The Girl Who Would be an Author

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lilietsblog asked: About book piracy. I just kind of want to hear your opinion on 1) people reading lots of books online and then buying those they like best in numbers they can fit into their budget; 2) people from overseas reading books online because they are just not sold over there and international shipping is too much pain in the ass for something you are not really sure is worth it as you haven't read it...





Piracy is a huge and complicated issue, but a lot of where it comes down to for me is “I enjoy eating.”  I enjoy having food.  I enjoy having lights that come on.  I really, really enjoy feeding my cats.  Forget my enjoyment of luxuries like Monster High dolls and sometimes going to Disneyland—I enjoy food, and shelter, and providing for the living creatures who depend on me.  I am able to do this because people buy my books.  I am a full time author, which means I have no safety net at all: I get what people pay for, and not a penny more.

From here, I am going to switch to the generic “you,” because I need to express some pretty broad concepts.  I am not accusing you, the asker, of piracy.  I have no information one way or the other, and I’m not trying to call anyone out.  That said…

You’re not sure you’re going to like my work?  I give away a borderline ridiculous amount of fiction, for free, with no DRM and no geographical restrictions.  Both the Velveteen vs. books are available DRM free, again with no geographic restrictions.  All the Velveteen stories are available free on my blog, where they were originally posted.  I have short stories in publications all over the internet, many of which can be read, again, for free, without geographic restrictions or DRM.  If you’re worried that you may not like the sort of things I write, there are ways to reassure yourself.

(“Liking one thing doesn’t mean liking everything” is an absolute truth.  Stephen King is my favorite author, and I don’t like several of his books.  I still bought them.  I bought them, I read them, I disliked them, I got rid of them.  Because I don’t pay for my movie tickets after the film; I don’t pay for my theme park admission based on how many times I barfed on the scrambler.  I had the experience of the book, which I bought based on my preferences and my track record with the author.  I paid for it because I wanted it.  I was not cheated, even when the book wasn’t for me.)

There’s a way to read a lot of books and buy the ones you like best without piracy: the library.  If the library in your area does not have all the books you want to read, either because of the country you’re in or because of budget restrictions, that sucks.  That does not make it ethically right to download a bunch of books that were not intended for free release.  Authors do get paid for library use: the library buys our books, and then, if those books are popular, they buy more.  No one’s getting paid for piracy.

Everyone in the world, except for the first editor who opens the file, is paying for a book they’re not sure they’ll like.  I’m not saying buy blindly, or buy everything, or that you owe me a living.  But given how much you can get hold of without putting down a cent, I find “I may not like it” to be a little disingenuous as a defense of piracy.  Either you know you like my work, and are trying to excuse not wanting to pay for it, or you haven’t taken the time to read before saying “hey let’s just steal stuff.”

Here is a post I wrote about piracy:

Here is another:

Piracy is not a victimless crime.  Piracy hurts people.  There’s no way of saying “one hundred pirated books equals ____ sales,” because that’s not real math, but the fact is that books are not songs are not movies; most people don’t re-read, and buying a copy of a book you’ve already read will almost always come after buying a book you haven’t read yet.

I don’t make that much per copy, all told.  It’s about fifty cents once you average it out.  And that means that if someone were to illegally download all the Seanan McGuire books—not even the Mira Grant—when they otherwise would have bought them, they would only be depriving me of $7.50.  Not a big deal.  Less than the full cover price of one book, right?

Except that it’s never just one person. It never stops at $7.50.

I am terrified of not being able to pay my bills.  I left my day job because trying to write and work for a corporation at the same time was literally killing me.  It was destroying my health and my sanity, and I couldn’t take it any longer.  I need to be able to eat and keep the power on and feed my cats and take care of my mother, and I do that by selling books.  I am a businesswoman.  This is my job.

How do I feel about piracy?  I hate it.  I give away so much, in part to keep people from wasting their money when they don’t know if they’ll like my prose.  I am as generous as I can be.  But I can’t be generous here.

I can’t starve myself to save someone else a dollar.

Along similar lines, do you feel the same way about used books? I work at a used bookstore, and whenever I see one of your books, I jump at the opportunity to sell it to a customer. Do you feel that I’m taking away a customer that might buy a copy from, say, Barnes and Noble? Also, does it upset you in any way to see your books at a used bookstore?

