Showing posts from May, 2014

Cephalopod Coffee House

Happy Friday, and welcome to The Cephalopod Coffee House. The purpose of CCH is to write about the best book you read during the month and visit others who are doing the same. The list of participants are at the bottom of my post, or you can click on the pic above. month I read Lilith’s Brood, by Octavia Butler. Lilith’s Brood is actually a trilogy of novellas that have been gathered into an omnibus. Each section presents a separate viewpoint, and together they tell the story of Lilith and her human/alien hybrid children.

In the aftermath of a global nuclear war, most of humanity has died. An alien race, called the Oankali, come to the rescue, scooping up every survivor they can find. After much study, the humans are given a chance to return to a newly restored Earth. But the offer comes at a price: the Oankali are a race that survives by “trading” genetic materials with other species. If the humans want to return to Earth, they must agree to a trade with the aliens, and bear children who are not fully human. Lilith’s Brood follows Lilith Iyapo, the woman chosen to lead the first groups of humans back to Earth, and her children.

The first section, Dawn, follows Lilith from her Awakening through her struggles to accept what the Oankali have to offer, and then her struggles to convince others to follow her lead. The second section, Adulthood Rites, follows her son, the first human born male hybrid, Akin, and his struggle to consolidate his humanity with his alieness. The final section, Imago, follows another of Lilith’s children, Jodahs, who instead of being born male as expected, develops into the Oankali third gender

The society Butler creates is very familiar, yet disturbingly foreign. We’re used to imagining what life would be like if the majority of the world population disappeared. But what if the only way to repopulate was to procreate with an alien species, and not just any old Star Trek humanoid species either. It makes you question what you would do in the situation. Would you give up your free will to survive? Or would you choose to live free, and thus ensure the death of the human species? That is the choice Lilith and every other human in the novel must make. And once they have made their choice they have to live with the consequences of their decision.

Octavia Butler was known for her explorations of race, class, gender and sexuality through her writings, and she doesn’t disappoint here. I do want to stress that she doesn’t beat you over the head with sermonizing or very obvious allusions to social ills. I really enjoyed it Lilith’s Brood, and I look forward to reading more of her books.

What are you all reading?

Indie Life
Welcome to Indie Life, a monthly blog hop for independent authors To talk about their craft and share their joys and sorrows. Click on the image above to see the full list of participants.

I wasn’t sure what to write about this month. I never feel like I have anything constructive to offer to the conversation, so I think I’ll just write about my experiences as an indie.

First off, I didn’t think it would be so hard. “What would be so hard?” you might ask. Everything. Writing is hard. Finding time to write is hard. Marketing is hard. Selling a book is hard. Hearing/reading valid criticism is hard, because even though it’s valid, it’s still criticism. The easiest thing I’ve done in the past year is format my MS for Kindle and upload it to Amazon.

Marketing. LOL marketing. Are all writers introverts? I can’t imagine that’s a trait we all share, but it has to be common enough. Even if you’re the life of the party, it must be hard for anyone to go out and ask people to buy your book. I’m very wary of spamming, of being “that guy.” I’m also very wary of talking myself up and having it come back and bite me in the ass in the form of bad reviews. My novel hasn’t been moving much. I have only received a couple of reviews on it, and I know I have to do better to get the word out about it. I finally got my Goodreads author page set up, and I’m looking at doing a giveaway there. I’m also thinking of lowering the price, and/or participating in the Kindle Select Program. (If anyone has had success with these ideas, and makes it to the end of this post, please let me know in the comments.)

And speaking of bad reviews, my novelette, Snowbound, has been a steady seller, but I’ve started getting middling to poor reviews. Not about the writing so much (which is nice to know), but people are really turned off by the fact that they paid .99 for what’s basically a long short story, and for the way it ends. I understand the ending criticism; it does end rather abruptly, and many readers don’t like that. They like resolutions and explanations. This story had neither, but when I wrote it, I struggled over the ending. Everything I could come up with seemed trite and uninspired. So, I ended it the way I felt like it should end. I guess that’s the luxury I have as an indie author, there’s no one to tell me what to write about, and how to write it. The pricing complaint, however, irks me a little bit. I understand that with the advent of e-publishing, people expect more for less, especially for unknown authors. Dean Koontz (or his publisher,) can get away for charging .99 for a 30 page short story. Jennifer does it and she gets a review that’s basically a frowny face in word form.

You know what, before this post devolves into a 1000 word rant about pricing discrimination in e-book buyers, I’m just going to move on.

Really, everything I’ve done over the past two years has been a valuable learning experience. I’ve learned more and more about the art of writing and the business of publishing. I know it’s going to take a lot more work to get to where I want to be, and I’m comfortable with that knowledge.

IWSG month I attempted, and failed, to complete the A to Z blogging challenge. I got about 3/4 of the way through, and I just ran out of steam. It was my third year, and the first in which I failed to finish, so I'm sort of a sad panda about it. I do plan on finishing the tale of Mark and Mr. Cross, I just have to get the motivation up.

I can't decide what to write about for this month's post, other than the sad panda thing. I'm going to *sigh* refocus on writing this month (I sigh because I say this every month). Otherwise, I'm just going to keep my insecurities to myself for now.

PS: You'll notice I changed the look of my blog yet again. I think I actually like this one enough to leave it alone. Until I get bored of it.

Inspiration Monday: Presenting J.K. Smejkal

Here I am, back for another installment of Inspiration Monday.

This month, I'm going to talk about someone who personally inspires me: my critique partner, J.K. Smejkal.

I met J.K. through one of those CP matchups they used to run over at Falling for Fiction. She was one of the first people to read my first novel, and she offered a lot of good advice and encouragement. Her enthusiasm for my work is a great boon to me. She's my number 2 booster behind my own mother.

In return for her feedback, I critiqued one of her WIPs. I was blown away by what I read. I was impressed by her powers of description, and to be honest, I was a bit jealous that I hadn't thought of the idea first.

In total I have critiqued/beta'd three of her novels. Each one created wonderful and intriguing worlds, characters and situations: A love story between a boy and a tree, what happens when the monsters inside us are let loose, and what it's like to lose your soul.

Here's the thing about J.K.: she doesn't give up. She queried one of her manuscripts to something like 80 different agents, and didn't get a bite from any of them. I don't have that patience or that thick of a skin, and maybe she's just a glutton for punishment, but she just keeps going until there's no one left to query. I know she's been through this with at least two manuscripts. All her patience and perseverance paid off, though. She finally got a hit. And not just a hit, an agent.

J. K.  is now represented by Katie Reed of Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management. She is now in the throes of editing and rewrites, and I am so happy for, and proud of, her.

So, here I am introducing J.K. Smejkal to the world. Please stop by her blog, or hit her up on Twitter or Facebook. Oh, and you HAVE to check out her Pinterest boards for her novels.