October 28th, 2014

Today's activities include: sick kid, a few remarks on bargain ebooks buyers

T. came home with a fever yesterday and school has a 24 hour rule so he can't go in regardless -- and he's sick anyway.

Oh well.

Nate over at The Digital Reader linked to an older (June) BookBub piece:

http://unbound.bookbub.com/post/87615381745/11-things-you-dont-know-about-bargain-ebook-buyers

Weirdly, despite the atrocious title and the not-so-good summary, the slide deck is a moderately good presentation of what I think of as the Joe Konrath Explanation of Why You Don't Need a Publisher. Basically, if you write good genre fiction, and you write multiple books, and you have one or more priced low consistently (doesn't have to be the same one -- he's entertained and experimented with a lot of pricing approaches over time), you'll attract fans and they will buy the rest of your books full price and keep doing so over time.

The BookBub piece is a survey that explains the readership that is buying those books.

It's not actually a surprise: mostly middle-aged and up women and some men, had kids which are probably grown, have median or better household income and are self, part or full time employed (but if the latter, probably not in a crazy-making, 110% of your life committed to the gig type job), reads a book or more a week and has probably, over time, gotten more than a little tired with the rate at which TradPub puts out the stuff they prefer to read. _I_ think, but BookBub didn't explore, that these readers are also kind of tired of some of the limitations TradPub puts on the books they publish (that is, a lot of the bargain hunting romance readers are also looking for erotica with a real relationship and an HEA that TradPub historically avoided; there's probably a related phenomena on the thriller and/or horror side, but I don't read over there so I wouldn't know).

But it is a decent survey and they drew a reasonable conclusion from it. I will also point out, however, that Amazon has been working on converting this crowd to a subscription model with Kindle Unlimited; it remains to be seen how this will work out for authors writing to this group. I think David Gaughran has been trying to figure that out.

http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/kindle-unlimited-the-key-questions/

BookBub would appear to have a major horse in this race.

_Agent of Change_, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller SPOILERS

This is, I believe, the first book published (written?) in the Liaden universe. I have been not reading any of this constellation (?) of books since basically when they first came out, by which I mean, I was aware of them and largely not interested. This is especially weird, given that I was active enough on rec.arts.sf.written and rec.arts.books in the 1990s to get a "So _you're_ [my name at the time]" from Vernor Vinge when I was in line for a book signing at a con. (Did I cringe? Yes, I cringed. Worse, I think I've lost the copy of Tatja Grimm's World that I had him sign. Sad face. But he was really nice about it and we did get to chat later.)

But when the Smart Bitches produced a positive review of one or more elements of the Liaden universe, I went, oh, sure, what the heck. Altho figuring out where I wanted to start was tricky, I figured I might as well start where the authors started and go from there.

First, I was warned, and you should know: these books really do have a tendency to end on cliffhangers.

Second, this is decades old science fiction. Presumably my readers are old enough and experienced enough to be aware of the issues associated with historical visions of tomorrow. The really grating ones here, for me, were "booktapes" piled all over the place and the conspicuous absence of portable communications. Lee and Miller have a Telzey-universe (James Schmitz) type autovalet, which is pretty fun!

Third: do I really have to say this? SPOILERS RUN RUN RUN if you haven't already read this come on it was published quite a while ago now.

Onto what might pass for a review. I expected a substantial romance subplot and one was delivered. I felt mild affection for both members of the proto-dyad and found their mutual attraction and skittishness to be believable. They have significant violence in their chosen careers and their backstory, and that was all good, too, even tho there was potentially trigger-y stuff in Miri's backstory (she flashes back to an attempted rape) so watch out for that.

