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The Shaper and the Shaped

I was lying in bed after the what passed for the Island’s biggest party in a hundred years, sleep evading me, thought passing each other like ships in the night with flashed lantern-signal passed between them. Yes, my mind is very like a dark ocean, with very few thought-ships in it. Our Scottish Country Dancing Teacher, Lady Mary Mactier, had had her hundredth birthday, and yes, she did dance, and for once she didn’t yell at me… I’m quite relaxed at being yelled at, I was inoculated against listening to it early in life, by an elder sister. It was still a stressful evening as I had been entrusted to the haggis. (An Island Haggis – one of the dwarf kind (the North going variety), which had been shot earlier that week and was well hung, and had been dangled by its feet too, until the body dropped off… at least that’s the way it smelled to me (or maybe that was the neeps). As there were no less than four pipers and a snare drummer, and two wee fellows filling in for Pussy Nancy (the cook in a mob cap who delivers the haggis, the tatties and the neeps), as we had a lady to address the haggis (do think the PC-police will be down on my neck for that? I’ll hand them over to the lady in question if they’re that foolish. It is to be hoped…) it was a grave responsibility.

Anyway, these drifting thoughts came back to one of the various speeches made, and the mention made of how this iron Lady (and she is that, it is also her title, and you could make my day by telling me it is an insult) of the effect that she’d had on so many people, shaping them and their direction in life.

Which had its parallels in the latest kerfuffle in Sf/fantasy circles – how Marion Zimmer Bradley, who was a feminist role model, a lesbian role model, and a child molester, who committed incest, who at the very least looked the other way if not abetted her husband, and certainly knew of his actions and tastes, editing his book on homosexual pedophilia (‘Greek Love’ – shudder) while her ‘husband’ also sexually abused his own child and a large number of other victims – his daughter told the cops of 22. It’s unlikely she would have known of all of them. The woman has been dead, as has her husband, for some years. The matter was brought into the open in fandom (though apparently at least her husband had long been suspected) in 1999, through testimony by one of the victim’s father. One. Out of however many were ‘shaped’ by this.

What brought it up again was a sycophantic praise paean for shaping and role modelling provided by Marion Zimmer Bradley published on Tor.com. Oddly the author – and whoever edited and allowed the piece to be put up omitted the parts about the husband and the sexual abuse. That took Dierdre Saoirse Moen reporting on e-mails from MZB’s daughter – quoting this “The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was 12, and able to walk away … She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.” and of MZB’s partner, Walter Breen – “I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy … Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse.”

The silence from those who usually rush to frantically leap on sf and fantasy’s bandwagons to protest racism or sexism or homophobia or misogyny … crusades so often led by the likes of Jim Hines and John Scalzi, was deafening. The hush-up and belittling and usual chorus of disqualifying attacks were there from that team. Fortunately, a few other people were not so silent. It must be said, most of these were on the center/right of the political spectrum, but neither the original whistle-blower, nor the entirety of the left were thus silenced.

Eventually, damage control kicked in, and now even the mouthpieces of the left wing are finally admitting it was a bad thing, spinning as much as possible, carefully omitting why the story is fresh again, or the bits about drugs and orgies. Some of course, such as her agent Russell Galen, are still trotting out statements like this “Marion is deceased and we are not able to ask her about her side of the story, nor do we have any personal knowledge of the events that are being described…”

And inevitably, proof that at least one village in England is missing one, Daimian Walter, with a sort ponderous inevitably attempts to make it the right wing’s fault that MZB’s daughter might be afraid of her mother’s fans… I daresay both wings and the center can attach some kind of godlike status to an author, but this author would have have had few fans on that side of the spectrum. The fans the daughter was afraid of… were feminists and homophiles.

Influential people – and authors are that, if they’re any good, and people who can further a writer’s career are huge shaping influences. I think MZB and Breen took full advantage of this, and the permissive side of the political spectrum they represented to so many. This number of victims they amassed takes almost constant grooming, constant search for fresh victims. It wasn’t Libertarians or Republicans who were the grateful literary proteges or the frequent attendees of the parties, with the drugs and orgies, the ones who turned a blind eye.

It’s these people who were part of the shaped, as were the children who were abused. I’d say those supporters and enablers at very least need to seriously evaluate both the writings that influenced them and the shape they have become. There has to be a taint there.

And of course, for the victims we must give our support and help, at least in dealing with that. It does seem to have long lasting damage, and come under unforgivable crime against them in my book.

As writers – and this is a writer’s site – we will be shapers, often merely by our inherent philosophies and attitudes. It’s been a balm to my soul this week to be reading Peter Grant’s War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1)
(which I highly recommend, reminiscent of L’Amour if he’d written Mil Sf, with clear-cut values and a similar level of honor) and dealing with an irascible old dance-teacher’s far sweeter legacy. The good ones just let you grow, give our minds food, give solid foundations, but that’s it. The ones who serve themselves in the guise of something else… they constrain and distort.

And all I want to do is tell stories of decent folk, and leave people feeling a little better about the world than when they started the book.

