Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An International Book Promotion of Epic Proportions!

Well, folks, I continue to work away on the revisions to Traitor's Hope, but I won't lie, I've been a bit sidetracked recently getting ready for a big book promotion that I feel everyone should know about.

I participated in the same promotion last year, but now it's back with even more authors and even more great deals!

The promotion itself starts on FRIDAY JULY 1st and goes through MONDAY JULY 4th. Following this link will take you there. Right now that page has a link to author bios on it and a mailing list you can sign up for if you want to be sure that you never miss these kinds of promotions (including a reminder at the start of this sale). Starting on Friday that same link will take you to the promotion itself. Where you will find 50 FREE ebooks, another 30 for 99 cents, and some box sets of full series for as little as 2.99 (all prices in USD).

Blade's Edge will be priced at $0.99 for the duration of the promo and Rain on a Summer's Afternoon will be FREE for the duration of the promo. So, if you've been waiting for a sale to come along to pick either of those up, this weekend is an excellent time to do that.

I will be posting the promotion all over social media over the weekend as well a reminder here and there from now until Friday, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're trying to get your beach reading in order and you own an e-reader.

And before you say, but Virginia, they're all INDIE books! How do we know they'll be any good? The same way that you know any book will be good. You use your best judgement with the info you've got (cover, blurb, reviews etc.). 

So don't forget this awesomeness over the weekend! You'll be able to keep yourself entertained throughout the long weekend no matter how many family barbecues, fireworks displays, or lectures on the signing of the declaration of independence you are forced to attend! 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fiverr... you get what you pay for...

So, I added myself to the ranks of low priced services on Fiverr recently, and it's been... an educational experience.

I joined largely because you can now create gigs there that don't cost solely $5. To be perfectly honest there's not much worthwhile, service wise, that I can provide for just $5. When I saw that fiverr had branched out enough to allow services that cost more than $5 even as a base price, I became intrigued.

But, I have learned in the month that I've been listed there, that the people who shop fiverr still don't expect to pay more than $5 despite this expansion.

And fair enough, when the website is still called fiverr.

However, one would think that expectations would be realistic about one can get for the aforementioned five dollars.

One would be quite incorrect about that.

I signed up to fiverr to hawk my services as a formatter and graphic designer. Once one has signed up to sell services one can then check out requests from buyers in their service category. The number of people searching for someone to fix errors that other fiverr sellers have made is... impressive but not in a good way. And the number of people looking for custom designed covers, or full book formatting for just $5 also makes a negative impression.

Apparently, the folks who use fiverr as buyers are unaware of what these services are really worth. They then appear surprised when they receive subpar work for their $5 fee and then are even more surprised to learn that it will cost more than $5 for someone to fix things.

I get it, I think. I mean the whole site is designed to provide super cheap services but... well, it irks me a bit that people don't understand the value of the work that they're asking for. Overall, I don't think fiverr is necessarily good for people selling services or the people that buy them, although their move to allow for more expensive "gigs" is a step in the right direction. Ultimately, I'll probably continue to list with them, but I doubt I'll get much business from them until there's a shift in the buyers recognizing that you may not actually want what $5 will buy you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

You're Feministing Wrong...

There are two big things on my mind today, and I think they go hand in hand, but my brain is having trouble explaining how, so let's see if putting them down on 'paper' helps.

First of all, I can't get away from the horror of the Stanford rape case that's gone viral. To be honest I don't really want to get away from that horror, I want to expose that horror, share it with the world and let everyone experience the full meaning of what's happening here.

If you haven't read the letter from the victim to her rapist yet, READ IT NOW. I'm serious, unless you are a survivor of sexual assault and that letter will trigger you, you have no reason not to read it and everyone needs to read that letter. It's long, it's graphic, and it's brutally honest. You NEED to read it.

But why, Virginia? Why would you suggest I put myself through that? 

Because this is not an isolated incident. This is not something that just happens to someone else. And the only way to keep this from happening is to talk about it. To talk about it, and talk about why it's happening, and talk about what we can do to stop it. I'm sorry if that letter makes you uncomfortable, or if having a conversation about rape makes you uncomfortable. It should make you uncomfortable, it's not a comfortable topic, but it's an incredibly important one.

