A graph

Many jagged lines, trending up near the end.
Amazon Author Rank Chart

Amazon offers various metrics and services to authors: a glimpse into their own Bookscan numbers, a quick look at sales ranks and new reviews, a way to update their bio. It also offers something they call ‘Author Rank’, which is sort of like ‘sales rank’ but takes into account all your books (or so I assume).

This is a snapshot of my sales rank since the beginning of the service, which was about 8 months after Matchbox Girls came out. Book sales rank charts look fairly similar, with the same kind of downward curves and spikes. Each spike represents a sale (or maybe more than one sale, on good days.) As more books get uploaded into the system, existing books have to work harder to get the same spikes.

The Senyaza books reverted to me April 1; I uploaded Matchbox Girls at the $2.99 price point and the others at $4.99.

Citadel of the Sky was released May 15, which is also when I started actively advertising Matchbox Girls, with periodic $.99 sales.

Independence Day, Book Sales, Updates

My sons have been watching lots of YouTube videos, because that’s the modern state of summer daycare around here, and thus I feel an almost overwhelming temptation to start my post with, “Hi everyone, Chrysoula here!”

One day I might get around to posting more of my thoughts on current events in this blog. I DO talk about things other than books, but mostly on Twitter at the moment. But there’s definitely a lot to think about this Independence Day.

Or not think about! Here’s the book sale blurb! Matchbox Girls is 99 cents, down from 2.99! Citadel of the Sky is $3.99, down from $6.99. In the case of Citadel of the Sky if you don’t have it may I encourage reading it so you too can see what all the fuss* is about?

*The fuss: Citadel of the Sky tends to inspire strong opinions, some good, some bad. I had a review tour last month. It was… tempestuous.

As for Matchbox Girls there’s no better time to get started with the Senyaza series. The short story collection Etiquette of Exiles will be appearing in ebook form in less than two weeks and the 4th full novel, Divinity Circuit,  will be showing up in the autumn.

Ahem. I’ve been experimenting a lot with marketing, as you might guess. I’ll have a blog post at some point on the various services I’ve tried and the response I’ve seen. Some of my theories are not panning out. Other things are basically working. I would like to point out that Citadel of the Sky has a quarter page ad in RT Book Review, an actual print magazine, which is a small dream come true.

I’ve also been finishing up a round of revision on Divinity Circuit. After that my plan is to outline and generally do pre-production on a whole bunch of different novels:

  • Senyaza #5, tentatively called Hybrid Spirits and a direct sequel to Wolf Interval. I’d like to write and release this by autumn 2016.
  • Thrones #3, listed as Shrine of Summer in Citadel of the Sky. I’d like to write and release this in spring 2017.
  • Nightlights #2. I’d like to plan this extensively then write it slowly for Wattpad across 2016. We’ll see what happens. The toddler starts preschool so hope springs eternal!
  • Astromantica. Good old Astromantica. I meant to devote the whole year to you. Let’s see if we can at least produce an outline draft, eh?
  • High School Werewolf Unicorn Romance, possibly called Fangs 4 Flowers. This is an experimental book that I’d like to write and release fast. Although I’m not quite sure when…
  • Unnamed Space Opera. Sailor Moon meets Warhammer 40k. Another experiment, this time in finding out if I should be writing science-light SF. I’d love to write this one in November and December, for an early 2016 release, but we’ll see because it needs a lot more worldbuilding and thread-weaving than F4F will. On the other hand, my space-obsessed 8 year old is eager to help.

You’re thinking: Wow, that’s a lot! And it is, which is why I’m planning a good solid few months outlining. Honestly, I have three goals that all have to squeeze in together:

  • Continue on with my existing commitments. For Thrones of the Firstborn, that’s three more books. For Senyaza, it’s… a lot more books. Let’s call it ‘indefinite’. And Nightlights kind of deserves a sequel.
  • Experiment with writing a fast, emotional romance. One of the stories I wrote for the Senyaza collection was an attempt at mimicking the style of little kid chapter books. I found that the focus on clear, simple images and straightforward language was really addictive and quick to write. I’d like to see what happens if I do that again but with more adolescent subject matter. Also, romances sell better than everything.
  • See if I can find a niche where what I write is more in line with reader expectations. I… I can go into this more later in another post if anybody is curious.