The gang’s not all here

Just a quick note and a promise for the posting schedule to return to normal tomorrow. Sarah, Cedar and I think about half the known science fiction world — not really, but it sounds cool — are at LibertyCon this weekend. Hence the lack of posts. Things will get back to normal in the morning, or at least as normal as they ever are here.

In the meantime, here’s your chance to request topics, talk about the industry etc. In the meantime, have a wonderful rest of the weekend.

Amazon is not my publisher

I apologize for the lateness of this post. Mea culpa.

I woke up this morning looking forward to the Barfly range trip, only to realize that I don’t get that opportunity this year. Let me ‘splain. You see, Mrs. Dave, Wee Dave (the aforementioned Working Title has received a timely and well-deserved promotion, all names and … names have been changed to protect the innocent) and I spent yesterday driving from the boggy depths of deepest southern [REDACTED] where we currently call home, to the site of LibertyCon27. We’ve never traveled with a newborn before, so the severalmany hour drive was … longer than I expected. Also, I spent the day reading Kate’s novel, ConVent, aloud, to keep Mrs. Dave from sending us all flying off the road in a ball of flaming wreckage. She likes me to read because I do the voices. Wee Dave spent most of the day sleeping. Still, we stopped far more often than I liked, as the Young Master required sustenance and the enforced exchange of certain items of his wardrobe. From time to time. And when we arrived in Chattanooga, at a time normally reserved for more relaxed activities, there was the unpacking, the feeding and diapering of newborn, and finally, the introducing of (adopted) Grandsquirm to Sarah and Dan. Which went well. He hardly screamed at all (and Wee Dave was fine, too. *rimshot*).

Before that, my parents spent a week with us, and –

Look, long story short: I woke up this morning and felt a nagging itch in the back of my head, and then remembered that I do a thing here every once in a while. So I’m doing a thing.

This is going to be brief, as I just don’t have much brain power right now.

Amazon (Kobo, Apple, etc.) don’t offer royalties, as such. We as writers often refer to them as such, but that’s a tradpub term, and not accurate to how the new world of publishing actually works. Indies, self-publishers, author-publishers, hybrid writers, part-time adventurers don’t license to Amazon the rights to their intellectual properties. Amazon is a distributor, and it (and the rest of the yahoos) give us access to their distribution network in exchange for a cut of our sales. We have a much simpler business relationship than that of a writer and a traditional publisher.

What does that mean? We’re thinking this whole thing wrong, and it’s affecting our judgement, especially when it comes to something like Amazon renegotiating with Hatchette, and the other renegotiations that are going to happen in the nearish future. Authors are getting tripped up thinking that Amazon is solely a publisher. It does publish original works under its imprints, but that’s not what anybody seems to be thinking about.

Look at it this way: you have a widget you’ve invented. It’s shiny; it’s awesome. You’re pretty sure everybody’s going to love it. Problem being, you have no way to tell anybody about. You’ve spent your fortune developing the widget, and you live on an island in the middle of the ocean and phone calls are expensive. You met a guy a while back who expressed interest in your widget, but he wants you to givesell him the rights to produce the widget. And incidentally, he swears he’ll promote the hell out of your shiny widget, and also make it SHINIER! You don’t really need that; you’ve got production facilities going (your island happens to house the last robotic fabrication facility from the lost Mu Empire) but you just don’t have a way to distribute the crates and crates of beautiful widgets to the downtrodden masses whose lives are poorer for lack of your widget.

Then you get a visitor.

She – because strong, female characters are important, I’m told – offers to sell your widgets, under your name, at her enormous network of widget emporia. And not to reverse-engineer them, and cut you out of the market, as she sells widgets, and has no interest in getting into widget production, because taxes. All it’ll cost is roughly a third the retail price of each widget sold.

The other guy offered you a month’s salary or so paid over a year, and maybe about 12% retail of each widget, if anybody’s interested. Oh, and you have to give him the opportunity to buy any more widgets you invent. And you can never sell your widget through anybody else. Oh, and he doesn’t actually have any storefronts. He has relationships with other people, who will also take a cut from the sales of your widget (which is not the same thing as “your widget sales”).

Which deal do you take?

The one that gives up control of your widget, or the one that offers you a distribution network in exchange for a cut of the profits?

Amazon doesn’t pay me royalties on Baptism By Fire. I own the copyright. Amazon sells copies of my book, and then forwards the profits – less their cut – to my bank account. We have a business relationship, and if they stop being willing to do business with me the way I want, I’ll go somewhere else. Like any other businessman.

Interesting Times and the nature of business

There’s a reason “may you live in interesting times” is a curse and not a blessing. We humans like a certain amount of stability – we like to know that if you put something in you’ll always get something out. And no, I didn’t mean that, even though it does apply.

What I mean is we like to force what we do into predictable patterns, recipes or rules if you will, so that if we put a little bag of dried leaves into freshly boiled water we’ll get a half-way decent cup of tea a minute or so later (but to make a proper cuppa you need loose leaves, not tea bags, and a tea pot, and you have to warm it first, and… Western tea rituals can happen later). We know we won’t get an angry koala unless we manage to step on it or tip the cup and spill the tea on the koala (the koala tea of Mercy is not strained, you know. It has everything in it).

