind of expensive so I hoard them like gold. Any herb or spice your Grinch desires is good, but again, ribbons, wrapping and attention are required. A stocking shouldn’t look like a bag of groceries.

Honey and Jams
A squat jar of gourmet fig preserves or a thin bottle of Tupelo honey is better than any peanut butter cup.

Liquor
Drop an alcohol miniature of Devil’s Cut, Tequila Rose, or Baileys Irish Cream in there and you won’t want to cuss your relatives out by lunchtime. You’ll be laying under the tree, but whatever.

Jerky
We have now moved into male stockings. No, not that kind.

Or you can do what I do sometimes, and tell your family and friends if they simply must buy you a box of holiday candy or drop something into your stocking, you’d rather have an iTunes or Steam card. Given the average price of a box of candy (and how long it lasts around my house) I’d much rather have a gift I can enjoy for more than *38 seconds 🙂

 

*candy-devouring time approximate.

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Ehrmagerd

This totally counts as a blog update.
Minimalist style.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
*injects a lot of carriage returns and spaces*
*slinks away*

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THIS IS MY BOOMSTICK

Mmmkay, no, I don’t actually own a boomstick. What I do have is an Off switch (just as good in this context), and I’ve been thinking about misanthropy. Not the actual I-Hates-Most-Everybodies misanthropy, but why some of us flock to virtual communities while expressly avoiding deeper human contact on a daily basis. My social anxiety meter is in the medium-low range. I’m not fond of very large crowds (50% “germs!!!” 50% “you people are stealing all my air”) but I do fine in normal gatherings, parties, malls, etc. I’m not afraid to speak to an audience or go to an event. I don’t consider myself a recluse, yet days can pass where I venture no further than my front door and I won’t feel like I’ve missed anything. Between Tumblr, Twitter, blogging, the Internet and my gaming, it can often feel like I’ve been thoroughly socialized without ever leaving my desk. Maybe I’m just a new species of hermit.

A digital hermit. Dhermit? “Digimit” leads one to believe you’re a Pokemon while “dhermit” merely sounds like an epithet. We’ll go with the invective. 🙂

If we think of human contact as an analog device and VR contact as digital, tactical advantage goes to the dhermit. Just like the quantization noise inherent in digital computers smooths out the raw analog signal, VR contact allows us to truncate those signals we reject and use our own methods of lossy compression to extract only what we want from the contact, only what we’re comfortable with. The essentials without the messy and complicated details.

As a bonus, there’s an Off switch.

An avatar is a representation of you. It’s rarely – with some exceptions, notably Second Life, where thousands of avatars represent the real-world appearance of their human pilots –  an accurate one. Our avatars can be anything, any fragment of ourselves we wish to pour into it, a little or a lot. Most of us take our dreams, who we wished we could be, our best face, and we either enchant the world with the attempt or bore it to tears and the Mute button. We can even extract toxic elements of our persona that we dislike and indulge that beast through VR, although I don’t recommend it. As always, Karma (rather like the Internet) applies and She never forgets. Resist the temptation to be a shitcock.

In the absence of any meaningful social anxiety, is misanthropy the only label for avoiding other humans? What is it about interacting with an idealized version of a person that we find more appealing than face-to-face contact? Is it that VR contact is more immediate and gratifying, or is it that we get to dictate the variables (appearance, weather, length of contact, crowding, germs!!!) that are so uncontrollable in real life?

As always, I’m stuck squarely in the middle. I like my friends, I like restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, bookstores, and museums, and I’m willing to venture out and enjoy those. I’m also very aware and fond of the formidable power of my Off switch.

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Brain in the closet

I had a dream last night where I was some kind of cop/detective working on a space station, but it was odd (like it’s not odd already?) because the station was more like a rundown urban moon colony, with soil and plants, buildings and sun and some kind of dome keeping in stuff, yanno like atmosphere and people. Important stuff! It had gravity because at some point I was running through an alleyway with a fellow cop who looked – yes, commence to making fun – like Daryl from The Walking Dead.

Daryl, why are we space cops? Daryl, why do the ground textures look like Minecraft dirt? Daryl, why are the zombies singing? Daryl, why did I know the lyrics to the zombie song?

nospaceman

I’ve been trying all morning to remember those lyrics.

My subconscious is like a giggling teenager in a closet, waiting for me to go to sleep so he can come out to play, so he can unpack all my daily weirdness, experiences, scattered thoughts and fragments of idea to staple together a semi-coherent existence that lasts only as long as my eyes are shut. When I wake up, his life goes to sleep.