My strategy for writing all these outlines will be a round-robin snowflake style. Very top-down, go through each of the projects for each design step. And I’m not quite giving myself as much time as I think I need, because you know what happens when I give myself plenty of time? I find ways to Not Work until I no longer have quite enough time. It’s ridiculous.

There’s a heat wave on here. It seems to be the new form of Seattle summers. We have no AC. And now it is time to take the children to a lake. So, uh, later!

Loss Leaders

Today because of some paid promo, I sold 39 copies of Matchbox Girls. This is a new high (on Amazon)! And I totally didn’t expect it since my paid promo last Tuesday (different promoter) sold… 9 over 3 days.

These are .99 cent sales, which means I get .34 per sale. Not good money. Not even a good investment so far, unless people move onto sequels, which are full-priced. But I make back investment pretty quickly if they do. For the Fussy Librarian promo, last Tuesday, let’s see… yeah. If 1 of 9 moves onto the sequels, I’ll make back investment. For today… (well I usually count the 3 days after a promo but today so far) I’d need 2 people to pick up the sequels. And that may drop over the next couple of days…

Frankly, the 1 of 9 isn’t very likely. I wouldn’t expect more than 1/4th of the purchasers to ever even open the cheapo book and I certainly don’t expect half of all readers to turn into fans. But today, 2 of 39? Much more plausible!

Unfortunately you can’t actually precisely measure if sequel sales come from promo purchases….

Fantasy and Science Fiction: Defined

Twin genres! Tied together!

I don’t quite divide them up the way lots of people do, by tropes. You know what I mean: SF is spaceships and future stuff and lasers and ~technology~; F is magic and impossible creatures and the medieval-esque.

Interesting fact: ‘technology’ isn’t about machines. It’s not about iWatches and LightSails. Technology is process. It’s algorithms.  It’s knowledge. The 3-field system is technology. So is bureaucracy.

For me, ‘fantasy’ uses the trappings of SFF–spaceships, magic, impossible creatures, whatever–but those trappings don’t have any impact on the fundamental human condition. There may be miracles and wonders but they either mostly address other miracles and wonders, or they provide, at best, a short-term solution. Fantasy is about coming to terms with what is unalterable. Fantasy brings you courage to face the ordinary hidden in the stories of gods.

In fantasy, when magic could save somebody’s life at the expense of changing them forever (or even without consequences), they instead come to terms with their death, because that’s what we all have to do, eventually. Magic restores the natural order and the most important magics do things like bring hope, or peace: achievements we can all strive for, right now.

In science fiction, the tropes do change things; science fiction explores how. The trappings aren’t miracles or wonders (except maybe at first). They touch many people’s lives and people respond and adapt to them. Whether the magic is sorcery or pocket computers, society adapts to it. It may become something strange or alien, or it may be just a little bit different from what we know.  But the tropes aren’t just trappings. They’re (at least partially) the point.

In science fiction, when magic could save somebody’s life at the expense of changing them forever (or even without consequences), many people will face that choice. Some people will choose life. Society will change. There is no ‘natural order.’ (Some of) what is done is nothing more than thought experiments, beyond our current reach. But the ‘science’ in science fiction is methodology. Questions are asked and answers are proposed. Ideas are applied to a world.

Even defined this way, many stories straddle both fields, of course. But a lot don’t.  And sometimes fairy stories are science fiction, and we all know science fiction that is really fantasy.

I think it’s an interesting enough way to approach how I read and how I write that I wanted to share it. :-)

On riots

Adapted from a conversation today on facebook, about riots in response to police brutality.