So now that you've read the letter, let's talk about what happened in that sentencing hearing. The judge gave the convicted rapist (convicted by a jury of his peers on three felony counts of sexual assault) six months of jail time with promise of parole for good behavior.


Let's take a close look at that, shall we: THREE FELONY counts of SEXUAL ASSAULT. There are currently people in prison (yes, prison, not jail) for much longer terms, for growing or possessing marijuana, for petty theft, for many things that are not rape, and for many things that are rape. That's the even crazier part. Many people who are convicted of RAPE and/or SEXUAL ASSAULT go to prison, and go there for a good long time.

Why is that not the case for the Stanford victim's rapist?

Because he is rich and white and male? Quite possibly. And that's severely fucked up. Because he has proven conclusively that he is a danger to women, but the judge in charge of his sentencing is ignoring that fact. In fact, he stated that he thinks the defendant is "not a danger to others" so clearly, by others, he means other men. Which is debatable to begin with, but forgetting that, let's just focus on how this judge just discounted over 50% of the population as simply not being worth the protection of the legal system.

Any time that a woman is sexually assaulted and chooses to speak up about it, she is then required to prove her case repeatedly in order to even be believed, let alone served justice. In many cases this is impossible, so speaking up brings the victim nothing but humiliation and public scandal. The Stanford victim's case should have been an exception to this. It should have been a clear cut case for the justice system. It should have been a shining moment where we all got to sit back and think, "Take that, RAPISTS! You don't always get to slip away cleanly into the night." After all, she was completely unconscious while being assaulted, a very obvious sign she was not consenting, and the two young men that witnessed her being assaulted even managed to catch her attacker. So the mystery rapist she'd never met was identified, arrested, and everyone knew what he had done.

Pretty clear case, no?

No. Of course not, because this rapist is a rich white kid from the suburbs. He's an athlete. People like him. So... clearly this unconscious woman being assaulted behind a dumpster MUST HAVE WANTED TO BE VIOLATED WHILE UNCONSCIOUS. That's what the rapist's lawyers tried to prove, as insane as that sounds, and the victim had to go through the despicable process of disproving that. Luckily, the jury didn't buy that argument. They were not fooled. They said, nice try, slimeball attorneys, but we're still convinced that this was felony sexual assault. Thank you, jurors!

Now, surely, we can all rest easy that thanks to these convictions justice will be served.

But no... because rich, white, male rapist from the suburbs is a young athlete who was drunk and... and... the rich, white, male judge feels sorry for him? I still can't quite fathom how those three counts of felony sexual assault lead to a six month jail sentence with possible time off for good behavior. I can't. But that's what's happening, and it is so very very wrong.

Because the victim shouldn't have to live knowing that the court system thinks so little of her as a person that her experience, her own personal hell that she so clearly and eloquently described for us in a 13 page letter, is not worth making HER RAPIST SUFFER.

Let's do a brief experiment, shall we?

Raise your hand if you've ever been drunk at a party with members of the sex you're attracted to.

*raises hand*

Now raise your hand if you have ever forced any part of your body into another person's body while you or they (or both) were drunk.

Nope. Not me. Probably not most of you reading this.

If you raised your hand, you should take a long moment to think about why you did that. Unless you were shoving your fingers down their throat to clear their airway so you could start rescue breathing, you probably sexually assaulted them and you should think about what that means and why it's wrong. Consider turning yourself over to the police or, at the very least, making a sincerely heartfelt apology to your victim.

Now, if so many of us have managed to get through life without sexually assaulting people while intoxicated at parties, why on earth would we not hold those who fail in this to a higher standard?

This was not "alcohol and promiscuity" leading people astray (as the defendant tried to assert in his own letter). This was not "a young athlete with his blood up." This was not EXCUSABLE in any way, and it wasn't just a minor behavioral hiccough. It is clear enough from the rapist's own letter to the judge, as well as his father's letter, that he doesn't understand what he did wrong. He really doesn't. Which means he is very likely to do it again. Which means his stupidly short sentence is an affront to all of his potential future victims, which, in case I'm not being clear here is ALL WOMEN.

If that doesn't make you angry, I don't know what to say to you.