And that’s why publishing is dying. Not because it’s a bad cup of tea as it were, but because the silly buggers in charge forgot that there are places and times where you have to accept that what you get isn’t going to be predictable except in a general long-term trend sense (and maybe not even then). Maybe they forgot because they were too busy imbibing their own ink. Maybe it was the accountants who – to their shame – ignored the larger reality in favor of petty bean-counting. Maybe the infestation of MBAs (which I used to think meant “Mastered Bugger All” but now realize I was far, far too generous) who’d been way too deep into the ink of “You don’t need to know what you’re managing, you just need to know how to manage”.

Regardless, the whole shambles lost sight of what the publishing business was supposed to be sometime back in the New Agey timeframe. See, a business isn’t really even about making money. It’s about doing something that other people value, preferably highly enough to give you money so you can keep doing it, otherwise you can’t keep doing it.

That slight shift of perspective matters. When you look at publishing as a matter of “heightening consciousness” or other such clap-trap (yes, I have heard editors say that), you will push anything that matches whatever you think is right and proper, overlooking its faults even if you’re trying not to be biased. Confirmation fallacy will bite you hard, there. Editors who don’t care if they’re biased will be even more inclined to push what matches their biases and anything else gets the editorial cold shoulder.

If you look at publishing as a means to make money, you’re going to go chasing endless ripoffs of the last big thing, and fall prey to blockbuster syndrome, otherwise known as “the best selling book that nobody ever bought.” That tends to fall apart in the long run, although not as spectacularly as the ideological visionary model.

On the flip side, if your goal is to make your customers happy, you’re going to be looking for a level of quality they’ll be happy with (not necessarily perfection, but good enough that any issues can be forgiven) and content – stories – that will appeal to them. Which of course means you have to know who your customers are and be willing to respect them even if what they like leaves you cold.

Yes, legacy publishing, that does mean that you keep series which give your heightened sensibilities the willies (coughGORcough). It means you publish authors whose ideology covers the entire spectrum and includes some who never found the spectrum in the first place. You take chances on the oddities. You let things build in their own time because sometimes it takes several years for the momentum to build to where an author has enough of a following that they don’t need to be promoted (this, of course, is precisely when the legacy model did all its promotion. It’s like the way the fellow whose introduction starts “Our next guest needs no introduction” has the introduction go on for the next hour while everyone who can’t escape for a bio-break slowly falls comatose because they know exactly who this is. Seriously, it would be like a convention chair spending 2/3 of the opening ceremony talking about Terry Pratchett when all the audience wants is for him to shut up and let Pterry do his thing).

This goes for any business – make your customers happy and they’ll stay customers. Treat them like something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe, and they’ll return the favor.

For us, especially those of us who work in indie publishing, this means things like you do not get into arguments with reviewers. If they accidentally misstate facts, it’s reasonable to politely note that there seems to have been a misunderstanding, and this is the actual fact. Then drop the topic. There’s a saying to the effect that arguing with an ass annoys the ass and makes you look bad. Remember this when it comes to dealing with the twits who give one star reviews because your publisher didn’t make the book available in the format they prefer. Or because they didn’t like the price. Don’t argue with asses. It makes you look bad. Ignore them, smile sweetly, and go about your business.

When you deal with fans, politeness goes a long way – but do try to keep your private life private. I’ve been on both sides of the fan/author fence, and it’s way easy for us as fans to want to know everything about our favorite authors, but that is called “stalking” for good and sufficient reason. My method is to be “on duty” whenever I’m outside my room at a convention. Inside that hotel room, I’m not “the author” any more, I’m just Kate and I can bitch and whine as much as I like. Outside, I have to be the public face and just a little bit larger than life because I suck royally at self-promotion so I operate on the principle of being an interesting person to talk to in the hope I’ll catch a few that way. So far it’s worked.

We authors are in business, and our product is as much our public face as it is our books. Both need to be sufficiently pleasing to our readers that they’ll want to keep buying our books.

Oh, and the thing about interesting times is that they’re all interesting. And times are always unstable. If you see that as a threat events will ultimately crush you. Looking at the interesting and unstable nature of life as a series of opportunities gives you a chance to ride the waves.

And that is your bag of hopelessly mangled metaphors for the day.

Reviews, software and the season of the trolls

No, you didn’t go to bed last night and enter a time warp. It really is Wednesday. Sarah asked me to fill in for her this morning because she had an o-dark thirty flight out to Libertycon last night and simply ran out of time. But never fear, she’ll be back next week with tales of the con and more. The only problem is I figured I’d be up early, as has been my habit recently. Instead, I overslept. So apologies for the late post.

A couple of things have come up over the last day or two that caught my eye. The first was a post by another author — one not associated with MGC as either a contributor or regular commenter — complaining about a review received for a short story. Before receiving the one-star review, he’d had three or four other reviews, all five-star. So, because this review was so dramatically different from the others and because the reviewer wasn’t a “verified purchaser”, the author instantly assumed it was a troll review. Then he went on a tirade on social media about it.

