The God's Wolfling

Contagion and Books

I launched a new book yesterday. Now, for an Indie Author the first week isn’t quite as make-or-break as it is for a traditionally published author. I’m not under the constraints of having my entire career judged on how many copies of this book I can move before the book is no longer on the shelves. I’m not worried about making best-seller lists. They would be nice, and maybe someday, but for now what I need to do is create a ripple.

Because it’s a little like an epidemic (I’ll get into why I’m using this metaphor shortly, bear with me). You infect a bunch of people with joyful reactions to the book, and they spread that with ‘this is so good, you have to try it…” and it ripples outward. But those ripples take time, I’m learning. The first book in this series was my first novel published. It dropped into the pond with a quiet little ‘bloop’ and I never expected to hear anything about it.

But then I’d get ‘when is the sequel coming out?’ and I saw the sales number creep steadily along. Never spectacular, but for coming onto three years now, steady. So I wrote the sequel. And yesterday, having announced it was out, and that I had no intention of writing any more in this series, I realized that isn’t true. I have to write at least one more, and maybe two. So the infection isn’t just on the reader’s side of the equation, but on my end too.

Back to the readers. You start out with… looks at her numbers from the last two days… about a dozen people. Not as good as the Noir series, for sure. But that’s ok, because there’s something called an incubation period, and that is what the traditional publishers disregard entirely. It takes time to buy and read a book (well, for some people, others will read it in hours and be back demanding MORE from the author who is bewildered to see weeks of their effort consumed like a jello shot), and then for the reader to pass on the word.

But the ripples do spread, and in time there will be attention given to the books that deserve it, particularly if there are more titles by that author to keep the voracious reader intoxicated with their stories. I don’t know if this book will be catching, but I am hoping.

Now, why the epidemic metaphor? Because two reasons. I’ve been hearing a lot about the whole thing with Ebola recently, and given what I’m studying right now I’m paying very close attention. It would go into a book easily, and it’s ironic to me that I had started writing a book tenatively titled Plague War just a few weeks ago.

It’s not just the disease itself, although Ebola is frighteningly dramatic on it’s own. There is also the element of mystery: is it airborne? which was, by the way, the main topic of the fictionalized book The Hot Zone. But most of all, it’s the panic a truly vicious epidemic engenders. I’m watching conversations on facbok (sic) blow up with things like ‘I saw 12 Monkeys, man!” (I have not, but I can guess, and using Hollywood as a measure of what a outbreak looks like is truly horrifying) and I’m taking notes for the new book.

I suspect if we did actually have an outbreak here, even if it were quickly confined, we’d see mass panic. I think we’d also see fingers pointed in the wrong direction, which for the purposes of a book is very useful to lead into red herrings. “They brought it to us! Brought people to that there secure hospital and it got out!” when what really happened was a businessman from Liberia got onto a crowded airplane with a nasty nagging headache behind his eyes…

In writing, we get to play fast and loose with the facts. The real world is a bit more constrained. Part of the reason Ebola rages like wildfire where it is, is the way medical emergencies are handled. Not just the patient goes to the hospital, but a sizable cadre of their family, to provide comfort and care. Most African hospitals haven’t got what we think of as nurses, nor do they have the facilities to sterilize equipment. Between these things, and the fact that people panic, you wind up with sick people coming to the hospitals with a bunch of healthy people. Then, when people start dying (especially when the health care workers start getting sick) the ones who are still mobile panic and flee, carrying the contagion back to their homes and re-igniting the infections. It’s a vicious cycle, and a proper quarantine isn’t really possible. Here in the US, it is. We have a little more trust in our healthcare (for good reasons) and we’re more likely to allow a quarantine.

Oh, and one of the main points in my book I’m working on, that an entire planet could be cut off and left to die out of fear? I’m drawing that from reality, too. People will advocate genocide when they are afraid, I had someone suggest that in a recent conversation about the Ebola epidemic, too.

I’ve books for you, now I have been all gloomy. Stargazer, a science fiction short story, is free until Monday. Pick up a copy, and pass the word… If you’re in the mood for something more fantastical and full of myth, I’ll suggest the new book, The God’s Wolfling. You’ll get to be a vector in my book infection! 


  1. I still have the scars from an outbreak of Cutaneous Vasculitis, which when it first hit scared the crap out of me because it looked like flesh eating bacteria or something. And the worst thing is, it doesn’t really have a “cause” per se. But the skin’s reaction to the damage causes even more damage.

