Bookmark Wednesdays: Marian Perera

My gateway drug into fantasy

When I was six, my uncle found me struggling to read his hardcover copy of The Lord of the Rings, which probably weighed more than I did at the time. He gave me a more age-appropriate paperback copy of The Hobbit, which I still have, and I finally finished the trilogy four years later.

I’d fallen in love with alternate-world fantasy by then, and wanted to write my own stories. Tolkien’s shadow proved to be a long one, though. I kept feeling that a well-realized fantasy world was a more or less solemn, dignified one defined by certain traditional elements like magic.

Something had to yank me out of this mindset, but at the time my parents had moved to the Middle East and I didn’t have access to my uncle’s library. But one day I found a battered paperback copy of a Fighting Fantasy gamebook called House of Hell.

Fighting Fantasy is a type of choose-your-own-adventure gamebook which can be played solo. What I fell in love with, though, was its eclectic, dive-in-and-splash-around approach to fantasy. Anything cool from other genres which could work for the books was happily added to them, so if your character took a dip in a lake, you might have to deal with either a siren or a plesiosaur. Robots, kirin, Lovecraft-esque horrors, it was all grist for the mill.

Take-home message: if it can be integrated into the story, it’s a valid fantasy element.

Sometimes this was inconsistent, but if a series has well over 50 books, I can forgive a dud or two. Another take-home message: write as many books as possible.

Finally, gamebooks are inherently enjoyable and helpful for worldbuilding, because they’re worlds to be explored (along with plenty of pictures, which helps). I read another gamebook series called Blood Sword and then discovered Ravenloft netbooks, which inspired the world of Eden in which my sharkpunk novels are set. I still enjoy Tolkien’s books, but I also learned to think outside the box—and to have fun doing so.

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Bio : Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in Dubai, studied in the United States and lives in Canada. For now. She has three fantasy romances released by Samhain Publishing. The third—THE FARTHEST SHORE, where an ocean-spanning race turns deadly when a kraken hunts down the competitors—was released yesterday. Read more about her books at http://www.marianperera.com or join her on Twitter @MDPerera.

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FarthestShore-The72lgHe’s racing for a prize. She’s running for her life. And they’re on a collision course.

Eden Series, Book 3

Captain Alyster Juell is relishing the taste of his first command for the fleet of Denalay. The steamship Checkmate doesn’t carry weaponry, but that doesn’t matter. His mission is to win an ocean-crossing race—and its hefty prize.

As the voyage gets underway, Alyster hits his first snag—there’s a stowaway on board, a reporter who poked around for information about his ship the day before. And it’s too late to turn back.

Miri Tayes didn’t intend to stow away. She was forced to run for her life when a colleague discovered her secret: She can pass for normal but she’s a half-salt—daughter of a Denalait mother and a pirate father.

Despite her lack of seaworthy skills, Miri works hard to earn her keep, and Alyster, taken with her quick wit and steely nerve, falls for her. But as the race intensifies and the pirates use a kraken to hunt down Checkmate for its new technology, the truth could be the most elusive—and dangerous—prize of all.

Product Warnings

Contains a reporter hiding a dangerous secret and the captain who’d like to strip her bare in more ways than one. Also pirates, prejudice and passion.

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Available from Samhain Publishing here.

Posted in Bookmark Wednesdays | 1 Comment

Bookmark Wednesdays: Jorja Lovett

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I can honestly say this was the first book I turned to after I finally tired of Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood stories. There were no pretty pictures to look at, this was my first ‘proper’ book, bound in red leather and sneaked from my Mum’s vast romance collection.

Of course, I appreciated the story more as I got older, and was chuffed to find it as part of my A level English literature studies. Charlotte Bronte was infinitely more enjoyable than trying to decipher Chaucer’s Olde English.