This is where things get a little hazy. Whether the reviewer saw the rant on social media or the author left a comment on Amazon about the review, it is clear word got back to the reviewer because he edited the original review to note that the author had problems with the review and claimed he hadn’t read the story. He had, according to the edits, because he’d “borrowed” a friend’s copy.

That brought another response from the author, this time as response on Amazon. Once more he attacked the reviewer and said there was no way this could have happened because the story wasn’t available for “lending”. Ergo, the reviewer is a liar.

Not necessarily. The reviewer could be like my mother and me, and any number of other families and close friends who actually loan their kindles back and forth. Or the original purchaser of the short story could have broken the DRM, if any was applied, and then given a copy to the reviewer. Or, yes, the reviewer could be lying.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. The author stepped into it by first blowing up on social media with enough detail that the reviewer knew who and what he was referring to. Heck, the author actually included a link to the product page so all his “friends” could go see the horrible review. Then, going to the review on Amazon and responding in a defensive — and derrisive — manner didn’t help him any either. It makes him look bad and, if he’s like me, it is a distraction from writing he doesn’t need.

Yes, it is hard to read those bad reviews. If you can’t put the brakes on the impulse to respond, then get someone else to read your reviews for you. But don’t waste your time trying to prove just how wrong that reviewer happens to be and certainly don’t lose your cool. It will backfire on you.

The second thing that caught my eye recently has been a discussion on Baen’s Bar about what software folks use to write. As you can imagine, the responses are varied. There are those who, like me, use Word. We might not like it and it does have a learning curve from Hell, but it is still the industry standard and it still has the best review and comment function of anything I’ve found. Others use open source software like LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Both are decent programs and have the benefit of being free. Others use older versions of WordPerfect — frankly, my favorite program before it started trying to be Word. Apple fanatics use Word or Pages. Then there are those who use text editors. A few use Scrivener.

Each program has its benefits and drawbacks. Word is chock-full of junk code and is expensive. Then there is the learning curve to be able to take advantage of all it offers. But it is the industry standard. Plus, it is easy to get rid of much of the junk code by simply running it through another program, such as Atlantis, if necessary. But even that isn’t necessary in most cases anymore because Amazon and the other sites that allow us to upload our work for sale have improved their conversion tools to the point that much of the junk code is removed during the conversion process. It’s not perfect and you do have to check each time you upload something, but it is much better than it used to be.

OpenOffice, and to a lesser extent LibreOffice, are notorious for not working well with Smashwords’ conversion tool, the meatgrinder. So that is something to keep in mind if you are going to be offering your work through that particular outlet.

Using a text editor is probably the best way to insure you have no junk code in your work. The problem is that you need at least a basic understanding of html coding if you are going this route and, frankly, most of us don’t want to take the time to make sure all the codes are closed out. Still, if you don’t have much special coding needed, this is the way to go if you don’t mind the way the text editor works and looks.

Scrivener is an excellent program but, for me, it offers too much. Yes, I know you can choose which parts of the program to use but it is distracting. I have a feeling that, for a true plotter, it is probably one of the best programs out there. But for pantsers or hybrids, it can be a bit daunting.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter what program you use for writing. The important thing is that you are writing. Where much of the conversion problems come from now is when a file goes through multiple programs during the editing process. Here’s what I mean. Wally the writer uses Word. When Wally finishes his first draft, he sends the DOC file to Annie the Alpha Reader. Annie reads and comments using Pages and then sends it back to Wally. Wally opens the file, looks it over and implements or disregards Annie’s suggestions. Then he sends it to Barney the Beta who uses LibreOffice. Rinse and repeat.

What happens is that each of these programs have underlying code that has now been written into the file. Some of that code may be at odds with other parts of the coding. That is what causes a lot of the problems you see during conversion. So, whether you upload exclusively to Amazon or to other sites as well, I recommend you add one more program. You need something that will let you edit the html code. You can do this by saving your file as an html file and using a text editor or you can convert it to epub and use a file like Sigil to edit the html. I like using Sigil or something similar to it because it allows you to not only edit the code but also the text of the file. You can build your meta data, compile your active table of contents, and much more. But, again, none of that matters if you aren’t writing and finding the program you are most comfortable with as a word processor is a must.

Finally, this is the season of the trolls. We’ve had a few here. Not many but a few. Sarah gets them fairly regularly at ATH. We see them in reviews and on social media. Even though a rousing game of whack-a-troll is often fun, it is a time consumer as well. Especially when, as with the one at ATH right now, he either doesn’t realize he’s being used as a chew toy or he enjoys it. Don’t let yourself get drawn into a prolonged encounter with them. Even if they do eventually go away, they’ve won because they’ve taken you away from what’s important — your writing.

And, one that note, I’m off to find more coffee and get back to work myself. Have a good one, guys!

TANSTAAFL

I first came across TANSTAAFL years ago after finding copies of Worlds of If buried in one of my grandmother’s closets. This closet was devoted to storing books, magazines, records and a myriad of other things my uncles and father had left at the house over the years. To the best of my knowledge, these particular magazines had been left by my Uncle John when he’d been home on leave from the Navy. The rest of the brothers and sisters had long since moved out of the house and had their own families.

