A Puppy Returns From WorldCon – Not an After Action Report

The actual after action report will happen when I’ve had time to recover a bit and process everything that happened. I spent most of my time at the con either attending the business meetings, or presiding over Puppy Central (which was relatively relaxed and enjoyable – thank you to everyone who helped).

The business meetings were particularly enlightening: on average about 150 people attended each day for the 3 hour meetings (4 of them). Very few of the attendees were what might be considered hard-SJW – what I saw (and yes, this is just my opinion and you might think differently) was a group of rather confused fans who want to do what they believe is the right thing.

Think of it this way – if you have been told all your life that X is good and Y has to be given an easier ride to make up for past injustice and so forth, and you’ve never actually run into anything that shows you the problems this causes, you’re going to believe it. When you’re trying to do what you think is right, and a small cadre of powerful and loud people insist that nothing you do is good enough, you’re going to accept the gaslighting and verbal abuse, and try harder to make them happy. It’s a classic abuse pattern, and it works particularly well on the not terribly socially ept (aka almost all of fandom) because we socially awkward types find it more difficult to pick up on subtle abuse.

Add to this unpleasantness a generation or so raised on “self-esteem” policies that don’t allow them to fail in any way so many of today’s young adults are incapable of distinguishing between disagreement and abuse, and you have a perfect storm waiting for somewhere to happen. (For those readers of a social justice-y persuasion, remember the feeling of working hard for something and overcoming difficulties to get there? If you don’t, then I pity you, because that’s where strength of personality and genuine self-worth come from – and there are any number of studies out there demonstrating this, but our education system denies children that feeling and that strength).

Okay. That’s enough of the political-ish digression.

There will be a Sad Puppies 5. It will have more or less the same format as Sad Puppies 4, but I won’t be leading it. That dubious honor goes to Sarah or Amanda (whichever one of them runs slower, I suspect). I’ll be helping behind the scenes, and working with the WSFS committee behind the scenes to help mitigate the damage the motions passed at the business meeting are likely to do to the Hugo brand (Why? Because I don’t want to see an award won by so many greats of the field turn into an irrelevant circle jerk and rather than bitch about its decline I’m going to do what I can to help).

Sad Puppies 5 probably won’t focus on the Hugos – at this stage it’s looking more like being simply a recommended reading list with categories more or less along the lines of the Dragon categories (which, frankly, will be a damn sight easier to manage). More details will happen when Sarah or Amanda get to them. In the meantime, no the Sad Puppies are not defeated. We might seem like a collection of bumbling clumsy… well, puppies, but we love the genre and we’re not into widdling on things or burning them down.

PS: Yes, this is rather rambly and incoherent. I’m freaking exhausted, and if there’s a greater torment for an extreme introvert than having to be social every waking hour for the best part of a week, I don’t want to know about it. You want sensible, talk to someone who can brain. That someone isn’t me right now.


Filed under Uncategorized

Finding The Story

We’ve all heard the old chestnut about the guy who finds a pile of manure and starts digging through it frantically to find a pony. Because with that much manure, there must be a pony in there.

This is kind of like what writers do, only our work is inside our heads and somewhat less odoriferous.

It’s been a long time since I talked about this, but I remembered the day before yesterday when someone left a comment on my blog saying “I have this splendid idea, but I can’t write it.”  And what he/she (I honestly don’t remember, because I suck with names) related was not a story, but a concept.

You can’t write a story from a concept any more than you can ride a pile of manure.  A good story has a concept.  It might or might not have a message.  Mind you it can have a message too, and still be a punch in the gut.  In fact, short stories are more capable of carrying message and still being a good story than novels.  The medium is more suited to the enforcement of simple ideas.  It’s amazing how many people manage to overwhelm short stories with messages considering that that length is almost MEANT to carry a message.

I think this happens because they never fully come out of the concept stage of the idea, and also because they forgot — or never knew — that the primary function of fiction is to be a vehicle not for idea but for emotion.  Unless that message is well wrapped up in “why this matters” and emotion and a character people can root for, all we’ll taste is the message, which is like tasting what went in to making the sausage.

Many beginning writers get stuck between concept and story.  There is no shame in that.  I have my share of stories that are something like “It was a beautiful planet but they practiced human sacrifice.”  And then the story stops.  Dead.  Because.

I’m talking mostly of short stories here, because they are more concept intensive, but some of these concepts can lead to novels.  In fact, many of the concepts, as you start digging prove not to be a pony but a wild tiger.  You have to be prepared for that and not try to cram everything into a short story.  For instance, Darkship Thieves started as “forbidding cloning is stupid, because people will just do it illegally and it will lead to all sorts of truly spectacularly awful things, done under the cover of ‘there is no cloning’ and—  Oooooooooooh”  Could I do a short story for it?  Sure.  But then I started figuring out what kind of regime/people would do that and if they have cloning and surgery that advanced, what else can they do, and… well… novel.

I’m going to use some simple concepts here, some of which I used before, because I don’t actually want to be forced to write these stories, but I hope it illustrates the principle.

So, say your concept is: flying cars that are easily controllable/avoid accidents are invented, and the roads turn back to nature, and people can leave much further away and isn’t it great?

A beginner will start by showing us the roads going back to nature or something.

The story, if you can call it that will die.


Start with the person this hurts most.  No, seriously, nine times out of ten going “to the pain” will find you the story.

So flying cars are all the thing.  Whom does this hurt most?  I assume the car plants are now turning out flyers.  The long distance truckers have retrained.  Oooh.  Road workers.  Sure there’s other stuff they can do, like maybe gardeners and stuff.  But this guy is a romantic, who loves the smell of freshly poured asphalt.  Most of his friends were in the road crew and they’re now dispersed.  He really loved his job, and it’s now gone.

Open with him getting a call from a friend who wants him to come and work in some public garden thing where a major interstate used to be.  He doesn’t want to.  He hates the idea of never again doing road work and they’re breaking up HIS road to make it a garden.  Meanwhile it’s snowing softly, so he wouldn’t be able to start till next month, anyway.  And his wife is pregnant.

His wife goes into labor.  He can’t take her to the hospital, even though his road is still okay, because his car spins out.  He can’t do anything, it’s all going wrong.  A Flying ambulance arrives, with a doctor, etc.

He sits there, in the hospital afterwards shaking and thinks yeah, maybe there’s something good to this new world.  Maybe he’ll go work that garden project.

Or take a concept I DID make into a short story (published in Year 3000 antho from DAW.)

We have managed to go to space,some sort of portal thing, so we can go to distant planets.  But women can’t go.  Or at least not women who want to have children.  (Yes, I know, biology might or might not be with me.  At the time it seemed to be.)  The cumulative damage to the eggs means that women who stay in space can’t have healthy children.

I confess I made it women, not men, not to piss off feminists (I was much nicer pre-menopause and the sheer mess of the last four or five years) but because the opposite has been done so often: all women societies as a sort of golden future.