Have you ever felt like you were asking for something and being ignored? Asking and asking and asking. Mostly asking for something to stop, because it hurts you. And the people you’re asking just kind of laugh and ignore you? If they respond at all, it’s to make it a joke, or to tell you to stop being what you are? And eventually, you ask louder and louder, and they start getting defensive and a little uncomfortable and block you out, and finally one day you just start screaming, and they get upset because you’re hurting their ears and why are you so angry anyhow, you’re making them FEEL BAD, god damn, and maybe you eventually get through that the thing they were doing MATTERS to you and maybe they change a little, either because they understand, or maybe they don’t understand but they don’t like being screamed at either, and then things return to how they were, but maybe a little bit better in that one way.

And later, you’re being hurt again, in a different way. And you ask for it to stop. And you’re ignored and laughed at. And you know, KNOW that it’s going to end in screaming again and you’d really like for that not to happen, wouldn’t it be nice if they would JUST LISTEN and take you seriously and adjust their behavior? But they don’t and the whole cycle repeats. And there’s a little bit of improvement, but only a little, on a very specific issue.

And next time, next time…. you ask and ask…. and you know it’s going to end with screaming and they tell you how you’re HURTING THEM, why do you keep HURTING THEM and you try to explain but it takes another few cycles before they learn to try and listen before the screaming starts (or maybe they never do).

Have you ever felt like that? I’m curious.

For so many people, what I’ve described is just ordinary life. They would describe themselves in all the same ways you describe yourself, except there’s some element of their life they can’t, for whatever reason, remove themselves from. It’s just that their ordinary life features some element of oppression and diminishment that is so… typical… that those who have never experienced it can’t even imagine what it’s like because they accept that it’s normal. But it’s nothing very remarkable, nothing far away, no storybook suffering. It’s right there, ordinary. It’s the mother who works all day at a job and all evening running a household while her husband watches TV. It’s being careful when you drive because being pulled over could lead to death. It’s being told that you’re emotional, weak, a criminal in the making. It isn’t cinematic trauma. It’s just a life, underneath.

Some people speak of a line of civilians protecting the police lines as a way of ‘ending the madness’. I have no idea what ‘end the madness’ even means. How does a line of people in front of the police stop the police from murdering people? Aren’t they simply more potential victims?

Ah, I see. You explain. The ‘madness’ is the property destruction and looting.  Of course.  And you go on: Minorities must be like Dr. King: peaceful, and effective, and dead.

And so: you are continuing to make the same error as so many others: that the madness began with the destruction and the violence. That the murders are not madness. You are saying the screaming is the problem, not what prompted it. And you are idolizing a murdered man over all of the living people working every day to find a peaceful solution and being ignored, over and over and over again. They have been patient and they have been good, for decades since your hero was killed, and yet they are still being killed. How long must they be patient and must they be good?

Because I can tell you, from personal experience, that being good and asking quietly and politely for change does not produce change. All it leads to is death. And the reason for this is exactly what you are demonstrating: you condemn the aggression and ignore everything else in order to idolize somebody who you believe behaved appropriately.

Indeed, rioting is madness. It is a city’s tortured soul expressing itself. It is a city cutting itself. And a line of people protecting the police will not do anything at all to cure the madness. All it is doing is hiding the razor blades.

Violence never made anything whole again and the people protesting are the ones who know that best. The people who forget that are the ones in positions of power, because they are sheltered from violence. They drive people to the brink of violence and believe they can escape unscathed, despite the many proofs presented by history. I don’t know if they think, “This time it will be different,” or if they’ve been so sheltered from violence they no longer remember what it feels like to be driven into a corner with no other options left.

You don’t know the right response but you’re sure it isn’t violence? Yes. The ‘right response’ is making sure that what happened doesn’t ever happen again, and that power is denied to the people who assemble peacefully, while the people who do have the power to make the ‘right response’ choose not to, over and over and over again.

The ‘right response’ is people like you, older privileged white people, getting passionately involved before the protests become violent: using your power and your privilege and your concern for property to do more than armchair quarterback. The ‘right response’ is noticing and stopping this before a city screams. Yet again. The ‘right response’ is not on the victims. It is on us.

Accidental Representation

Jim Hines is hosting his excellent annual series on why diversity in SFF is important. I’d like to talk about something connected but not quite the same: accidental representation.

