My Very First Pirate! And Why I'm Still Anti-SOPA and -PIPA

We here at Olivia Waite would love to introduce you to an anonymous internet denizen known as ioedpee on Dailybooth. If that first link does not work, it is because the account has been removed as a violation not only of Dailybooth's terms of service, but also as a violation of my own personal copyright. My publisher has sent them a cease-and-desist notice, but as of this posting they are not only still up, but still updating. You see, ioedpee is the first person to pirate one of my digital books.

Time was, I used to wonder if being pirated would change my views on ebook piracy—and so far, no, I feel pretty much the same about it now as I did then. I'm gently anti-piracy and vociferously anti-DRM; I'm pro-digital lending (even more so now that I've come to enjoy the digital collections of my local library); I'm even anti-SOPA (unlike the RWA) because it seems to cause far more problems than it will supposedly fix.

So it's nice that this new world where my books are being sold on the sly has not turned my opinions upside down.

Speaking of SOPA and PIPA ... This blog will not be going black tomorrow, only because I do not have quite the level of technical expertise to accomplish this fact. The best I can do is switch my posting schedule so I'm not actually posting on the protest day.

As for why I'm still against SOPA and PIPA, the best breakdown I've seen is from the eternal Sarah at Smart Bitches:

For me specifically, under PIPA, it would be my responsibility to check the provenance of every site I link to, making sure that that URL, or any other page at that domain, did not contain any content that was copyright protected or possibly pirated. If I did link to a site that, for example, contained a scanned copy of a Fabio-festooned book cover from 1993, I could be seen as encouraging piracy and could therefore be blocked, my finances could be frozen, and my domains could be confiscated. If I linked to a site that someone felt was infringing on copyright by including an excerpt of a book, I could be blocked, frozen and in a heap of trouble. The interpretations of PIPA are too broad for my comfort, and the penalties too severe.

These bills are essentially trying to use a hand grenade to kill a horsefly. The overly broad language penalizes individuals and trusts far too much in corporate goodwill to prevent abuses. This law is a terrible, terrible idea.

But! Back to the fun part of this post: my own personal pirate. It turns out that I am far from the only author that ioedpee is attempting to circumvent.

Here are a few intriguing selections on offer from my pirate (who obviously has excellent if eccentric literary taste). Important note: The links will not lead you to the pirate site. Instead, they point toward Powell's Books in Portland. Powell's has long been among my favorite bookstores in the world, and to my vast delight they recently added Damned If You Do to their ebook catalogue.

Some of these books sound really excellent, and I do hope you check them out.

{Disclaimer: because I am a member in Powell's Partner Program, actions you may take via the above links may prove beneficial to me personally. In other words, clicking those links helps me buy more books from Powell's. Click—click for your lives!}

The Author Designs Her Own Audio Book Covers Even Though She Realizes It's Probably Ill-Advised

Some news: we here at Olivia Waite are in the process of turning both Generous Fire and Hearts and Harbingers into audio books via ACX. In the middle of filling out book profiles and cruising the site for potential narrators (karaoke singing has made me super-picky about voice talent, it turns out!) the thought came to mind that I do not actually have the rights to use the original book covers. And since wading through piles of graphic designers sounded biblically exhausting, I decided to try my own hand at designing something bold and basic using the wonderful tools on Aviary.com.

And now I have a new website crush—I love you, Aviary!—and two brand-new cover images.

Here they are!

Generous Fire Audio Cover

Hearts and Harbingers Audio CoverThey're simple and clean because I'm not sophisticated enough to employ textures or attempt human figures. Remember that post I did on Ed Emberley? Yeah, that's still pretty much all my artistic training.

But they're easy on the eyes and they look excellent in thumbnail form, so I'm quite pleased with them. Though of course you are free to snark away in the comments.

"Hearts And Harbingers" Is Now On Amazon

My second novella, "Hearts and Harbingers," is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store! I've just started buying Kindle books myself because it is ridiculously easy, and also because then I get a chance to browse Amazon's one-star reviews, which soothe my author-worries and make me giggle. Below are some of my favorites.

Moby-Dick: "Be sure to avoid the audio version read by Burt Reynolds."

Infinite Jest: "It makes Twin Peaks look straightforward and simple, but wihtout [sic] any of the charm and quirkiness of that show."

A Christmas Carol: "There can be no arguing with Dickens's wish to show the spiritual advantages of love. But there was no need to make the object of his lesson an entrepreneur whose ideas and practices benefit his employees, society at large, and himself."

Sherlock Homes: The Complete Collection (Kindle edition): "this book turns into the book of mormon at the end of the first story (before they tell you who did it)!"

