Changed - The Book that Will Never Be or "Casualty of War"
Changed is the book that follows River and Wolfe.
If you read Wolfe, you know there are a lot of loose ends. This is because I never saw either book as being remotely about plot--both are purely about the main character's arc. And I realize this bugged some people. But I did, ultimately, see where things were headed (her "destiny" as is alluded to repeatedly in both books), and figured I'd wrap this up in an anthology of shorts.
I called it Changed, for some obvious reasons and some not-so-obvious reasons.
(This paragraph is for River/Wolfe readers) The set up of the antho had one main, present day story, divided into multiple parts. In between were short stories from different character POVs in different points of time. I'd written two already: "Rebellion" was from Daryl's POV and took place the night he bit River, while "Doe, A Deer" followed Jewel Doe about two weeks prior to the start of Wolfe (if you've read it, you know what her condition was by the end of it and might guess what the story was about). Other shorts involved Kia and Noah from Wolfe, Danielle from Wolfe (as a possible love interest for Charlie), Gray and Rick Nacy from years before the start of River, as well as one short that followed the young hunter River runs into towards the end of Wolfe. I also wrote the opening for the main, present set storyline and plotted out where it was all going.
I'm putting the rest of this behind a cut because a) I'm posting an excerpt from Changed and there may be people who might not want to read it, and b) I'm tying this to a larger issue that you can probably guess about by looking at the tags for this entry. But if you do keep reading, please know that I deeply appreciate it.
The opening of Changed is here: http://skyladawncameron.com/Changed_excerpt.pdf Warning: It contains spoilers for River/Wolfe. And it's a dialogue-heavy first draft.
Back to the entry...
I wrote that last summer.
Wolfe, as most people know, was difficult for me to write. The end absolutely gutted me and it was bad enough that I couldn't stand to reread the book beyond edits (the galley proofing was done by another party). Some people have enjoyed it, and I'm grateful for that, but it wasn't a pleasant experience for me.
Last year, as we neared release, I did get a little excited about the series, however. I'd had Changed in my head for awhile and I thought I might take a shot at writing it. I sat down, got about seven hundred words into the main storyline...
Then Wolfe came out. And that very same day, people started hitting my site looking for torrents of it.
*Note: this is not going to turn into a profanity laced rant, and I promise I'm going to have a point to this beyond bitching*
Anyways. This went on for weeks and weeks. But after about three or four days of it, when I was getting hits daily from *different* people looking for illegal version of Wolfe, knowing how heavily River had been pirated...I closed the file.
I closed Changed in July 2009. And you know when I opened it again? Just now to grab that excerpt for you. And it's August 2010.
Unless you've spent hundreds and hundreds of hours of your time slaving over something, hoping to see financial compensation for it so that you can buy basic stuff like groceries, you can't quite understand what it's like to feel the stinging slap across your face of someone trying to steal a book you JUST released. You can't understand the sick feeling in your gut, like you ate something bad and it's never going to go away. You don't know how piracy changes you as a writer and as a person.
It would be easy to ignore if these pirates were just anonymous names, maybe (like I'm sure it's easy for them to steal from us since we're a name on a book and not a real, working person with a family to feed--or in my case, hopefully conceive in the not-so-distant future). But they're not. You know what I know about pirates?
The day I started getting hits on my site from people looking for Wolfe torrents was the day of release. At that point, it had been announced on my Twitter account, Facebook, possibly my newsletter (I can't remember) and...that's it. No reviews yet. I don't have time for interviews or promo, so no big announcements. This tells me that those attempted pirates are my supposed *fans". The people who are supposed to be the lifeblood of an author--nay, the entire industry. Among those loyal readers are leeches who have the nerve to follow me, listen to me, and then try to steal from me. (I wonder, too, if any of them threw in a donation when Dina James had her "Save Skyla From Starving" Twitter Drive last December...and I'm thinking they probably didn't.) And the more I started looking up the pirate names I found, the more I discovered these people frequented writer blogs and participated in giveaways too.
And realizing this--that these thieves are regular people who not only steal, but do so knowingly from someone whose work they enjoy and follow--completely alters how a writer sees people.
I look at people on GoodReads and other reader review sites who read River awhile ago and rated it highly, but never did read Wolfe. And I absolutely hate that the first thought in my mind NOW is, "Maybe they stole it and haven't been able to steal Wolfe yet." Please know that I'm NOT accusing anyone of anything. I feel guilty for even thinking it and never actively assume someone who has only read my (at the time) only pirated book was a thief. I'm always thrilled to see people reading and rating/reviewing my work.
To reiterate: please, please please don't take this to mean writers don't want their work read, loved, and reviewed. We're so grateful for it. I cherish every interaction with fans and I'm not trying to sound pissy about it--that's not the point I'm trying to make.
But if you've ever been in a situation where your trust has been abused--in this case, between author and reader--you'll know that your mind goes to The Dark Place before you can stop it.
It's like when you're with a wonderful, loving boyfriend/husband/etc and suddenly you discover he's cheating. Every boyfriend you have after that, no matter how wonderful, will never be totally trusted; you'll have those little thoughts, wondering if he's lying. You don't get away from it.