Jane is such a strong, stubborn character, I immediately empathized with her. From those awful first chapters of her bleak childhood, through to refusing to let Rochester tarnish her reputation, she stays true to herself. She’s an unconventional heroine, particularly in that she’s not a ‘classic’ beauty. I made the mistake of once describing her as having elfin features and was quickly reminded by my sixth year teacher there was nothing glamorous about Jane, and we shouldn’t make apologies for that. This is part of what makes her ‘real’ to the reader.

The same could be said about Edward Rochester. We don’t get the impression he’s a Ryan Gosling lookey-likey, except perhaps in Jane’s eyes. Truth be told, he’s a bit of a git at times, but we know they belong together in that atmospheric, gothic setting. It’s been a while since I read Jane Eyre last, but I reckon the impact it left has a lot to do with my penchant for feisty heroines and tortured heroes…

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Jorja Lovett’s website: http://jorjalovettauthor.weebly.com/

https://twitter.com/jorjalovett

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firstfloorcosmetics_800Take one younger man, add some illicit outdoor sex, and Maggie Fenton is inclined to forget she’s the oldest cosmetics girl at Kelsey’s Department Store.

From the outside, it looks as though Maggie Fenton has it all. The glamorous head of the cosmetics department lives a life of luxury, but money definitely hasn’t bought her happiness. In reality, she’s married to a serial cheat who has made her life a misery for over a decade. With her husband chasing younger women, and her teenage co-workers’ catty comments ringing in her ears, Maggie’s resigned herself to being on the scrap heap. Until Jonah Hamilton puts temptation in her way and reminds her she’s still a red-blooded woman.

Commitment is a four letter word as far as Jonah is concerned. He has no intention of settling down when he has the whole world at his feet. The only reason he takes a summer job at Kelsey’s is to fund his travels. Well, that, and the sexy older woman he can’t help flirting with over the makeup counter. Maggie soon becomes a good friend and someone who shows him how good love can be.

The chemistry between them is undeniable but is a fling enough to satisfy their desires, or is it simply the start of something bigger?

* * * * *

Available from Totally Bound here.

Posted in Bookmark Wednesdays, Jorja Lovett | 4 Comments

Bookmark Wednesdays: Becky Black

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9742303-cold-comfort-farm

At about the age of 14 I had to read Tess of the D’Urbervilles as a set text at school. I’m still angry about that book now. But my English teacher at the time also recommended a book that wasn’t on the curriculum. A very different book than Tess. One where a woman takes charges and gets things done, rather than having things done to her. That was Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. It was the teacher’s favourite book and quickly became one of my favourites. It still is and I still reread it every couple of years.

It would never be on the curriculum, because for one thing it’s very funny. Funny books are usually considered to be “slight”. Not worthy of serious study. But I think comedy can say as many profound things about humanity as the most serious books. It exposes the foibles and vanities of people and the absurdity of life. Several of my favourite books are comedies. And having written comedy in the past, I know how tough it is to pull off.

Cold Comfort Farm is never the same book twice for me. Sometimes I read it and think Flora, a follower of Common Sense as a philosophy of life, is my hero. Other times I think she’s a smug and meddling little baggage. But I always enjoy the book, especially the “set piece” moments all Flora’s plans lead up to, the ball, the Counting, the wedding. It’s full of vivid characters and memorable dialogue.

* * * * *

Becky can be found and stalked on Twitter or on her reet proper posh website, like.

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DreamForMe_BeckyBlack_coverlgIn a society awake for twenty-four hours a day a man who sleeps is a freak. But not to neurobiologist Shay Mistry. Jacob Garcia, the last known sleeper in America, is the test subject whose brain Shay has been dying to get his hands on for years. When they meet, Shay discovers the sleeper’s brain comes accompanied by a gorgeous body and a hostile attitude. As Jacob sleeps night after night in his lab it’s harder and harder for Shay to resist their mutual attraction.

Jacob is tired of being a lab rat, but he’s got his reasons to be in Shay’s lab—one of them he’s not going to tell anyone about—and his plan is to do what he came to do and leave. So falling in love with Shay is like adding a hand grenade to all the other balls he’s juggling. He doesn’t need this added complication, but his desire for Shay is too strong to resist. When Jacob’s secret comes out it triggers a chain of events leaving Shay irrevocably changed and forcing Jacob to choose where his loyalties lie.