For those of you who might not be familiar wit TANSTAAFL, it comes from Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It is the “title” of the third part of the book and stands for “There ain’t so such thing as a free lunch.” Think about that for awhile.

I guess what made this come to mind for me is recent events in the publishing world. There’s the Amazon-Hatchette conflict. Amazon has been pretty quiet about what is involved in their ongoing negotiations with Hatchette. Hatchette has been more quiet, officially at least, that I expected. However, there are “unnamed sources” that are supposedly from those in the know at Hatchette that have talked with the New York Times. And, of course, the Times is reporting what was said as fact. I’ll let you read the post but basically, if the source is to be believed, Amazon wants concessions for putting up a pre-order button, for having a person dedicated to dealing with Hatchette, pricing and discounting of e-books, etc.

Now, as the Times noted, much of what Amazon supposedly wants is exactly what is already in place with retailers such as Barnes & Noble. Of course, that little tidbit is buried deep in the article. It is also something we aren’t hearing about from those Amazon detractors who claim that all the retailer is doing is hurting authors and readers.

Well, folks, TANSTAAFL. As an author, when you sign a contract with a publisher, you are signing over all rights to determine where your book will be sold to that publisher. If they don’t contract with a retailer, too bad. If they get into a contract dispute with a retailer too bad. You may not like it but you gave up that control. What’s more, you gave it up for a very small cut of the money pie, trusting that publisher to protect your rights, market your book and give you a fair accounting of your sales.

I’m not going to condemn anyone for going the traditional route. I freely admit there is one traditional publisher — Baen — I would love to work with some day. However, when you sign a contract with a publisher, you do give up your right to determine where your books are sold and at what price point. You can and, more than likely will, find yourself held hostage during contract negotiations between the publisher and its distributor or retail outlets. That is just one of the costs of doing business the traditional way.

But TANSTAAFL applies to what is going on in publishing in other ways as well. For a very long time, the darlings of traditional publishing have benefited from a push from their publishers than many others never received. They were allowed to believe that they are relevant and cutting edge. They fell into lockstep with the cause du jour as decided by the publishers and took great joy in lording it over the lesser beings in publishing, especially in science fiction/fantasy. We’ve seen them flex their muscles — or try to, at least — in how they’ve pushed political correctness as they describe it. Don’t you dare have a scantily clad female on a cover but no sweat having a mostly naked man. To be relevant, you have to have every color, creed and sexual preference represented in your work. Story has taken a backseat to message.

Except there has been a push back and they don’t know how to react. The sacred cows are being sacrificed right and left. We’ve been told people don’t read science fiction and fantasy and yet there are folks out there indie publishing who have been able to quit their day jobs to write full time. Others have managed to make enough in royalties in just a month or two of sales to be the equivalent of an advance from a traditional publisher. What’s worse that these renegade indie authors actually being successful is that they are doing it by writing stories readers want to read. Stories, not messages. How dare they!

The other side has made an art of attacking those they don’t approve of. They have no problems publicly condemning, possibly even slandering, those who might have unpopular beliefs. If you don’t fit into the right-think slot, you are not worthy of being allowed to write. They’ve done their best to ruin Vox Day who, in my opinion, loves to stir the pot of controversy. When Ender’s Game (the movie) came out, they tried to coordinate a boycott of the movie and even called for people to quit buying anything by Orson Scott Card. Why? Because he doesn’t believe the way they do and has said so publicly. Do I agree with him? No, but I also don’t think that is reason to take away his livelihood. Want more examples? There has been a call for Toni Weisskopf to drop Larry Correia because he is a big, mean, scary, gun-loving, heterosexual man and proud of it. Worse, he won’t learn his place and be quiet about his opinions and apologize to those who attack him.

There are any number of other examples out there. The point is this, those folks who are often identified as social justice warriors or GHHers have been allowed to do as they want and say as they want for so long, they thought they basically had a free lunch to continue to do so. They are now learning that they don’t. When they attack one of our own, we tend to fight back now. Why? Mainly because we’re tired of it. But the underlying reason is because we know, as authors, we have alternatives to legacy publishing now. We don’t have to be afraid of our editors dropping us because we aren’t bowing down to their cause du jour. Then there is the fact that we are starting to realize there are so many readers out there who want the kind of stories we write.

The dance that is happening right now revolves around how the other side is dealing with the revelation that one of their shining beacons they hold up as an example for all has been named as an abuser by her own daughter. They’d managed to “forget”, if not turn a blind eye, to the fact that this beacon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) had been married to a child abuser and had, iirc, tried to defend his actions. But now they are scrambling around trying to figure out how to respond to the allegations against MZB. I’ve seen everything from condemning the actions, if true, but casting doubt on the daughter’s story to saying basically, “okay, she was bad but that doesn’t make her books, or the message in them, bad.” Then there was the comment I saw on social media this morning which was basically trying to find out if it was one of those well-known “secrets”. The subtext being, if it wasn’t, then the person posting could just ignore what happened and say that we can’t condemn the writing because of actions of the author that weren’t known.