Maybe you don't think of women as humans either. Maybe you consider us places to rest your penis. Maybe you think we're just decorative. Maybe you think we shouldn't be allowed to say no to you. If you think any of those things, you need to get yourself to a therapist quickly. You are not currently a good human being and you need help.

If anything, this story brings to harsh light why we still need feminism: We need to have conversations about equality, about consent, about our rights, about justice and what it really means, and about how we've come to live in a society where a young man can sexually assault an unconscious woman, be caught in the act, and get away with a slap on the wrist.

We need feminism and feminists and we need as many as we can get. We need people to start these conversations, and to get angry about the lack of justice, and to plaster it all over social media and to use their platforms of fame and fortune to make people hear the story. We need ALL the feminists.

Which is why reading articles like this one, in which we see feminists telling other feminists that they're doing it wrong, annoys me a bit. Don't get me wrong, there is a sort of entry level feminism that some people never get past that isn't as useful to the movement as the deeper more thoughtful levels, but people have to start somewhere. And if a Dove commercial that addresses how women see themselves vs. how others see them gets some people thinking about body image and self confidence then that's great. If it gets more people talking about how the media portrays women and how that affects body image, even better, and when it comes full circle and folks start asking themselves why we're listening to a large company like Dove market themselves via commercial feminism, then we're really finally getting somewhere.

The points is, all of those levels of thought and questioning serve a purpose and move us towards progress. Some of those questions are more palatable to entry level feminists, but the more one begins to question things, the more one continues to question things. So, if fledgling feminists want to explore the issue of whether or not waxing makes them a 'bad feminist' or if wearing heels and pink makes them a bad feminist, or whatever other somewhat shallower feminist issue is a problem, then they should go right ahead. Because talking about how feminism is about choice, or about how judging the superficial choices of others is not feminism, will only serve to bring more people into the conversation and that's precisely what we need.

If all the feminists who, over the past few years, have explored these issues on their blogs are all in a better place to recognize and talk about the injustice in the Stanford rape case this week, if they are all in a place where they can hold up a megaphone and a spotlight and say "LOOK AT THIS AND SEE THAT IT IS WRONG," then we are winning. Slowly but surely, we are making progress. And I don't care how many times I have to read a blog post about a woman realizing that whether or not she decides to depilate has no effect her standing as a feminist, as long as, at the end of the day, we have a larger audience looking at the real injustices of the world and recognizing them for what they are.

Commercial feminism, cupcake feminism, or whatever else you want to call it, serves a purpose.

Perhaps when there are enough Dove commercials promoting positive body image, Beyonce songs about not needing a man, hot male feminists like Joseph Gordon Levitt, frivolous blog posts about clothing choices, and major motion pictures featuring female leads who kick more ass than their male counterparts, there will also be judges that won't assign six month sentences to convicted rapists.

So, I welcome all the feminists. The ones that aren't too sure what it's all about yet, the ones who are worried they're doing it wrong, the ones who don't understand how to look deeper yet, the ones who question their life choices from a feminist perspective and then recognize that they aren't actually 'doing it wrong' and decide to write about it, and yes, I welcome the feminists who are annoyed by the newbs, tell people they're doing it wrong, and long for the old days when feminists knew what a movement "really was."

We need each other, all of us, to keep having these discussions and having them publicly, to bring more people in. To make more people recognize that they too are *gasp* a feminist at heart. Because when everyone is a feminist of some kind then perhaps we will finally be in a place where the conversation doesn't have to be about rapists going unpunished.

Welcome, feminists. Let's talk.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A New Tale Begins...

Sometimes there are so many stories in my head that I feel trapped, knowing that it's a bad idea to start on a new story until I've finished the ones I've already started, but desperate to play with the new ideas that are rattling around in here.

Sometimes, the story I'm writing is dark enough that I need an alternate place to go to keep my sanity.

Sometimes, my attention can only be held if I have a couple of projects to bounce between to keep things feeling fresh and interesting.

Today is brought to you by all of those 'sometimes' conspiring together at once.

