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Saturday, 9 August 2014

Because ... Outlander

I read Outlander in 1991, just after it was published. I'd wandered into a bookstore after reading Jack Finney's Time and Again, and asked the girl behind the counter about time travel books. She'd heard great things about Outlander, so I bought it. I was just out of college then, so buying a new paperback instead of trolling the used bookstores was a big deal. My bookshelves were full of mysteries and spy novels, fantasies with dragons and white gold rings, all with beaten spines and dog-eared pages.

So I took my sparkly new red paperback and I went home to read.

I didn't leave the couch. I read. I didn't answer the phone. I read. I didn't eat or sleep or sometimes even breathe. I read Outlander.

And then I recommended the book to anyone who would listen. Anyone looking for something to read. Never mind if they only read non-fiction, or espionage, or picture books, this book - THIS BOOK was amazing.

Impeccably researched. Beautifully written. Characters to love and hate and want to be friends with. Characters who inspire rage and joy and anguish.

And, you know, Jamie.

This book had everything that makes a person wonder, years later, if they read the book or saw the movie. The mental pictures are that clear, the scents and sounds are that vivid. Except, you know, Jamie.

Who could they possibly cast as Jamie? What living, breathing human man could ever be so full of life, so full of breath as to take yours away with a look or a smile.

Fast forward 23 years. Now I'm an author of two time travel books - the down payment on a five-book series. My fascination with time travel turned into a passion along the way, and just like my passion for passion, was fed and fostered by my love of Outlander.

So to stumble across this, to find Tempting Fate keeping company with Diana Gabaldon's amazing books on the day Outlander finally comes to visual life for the millions of readers who fell in love with it like I did - this takes my breath away.

Because ... Outlander.

Amazon / Hachette

I generally don't speak my politics out loud, especially as I live in an area of the country where my personal politics definitely don't match the vast majority of my neighbors, other parents at my childrens' schools, and even many of my friends. Political conflict just ends up being conflict, and frankly, life's too short to lose friends over their voting preference.

I do, however, have strong opinions. And when I'm asked about them, well, then, all bets are off.

Amazon recently sent an open letter to all the authors who publish through them, discussing the Amazon/Hachette Publishing conflict. I've been following it through the opinions of various authors I admire, and had formed my strong opinion well before I received the letter from Amazon asking for support.

But since they asked...

My letter to Hachette:

Dear Mr. Pietsch,

While I understand you’re in the business to make money for your investors and your parent company, I don’t appreciate the stand you’re taking on the backs of your authors.

I am an author of two novels that are beginning to do quite well with readers, PRIMARILY because of eBook sales. I find that readers will buy the paperback to keep because they’ve already bought, read and loved the eBook. I also recognize the research that has gone into eBook pricing, and agree with Amazon that books priced under $9.99 will sell considerably better than those priced higher.

Because I’m also a reader. I consume books of all genres, at a rate of 100-200 books a year. They’re all on my kindle or my iPad. I do not travel with books because I read too fast and would have 100 pounds of books in my luggage. I do not take books to the DMV or the post office or anywhere else I have to wait in line, I take an eReader. And I DO NOT buy kindle books priced higher than $9.99. Frankly, it’s offensive to me to pay so much for an eBook when I know exactly what it costs to produce them.

And it’s offensive to me that your authors are in the middle of a your contract negotiation. The reality is Amazon is the biggest distributor in town. They support readers – YOUR CUSTOMERS. You are not a distributor, you have not done the distribution homework. They understand their customers and they understand the marketplace. You do your job of putting out great books by amazing authors, and let them do theirs of selling those books.

April White
Author: Marking Time, Tempting Fate

Now, I recognize that this is an oversimplified argument. I'm absolutely clear that Amazon is not the good guy in this - they have definitely done their part by removing Hachette books from their shelves, and those authors are suffering. But to me, the removal of those books is the point. Amazon is a distributor. They choose what to sell, and they know what sells best and at what price. Their market research shows that for every 1 book sold at $14.99, 1.74 books will sell at $9.99. For those bestselling authors who sell 100,000 books a price drop would translate to 174,000 book sales. The math is this: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% bigger. But more importantly, the books are being read by an audience that is 74% larger. To top it off, Hachette is going to war over eBook sales that count for only 1% of Hachette's income. 

Really guys? 

They're going to battle over the illusion of being in control. But here's the thing. THE READERS are the ones in control. Clearly Amazon isn't concerned about the lost sales from the Hachette book readers if they're willing to take them off their shelves, yet those Hachette AUTHORS are losing thousands and thousands of book sales because their publisher isn't willing to let the distributor do their job.

Some of those Hachette authors, and traditionally published authors from other publishers are standing with Hachette on principle. I get principles, I really do. What I don't get is big business ignoring the marketplace is serves, at the cost to the author of thousands of prospective readers and thousands of dollars.

So, there it is - my political opinion. It won't make me popular with some people, but my political opinions rarely do. 

And they did ask...

Friday, 1 August 2014


I'm not particularly crafty, but I dig decoupage and mod podge is my best friend. I made an awesome chessboard once, with Elvis and Elizabeth Taylor as the black king and queen, and Martin Luther King and Queen Elizabeth as the white ones. Batman was a dark knight, of course, Elton John a white one. And so on.

My collages used to be painstakingly cut and pasted from magazines and stamp collections, but with improved skills in computer paste-ups came much more efficient art. Not less time-consuming, but now I don't need to take out my contacts to make the tiny corner cuts.

So, turning my collages into covers for composition notebooks was a logical step in my creative outlets. I love composition notebooks. College ruled are my favorite, though my obsession began with soft-cover graph paper books I used to buy with money I'd earned cleaning my dad's office.

I was half-way through writing Marking Time when I finally designed an inspiration collage to cover the notebook I was using to keep track of all the random ideas that stumble around in the dark, usually just as I'm falling asleep, or just before I crack my eyelids in the morning.

Tempting Fate's notebook cover was made while I was still plotting the book, and if I had to do it now there would be others added. Elizabeth Tudor's ring, for example, was the genesis of the Clocker artifact, but it was given to her well after she was Queen, so historically it didn't work. Not to mention the fact that Aislin would have been the one to hand down the artifact, not Elizabeth, and the minor little annoyance that I couldn't get the rights to reproduce the image of it on the cover.

The notebook cover for Changing Nature is going to give away clues about the time period, and might reveal some plot lines, so be warned. Visual spoilers ahead. It's also much leaner, and I find my eyes wandering to it for tone as much as visual inspiration.

I love the photo of the redhead in armor, and the woman in the upper left corner is an actual broadsword champion. How cool is that? And if it wasn't obvious, Henry Cavill would be an astonishing Archer in my imaginary movie.

So, there you have some of the visual inspiration that goes into creating the Immortal Descendants. And now I just have to paint those pictures with words...