So, I went to whom this hurts most.  A woman, of course.  You see, women on Earth are baby-farms and … and the sterile ones can make a good living touring planets and doing sexy shows.

So this woman goes out and isn’t getting the reaction she expects, and she thinks it’s because she’s getting old.  But little hints seem wrong.  There are too many kids in this world.  Sure this world is rich off some found alien biological tech, but seriously, how can they afford these many kids.  And sure, guys pair up, we know this from prisons and other all male environments, but… something is subtly off.

And then she realizes that guys have figured out a way to use that biological tech to have kids without women (I presume artificial wombs, but I don’t go into it.)  She’s obsolete.  Womanhood is obsolete.

I called the story Go Tell The Spartans.  It’s one of my most depressing stories, and I had a hell of a time selling it, bu that was the pony under the pile.

As should be obvious from the above, there isn’t necessarily only one pony under the pile.  My particular quirks and mood at the time led me to one.  I’m sure you’d get others from the same concept.

However, remember: Whom does it hurt?  Go to that person.  And then from there follow “how does their personal arc work?”  “How is the pain resolved, or becomes crushing?”  “How can this person solve his/her/its/dragon problem?”

Follow those threads, and you’ll find the pony in the pile.  You can’t fail.

Good digging.


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What is a good book?

That seems to be the question everyone thinks they have the answer to. The truth, however, is that there is no one “correct” definition. A good book truly is in the eye of the beholder. Just as there is no one correct way to write (the process of writing), there is no one correct definition for what a good book happens to be. Most of us understand that. Unfortunately, there are those (representing multiple sides of the spectrum) who believe they have the one true answer. The trouble with this is it leaves readers out of the equation and that is something we, as writers, cannot do.

Let me start by saying this is not going to turn into a debate about the Hugos. As far as I’m concerned, that is a moot point. Even though the Hugos are supposed to be a fan award, it has been made clear by some that they don’t want the every day fan included. They are trying their best to exclude anyone whose work — and maybe whose vote — doesn’t meet some arbitrary criteria of “good”. The fact there was even a proposal before the business meeting to allow the Hugo Committee to add nominees to the list if they felt there weren’t enough quality nominations proves that. Such an act smacks of telling fans they aren’t good enough or sophisticated enough to know what a good book is. My only question to the Hugo Committee and those who have continued to try to keep voters away from the process is why they don’t just amend the rules and make the Hugo a juried award? That way they can do whatever they want with the award without having to deal with the unwashed masses of readers who still foolishly think their opinion might matter.

Okay, I had to go there. Sorry. But that is all I’m going to say about the Hugos.

So what does make a good book? As I said in the first paragraph, there is no absolutely correct answer. Some readers want character driven stories. Others want plot driven. Some want literary works while others want pulp. Some want lots of sex and others want no sex, no matter what the genre. Once, all these diverse likes and dislikes meant all an author could do was trust his agent and publisher to accurately predict what the reading public would buy.

But now, with indie going strong (despite what a certain person who has received a government grant to write a book and has yet to do so), we aren’t as limited as we once were. We can write what we believe is a good book and leave it to the public to let us know if they liked it or not. What a lot of us are finding is that the books we couldn’t get past the front door of an agency now sell quite well as an indie publication. We can write the stories we want to and, as long as we pay attention to our reviews and what our fans say on social media and via email, we can build a career. Yes, there are benefits to traditional publishing but those benefits are lessening with the passage of time.

So, what is a good book?

It is a book that readers want to read. As a writer, it means knowing your target audience and hitting the cues they want. It means hooking the reader quickly and keeping them interested. It means giving them a story they want to talk about to their friends and family. It means entertaining and if you happen to educate a little along the way, more power to you.

What it doesn’t mean is preaching to your audience to the point they lose interest in the story. A skilled storyteller is a craftsman who can intertwine story and character and lesson all in one without beating the reader over the head with the message. I don’t know about you, but I will think about the message a lot more if it is subtle than I will if it is in my face.

I’ve done a great deal of reading the last few weeks. Between being ill and having to deal with repairmen, etc., around the house, I’ve not had the quiet I needed to write. So I read. I read traditionally published books and indie books. What I discovered was I enjoyed more indie books than I did the traditionally published books. Why? I could feel the passion of the indie writers in their work, a passion I did not feel in the traditionally published books. It was as if the indie authors liked what they were writing where the traditionally published authors — and these were best sellers in multiple genres — were just going through the motions. The best sellers had found a formula that worked to make them best sellers and they weren’t about to step away from the formula while the indies weren’t afraid to take chances and try new things.

Something else that struck me as I read was the lie we see so often that indie published books have more errors and need more editing than traditionally published books. I went back last night and looked at several examples of both just to make sure my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me. The proofreading errors between the two sets was just about even. So no, indie books did not seem to need more proofing than traditionally published books.

Something that did strike me was something I had noticed much earlier. More traditionally published books had many more formatting errors than the indie published books did. Weird paragraph breaks. No paragraph indents. Blank screens. Lack of spacing between the chapter title and the first line of text. I saw many more of those sorts of errors with traditionally published e-books than I did with indie books. Why? My only guess is that the trads don’t use the proper programs to convert to digital and then they don’t do quality checks.

And, while formatting isn’t exactly what most of us think about when we think about what makes up a good book, for an e-book reader, it is something writers and publishers should always keep in mind. If the e-book doesn’t look like a printed book, we register it. If we see an e-book where a publisher or author hasn’t taken time to make sure it “looks” right, we wonder why. That is especially true in the case of traditionally published e-books that cost as much, if not more, than their print equivalents.

So, what makes a good book in my opinion? One that keeps my attention. Fiction needs to entertain me and make me want to flip the page. I like learning something when I read but I don’t want to be preached to. Be subtle when you weave the message in. Make your characters believable. Don’t break your characters or change their personalities without having a darned good reason for it and be sure to foreshadow it. Don’t throw something in just because you think you have to — no matter what that something is. If you think it needs to be there, make sure the plot or character development require it.

There are times I want to read something that is literary. I want to see a world painted with words. There are other times I want to fly to the furthest reaches of the universe. Thrill me. Scare me. Give me warm fuzzies. Fiction for me, like it is for most readers, entertainment. Never forget that. As I said early on, remember your target audience and remember what they expect from the genre. Push the boundaries, yes, but not to the point you break them without explanation.

So, what makes a good book for you?


Filed under AMANDA, plotting, WRITING

A Wally for me!

roydon - dive boat

A picture of a good day, just because I am feeling cheerful and it’s not London, but Flinders Island on a good day. This is our dive boat, and the model for the dive boat in Changeling’s Island.

And what happens after the war….

Because there always is after the war.

This post will be all over the place, and quite possibly fairly silly. Yes, I know, that is SO unusual for me. It’s almost as if I said there was gambling in Rick’s Casino.

