Archive for October, 2014

Appalling it needs to be said…but…

I do so hereby solemnly swear that I will not, under any circumstances, stalk, bully, harass, or even contact someone who’s expressed an opinion of my book.

Any names and addresses I receive for giveaway purposes will be promptly discarded in a safe fashion after the book has been mailed out. I also swear to never pass along such sensitive information unless instructed to do so by the owner of said information.

….

Seriously, this needs to be said?

For those not in the know, suffice to say that an author stalked a reviewer online and off, culminating in the author driving out to the reviewer’s house. I’m not naming any names because I really don’t want to add fuel to the crazy-fire and I refuse to give the author any kind of publicity. I’m certain there’s some who have looked her up due to the kerfuffle, read her articles, and gained interest in her and her book. Certainly I was myself drawn to the trainwreckiness of it all and had an urge to follow her tweets and blog just to try and understand the insanity.

I use a pen name for a reason. I do not go by my legal name because, like most sane people, I prefer to have my online and offline life separate for safety reasons. This is not an invitation to hunt me down and doxx me.

I’m a blunt sort of person and I make no bones about my likes and dislikes — it would be an absolute nightmare for me if someone harassed me about my opinions online, much less went to the effort of doing a background check on me and appearing at my doorstep in person. I cannot even imagine the kind of fear and violation experienced in that case. That’s the sort of thing leading to fleeing the house and finding a new place to live.

I am deeply sympathetic to the reviewer in question and I think it’s a crying shame that her sense of safety and well-being has been compromised by this author’s actions to the point where she’s taken everything private and has stopped reviewing/blogging. On the heels of EC’s suing Dear Author and Gamer Gate… I cannot repeat this enough: Stalking is seriously wrong. It’s illegal, it’s crazy, and it’s just plain morally wrong. There is no ambiguity about this. No matter what someone says or thinks, it is not all right to violate their home or their job or anything in their offline life. I would add that it’s wrong to send people hate mail to their email too, because seriously, the First Amendment does NOT mean you get to spew your hate toward whoever has caught your ire at the moment.

Seriously, if you feel compelled to hunt someone down in real life and confront them, don’t. As my friend says: Taser your damn self until you stop wanting to. Think about how you would feel if a complete stranger, someone who you don’t know if they’re going to attack you or yell at you, shows up at your front door. If you think you’re cute, adorable, beautiful, quirky and funny and no one should possibly be afraid of you, think again. If a stranger shows up at my door and wants to talk to me about something I’ve said online, not only would I slam the door and call 911, but I’d probably mace first and leave the “talking” for the cops.

Stalking is creepy — don’t do it. If you have obsessive tendencies and they prompt you to want to violate boundaries, for fuck’s sake, get thee to a doctor.

…Eris on a stick, this needs to be said? I do not have enough words for all the I can’t even.

 

Phoenix Chosen to be had for FREE this weekend!

Yep! To celebrate the one month anniversary of my book baby, it’s now free on Amazon!

If you’ve been wavering, on the fence, uncertain… you can now pick it up for freeeeeeeee on Amazon right now.

For those who hate Amazon or are outside the US, email me and I’ll send you a free copy in epub form.

As for the giveaway…

Since there were zero entries (?!) I’m going to try again with rafflecopter next week and see if things work better that way.

If not, I’ll donate the books I was intending on gifting to the local library. :D

Thoughts on Heart of Fire and on the difficulty of writing

I saw a tweet proclaiming that Heart of Fire was released today with the hashtag WeNeedDiverseBooks, so I clicked over to Amazon to check it out.

Heart of Fire:

Jan Xu, wolf and pack leader, faces more dangers when she saves a foreign male wolf in love with one of her ancient enemies, a jiang shi, a Chinese vampire. Throw in a love-struck drake—and Jan finds her situation suddenly precarious, with her reputation and health at stake. How much is a wolf going to take when everything is out of control again and her world thrown into disarray? How is she going to navigate the complexities of Myriad politics while keeping her pack and family intact without losing her mind? The third book of the Jan Xu Adventures will see Jan Xu’s continual fight as pack leader, her clan’s Eye (seer) and mother of three young children. Her mettle, courage and love for her family will be tested to her utmost limits.

What I found frustrating was my inability to let go and enjoy.

A torrent of thoughts blurred through my mind, all them nitpicky, some of them unreasonable. I’ll be the first to admit it.

I also know that I said before that I would rather see a million different portrayals of East Asians rather than see none and I stick by it. I still believe that it is better to see a hundred thousand reflections of possibilities of the self, even if they are slightly distorted by the nature of the reflective medium than to hover in sensory deprivation, uncertain of one’s own existence.