It's the same thing when my work is posted at a pirate forum and I later see google searches on my name leading to my site. Are these people here looking for my backlist so they can try to steal it? We writers love readers and are stoked to see the visiting, reviewing, etc. Always. BUT...there's this distrustful, tiny voice in the back of the mind playing the "What if?" game. And it comes up when your work is reviewed as well--there are some reviewers (such as this one, I'm told) that solicit books from authors and publishers while engaging in piracy as well. When a reviewer requests a book, we have to wonder, will this person upload it for people to steal too? If we don't send them the file, will they go and steal it?
Nearly all writers who have their work published go through piracy. I know this. It happens because as long as there are people working hard and asking to be valued, there will be others who feel entitled to take without asking. It's a fact of life.
I know it's risky writing about this because a friend of mine once tried to express how having her book pirated all over just sucked away creativity and she ended up with a negative review where a reader read that on her blog and decided she was trying to blackmail her fans or something. Folks, this isn't blackmail or extortion. This isn't whining about how unfair everything is. There are no threats, no rants, no swearing (mostly). And this isn't me giving a stern talking to would-be pirates.
This is reality. And I think people need a dose of it.
I spoke to the publisher when Wolfe was about to release about my piracy concerns. He's now my boss in my other job, so we spoke freely about it and he asked if I thought it would help if we just didn't release Wolfe as an ebook. No, I said, because I didn't want to give up my ebook sales, which were a big chunk of my income.
But when people started looking for a Wolfe torrent on the day of release and I closed the Changed file, I decided that was it for the series. No more River books.
Many writers keep going with their series and that's fine for them, but the reality is that I'm with a small publisher that relies on e-sales. I don't get an advance and I don't get bookstore shelf exposure. ALL of my sales come through online orders and mostly ebooks. That isn't to excuse people pirating the work of mass market published authors--it's wrong and it will always be wrong. I'm pointing it out, though, because e and smaller authors have very few ways of making up for the loss of income to piracy when ALL they have are online sales and no real name for themselves.
So I had to make a choice. I work multiple jobs to make a living on top of writing, so I have very few hours in the day in which to write.
What should I spend those precious three to four hours on?
Should I spend it on writing Changed? The next book in a series that, I grant you, is slightly more popular than the my other series (Bloodlines) but is heavily pirated? Or do I work on new books no one has stolen yet that I want to sell to a larger audience one day, in the hopes that piracy won't be so damaging?
What would you do?
We write for the love of it, yes, but working writers need to use their time wisely. And I wasn't going to spend more hours labouring over something people would try to steal the moment it was released when I knew what little money I'd end up making.
Changed is a book that exists in my head but will never be written. It's the final chapter of River's story that will never be told. If a friend/reader ever asked me privately "What happens to River after Wolfe?", I'd tell her exactly what I had planned because I don't want to punish great people who have supported me. I'm happy telling them how I saw the story concluding. But I had to draw a line somewhere.
There are many casualties in the war against piracy. Changed was the first big one on my front next to some of my trust, faith in humanity, muse, and a little thing called income.
I realize that by sharing this, I'm risking alienating readers old and new. And you know, I'm okay with that.
I've run into a number of e-authors who have had long running series cancelled due to low sales, though piracy of their titles skyrocketed. I've run into a number of e-authors who just quit writing a series, like me, in favour of working on different ones that will hopefully sell to a larger audience. Still others were completely disillusioned and crushed when their book was uploaded on the day of release (or sometimes the day BEFORE release). And others quit writing for publication completely.
These stories don't get told, though. They're circulated in private, but people rarely come out and say anything. And I've heard others fighting piracy lament this fact, wondering why others won't speak up.
Tonight, Wolfe was uploaded to a pirate forum. Thank you, google, for alerting me within three minutes. I then spent the next half hour sending a dozen DMCA notices to file hosts. And then I pulled out Changed and wrote this entry because this is a story that needs to be told--so that the next time a pirate talks about how they're just sharing and no one is really hurt by piracy, people can point to this blog entry and SEE evidence of what bullshit that line of thinking is. Stealing a writer's work HURTS--it hurts the writer, her family, her publisher, and her readers.
And you know what, pirates? It hurts you. Because you wouldn't be pirating the sequel to a book you previously stole unless you enjoyed the original. You liked this series and now you've shot yourself in the foot because there will be no more books for you to read. Yes, you can just go pirate someone else's books...but readers keep this industry thriving, and if readers stop supporting it, how long before your personal favourite series is cancelled? Writers and readers have a symbiotic relationship and you're not holding up your end of the bargain. Why should we hold up ours?
Yes, piracy is a fact of life that writers need to get used to. But consequences are also a fact of life that pirates need to deal with as well.
So that's all I have to say about piracy tonight. It's nearly 4 am--I've lost my writing time, my muse, and was upset enough to cry a bit too. And I've possibly offended/alienated some people as well, which I can't really help. And, you know, if I do piss off everyone and some people hate me? Oh well.
Just call me another casualty of war.