This book contains an Oops We Got Married By Accident. I used to totally love these. There is usually (and there is one here) a really developed other culture/species/wtf and then one of the humans somehow is adopted into it and then the human does this thing which has one meaning to humans and another meaning (Getting Married) to the other culture and shenanigans. Basically, Val Con gives Miri a knife to wear in her hair when they go out to eat and dance at The Grotto (OH COULD THIS BE MORE OF A CLICHE) because a gun is too conspicuous and giving a knife = getting married. (PRETTY SURE I MENTIONED SPOILERS)

I don't totally love these any more. Now, I actually feel sort of offended on behalf of the non-existent, entirely the product of the authors' cultural group for being vultured into a pair of people who can't own their own desire enough to say, hey, wanna? Yeah, wanna! Okee, that was super nice. Wanna do it on the reg? Sure! Paperwork? Absolutes! Maybe some of the wee ones? Yeah, but we gotta work on how many . . . (IT IS NOT THAT HARD. SHOULD NOT TAKE MORE THAN 3 CONVOS. TOTAL MINUTES DEVOTED ON THE ORDER OF A HALF HOUR.)

Here's my theory on why I don't love these any more. Because I've actually done this. I loved the Oops Married By Accident when I hadn't done this. YMMV.

Next: this book is actually a romantic suspense novel that happens to involve space drive and some aliens. Specifically, it is that kind of Romantic Suspense novel that I think of as "On the Run" (many of these books actually work the word Run into the title -- sometimes _as_ the title, which is profoundly unimaginative). For reasons that are basically not that important, one or both of the proto-dyad are running, usually interspersed with downtime hiding out somewhere, patching themselves up, figuring out who is chasing them, trying to create a new identity for a new, quieter life, etc. which downtime is always interrupted by more chasing. These novels typically end somewhat abruptly, when something makes it possible for them to quit running (either everyone chasing them is dead and/or called off, or they finally convince everyone they are really dead, no, really, nothing to see here, and then they have to hide, at least until the next book in the series).

This novel is an unexceptional entry in this category of Romantic Suspense.

Here's what Lee and Miller did well: the Liaden universe is actually pretty cool, especially when the characters -- good guys and bad guys -- are Doing Research. Whenever they get a few minutes to read up on the other people in the book, Awesomeness Occurs. Like when the Juntavas guy notices that the Yxtrang avoid the turtles. Cue suspenseful music. Scary race of pirates avoids encounters with the Turtles!!! Turtles Must Be Terrifying!!!! Auuugh. Call off the enforcers. Who are out of contact. Ah, shucky darn.

Highlight of the book: the Juntavas army which is chasing Miri is led by Miri into the Police army which has cornered Val Con. Antics ensue.

Second highlight of the book: when Watcher gets told to go think about what he did by Edger.

Will I read more? Almost inevitably. However, there is a new Kris Longknife entry and a new series starter by Ilona Andrews sitting on my kindle so probably not today.

ETA: _Agent of Change_ was free on Amazon for kindle when I got it.

_Photographs & Phantoms_, Cindy Spencer Pape

Short! Very short. Not sure it qualifies as a novella. SPOILERS Run Run Run Run Are you gone? Okay fine.

Kendall Lake is sent by dad to go investigate Amelia "Amy" Deland's weird problem in her photography studio: a scary serpent appears in some photos and then the person it is touching dies. Setting is a steampunky Victorian England, in this case, Brighton. Deland's grandma moved to England, so Amy doesn't know her English relatives (knows of, hasn't met) until she has to reach out to them for help with the paranormal problem.

Caro, Nell and the crowd of young'uns shows up to help figure it all out. Caro and (off-stage) Merrick now have a bio babe of their own.

Because it is short, the sexoring starts almost immediately and Amy and Kendall display all the direct ownership of their physical and other attraction to each other that I could possibly want. Amy, while inexperienced, has been Paying Attention to Girl Talk and is aware of non-intercourse sexual possibilities. If you like your sex between adults who can actually ask for what they want and come up with some ground rules and then stick to them, so far Cindy Spencer Pape is looking like the author for you (by which, obvs, I mean me).

Plus, mechanical animals! Urchins who have been civilized! A renovated boarding house in Brighton!

Don't read these for historical accuracy. Seriously. Just ... don't. Also, I don't understand how anyone can tuck a leather duster into a valise (what, was it completely empty before?), but I decided that the valise was ACTUALLY either a Tardis (did you see the whole Addams family finger walking thing? So cool!) or a Bag of Holding. And I'm not interested in alternative explanations.

Do you even have to ask if I will read more? Again, not today. Not with Ilona Andrews and Mike Shepherd offerings just sitting there, waiting for me. . .