Write Perspective: The Scorpion Rules

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Book Description:

Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.

Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.

Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed…unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.

Good for people who enjoy: post-apocalyptic, LGBT protagonist, strong female lead, robot versus human

Review: What strikes me about this book is that I didn’t want to like it.  Erin Bow has a unique writing style that at first I didn’t care for, but now it’s one of my favorite things about the book.  Bow writes from the first person and very informally.  I thought it was strange, but every time I put the book down I’d pick it back up five minutes later.  Why?  The book got me thinking.

The main character Greta is someone I truly enjoyed reading about.  She’s a duchess and Crown Princess so she’s strong, but she’s also a Child of Peace and therefore weak.  She’s complex and intelligent and very diplomatic.  Throughout the book you see the world she thinks she knows shattered in front of her all because of a boy, but the way Bow goes about it is so unconventional that you’re on the edge of your seat.

Perhaps one of my favorite exchanges between Greta and the all-powerful robot overload is when she tells him that no, she’s not doing this for the boy she loves – in fact, she’s falling in love with her (female) best friend, Li Da-Xia or “Xie”, the Daughter of the Heavenly Throne. The boy Elian changed her life, not by coming in on a horse to save her, but by coming in shackled in chains to doom her.

The world Bow creates in clear cut and no-nonsense.  If her people go into war, Greta will die.  Her only concern is to do so gracefully and with honor.  In fact, the entire novel starts with one of her lifelong friends being brought to his own death.  Her thoughts?  At least he’d be proud his nation won.  When I think to Greta of that scene, and then the Greta at the end of my book, I’m so overwhelmingly impressed by such a drastic growth arc that felt so natural when reading.

I was brought very quickly into this world ruled by Artificial Intelligence.  It’s the kind of world where when you’re back brought into this one, the ‘real world’, you start thinking.  This world feels a little less real because your mind is so deeply invested in this one created by Bow.

This review is unique in that I don’t want to go more into the book, because somehow I feel like anything I can say would be a spoiler.  All I can say is that I read this book from the library, and it’s so good that I’m now buying the hardcover so that I can read it whenever I like, and you should do the same.

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Chapter 20: Victory Lap

This chapter will be entirely dedicated to my happiness, so be prepared for cliches and annoying tears of joy…

When I started writing this blog, The Freedom Game was in the editing stages.  My sister Kristen read it for the first time last summer and as we were living together at that point, I was able to see a lot of her reactions.  She was happy when I wanted her to be happy, and furious at me when I wanted her to be furious at what was happening to my protagonist, Ethlynn.  When she finished it, she said she could genuinely see it on a shelf at a bookstore and my heart nearly exploded.  She also pointed out to me how much I had improved since the last book I finished (one the world will never read due to it simply not being good).  It was then that I decided that nothing would stop me from publishing that book.

The list of rejections goes past being able to count on my fingers and toes.  Several of the agents only responded with template responses, and the rest didn’t respond at all.  Each ‘no, but remember that this is a subjective field, so keep trying’ was another piece of my heart breaking.  The template emails were kind, but they weren’t ‘yes’, and that almost made it harder.  It made me sad rather than angry.

That’s where my sister Kristen and best friend Courtney stepped in.  They were the only two at that point who had read the book.  Not only would they ask about the agent’s responses, but they would ask about my characters.  It hardened my resolve, and I can say now that I doubt this book would be published now without them.

In January I reached out to Y. Nikolova at Ammonia Book Covers.  Several emails and six days later, she had the first draft of the cover drawn up.  That was when I purchased Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn.  With my degree in Finance, I knew that I wanted to do everything right from a business prospective as well as a creative one.  I published in May, because that’s when “Fantasy/Sci Fi” sells the best.  I had people read the book prior to publication because I wanted their reviews posted on the first day.  I studied pricing so that I knew how much I could afford to ask for as a debut indie author.  I did everything.

On May 23rd, it published.  I was at my full-time job for eight hours that felt like eight years.  How dare the real world not put itself on hold for my special day?

I had people texting me pictures of the screenshot ‘Thank you for purchasing The Freedom Game by J.E. Brand’ and every single text was like picking up a piece of my once broken heart and putting it right back together.

It was that same week that I had my first unaccounted for sale.  I couldn’t trace it back to anyone I knew, and my heart might’ve possibly stopped beating all together.  I was also getting reads through people could read it for free (I get paid per page read) and I knew that anyone I knew wouldn’t choose to read it that way.  Within two days eight hundred pages of it were read, which is it being read nearly three times!  Then, on May 25th, a complete stranger rated it 4 stars on Goodreads and my heart might’ve stopped beating all together.  This meant two things: (1) a stranger had read my book from start to finish and (2) they had actually liked it.  It was my first completely unbiased review, and it was still good.

The thing about debuting as an indie author is that it’s a marathon, not a race.  I get a sale here and there.  That review from the 25th is still the only review of my book, and that’s okay.  I write because I love to do so, and I publish because I want to share what I love with the rest of the world.  An expression you often hear when depressed involves “making a mountain out of a molehill”, but let me say when it’s reversed, and every little victory is like conquering a mountain, the world is a very good place.  Every time someone buys my book, it’s another reminder that my dream actually came true.

None of it felt real until the picture posted above.  It was when I held my book for the very first time.  A book that I wrote was in my hands.  I could hold it and it was real.  I could flip through the pages and see words that I had written.  In the back was an ‘About Author’ section with my picture at the top.  The picture was taken after my freakish sobbing finally calmed down and my eyes weren’t as red, but definitely still producing a tear or two.  It was surreal but undeniable.  I’m now a published author, and I couldn’t be happier.