July 18th, 2014

Amazon’s book subscription program is called Kindle Unlimited. For $9.99 a month, US-based folks can read all they want — from the books in the program. For an indie author, the only way to have your books in the program is to have that book enrolled in KDP Select, and that means your book must be exclusive to Kindle.

I think Amazon must be very confident that this program will benefit authors. At the moment, there is much FUD among authors, some of whom are convinced this is the end of self-publishing at a reasonable return.

At the moment, I think there are a lot of Indie authors who see this as yet another disincentive for Select.

The Fine Print

The TOS for the Unlimited program says this:

When your membership is cancelled, the titles you have selected from the program will be removed from your account, devices and applications.

And this:

We may take reasonable actions necessary to prevent fraud, including placing restrictions on the number of titles that can be accessed from the program at any one time.

A few preliminary observations

No subscription model with the word “unlimited” in it has EVER remained unlimited or actually been unlimited. There have always, eventually, or even from the start, but hidden in the small print, redefinitions of the word “unlimited.”

See above. The service is not, in fact, actually unlimited. Unlimited would mean, technically, that you could download ALL the books. Which, right. Not gonna happen.

Trad publishers get the wholesale price when a reader reads 10% of the book. But what about indies in Select? That’s less clear.

Amazon says this as to Indie Authors in Select:

When your book is selected and read past 10% from Kindle Unlimited or borrowed from KOLL, you’ll earn your share of the monthly KDP Select Global Fund.

The email sent to authors is vague on two key points:

1. It does not actually say that the Unlimited program is for Select only. It says that if you are in Select, you will get payments from the Global fund.

2. It does not say how payment are calculated.

However, the updated Select TOS says this:

Only books enrolled in KDP Select are eligible to be included in Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

So, that’s answered.

Another vague point; Amazon refers the curious to this page: Kindle Owners’ Lending Library FAQ for more information about how payments to Unlimited participants are arrived at. So, already, confusing, but it’s plain the information has been updated.

We base the calculation of your share of the KDP Select Global Fund by how often Kindle Unlimited customers choose and read more than 10% of your book, and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library customers download your book. We compare these numbers to how often all participating KDP Select titles were chosen. For example, if the monthly global fund amount is $1,000,000, all participating KDP titles were read 300,000 times, and customers read your book 1,500 times, you will earn 0.5% (1,500/300,000 = 0.5%), or $5,000 for that month.

I have heard other authors saying the Unlimited program also pays Select authors a percentage of price, that that is NOT what this says. This says Select authors are compensated for Unlimited reads via the Global Fund only, and those payments are not tied to price but to the amount of money in the fund.

If it works like the lending, then some authors will do quite well and others, not. The Global fund is a cap that limits Amazon’s liabilities to Indie authors.

There is at least the potential for this payment method to reduce income to authors. Amazon says this:

The size of the global fund is calculated to make participation in KDP Select a compelling option for authors and publishers. We will review the size of the fund each month to consider adjustments.

You could still come out behind in a given month, with no guarantee you’ll recoup any loss the next month — you might have fewer borrows or reads.

Is This the End?

While Bezos has been on record as saying he is willing to incur a long term loss for a longer term benefit, their model is similar to already existing ones. If you are paying authors/publishers a percentage of price, then for your business to be viable, that payout amount per month HAS to be less than 9.99 * (number of users subscribed).

This means a profitable user will read a number of books N per month where the payment due to venders is less than 9.99. The more books they read, the less the wholesale price has to be (obviously), and, at 9.99 per month, the wholesale price has to be less than 4.99 for 2 books per month, 3.99 for 3 books, etc.

Profit Model

The only two ways to make a profit from a subscription model are (assuming this is the only source of revenue — we all know it’s not for Amazon):

1. Most people read 1-2 books per month or fewer and/or go on to buy books anyway.

2. You find a way to pay authors/publishers a smaller amount per read.

The important thing is that trad pubbed authors are likely to be squeezed the most, because they are only getting 25% of NET. It will be important, I would guess, to read contracts carefully to find out how royalties are calculated on those “sales” — if they are even counted as sales.