I’ve been, shall we say, a little tense. My wife had her follow-up colonoscopy a few hours ago (some of you may know that she had bowel cancer a while back, picked up (Thank God for the Australian screening system) early and treated.) Of course one never knows how successful or final this is, so there are regular follow-ups. A colonoscopy involves prep, and trust me that’s pretty terrible. The waiting is not much fun either.

We have an all clear for now, so I am relieved even more effectively than the prep would do. Filled with a great lightness, and reminder of knowing how it felt the first time, and sympathy and understanding all over again for those who have to deal with a bad result.

Why I brought this up is that… well, authors are human. Not all the same, not all likable, not all decent. But as human as the next man or woman, paying bills, making a career, farting in the bath. Well, I will grant you can make an exception for me. A lowly simian I, a thing of rags and tatters… but I do imitations. I can fool people that I’m human at about thirty paces and for as much thirty seconds so long as they’re upwind.

Which brings me around to ‘what happens after the war.’ (Don’t ask me, “Where is Wally” you’ve got to look for yourself.) An author I am acquainted with posted words to this sort of effect: “I can’t wait for the elections to be over and life to go back to normal.”

Now, the author in question had just posted an ‘All Trump supporters are complete morons’ type facebook post. She had deleted posts and unfriended a dozen people and had a complete melt-down over a pro-gun individual of her own political faction. Most of those who follow her… are her readers. Those of similar mindset had cheered and gleefully joined in the pile-ons.

In a few months, whoever wins or loses… it will be over. Please, my point is not to discuss who you or I think will win or lose. It’s that there will be winners and losers, and what happens after that.

I know, that’s the dreaded long-term thinking thing again. If you think you find it hard, what about me? We monkeys seldom think beyond this banana – but it is actually the center of writing. Writing is always a window into before, and after… or at least it is if you’re doing it right (right defined as people want to buy and read your work, not right as in Dave, or Wally (no this is not Wally), or IgNora think I am doing it right.) Short-time preferences are for fools and monkeys, certainly not for writers.

So: take the author above. The war she so wanted to end is over. Let’s imagine she (or her side) ‘won’. Happily ever after, and her life goes back to normal, right?

Well, no. Firstly, just from her point of view, she may have gained some readers who loved her overt stance. There are thousands of openly left wing editors and authors on facebook, and very few of the opposite, and relatively few centrists or those who keep their views to themselves. So: lots of competition, thin pickings, but she may have gained a few. Given that we know the proportions of Americans that self-identify as ‘liberal’ (26%) and the proportion of publishing professionals that donate to the Democrats (At least 99.4%) – that means she pleased her editor, if she noticed (but it’s not unusual)… and lost readers who were once happy to find and follow her from the other 74%.

And here is the thing: in real life, unless you’re really smart about it, losers are sore losers. And they don’t just go away. If they can hurt the victors, they will. If they can strike back and try again, they will. Avoiding that pendulum – WW1 and the treaty of Versailles…. And then WW2 (and the Marshall Plan, designed to avoid a backswing) is hard. Jerry Pournelle had a final scene in one of his stories that I read long ago that has stuck with me long after most of the story has blurred. I paraphrase and obviously emphasize what I found important: The mercenaries have effected a brutal but effective suppression of an uprising. The president thanks them profusely for winning. And the commander says brutally and bitterly that they have not won. The military can’t win. It can only buy time for politics. (and in my opinion, economics). You could in my opinion extend that to Law or even politics. You’re usually fighting for time for people for people to come to terms, adjust… or fail and set up the next conflict. It’s that or total genocide.

The point here is that it is not fast, not easy, and that a ‘win’ does not make the other side disappear or suddenly love you. You might say the SJW or CHORFs or puppy-kickers have ‘won’ every time. And every time they’ve ended up far worse off than before. Because they have had to fight harder, they’ve fought nastier and with more collateral damage each time. They forgot that their foes were human, (cycling back to my start) people with partners, people with illnesses, people with children. More importantly they decided that anyone who was not 110% for them… was against them. They could slander them, attack their reputations, families, livelihood. Anything, as long as they ‘won’. Language like ‘morons, Nazis, put them down, worthless, bad writers, bad actors’ were commonplace. And somehow, ‘miraculously’, they got their chosen tokens their awards, shut out anyone else, and wrote their new Versailles treaty.

Only the ‘defeated’ wouldn’t sign. Would not buy into it at all. There is not even Weimar, trying to abide. And the ‘reparations’ they need to repair the costs of that war, the recognition, the social kudos, and the sales – especially the sales… well, they have the same problem the author who was desperately wanting the election over.

They have a problem of no levers left. They did their worst, and failed to destroy the hard core of their foes, and ended up generating thousands more who didn’t used to hate their guts.  But they do now. Another Pyrrhic ‘victory’ won.

The gulf between the sides widened, And there is almost no-one left on the non-left wing side of the equation who doesn’t put WorldCon and Hugo’s Admins firmly in the camp of the foes, cooking the books, helping the puppy kickers, acting as SJW enforcers. I know there are some folk among them who desperately wanted no part in the fight, to bridge the gap. But they failed to grasp the nettle and show aggressively that they were neutral and trustable. They never understood the teacher’s kid syndrome: When Dave Truesdale possibly steps over the line and the SJW’s squall – you cut slack because you don’t want to be seen as siding with ‘your kid’ and acting as their enforcer. When Mary Three-Names breaks the rules (open-and-shut case, broken) you don’t give her token pat on the wrist because she’s a SJW Darling and therefore ‘your kid’. If you want to be seen as neutral by people who think you’re on the other side… Mary is out on her ear and Dave gets a pat on the wrist. That piece of Con Admin stupidity is barely topped by Dave McCarty’s handing voters data to ‘researchers’ straight out of a Tor Books site.

The 74% have mostly written WorldCon off. Barring major change, It’ll drift into being a WisCon with a few older people going for nostalgia. The Hugo brand is on life-support and will probably soon have a very limited value to a shrinking set of PC virtue-signallers. I know this may not have dawned on the core of 26% but we’ve passed the peak PC. Not that long ago – 10 years – it intimidated everyone, and had no apparent substantive opposition. In the circles they don’t move in… that is no longer true. It is massively and increasingly openly unpopular, and the media are as usual are way behind the curve. In 15 years’ time it’ll be dead except in tiny corners.

So – how does all of this loop into writing, or indeed into preventing another war? Well, as I said: a book is a brief window into a whole world – it inevitably has its roots in the last ‘war’ (whether that is a family fight or the last actual war on a planet, a story does not spring from nowhere. In your set-up you need that, and you need it quickly. Secondly if you’re setting up to write an all out war… you have two choices as an author. Either you destroy your foes completely, neatly finishing the book, or they will recur, stronger and nastier. A few – very talented – authors have actually handled winning the peace well. Frank Herbert used the concept of bravura. Diana Wynne Jones wrote about the losers in the war between Strangia and Ingary (Castle in the Air). If the foe cannot be destroyed, well, it’s a long term thinking task, and basically requires bridging the gap and the victors (not the losers) paying a price and accommodating the losers – making them happy enough, having levers enough, to avoid another war.