Not in the slightest sense of any word you can come up with.

I grew up poor.  Dirt poor.  Literally, because we couldn’t afford to heat the apartment in the winter (and this was when California still had winters, there was ice on the sidewalk when I walked to school in December) and we couldn’t afford to pay for drugs if one of us caught pneumonia from going to bed with wet hair.  Used books were my SALVATION.  Used books created an ecosystem in which I, as a child who picked up pennies because they added up to nickles added up to dimes added up to quarters added up to a dollar and that was enough for two clearance paperbacks at Bay Books, was allowed to participate.  I understand being so poor that a single book is a huge investment, and I still buy used books, because sometimes that’s the only way to get something that’s out of print.

(Many midlist authors go out of print because people aren’t buying them new, which results in used bookstores becoming the only option.  Fun for the whole family.)

I do not give any fucks about the fact that if Person A resells their books, I don’t get money from the secondary sale.  Two reasons:

#1. Person A paid for the book in the first place, and
#2. Those are the only books.

A book sold at a used bookstore is part of a vital ecosystem that keeps authors eating and people on limited budgets reading.  And once it’s gone, it’s gone.  A book that is illegally downloaded may keep the people on the limited budgets reading—although it’s a very privileged means of balancing those scales, since it assumes a computer, a stable internet connection, and a certain amount of technical know-how—but it doesn’t keep the authors eating, and it’s not the original book that Person A paid for.  It’s a clone.  Potentially one of thousands.

One resold book is nothing.  It is legal, it is right, it is important.  One thousand copies run off in the office and then handed out for free?

That’s a problem.

Seanan McGuire on piracy, used bookshops and libraries, and the differences therein. It is safe to assume I agree with all the things. Also I recently read all the free InCryptid short stories she’s written and they are A-plus awesome. 

Seeing piracy after I’ve written a free book and a pile of free short stories, that makes me feel like the world’s supremo chump: what an idiot I am, I think, to spend time making presents for people who will just go take the rest of what I made in order to support myself.

I reallio trulio appreciate it when people buy/librarify/buy used for a penny/legally borrow from a friend my work.

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Ten Things To Never Say To A Writer


From Chuck Wendig’s blog: a hilarious and oh-so-true list of what to NEVER say to a writer.

My favorites:

“You Know, I Wanna Write A Book Someday.”

"Gosh, I wish I had time to write."

"Hey! You can write my idea."

"You should write my life story."

Are you a writer? Read his post to see the appropriate response (click on the title of this post & it will magically take you there).

(via characterandwritinghelp)

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A title I have never used before, and hopefully never will again…

We had several questions in the ask box, and occasionally get them popping in, about naming people and places. So, here’s your resource for all things nameable:

20,000 Names — is glorious. You can even search for names by…

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Thought progressions


When the thought “I have an odd character/plot” leads to “I should adopt an odd narrative style,” it works.

When the thought “I want to write in an odd narrative style” leads to “I should think of a story where it fits,” it works.

When the thought”I want to write in an odd narrative style” leads to “I should jam it onto an unrelated story, because who cares about stories,” it does not work, and in fact looks gimmicky and self-congratulatory. It is also hard to read.

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You And What Army?


Since I’m just a few followers off 100 on this blog - thank you and hello to all of you - I figured I’d do a post on how to control a large amount of characters.

I’m currently on the last book of a zombie trilogy, which also has a spin-off. In the end of this book, every…

8,416 notes


Many of you saw this when I originally posted it a few months ago, and it was incredibly popular. However, we have a lot of new people and I thought they might want to see it, as well.  Dyslexia is often accompanied by other conditions such as ADHD, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and dyspraxia.

(via clevergirlhelps)

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Writing Group: How Do You Deal with Uncomfortable Sexual Content?

I am a member of a writing group. While it’s open to anyone, it’s chiefly made up of middle-aged and elderly adults (because we’re not exactly in a college town). That said, sometimes there’s content in their writing for adults that makes me very uncomfortable for personal reasons.

Here’s the thing: what do you do when you don’t want to listen to or read smut?