Self-pubbed authors may be in a better position, depending on things like, does the subscription model bring in more casual readers (the profitable ones) — this may mean more readers. Or will voracious readers subscribe AND stop buying such that the program causes an effective reduction because there are more authors/more readers and a fixed fund for distribution.

Possibilities for indies include things like:

1. Everyone subscribes and nobody buys books anymore — royalty rates effectively lowered to whatever Amazon sets in the subscription model and authors not in Select see a drastic reduction in sales.

2. Readers continue to buy books, especially the voracious readers.

3. More readers in total because casual readers exhibit the same increased reading/buying pattern we saw with the shift to digital: they read more books.

4. Purchases increase because readers who loved your book want to own it. Note that the TOS says once you unsubscribe, you lose access to the books you read in Unlimited.

Is the Sky Falling or Not?

Probably not, I think. Hard-core readers tend to buy authors, not books. The requirement that Indies be in Select to participate means that the most popular, best-selling indies will NOT be in Unlimited– assuming Amazon hasn’t cut a separate deal with them. They may well have. It would be smart to do so.

Non-bestselling indies not in Select are unlikely (were they in Unlimited) to have been found by the casual Unlimited reader — those readers will be looking for “something” to read. Algorithms are unlikely to put those books before those readers.

What might happen is that a casual reader, through Unlimited, becomes a genre fan. Because so many indie Romance authors are not in Select, once that casual reader is looking for more good Romances (let’s say) they will have to read outside Unlimited. Thus, it’s possible buys go up outside Unlimited.

Post Sample Suck?

It’s also possible that Unlimited becomes a way to avoid Post-Sample Suck (TM). Post-Sample Suck describes that condition where a book’s quality takes a steep dive into rotten after the sample percentage. A reader who buys a lot of books might feel quite justified in spending $9.99 per month to be able to read books beyond the sample point. They can abandon reading at whatever point the book starts to suck. Assuming that’s beyond the 10% point, the author still gets paid. Other books by that author (presumably) would not be placed into that reader’s Unlimited shelves.

You can bet that Amazon will be paying attention to abandonment points because now it matters to their bottom line.

Prediction: at some point the payment percentage point will increase. Given that payment comes from a fund, it may be too complicated (though doable) to calculate payments amounts linked to percentage read.

Usually it’s the less experienced authors who are in Select. Once you get traction as an author, it does not make sense to be in Select. The downsides are too big. You give up too much by not being at other vendors.

Worst Case?

For indie authors, the worst-case scenario is that all the voracious Romance readers go to Unlimited and stop buying other books.

This is not the typical behavior–those readers know their authors. Since (among indie authors) Unlimited will only have books by Indies in Select, a lot of really great authors will be omitted. Not to mention, $9.99 is not budget busting for those readers. They’re likely to still buy other authors. I believe.

Interesting Thought

Given the potential benefit of a Casual Reader finding you and being converted to a fan, it might make sense for an Indie author to have one very good, non-series, book in Select. Fairness would dictate that you’d have another, very good, non-series, book that you do not sell at Amazon at all.

There you go, my initial thoughts on the matter.


Deadline Break to Tell You the Story of Two Cats

July 17th, 2014

I am writing really fast because … deadline. For a historical Christmas Anthology with Grace Burrowes, Miranda Neville, and Shana Galen. But I am taking a brief break to bring you this observation about cats.

So, my son’s cat is a rescue cat, born feral but adopted by us when she was 4 months old. For a long time she was a standoff-ish cat. Her name is Tiger. (Look, my son named her. But it works.) Then I got Abu and she became a cuddle cat. I do not understand why, but it’s true. Abu and Tiger are good buddies. They are indoor cats.

Tiger, if she gets out, which happens from time to time, panics. But in her feline brain, the only door she can come back in is the one she went out of. No other door works for this purpose. To get her back in the house, I have to guess which door she went out, because otherwise she runs away in utter panic. This is not the portal I accessed to get out here where everything is terrifying!!! I will die if I go through that wall! Aiiiiii!!!!!

Abu plots how to get out. He knows how to open doors. He knows who is slow and inattentive. I have seen him come alert when a slow person walks toward a door.

slow people: handy door opening devices.