So this post is more of an exploration of my self and my perception and my preferred reflection rather than a critique or dismissal of Joyce Chng.

That said, shall we?

Trouble in paradise started with the name. Yes, I did say this was going to be nit-picky. Jan Xu. I wasn’t sure if she was rendering the name in the Asian fashion, with the family name first, or in the Western fashion, with it going last. It didn’t help that Jan isn’t a word in Romanized Chinese pingyin. I pushed the thought aside because I know that there are many ways to Romanize Chinese, some of which make no sense.

Then werewolves were mentioned and I got yanked right back again. For one, wolves are not at all the first animal I would think of if I thought Asian fantasy, especially with the Chinese sounding name. I’d have gone with monkeys, tigers, dragons, phoenixes, even turtles, bats and horses if you really wanted to do something out of the ordinary. For a second, if you take a look at most of the idioms in Chinese, it is clear to see that wolves were really not held in any sort of esteem that culture. Unlike the tiger who is just as often used as a symbol of royalty and/or ability as it is used to indicate ruthlessness, I can’t think of a phrase referring to a wolf that is complimentary. At least not within the boundaries of the usual Han Chinese mythology. Things might be different when you move further west. For a third, I didn’t think that wolves ranged into where Singapore is located.

Then a jiang shi was called a Chinese vampire and a potential love interest of one of the characters and I was pretty much done. Yeah, I know the wikipedia page calls it “a vampire or a zombie” and it’s as easy a way to describe it as any, but… really, it’s an reanimated corpse. It’s not a vampire. I prefer not to call it a vampire because that implies that it works the same way as Western vampires when they really don’t share much of anything in common with them. They are pretty much universally portrayed as mindless, ravening, animated flesh that will bash themselves to bits trying to get at their prey. Not sexy. No. Just no. Love interest? Hell no.

But I felt kinda guilty for not giving it more of a chance because…well, I prefer not to be a hypocrite. So I picked up the sample and tried my best to keep my mind open.

The beginning didn’t really draw me in. In fact, I was bounced right back out because of the first line: “In Taiwan, sky lanterns are released into the night sky during Mid-Autumn Festival”. I looked up, blinked, and went: “Do we? Huh?”

You see, my parents are Taiwanese, all of my relatives were Taiwanese, and I spent about 4 years in Taiwan in my eary teens and never once did we do the whole sky lantern thing. So that first sentence popped me right out and onto Google to see if we did. Well, turns out the city will do events like that. Cool and all, but…

The rest of the prologue felt a bit like an info-dump and since she was telling me about her emotions, I didn’t really get invested in them as much.

Then there was what felt a bit like a “don’t abandon your pets or abuse them” PSA in the middle of the narrative, which kinda derailed me again.

Joyce wavers back and forth between calling a character “Lang” or wolf. Personally, I find it irritating to use Chinese words when there’s an easy English word for it. It doesn’t pull me further into the narrative, it pulls me out. This is possibly because I kind of switch between an English-main OS and a Chinese-main OS when I think and that method bounces me back and forth. She also sometimes clarifies “wolf” after using “Lang”, after enough mentions that really, the reader should know already, which just drives me batty.

At this point, she mentioned the Xu pack. So okay, Xu is the last name, good to know. Except her father calls her Xu Yin, so Jan isn’t her name, it’s something else. I drop out of the story to ponder this and to wonder what the hell “Jan” is and why it would be connected with her last name. A title? Maybe meaning alpha? What? Since it wasn’t a word that exists in either the Taiwanese or Mainland China Romanization of Chinese, I was completely at sea.

At this point, I felt a bit like I was yo-yoing in and out of the story and nothing had really even happened yet.

And I had yet another question. Why was she alpha instead of her parents? At some point she calls the unknown wolf she picks up a “foreigner” and then later she says that he’s a Chinese man. So here I’m wondering what the Xu family is, if not Chinese.

She says “Mandarin Chinese” on a couple of occasions and it rubbed me a bit the wrong way because …well, it’s like tacking some other sort of identifier onto Portuguese or Italian rather than simply saying Italian/Portuguese. It’s simply not a way I use the word as a Chinese person. Yes, nitpicky to the point where it’s almost unreasonable, I know.

It didn’t help that it felt a bit that the narrative was sprawling all over the place. Instead of feeding detail on a need to know basis, there would be a brief spate of info-dump when someone came up, like her sister, or something she felt needed to be clarified, like the fact that Han Chinese sometimes did naturally have blue or green eyes, which resulted in the narrative feeling chopping, disorganized and the tension was just nonexistent for me as a result.