My issue with all that is the double-standard involved. If this sort of revelation had been made against a “conservative” writer, the SJWs would be demanding that their books be pulled from the shelves and the author would be condemned. There would be little to no doubting the allegations against her. There would be no separating the actions of the author from her work. Remember, they want to kill the careers of men like Card and Correia simply because they aren’t “politically correct”.

Well, for those who think it is all right to apply that double standard, TANSTAAFL. There will come a time when people are tired of being told what to do, what to think, what to read. And guess what, that time is here. There is more behind the trouble the publishing industry is in than Amazon and much of it lies at the feet of the publishers and those they have anointed as their dahlings. You attack us, we will defend ourselves. More than that, we will continue to write stories readers want to buy. We will continue to explore alternative ways to get our work into the hands of readers, and at prices they can afford and that will pay us royalties much greater than what your legacy publishers are giving you.

And, along that line, here are some of those books:


adjustment2Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.


stardogsStardogs

Revolution rises!

The Interstellar Empire of Man was built on the enslavement of the gentle Stardogs, companions and Theta-space transporters of the vanished Denaari Dominion. But the Stardogs that humans found can’t go home to breed, and are slowly dying out.

As the ruthless Empire collapses from its rotten core outward, an Imperial barge is trapped on top of a dying Stardog when an attempted hijacking and assassination go horribly wrong. Trying to save its human cargo, the Stardog flees to the last place anyone expected – the long-lost Denaari motherworld.

Crawling from the crash are the Leaguesmen who control the Stardogs’ pilots by fear and force, and plan to assassinate Princess Shari, the criminal Yak gang, who want to kill everyone and take control of a rare Stardog for their own, and an entourage riddled with plots, poisons, and treason. But Shari and her assassin-bodyguard have plans of their own…

Stranded on the Denaari Motherworld, the castaway survivors will have to cooperate to survive. Some will have to die.

And some, if they make it to the Stardogs breeding ground, will have to learn what it means to love.

witchfindercoverfinalWitchfinder (Magical Empires)

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

 

Trickster ebook cover

Trickster Noir (Pixie for Hire)

After the battle of Tower Baelfire ended, Lom lay dying. Bella was tasked with not only the job she never wanted, but the one she did. Could she keep Lom alive long enough for him to come to the rescue when their kingdom needed them? And what did Raven, mysterious trickster spirit and honorary uncle to Bella, want with them? If the threat was big enough to have the trickster worried, Bella knew she needed to have Lom at her side. Underhill might look like a soap-bubble kingdom, but Bella and Lom knew there was a gritty underside. Why else would fairyland need a dark man willing to carry a big gun and be the Pixie for Hire?

 

 

convent

ConVent (The Vampire Con Series)

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00006]War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1)

Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide.

Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers news that may change everything. An opportunity is coming to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed.

That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.

murder world kaijuMurder World: Kaiju Dawn

Captain Vincente Huerta and the crew of the Fancy have been hired to retrieve a valuable item from a downed research vessel at the edge of the enemy’s space.
It was going to be an easy payday.
But what Captain Huerta and the men, women and alien under his command didn’t know was that they were being sent to the most dangerous planet in the galaxy.
Something large, ancient and most assuredly evil resides on the planet of Gorgon IV. Something so terrifying that man could barely fathom it with his puny mind. Captain Huerta must use every trick in the book, and possibly write an entirely new one, if he wants to escape Murder World.

baptism by fireBaptism By Fire (Edge of Faith)

When a madman and a giant flaming thing attack James Lawrie’s Marine outpost, the medic and an explosively talented sergeant aren’t supposed to save the day. Life becomes no simpler when Petty Officer Lawrie returns home on leave to find federal agents investigating the disappearance of a young woman from his past. A young woman whose body turns up marked with eerily familiar symbols.

 

fancy freeFancy Free

In the last parts of the Twenty-first century, AI, Artificial Intelligence is commonplace. Highly able computers, and nothing more . . . until some rare and as yet unidentified trigger creates an actual personality.

Artificial Personalities, APs or hals, are illegal. Destroyed upon discovery. Even Beowulf, the AP the government controls, and uses to hunt down emerging hals, isn’t legally recognized, has no right to existence.
So you’d think that when the Special Grid Security Unit started paying extra attention to the area where a certain cooking show operates, Fancy Farmer—the AP who runs the show—would be concerned.

But Fancy has a bigger problem.

She’s been stolen.

Self-Publishers are Reactionary Forces of Darkness!

A gift that keeps giving –that’s been Stardogs
on Amazon Kindle so far.

I’ve finally succeeded in wrestling Smashwords into submission (it’s just a flesh-wound) so the book is now available on Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

And from the point of view of ‘how-gullible-and-stupid-do-they-really-think-anyone-is’ Doublespeak –as material for blogging about… the UK’s Grauniad is just about as rewarding. This particular piece, is so ‘brilliant’ for that that I’m going to devote an explanatory fisk to it with my gifted snarky translations. Now, Doublespeak is not Greek. Or Chinese. I know, I tried putting some of it into Google translate and got: Σταματήσουν να πίνουν τόσο πολύ ούζο, μαλάκας or Stamatí̱soun na pínoun tóso polý oúzo malákas, and 官方经济报告,2014年Guānfāng jīngjì bàogào,2014 nián. So because it may make as much sense as either of these languages to non-speakers of the same, let me kindly translate. I have a lifetime of experience in understanding its nuances, which may otherwise pass you by, that is, if the sheer gibberish of it does not just leave you wondering if you’re wearing your wobbly boots.