He lurks. He knows their blind spots. He knows exactly where to hide at which door and where to hide for which slow or inattentive person. Bam. Outside. He will come back in any damn door he pleases.

In the morning, I do not go out the most convenient door. Because if I do that, Abu will get out. I have to go out the garage door, because there is a sliding door between the kitchen and the garage door. Then I have to close the sliding door, and search the bathroom and utility room for Abu BEFORE I open the door.

He’s a blue Abyssinian. He’s gray with red underticking. He is the color of a shadow and he fucking knows it. He is lightening fast.

This is the difference between a cuddly lap cat and an evil genius.


Everyone is not Men

July 12th, 2014

Someone tweeted this image because they found it funny. Yeah, I guess on the face of it, it is funny. But there’s a huge problem with this. What’s the problem? The way this prose diminishes women.

Image - Text Below



a real highlight win for us. Do I really hate Tom Brady? I really don’t know Tom Brady, but who wouldn’t hate him? Look at his life. Actually, look at his wife. Every man in America hates Tom Brady, and he should be proud of that.

The text is from Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs, and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game, written by Rex Ryan, with Don Yeager listed as a contributor. It’s about American football.

I’ll step through the problems.

1. Premise: We should all hate football player Tom Brady. Note that the language is “Who wouldn’t hate him? Look at his life.”

Now up to here, yes, this is amusing enough. Tom Brady is a talented football player. A genuine sports star. And, the language is inclusive. Every sports fan, male or female, can agree that Tom Brady has an enviable life playing a sport he loves for a lot of money.

2. Why should we really hate Tom Brady? Because of his wife.

But, but, wait! Aren’t there a lot of female sports fans who would hate not Tom, but Tom’s wife? Because allow me to point out that Tom Brady is kind of hot. And he went and married a model. Instead of me.

3. “Every man in America hates Tom Brady.” Because of his wife.

And so, in the blink of an eye, we go from a true everyone to everyone = men.

Boom. 51% of the population just disappeared. All the football fans who happen to be women just got erased.

“Everyone” hates Tom Brady because he married a beautiful woman.

Well. No. Actually.

Language like this needs to be challenged. This passage could have been written to retain the amusing suggestion that straight men envy Tom Brady living out the NFL quarterback dream and marrying a model without removing women from “everyone.”

Everyone isn’t just straight men.

Everyone means all the people who aren’t Tom Brady and, presumably, his wife.

When you write a passage in which women exist only as objects to be married by a man, you silently perpetuate a great harm.

This needs to stop.


The Winner is….

July 6th, 2014


Gwen, I’ve emailed you!


Carolyn Cooks: Mac N Cheese

July 4th, 2014

One of the dishes my mother made very well in the days when she still cooked is Macaroni and Cheese. For many years I tried to replicate her recipe, including watching her method quite carefully. Mine was NEVER as good.  I decided I would more or less give up on that and strike out on my own.

Note: my mother appears to cook the way I do. No actual recipe. Sorry.

In the last year, I have settled on a method of Mac N Cheese that is reliably delicious. I share with you my method.

The better quality your pasta, the better the outcome, but to be honest, you can get by with just about any kind. There are two extra steps in the pasta cooking method.

Here is what you need:

  • Large, lidded pot for cooking the pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • Colander
  • Peeled Garlic to taste (for me, LOTS!)
  • Garlic press
  • A measuring cup with a handle (No worries!! No measuring involved)
  • slotted spoon
  • A very large frying or saute pan
  • Olive oil: First Cold Press
  • unsalted butter. 1.5 to 2 sticks
  • Half a cup of full fat milk
  • 1/2 cup of water reserved from the boiled pasta water
  • Finely grated Parmesiano-Reggiano. You might try substituting another tart, dry cheese. Maybe 1/2 cup or whatever, depending on the other cheese you use. Too much and it may be bitter.
  • 2-3 cups grated smooth-flavored cheese(s), such as Raclette, A Danish Fontina, etc. Bellwether Farms Carmody is excellent. Depends on your favorite cheeses and it depends on how they taste, so make sure you use cheese where you are familiar with the taste ahead of time. I have had good success adding a small amount of triple cream brie, but whoa, Nelly! Advanced technique!
  • white pepper (you can use black, but it will be unsightly) About a tsp or to taste.