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Available from Loose Id here.

Posted in Becky Black, Bookmark Wednesdays | 3 Comments

A blog post dedicated to @tiffanyreisz

I went shopping this afternoon after work – not for anything exciting. Just washing detergent and other household gubbins. And I had occasion to take photos of two very amusing shelf signs that for some reason reminded me of Tiffany Reisz.

Let me tell you; the young woman in the air freshener aisle must have thought I was a stalker, lurking behind her as I was. But I was just waiting for her to stop sniffing the scented candles so I could take this photo:
SEMC 3MP DSC
I’m not sure that’s what you’re meant to do with it…

But as if that wasn’t enough, there was this in the fizzy/energy drinks aisle.
SEMC 3MP DSC
Hey, if it’s 100% natural no wonder it gives you energy. And two for £1? That’s some cheap pussy!

Posted in photos, things i've seen | 1 Comment

I am cursed with a B. R. F.

That stands for Bitchy Resting Face, since you asked.

This morning, someone asked how I was, and I said, “Fine. The usual.”

“And what’s the usual? Miserable?”

Now isn’t that just the correct thing to say to someone to “cheer them up”, assuming that they are, in fact, miserable. Ask how they are, accuse them of looking glum, then tell them “You should smile more!”

I told this person I’d rather smile when it was genuine, and I didn’t believe in going around with a daft grin on my face just to make her feel better.

“You’re accusing me of having a daft grin?!”

“No, I was just saying that I’d rather my smiles were-“

“You are! You just accused me of having a daft grin!”

So, as well as being miserable, I’m also accusing other people of looking stupid. Way to misread the situation entirely and put the blame for whatever went wrong on me.

The fact is, I am cursed with a Bitchy Resting Face. Not that I look upon it as a curse. That’s just the way my facial muscles go when I’m at rest. It takes muscle effort to smile. Yes, to frown, too, but I’m not referring to occasions when I’m actually upset or angry. I’m talking about the absence of an inane, groundless smile, being taken for misery.

And quite frankly, I’m amazed that people are stupid enough to think that accusing me of looking miserable is a good cure for that very (imagined) misery. Cure? No – it actually causes anger and upset.

“You should smile more – you have a lovely smile!”

All the more lovely because when it happens, you know it’s genuine. I refuse to go around with a forced smile on my face just to fit in with someone else’s preconceived idea that if you are not smiling, you’re miserable.

And let’s face it – if I were unhappy about something, would telling me to plaster on a smile do anything to remedy that situation? No. It would take effort that would be better spent on solving the actual problem.

But still, people today seem to be content with things looking a certain way, never mind what’s going on under the surface.

It’s enough to bring on my B. A. F.

That’s Bitchy Angry Fists, to you.

Posted in bitchy resting face, random rant | 4 Comments

A load of balls

This post is going to mention the World Cup, so let’s get something out of the way first, shall we? I know there are many people on Twitter who are bored with talk of football, and is it over yet (yes) and I’m bored and wah wah wah. Etcetera.

Here’s the thing. That’s exactly how I feel about constant conference talk and look who I met, and I got an autograph off someone and I’m now going to write a book with that author over there who I privately bitched about and called talentless.

Oh, mute that sort of talk, you say?

Likewise.

So. On with the main body of this blog post, which will be a very short one. (By my standards.)

I know some women writers have been told that a) they can’t write M/M because genitals, or b) they shouldn’t write because hormones, or c) women’s books are boring because love and romance and yuck.

And yet…last night, I watched grown men on my television cry over a game of football. (Admittedly I nearly did too, given that I was all up for an Argie bhaji. HO HO DO YOU SEE WHUT AH DID THUR.)

All I can gather from the above is that women’s stuff is yuck, but men are allowed to cry if they want. Because football is more important than love is.

