Character Interview

To make your Thursday a little brighter, here’s a character interview with Markon, the hero from Jaguar Knight, the final novella in the Shifter’s Mates series coming soon from Changeling Press.

“Welcome, everyone! Today, I have a special treat for my viewers. We’re coming to you live from the battle cruiser commanded by Warlord  Markon, who has graciously agreed to sit down with me and answer a few questions.”

I turn to face the imposing man across from me and watch the monitor as the audience grows exponentially. Everyone is interested in the Commander’s new mate.
“Thank you for joining us today, Commander. To start off, what kind of job do you have? This might help our human viewers understand you better.”
Markon leans back in his chair and smirks around a mouthful of popcorn. He finishes chewing and swallows, then sucks the salt from his fingers before speaking. “A job, you say? Do humans have such things? I suppose they must – and your job is to ask questions of others.”
He takes another few pieces of popcorn, but doesn’t eat them. He doesn’t smile, and his hard blue eyes under elongated eyebrows make me shiver. “Do you enjoy your job, Kate?”
“We’re not talking about me. Our viewers are interested in you.”
He picks up a brown bottle and takes a drink before tilting it in my direction. “Touché. I suppose one might call me a fixer.”
“I don’t understand what that means,” I say. “Can you elaborate?”
The smile falls from his face. “I take care of the messy things and make them neat. You humans have created a great deal of mess, but I must say I enjoy the challenge.”
Okay, then. “Let’s move on to the next question. Describe yourself in three words.”
He laughs and toasts me with his bottle. “Fucking nuts, around the bend, and batshit crazy. I believe those were terms used before humanity’s fall from grace.”
“Is that how you describe yourself, or how others describe you?” I ask.
“Does it matter?”
His expression is haunted, and he touches a finger to the tablet in front of him. I crane my neck to see the image, but he swipes it away before I can.
In a probably misguided hope that he will be more forthcoming, I ask, “Who is your love interest?”
The skin around his eyes crinkles as he smiles. “Soledad Martinez. You might know her better as ‘that fucking pirate’.”
“Tell us about your first kiss with Soledad.”
“Is it not customary to say please? We were taught all sorts of odd human customs, though. Perhaps I’m mistaken.”
“Say ‘please, Commander’ and I might answer your question.”
I cross my legs. Markon makes me feel hunted, and I feel sorry for Soledad. “Please, Commander, tell me about your first kiss with Soledad.”
He grins, though his eyes remain cold. “That sounds so much better, little Kate.” Reaching across the table separating us, he takes my hand and drops a kiss into the center of my palm. “Our first kiss was against the side of my battle cruiser after we’d landed on Ximera.”
Laughing, he drops my hand. “I couldn’t decide whether to kiss her, fuck her, or spank her ass pink for making me chase her across the universe.” He leans back and takes a drink. “I did all three, of course, but that first kiss…”
He breaks off and I shuffle my notes to the next question. He speaks before I can ask it. “She tasted sweet and spicy, and her claws dug into my shoulders as I explored her with my tongue.” His voice softens and he glances down at the tablet. “It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”
Whoa. I shift in my seat, trying to hide my arousal. “List three things about Soledad that turn you on.”
“Soledad is…” He chuckles and looks away. “She’s in a league all her own, but three things, let’s see.” Taking another drink, he says, “She’s so damned beautiful, it hurts to look at her. When she threatened to eat me with hot sauce, it made me as hard as a fucking metal pipe. She’s deadly, mean as a snake, and I’ve never met a more fascinating female.”
I wonder if I should be interviewing Soledad. She sounds very interesting. Instead, I ask, “Do you like using sex toys?”
“Who doesn’t?”
Whuh. I’m speechless for a moment. When I find my words again, I ask, “Whipped cream or Marshmallow?”
“Are they like popcorn?”
“Not really, but they’re sweet.”
“Which one is better to drizzle over Soledad’s pussy?”
I am totally out of my league here. Ximerans are charming to a fault, and I always forget they aren’t human. “I’ll leave that for you to figure out. What’s one thing about Soledad that pisses you off?”
Markon scowls and slams his bottle down on the table. “She runs, and she’s a pain in my ass to catch.” He lifts his head to stare into the camera, letting pointed fangs protrude from beneath his upper lip. “But I will catch you, Soledad. And when I do, I’m going to blister your pretty ass for escaping.”

Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

Dear Mr. Bezos:
Mine is not the first letter you’ve received, nor will it be the last. Several authors, more knowledgeable and prolific than I am, have already sent you emails. I’m sure you’re tired of us.
I would certainly be tired of the constant caterwauling going on. But perhaps you’re so removed from the daily operations of the behemoth you’ve built that it doesn’t reach the hallowed halls of your office. And in this letter, I am addressing you, personally. This is your company, and ultimately your responsibility.
Authors, legitimate artists – are not the ones who messed up. We are not the ones who have created – and allowed to flourish – a system so utterly flawed that Amazon gives away millions of dollars per year to thieves.
Book stuffers – I’m sure you’ve heard the term. I’m not sure you could bloody well miss it if you’ve spent any time on Twitter recently. And I’m at a loss as to how this has gone on for so long under your very nose.
Think about it, Mr. Bezos. Have you ever read a 2,000-page book? Ever? Neither have I. The longest single title novel I have ever personally read without being forced to for a school assignment is Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged at a bit over one thousand pages. I highly recommend it. Maybe if you get an idea what a 1,000 page novel looks like, you’ll understand how ridiculous it is for a romance title to be that long.
But on Kindle Unlimited, there are books like Business & Pleasure (A Romance Compilation) at 2,132 pages, according to the book information. But this is okay, according to Amazon’s TOS, because the author has called it a compilation. The author is STILL making a fortune in pages read, still taking money away from honest authors who don’t recycle books between different compilations, and still gaming your system.
These scammers use honest authors as ‘beards’, for lack of a better word, to hide their activities. And contrary to every rule of logic in the known universe, your bots pick up on those pages read, instead of where they ought to be looking. Honest authors lose their payments, even in some cases losing accounts, without due process or appeal.
You have literally given the power to take away someone’s livelihood to a bot and an underpaid customer service rep who may not even read the report. And that, Mr. Bezos, IS theft. It is unconscionable, and quite frankly, you’re lucky you haven’t been sued. You demand exclusivity, which is fine – we all know what we sign up for when we put titles in Kindle Unlimited. Yet you offer nothing but a summary judgment if your asinine bot picks up something that might be totally honest. There is no recourse for an author in KU if one of his or her titles is pirated or used as a shield for someone else’s crime.
And trust me, most authors bend over backwards to keep their titles from being pirated. I’m not exactly sure how that fact hasn’t trickled down into Amazon’s corporate consciousness yet, but there it is.
Don’t even get me started on the unfathomable mess the review system has become. You penalize honest reviews, yet leave garbage to molder and call them fair.
Let’s move on. Cockygate, which I’m sure you’re quite aware of. It’s another symptom of your bloated, unwieldy, and frankly baffling corporate model. While I’m on the subject, did you ever read the book Going Postal by Terry Pratchett? Perhaps you should. Amazon is beginning to remind me of a Discworld post office. Clever man, Mr. Pratchett. You might find his work amusing. Or maybe not.
Back to Cockygate. What possessed you to pull titles with the word ‘cocky’ in the title for essentially handwritten C&D letters NOT from an attorney, based on an obviously bogus trademark that you HAD to have known would be challenged? Did it not occur to you that perhaps you should wait and see if someone legitimate protested those titles? Or maybe bide your time until the trademark was deemed to be valid in the courts?
Why not, Mr. Bezos? We’d love to hear those answers.
You’ve done a couple of things right, though. You got Chance Carter out and his books are gone. Kudos! There was a great deal of cheering for that. But there are dozens more where he came from. You put back the ‘cocky’ titles you erroneously removed. That’s wonderful! Did you also reimburse those author’s lost revenues? Well, it’s a good start, anyway. You also put the book stuffers on notice by requiring them to label their compilations.
I have a couple of suggestions, though I doubt it will ever be enough to fix the shambles that Kindle Unlimited has become.
Page limits – put page limits on anything in KU. The scamming will still go on, but give honest authors a fighting chance. We can’t compete in ads or in reaching the unattainable all-star bonuses when we’re up against book stuffers.
Disqualify compilations altogether, unless they’re boxed sets by multiple authors. This will probably cause a rise in the incidence of fake accounts, but it would be a start. Make it unprofitable to stuff books. Once the practice doesn’t pay out, it will stop. For that matter, disqualify the boxed sets, too. Nuking the site from orbit may indeed be the only way to be sure.
There should never be an instance where an account is closed or a book removed from Amazon without due process from humans. Amazon is not the morality police. You do not get to choose what people read. You should never forget that authors are why you exist. Without us, Amazon is nothing but a supermarket on steroids.
I’m sure other, more savvy authors, have more and probably better suggestions, but those are good for a start. As for me, I’m going to keep writing, but I will never put another indie title into Kindle Unlimited. I can’t afford the antacids.
Raisa Greywood