But first– apparently there’s an article out about how Aspergers and high-functioning autism are dramatically underdiagnosed in girls. This made me think about my own childhood. I never would have been diagnosed because I wasn’t interested in planes or planets or watches, I was intensely interested in people.

I read a book once in which somebody had literally been Focused on People. She read as autistic until the end, when it’s revealed she’d been damaged instead.

And more often than not, that’s what happens when I find somebody in fiction who thinks so much like me that I instantly identify with them. It turns out the author wasn’t trying to write somebody with autism. They were writing a demon. Or a maladjusted anthropomorphic personification. Or somebody with brain damage.

With all of them there’s a moment of, “Oh my god! It’s somebody like me!” and sure maybe that person is difficult, maybe even a bad guy but that moment of realizing people like me exist in fiction is wonderful– until I discover the connection was accidental. The author is shocked and horrified when somebody points out the parallels with autism. They didn’t mean that, no, not at all!

(And these are all authors I love, too, which is why I was so delighted with the characters. Who doesn’t want to believe that their favorite artist really understands them?

But no. It was an accident.)

So not only do I feel like an alien, but the characters I identify with are quickly pulled away as ‘unintended’. That really, really sucks. It’s also one reason I write about neurodiverse characters. I mean, I didn’t set out to Make A Statement, but I will if I have to. I hate feeling like a freak: like my body is exotic and my brain came from outer space– and having representations yanked away only emphasizes that feeling.

What’s even worse is that reaction of surprise and even horror: because they wrote what they saw as problems to be solved, not natural ways of thinking. The idea that somebody might strongly identify with somebody they think of as basically broken is very upsetting.

But I didn’t read those characters as broken. I just read them as people like me.  People who think differently but who are just as interesting and just as capable of being awesome.  People who can inspire me to feel like less of an alien and more like me. 

Admittedly, that’s a lot easier in a world where people recognize you when they write about you.

*

It would be foolish of me, I suppose, not to point my own work toward providing fictional companions to the neurodiverse:

in Nightlights, Jehane is a protagonist, she falls in love, she acts heroically.  She’s also autistic. She’s not the only neurodiverse character but she’s the most obvious one.

in Matchbox Girls, Marley, the heroine, has an anxiety disorder. She eventually she discovers she has magic, too. It doesn’t help nearly as much as she’d like.

And in Citadel of the Sky, you can find a lot of different acronyms and disorders, along with more complicated, less easily labelled things. There’s also an entire group of people dedicated to providing accommodations for the neurodiverse Royal Family… and a story about what happens when those accommodations are taken away.

Coloring

I like to dabble in art. And one way I dabble is by coloring other people’s lineart. I have a nice collection of coloring books aimed at adults, and I recently discovered the world of digistamps. For a long time my coloring medium of choice was colored pencils, but I recently discovered the world of alcohol markers and gave myself the present of a starter set of Spectrum Noirs, which are low(er) cost versions of the Copic markers used by manga artists everywhere.

I’ve enjoyed playing with those in a really visceral way: even discovering that I’m not happy with what I can accomplish with them, I still deeply enjoy the process of trying. It reflects what I do when I get access to some new digital art tool: I scribble with brushes. No drawing (even though I can draw, a little, after four years of art classes as a teen) just… splashes of color across a canvas. I like color.

I gave myself another gift: an online coloring class at Kit and Clowder. I wasn’t sure about it at first; would I get anything I couldn’t get on my own? But I like the community I’ve seen on Facebook and I wanted a chance to feel like part of it and this was much cheaper than the markers themselves.

I’ve been working on the first homework sheet tonight and having trouble. It could be the paper, it could be the marker nibs (which are not the ideal COPIC-style brush tips), it could be me, it could be all three. I became quite frustrated a few times! And I think this is a good thing because it means i’m trying harder than I would be without the class, and thus hopefully getting better.

Anyhow, at some point perhaps I’ll post some pictures of what I’m doing. Because hey, I’m always thinking I should blog more.

(The problem there comes down to not wanting to talk in detail about my writing and having all my anecdotes about household and children be microblogs at best, But hey, maybe between arts, crafts and games I can do a better job of looking alive…? or maybe just show off some pictures later….)

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