Romance has come in for a lot of stick because the majority of writers are women writing about so-called “women’s stuff”. You know. Love and other feelings. It would be wrong to express emotions over love, because that’s soft and makes you a bit of a wuss. Womanish.

But it’s okay to cry over a game of football, because that’s not proper softie emotion, is it? It’s angst and loss and devastation and the end of the world. Plus, men rule in the game of football, so whatever happens in the World Cup Final is of Earth-shattering importance.

All of the above might strike you as either a load of old toss, or blindingly obvious. But it only struck me so blatantly last night when I saw men expressing emotion, at the same time as another “women in SF/F” discussion was happening on Twitter.

So expressing emotion isn’t wrong. It’s only wrong when women do it; got that?

Posted in erotic romance, World Cup final | Leave a comment

Stop the world; this is some important shit, yo!

The more observant of you may have noticed two shining examples of literary genius disappearing from the font of all smut that is the interwebs this week. Yes, those two luminous diamonds of erotic wordfuckery in the festering slop-bucket that is ebook wank-fodder, Burn and Bring Me to Life, are heretofore, nevertheless and notwithstanding, out of print and unavailable for comment.

I have parted company with the literary fluffer responsible for aiding me in the quest to ejaculate these tomes of monumental genital shenanigans* into your eye-sockets via the medium of ereader.

As such, the world of downloadable filth is a lot sadder tonight. Pray silence while we mourn the passing of such heartbreaking scenes as “violent anal sex in a hotel room”. A black armband, if you will, for “chatting up a complete stranger in a chip shop”. Weep and throw handfuls of ashes on your heads while grieving for that figging joke I’m still childishly proud of.

Or, you know…just get the fuck over it and buy my other books.

*The shenanigans were monumental, not the genitals. Although, come to think of it…

Posted in rights reversions | Leave a comment

Marketing myths, promofail and some WTF

Hello world! Did you think I was dead? Sadly for you, I wasn’t. And I’m still not. I was taking a break from Twitter because of all the conference talk which drives me bonkers, and as for blogging…well, I had nothing (or very little) to blog about. Never stopped me before, but oh well, I’m back now.

So. Recently my chum Luke Walker blogged something classy:

Publishing, Marketing and Complete and Utter Bollocks, Part 2.

All joking aside, he refers here to a conversation to which I was also privy. (No longer, as I deleted myself from the Yahoo loop concerned because it was getting quite painful banging my head against a brick wall.)

There are folks who think that it’s an author’s duty to do all of the promotion. No, I didn’t say ‘some’. I said ‘all’. Apparently, we have no right to expect a publisher to expend themselves in this regard because times are tough, funds are limited and reasons. Or something.

Let me tackle this allegation that we shouldn’t expect epublishers to promote because money. As well as the fact it’s utterly ridiculous, there’s also a massive failure of logic here. If a publishing house – a business, remember, or at least it should be – doesn’t have enough money, or even time, to promote my book, then how the heck can anyone expect me to?

Putting the money issue aside, let’s look at the logistics of it. There are more people working for a publishing house than there are versions of you writing your book, right? That’s X-number of staff against one. Logic dictates that a publisher would have more contacts in the business than you. More ‘reach’, as it were. More opportunities to reach the people who matter – readers. This is especially true of startup authors who know virtually no-one in the industry.

And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – an author’s best chance of promoting their backlist is to maintain their frontlist. They should be spending the majority of their writing time writing the next book, not carrying the last one.

If a publisher (or its cheerleaders) think I should spend money I haven’t earned yet on promo which won’t reach all that many people because I’m only one person, there’s something seriously wrong here. If I have more money and contacts than a damned publisher, I’d be as well setting up myself, wouldn’t I? (And self-publishing is becoming more and more attractive, lately.) Let’s face it, there are only so many hours in the day. If I spend what little free time I have promoting Book 1, I’ll never have any time or energy to come up with Book 2! A publisher on the other hand? That’s kinda their bag, man. Or should be.