So where is Wally?

Well he’s been Haydn (and Haydn’s been dead for years) but here is his last movement. A wally – which is Australian for an incompetent idiot who can’t manage to do anything right – a wally is the sort of guy that, if you put him in a brothel with ten thousand dollars, would not only fail to get himself laid but would have every hooker in the place queuing up at the nearest nunnery to sign up, and would go to the bathroom, wipe his butt, put the money in the toilet and put the used toilet paper in his pocket. In this case our Wally comes from The Guardian, well known as ‘The Grauniad’ (because its spelling and grammar are… legendary) writer Damian Walter. Doing his best to be a little puppy kicker, and hurt careers of writers as best as possible, for political gain – just as I referred to above. Unfortunately for him… and fortunately for us, he’s a wally…

So I’m very proud to be given a Wally. It’s not quite the imprimatur of brilliance of a ‘Clamps’, but there seems to be a bit more money in a Wally. And I’m in grand – indeed awe-inspiring company. Now that I have my own Wally, I look forward to buying my own mountain.

You see Damian is the archetype wally. If he hates you – most folk will love you. If he predicts you will fail – you may buy your own mountain. If he says your prose is awful – he writes for The Grauniad – a financial disaster with a readership going down faster than drawers in the brothel wally would fail in. Oh he’s also a failed writer, who got a grant to write a novel I believe – and still failed. Oh, and he never met a fact he couldn’t get backward.

my comments in Bold

For the last few years, the Hugo awards for science fiction have been campaigned against by a group of writers and fans calling themselves the Sad Puppies – mostly male, very white, and overwhelmingly conservative.

You mean like the ‘mostly male’ very white officially Latina Sarah Hoyt? Or Amanda Green, or Kate Paulk – who headed Sad Puppies this year. Ah Wally.

Unhappy with sci-fi’s growing diversity, the Puppies have deliberately block-voted for certain titles to get them nominated for Hugos at the expense of a wider field.

Which is naturally why, when you count the numbers and actually don’t have Wally’s gender (explains his luck in the brothel) and skin color confusion they were MORE ‘diverse’ and they encouraged voters to both read and to vote for what they wished to. We can give you hundreds of links. Wally’s problem was that they weren’t M&Ms – different colors on the outside but all exactly the same inside.

They say it is their goal to “poke the establishment in the eye” by nominating “unabashed pulp action that isn’t heavy-handed message fic”.

Really? I thought I said it was because I was concerned at the drop in sf sales (well documented) meant that the direction was selling badly and that was threatening authors (including his darlings) ability to make a living and write. Some might turn to Patreon but surely the measure of popular (and therefore successful) is selling enough to live on. But yes, heavy handed message fic doesn’t sell well. Look at Kameron Hurley’s figures. She’s published them.

I say it is to sponsor awful writers.

“Sponsor” – you mean like Nora Jemisin getting herself funded by Patreon? No, Wally. We actually SELL books for a living. I know you failed at that, as do most of your darlings, but it is possible. And – based on his track record if Wally thinks we’re awful… I am SO proud to be one of his ‘awful’.

The Puppies have two criteria for what they deem excellence: does it turn a buck?

Well, Wally accidentally got one thing right. The most honest measure of popularity is that people are prepared to pay for your work. That you’re not so useless that you have bleg or get grants or ‘teach’ writing. Yep. Lots of paying readers suggest popular to me. And the Hugo’s in theory were not ‘excellence’ but ‘popular’.

And has the author dared to say anything, ever, that they disagree with?

Yes, well as they lean libertarian they kinda expect you to be contrary… oh wait. Dumb Wally is confused again. No, PC-doctrinaire books are your left wing specialty. You know: the kind that don’t sell, that you rate as ‘excellent’.

This, paired with their conspiracy theories about some big sci-fi publishers, means that they tend to champion mostly self-published authors. Nothing about quality – though you don’t need an in-depth knowledge of sci-fi to understand that a short story called Space Raptor Butt Invasion (yes, really) has not arrived on the Hugo lists because of its calibre.

Actually it was voted in to mock the crap that SJW’s were putting up. But that’s too hard for Wally.

Oh yes, Wally, I get my conspiracy theories from that well known Cooky-looky journal of the paranormal – Publisher’s Weekly. And the US employment stats. That’s why I believe weird stuff like that your excellence is selling like pork chops in Mecca – and the Traditional publishers are cutting their mostly female staff. Oh and Independent Authors are making more money than them. And of course if Wally ACTUALLY knew how to fact check, he’d find out to his shock that no… Jim Butcher isn’t self-published. Neither am I. Or Larry, or Brad or Sarah… I’m moving that way because I like the money.

With this year’s Hugo awards coming on Saturday night in the US, I thought I’d read some of the authors championed by the Puppies. (Don’t ever say I don’t do anything for you.)

Oh no Wally, I would never say you’d never done anything for us. Being slated by you is worth a lot of sales. Please, dear God, don’t praise me, Wally. Anyway- as best anyone can work out you read one paragraph of mine, and less than one chapter of Larry Correia. That’s not a huge sacrifice for most people, but I do appreciate it must have been the hardest thing a Wally like you ever did.

If you find meaning in straight-to-video Dolph Lundgren films, then Larry Correia’s novels will be your kind of read. Correia, accountant-turned-author-turned-Sad-Puppies-creator, kicked off his Monster Hunter series with Monster Hunter International, about an accountant whose boss turns into a monster. So he shoots him. In fact, much of the Monster Hunter series relies rather heavily on people the hero doesn’t like turning into monsters … so he can shoot them.

I am envious. I’d love to be compared to Dolph Lundgren. The idea that a super bright guy, and a commercial success – who is apparently really nice bloke is an undesirable comparison… well… Wally. And as for shooting, as the bullets had no effect on werewolves… shows Wally once again got things got things completely backwards. But never mind, Wally. I’m sure your reading comprehension is good enough for your ‘excellence’.

Sadly, Correia’s books are not quite awful enough to be good. They’re just mediocre. That’s fine – Dolph Lundgren movies are also often mediocre, but plenty of people like them. But did Lundgren’s Masters of the Universe deserve to take the 1987 Oscar over Oliver Stone’s Platoon? I don’t think so – and in that same way, Correia’s novels in no way merit consideration for the Hugos (thankfully, he only made the 2014 longlist).

A measure of popularity or Wally defined ‘excellence’? The Hugos were supposed to be a measure of fan popularity Wally.

