18 July 2017

The Giveaway of Dooom!

As many people do, I have a Google alert set on my name. And, as I expect many authors do, I also have a Google alert set for Flowers of Luna. The other night, I got an email telling me there was a newly-found web page including the title of my book, so I clicked on the provided link. Instead of a review (for which I was hoping, as I never tire of reading people's reactions to my writing), the page turned out to be yet another site where one could download FoL for free. Apparently, I'm greedy for wanting to be paid for my writing, and three bucks is completely unreasonable.

Anyway, I could rant (again) about how free downloads from unauthorized sites are stealing, and that these thieves are literally taking food out of my kittens' mouths, but instead, I decided to do something more fun. My birthday is coming up on the fifth September, and so I decided to give away five signed, paperback copies of my book... and to be glad I wasn't born on the thirtieth September.

To enter the giveaway, just go to Goodreads.  I've included a helpful link below.

Edited to add: Goodreads set a minimum delay before the giveaway begins accepting registrants, so it doesn't start until the twenty-fourth.  I'll post about it again, then.  Sorry I didn't mention it before!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Flowers of Luna by Jennifer Linsky

Flowers of Luna

by Jennifer Linsky

Giveaway ends September 05, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

25 June 2017

The Question of Dooooooooooom!

I was told your [sic] an author and I was curious how you started out as one ?

Hi, Jack.

Wow, nothing like introducing yourself with an easy question.

Part the first: am I an author? Sort of. I write stuff. You can find me on Wattpad as Walkyrjenny. Of course, I write Star Trek fanfic with a cooperative writer's circle. And I have a book in print, Flowers of Luna. But... anyone can put stories up on Wattpad, you also write Star Trek fanfic with a cooperative writer's circle, and my book isn't traditionally published, it's through KDP, which basically means it's self-published. I don't have an agent, I don't have a publishing house, no publicists, no distribution outside Amazon. So does that make me an author? Well, yes, but not the same kind J.K. Rowling is, or even Melissa Scott.

Part the second: how did I get started? I think I was five or six years old when I realized that the author's names on books were people; people who had created these stories and presented them. Since I was often the only child of my ethnicity in the schools I attended, I had also made the discovery that I could keep from being abused if I kept the bullies entertained, so I started telling stories. My second-grade teacher was seriously worried about my grip on reality, and asked my mother at a parent-teacher conference if I truly believed I was from outer space. (My mother: No, Japan).

This progressed to writing down stories, and eventually typing them. I had an old manual typewriter which I hauled around the globe with me, even before computers. My mother would tell you that many of my early stories were highly derivative of things I'd been reading, or watching on television.

But I think what you're actually asking might be considered the unwritten Part the Third. To whit, How Do I (which is to say, you, Jack) get started on becoming an Author? And the answer is, you're already doing it. You're writing stuff. Keep writing stuff.

And read. Read like there's no tomorrow. I have read 35 books this year (Goodreads keeps track for me ), which is actually low for me, but I've had health issues which kept me from reading as much as I would have liked to. When you read, don't just be a passive recipient of the story. Look at how the writer has crafted that story. What do you like about what they do? What do you dislike? What can you emulate? And then go write something, consciously trying to use the things you liked.

And then comes the hard part. Share your writing. Share it with friends, share it with a writing class at your local community college, share it with strangers on the internet. And when you get feedback, the least useful feedback of all, though the most comforting to receive, is "it's good; I like it." That gives you nothing to strive for, nothing to improve. And I've sat in critique circles, and know that having your story criticized can feel like a crucifixion. But don't shell up when you receive those critiques. Listen to them. Think about what's being said. Is the criticism justified? Is there something you can improve, based upon it?

At some point, if you want your stories to reach a wider audience than the other people in your fanfic circle, you have to start submitting them to publications. That's hard. Even if you don't get the ashes of your story back in your own self-addressed stamped envelope, unless you're Robert Heinlein, you're going to get rejections. Many, many rejections. So many rejections, you may well start feeling like it's you, not your stories, which are being rejected. And it's okay to quit at that point.

