A Review for Revived!

Hooray! Revived was reviewed by Jasmine of Jazzy Book Reviews, who gave it an excellent rating of four (I kid you not!) undead thumbs up! You can find Jasmine’s review here. Here are some of my favorite bits:

Revived is a fun, sort of snarky horror story that takes traditional zombie lore and throws it out the window.

Character-wise, Vi is a likeable person. She’s a bit of a smart-ass, and occasionally her temper does get the best of her. But all in all, she’s a fun character. I really enjoyed the story because of her.

Every single person in the story gives you a reason to either love them or hate them.

If you’re looking for something different and not-so-traditional in the zombie/horror genre, look no further than Revived

Thank you so much, Jazzy!

Digging Deep: How Revived Became a Novel

It’s easy for writers to forget when to stop. It happens all the time: we begin something and we just keep adding to it, even after the novelette we had planned has already become longer than most full-sized novels. We feel like we have to put that character in, and of course that means we have to write a few scenes for them. Or maybe we love a certain plotline, even though it’s not really that relevant to the main story. Or we’re just verbose.

It’s much rarer for a writer to stop when they should be going, but it happens. Sometimes. It definitely happened to me when I was writing Revived. Back in the day, I was trying to enter the short stories market, and that’s what Revived was supposed to be: a short story, no more than 7.500 words long (I had a market on my mind, and they wouldn’t accept anything longer than that). And of course, being just an apprentice writer, I did what every inexperienced writer in history must have done at least once: I made up a bogus ending and stuck it in the story.

Lucky enough, I was (and still am) in a Google+ critique group that just didn’t let it pass. The critique I received made me realize the theme of the story was too complex to express is in 7.500 words or less, and that the ending was crap. More than that, though, a few people told me they wanted to read more of the story. They wanted me to go deeper, to explore the world I had created and dig out something tasty. So I went on writing.

I wasn’t flying completely blind, of course. While I didn’t have the ending of the story in mind until I got close to it, I already had some scenes. And more came out naturally as the story evolved in my mind. I’m not a great outliner, so I just let the story flow until I realized it had to end somehow, else I would just keep writing forever. So I thought about the most natural way to end Revived, and end it I did. Just when a story that was too short was about to turn into a story that was too long.

However, I found out that the ending of Revived was merely the ending of Violet’s story. There were several other characters I (and the beta readers) wanted to know more about, so there might be sequels 😉 But in the meantime, let me tell you I was happy to be able to give the book the ending it deserved. And I’m grateful I listened to those people in the critique group who told me to keep on writing. Without their help, Revived would have remained a short story with a crappy ending instead of a novel with a hopefully not-so-crappy one.

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Why I Chose Not to Use DRM

When I published Revived, I was given the choice of either using Digital Rights Management software (“DRM” in short) or not. Before we go any further, some of you may want to know what DRM is. According to Wikipedia,

Digital rights management (DRM) schemes are various access control technologies that are used to restrict usage of proprietary hardware and copyrighted works. DRM technologies try to control the use, modification, and distribution of copyrighted works (such as software and multimedia content), as well as systems within devices that enforce these policies

When I was given the choice, I immediately and without doubt opted for not using DRM. If you want to know the reasons behind my choice, keep reading.

As a reader/gamer, I’ve always been contrary to DRM. To put it bluntly, DRM seems to be tailor-made to piss of legitimate buyers. The very principle it’s based on is wrong: DRM limits your enjoyment of a product because someonesomewhere, may choose to distribute it illegally. This merely hypothetical situation is used as an excuse to limit a series of established consumer rights; such as the right to lend the book you purchased to a friend, which can be easily and legally done with a physical book – that, incidentally, is much more expensive to produce than an ebook – without anyone crying havoc. Or the right to move the book you purchased from one place to another, which is impossible if you bought a DRM-protected ebook on Amazon and later want to switch to a Kobo e-reader (or vice versa). Or the right to keep reading the ebook you purchased after the DRM it’s protected by falls out of use, meaning that newer devices won’t support it, meaning that it will be unusable. All of these rights disappear because of the possibility that someone may pirate the book. Does it sound fair to you?