……

So that’s me. That’s my interaction with the sample available to me.

I’m pretty frustrated with myself. I just couldn’t shut down my brain for long enough for the story to take root and sweep me away.

I originally wasn’t going to write this post since the last thing I want to do is to write something that’s discouraging when there really isn’t enough E. Asian stuff out there already. But then I thought about it and I thought that it was something worth sharing because it illustrates and supports my stance on why I think people should just try to write whatever they want to write, so long as they approach it with the appropriate respect. By appropriate respect, I mean both not placing it on a pedestal and being a culture apologist or being disdainful/contemptuous of it. I’ve read things where the author’s loves and hates of the culture came through bright and clear and it was unpleasant. Portray things as they are, let the chips fall where they may and you should be good.

Joyce Chng lives in Singapore. She calls herself diasporic Chinese. She grew up writing in Australia. “Worthy” of writing an E. Asian character in Singapore? I’d say hells yes.

Yet the way she writes and uses and incorporates Chinese culture into her novel just doesn’t do it for me. If I were to be brutally honest, it even rubs me against the grain a bit.

Nalini Singh wrote a short involving an Asian American girl that I really enjoyed. Even though I cannot remember her name for the life of me.

Laura Florand wrote a character of Asian descent that spoke to my soul and yanked on my heart till it bled a little.

I say all this to point out that it is silly to set restrictions on who may or may not write a character or a situation. … I am one Chinese person in a sea of many.

What I love might not work for others. Some might hate how Americanized Sarah Lin is, how her Asian heritage is simply one of many lines that composes her sketch rather than shadows painted on with a heavy brush. Some might cringe at how the character in Nalini Singh’s short has parents who are trying to arrange her marriage and scream about stereotypes.

So?

Any reader is one out of many. As they say, the sea is vast and the fish are many. If there are more writers who release more fish into the sea, eventually everyone will find what they want, which is as it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that was a bit of a flop *laughs*

Experiment #1 in my foray into self-publishing promo results: 0 newsletter signups and 1 confirmed sale

Well, actually, there’s been two paid unit sales since I started this, um, 6 days ago, but since the second unit was sold after I stopped tweeting about the giveaway, I’m not really counting it. Just to be safe.

So, my thoughts on why it was such a flop.

Keeping in mind my variables: 0 people on my newsletter when I started out. 70 followers on my twitter account, a substantial portion of which are other authors. First book. No regular commentators on my blog. Hrm, probably not even any regular readers at the moment.

*laughs* Sounds pretty dismal when laid out like that, doesn’t it?

Anyway, moving on to what I should have done differently in this experiment:

As Laura pointed out, it would have been better if I had set the “free” days to coincide with the beginning of the giveaway. Hook people in with the pretty cover, grab them with the blurb and then try to move some units. None of which I did, by the way, because I can be an awkward bunny. However, I do have useful information right now, which is apparently my sphere of contact doesn’t really go in for KU at this moment. There were zero KU units moved, which is something I had not expected. I was expecting, y’know, maybe one, or two, nothing earth-shattering, but not zero.

Laura‘s awesome, by the way. Wonderful person in addition to being a fantastic writer.

The way to enter the giveaway was by signing up for the newsletter and then emailing me to tell me what book/author they were interested in. Yeah, I know, I made it way too complicated. This would be where over-thinking things does no one credit. Since I’m giving away books by well-known authors with an established fan base, I didn’t want to limit the selection in case I ended up gifting someone a book they already owned or had already read. Yeah, yeah, I was trying too hard in too many directions — I was hoping to introduce new readers to authors I liked too. End result? Nada. *laughs*

Really, the blurred language was also to blame, I think. Also, the too-long post. Also just vagueness in general. I’m not sure people understood what I wanted and what to expect in terms of being chosen for the giveaways.

So next time keep it super simple. Got it.

Then I think I ran into a problem where I just wasn’t comfortable with pushing myself out there. I tried tweeting about the giveaway for the first four days, but after that I just felt uncomfortable about it. Especially since no one seemed to be really excited. AND I was running up into the wall of being uncertain about Twitter etiquette and how best to write tweets that catch interest and make people want to retweet.

Well, again, the lack of enthusiasm might have been because, again, messy language and vague expectations but I think also because I have so few twitter followers and so many of my friends are writers.

