Win A Signed Copy of Blue Diablo

A couple of weeks ago, the fabulously talented Ann Aguirre was in town for a book signing, and I got two copies of Blue Diablo, both signed, one for me and one for…one of you!

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the “buzz” around this book, and it’s totally deserved. I gobbled it up in two helpings, half on a plane on the way to Philadelphia and half on the way back.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not usually a big fan of the urban fantasy genre, but because I loved the Sirantha Jax books so much (space opera is up my alley–hello, Star Trek fan!), it was a foregone conclusion that I had to give Blue Diablo a chance. And I am not sorry I did. Every element of this book is exquisite, from the way the setting weaves its way into scenes as if the places were characters themselves to the crackling tension between Corine and Chance. I loved this book and didn’t want it to be over!

So, you want a copy? All right, fair enough. Here’s the contest. In the comments, give me your best reason for why you haven’t yet bought Blue Diablo. On Friday, I’ll pick the best, most creative excuse…er, reason, and award my spare signed copy to that commenter.

Think hard. Your reason’s gotta be a good one!

And the Winners Are…

I used a random generator to draw names from the 16 eligible entrants and the winners of a copy of Behind the Red Door are:

  • Jeanne St. James
  • Savannah Chase

Please email me at jackie at jackie barbosa.com with your snail mail address, and I will get your signed copy in the mail.

And to all those who didn’t win, there will be more opportunities coming up. In fact, I’ll be doing another giveaway at the Aphrodisia Authors blog tomorrow, so be sure to check out my post there outlining the details. And I’ll be giving away a full fifteen copies during the month of May at the historical extravaganza on Emma Petersen’s blog. And there will be more even than that, so stay tuned for details.

On Monday, I’ll be opening a new contest for a signed copy of Ann Aguirre’s awesome urban fantasy, Blue Diablo. I read this book on the way to and from Philly, and loved it. And wept a little with envy. Ann is a freakishly talented writer whose books grab you by the throat and don’t let go…even when you’re finished reading them. I still can’t stop thinking about Corine and Chase!

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Especially, apparently, to those who wait at airports!

Last week, I had to fly to Philadelphia and back for business. And I spent far too much time in airports as a result. I didn’t really expect any reward for my trouble, but when I arrived home on Friday, I found a box from Kensington Publishing containing…

THESE!

I was shocked, as I really didn’t expect to see my author copies until sometime next month. And I have to admit, I have had a wonderful time touching them, smelling them, and opening them up to random pages to read my own words. It’s almost…surreal.

But all of this is good for you, too. In celebration, I’ll be giving away two signed copies to random blog commentators. This means you could be getting a sneak peek of what’s behind the red door a full month before it’s available in bookstores!

I’ll be open for comments for until Friday, when I’ll draw a winner. And on the day I draw that winner, I’ll be opening a NEW contest for a signed copy of Ann Aguirre’s amazing Blue Diablo, which I read on the plane to and from Philly and which I can recommend as one of the best books I’ve read in 2009.

When a Glitch Is Not a Glitch

If you’ve been following the Amazon delisting debacle (#amazonfail in the Twitterverse and well chronicled in posts on Dear Author here, here, and here), then you probably know that late yesterday afternoon, an Amazon spokesperson announced that it was all just a glitch, not the result of a deliberate policy decision.

A lot of folks have been calling shenanigans on that explanation, but I think it’s at least partly true. There’s no doubt in my mind that sales rankings are being stripped from books by a programming algorhythm that looks for certain metadata “category” tags. The books are stripped of their rankings and then are hidden from certain searches (although this seems inconsistent–some unranked books will display in some searches while others won’t). This happens to a book if it has any of the offending tags (among them, apparently, the words “Gay & Lesbian,” “Erotica” and “Sex”), regardless of its actual content. Thus, books ranging from Lady Chatterley’s Lover to The I Do Anthology (a collection of essays in support of same-sex marriage), Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, and The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability have all lost their sales ranking and, to some extent, are no longer readily searchable.