I dream almost every night. Vivid dreams that seem to last hours. I firmly believe that an adult dedication to playtime –not just gaming, by the way– is what makes my sleeping imagination so fertile. If it’s true that dreams are the brain trawling through and recycling your information uptake, then the kinds of information you absorb relate to your dreams. Data in, data out. You have to marvel and wonder when you’re awake to do the same when you’re not.

 

Posted in Hypergrid Adventures, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

My Life in My Head

I spend so much time in my own head. All writers do, actually. It’s just how we function, how we dream up our worlds, how we play out the scenes that we intend to put on paper. We borrow from every single thing we hear and see to construct those, awake or asleep. It’s never been a weird thing for me to spend hours daydreaming. It’s been an unproductive thing, but never a loss.

Inspiration comes from a variety of sources. In fact, it comes every source, conscious or not. Virtual worlds have been a foundation of inspiration to me for years. Not necessarily playing the game, but who I am when I play it. Not all players empathize and connect to the pre-crafted game character as they play the storyline. Most of us do connect to a degree, writers included, but every player brings a different plate to the table.

Games get an undeserved bad rap, for reasons that apply to only a small segment of the player base, but some logical criticisms are broader and are valid to most. The one problem I have with my gaming hobby is the false sense of accomplishment it can bring. A hobby is a hobby and should be for pleasure. You don’t need to justify a hobby, but gaming tries to trick me into thinking I’ve actually gotten something done, and that’s a problem.

Of course, playing something like Minecraft is different from games like Second Life—where you can actually sell your creations for Linden currency that can be converted to cash— but also different from games like Lord of the Rings Online or Warcraft, where all the content comes from the game servers and you’re never building a city or texturing a new outfit.

My particular creative brain demands a real-world result to labor. That’s why I tend to gravitate toward games where my playtime can be extrapolated from the virtual to the real. Blender, Zbrush, and Photoshop are the tools I use to make my virtual creations in Second Life, but I don’t do much with them. I play with them, I take snapshots before they get packed into the inventory. That’s about it. What do I get out of that? Personal satisfaction maybe, and it has made me a fair hand with the software. My friends keep telling me to get on the SL Marketplace, get a business going. I try. I have a few things for sale there, compared to the thousands I’ve created. My SL avatar has been in-world for 7 years, so my inventory is massive. But unlike other games, items become obsolete in SL, the code evolves, creations become more sophisticated. The first chairs and clothing I made in SL seem incredibly clunky now. I couldn’t give them away.

kittens

The most valuable things (to me) that I create in Second Life don’t stay in that world, not even a little. I have an office my avatar goes to in the morning, just like my real self moves to the laptop desk facing the big window. That’s where I sit down to write for the day, and sometimes when I need to feel like I’m somewhere else, my avatar goes wandering to forests, cities, ruined landscapes and alien vistas. Everything is inspiration, after all. I’ve always believed that the time I spend in my head isn’t a loss. When I type The End on a story or novel, I know that’s true.

 

Postscript: Next week the header image above will have “My Life in My Head” under my name. It’s no secret (you can tell from the lapses between posts) that I’ve struggled for years about what to write about on my blog. Writing about writing isn’t for me, neither is review or critique, book recommendations or movies, but I can yap forever about living virtually on the Hypergrid.

 

 

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DMCA Musings and Muso

I found Muso DMCA Takedown service through Twitter. A well-known author in my genre tweeted about it and I thought I would give it a try, because I have to tell you the truth: I gave up playing whack-a-mole with illegal downloads of my work last year. I was spending an hour a day every morning tracking down the torrents and files, keeping records of the URLs, and serving DMCA notices through e-mail. When you’re already pressed to find time for writing, that hour becomes very precious. I realized I could either write new work, or I could spend my life trying to keep illegal downloads of old work out of the hands of readers.  When you look at it like that, the choice becomes easy.

Muso’s price is a little steep, around $20 a month in USD. I still haven’t decided if it’s worth it and I’ll need to compare sales numbers from before and after I began using Muso to see if it’s made a difference.

Not every pirated ebook automatically means a lost sale. I can’t make an accurate guess of the percentages, but my gut tells me that at least half of all of these types of downloads are acts of laziness. It doesn’t mean that every downloaded novel was actually read. It doesn’t mean that every downloaded novel would have been purchased if only it hadn’t been made so readily available for free. It doesn’t even mean that the person who downloaded it was necessarily looking for a book written by me, since I will often find my books being offered in a gay fiction compilation of hundreds of novels. Therefore, I can’t say that when I go to a site and see that the book has been downloaded 1,500 times that I’ve lost royalties for 1,500 novels. I haven’t. A large percentage of those downloads do not represent and would never have represented a sale, and that’s because when it comes to ebooks, downloaders tend to just grab everything, shove it on to the drive or their Kindle, and hope that they’ll get around to reading it someday.