Dave Freer’s Changeling Island, shortlisted for this year’s inaugural Dragon awards, is all about story

Actually, Wally, if you’d read more than the first paragraph… you might have figured out that this particular book, which is YA and targeted at 12-14 year old boys, is by almost any accounting ‘message’ fiction. Admittedly, you’d hate that message, and I tried very hard to keep it from being heavy handed. But then to get through to Wally you need a sledge-hammer. It was intended to be a story about which I knew a great deal of the background, as Fisheries Scientist and a diver to keep the action fast moving. I was writing a book for one of the most neglected, belittled and undervalued sectors of the population: the rural boy. In this case an Aboriginal boy who, first and foremost, is just a boy. He finds his roots in his ancestral home and traditional way of life – hunting and fishing, living off the land, learning responsibility, and the love of his heritage. Awful, Wally, just awful. The picture is a link – you can look inside and read a little more than Damian.

– which is fortunate, because sentences as thoroughly mangled and amateurish as Freer’s won’t be winning any prizes (at least I hope not).

Oh I hope this is as good Wally’s other predictions. I’m proud just to be there. But if you’d like to spoil his day you can go and vote for Larry Correia in Fantasy and me in YA. Wally would have to change his underwear if either of us won. He be pretty miserable if it eclipsed the Hugos too

Open with a strong start, they say; now read Changeling Island’s opening:

It had been the most terrifying, miserable day of Tim Ryan’s whole miserable life. He’d just done it to show Hailey. Because … because she said he was too scared. He was. Every time he tried anything it always went wrong. Horribly wrong. And he wasn’t a thief. Well, he didn’t want to be. It was one of the few thing things his dad ever really got angry with him about. And then he’d only been a little five-year-old kid helping himself to a chocolate bar in a store. But Hailey … she said … and he’d do anything to get her.”

In fairness … to Freer … pick any passage, from. Any Puppy author like Brad Torgersen or Sarah Hoyt and you will find … sentences … as mangled as these.

Well, I am in great company then! And John Wright a little later, too. Wally, I must explain this to you: why you’re such a failure and have sold almost nothing ever and I – at last count and not considering myself a success was closing on half a million sales – the purpose of English in a novel is to communicate successfully. To set the scene, to adequately foreshadow the previous ‘wars’ and get the reader rapidly into the mental space of the protagonist is hard. This is the viewpoint of a badly upset, slightly immature 14 year old. Sentence fragments are how he is thinking. It’s more logical and clear than Wally thought, so no wonder you were confused. The book was bought by an editor from a traditional publisher. The editor used to be an academic, teaching English Lit. I believe. It was copy edited by a retired English Prof, who sent me a lovely letter about it, Wally, asking if she could edit any others I wrote. Oddly, she never mentioned sentence fragments.

I’ve run out of time, to say nothing about nausea tablets – so I’ll leave Wally getting confused by John Wright out. As Wally found my writing aimed at a minimum 12 year old too hard, you understand why he’d wipe himself with 100 dollar notes and stick toilet paper in his pocket, when dealing with Wright.

I’ll leave with a last precious Wallyism from Damian Walter.

But the Sad Puppies don’t want any of their books to end up on bestseller lists or TV screens.

Oh. Dearie dearie me! If only I’d known I didn’t want that. I need a time machine. Larry probably needs two. Wally, you prat. I’ve been on several bestseller lists. I’ve even had that option offered. And yes, I still hope for more.

It’s the same frustrating paradigm that British MP Michael Gove hit upon when he said that people were sick of experts, or what Donald Trump plays upon when he rails against “professional politicians”. We’re seeing the Dunning-Kruger effect played out on a mass scale, and the Sad Puppies are just a speck in that wider problem.

A classic example of Wally. The diagnostic for Dunning-Kruger is that the Wally always claims everyone else is bad and thick and… oh a hack. And he is, of course, brilliant. The evidence – when you look at exam results, or actual measurable success, the Dunning-Kruger syndrome Wally comes last. He hasn’t sold any books. He is a failure. He doesn’t grasp the use of sentence fragments.

Now:You’ve read Damian Walter’s high opinion of his own genius. His results: well, he’s a total failure who can’t sell anything. Here is my bio. And I have sold around half a million books. I don’t think that’s particularly good.


Filed under Uncategorized

Survival Guide for the Conservative, Classically Liberal, & Libertarian Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Hello, sir or madame. Since you’ve arrived at the service door — versus the red-carpeted, velvet-roped grand portico — I can only assume that you’re a conservative, classical liberal, or libertarian, seeking entrance into the great and spacious building known as Professional Speculative Fiction; encompassing science fiction, fantasy, horror, and a few other subgenres. Don’t be nervous. I know you saw everything that’s going on (through the windows) and you’re wondering if you should even bother trying to get in. Doesn’t seem like an easy place to fit, does it? They built it that way, by design. You’re not supposed to be comfortable here. You’re supposed to feel like you’re the sore thumb. Out of place. Unwanted. And if you’re doing this because you think it’ll be quick money, or because you wanted something less stressful than your day job, I suggest you recover your coat and hat, and seek a different venue.

Still here? Okay. Good. I know exactly why. You can’t let it go. Speculative literature speaks to you. Maybe you started with Heinlein? Maybe it was somebody else? Doesn’t matter. You want in, however you’ve got to do it. Because there are spec fic stories you believe need telling, and you’re the one to tell them. Stupendous. Speculative literature desperately needs its conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians — protestations of the cognoscenti notwithstanding. This is the field of “What if?” and Dangerous Visions and effing the ineffable. It cannot call itself what it is, without solid conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians holding their respective flags high. So as to keep the rest of the field honest, and not let the bastards off the hook.

But you need to understand a few things first. Things I didn’t understand when I originally dared dream of entering. Of becoming “pro” and walking in the footsteps of my heroes.

This is a field that really, really doesn’t like you. Or at least the avatar of “you” that the field generally has in mind, whenever the field thinks of admirers of Heinlein or Rand or Hayek or Friedman or Reagan or Limbaugh or FOX NEWS viewers. Hell, you don’t even have to be any of that. Just think that maybe socialism isn’t a great idea. Did you enjoy listening to Paul Harvey on your father’s car radio? Do you follow Mike Rowe’s page on Facebook? See, it doesn’t take much. To be on the outs with the people inside this great and spacious building. That’s why you’re at the service entrance, and not the front door.

Red carpet is for like minds. Red carpet is for people telling the field what the field wants to hear — about itself, and about the world in general.

You will not now, nor are you likely to ever, get the red carpet treatment.

At least if you choose to be open about yourself, and who you are, and how you think.

So, let’s consider your possible paths. Some of these, once you’ve gone down them, are permanent. Others can be deviated from in time, with consequences. Before you go inside, you need to be aware of the reality that you’re facing. Eyes wide open. Back straight. Shoulders squared. Nothing about entrance is impossible. There are simply choices you will have to make, and be ready to live with them. And if that sounds too nerve-wracking, again, there is no shame — zero, in fact — in turning around, and walking away. It’s been done many times before. There are 101 faster, better, less excruciating ways to make money, or achieve status, or reach an audience.