But if you want to be J.K. Rowling or Kate Milford, you won't. Ms Rowling had nearly a thousand rejection letters before she found a publisher. I haven't asked Ms Milford, but I imagine she has a similar tale to tell. They persevered, they worked on their writing, and they kept submitting. And eventually, they found a publisher.

But the publishing world is different than it was even twenty years ago. Many small and mid-list authors don't go the trad pub route. I didn't. My book is as niche as smurf porn1 -- it's not for the masses, but for those who like that sort of thing, it's exactly the sort of thing they like. And I looked around at the small, Sapphic romance oriented small presses, and discovered that many of them wanted sixty or eighty percent of the profit from the book, while expecting me to do my own marketing. In essence, they would only be providing a cover and a distribution channel. That didn't seem like a good deal to me.

So I got a few friends whose literary judgement I valued highly, and showed them the manuscript; asked them to pick it apart. They did, and at times, that was a painful process. But the most active of them are thanked on the dedication page of my book, because it's true: without them, the book wouldn't have been nearly as good. Based on what they said, on the feedback they gave, I massively rewrote entire chapters, added an entire character and sub-plot, and changed the way various things were expressed.

And then, I published the book through KDP. If you choose to go that route, don't expect fame and fortune. Flowers of Luna peaked at 10,042 on the Amazon bestsellers list. Since February, I've made less than two hundred dollars in royalties. Every cent of that has been turned around and used to promote the book, mostly in thank-you and promotional copies and postage.

So. There you have it. A much longer response than you were probably looking for, but I hope that it provides you with some insight and guidance on your path.

[1] No smurfs were sexually involved at any point in the writing of Flowers of Luna; this is merely an illustrative example.

21 June 2017

The Cat's Doooooooooom

I'm curious... who got the signed copy of Flowers of Luna I put up as a prize for Asian Lit Bingo?

12 June 2017

The Honest Review of Doom

Warning: Here There be Spoilers. If you're interested in reading Flowers of Luna, but haven't yet, you probably shouldn't read this entry. A major plot point is discussed.

One of the good things about having published Flowers of Luna and getting it listed on Goodreads is that I get to read what my readers -- or at least, the generous subset of my readers who leave me reviews -- think of what I've done. Recently, a reviewer posted a three-star review which I think is, despite the low rating she gives my book, an excellent review.

Ms. Reviewer puts her finger right on something that I was concerned about when I wrote the manuscript, something that I tried to avoid. To whit, the "bisexual cheater" trope. I am a Sapphist -- a girl-type person who falls in love, and when I'm extremely lucky, in bed, with other girl-type people. One of the reasons I don't use the L word for this preference is that it has been my experience that there's a lot of gate-keeping involved in the use of that word, and I don't care for that at all.

I have dated several bisexual women, and never cared with whom else they might have shared their bed before, or after, me. I only cared that they showed me affection while we were dating, and were occasionally willing to be naked in bed with me.

So, if this is true (and I assure you that it is) why does this trope show up, despite my effort to keep it from being prominent and ugly? How did I end up hurting at least one bisexual woman, despite my deep desire not to? Well, it was a failure on my part; a failure to come up with a better way to tell the story.

You see, I started writing Flowers of Luna after a particularly bad break-up. I had fallen deeply in love with a woman named Michele1; I'd built my life around her. I thought we were going to be together until one of us died. She turned out not to feel the same way. I was crushed, and I needed to think about the things that happened, and somehow find my way to a happy ending for my characters, if not for me.

In the end, Hana is not actually much like Michele. And Ran is only sort of tangentially like me. It's not a Mary Sue tale, or at least, I hope not. But without the actual reasons that Michele gave for breaking up with me, I still needed to come up with a way for there to be a crisis, a way for them to fall apart and come back together.

