Michaeline: A Review of Bujold’s New Novella (No Spoilers, Some Marketing Theories)

The Vorkosigan butterbugs in their radbug incarnation, glowing with radiation markers on their backs.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s “The Flowers of Vashnoi” came out on May 17, 2018! I’m not really a bug person, but boy, Ekaterin knows how to make a glorious bug! Art, science and passion is a winning combination for this heroine! (Image via Goodreads)

Lois McMaster Bujold’s newest novella, “The Flowers of Vashnoi” (with beautiful cover art by Ron Miller), came out on May 17 (Goodreads announcement), and it’s a good one. If you like Bujold, you will like this novella set in the Vorkosigan’s radioactive district, about four years after Ekaterin and Miles get married.

I really like the spirit of experimentation Lois puts into her self-published novels. She’s a pro, and writes well, and has apparently learned good lessons from her time with traditional publishers (I might be wrong: is it natural, or is it L’Oreal?). But now, she’s retired, and she’s been breaking some of the rules in order to tell the stories she wants to tell, without undue stress and story-bending to fit the rules of an outside publisher.

For example, this is women’s fiction. (We’re told over and over that women’s fiction doesn’t sell . . . and women’s science fiction? Not even a category. Chick Sci’ Lit? Chicka-Sicca-Fi Lit? Nobody’s labeled it as such.) This is totally Ekaterin’s story, and she isn’t some sweet young single fresh out of school. She’s in her mid-30s with three children, and a husband she loves to bits, but who gets slightly in the way at times. This is her project; she makes decisions as Lady Vorkosigan; and she shares the credit gracefully, but is the boss. Not exactly a common heroine in modern genre fiction.

It’s not a love story; it’s not an epic adventure. There are no demons or vampires or werewolves (although there is soupcon of Baba Yaga), but there are some cool bugs that turn widespread radiation into something that can be dealt with. (Not a spoiler: Bujold has been flirting with this since A Civil Campaign. We fans are very lucky to see it happen on the page.) A dash of love, a dash of horror, a dash of thrills.

It isn’t a book. It’s a novella, and runs about 20,000 words – so it’s a nice treat for the afternoon, as well. But “we all know” that publishers like books — and even more, they like series. The kind of thing that makes readers binge for the entire weekend or more.

What is “The Flowers of Vashnoi”, then? Continue reading

Jeanne: The Swag Decision

Basket of applesA couple of weeks ago I did a post on swag–the items authors make available to potential readers to lure them into checking out our books. The post generated a lot of discussion among the Eight Ladies in the comments, debating the pros and cons of rival items.

After sifting through all the great suggestions, I’ve decided to put out bookmarks with QR codes linking to the first three chapters of The Demon Always Wins. Those chapters give a good flavor of what the book is like, so if people read those, they’ll either decide to buy the book, or decide that they’re not my audience, which is okay, too.

Another suggestion that bubbled up during those discussions was the idea of setting out a basket of apples to get people’s attention. Apples, as you may remember, are part of my branding. There’s a lot of junk food available at Nationals, but not a lot of healthy stuff, so it’s good on that score, too. Continue reading

Jeanne: To KU or Not to KU?

Years ago, when I started journalism classes at Indiana University, our professor told us this joke as a metaphor for interviews:Kindle Unlimited

A tourist asks a professional gambler if there’s a roulette wheel in town.

“There’s one at the casino,” says the gambler, “but it’s crooked.”

“If it’s crooked, why do you play?” asks the tourist.

“It’s the only wheel in town,” says the gambler.

For self-published, debut authors with no established readership, Kindle Unlimited feels like it could be that roulette wheel. Continue reading

Justine: Protecting Your Work Before You Copyright It

79097750 - autorship word cloud concept. vector illustrationThis past Friday, I attended a free webinar by the folks who do Masterclass (I had previously taken James Patterson’s class on writing and Aaron Sorkin’s class on screenwriting). The topic of the webinar was protecting your intellectual property before you copyright it, and it was presented in large part by folks who work for the Writer’s Guild of America West (WGAW…there is a sister organization, Writer’s Guild of America East. They do the same thing, but the organizations do not share information with each other).

I had always thought the Writer’s Guild was for screenwriters only, but it turns out any artist – as long as they can put their idea/story/script/play/lyrics on paper – can have their intellectual property protected. This topic is relevant to me right now because Continue reading