Fill the pot with water
Salt it (as in throw in about a teaspoon or whatever)
Drop in the peeled garlic
Bring to a boil, covered
Use the slotted spoon to remove the garlic from the pot. Set aside.
Add the pasta (leave pot uncovered)

NOTE: the pasta pot is supposed to be big/deep enough to totally immerse your pasta in the boiling water. If I use linguini noodles, which I often do, we don’t have a pot that deep which means I have to smoosh down the pasta as the bottom part cooks. Don’t tell my brother (the chef).


Under-cook the pasta

Cook the pasta to less than al dente. Meaning, it should taste like it’s not cooked all the way. This is because there will be further cooking, and if you cook it to finished in this step, you will end up with over-cooked pasta. Yuk.

While your pasta water is coming to a boil, put the large frying pan on medium heat. Pour in some olive oil– a couple tablespoons, less if your olive oil is strongly flavored. When the frying pan is hot, add the butter — chop up the butter.

Grate your cheese. (Use cheese you have to grate. There’s no point in going through all the extra steps if you use inferior cheese.)

When the butter is half melted or so, add the milk.

Add the garlic that you removed from the boiling water prior to adding the pasta, using the garlic press. It will smoosh easily. Before or after the milk, doesn’t matter. But let things heat together for a bit.

When the pasta is sufficiently under-done, fill a cup with some of the pasta water and set aside.

Drain the pasta (DO NOT RINSE) and put it in the frying pan. Technically, you should add a little more salt, but I don’t because the Parmesan is a salty cheese and also I don’t like salty food.)

Add a half-cup or so of the pasta water.
Add the cheese.
Add the pepper.

Stir everything and continue gently stirring until the cheese is fully melted. See, right now your pasta is continuing to cook!

You should taste-test and adjust the proportions of cheeses until you have a pleasing combination of smooth to tart.


The best part is that this is quite delicious and filling so a smaller serving will make you very happy.


You Aren’t Buying Books From Harlequin

July 3rd, 2014

I finished a Harlequin-published book today. When I was all done and had clicked away from that annoying Amazon plea to review, which no author EVER dare actually do in case Amazon decides to go delete all the reviews on her published books, I saw this “Copyright” notice.

Image of Harlequin copyright language

It’s a FEE, motherfucker


By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval systems, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises, Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9.

This is a work of fiction. Names ….

When I’m at Amazon here’s what I see:

Image of Amazon BUY button

Buy Now!

Image from the Amazon Kindle page showing the “buy now with 1-Click” button.

You’ll note that the button says “Buy with 1-click.” It does not say “Pay Fee Now.”


What about this? What fee am I paying when the price is $0.00?

Image of a book priced a6t 0.00

Free. No Fee

Screen Cap of a Harlequin book “Honeymoon For One,” Kindle Edition, with a Kindle Price of $0.00. This is NOT the book that had this copyright notice, by the way. It just happened to be the book that was shown when I searched Amazon Kindle store for “Harlequin” so I could screen cap the buy button.

Payment of the Required Fees

Fees. What fees? Amazon didn’t tell me I was paying a fee. The Amazon button says Buy. It doesn’t say “Pay the Fee.”

Also, I didn’t know about these terms until I had already clicked and “bought” the book I read.

My iPad is an information storage and retrieval system. When I backup my iPad, my Kindle app is backed up, too. If I start reading on my iPad and then switch to my iPhone later, Amazon delivers another set of bytes to my iPhone, where it, too, is backed up.

If all I’m doing is paying a fee, is there actually a sale? What happens to the meaning of book contracts for royalties earned from sales, when there’s not a sale, but a fee paid in exchange for a limited right to read the text on a screen? How can Harlequin, or any publisher, change the terms under which they get their book to the consumer without also changing the language of the contract negotiated with the author?

Is Harlequin designating some portion of a “purchase” price as a fee? Does that mean the “fee” is excluded from the royalty due? Is that fee overhead deducted from gross?