I tried to make it clear that what happened wasn't because Hana was bi. It was because she was young, and inexperienced, and trying to figure out her feelings. Things snowballed out of control and she didn't know how to resolve the situation.

In fact, Hana is not bisexual. She was raised in an environment where sexuality wasn't a spectrum -- men loved and bedded women, and vice-versa2.  So it wasn't until she went to Lunagrad and met Desdimona (who is bisexual) that she even considered the possibility of romance / sexuality with another woman. When she meets Ran, she's still trying to figure everything out. Does she make a bad decision? Yes; a series of them. Is it because she's bi? No; it's because she's experiencing that most Japanese of plot tropes -- the conflict between social obligations and personal desires.

So. I tried to bring all that out in the story, but apparently, I failed.

Could I have written the story differently? Could Jin'ichi have been female? Yes, but then Hana would have been aware of her own Sapphism, and it would be a case of Hana actually being a cheater. Knowing that Hana had cheated on Jin with her, how could Ran ever make the leap of trust required to get them back together?

Could I have figured out some other conflict to bring the two of them to the brink of a breakup, and then figured out some way to haul the situation back in? Maybe; but I didn't. Perhaps this, too, is a failure of writing.

At any rate, I tried not to make the story about the bisexual betrayer, not to hurt the feelings of any bisexual women. And, at least in Ms. Reviewer's case, I seem to have failed. I'm deeply sorry for that.

1 Yes; the woman to whom I dedicated the book.

2 In this respect, Hana actually reflects my own upbringing and journey to figuring myself and my sexuality out.

06 June 2017

New Interview Without Doom!

My friend Maria Hollis, who also writes Sapphic fiction, recently started a book blog of her own. I had the honor of being the first author she interviewed for it! I'll be excited to see what else she posts as the blog goes forward, and I hope you will, too.

21 May 2017

The Allegations of Doom

A few weeks ago, I wrote a guest post for a bookblogger's blog; someone I thought of as at least a friendly acquaintance. Two days ago, while looking for something else, I happened to glance at that guest post, and saw that the bookblogger in question had added a disclaimer to the previously nice things she had said about my book.  Apparently, someone is contacting bookbloggers who have written positive reviews about Flowers of Luna, and making allegations about me; allegations which at least this bookblogger apparently accepted without bothering to discuss them with me.

I do not know who is doing this. I do not know why. But I am going to address the allegations once, here, now, and then I am henceforth ignoring this person as the troll they are.

The person making the allegations is apparently telling bookbloggers that I am a fraud, a hoax. I am not who I present myself as, and I'm just presenting myself as I do to cash in on marginalized identity.  I think this is ludicrous on the face of it -- As Megan Gedriss wrote in her fabulous Yu+Me Dream, I'm just pretending to be gay for all of the wonderful social benefits it brings?

But if that logic is insufficient, let me point out that between my journals (this one and Walkyrje on LiveJournal) I have fourteen years of documentation of me being me. I joined G+ six years ago, during the open beta (one of my early entries there), and Twitter in January 2011. All of that seems like a long hike to ground a hoax for a book published in February 2017. But what do I know?

Let us also talk about the "cashing in on marginalized identity" bit. Frankly, it's delusional. The people who find it easiest to get published in the traditional publishing business are white men. Pretending to be something else, someone else, would be setting stones in my own path. I present myself as I do because it's who I am. And I have hardly "cashed in." The number one comment I received from agents declining to represent me and Flowers of Luna was "I didn't identify with this." Do you suppose they would have said that about an M/F romance about Jack and Jane?

I ended up self publishing, and so far, every single cent I have received in royalties has been spent on promotional copies of my book, postage for said promotional copies, and other attempts to raise awareness of it among the target audience. If I'm cashing in, I'm doing a smurf-pour job of it.

Tangentially related to this issue, I have decided to leave Twitter. I won't be deleting my account, because that would open it up for someone else to scoop up the name and post whatever they want on an account that has been announced to be mine in various venues. I will be ceasing activity on it, however.

