Following the cover reveal for Inkubus’s new cover, here’s Reaper! I’m a sucker for colors, so the newer, brighter ones had me from the start!
Following the cover reveal for Inkubus’s new cover, here’s Reaper! I’m a sucker for colors, so the newer, brighter ones had me from the start!
Sickness is a funny thing. Sometimes one task will be all but impossible, and you’ll have to shift to do something else. And even tasks that are both “creative” pull different things from the brain. Case in point, I can’t write while I have a migraine… but I can handle Photoshop. Go figure.
I tell you this because part and parcel with the pretty updated formatting I’ve been working on are pretty new covers. You can’t stare at the same piece of art for years without periodically getting the urge to try something different.
So that’s how the Inkubus series ended up with a whole new series of covers. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen me sharing these already. But just in case…. taadaaaa!
I’ll be back soon with the covers for Reaper, and Chameleon, and maybe I’ll even show off a few cards from the de Long tarot. I’m still moving slowly from August’s surgery, and am still pretty sick, so you’ve got some time to catch up on your TBR list while you wait for new books from me. And with so many awesome new books coming soon- (Any Lili st. Germain fans waiting for Gun Shy?) that list’ll be full again soon enough.
Next up, the new Reaper cover!
Those of you who follow my facebook profile have already heard the full story. Basically, 2017 has been a hellish year of surprises including a cancer scare, two surgeries (One of which is this freaking week!), time living on an oxygen pump, and a host of meds warping my brain chemistry until I could barely speak a coherent sentence, let along tell a coherent story comprised of thousands of coherent sentences.
It’s been one of those make-you-or-break-you times. It’s unfortunately taken a great personal toll on me, one that I am still paying. I’ve had to back out of some projects, delay others, and everything has been topsy-turvy as I struggle to find a balance that allows me to receive medical treatment, manage a dozen specialists, and pursue my creative projects. I’m still not through it, but I am trying to take advantage of my ability to continue working slowly. This is affording me the opportunity to catch up on smaller tasks, such as redoing my formatting using Vellum (which is the Cadillac of formatting), and producing paperback editions for books that had never had them prior.
I hope you’ll stick with me until I’m back on my feet. I promise, it’ll be worth the wait. I’m still pressing forward as I can, and I’ve even been indulging a new creative project, the de Long tarot: a collection of limited edition tarot cards themed off my PNR works. The de Long tarot is ONLY available through giveaways- you can’t buy these suckers solo. So stay tuned for giveaways, and for a new-and-improved experience with my books.
And in the meantime, well-wishes are appreciated. Living so close to death wears a person down under the best of circumstances, and mine are closer to the worst. I’ve got family support, but it’s still been an isolating period, which only worsens things. If you’d like to send me a get-well note, sign up for Sarahah.com, and fill out an anonymous message for me at my page here: katiedelong.Sarahah.com. Or, you can leave it on my facebook or email: email@example.com.
PSA from your friendly neighborhood kissy writer, guys! I owe you many more updates, as it’s been a while. I’ve been posting updates to facebook, and emailed my ARC readers and mailing list with them, however I have had a lot of news to share, and not much ability to do it.
But today’s PSA. I am redoing all of the formatting, and doing one last rewrite on many of my books. This means that a I roll out the new books, some may be temporarily unavailable. So if you wander over to my Amazon page, and don’t see, say, Lone Wolf, just check back in a few weeks and it should be back.
Normally, updates don’t require a book to come down, however I’m also handling back-end stuff that may cause the books to flicker in and out of availability. It’s nothing to be afraid of, just me doing what I can to provide y’all with the best, prettiest, smoothest, most awesome reader experience ever!
Now, you may notice I mentioned Lone Wolf. As of this post, Lone Wolf is the first up in the beautician’s chair. It’s an example of what everything else is gonna look like, going forward. So for those of you who haven’t made your way to that series, or Dante and Ria, please be patient– it’ll be worth the wait. I promise.
I hope y’all have had a lovely summer, with lots of sunshine and air conditioning, in equal measure. Stay tuned for my next update, explaining why I’ve been so quiet, what’s going on that has slowed down my effort to provide y’all with lots of sexy stories.
Hey all, Katie here temporarily. Very temporarily. For those of you who don’t know, I recently had surgery, and am still healing.