“Trumpeted as a democratic broadening of the publishing field, ‘authorpreneurialism’ actually narrows the world of reading and writing”
Translated into ordinary English I believe this means authors doing it themselves instead of relying on traditional gatekeeper – AKA publishers — has actually broadened the world of reading and writing, (narrowed in doublespeak is used like this ‘the little rock-pool narrowed out into the Pacific Ocean, becoming much more restricted.’) Or more simply put ‘This is a bad thing for us and our friends.’

“Now price and success, too often the determinants of value, have made it respectable.”
Translation: ‘price’ – It’s cheap, anyone can do it, and riff-raff are getting in. ‘Success’ as a measure of merit – meaning people just decided they liked reading it, and paid money for it when they had a choice of it or something else is a bad way of determining value, because it generally rates our writing as not worth paying for. And how could that be true? We know what is good for you, much better than you do. You’d just read books you enjoyed, which would be awful. Stop being so darn uppity.

“Unfortunately, self-publishing is neither radical nor liberating.”
Translation. Self-publishing isn’t Statist nor limited to the message we want you to preach. Sometimes it doesn’t even have a message.

“And, as revolutions go, it is rather short on revolutionaries.”
Translation: Almost none of you self-pubs look like Che. Or systematically commit abuses like him. You self-pub writers are a disappointment. You’d look terrible on a T-shirt.

“It is actually reactionary”
Translation: it’s a revolution, but against our established order, which has been around for more than a century. And it’s not going backwards either, but claiming that is nearly as good a get-out-of-jail card as ‘raciss’.

“a contracted version of the traditional publishing model in which companies, who produce for a wide range of tastes and preferences, are replaced by individual producers each catering to very narrow range.”
Translation: Our doublespeak mathematical skills are on the same level as our English skills. Big Companies, six of them controlling 85% of paper sales catered for “a wide range of tastes and preferences” which are so indistinguishable that no reader could tell who the publisher was, and in which the number of books sold per literate financially able buyers has dropped steadily for fifty years because they had not a clue about the market outside their NY circle, is being replaced by several million new entrants each targeting niches they know about. Even if the individual entrants have a narrow appeal – call it 1 inch of the spectrum, compared to the big six’s almost identical 12 inches – the whole spectrum is several miles wide, and is finally getting some coverage.

“In other words, democratisation is nothing more than the expansion of the publishing process from the few to the many. But this both overestimates the barriers to traditional publication – the vetting and selection process may be deeply flawed, but every writer can submit a manuscript”
Translation: ‘the vetting and selection process may be deeply flawed’ = it was a complete and hopeless cock-up which was statistically worse than pure chance, at least for the top 10% (they would buy 0.01% of that), where ignorance of the market, socio-political bias and buddy-nepotism meant they would take worse books at the expense of books that had real promise. They favored books for reasons that had nothing to do with pleasing readers or selling. Even if they tried: They had neither the tools (market research, adequate statistical data or analysis,) nor the skills (editors’ jobs are to pick bestsellers. They probably missed a thousand for every one they found. Even with all the push they gave, cooking the books, and they still failed most of the time) and the writer of the piece generously admits it ‘may’ be deeply flawed?!!!!

“but every writer can submit a manuscript”
Oh my. What a treasure we are abandoning. Translation: every author could buy a lotto ticket. The prize money is tiny, and we only let you enter one competition (submit to one publisher) at a time, and we’ll give you a form rejection in a couple of years. I was bought out of the slush. 1 book, out of 3000. And that was at least partially pure luck. Secondly, the statement isn’t even true, at least in SFF. Most of the publishers were closed to un-agented submissions. The publishing industry kindly outsourced slush to agents, and got the authors to pay for it. Generous! And we’re just giving all that wonderful stuff up, to let readers decide what they want to do with their money. No wonder the writer of this piece is so offended. It must be awful that every writer can still submit a manuscript, get published, and not even have to suffer a near useless vetting process.

“It also fails to consider whether the democratisation of publishing produces a similar democratisation for the reader by making literary culture more open.”
Translation: Readers? The hoi polloi? The great unwashed? Let THEM choose? Of course they’re totally unfit to decide what is good for them. I mean offer them a bacon sandwich or an organic spinach and camel’s milk yoghurt smoothie, and you know what they’ll take don’t you? The Nambula winning ‘If you were also a Brontosaurus my love we’d stomp them to jelly before going extinct because our love wasn’t binary’ wouldn’t be a well-deserved bestseller then. The lower orders need us.

“By definition, self-publishing is an individualistic pursuit in which each writer is both publisher and market adventurer, with every other writer a potential competitor and the reader reduced to the status of consumer.”
Translation: Writers have to write something a reader might want to pay for. ‘reduced’= Allowed to choose – if this was ‘reduced status’, what were they before? Tied down torture victims? Clamped into poetry ‘appreciation’ chairs on Vogon Constructor ship?