This can come up for a variety of reasons: you’re shy, you’re religious, you’re a recovering porn addict, what have you. 

First off, if this is a good group, there should be some kind of warning from the writer. There should be similar warnings for extreme violence or gore too, and sometimes, depending on the group, for strong language. I startled the hell out of my group the first time I dropped the F-bomb (mostly because they didn’t expect from a sweet little Catholic girl like me).

If there’s not a warning, it’s something you need to bring up to the whole group. Here are some guidelines that I’ve found work for me:

  • Say simply that it makes you uncomfortable. You don’t have to go into details unless you feel okay providing a reason like that.
  • Make it clear that you’re not mad at the writer or judging them; it’s just not your cup of tea.
  • Work out something, like you leaving the room when one of them is going to read smut, or maybe making the first half of every meeting for smut reading, so that you can arrive later. You can even be in the room blasting your music in your ears, should you have the technology.
  • Thank them for any accommodations they make.
  • Always be gentle about it, not like, “Fucking hell, man, can you shut the fuck up about your vagina?!” and more like, “Graphic sex makes me uncomfortable; can we work out a way you can still get feedback from the group, but I don’t have to hear it?”

Unfortunately, if it’s a big deal to you, and you can’t get the member(s) to go along with you or they give you guff for it, it may be time to find another writing group.

My experience is, though, that most writers are empathic people and will do their best to make sure you’re comfortable.

Filed under writing writing group sexual content compromising writing help

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7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding

(Source: aquestionofcharacter)

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Writing high school cheerleaders


I don’t know anything about how to accurately write cheerleading, but from talking to and being around some cheerleaders when I was in high school, I have gathered the following things about their character:

  • Just as likely to be smart as anybody else. Seriously, would you write the entire…

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39iris asked: (have patience with my language, not used to write in english...) My protagonist is visiting i place where she spent a lot of her childhood but haven´t been in a while, and I´m trying to describe her memory of the first time she went there on her own as a 9-year old. The thing I find hard is to avoid putting in too many details - you don´t remember every single seccond of a ten year old memory. Do you have any advices on describing a memory? (And congrats to the draft! Great job :D)

Your English is very good, do not worry. Memories can be difficult to do without saying too much or too little; you’re probably already on the right track with keeping in mind some things may be forgotten. However, if she spent a lot of her childhood there, and she’s still a young adult or teenager, I would say a lot of details would come back.

The issue, of course, is that you can’t flood the reader. What I usually do is pick out the strongest details (even if it’s something like pastel wall trim) that really show how she feels about the place. For example, if I were describing the place I used to play when I was babysat at church, I would describe it like this:

The room hadn’t been as pretty, with wood accents and blue-purple splashed carpeting. When I was a child here, we could feel the concrete beneath on our knees as we knelt to play; the tired yellowy-white of the walls was ignored in our search for our favorite worn-down toys.

But it still had the enormous shelves, rather like boxes, that opened like books to show many toys inside. It still had the rickety orange plastic wagon that could barely fit a two-year-old, and that would make me crouch like a hunchback just to pull the short handle.

I put my hand on the large wooden doors of the right closet, and let out a sigh, the distant scent of goldfish and spilled juice in my mind. 

Mrs. Adams poked her head in. “Did you find the paper plates and napkins?”

And then I’d go from there. I’d show this very much first draft bit to some friends, and ask them what they thought. Different readers like different things; I’m very fond of description myself, unless it’s like Ivanhoe (a book from the 1800’s set in the age of knights that is very particular about what each character is wearing). Some people think it should be more sparse, like a friend of mine.

You’re inevitably going to have to take stuff out, add stuff in, and play with semantics until you’ve got the right scene. So I wouldn’t worry too much about describing more than you should in this draft; that’s what rewriting is for. :)

Good luck! And thanks, I’m pretty excited about the second draft!

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Reminders about antiheroes


  • They don’t count as antiheroes if there are zero in-text clues that their behavior is immoral. It just looks like you share their opinions.
  • They don’t count as antiheroes if their actions never have any negative consequences. The whole point of immoral actions is that people get hurt.
  • Please don’t write what you think of as a hero and then slap the antihero label on them when you get criticism for their actions.