Reviewer dt_barber's one-star review of one particular edition of Ulysses is a masterwork.: "This is a fantastic novel...it is really beyond a novel and beyond reproach. The paperback Gabler edition, however, posesses what is quite possibly the most worthless and flimsy binding of any novel, great or small. If you read the entire book (a difficult task, but well worth it), it is guaranteed to crumble in your hands like the gilded pork kidney dome of new Bloomuselem." A large black 69 on a white background. He isn't as excited about the Magnetic Fields' album 69 Love Songs, however: "Maybe I'm wrong and stupidity is actually creative and charming, but this souless piece of tripe is the faintest echo of a distant thud in a very large, very empty room somewhere in the brokendown palace of rock. Really, folks, he's not even trying."

The Sophomore Stretch

{"Hearts and Harbingers" is available today from Ellora's Cave! I am really proud of this one, folks. Check it out!} There is a bottle of fine champagne chilling in the fridge to celebrate my second book's release today—hooray!—but here I am thinking not about celebration, but instead where I'm coming from and where I'm going.

There is a thing in the world called impostor syndrome. Someone with quantifiable accomplishment—say, they've had a book or two accepted for publication—nevertheless believes their success is the result of dumb luck or random chance. They fear they will be (wrongly) exposed as a fraud. An impostor. A phony.

Romance authors are not unfamiliar with impostor syndrome; I recently caught a reference to it in Cat Grant's erotic ménage Entangled Trio (which I really enjoyed, by the by).

And right now, you guys? I've got it bad.

Having one book out was obviously a fluke. You'd think having two books out would mean I sat up and said to myself, "Self, you must be doing something right."

What I said was, "Self, this will only make them madder when they find out you've been faking it."

Leaving aside the ridiculous fact that I'm worrying about faking things when my job as a fiction writer is, in fact, to fake things—my worry is not that I will be embarrassed in the eyes of the world.

My worry is that they'll make me stop writing.

Whoever "they" are. This is not a very logical train of thought, believe me. When Jurassic Park came out I was young enough to be absolutely pants-wettingly terrified by the Velociraptors, and for weeks afterward I would like in bed, too scared to sleep, telling myself over and over that Dinosaurs are all dead. They are not going to come in your window. They have not been alive for millions of years. This is a totally nonsensical thing you are worrying about.

I failed to persuade myself out of being afraid. I had to settle for making contingency plans: If the Velociraptor comes in the window, I will try and throw my comforter over its head and sprint for the door while it is blind and disoriented. I will scream the whole way and wake up everyone in the house, and then maybe the Velociraptor will eat my sister instead and I will be safe.

An xkcd comic about velociraptors.

So that is what I am doing now. (But without the sister-sacrifice—hi, sis!) I have approximately eighteen different strategies based on finishing this or that manuscript, on the results of this or that submission, on the reception of one or the other query letters.

And in the meantime I am writing as well as I know how to do.

The thing that comforts me, that puts the impostor syndrome at arm's length for a little while, is the fact that I know I'm getting better at this writing thing. I look at older half-finished manuscripts and I see the flaws more easily. I spot plot problems long before I've written them. These are small things, perhaps, but they are small things I couldn't do before.

As long as I'm thinking about the stories, about the books, I'm fine.

I love what I do, and I want to keep on doing it for the rest of my life, right up until the end. I want to leave this world with ninety published books and a dozen more manuscripts waiting, like P. G. Wodehouse or Diana Wynne Jones (may her star be ever bright). I want to write digital books and print books and musical books—shh! it's a secret project—and so I read everything I can about craft, about marketing, about plot and character and structure. I've become unbearable to watch movies or tv shows with, because I start calling out plot points and predicting who the killer is (and getting it right, if I might be permitted a small boast).

And I tell myself, "Self, it's possible you're faking it now—but someday, if you work real hard, you might catch up."

Somehow, it's a very comforting thought.

"Hearts and Harbingers" Release Date!

Various points, in no particular order:

  • Vacation was marvelous.
  • Putting mango and guava juice together with two kinds of rum and some kind of whiskey is much more delicious than anything else you have ever had to drink in your life.
  • Having one-third of your sailboat's crew practicing clove hitches every day for a week comes in handy when you're tying bumpers to the starboard stanchions in thirty-knot winds with stinging hornet rain.
  • Sand fleas are the devil.
  • "Hearts and Harbingers" is coming out this Wednesday! That is May 25!

… Let's see that last point again in bold italic Plantaganet Cherokee:

May 25And indeed, there was much rejoicing throughout the land, with quaffings of spirits and roastings on spits.

 

The badass cover for "Hearts and Harbingers" by Olivia Waite.

The Problem Of Fidelity In Book Covers

We here at Olivia Waite don't believe you can judge a book by its cover, but you sure can judge a cover in relation to the book it's guarding. Not too long ago, there was a rash of whitewashing in YA fiction which made everyone quite properly upset. Nor was it clear whether this happened because cover designers/marketers had assumed white characters were central without reading the manuscript, or if it had been a more calculated (and thus more reprehensible) strategy based on the questionable idea that books with people of color on the cover don't sell.