“Publishing then becomes timid, fearing to be adventurous and revolutionary lest it betray the expectations of its market.”
Translation: blue screen error…. Restart. Translation as best as possible in safe mode: Publishing, the left-wing establishment organization has been on message, regurgitating the party line faithfully, but now if it actually has competition might have to compe… cannot parse. Blue screen of death.

“This is a natural tendency in traditional publishing but it is one restrained by the voices of its authors who are free to put their work first and entrepreneurship a distant second.”
Translate. (Pause for helpless laughter) …. No. No. NO. No one is ever going to believe authors restrained publishers. The power imbalance is just too ridiculous for even doublespeak.

“With authorship and entrepreneurship now equal partners, the new authorpreneurs have thrown off the dictatorship of the editor to replace it with the tyranny of the market.”
Translation: The old dictator was our chum. We were… close. We went to parties together in San Francisco with that lovely feminist there. And we wrote what we were supposed to, what was good for people and now these upstarts…. These… these… reactionaries are just letting buyers decide. And some of the scum probably want adventures and… shudder, binary fiction. And the tyranny of the market – yes, a brutal tyrant giving readers a free choice. Just evil!

“Dana Lynn Smith defines readers as “people who buy the book to read … the most obvious category and it includes your primary audience (the ‘ideal customer’ that the book was specifically written for)”. Or you can see it in the anger which greeted Will Self’s confession that he doesn’t “really write for readers”.”
Oh, that is AWFUL. Translation: It’s so bad that the people who pay for the product should have some vague expectation that product is for them. How can they be so UNREASONABLE? It’s ART. We KNOW it is art because it pleases us.

“When writers fear readers, who remains bold enough to push the boundaries?”
Translation: when writers have to give a damn what readers want to read in order to get them to buy the book, readers may actually get what they want. And an answer – pretty much anyone who wants to push real boundaries can. It’s a big world and it doesn’t cost much to publish, and there are other people out there who will like the most bizarre or depraved things. You just won’t get validation and affirmation, or be subsidized, and be able to tell the hoi polloi that it’s your ‘boundary’ or nothing, any more. No loss, most of them chose nothing anyway.

“The risks that are an inescapable part of an industry where every book is a gamble make traditional publishers very conservative. But they are far more liberal, far more radical than self-publishing in its current form. Cross-subsidies from commercial titles support poets, academics and writers of new and daring literary fiction who will never appear on bestseller lists. Such concerted action is impossible in a fragmented world where each writer pursues individual success.”
Translation: We’re scared our books are so bad no-one will buy them if they have a choice. We expect to be able to be parasites. And just because no-one wants to read them, doesn’t mean they aren’t great literary fiction! (and that’s so true – but it’s hardly a reason to give the lice money).

“Can a literary culture where writers are producers and readers are consumers be truly open? Only if your definition of an open society is one ruled by the market.”
Translation: literary culture FLOURISHED under Communism. Er. NOT. But we apparatchiks were well paid for denouncing the wicked West. And we MISS that. Especially the pay.

“The individualism of the self-publishing authorpreneurs, is disturbingly close to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, in which the greatest goal is individual fulfilment.”
Translation: Sorry… mem. stack overflow… reset with logic parameter disabled. Earlier, readers were bad because they wouldn’t let writers merely write to please themselves and pay them for this, now writers are bad because they want to write to please themselves. No problem in doublespeak-land. Logic works the same way Math does there.

“No wider context needs to be considered because these wider goals will take care of themselves if every individual pursues a personal objective without regard to anyone else. It is the philosophy of pure laissez-faire capitalism that rejects community and mutual responsibility.”
Translation: Capitalist BAD. Socialist good because anyone wanting to read your work is not important. And we wise ones will decide what you peasants have to be made to carry. We are ordained… by er… um Gaia, yes Gaia to decree what the community needs, in case you wanted to know. She thinks we and our fellow-travelers deserve the best for preaching the message, even if no one reads it. Oddly I have had much more help from other authors – self pubbed and otherwise, than I ever got from publishing. We do support each other.

“If self-publishing is to be a radical and revolutionary force it will be forged by creative collectives, groups of committed writers and artists who inter-publish, contributing to the publication not just of their own work but of the work of the others in the group across diverse genres and literary forms.”
Translation: If traditional publishing can’t pay me enough to live well on for crap no one wants to read, perhaps I can sucker some other organic soy latte sippers into carrying me.

And good luck with that.

The funniest thing about this is that really, for experimental writers or poets, actually e-books and self pub are far more accessible and it is possible for the Arty-est to make some kind of living, because the size of the market expands many-fold on what traditional publishing gave them. Yes, they actually have to find some readers… but stuff I wouldn’t wipe my butt on finds support on Kickstarter and Patreon.

And the second funniest thing was the comments section. Hmm. Maybe mad cow disease somehow got into the soy lattes….

And as a thank you reading this far, and as free sample for those who might not have read my drivel, uh, work, yes work. Red Fiddler
is FREE for the next four days. Enjoy.