I wanted to talk to you before Anarchist’s Lullaby goes live.
When your credit cards are charged for the preorder of Anarchist’s Lullaby, and going forward, any profits from Anarchist’s Lullaby will go to do critical work protecting some of the communities most impacted by racism and systemic persecution. I’m thrilled to say that 100% of the profits from Anarchists Lullaby will be donated to Black Lives Matter.
I’d wanted to do that from the day I uploaded the book for preorder, but with my family struggling through a particularly rough patch, I knew we might need every penny for the medications keeping me alive long enough to cash the royalty cheque. But since we had a bit of a windfall, that’s no longer a strong enough reason to justify keeping that money for myself.
Sure, there’s an argument to be made that it wouldn’t be fair to expect me to NOT get paid for that work, given how very hard I worked on it. That the dichotomy that says it’s better to be a starving artist than a sellout is a way in which capitalists try to restrict artists’ view of their power and justify paying them less. But that argument wasn’t anywhere near a strong enough pull to keep me from feeling that in this case, I DON’T want to be paid for this piece of art.
Many of the issues that it would have been impossible to write Anarchist’s Lullaby without addressing aren’t ones that affect me directly. So it wouldn’t seem right to keep the profit on a story shot through with other people’s pain, struggles that affect whether those in my community live or die, such as Quanice Derrick Hayes, a black seventeen year old who was murdered by the Portland Police not so long before I stuck my face into the main city for my recent surgery. No community, no matter how liberal or forward-thinking on the surface, is free of issues stemming from racial injustice. In hyper-liberal Portland, people of color still routinely suffer from police brutality, and violence that is but an extension of systemic hostility tracing back to when Oregon was founded as a “white paradise.” It’s a reminder not to believe the whitewashing, that somehow your community is untouched by injustice.
Many, many causes are gonna need all the donations they can get over the next few years, but I chose Black Lives Matter because their work seems PARTICULARLY urgent. With a government that even now is taking away the few constraints that exist on law enforcement to hold our authorities accountable for racism, brutality, and corruption, and that condemns the post-election wave of violence building toward racial minorities here so little that it could even be construed as endorsing it, Black Lives Matter’s work is more important than ever.
I want to thank you for choosing to purchase Anarchist’s Lullaby, and reading my stories.
It’s a relief to be writing this after the high-stress updates of last week, and the frantic emails of the week before. However, I’m thrilled and surprised to announce that the ebook edition of Edgeplay is back on Amazon.
TW: vague discussions of mental illness, specifically triggers.
Trigger warnings are one of the best ways for people to engage with sensitive content in a healthy way. They enable someone to create the safest space possible for consuming the material.
For some people, this means only reading upsetting materials when they have a supportive friend or partner nearby, to hold them and tell them it’s okay. For others, this means reading upsetting materials alone, because the presence of a partner will feel threatening and make the fear worse. For some people, this means reading materials that hit close to home with a partner in the house, so they won’t be tempted to self-harm, attempt suicide, abuse substances, or other harmful behaviors. For others, they may need to be alone, because the strain of acting “normal” when they’re upset will grind the pain in worse, until they lash out.
For some people, this means avoiding upsetting materials because they can’t be consumed in a healthy way, and for others, it simply means picking the right time and setting.
See, triggers affect everyone differently, depending on really minute aspects of their lives and mental state. For some people, it might cause a panic attack that causes them to be unable to leave the house or pursue their to-do list. For others, it might cause them to become aggressive toward those around them who are making the trigger worse, unknowingly.
Forewarning and awareness are a survivor’s best friends. When a trigger sneaks up on someone, sometimes it can be too late to back away before the person is already seeing detrimental effects. Content warnings actually enable people to deal with more traumatic material than they otherwise could, because they are able to do it safely. They actually prevent consumer dissatisfaction, because they help consumers know up front what they’re in for.
Vague product warnings like “steamy material” or “too hot for your kindle” don’t actually provide the cues necessary to tell sensitive readers that a book may contain themes that they actively try to avoid. If Amazon is truly interested in being all about the customer, then building better tools for labeling should be one of their top priorities– not filtering authors out who use trigger warnings or censoring specific words. Is it any wonder that without these warnings, there’s a lot more people blindsided, reacting negatively, and bending Amazon’s ear either with direct complaints or bad reviews?