The whole time I've been working on Traitor's Hope, I've also been working on my YA Urban Fantasy Parody Victoria Marmot *Average Teenage Girl.  If you've been following the blog since September of last year you'll probably recognize it as "my other 'fun' project" from many references over the past few months. It's the 'easy' writing compared to Traitor's Hope for a number of reasons. For one, it's not the follow up to a book that's already published and well enough liked by its readers for me to feel some serious pressure to NOT MESS THINGS UP. For another, it's a parody, it's supposed to be silly and often is and it's a great relief compared to some of the darker places that Traitor's Hope can wander.

And the more I write it, the more I enjoy it, and the more I think it works as a web serial. So... I'm finally releasing it as a web serial, starting today.

But there's a bit of a catch... I'm using the story as 'bait,' if you will...

Another thing I've been contemplating for a long time is starting a Patreon account. What is Patreon you ask? Well, it's a very new school method for a very old school idea. It's a patron subscription service that allows people to support artists and their work for as little as a dollar a month in return for various rewards and insider insight into the creative process. It's like an 1800s drawing room had sex with Kickstarter and subscription publishing and this was their glorious love-child.

Here's my Patreon video for a bit more information:

So, for my particular brand of Patreon account, signing up to support my writing endeavors (for as little as $1 a month) gets you exclusive access to the Victoria Marmot web serial. That story won't be published anywhere else until each book (oh yes, it's going to be a series if all goes well, with at least three books) is finished on the Patreon site. So, when book one is finished on Patreon it will get spruced up for ebook and print publication and go out to the public. Meanwhile, book two will still be exclusive to Patreon until it finishes... rinse and repeat.

There are other perks to being a patron as well, including advance notice and insider access to my other writing projects. I will notify my Patreon patrons about things before I notify anyone else, even my mailing list.

So, if you like being the first to know things it's a good place to be.

But a warning, Victoria Marmot likes to curse, like, a lot... so... while she's 17 at the moment (though she's likely to be 18 before the end of the series) and thus the series is technically YA, don't be fooled into thinking that it's going to be all kittens and rainbows. Those who are easily offended by harsh language might wish to avoid the series entirely.

Why this particular story? I enjoy writing it. It cracks me up. I may be the only person who finds it funny, but every time I work on it it brightens my day. If you read a lot of YA fantasy, or Urban Fantasy of any age category, you are more likely to find it funny, I think. It pokes fun at a few major series as well as some lesser known ones and some of that comes from a place of love (Harry Potter and Discworld jests all come from a place of deep love) some of it also comes from... let us say, critique (can we say Twilight?).

The characters are all original, but a few of them are heavily inspired by the characters of the aforementioned series, all for the purpose of exploring and satirizing the ideas that go into a lot of YA fiction.

I truly don't know if anyone else will enjoy it as much as I do, but it tickles me to write it, so I'm making a go of sharing it with the world and it's a great balance to the more serious Gensokai books (Blades Edge and Traitor's Hope) in terms of my mental state.

Why as a web serial rather than a book? Well, it lends itself well to the web serial genre by being a bit gritty and rough around the edges anyway (did I mention that Victoria is a big fan of cursing?). It's the kind of writing that shines through a lack of polish to begin with. That doesn't mean I won't want to polish it up eventually, but it means that I think people will appreciate the rawness of it along with the humor and weird twists that are popping up here and there. (Meanwhile, if literary fiction is more your thing, there's a good bet you won't enjoy this series.)

When I ran Blade's Edge as a web serial I always thought that it didn't quite fit that method of publication as well as it could. It was originally written to be a novel in its first draft, then the second draft was the web serial and it's third draft it was back to novel again. I feel strongly that it shines best in novel form.

That's not true of Victoria Marmot. Her story is pulpy and episodic by nature, the twists and turns happen in ways that make nice bite sized chunks, and the world she exists in will do well with brief vignettes and encounters rather than in depth explorations.

Or so I believe anyway.

So here we go: Chapters 1 - 3 are open to public consumption, but everything that follows (and Chapter 4 is already posted) is for patrons only. If you're interested in checking it out please click here.

And remember you can support the Patreon without reading the web serial if you like. You'll be notified whenever a chapter posts just like everyone else, but you are by no means obligated to read them. In the meantime, you'll still be supporting my writing in a very real and important way.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope to see you over on the Patreon site!