So, since I just said I think the filtering is based on metacategory and is absolutely intentional, what do I mean when I say I think it’s partly a glitch?

I mean that I don’t think Amazon’s intention was to filter out books like Heather Has Two Mommies or parenting books intended for same-sex couples or most of the books I just listed. It was simply an inintended consequence of implementing a filter that was intended to screen out “dirty books” and instead caught a whole bunch of other thoroughly inoffensive ones (while, I might add, simultaneously failing to screen out sex toys from a search on the word “rabbit”–something I find particularly amusing; why do erotic books lose their sales rankings while erotic appliances retain them?) in its too-wide net.

The outpouring of outrage on the part of the GLBT community has been loud and vitriolic, and rightly so. There’s little doubt in my mind that Amazon will soon set about correcting its filtering matrix so that books that clearly don’t belong in the “adult” category regain their sales rankings and become once again easily searchable.

What worries me is that few people seem to have a problem with Amazon’s continuing to hide books with erotic content. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of comments that are tantamount to suggesting that Amazon’s only mistake here was in not casting its net wide enough to catch all those other filthy romance novels out that that, while not tagged as “erotica,” contain graphic descriptions of “teh secks.”

All I can say is, huh? For the life of me, I cannot grasp the apparent nonchalance of some folks who are absolutely appalled by the delisting of non-erotic GLBT books but seem absolutely unperturbed by the delisting of books with erotic/sexual content and even keen on the notion of getting more of them delisted.

To those folks I say: Sex is part of the human experience. An important part. Sex is also a meaningful component of romantic love. And yes, damn it, sex is fun. Books that celebrate sex are no more deserving of ghettoization than books about any other topic. Should there be ways for people to indicate that they don’t want such books showing up in their search results? Damn straight.

But please, let’s leave those decisions to the end user, not to computers and corporate policies. Because that way lies censorship in its ugliest and most insidious form.

Please Boycott Amazon!

Okay, it’s Easter Sunday (hope you’re enjoying it!), which is one of the last days of the year I want to wake up to such disturbing news, let alone have to post about it.

It seems, my friends, I’ve been amazon ranked.

You see, in the past few days Amazon has decided that its customers must be protected from books with “adult” content and has “delisted” the sales rankings for books with erotic or GLBT themes. (See Dear Author post here for initial story and analysis.) At first, I was relatively unconcerned, as I thought it just meant my book would no longer have that “sales ranking” number, which frankly, of late, only serves to depress me.

It turns out, however, that this “delisting” has a number of other negative consequences, since it also hinders direct searches for books that have been determined to be in the “adult” category. This means that, if you search on Amazon in “All Departments” for either my name or my book title or a combination of both, my book does not come back in the search results and, in fact, my last name is even crossed out as though I don’t exist. (Apparently, if you narrow your search to Books, I magically exist as does the bookThe problem with this is that, if you have just searched “All Departments” and have been assured no matching product exists, your next thought is not going to be, “Well, it’s a book. Maybe I should search there.” I mean, if there is no matching product in all departments, how can there be one in books?)

Now, I can (as a parent with young children) have some sympathy for the notion that content should be filterable to prevent the small fry from finding books that are inappropriate for them, and I would say the erotic books qualify as inappropriate (though the notion that any book with a GLBT theme, including non-fiction and YA stories, should be hidden from is simply appalling and mind-blowing). But why not have a simple toggle swtich–something to allow the end-user to indicate they DON’T want the adult content filtered out? Granted, kids could click on it, but really, they can click the “I’m an adult” link on YouPorn and get in, for crap’s sake.

Of course, while we’re at it, there is the fact that all novels with clearly sexual and adult content aren’t being blocked by Amazon. All of Laurell K. Hamilton’s books are still right there, easily accessible, and though I’ve never read any of her work, there’s no doubting they’re brimming with erotic content. The sheer arbitrariness of which books get delisted or not is breathtaking and frightening. With a single swoop of their pen, Amazon has decided that it’s perfectly okay to destroy some authors’ careers while preserving others. That is…atrocious.