But since you’re still standing there, waiting patiently, I have to assume you are, in fact, afflicted with the same vision that afflicts many of the rest of us. Of journeying to the planets, and the stars. Of boldly going. Swords drawn against the orcs of Mordor. Because somebody has to help Frodo destroy The One Ring. And, dammit, Paul Atreides can’t ride those Sand Worms all by himself! Besides which, Emperor Palpatine is cackling on his throne, and somebody really ought to do something about the Romulans invading the Neutral Zone. Lest Slytherin take the Quidditch Cup and Lord Voldemort claim the Map of Creation from King Arthur and his Jedi Knights. The Kzinti want their damned time machine back, before the Morlocks take it to Foul’s Creche and help Nehemiah Scudder create an army of T-800 cyborgs — the likes of which not even Commander Adama and his Colonial Warriors from the battlestar Serenity can hope to defeat!

All right, we’ve established you are both crazy, and really want to do this. These — my insane friend — are your options. Read carefully. Take your time to decide. There is no rush. Just be sure, when you’re ready. As noted earlier, some of these are permanent.

But first, a practical reminder: Rome was not built in a day, and neither are your writing nor storytelling skills. If wishes were fishes, we’d all be richer than J.K. Rowling. Publishing is easier than it’s ever been. Success is still hard. Maybe harder? Because there are more people trying to publish more speculative fiction — now, in 2016 — than at any time in the field’s history. Many of those people are far more talented than you are. Some of them will be more hard-working. If you’re not willing to pay your dues — in rejection slips, or teaching yourself your craft, or doing the daily grind of punching out word count despite setbacks and your day job — it won’t matter what your politics are. Because you won’t have anything to offer the audience that’s worth offering.

(ahem) Now then . . .

This is the safest, most time-honored path you can take. It merely requires you to never voice your opinions in a public fashion. No blogging. No editorials in your local paper. No loudly debating your colleagues at the con parties. Just . . . keep your trap shut. Oh, you can probably sneak some of your beliefs into your stories. But you gotta be stealthy about it. You might get on some awards ballots. Maybe even win a few? Straying from this path means you can never, ever go back again. Because people — and the intarwebz — remember forever. Start opening your mouth, disliking the latest Democratic candidate for President (or worse yet, failing to properly hate the latest Republican candidate for President) and you can never, ever be a silent runner again. You will have flipped over your cards. Be aware of that, in the years ahead, when the bullshit is piled so high and so thick, you feel like screaming. Can you vent privately to trusted friends? When the idiocy of the conventional wisdom in the great and spacious building gets to be just too much? Keep a private journal. Save your thoughts for a closed circle. It’s been done many times before. It can be done again. This is the form of “conservative” the great and spacious building just might respect. Or at least put up with. Because they never have to realize you exist.

This is the double-agent’s path. Somewhat similar to Path One, but far harder and more dangerous, because you have to actively work to make the great and spacious building think you’re one of their kind. You have to be up on all the hip language and all the street signs of psuedo-liberalism. Attend the con parties and smile and laugh when they mock ideas and people you revere. Be sure to be seen praising whichever socially conscious author and/or book is being praised this year. Also be seen supporting whichever cause(s) the Jon Stewart set finds laudable. Thanks to the miracle of the World Wide Web, your performance can be done from the safety of your office or home. It’s not hard to make the great and spacious building love you, when you sound and act and talk and chirp just like all the others do. Be sure to re-Tweet all the “cool” people. You will know who they are, because they will be surrounded by sycophants who desperately want to be “cool” too, or who desperately want to be noticed by the people who are “cool.” Make sure everybody knows precisely how concerned you are about matters of Social Justice. Attend a few witch-burnings, for this very purpose. There’s always a witch-burning (some hapless heretic caught with his pants down) happening in speculative fiction these days. The chief problem you will have is: looking at yourself in the mirror every morning. Machiavellianism (in the arts) is as old as the hills, and twice as dusty. It may rest easier on your heart, than it does on the hearts of others. If you can’t sleep with that at night, don’t go this route. It’s really not worth it.

Many people — having gone down either Path One or Path Two — eventually decide they can’t take it anymore. They see and hear too much. The bullshit rises up over their eyebrows, and they simply can’t deal with it any longer, otherwise they’re gonna go nuts. So they elect to step out of the closet. It’s a delicate, usually painful process. Your closest, sometimes dearest professional speculative fiction friends, will gasp with shock and exclaim, “Oh my God, how could you?” Or, probably, “My God, how could you do this to me?” All this time, they thought you were one of the Good Guys. Or at least, one of the Silent Guys. Revealing who you truly are — what you truly believe — is going to come with repercussions. Rejection. Lots, and lots of rejection. Plus anger. And a quiet readjustment of your “stock” as its perceived in the field. If you were getting critical acclaim before, that spigot may slow or stop. If you were on awards ballots before, or within striking distance of awards, they too will become a non-option. Oh, you’ll keep selling. Unless you were so deep into Path Two that your stories and your work were also Machiavellian. Betraying the great and spacious building is survivable. Betraying your readership? Not necessarily so. Get a pen name. Try indie. You may wind up starting from scratch. But if you were a good, properly Silent fellow, with some connections forged, not all of them will snap. The great and spacious building isn’t run entirely by dicks.

This is the path of apologia. Of forever having to explain or make excuses for what you believe, or for your friends who believe likewise. This is when you keep your temper in check, remain calm, mannerly, and no matter how rude or bombastic they are to you, you don’t let it ruffle your feathers. You will be a known quantity, right from the start — as one of those people. You will not be loved, for this reason. But you may be liked. Enough for the occasional, stray award nomination to come your way. Winning? Hah! No, most probably not. But that’s okay. You’re fulfilling your role — as the permanent minority. You’re not supposed to win awards. You’re supposed to be happy with your lot, or at least comport yourself as if you’re happy. They will occasionally egg your house, or toilet paper your trees. You might be the subject of a witch-burning, or three. Smile through the flames. Your friends in the business will be by to dust the soot off you eventually. Always be glad for the fact that they let you have a seat, even though they consider you a moral and intellectual n’er-do-well who is the authorial equivalent of second-class goods. You’ll still be expected to defend the great and spacious building against accusations of incompetence or maliciousness, from people on Path Five. This demonstrates your good faith to the house. In this way, you will maintain your credibility. Many people on Path Three, eventually wind up on Path Four. But not always.