So, generally speaking, an illegally downloaded e-book does not necessarily mean lost money for me.

Back to that laziness thing: people will not pay for something if it’s being offered free right under their noses. We can debate the morality of this mindset forever, but I’m more interested in the facts. Specifically, I’m more interested in how these facts can result in better sales numbers for me, and one of the ways to do that is to remove temptation from the board.

If it becomes difficult to find free stuff, if you make people work for it, they’ll often decide it’s just easier to cough up the pittance for the e-book at Amazon rather than spend an hour scouring torrents and visiting dodgy websites loaded with malware that could take their computer down in flames.  Again, not addressing the morality of taking stuff that doesn’t belong to you or of depriving us hard-working authors of our income, just observing how the system works.

And how it works is this: Muso removed over 30 pirated files of my work from general circulation in the past month, including 4 files from one site I had written off long ago as completely unresponsive. Since Muso will automatically re-file a DMCA notice for any copyrighted work that is not removed within 48 hours, it could be that I simply annoyed them enough to start deleting. When it comes to getting what you want, there are benefits to being a bother

The pros: you only have to fill in your information with Muso once. After that, everything is automatic or 1-click. You still need to maintain your campaigns, but the process becomes streamlined and much easier to deal with. You save time and you have the satisfaction of clicking a button and having something that was previously a huge pain in the ass taken care of for you.

You can never underestimate the value of kicking a pain in the tuckus to the curb.

With Muso, I feel like I’m actually getting something done about the piracy of my work, taking action instead of just passively letting it happen. It’s empowering to take back some control, and while it’s impossible to police every pirated copy, it’s satisfying to be able to deal with some of them.

The cons: Pricing could be cheaper. I don’t think they realize it, but breaching that $9.99 cap for digital service turns clients away. I mean, I love Lumosity.com, but I don’t love it $14.99 a month. At that price, my brain will have to do its own training. Writers Market is $5.99. Domain hosting for my author website is $11.00 a month. You see where I’m going with this? You have to budget your Internet services, because we all have more than one. $20 is a large bite. That’s one third of my total monthly billing for cable Internet service, and it will be at least another quarter before I find out if was worth it. It would also make Muso the most expensive digital service I subscribe to. Perhaps an option for Indie authors at a reduced price level would be in order here.

Muso’s web interface is not difficult, but you’ll need to spend time getting familiar with it. On an organic intuition scale, usability is quite good. However, the “Add Files” option is almost useless. Human beings can find pirated files in ways that a search engine can’t, and that’s what the Add Files option is for, but of the more than a dozen times I tried to enter a file location, the form rejected all but one entry. The dynamic nature of the Internet is the culprit here (and the ingenuity of piracy sites, who are doing some sneakily clever things with Java) but I think that option could be improved. As it stands, if you find a pirated file on your own that Muso’s interface can’t handle, you still have to do the paperwork yourself.

So in conclusion, despite the price, I’m inclined to give Muso a few more months. My workload is lightened and there have been results. Only time will tell from here, but I’m going to recommend it to my fellow authors and see how it goes for them. Good luck, guys!

*BIG HONKING NOTE: I always add a addendum here about file sharing in countries outside the US, Canada, and Europe: In a lot of places around the globe, my novels are either not available, the price range is beyond the means of the reader, or homosexual material is forbidden by law.  In those cases, I can have no objection to file sharing.  All I ask is that once you find the books you want to read, just read them and enjoy. Heck, write and tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂 Just please DO NOT RE-UPLOAD them back to file sharing, piracy & torrent sites. Share small!

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“Where can I find music for my book trailer video?”

*This blog post is not intended as legal advice. No, seriously. It’s not. You do your own thing at your own risk. Always thoroughly research any website or service you intend to do business with.

 

I see this question posted several times a week on Twitter, Facebook, and various blogs on my feed: “Where can I find music for my book trailer?”

The simple answer is, you can find it just about anywhere, but it’s not free. Another simple answer would be you can find it but it’s not always free. Even simpler: Nothing is free.

Sure, it would be AMAZEBALLS to find free music tracks just lying on the ground like gumdrop flowers in WonkaLand, free for us to use however we want. I’d also like free rent, free groceries, and my own personal Michael Fassbender Replicant (no expiration date), but those aren’t happening either. Musicians have to earn a living like everyone else, and expecting them just to give you their stuff to because you say you need it is an entitled worldview. No, scratch that. It’s a dickbag worldview.