So, I wasn’t intending on trying to sell to my fellow writers, but I was hoping to snag the interest of their readers. With the speed at which tweets get thrown around and the ratio of writers to readers and general luck, I’m not sure how much attention I actually caught. How much attention I caught and then lost is another variable that I cannot know without intensive drilling down of statistics that I do not have the setup for at the moment. So my pool was already small to begin with and then it got limited way more by circumstances… not good.

I’m a numbers addict so I might do the whole shebang at some point. Y’know, hosting my own short URLs and then apply analytics to see clicks and then resulting signup/sales. I shouldn’t because I should really be writing, but… delicious numbers.

Okay. So the experiment is still on-going. I’ll probably do another burst of tweets and stuff when the book goes free on the 18th and see how that goes.

For now, however, I’m going to go back to work.

Phoenix Chosen now available on KU

Yeah, yeah, I know I said yesterday that I’d put Phoenix Chosen on KU when book two was ready for actual book-gestation, but I’ve figured out a way to get around the whole sweepstakes etc whatever thing: KU will allow me to set my book for free, allowing anyone who’s interested to grab it.

The Chinese have a tradition of celebrating when a baby reaches its first month anniversary. So, in acknowledgement of that and because I’m finally over the squee-nauseous-squee and have regained half of my brain, I’m going to have a book-baby celebration.

As with the traditional celebrations, there will be a bit of lead up until the main event, so I’ll be giving away books from my favorite author list from now until the 18th, when the book goes free on KU for the weekend.

Entering is easy — just sign up for my newsletter and send me an email at ekaterinexia at gmail telling me what book you would like by which author, if any, or if you don’t know the authors, tell me your favorite genre and trope and I’ll pick something for you.

I’ll pick a random entrant from the first 10 sign-ups I get every day until the 18th. On the 18th, I’ll gift any book from Cindy Pon and Jeannie Lin to one lucky person. Yep, that’s two books, three if you count the fact that Phoenix Chosen is free on that day as well. Edited to add: The lovely Jeannie Lin suggested The Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas and since it’s a historical set in England involving wuxia elements, how could I resist? My Beautiful Enemy is the companion book and the one I read and loved, so I think I’m tossing that in as well.

So! Enter for the chance to win five books, all with different angles and takes. C’mon, how can you resist?

The giveaways will be ebooks sent via gifting from Amazon, Nook, or Smashwords. Let me know if you care either way as well. Note that this restriction might throw some wrenches into the works, but we’ll sort it out. :)

Some of my favorite authors:

Ilona Andrews – any book, including Burn for Me (I’ll gift it the day it comes out). I love her strong, kick-ass heroines and their sense of humor.

Anne Bishop – love her Dark Jewel’s series and the Other books

Carolyn Jewel – historical and paranormal romance

Laura Florand – deliciously bittersweet contemporaries

Charlene Teglia — steamy hot romance with a wicked sense of humor

Sasha Devlin – all the heart with plenty of sizzle. (She’s part of a new bundle that’s coming out!)

Dee Carney – a little bit exotic, a whole lot erotic

Hailey Edwards – fantasy romance that isn’t quite like any other

Courtney Milan – clever, poignant and lovely historical romance

Nalini Singh – her angels are to die for.

I’m sure I’m forgetting someone and some books, but there’ll be other opportunities. :)

What are you waiting for? Email me!

 

 

Parsing Kindle Unlimited as a reader and writer

I’ve had Kindle Unlimited (KU) for the last two(?) months and I’ve come to some conclusions for KU as it stands right now. Of course, all hypotheses are just that, so we’ll see if my suspicions play out the way I think they will.

As a reader, KU is useful for me because I can blow through multiple books a day. At $9.99 per month, it is very much worth it for me because suddenly I am limited to the KU selection for my reading and so in the end I end up saving money. Asides from my auto-buy authors, I no longer look at book blurbs of books that are not available for KU. It doesn’t matter if it’s 99 cents or 1.99 — I’m no longer tempted, which is great for my wallet.

The way I use KU as a reader has also swayed my opinion of using KU as an author:

  • There are some books that I’m happy to read with KU but which I would probably never pay for with cash, even if it is part of a series. These are the cotton-candy reads that I will read once without it leaving much of an impression on me and that I will likely never re-visit again.
  • KU is really useful for trying out new authors. An additional benefit is that it disappears from my Kindle when I return it, saving me from having to go into my account and delete it. Yes, I delete books sometimes because when you have 4k+ books on your account, it can get hard to browse through your own library.
  • I re-read and when I have money, I am more likely to pay money for a book that I’m certain that I liked rather than spending my money on bets.
  • I think I actually save time now because I’m much more likely to not finish a book. Since I’m just borrowing it, I don’t feel compelled to read it to the end. Yeah, it’s odd, that mindset of killing time to ensure that I feel that I’ve gotten my money’s worth of distraction.