    Nowadays the moment I see a little red spot I bathe it in Cortizone cream, and that seems to arrest it and turn it into a little brown spot that sometimes doesn’t go away.

    It’s like Leprosy without the nifty teleportation to a fantasy realm.

  2. And it’s fascinating how far back humans’ reaction to “mysterious dying” goes. What was the response to the Black Death? Finger pointing, abandoning locations, trying to outrun it, or hiding (Bocaccio’s Decameron.) Yellow fever? Similar. The plagues of Justinian and of Periclean Athens, probably not much different, judging by the sources we have.

    As as interesting aside, the sociologist/historian Rodney Stark proposed that one reason early Christians did pretty well was because they had a strong support system that nursed them and others in need during disease outbreaks, they and their patients had a higher survival rate, as well as winning friends in the community because of their good works. Sort of, “Ya know, their teachings are a little strange, but they’re good people to have around when things get rough.”

    1. Yes, and as I was reading Laurie Garrett’s the Coming Plague, which I recommend with notes (you can’t trust her numbers) I saw the rather disturbing bias crop up, of thinking civilization is responsible for disease. Which it isn’t, just for the spread of more disease through people living close together. The microbiome has always been with us, for ill and for good.

      1. When the big Aids scare was going on, I had two thoughts about it.

        One, the Gay Activists were wanting more research into a cure and (stupidly) played the “Any Body Can Get It” game.

        Two, there was little easily available info on how you got Aids.

        So you get people thinking that you could get Aids by “just being in the same room” as somebody with Aids. (I may be a little overboard here).

        Then we got the “don’t blame the victim game” without good information on how you can catch Aids.

        Of course, the “main” way Aids could be caught by the general public was by getting blood from an infected individual.

        The other ways were not something that could happen to most individuals.

        Of course, now in the US (and perhaps Europe) you can’t get Aids from being given blood.

        1. I remember the “you can get it from a mosquito that bit someone who has AIDS” story. Oh, yeah, and the rumor that you could get it from toilet seats. *shakes head*

  3. Nice cover! Fractals!!!!

    12 monkeys is a terry Gilliam flick. It’s worth watching just for the time travel element, which is so rarely done well in movies.

    1. For my short stories I use fractals for the science fiction art. it’s cheap and cool looking.

      I rarely watch movies, sadly. One, in the last 18 months, for a sense of how often that is. No, two, but McClintock doesn’t count, it’s comfort food.

      1. I have to rewatch Angel and the Bad Man. I just saw LDP in the remake and it was putrid. I need a rinse.

          1. Turned it into a gun control ad. Give up your guns and the police will protect you. Defend yourself and you hang.

      2. Cedar, you like McClintock? If I weren’t happily married and you weren’t engaged. ..:)

          1. It’s hard to go wrong with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hare. Especially together.

            “The Quiet Man” is also a good one.

    2. It’s been a while but I loved “12 Monkeys”. It didn’t make a lot of sense but it had some great lines.
      “I’m in insurance.”

  4. I am not a health care professional by any means, but from what I can gather from reports by serious sensible knowledgeable folks we need to keep a few things in mind regarding Ebola.
    True there is no cure at this time. Some viruses can be like that.
    But there is an effective treatment, you hospitalize the victim, start IV fluids and nutrients, and allow their natural boy resources to overcome the attacking disease and eventually heal. Not pleasant, and not the best survival rates, but not necessarily the death sentence as seen in Africa where they simply do not have the resources or procedures in place to offer such consistent and effective treatment.
    As for your own sequel, soon to become a series, may you experience a true pandemic response.

  5. James Michener, “The Novel,” about 30 pages in. A chart of books by the fictional Mr. Yoder; the first four sold about 1000 copies each, the next three sold about 1,000,000 copies each. The chart is entitled ‘Portrait of an Editor,’ because it illustrates the tenacity of his editor in sticking with him and the publisher until he becomes a Big Name.
    SO: spread the infection! Use all possible avenues of contagion. “There ain’t no money in giving away stuff for free” only applies when the stuff is worth nothing. If it’s worth ANYTHING, people will buy it IF THEY KNOW ABOUT IT and self-publishing, e-publishing is the only way to make things happen.
    And pretty soon, it’s ‘SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”

    1. Well, I can’t tell how may of the 70 people who picked up the free copy of Kiwi came there from the Book Plug Friday, but surely some did. (The previous time I did BPF I didn’t sell anything, That’s why I timed it this way.) NEXT time I’ll be sure to have something ELSE for sale at the same time.

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