Some DRM may also be actually detrimental to the user experience. This happens most of the time with videogames, with known cases of lower performances or games made actually unplayable by bugged DRM. However, there are reported cases of ebook DRM making ebooks impossible to read. Note that these issues do not affect those who downloaded pirate copies, which creates an absurd situation: legitimate buyers find themselves with a product that’s inferior to the one they could have downloaded from the Internet for free. Seriously?

As if all that wasn’t enough, DRM has one more, big issue: it doesn’t work.

That’s right: the software that’s supposed to protect books, games, music and whatever from being copied and freely distributed is simply irrelevant. Just look through any website that offers pirate ebooks for free. How many of those books were originally protected by DRM? Probably most of them. And yet, it didn’t make any difference. It takes around 2 minutes for a tech-savy person to remove the protection from an ebook (or a dozen of them) and upload it on the Internet. The moment someone buys an ebook from, say, Amazon, they are given both the code (the protected ebook) and the key to the code (their e-reading device). From there, it’s quite simple to unlock the ebook and make it DRM-free. Might as well avoid using DRM from the start.

To sum it up: DRM is both useless and harmful to business. Why should I screw myself up by using it?

P.S. Before someone accuses me of being a… what’s the latest fad? “Liberal snowflake”? let me tell you something: I fully support author rights. I believe that anyone who creates something should have the chance to make a profit out of it. But that doesn’t mean I will stand for readers being treated like garbage. I am in favor of a DRM-free publishing world because I want people to be encouraged to buy ebooks. Because I don’t want readers to feel like idiots after they paid money for something that’s available – albeit illegally – for free and in a better form. If downloading pirate books is wrong, then tempting people to do so is worse than wrong. And I will not stand for that.

Credits: Ubisof_DRM by Colony of Gamers

Digging Deep: The Origins of Revived

One thing writers get asked a lot is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Neil Gaiman wrote a long and articulated answer that, being something written by Neil Gaiman, is worth reading. I, on the other hand, am going to give you a much shorter and simple answer to a much more specific question: how did I get the idea for Revived?

One day, I was reading Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I’m a big Sanderson fan, and while this book may not be among his best – due to the fact that it’s his first published work – it gave me a moment of clarity. For those who haven’t read the book, here’s a short summary of the premise: around the mystical city of Elantris, people have begun turning into bald, gray-skinned creatures that, while being unable to die, retain the ability to feel pain and hunger and can never heal. These Elantrians are exiled into the once-glorious city and treated like lepers. In the book, many people are shown having misconceptions and prejudices about the Elantrians, including the belief that their condition is contagious (it isn’t). In fact, it was a dialogue between two minor character about the nonexistent risk of contagion that made me think: “Elantrians have HIV.” Which was Ernestian mindspeak short for, “The ignorance and prejudice Elantrians are targets of mirror the ignorance and prejudice that target ‘different’ people in the real world.”

sanderson_elantris

If I recall correctly, that’s when I decided to write Revived.

Why did I choose to make it about sentient zombies, though? Because the modern zombie acts as a symbol for many things. It’s a symbol of consumerism, because it devours its prey blindly and without caring. It’s a symbol of antropophobia (fear of people), because it’s essentially a stranger that wants to hurt you for no real reason. It’s a symbol of corruption and disease, because it turns innocent people into something like itself.

Overall, the zombie carries with it a huge load of bad stereotypes. Which make it the perfect protagonist for a story about them.

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Just think about it: if sentient zombies existed in the real world, they would have an obscene amount of bad press. There’s a lot of fiction about zombies as mindless, hunger-driven machines that can and must be killed without remorse. Not to mention their appearance: pale bodies, a shambling gait, open wounds. Oh, and they don’t socialize with “normal” people, because of their eating habits and because “normal” people tend to see them as threats. They would be the perfect target for hate groups, who would probably drop the “normal” in the last sentence and clamor to make Earth human again. It doesn’t sound so far-fetched, does it?

Revived isn’t just a story about discrimination, though. There are a few other themes, including solitude, disability, forgiveness and self-worth. But the discrimination theme is the one that sparkled everything, and I found it while reading Elantris. Without that book, I may have never written Revived. So thank you, Brandon Sanderson. Now, if you could please finish Oathbringer so I can put my greedy fanboy hands on it, that would be great.

Credits: Cover of Elantris by Stephan Martiniere; “Take me to the zombies” by Esparta Palma