Amazon Alternatives

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around strike action against Amazon because of their horrific workplace practices and their treatment of employees. There are horror stories from warehouse workers and delivery drivers about low wages, unpaid hours which push the wages below the minimum, ridiculous productivity demands and penalties meaning that workers pee in bottles because they don’t have time for toilet breaks, and the fact that vast numbers of employees are living in abject poverty while the CEO is worth over a hundred billion dollars, which is more money than a person could ever hope to spend in their lifetime.

Amazon’s profit margins are so high that they could easily pay all their employees a living wage and still be making billions, so there is no excuse for this mistreatment of staff.

As such, there have been calls for strikes. There has been some confusion over dates, but the current information is that strikes will be taking place over Prime day, to hit a major promotional event, with the strike between the 15th and 17th of July. Customers are being discouraged from buying from Amazon during the strike (and boycotting longer if you can do, until the company makes some changes).

As an author, so much of what I do is based around trying to get people to sites like Amazon to buy my books, but I don’t want to support Amazon during this strike action, so here are some alternatives if you’re looking to buy my books.

Shadows of Tomorrow and its sequel Between Yesterdays are both available from Waterstones and other mainstream bookshops.

The Codename Omega series, Omega Rising, Traitor in the Tower, and Hidden in the Signal, can be bought directly from Lulu as both paperbacks and ebooks.

My latest novel, Wolf Unleashed, is available directly from the publisher, Guardbridge Books or through Waterstones and other major bookshops.

The ebook of Child of the Hive, my first novel, can be bought from Smashwords.

My superhero parody, The Adventures of Technicality Man, is only available for purchase from Amazon, so to support the strike, I’m giving this book away through Instafreebie. Through until the end of July you can get a copy of this ebook for free.

I hope that if you want to buy my books, you will consider buying them from somewhere other than Amazon until the demands for better treatment of workers are met.

Relevance

It takes a long time for a novel to go from initial idea through to finished book. It goes through initial draft, rewrites, finding a publisher, and then the publication process itself, which can sometimes take a year from when a publisher says yes to the book being released. I remember wondering, as I was writing Wolf Unleashed, whether the book would still feel relevant by the time it was officially published.

I wrote chunks of that book while protests were going on in America about unarmed black people being killed, while people were being locked up, beaten, tear-gassed, or otherwise hurt for simply calling out people who were doing wrong. I remember doing what little I could with petitions and donations and sharing stories, hoping that those protests would have an impact, that the authorities would step in to address some of the issues of institutional racism that were at the heart of so much of the suffering, but I also remember wondering what that might mean for my book. If progress was made, my book might feel old before it was even born. It might be launched into the world already feeling like it was focused on last year’s subject.

And then Trump was elected. He came into power and tried to have Muslims banned from the country, and I went back into a particular scene of the book, where the Muslim character Mehmood is talking about things he’s experienced, and rewrote some of the dialogue to draw a clearer parallel. Suddenly those moments with Mehmood started to feel more relevant again.

And now we have stories on the news about children being taken away from parents, children being rounded up, children being put in cages. And I’m left wishing that my story, with it’s scene in which children are taken from their mother and put in cages, didn’t feel so relevant. I wrote awful things into the book, where a group of people are being treated as less than human, their rights and wellbeing ignored. And now I’m watching it happen on the news, reading articles about the inhumanity with which groups of people are being treated.

I wanted my book to still feel relevant when it was published, but it’s like the old saying goes: be careful what you wish for.

My book’s message was “Werewolves are people too” but it’s painful to look at what’s happening in the world and know that the message “refugees are people too” is just as real and important a message as ever. This suffering and dehumanising behaviour isn’t just something that happens in books, but it’s something that’s happening right now in the real world, and it’s heartbreaking to see it going on.

There are organisations you can donate to if you want to help those suffering right now in the concentration camps Trump has set up. Act Blue has a fund called Support Kids at the Border that let’s you donate to several charities and groups all at once if you don’t know which group is the best one to give to. Let’s hope that the issues in my book start feeling less relevant sometime very soon.