Because there’s a difference between paying a fee, and paying a purchase price.

I mean this seriously. How can they do this without negotiating this with the author?

I’m not a lawyer, I’m an author, but if I were writing for Harlequin, I might be asking those questions.



Interview with Mina Khan — Also Giveaway!

July 1st, 2014

Interview with Author Mina Khan

Author Mina Khan

Author Mina Khan

Today, the lovely Mina Khan is visiting my blog to give away a book and be awesome. Which you will find out from the probing, serious, deeply intelligent questions I ask her.

About Mina Khan

Mina Khan is a Texas-based writer and food enthusiast. She writes about djinns (genies), dragons, hunks and whatever else sparks her fancy. She also writes a weekly food column for her local newspaper. Originally from Bangladesh, she is now a proud West Texan.
For more information check out her:

Amazon Author Page

Website/Blog: Stories by Mina Khan

Facebook Author Page

Twitter: @SpiceBites


To sign up for Mina’s quarterly newsletter with release updates and inside information on the stories, please check out:


The Questions

1. So. Your story in Alphas Unleashed. Tell us about it!

Alphas Unleashed: A collection of hot science fiction and paranormal romance stories from Michele Callahan, Carolyn Jewel, S.E. Smith and moi. You get 5 heroes, 5 romances, and 4 story worlds.

Mina: My story in Alphas Unleashed is Sealed with a Kiss. It’s about a fire djinn (genie) and the desperate woman who captures him. While deception brings them together, dangerous enemies make them unlikely allies. Can one wrong lead to two rights and true love?

I had a lot of fun writing this pair and figuring out the magic and mayhem that are essential to the story.

2. Do you have any pets? Tell us about your pets. Do you have pictures?

Mina: Erm, I have a full house: three cats and three dogs. All of them are wonderful rescues.

Patches & Mason

[Ooh. So cute!!!]

3. How do you feel about winter? What is your favorite kind of weather?

Mina: Lol! I’m such a cold wimp! Maybe that’s why I associated one of the villains in Sealed With A Kiss with winter…

4. Your books have been nominated for lots of awards. Which books, which awards? Tell us about them!

Mina: I have been very fortunate that my stories (cooked up by my crazy imagination) have been well received. I think all writers/artists/creatives hope their work will connect with another.

WILDFIRE E-book 1400px

Wildfire: A Paranormal Mystery with Cowboys and Dragons. Lynn, a Japanese American dragon shifter, hunts down a rogue dragon setting fires in the wilds of West Texas.


Wildfire is a finalist in the 2014 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence and the 2014 PRISM Contest.

It also finaled in the paranormal category of the Write Touch Readers’ Choice Awards, but Crista McHugh (an author I love to read) won… so thrilled to be in the running!

What Readers Say About Wildfire

“I love books that shift and twist genres, and Mina Khan excels at this…I have to say that this novel is paranormal in a way that no other paranormal I’ve read, it’s romance with some serious sexual tension, and in case that’s not enough, the backbone of the story isn’t the romance or the mystery arsonist, but family, tradition, and acceptance of who you are and where you came from.” ~ Amazon Customer Heather C. about Wildfire

cover 1
A Tale of Two Djinns won the 2013 RomCon Readers’ Crown for best paranormal.

The Djinn’s Dilemma won the novella category of the 2012 Romance Through The Ages contest.

5. You must make this choice: Take an all expenses paid trip to:
(assume VERY high expenses and someone to do all the housework while you’re gone)

Pick one

  • the wilderness (lake or no lake, your choice)
  • the beach
  • your backyard
  • a city somewhere

Where do you go, why, and what do you do while you are there?

Mina: I love exploring cities so have to pick the last one. Probably London or Paris – lots of history, culture, interesting neighborhoods, architecture, and, of course, good food! I’d make sure to visit graveyards, flea markets, and book stores. I’d spend a lot of time walking around at an unhurried pace, following my curiosity.

6. Look to your right. What do you see?

Mina: My backyard with mesquite trees, the Concho River and puppies!