I have severe general and social anxiety... to the extent that I often vomit after talking to strangers on the telephone. Paying attention to a constant stream of negative news items, political doom, and bickering among bookish folk is doing me damage. So I'm not going to do it, anymore.

You will still be able to find me here, at G+, and on various fora around the intarwebz.

I'm sorry to have aired my dirty laundry in public, and as I said... this is my only public response to this trolling. My next entry will be back to writing, lightsaber construction, and similar topics.

Aloha; Shalom; Peace be upon you; Live long and prosper; May the Force be with you -- always.

13 May 2017

More Lightsaber of Doom!

First, let's have the beauty shot. This thing is massive... shown here with a familiar book for scale, it's nearly seventeen inches long. It's definitely a two-handed hilt, which was exactly what I wanted.

Okay, note for experienced saber builders who are easily bored. The rest of this is going to be really basic, and really lengthy, because I'm an utter noob and had to figure stuff out as I went along, and I figure there may be other utter noobs lurking who would like to know what I figured out. So if you're easily bored, now would be a good time to go read something else.

I bought the pieces in two batches. The previous batch, as you may have read in a previous entry, had the blade holder, choke, and pommel. Because my training in sword art is mostly in Japanese styles, I wanted a longer hilt. So I ordered a custom-milled double-female 10" extension (3" longer than a standard main body, and I asked for the grooves to run along the entire length), along with some incidental other bits.

Below, you can see the four primary pieces lined up from emitter to pommel, which gives a sense of their relative sizes.

I apologize for lens flare and other artifacts. My hands tremble very badly, which made some of the pictures in the first batch blurry, so I bought a tripod this time... but I'm still using my camera phone, and I got lens flare. Many indeed are the arts of which I am not a mistress.

Below, we have the blade holder / emitter (I use these terms interchangably). One of the incidental bits I bought this month was the heat sink, TCSS Version 3. Here you can see the copper heat sink screwed into the aluminium lens holder, next to the emitter.

The lens holder has a little bit of a lip on it, so you drop it into the emitter, copper side toward you:

... and screw on the next most southerly piece. The lip on the lens holder is perfectly scaled to lock in between the male and female threads and stay in place.

One of the few parts I did not source from TCSS is this blade safety plug. I just loved the heat-patina look of it. Why is it called a safety plug? Because the LEDs we work with are technically class 2 lasers, which means that direct viewing for more than a quarter of a second can cause damage to your eyesight. Even if you think that you're not the kind of dope who will stare directly into a laser, get a blade plug -- accidents happen, and we have not yet reached the point where we can grow you new eyeballs.

The plug dropped right down into the emitter. It sits on top of the heat sink's lens holder, and the blade set screw holds it in place. Here's what it looks like, looking down the bore of the emitter:

Assemble the emitter / choke to the next piece south:

Now, if you read my earlier post, you may recall that I initially ordered the d-ring pommel insert, and then decided that it wasn't quite what I wanted for this particular saber. So I ordered a couple more:

I decided to go with the one threaded for a recharge port, even though I'm not putting my recharge port there. I didn't like the idea of people looking up inside the hilt through the pommel's perforations, so I went on eBay and bought a quarter-yard of "acoustically transparent" speaker grill cloth. I cut a circle, and put it behind the pommel insert, and secured it with the snap ring.

... is what I'd like to say. But the truth is, I discovered that forceps weren't up to the job, so I bought a pair of cheap snap-ring pliers from Harbor Freight, and the snap ring straight up bent the pliers as I was trying to pull it in tightly enough to engage the groove in the pommel in which it's supposed to sit. So lesson: cheap tools aren't, because now I'll have to spend more money getting another pair of good pliers, whereas if I'd just done that in the first place....

I hope you found that entertaining, and perhaps learned something with me. My next step will be grabbing a bench power supply and some 6061 T6 aluminum tube, and experimenting with anodizing, coloring, and plating. I'll post those results, but it'll probably be a couple of weeks at the very least.