Too, this conversation about promo also threw up some interesting (as in, shit of the bull) ideas about street teams. It boggles my mind that there could be anyone who uses a street team to spot typos in their manuscripts. It is also another matter of bogglination that, if I were to ask “What are editors for?” someone could make a sly remark designed to tell me (though not directly) that my ideas are wrong. Silly me, eh? Expecting editors to edit. CLUE IS IN THE JOB TITLE, PEOPLE.

Street teams can, I’m told, also be used when you “need” someone to nominate you for an award online on sites that ban you from nominating yourself. (There’s a reason for that, dudes and dudettes – to avoid corruption and skewing the results!!!)

In short, newbie and naive authors are startlingly ready to absolve their publisher of all responsibility for promo. And they are worryingly ready to make use of so-called street teams to take care of jobs that publishers and editors should be doing.

Am I saying authors shouldn’t promo at all? No. I’m saying it should not be left up to them entirely. It’s a matter of logistics. I can’t reach as many people as a business made up of multiple people can. And if a publisher takes a percentage of the profits as per the contract but leaves me to do the donkey work, why sign the contract in the first place? If I only sell 10 copies of a book, I’d rather have 100% of that, than 35% or 40% or whatever a publisher’s royalty rate is. If promo is minimal anyway, I won’t be losing out on anything by going it alone, especially if I’m established in the genre with a slowly-growing list of readers.

What I’m saying is, if a publisher can’t help me reach more people than I already can myself, and if they can’t do anything else for me that I cannot do myself, one has to ask…of what benefit are they?

Why not just self-publish? Especially if, when you ask questions to clarify all of the above, you’re shouted down by cheerleaders who seem to believe that asking simple business-related questions makes you a Nasty McNasterson?

Here’s a brief summary of what I’m saying in this blog post for the benefit of anyone with reading comprehension problems:

  • It is not entirely up to the author to promo their book(s). The publisher must play their part too. If their promo is ineffective or non-existent, there has been a breakdown somewhere and whatever the causes of that breakdown, the author would be as well taking their work elsewhere, and/or self-publishing.
  • Street teams are not the go-to guys for editing. An author has a duty to polish their manuscript until its pips squeak before submission, but beyond that, a book should be edited by…brace yourselves…an editor! I know; astounding, huh? Expecting a fucking professional to do the job instead of a bunch of amateurs who can be bought off with a pat on the head and a cheap keyring in exchange for a quick ego-wank.
  • If you speak to members of your street team to get them to nominate you for some Mickey Mouse online award, you’re gaming the system. Put some energy into writing a better book then your readers won’t have to be prompted. I mean, doesn’t it tell you something when you have to press someone into publicly praising your book? Oh, they’d do it anyway? Good. Let them. Keep out of it, Mr Systemgaming Systemson.

Whew. That’s one hell of a rant to whack you all with on  my return to blogging and Twitter, but, you know…if I were nice and polite you’d wonder “Where’s Scarlett and what have you done with her,” wouldn’t you? :)

Posted in promofail | 8 Comments

Cover art for PLUS ONE

Received this earlier today and it confirms my deep and abiding love for Totally Bound’s cover artist, Emmy Ellis. What do you think?

plusone_800

Something doesn’t add up…

Lydia’s looking for a job not a lover, but after her interview at Saint Joseph’s University, she ends up with both. There’s a need for discretion despite her bright pink hair and Doctor Spencer Flynn’s candy apple red Mustang; after all, she’s an admin assistant now, he’s a lecturer in applied mathematics and they work together. So they conduct their liaisons behind closed doors which is all right with Lydia; she’s never experienced chemistry like it.

‘Discreet’ soon begins to look a lot like ‘secretive’ and a last-minute cancellation of a date prompts Lydia to rethink her role in the relationship. Braced for a break-up, she’s amazed when Spencer confesses the secret he’s been keeping all along. His loyalties are divided and when Lydia’s attempts to hold on to his attention backfire publicly, she wonders if playing house with a mathematician is a zero-sum game.