Make no excuses. Walk in like you belong. Dare them to be unhappy with you. Speak your truth, loud and proud. The witch-burnings will be constant. Get an ice chest and a keg, and make it a barbecue. Invite your buddies. It’s a party! You will be surprised just how many people secretly wish they could do the same. You will get letters and communications from the Silent Ones and the Chameleons, cheering you on. They know how bad the bullshit is. They wish they too could give zero fucks. The great and spacious building will be appalled at your very existence. You are worse than they ever suspected your “side” could be, because you never say you’re sorry. A tiny handful of true liberals will actually tell you they disagree with you entirely, but they respect the fact that you aren’t afraid to state your case, and can do it with style. You will never, ever get awards. Not from the great and spacious building. You may get recognition from outside — from beyond the spec fic ghetto — but the building itself will loudly wish you did not exist. You are filth. You are inhuman scum. You are going to have a tough time selling to certain editors and certain houses. Be ready to go indie, if you’re not indie from the start. If you didn’t have a thick skin to begin with, develop one. And give some back. No, give a lot back. You are surrounded by gerbils. Be a mountain lion. Many people on Path Three, skip over Path Four and jump directly to Path Five. As with Path One, once you go Five, there will never be any going back. No matter how much you might want to.

But what does any of this have to do with surviving?

Look, here’s the thing. The Market (caps m) always wins. Your career can boom, or it can go bust, and this may or may not have anything to do with what the great and spacious building thinks of you. In the world of Patreon and Amazon Kindle, Kobo and Smashwords, you don’t even have to bother with the great and spacious building at all — if you don’t want to. There are an increasing number of successful examples all the time. Because the Market — speculative — escaped from the confines of gate-kept traditional publishing. Your two best survival traits will therefore be: productivity, and longevity.

I’m going to say it again: your two best survival traits will be productivity, and longevity.

These, and being unafraid to be your own businessperson.

Which, perhaps not coincidentally, were the same survival traits necessary to win before indie publishing took off at the end of the last century.

Now, if you can’t tell a good story, I am not sure anything can help you. If you go blustering into the great and spacious building, popping your six-shooters and looking for a bar brawl with one of the Eloi — but you can’t write your way out of a paper bag — the great and spacious building is gonna either ignore you, or laugh at you. Because you’re living down to precisely the level they expect from any conservative; especially a Path Five conservative. All bark and no bite, one might say.

So focus on learning your craft, and teach yourself (through hard learning and patient effort) what it takes to not just make stories that are worth a reader’s time, but which will so engross that reader, (s)he makes every effort to come back for more. Again and again. On your next book, your next story, or whatever it is you’re trying to do. A web comic? A podcast? Something else? It’s all intellectual product. Can you do your craft to the level of a professional chef, or are you just slinging frozen patties onto the hot clamshells at a McDonalds? We all start out in the grill. Moving out of the grill — up to something more sophisticated — takes time, effort, and (yes) talent. Talentless bluster also lives down to the level the great and spacious building expects. The great and spacious building will insist that talent and conservativism are inversely proportional. This is a canard the great and spacious building has been telling itself for decades.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t mistake chutzpah, for skills.

It takes a lot of both, to walk the talk — and be a spec fic author who wins in this business.

The good news is, you are not alone. The Cheka may have scared many people into silence and hiding, but not everybody. There are several short fiction markets and at least one major novel market who are not going to ding you for being un-progressive. In fact, they might see it as an assett. Your doors will not all be closed. There just won’t be nearly as many of them. And (as noted above) you need to really be ready to go indie — or if you’re already indie, go great guns at it. Boutique authoring doth not a powerhouse career make. Boutique authors are a dime a dozen in the great and spacious building. They publish sparingly, and often to great critical praise — awards, awards — but they ‘aint making much bank off it. You’re an un-progressive. Business is not a dirty word to you. Put your back into it, and have fun making money.

Again, productivity and longevity. Work your ass off, and don’t quit.

Basically, the same two principles that bring success in practically all other arenas of life. I know, I know, we were all expecting some kind of shortcut. We wanted this career to be so utterly unlike all our other jobs. We expected it to be all fun and no pain. T’aint so, my friend. T’aint so.

Meanwhile, locate those oases of sanity which present themselves. You will find them eventually. It takes a little effort sometimes. The great and spacious building has no idea just how many un-progressives have infiltrated. In fact, the great and spacious building likes to pretend that there were no un-progressives from the beginning — it’s progressives all the way down. Only, it’s not. Conservativism, libertarianism, and classical liberalism have always been part of the structure of the place. It’s just that the pseudo-liberal Karl Marx Memorial band noise (and floor-to-ceiling #SocJus banners) have kinda covered up the portraits — hiding some of the anchors from the field’s more cosmopolitan sector.

So, locate your calm harbors. At the conventions. On-line. In the marketplace. Forge relationships. Dwell therein. Be kind to your fellow travelers. Be funny. Be generous. Be relaxed. Be loyal. And absolutely try to be cool to the handful of bona fide liberals who don’t shit on you, for being un-liberal. Those relationships will be the toughest to foster and keep, because the performative tribal nature of our current politics demands that “they” never be seen having a good time with any of “us” on the “bad” side. Also, you’re going to piss them off from time to time. Just because liberals are from Venus, moderates are from Mars, and you’re from Planet Krypton. You’ll think you’ve just tapped them on the shoulder, playing around, but they’ll feel like you’ve punched them through the wall — into the next room. And they will expect you to feel bad about it, too.

But how am I going to get famous and make a lot of money?

Wait, what? Okay, let’s re-wind. I said there are far better ways to get rich, find acclaim, or get an audience. For example, there are two dudes on YouTube right now making six figures apiece for basically doing nothing of importance. They mess around for fifteen minutes per episode, just being two guys who are silly, and I’m pretty sure my soon-to-be-thirteen-year-old daughter thinks Rhett and Link are the Alpha and Omega of 21st-century entertainment. Rhett and Link seem to have a bajillion female (and a few male) fans all over the world, ages 10 to 25. You would do far, faaaaaaaaaar better trying to emulate Rhett and Link, than you would trying to become a moneybags spec fic author whose name is known to the world.

But if you’re like me — like us — and you can’t take your eyes off the stars, this can be a career for you. Not an easy career. Not a career free from rage-inducing stupidity of both a political and commercial variety. But a career just the same. And you are not alone. Understand? The great and spacious building wants you to think you are completely out in right field, far, far away from anything and anyone civilized. But your peeps — the ones who “get” you — are close at hand. As is your market. You just gotta dig a bit, work a bit, and find things the hard way. You’re not cherry-picking. You’re getting it out of the ground, like a wildcat miner. Not a job for the dilettantes or the nonchalant. You have to want it. And want it badly enough that you’re willing to put up with everything the great and spacious building will hurl at you — then hose yourself down, change your clothes, comb your hair, put something totally and outrageously Metal on your MP3 player, and get back to work.



I Found A Typk, What Should I Do?

Cedar is on the road today and discovered that WordPress is being evil and won’t let her log in. ‘nother Mike is filling in with a guest post. Cedar will be back next week, WordPress willing.