7. You are granted three selfish wishes.

If they aren’t selfish the world will end but not before everyone knows it’s your fault. What do you wish for and why?

Mina: Oh wow, this is a challenging question! But since it’s wishes and I write about genies, I think I can work up a few answers.

A. Money. I would wish for an unending supply of money because money can make things happen. From letting me jet set around the world, to building schools, hospitals and job training centers (here’s the selfish part: they’d all have big signs with my name). Of course, how I spend the money is up to me and not a wish-granting qualifier as stated.

B. The best library ever (open 24 hours) – with books, electronic databases, comfy chairs, café with an international menu, natural light, lots of space so patrons weren’t intruding on each other, good soft jazz, beautiful inspiring architecture, lots of plugs so I could write wherever I wanted. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love libraries and would realize this is truly a selfish wish.

C. My dream house: It would be a penthouse overlooking Central Park, but also open to a beach in the back, and have lush tropical gardens (hey, it’s a wish, so why limit myself?).

8. Tell us a little bit about you as a writer. [EG, plotter, pantser, or something in between? That sort of stuff]

Mina: I’m definitely a pantser. However, the term I prefer (because it’s really how my stories develop) is “organic writer.” I usually start with an image or a sentence that just pops into my mind and refuses to let go.

9. Hobbies?

Mina: Cooking, gardening, doodling, Renaissance dancing, walking, and watching movies (Bollywood & Hollywood).

9.5 OH!! I LOVE Bollywood movies. Who are some of your favorite Bollywood actors and actresses?

Actors: Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, and Sanjay Dutt. I have actually named two of my heroes after two of my favorites — Akshay/Shay, the crown prince of the earth djinns in A Tale of Two Djinns, and Rukh O’Shay, my djinn assassin from The Djinn’s Dilemma. :D

Actresses: Kajol, Ashwairya Rai/Bacchan, and Rekha

Note: Mina and I had a great twitter conversation about Bollywood movies we’ve enjoyed. We both really like Om Shanti Om, and she was quite jealous that I scored a signed poster of SRK. (Shah Rukh Khan). Regular readers of my blog may already know about my love of Arjun Rampal.

10. What’s next for you?

Mina: More stories! Lol! I’m working on a sequel to Wildfire, a trilogy set in my djinn world, and a secret project. And, of course, several different food stories for my day job!

Other Books By Mina

A Tale of Two Djinns: is a sexy Romeo & Juliet story with genies, feminists and a happy ending. Warning: Assassins and worms tend to pop up at inopportune times!
Also, 50 percent of the proceeds from this story are donated to UNICEF.

“Because of its thematic complexity, its strong and magnetic characters, and its vivid setting, A Tale of Two Djinns is easily a keeper. I’m a fan of the author and the series now, and I truly can’t wait for the next foray into this world!” ~Book Lovers Inc.

The Djinn’s Dilemma: A djinn assassin falls for his human target. He has to figure out how to keep her alive and win her heart.

“The Djinn’s Dilemma is a romantic story about being accepted for who you are. It’s a unique novella that paranormal romance readers will want to check out! It’s a GraveTells Recommended Read!” ~ GraveTells

Dead: A Ghost Story: A multicultural ghost story in which Nasreen – the Indian American protagonist – grapples with her life and death in West Texas.

You can check out all my stories on:


Mina Will give away a digital copy of any of her books to one lucky commenter. The rules are below!

The Rules

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Must be 18 to enter. To enter leave a comment with at least one of your three selfish wishes by 11:59:59 PM Pacific, Saturday, July 5th, 2014. If the winner does not reply to the notification email within 10 days, an alternate winner will be chosen. The winner will be chosen at random from among the qualified comments.

How to Enter

What would at least 1 of your 3 selfish wishes be? Refer to interview question 7, for the details. All three is fine, but bonus points for that will have no effect on your chances of winning.



Audio Book for Lord Ruin! — Want a Review Copy?

June 29th, 2014
Cover of the Audio Book for Lord Ruin

Cover of the Audio Book for Lord Ruin

The Audio Book for Lord Ruin is all done and uploaded and ready for purchase. Kate McDermott narrated the book, and I’ve loved listening to her bring the story to audio. Woot!! I have myself only recently gotten addicted to audio. It sneaks up on you. I was surprised.