Don’t be a dickbag.

If you want to use a song for a fandom creation (vidding, fanvids, etc), this falls under a different category than commercial use. Just go to Newgrounds.com and click on the Audio tab. There are thousands of Creative Commons songs there completely free for noncommercial use. This means you have to give credit for the song (and a link to the artist’s website would be super nice too!) but you don’t have to contact them or pay them. It means you can’t include their song in another collection of songs or alter the song substantially. For example, changing the rhythm or creating a new mix from their song, but you can cut it to fit your video timeframe.

If you want to use a portion of a popular song by a famous artist for your fanvid – and you have previously purchased the song for personal use –  this may or may not fall under the Fair Use clause of copyright. Using only a portion of the track is more likely to place in the gray area of Fair Use, but using the entire song almost certainly infringes upon the artist’s copyright. Yet, there are possibly millions of these fan-made videos with famous song tracks on YouTube. Why haven’t they been taken down?

Sometimes they are. The general answer is that there simply aren’t enough resources to police every single song, TV show, or movie on the Internet, and the harder studios and recording labels crack down on fans sharing material among themselves, the more ill-will it generates between media/content provider and audience. Obviously, this is counterproductive to a consumer environment dependent on actual fans.

Another reason that fandom creations manage to fly under the radar of legality is because they don’t generate any income. The moment you introduce cash to a fandom equation, the demarcation lines move and corporations get protective. Without profits, corporations cease to exist.

A book trailer is meant to advertise a product: your book. Therefore you need a commercial license, not a Creative Commons. If you want to use a song from Newgrounds for commercial use, you’ll have to contact the artist personally and ask them for permission. They may or may not require a fee for this. If your website does not generate ad revenue, the license may be less. If you intend to load your book trailer onto YouTube.com or Vimeo, then it might depend on whether or not you’re being paid ad revenue from your channel traffic.

By now you’re nodding your head and thinking “Wow, this is complicated.” Well, so is writing a book. If you wanted easy, you should’ve chosen a different profession. Maybe lumberjack or weasel-herder.

You also may have to get past the natural enthusiasm of a fledgling musician who suddenly has an author contacting them about their song. It’s astonishing that some people still see dollar signs when they hear “author”, even though the reality of that image should be pennies tucked into our scuffed loafers with the run-down heels.

“An author contacted me about using my song for their advertising! I want $500 every time they play it!”  

Yeah.  No. Back to reality. Let’s talk about some sites that license music tracks.

Unless you really do have enough disposable cash to start a bonfire, I don’t recommend Greenlight . A random sampling – clicking around on their website and entering in the information that the average author would provide (online advertising, 1 year, under 2 minutes) – Greenlight arrived at prices between $8,000 and $45,000.

You may commence hyena laughter now.

Songfreedom listed a quoted price of $34.99 per track, but they had no price-quotes specifically for background music for video.  According to the FAQ on their website, authors would need to obtain a streaming license for this purpose, and there were no prices for streaming. It’s a bad sign when there’s no price.

Musopen claims to be a free music source and the five songs that I sampled from the website were attributed under a Creative Commons Public Domain license. For more information on what this is, go here . This could make Musopen a possible source for authors hunting for free music they can legally use commercially, but I had difficulty navigating their website and their Terms of Use page seemed to randomly close on me. In short, do some research before using songs from this site.

Jamendo.com also looked hopeful. While not free, their quoted prices for advertising licenses were in the feasible range for an author seriously looking to promote their book, between $90 and $270. It’s worth checking out.

Youlicense.com also showed potential, but they had no specific category for book trailers or product advertising, and their prices varied widely between services offered (from $6-$450). Basically, you need more info, and with so many other resources available, I’m not sure it’s worth your time.

Playtunes has a nifty interface and is a subscription-based service. Again, inexpensive and promising, and their stated conditions of use include “an audio or video production, website, app, computer game, slide-show, etc.”

While that doesn’t specifically mention “book trailer”, a reasonable interpretation would be video production. Their subscriptions begin at Free, where you buy credits at $10 a pop, with each track worth between 1 to 3 credits each.  Monthly unlimited downloads start at $129, which could make Playtunes a viable resource for publishers and videographers.

And that’s all I had time to research today. 🙂 Leave your own resources, links, and suggestions in the comments, and good luck finding your music.

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How to Bake An Internet Furor

 

Measure  2 lbs self-rising flour.

Have an audience.

Make a Secret List.

Reveal to audience that there is a Secret List, but take no responsibility for creating the List.  Inform that it was a poll.

Mix flour with milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil.

Reveal that there are people in the audience who may or may not be on the List.