I Found A Typk, What Should I Do?
By ‘nother Mike

This is really a posting for fans. See, I’ve noticed that sometimes in our enthusiasm, we whack our favorite authors in the face, publicly, and I think it’s a mistake.

Let’s back up and think about history. One of the great changes in the publishing world is that authors are much more accessible to their fans. Back in the day, the accepted wisdom was that if you wanted to contact an author, you wrote a letter (on paper!) and mailed it to their publisher, who would, eventually, forward it to them. In fact, I have done this.

But with the electronic age? We get to see them at conventions, read them on blogs, follow them on Facebook, and so forth. They post, we reply, and sometimes we even get a bit of dialogue going. It’s great!

But, one activity that has also heated up is finding typos, grammatical disagreements, and even structural disagreements in their books. As fans, we stumble over these, and know in our heart of hearts that the author needs to know about this immediately, so that they can correct it! Which results, all too often, in an off-topic reply to some posting by the author in which we explain all about the problem we found in their book, or even a string of them, on a blog, forum, or other place that we associate with the author. We’re talking directly to the author, and the other readers won’t mind, will they?

Whoa! Stop a moment, and let’s talk about how to handle those observations. Because, frankly, yes, the authors and publishers do want them, but not laid out in the public like a cat putting a dead mouse in your shoe.

First of all, make a list. More than likely, you are going to find several typos or whatever in that book you are reading. In the Kindle app, you can use the highlighting and commenting tools to mark what you find, and then send the whole thing to your email. Personally, I go through and clean it up a bit. Or use your local notes, notepad, or whatever to keep track. I tend to include a bit of context and then my suggestion as to what the fix is. But either way, get all the remarks in one clump.

Second, don’t just dump the problem out in the nearest public venue. You may need to use the public venue to get a contact address, although many authors make an email address easily available if you look around a bit. You also want to think about who is best to contact. Yes, the author is the obvious person, but… For example, Baen has asked that typos be reported to info@baen.com, where the publishing elves can do something with them. Think about what you are commenting on, and who is likely to be able to use your comments, and see if you can send it to them privately.

Third, I suggest starting with a bit of positive comment, and warning the author about what you are sending. “I really enjoyed reading Spiders of the Outer Moons. However, I noticed some typos, and made a list. I’ve attached that list for your use.” Something like that. Give them a chance to get set before pointing out that their baby has dirty underwear, okay?

Incidentally, don’t expect that the author is necessarily going to immediately republish their book, with all of the corrections and changes that you have suggested. Remember, they are in business. Yes, making corrections is good, but… It doesn’t pay the bills. Also, if you are sitting there with a published book, gathering comments for a while before you push another version out there is smart. You really don’t want to get tied up in daily revisions!

So, my advice. Put together a whole package, don’t send it out in dribbles and drabbles. Send it privately to the right person. And give them a bit of positive boost before you hit them with the problems. Then be patient, and start reading their next work!


Amanda here. I want to second what ‘nother Mike said. Authors are generally more than happy if a reader contacts them privately when they see a problem with a book. We appreciate it when folks contact us via email, or even snail mail, with their comments and with their praise. The key is sending the “corrections” privately. Why? It really isn’t because we don’t want it made public. Sure, it stings when we realize that we missed something. It really stings when we have had an editor go over our work and they missed it as well. But that isn’t the real reason. What I, and others I have spoken with about this have discovered, a lot of the “corrections” that have been sent to simply aren’t valid. Whether it is someone who believes the rules governing business writing or formal research writing should apply to fiction — and they don’t always apply — or those who don’t believe dialect should be reflected in writing to those who think they know how to spell something but really don’t, not every “mistake” they see is an actual mistake. The last thing we, as authors, want to get into is having to explain to a reader in a public forum why their comments aren’t valid.

Mike’s post brings up something else I want to address to indie authors. I have seen, and more than once, indie authors commenting that they really don’t worry about making sure their work is completely proofread because ebooks can be edited and corrected as many times as necessary. Don’t take that attitude. Please. Readers want to know that they are getting the best book from you they possibly can. We are already fighting an uphill battle with some readers who expect a lower quality product because we haven’t gone through the traditional gatekeepers. Don’t give them more ammunition. Besides, where Amazon used to automatically push through the corrected version, they don’t now. Your reader has to go in and update the file they have downloaded. So don’t put the responsibility on your reader to do so.

All that said, a big thanks to Mike for his post and, for those of you who have been sending in your corrections, keep doing it. Just follow his advice and do it privately. Trust me, authors really do appreciate it.



Summer of the Lab Rat

Lab Rat

The Real World is not a laboratory.
If it were, we could control for single variables.
Trying various things in marketing ebooks is a case to point.

My best sales period (tripled my monthly average) was immediately after:
(1) Last year’s Labor Day Sale, organized within this group, which had very few books on it, so potential readers weren’t overwhelmed by the sheer number of books, plus it was widely shared.
(2) I released four titles in quick sequence, all in September. Then one in October, and one in November.
(3) Amazon started the KULL.

Hard to duplicate that last.😉

So, how about this year?
(1) No big promos. Minimally hyped—facebook, my LJ page, and a mailing list.
(2) New titles published in February and March.
(3) A “Summer Reading Blitz” of four books released from the middle of June to early this month. Roughly three weeks separation between books, squeezed tighter when sales spiked and died.

It picked up my badly sagging sales and got them back to what I consider my average. And then they kept selling.

But since you can’t duplicate an economy, have the same distractions (Politics! Outrage! All! Day! Long!), get Amazon to do something that might have people taking a chance on an unknown author . . . nor repeat the biggest variable: Different books . . . it’s a tough comparison.

So my conclusions are . . . dubious. Yes. Dubious is a good term.
(1) Forget summer, for multiple or big releases, if you want a large spike to get you some visibility.
(2) But the sales will trickle in, as dedicated fans get back from vacation.
(3) Multiple releases work best at weekly spacing.
(4) I should work at expanding my very small mailing list.
(5) I should go back and read the marketing advice here, and follow it.


Now one take away from this marketing experiment is that releasing several new things in a short time works. But however I peer at it, my main conclusion is that I have still not broken out of my usual circle of readers.

To do that I’m going to have to force myself out of my comfort zone, both socially and professionally.

Attend school board meetings. Pay attention to local and state politics and contact them when I have something to contribute. Get back to writing letters to the editor. Attend some of those museum things I keep getting invites to. And look around for other venues where I can be helpful and spread name recognition.

Write in other genres. Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance and MilSF are selling well, and each would be a small first step out side my usual habitats.

When, all things considered, I’d rather crawl back into my introvert’s retreat of a house and write as the Muse dictates.

But, if I’m going to write as a business, I’ve gotta do it anyway.

That will be my next experiment.


And speaking of marketing . . . this totally awesome cover was designed by Cedar Sanderson for the the tail end of the Summer Reading Blitz. And the start of a spin off series, for those who haven’t read my exhaustively long main series:


28 Directorate Cover 4