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Coming soon from Totally Bound.

  • Pre-order 13th June
  • Early download 27th June
  • General release 18th July
Posted in cover art, Plus One, Totally Bound | 1 Comment

Don’t talk to me about street teams

Instead, let me rant about them to you.

Anyone heard that phrase recently? I’d be surprised if you hadn’t. Many authors have or want a ‘street team’. What do they do?

Unpaid publicity.

Okay, financially unpaid. But usually these contracted fangirls are paid in ‘swag'; i.e. books, bookmarks, keyrings and so on. For this, they’re encouraged by authors to review their books on Amazon and Goodreads and similar sites, to spread the word about ‘their’ author’s latest releases.

In ye olden days, we had fan clubs, where authors earned admirers. They wrote books which inspired people to tell others “You have to read this great book I just read!” Using talent and well-written books to entertain people, thereby causing them to spread the word about your books, is the exact opposite of giving people stuff in return for them telling folks about your work. One is natural word of mouth, the other is bribery.

I’ve often ranted about people who insist on only reviewing books to which they can give 4 or 5 stars. “How can I be expected to believe their reviews are genuine?” That sort of thing. Now, if someone is a member of a street team (and many authors name members on their blogs) and they review a book by their sponsor/patron/whatever, how are we supposed to believe it’s genuine?

I’d be wondering, “Are you writing this review because you love the book, or because the author sent you some bookmarks and a keyring?”

Street teams smack of authors expecting readers to do stuff for them. That is, expecting readers to do their promo for them. They prompt readers to write reviews, to whore their books on social media and yes, even in some cases front-face their books in bricks and mortar book shops.

Not only that, but I’ve just been informed on Twitter that there are now authors mobilising street teams to attack reviewers who say nasty, mean things about ‘their’ authors’ books.

Okay, such instances are a rarity, although I suspect they’ll become more common in the future. But the bottom line is, readers are there to read books. The clue is in the name, people. You buy one of my books, I get the royalties. Fair’s fair, even Stevens, everyone’s happy. If I start asking you to post a review of one of my books, I’m skewing the transaction in my favour. You shell out for a book, and I get two things – royalties and a review you probably feel obligated to make positive.

As I’ve said before, it is the publisher’s job to publicise books they…wait for it…publish. Writing is an art, publishing is a business, and one would bloody well hope your publisher wants to make money too, right? Right. Your job is to write the next book. Do some promo if you want. But not so much that you a) take so much time away from writing that your next book is delayed and/or b) antagonise potential readers by making them feel talked at rather than engaged with and/or c) treat people as a means to an end by using folks as free promo and calling them your street team.

If word of mouth happens naturally? Great. But cobbling together a list of people who’ve read your books and slapping the label of ‘street team’ on them smacks of asking your readers to do a publicist’s job.

I’m going to quote someone here who shall remain nameless:

The truth about street teams…

It’s another way authors think they are making a difference. If they get a Twitter account. If they get a Facebook account. If they get a street team. They can affect sales, become a best-seller, have some control over their careers, their destiny.

It’s all a big lie. Sometimes, you write a piece of shit and become a bestseller. And sometimes you write a gem and no one ever reads it. It’s tough to accept the lack of control here. So, we cling to concepts like “street teams” thinking we can change the outcome of this game.

Look at it this way – if you’re big enough to gather enough followers to call a ‘street team’…at this point, obviously your books and/or your online persona have earned you a following, yes? So why not continue in that vein? Crazy idea, but I have more respect for writers who let their writing earn them followers- actually, readers. The whole ‘street team’ thing feels forced. Artificial. I’d rather someone mention my books because they liked them. Anything else is just bribery.

Oh, and if you think I’m being too harsh, and readers are allowed to be enthusiastic about books they like? Yes. Yes, they are. As long as liking is what makes them talk about books. Not cheap tat like keyrings, bookmarks and pens, and having their name mentioned on the website of some author most of us have never heard of.

Posted in promofail, street teams | 12 Comments