One of those tools could be providing a form to allow authors to label various common strong themes, such as sexual violence, and providing a button on the site that would allow readers to opt out of seeing any content with those themes. Not restricting their visibility in lists, searches, etc. Simply allowing it as an optional filter, similar to how they allow consumers to filter books down by length, for readers who are seeking shorter reads. Or even just a general adult filter toggle similar to what their competitor Smashwords uses.
Hell, this is a niche that readers already desire, and that other sites attempt to cater to in the small scale– a Google search for “clean reads” turns up a host of blogs, publishers, and groups that specialize in assisting readers seeking books without such mildly offensive things as cursewords, like the much maligned Clean Reader. Clean Reader came under fire last year for scrubbing swear words or offensive content from books entirely… without the authors’ consent. Authors came together to protest, to declare that their aesthetic could not be honored by replacing those words– that even if they made some people uncomfortable, the word had been chosen for a specific reason (Does that sound familiar?). They removed their books from the retailers who supply to Clean Reader in protest. But even though Amazon’s policy is much more destructive, arbitrary, and pervasive, it holds too much power for authors to be able to protest in an effective way, as they could for one fairly small app. So we are stuck with whatever Amazon says, no matter how unfair, problematic, or contradictory. And all of that is getting off the topic of trigger warnings as a needed classification tool.
Keywords such as “clean romance”, and “sweet romance” help readers who prefer to avoid sexual content entirely develop a community and a niche built around their desire to avoid that content. Could you imagine if we were allowed to similarly label and build communities around fiction with other love-it-or-hate-it themes, too?
Put simply, Amazon’s practice is bad, in every way. Bad for consumers, bad for authors, bad for survivors and people struggling with PTSD, and bad for society as a whole.
TW: discussions of sexual violence, victim-blaming, self-harm, mental illness.
As much as I, even now, fear professional retribution from Amazon for criticizing their policy, I can not remain silent in the face of their highly problematic policies. If people like Amazon had been in charge of my reading material, growing up, I would have succeeded in committing suicide long before I ever learned to write a novel.
Let me start at the beginning.
When I was little, something awful happened to me. Without the words to name it, it was simply “oh my god, I think I’m about to die,” and “the worst pain I have ever felt.” It was a number of years before I was given a word to simply sum up what I had lived through:
This word meant everything to me. It meant that what had happened to me was common enough to have a name. It meant that out there, there were others like me. It meant that I wasn’t alone. It meant that I could tell people about that crucial piece of me without having to struggle to explain details that were fuzzy, even in my mind.
It came with judgments, too– ruined, or probably lying for attention– but the community and shared experience it implied gave me the first leg up into recovery.
Bearing my experience alone for so long, it trapped me in a cycle of trauma, self-harm, and suicidal ideation that splintered me further. But when I discovered that word, when I stumbled into the world of fanfiction, I found myself home. Fanfiction provided a judgment-free platform (as much as anything on the internet truly is) that allowed me to consider the idea that anyone in my life could have that shared experience, and simply be hiding the pain in their own ways– even if it was someone as well-known and understood as Harry Potter or Hermione Granger, my fandom of choice. It gave me an opportunity to see other survivors, in various states of recovery, centering stories around themselves in a way I’d never seen. Certainly no mainstream book I’d found– including the adult literature I chose off my parents’ bookshelves– portrayed what I’d gone through in a recognizable way.
It saved my life. It gave me an invisible community who understood me more thoroughly than any family member, any therapist ever could.
For all rape’s ubiquity in fiction, the vast majority of the stories are decentered from the person who lives it. GRR Martin builds his worlds with a style described by some as “rape as wallpaper”, using progressively more sensational stories of sexual assault to define the “grit” of his fantasy realms, with little attention paid toward the aftermath for most of his victims. Creators consistently use rape to establish that a villain is bad– with no attention paid to the victim, outside of sexualized descriptions of her pain and his enjoyment of it. Worse yet, when a female protagonist does have that backstory, many authors use it as shorthand to establish that she is interesting and worthwhile, though unlikeable, with no attention paid to developing her psyche to support the idea of that trauma. Or worse yet, to show her as strong, as though no woman has ever been strong without having been raped, and that violation is in-fact, a blessing, making her something other than a boring, humdrum female who certainly would never be the heroine in a story.