Eastercon Summary

Jessica Meats holding a copy of Wolf Unleashed and standing in front of a group of people talkingSunday 1st April was the official launch of my new novel, Wolf Unleashed. This launch was accompanied by a small launch party at Eastercon. The room for the launch party seemed a little strange to me – we were set up at one end of the large ballroom, which was also the room being used for convention food. We were there in the middle of the afternoon, so we were between the lunch and dinner rushes, but there were plenty of people in the room just there to eat food, and hang out with friends. I’m fairly sure there were some people who came to the book launch who hadn’t intended to do so, but who had been sitting near our end of the hall and were curious what was going on (or were curious about the free wine).

David, my editor at Guardbridge Books, spoke for a little bit, introducing me and the other two books which were being launched at the same time. Then I spoke briefly and read from Wolf Unleashed. David read segments from the other two books, and then we opened it up to questions. A man in a hat holding a cuddly toy wolf with a sign reading "werewolves are people too"

We did a giveaway drawing to give away a free book. The winner of the giveaway chose to get Harry Elliott’s Warrior Errant as his free book instead of mine, and he gave a little apology about that, but then a few minutes later decided he would buy mine as well, so I think I won that.

Overall, the launch was short, informal, and enjoyable, so I’m happy with how it all went.

There have been some other great moments this convention. One was when a woman sat beside me in the audience for a panel and started rummaging around in her handbag. Then she noticed my name tag and went, “You wrote the Codename Omega books,” and started talking about the handbag scene in Traitor in the Tower. For those that haven’t read those books, the scene in question is one of my favourite moments and involves Jenny, having been captured, pulling an array of useful items out of her handbag – from painkillers to means of communication to weapons – much to the astonishment of the guy who was in the cell with her. There’s still something that fills me with delight about someone recognising me and telling me about things they loved from my books.

A woman cuddles a cuddly toy wolf that has a sign reading "werewolves are people too"Another great highlight was meeting a lovely lady who was much enamoured of my cuddly Thomas toy wolf (so much so that I feared wolfnapping was a possibility) and who talked at length about her love of wolves and her experiences visiting a wolf sanctuary. We had a really long chat on Friday and then when I bumped into her again on Saturday she had been hoping to see me again because she’d bought me a wolf bracelet. I was so immensely touched by this and wished I had something I could give her in return (but I wasn’t parting with cuddly Thomas).

I took part in a couple of items aside from the launch party. The first was a panel on transgressive sexuality where we had some good discussions about representation of different sexualities in SF&F and how the barrier between what is seen as transgressive and what isn’t is a shifting line that changes over time. We discussed a whole collection of books, films, and TV shows and I got to recommend some of my favourites (like The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet) and took down some suggestions of things to read.

My other piece on the program was a talk on Atheism and theA cuddly toy wolf with a sign reading "werewolves are people too" is at a microphone as though giving a speach Representation of Religion in Science Fiction. I got a little worried about this talk ahead of time because I was originally told I would have a 75 minute slot, and then saw on the agenda that I had an hour. I then found out when I got there and looked at the schedule in more detail that each hour slot included a ten minute break/change-over and so I only had 50 minutes. I shuffled some things around and cut a couple of slides, only I guess I talk faster in real delivery than I do in practice because I ended up having plenty of time. I could have left the Vorlons in. I have uploaded my presentation to OneDrive in case anyone wants to view my slides or see the links in the A cuddly toy wolf with a sign reading "werewolves are people too" sits on a conference chairreferences.

I was also a little concerned about that presentation because of the timing. It was right at the end of the last day of the convention, in the slot before the closing ceremony, and I knew a number of people who’d told me they would be leaving before my talk began. I was a little worried I would be giving my talk to an empty room, but I got a decent turn out in the end. Afterwards, the girl who’d been running tech for me came up to me and said we’d met at World Con a few years ago and I’d persuaded her to buy one of my books then. She was very excited to read my new one now, which was amazing to here.