So, my thoughts on KU as an author:

I have no illusions to the fact that there will be those who consider my books cotton-candy. As such, I’d rather have my books be available for them to borrow and read rather than not. If originally 4 out of 10 people will buy my book, it would not necessarily be worth it in the long term for those 4 to buy the book for $4.99 rather than having 8 people borrow, read it, and then possibly recommend it to their friends. It is both advertising and expanding my demographics.

The fact that a reader has to either read the book or turn it in for another one means that, unlike a book they bought for free, there is additional incentive to at least read the book and try it instead of letting it languish on their Kindles forever. This is good for me as a new author.

The 90 days of exclusivity aren’t really a big deal unless you’re a big-name-author who might move a couple thousand books in the first week of release across multiple platforms. I could be wrong about this, but since I have 0 sales on Google Play and 2 sales on Smashwords to date, I’m going to go with the anec-data for my following books. Also, unfortunately for us number crunchers, it’s impossible to know for sure how much money you’re leaving on the table from those 90 days of exclusivity versus the amount of money you’ve made through KU borrowing.

I won’t lie — an author will lose some sales from those who would have been tipped over into buying versus not and they will only get whatever the borrowing rate is. However, for my part, I’m not going to worry about it because in my opinion as a reader, there’s always the die-hard fans who will buy it regardless and those who will borrow it from the library or a friend. You can’t get it all.

Some of my friends have asked why Phoenix Chosen is priced the way it is and why I haven’t enrolled it in KDP select. 

My reasoning is that I don’t want to undervalue my work and I don’t believe in contributing to the notion that a book is worth less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks. I also don’t want Phoenix Chosen to be one of those books that people snap up because it’s cheap and then end up never reading. There’s also the theory that readers are more likely to rate a book badly when it’s priced at 99 cents or so.

For another reason, since Phoenix Awoken isn’t ready yet, I don’t feel like a burning need to make the first book free or cheap to hook in more readers. I’m happy to have it sit where it is  and see how it does while I write and edit book two.

However, when Phoenix Awoken is ready, I’m going to enroll the first book in KDP Select and then have the first book free for the first five days of Phoenix Awoken‘s release. When the third book is ready, I’ll likely do a promotion where the first book is on KDP Select again for three months and then the second book will be on KDP Select for the three months after that.

And now, that said, I really should be working on book two so I actually have something to test these theories on. :)

 

Giveaways are more complicated than I thought

So. You’re a self-published author and you’re thinking about doing this promo thing called a giveaway and you think it’s easy and shiny and … it’s not. It’s really not. Not if you’re thinking about doing an international giveaway.

If you’re thinking about restricting your giveaway to the US, then you’re in good shape, but things start to get twitchy once you start crossing borders.

That said, be wary of not stepping on FB’s toes lest you get your page revoked. That link is really worth reading, btw, because the policy changes will affect many aspects of giveaways that people are used to seeing. Google + also probably has similar policies in place.

In Canada, for example, it’s illegal to do a giveaway where the winner is determined by chance because then it’s called a lottery. In order for it to be a legal contest, you need the contestants to demonstrate a skill, one that is capable of weeding out at least some of the contestants. Apparently a four part math question is sufficient, but it’s still necessary.

In Quebec, things get a little hairier. You’d need to register your giveaway, submit your advertisements 30 days before the giveaway starts, pay a fee of up to 10% of the prize, etc etc etc. No wonder so many sweepstakes are void in Quebec.

In the UK, you have similar problems with Canada.

Australia has similar laws too. Fancy that, considering that Canada and they were both under the same queen at a certain point…

En Zed seems to have less stringent rules, which is interesting and in keeping with the whole more laid-back vibe I get from them.

…I think I’ll just stop there instead of looking up all the different rules for all the various English speaking countries. There’s 58 sovereign states in that list, just FYI, guys.

But Katje, what are the chances of getting caught and prosecuted for giving away a bunch of my own books, even if it is a felony in some countries?

Well, to be honest, I would say it’s pretty low. So low as to make the fact that I spent the last couple of hours researching this rather than writing kind of ludicrous.

However, I personally have a fondness for knowing when I might be breaking the laws and forewarned is forearmed.

With all that in mind, this affects how I will structure the giveaways I had in mind. It also affects whether or not I end up enrolling Phoenix Chosen in KDP select for the set-up-to-be-free days or not.

Lots of food for thought…