One thing I noticed in all this was the widely accepted idea that the cover should be faithful to the contents of the book. And then I read a book that made me rethink that.

Cover for Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones: round-topped towers rise on a black background. A cloudy shape with a hand coming out of it is clinging to the foremost tower, and a black-clad human is dangling from it as well. The black-clad figure is waving a knife at another figure, a man in pale clothes and a clashing tie, who is supported in the claws of an enormous golden griffin, beak open in a screech.

The scene depicted here does in fact take place in the story, so I can tell you that the towers are a University for wizards, and the black-clad man is a ninja assassin sent by the Emir to assassinate his younger brother, a new student. The man in pale clothes and, yes, a modern tie, is Corkoran, the University headmaster, who is unwillingly being hefted up by Elda the griffin, and who is about to shrink the assassin down and put him in a rat cage. The black blob on top is another assassin run afoul of a protective spell, and he will be shrunk down as well.

But until you have read the book, this image is so busy that it borders on visual nonsense. The presence of a magical creature fits in with the archaic towers, but the tie is very jarring even though it's very accurate. The goals of the action are far from clear. The human figures look strange and disproportionate. The title text is off-balance and not in a good way, and overall it looks sloppy and amateur, which makes me think the book inside is written in a similar fashion.

And yes, a large part of the trouble here comes down to choices made by the designer: why pick this moment to illustrate? It's a great action scene, but it doesn't do anything in the way of character—especially since it leaves out about five of the main protagonists. Why squish all the words in the title to one side like that? It's faithful to what happens in the story—but only to the events. It's not faithful at all to the tone, which is very simple and frank and conversational, or to the careful plotting, where every character takes action and every action has consequences and even so simple a thing as an enchanted coat-rack changes the course of events.

In short, despite its fidelity to the plot, the cover fails to depict what it feels like to read Year of the Griffin. How then could it attract the people for whom Year of the Griffin is written?

Now let's look at my own very first cover for the forthcoming "Hearts and Harbingers":

 

The cover for Hearts and Harbingers by Olivia Waite. A burly dark-haired man clasps a prone dark-haired woman in his big, beefy arm. The woman wears a lavender silk gown and has one hand nearly caressing the man's cheek.

The hero I'd envisioned when writing this book does not look exactly like the (gorgeous) man Syneca chose for the cover: in my mind Jasper is more chestnut-haired, and slimmer. But I really, really like the look of this black-haired dude with his beefy arm, and I imagine the woman he's holding feels safe being surrounded by all that strength. You can tell by the tender way her hand is reaching up to caress his face. It's an unusual pose, and strikingly intimate.

That combination, power and tenderness, is something I was very much trying to put into the book as a whole. And people who see this cover are going to get that feeling, and pick up the book in search of it. And that's precisely what I want. Quibbling over shades of hair color seemed a waste of time—and this way there's kind of a fun little daydream I get to have where there are two of Jasper ... mmm ...

Ahem.

What all this analysis amounts to is that there are different ways of being faithful to a book when designing a cover.  Whitewashing is deplorable not because it is unfaithful to the details of description, but because the main character's identity as a person of color is going to be more significant to their experience than whether they have green eyes and brown hair or blue eyes and blond hair. But staying too close to the particulars of a story can backfire. It's a tricky dance—and through it all, your cover has to charm and entice and stand out from the other kajillions of book covers readers see on a daily basis.

Makes me happy I only have to write books and not design them.

Announcing: Hearts and Harbingers!

We here at Olivia Waite are proud to announce that we have a second book forthcoming from Ellora's Cave! "Hearts and Harbingers" is an offbeat Regency romance about an impoverished gentlewoman, her gambling-addicted brother, and a devastatingly charming marquis. Oh, and I have I mentioned how much I love the cover?

The cover of Hearts and Harbingers by Olivia Waite: a woman in a lavender gown (falling off one shoulder) in a clinch with a shirtless (and muscly-armed) man.

On the very outskirts of polite society, Millicent Harbinger has always found a way to cover the gaming debts of her wastrel brother Duncan. His most recent losing streak is bound to ruin them, however, and her brother's solution is to arrange for Mill to marry the odious Lord Wart. In desperation, Mill decides to sell her virtue anonymously at a well-reputed brothel and kill two birds with one stone: she will have enough money to cover the debt, and her status as a fallen woman will dissuade Lord Wart from claiming her as his bride.

Jasper Goldeby, Marquess of Holder, takes one look at Mill's piercing green eyes and purchases her favors at triple the asking price -- a fortune that could support the Harbingers for life. The night Mill and Jasper share astonishes and transforms them both -- and Jasper quickly realizes one night could never be enough. Can Mill trust her heart enough to take the risk of becoming a marchioness despite her reputation? Or will Duncan's opposition and Wart's animosity destroy the lovers' hopes forever?