It is an amazing feeling to meet people who’ve read my books and have them talk so enthusiastically about them. All in all, a really satisfying Eastercon. I look forward to next year’s, which will be considerably easier for me to get to.

Wolf Unleashed – now available for pre-order

I’m delighted to announce that my latest novel, Wolf Unleashed, is now available for pre-order. This is a book I’m really proud of. I’ve poured a lot of effort and emotion into this book over the past few years and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

Remember: werewolves are people too.

Cover art for Wolf Unleashed

Werewolves are kept as slaves. Exploited to perform dangerous labour, or kept as exotic pets by rich sadists who want a status symbol, werewolves have no rights.

When Crystal’s brother is bitten by a rogue werewolf, her family is advised to think of him as dead. But she refuses to forget him.

Looking for news from within the werewolf community leads her to purchase Thomas, a rebellious werewolf with a string of abusive former owners. Crystal and Thomas must learn to trust each other enough to help solve each other’s problems. Together, they can work to build a movement aimed at bringing rights and justice to all.

This is an urban fantasy, paranormal romance with a difference. It teems with intersectional issues of race, gender, and sexual identity. This is a story of injustice and anger, of love and compassion, of rebellion and hope.

5 Stars – “It was a story that drew me in… I enjoyed how the story developed and how werewolf slavery was tackled by some very brave characters. They took on a fight against a system that needed to be changed, and often it looked like they would be torn apart… I wish there was more of this quality writing out there. A fantastic read!” — Kim Anisi for Readers’ Favorite

Order now

Eastercon Schedule

The schedule for Follycon (the 69th Eastercon) has gone live.

I will be involved in three items:

Transgressive Sexuality panel at 5:30pm on Friday 30th March.

Guardbridge Books Launch Party at 3pm on Saturday 31st March – at which my newest book Wolf Unleashed will officially launch along with Warrior Errant by Harry Elliot.

Atheism and the Representation of Religion in Science Fiction presentation at 3pm on Monday 2nd April. A part of me was hoping for the irony of doing this presentation on Easter Sunday, but it’s probably more tactful of them to arrange it for the Monday.

Cover Art Reveal

I am thrilled to present the cover art for my latest novel, Wolf Unleashed.

Cover art for Wolf Unleashed

Wolf Unleashed is a story of injustice and anger, of love and compassion, of rebellion and hope. It explores themes of oppression and prejudice that echo the real world. This is a book I’m really proud of that I’ve poured a lot of emotion into and I can’t wait to share it with the world. I hope it means as much to you as it does to me.

The official book launch is going to be at Follycon, this year’s Eastercon, in Harrogate. I hope to see some of you there. If not, I will be making announcements soon when the book is available for purchase.

 

Eastercon

I have been preparing for Eastercon recently. This year’s Eastercon, Follycon, is in Harrogate, so I’m hoping some of the old York University creative writing group might be there so we can catch up. If any of my blog followers are going to be there, here’s a heads up about what I’m going to be up to.

So far, I’ve been talking with the organisers of the schedule about three different items on the agenda. The agenda hasn’t been completely confirmed yet, so this is subject to change and I don’t have times for any of these items yet.

The first item I will be a part of is the book launch for Wolf Unleashed. Guardbridge Books will be launching two books at Eastercon, my werewolf urban fantasy, and Warrior Errant by Harry Elliot, a futuristic sci-fi adventure. Come along for book readings, discussion, and Q&A from myself and Harry.

I’m going to be presenting a talk on Atheism and the Representation of Gods in Science Fiction. This will look at some tropes and themes around how gods are often portrayed in sci-fi, from an atheist perspective. With examples ranging from Red Dwarf to Stargate SG-1, and from The Chrysalids to Dune, we will look at some common concepts and how these ideas can be used to address real world issues. Some of the examples will be obvious ones, but I’ve been digging around for a few older and less well known ones so hopefully there’ll be something in the presentation that’s new for everyone in the audience.

I’ve also been asked about being on a panel about Transgressive Sexualities and how sci-fi and fantasy can be used to provide representation, raise questions, and open up new routes for discussion around gender and sexuality. I don’t have much detail about this panel yet, but it seems like a good subject for generating some interesting discussions.