Do not tell audience who is on the List. Or not on it.

*Refuse to divulge statistical numbers of actual poll respondents. Turn oven on. Watch it heat up.

State that the people on the List are “must-haves”, which places those not on the Secret List on the “not-must-haves” List. (Yes it really is quid pro quo. It’s the internet. Don’t give me that Bambi look.)

Place mixture in heated oven while audience begins to cook to a slow boil. Say something about unfortunate wording and inadvertent offense. Ignore the fact that the wording of a newsletter is secondary to the reality that there IS a list and telling writers that there IS a secret list and then not telling them whether or not they are on it or not is not like throwing gasoline on a fire, no, it’s like throwing another tanker of gasoline on a gasoline tanker fire.

Set timer. Calmly claim that angry audience members misinterpreted the meaning of simple phrases.  (Don’t feel bad. Bill Clinton tried this one. Didn’t work out for him, either.)

Apologize for not taking into consideration the insecurities of the audience.

Fail to exercise self-criticism on wisdom of creating any List at all that you’re not prepared to own. Instead, why not place the blame of the resulting negativity on the shoulders of vapid, low-sales authors motivated by jealousy?

Listen to timer making frantic ding-ding-ding noises.

Have representative organizers make blanket statements about the emotional and/or ego-driven motivations of those who object to the List. Meanwhile, cake in oven has begun to resemble a poisonous atomic mushroom cloud.

Timer hops around the room like a Jack Russell cyborg terrier.

Do not implement the reasonable arguments made against the List that are put forth in a civil manner. Instead, focus on the members hurling insults, spreading rumors, and stomping, where you are clearly in the right.

Imply that you really expected more mature and professional behavior from authors.

Watch timer explode. Watch cake explode. Watch internet explode.

Start sweeping.

===================================================================================

 

And that’s how you bake a wank cake.

Listen, authors and readers, I have no present plans to attend Gay Romantic Lit. I haven’t been asked to attend GRL. No one has sent me any secret invite. I have no agenda, other than to make a blog post about a topic that has me interested. If I get asked to attend, I may or may not, but if I do (or don’t) it won’t have anything to do with GRL’s announcement, simply because I don’t think they deliberately did anything wrong.

Listen GRL organizers: everyone who criticizes you is not your enemy. It therefore doesn’t default that the recent criticisms leveled against GRL stem from the finest motivations, either. Some of what is being said about envious and protective authors behaving badly is (sadly) true. I know that my own Jellus-O-Meter starting ticking when I read the newsletter, but I refuse to feed that beast. None of that means that GRL is infallible.

You fucked up. Face it.

You didn’t fuck up by creating an author cap. Author caps are wise and reasonable in this venue. I support the author caps.

You didn’t fuck up by letting people know there WAS an author cap. There was one last year, too, and this didn’t happen.

You fucked up with a seriously ham-handed delivery to your audience of method, presentation, and response. That’s all. F minus on all three.  But it’s not the end of the world. This can be fixed.

#1: Discard the list. If you’re not willing to reveal poll numbers, that shouts to people that the numbers were weak. It’s a huge gap in the process of fairness (which should be transparent) and so far you’re focusing on being annoyed that people will not stop focusing on the poll numbers. This is a non-viable method of defusing the situation. Authors will never, ever stop obsessing over numbers.

#2: Make your own executive-decision list of author invitations. No one that I’ve read disputes your right to do that. They only dispute the creation of an opaque list attributed to no one.

#3: Take responsibility for your list.

There’s still a great deal of goodwill out there for GRL. I have goodwill for the convention. I think it’s a wonderful, inclusive enterprise and I acknowledge the hard work and time out of their busy lives that the organizers have invested into it. It’s their baby, and I respect that.

But if hard work made you a saint, there would be statues of me everywhere. 🙂 We’re all human and none of us are prescient. Obviously if the GRL organizers had somehow been able to know what kind of response they’d receive from their newsletter announcement, they would have re-calculated and gone in another direction. I have no doubt of that, and the statements made that the organizers deliberately set out to make GRL divisive and elitist should not be taken seriously. GRL also can’t be blamed for getting snippy and hurling  back some of the same noxious poo that was being hurled at them. If anything, I’m amazed at their restraint. If that had been me, I doubt that any of my responses would have been printable.

This was simply a flawed procedure that was handled poorly, but the longer GRL keeps insisting that there is no flaw, the harder it’s going to be to recover from the bad PR and start mending fences.

Let’s all get to work, huh? 🙂

 

 

*You can deduce this number with a little work, based on attendance and the number of attendees who have stated they did not fill out a poll.

 

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