I have coupons for anyone interested in a review copy … Have a listen, post a review on Audible. And Amazon, I guess. If you’d like a review copy, leave a comment and I will email you the necessary information until I run out of coupons.



June 27th, 2014

I ended up hate-reading the book I blogged about yesterday and managed to get halfway through. I think I’ve punished myself enough. This is a DNF.

In happier news, I’ve been reading a series I like a lot better. Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance series. It’s very well written and though it is fully male-focused, the portrayal of women is at least not completely depressing.

So, look, I recommend the series. I’ve enjoyed reading it. But I have major issues with it — of the “heavy sigh” sort.

Mostly what I notice is that all the character archetypes that are traditionally male in real life are, in this series, also occupied by men. What I feel is that Sakey does a better than average job with his female characters — as far as he takes them. When he thinks about women, he at least gives them some complexity.

What’s distressing to me is that this is heads and shoulders above most books where the reader is assumed male. It is really great that one of the major movers of the story is a woman–even though she’s also a love-interest.

But, you know, there are actually no female characters of agency in the story that are placed there without an explicit, non-imagined sexual/procreative relationship to men. Meaning, they are wives, girlfriends, daughters or sexual partners of other male characters.

What I mean is that, there are major male characters in the story who are only men. While we might imagine they have wives, girlfriends, or daughters, those characters do not exist on the page. For every such woman, the male-partner (as it were) is present in the pages.

It’s as if Sakey could not create a female character who has a significant impact on the fictive world without also placing her in the male sphere– we see the husband or sexual partner in the pages of the book. And this is not true of the male secondary characters.

There is no portrayal of those characters as husbands, fathers, or sons to any other characters — other than a reference or two to the fact that one or two possess wives, daughters or are sexually serviced by a woman.

All the significant female characters orbit at least one man in a relationship capacity. All of them.

Not one of the major secondary impactors in the 2 books so far is a woman. And I kept thinking, huh. How hard would it have been to make one of these characters female? In a world of a new genetic “brilliance” not one of those major secondaries is a woman. Not the data guru, not the scientist, not the Revolutionary, not the two characters who have carved out political and defensive space.

Apparently, women can be brilliant– we are told that, but they have no actual presence in the series without also being positioned relative to their availability as sexual partners (wife, girlfriend, or prostitute) or the result of a man’s procreative efforts.

I am looking forward to reading the 3rd book in the series. I know it will be a great book. But I also know the world of the book will have a male gaze.

There is a problem with this. Because the not really subtle message is women don’t matter unless they’re connected to a man.

But you know what? I’d rather read this that someone who ripped off Sherrilyn Kenyon and plopped in every distasteful, horrific trope about how a man completely controls the woman he loves — and that’s OK because LOVE INTEREST. Sakey does NOT do that.

I say go read his series. And sigh over what it might have been.



June 26th, 2014

I’m reading a book that I saw several people say they really liked. As in a lot. So I bought it and have started reading it. Despite an incredibly cheesy series subtitle.

I will represent to you that the subtitle is . . . well . . . approaching self-parody, only totally serious.

In the first paragraph an object is described like this (I am not using the exact phrase.)  “shiny matte-finish.”  A  matte-finish is, by definition, not shiny.  So, I said to myself, “this is a very careless, thoughtless even, choice of words.”

By the middle of the chapter, I was thinking, “wow. I were [Author of a NYT bestselling series] I would be thinking about talking to a lawyer.”  If felt to me like all this author had done was slant a few salient details as she essentially writes the exact  same series framework. EXACT.

But then there were elements from another NYT Bestselling series. Though when you’re able to say, “oh, that line came from the first book in Series X, and this is Character Y from series X, isn’t that kind of a problem? So maybe a mashup, kind of?

It’s not badly written. But it’s not thoughtful and it’s completely unoriginal.

I’ve already reached points where I know exactly what a character’s internal narrative is going to be. Because that’s what it ALWAYS is.

It’s grammatically correct, about 1/2 deep, and completely and utterly derivative.