So, please, until Amazon rectifies this grievous wrong, do not purchase anything from them. It isn’t often that I believe the world is out to get us, but in this case, paranoia is warranted. And please help all the authors who have been affected by this (it’s not just me, not by a longshot) by contacting Amazon’s customer support, either by email at ecr@amazon.com and the customer service phone number is 1-800-201-7575.

Thank you for your support.

What’s So Twit-tastic About It?

A little over a week ago, I succumbed to a combination of peer pressure, curiosity, and Brent Spiner1 and joined the Twitterverse. I must admit, I’ve been enjoying it–far too much, in fact. When people tried to explain the concept to me, I truly didn’t get it. People would post 140-character blog entries that I could “follow.” But what could anyone say in 140 characters that I’d be interested in following?

But within a few hours of my first Tweet, all became clear. Turns out, Twitter is this magical place that spans the gap between blogs and IM chat. It’s a little like a Facebook home page, but without all the invitations to events and requests for Sea Garden creatures and whatnot coming along for the ride.

So, now that I’m impossibly hooked, why not come follow me? You can find me at http://www.twitter.com/jackiebarbosa. If you follow me, I’ll follow you ;)!

1The actor who played Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, my all-time favorite character in the Star Trek universe. When I learned Mr. Spiner was a twitterer, all my resistance was futile. I have indeed been assimilated.

Why Do We Do It?

Now, now, get your mind out of the gutter. (Okay, yes, that’s probably where it belongs when you’re reading the blog of an erotic romance writer, but seriously, I don’t talk about that particular it that much here! I save it for the books.)

No, today, I’m mulling about why writers write. More specifically, why I write. I’ve been asking myself the question a lot lately because, at the moment, I am not writing because I have to–at least not in any contractual sense. No one is breathing down my neck for this manuscript, and when it is done, there is no guarantee that anyone will be beating down my agent’s door to buy it.

Some days, usually when the story refuses to bend to my will and the words are coming with great difficulty, writing really does seem like a colossal waste of time and effort. I’m not enjoying it, there’s no assurance anyone but my CPs and my agent will ever read it, and there must be a thousand more immediately productive things I could be doing with my time.

And yet, I can’t seem to stop. There’s a drive, an urge to do it, even when it feels about as pleasurable as peeling my skin off, inch by excruciating inch.

My father (who wrote two novels and did lots of freelance nonfiction writing) used to say that he had to write. It wasn’t something he did because he wanted to, but because he needed to. That’s not to say wanting to was never part of the equation. After all, we need to eat to survive, but most of us enjoy our food, at least a significant proportion of the time.

All of that said, I know plenty of writers who claim no particular compulsion to write. They do it because they enjoy it and/or they make a living at it, and it’s better than any other job they could be doing. And more power to them.

But for me, the compulsion is the thing that keeps me going even when it’s rough, when the doubts set in. Because the doubts will set in. Is my hero really as hawt and sexy as my CP says? Is my heroine TSTL or just plain bitchy and unlikeable? Is my amazing and clever plot really stupid and boring? And the love scenes–are they sexy and erotic and emotionally engaging or just…meh? But I’ll never know the answers unless I soldier on, so I’m glad that I can keep writing, even when it hurts.

YOUR TURN: What about you? If you write, why do you it? And if you don’t, do you wonder why other people do? Or wish you could?

A Whine about Taxes

Okay, nothing to do with them being too much or too difficult to prepare or anything like that. But honestly, who in DOG’S name thought that it would be a good idea to have people PAY to e-file?

Hello, IRS and Franchise Tax Board–you have said on more than one occasion that efilers save the government money. Their returns require fewer hours of human manpower for processing, thereby reducing costs. And yet you still want us to pay you? Are you mad?

This year, my TurboTax software came with five free federal efiles. So I will definitely be filing my federal taxes electronically. But the state of California wants to charge me $19.95 per return. Hello, it costs me <$5 to print and mail you the bloody thing. Why would I pay you four times as much?

Talk about penny-wise and pound foolish. Sheesh. No wonder government is always broke!