In short, rape stories are centered around everyone but survivors.
Even subtle differences in characterization and intent can be the difference between a character who appeals to survivors and lets them know they aren’t alone, and one that retraumatizes them, inundating them with toxic ideas about their own identity, and propagating harmful myths in the minds of those who have never been offered any counterpoint to them. Amazon’s policy of censoring words directly related to sexual violence steers aesthetic decisions in ways that they certainly never intended, rendering character-defining conversations that lean heavily on filterable words like “rape” more offensive than traumatic and sensationalized descriptions of the act itself, that can feel dehumanizing or violent for survivors and present a completely different characterization of the material involved. Books are not a game of Jenga, where all pieces can be rearranged or removed while the structure still stands. And pretending that’s the case ignores that the whole point of Jenga is that the structure will fall, in the end. Saying “just don’t use those words” fundamentally misunderstands the very mechanics of storytelling.
The effects of Amazon’s policy extend far further than simply depriving authors like myself of the right to earn a living off their work, or depriving readers of reading material they desire. It shapes societal narratives and views, by deciding whose stories get to be told, and whose must be filtered out. It tells survivors that their concerns and lives are fundamentally “inappropriate” to build stories around, and that they should deal with their trauma in silence. Already, I’ve had to cut multiple survivor-oriented projects from my schedule because I can’t afford the expense and time of writing a book that I have a good chance of being forbidden to sell.
This is doubly harmful, because this is what the world around us does every single day when our rapist is allowed into the same social events because the hosts “don’t want to pick sides”, or when others pressure us to stay silent, because they “don’t want to hear about the drama” or feel that the issue we’re currently struggling with is TMI.
For many survivors, fiction is the one place we can look into the lives of people like us, or tell stories we wish we’d heard sooner, without the fear of retaliation or shaming.
Amazon’s refusal to consider survivors’ needs by implementing a policy that allows trigger warnings and accurate descriptions of sensitive content, and their ongoing decision to continue penalizing primarily women romance authors who write content portraying survivors in ways that are too adult or “offensive” is an act of violence. It’s one more way that we culturally declare that sexual violence is acceptable for entertainment… but not from the survivor’s perspective.
We prioritize storytelling narratives that portray survivors as asexual, pure victims who must be “ruined” by their trauma, or dead bodies who will never have the chance to begin the messy process of healing, or examine the aftermath of sexual assault solely through their loved ones’ reaction to their trauma, and then wonder why there’s a host of “bad victim” narratives that undermine people’s ability to seek justice for sexual violence. Or why survivors may frequently feel suicidal, that healing isn’t even a possibility, because they’ve never known people who’ve talked about that journey openly, or read stories about it that ring true.
We demonize survivors’ coping mechanisms, declaring that they’re lying because they were caught on camera smiling at some point after the attack, or that they enjoyed their assault because their body responded to it by getting aroused. We grow up on narratives that portray rapists as obviously inhuman monsters, and then wonder why so many people defend convicted rapists as “nice boys who made mistakes,” because they can’t see a monster in that “nice boy” the way they expected to if he was really a rapist.
It’s not just about an author’s right to freedom of speech versus Amazon’s right to not provide a platform for those whose speech offends them. It comes down to Amazon’s cultural impact.
For better or worse, Amazon controls the distribution method for the majority of ebooks, and traditional publishing’s impact is waning further and further. Books are increasingly where the film industry gets new material from, and entertainment is fundamental in telling stories that show people how the world is and shape our reactions to real-life things.
Do we want a culture in which women don’t have access to affirming love stories that tell them that they, too, can heal from trauma, or find sexual fulfillment? Do we want a culture in which women are not allowed to face down the beast that loomed over their cradles in whatever way feels most useful for them? Do we want a society in which women’s sexuality is defined only through male-centered mainstream porn and slapdash sex-ed?
Or do we want a culture in which women are encouraged to speak out, to tell their stories confidently, and allow others to gravitate toward them as kindred spirits. To draw commonalities, even across traumatic or sexual experiences.
I know which one I want. And I know which one romance and erotica readers deserve.
If you would like to share your thoughts on this policy with Amazon, email firstname.lastname@example.org.