I will post the schedule information once I know it. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there.

There was a blog post

It’s interesting what you don’t notice about your own writing until you have an editor go through it and point things out. I’m currently going through edits for the upcoming Wolf Unleashed and I’ve discovered that I have a serious problem with “there was.” A rather embarrassingly high number of sentences start with “there was” or “there were”. This is weak phrasing because it merely tells the reader that something exists, but doesn’t tell the reader anything about how that thing is.

“There was a man on the couch,” doesn’t tell us anything about the man except that he is there, but “A man lounged on the couch,” gives us some indications of his posture, which could be compared to, “A man perched on the couch.” Even “sat” would give us more information because it rules out the possibility he’s lying on it. By making the sentence more active, we can get more information across without really having to add anything by way of descriptions, just simply changing a generic “to be” verb for something more precise.

Sometimes the information is there in a different way, but getting rid of this phrasing makes the sentence more efficient. “There was a man lounging on the couch” and “A man lounged on the couch” get exactly the same information across, but the second sentence saves you two words. Two words might not sound like a great deal, but if you’re trying to get your word count down, especially if you write short stories, these can add up.

I hadn’t realised how guilty I was about using this phrasing until I got the edits back for Wolf Unleashed, but now I hope I will notice as my fingers type out “there were” or “there was” at the start of a new sentence.

I’ve been writing books for about a decade now, but I’m still making mistakes and slipping into bad habits. Learning how to be a writer never really stops.

Book updates

Hidden in the Signal coverI realised recently that I hadn’t added Hidden in the Signal, the third book in the Codename Omega series to the My Books page on this blog. I’ve remedied that mistake now. The information on the third instalment of Jenny’s adventures is now up.

Hidden in the Signal continues the story of Jenny’s fight to uncover the truth of Grey’s Tower and to fight against the alien threat hiding on Earth.

Keep an eye on that page because I will soon be adding details of my upcoming book, Wolf Unleashed. I just sent the last chapter of edits back to the line editor today. I think there’s just one more round of checks before the text of the book is ready to go. We will be launching the book at this years Eastercon, Follycon, in Harragote over the Easter weekend. I will also be giving a presentation on the representation of gods in science fiction at the convention. The agenda is still being finalised so I don’t know if I will be on any panels, but I will let you know if I am.

If you’re going to be attending Follycon, come along to the book launch and say hi.

Wolf Unleashed – progress update

I’m spending a good chunk of time this weekend going through line edits for Wolf Unleashed, my upcoming book. Line editing is one of the last stages of the editing process, once any big issues with the story, structure, pacing, and so on have been fixed. At this stage, an editor goes through the book line by line and makes tweaks, fixing a typo here, or adjusting the word order there to make a sentence flow better.

Through this process, I am still the author. There have been points in this manuscript where the line editor has proposed a change and I’ve left a little comment saying, “Actually the point I was trying to get across was this and I think the original way does that better.”

There have been other moments when the line editor has suggested cutting a few words because they don’t really add to the story, but I’ve insisted on keeping them because they hint at something about the character that won’t be revealed until later. One on occasion, the editor got confused by a mention of two characters’ mums, and left a comment wondering which mum I was referring to, and the answer to that was both of them because they’re a couple, which is going to be explained properly in a couple of chapter’s time.

Going through an editing process, the author still has control, but it’s important to note that there are a lot of changes I haven’t argued with. A lot of the time, the editor is doing things like changing “that” to “the”, or putting in a synonym to avoid a repeated word, and I read the suggested sentence, agree, and move on. Line editors are an important part of the book writing process. They add a layer of polish to a story to prepare it for publication.

There’s still a little bit more editing to be done on Wolf Unleashed, but I’m looking forward to a launch for it at Eastercon this year. The convention, Follycon, is going to be in Harrogate over the Easter weekend. If you’re attending, you can come talk to me about the book, hear me read some extracts, or get your hands on one of the first copies.