Kate is being held hostage by the internet gods

Poor Kate. She’s traveling right now and has found herself at the mercy of hotel internet, almost non-existent hotel internet. In the message she finally managed to get out to Sarah and me, it had taken five minutes to load email. She was terrified she’d grow old and die, her body not being found for months or longer if she tried to get WordPress to load and then upload a blog post. So I said I’d throw something together. So bear with me as I try to get my uncaffeinated brain to function enough to work.

Over the last few days, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what Mad Genius Club is. The blog has come a long way since Sarah and Dave started it 10 years ago. (In fact, it has been 10 years and month almost to the day since our first post went live.) In that time, we’ve seen changes in writers and in direction. The template has changed and so has the tone of the blog. That’s all good, at least it is in my opinion. The last thing Sarah and Dave wanted was for the blog to grow stagnant.

When the blog began, it was the early days of indie publishing (as in, I’m not sure Amazon had opened up their platform yet). All the writers were traditionally published. Almost all the original authors were science fiction/fantasy writers. Their goal was to use the blog to help promote their own work while helping new writers navigate the maze of publishing.

Kate and I joined the blog about six months later. Kate was also a published author, having had short stories published in pro anthologies. I was the newbie and Sarah brought me along purportedly to do a weekly “what’s going on in the industry” sort of post (because I was at the phase where I scoured the internet on a daily basis, looking for anything that could help me break into the business.) I really think she did it to keep me out of trouble.

About that time, Amazon confirmed what the rumor mill had been chewing on for a bit–that it was going to open up a platform for indie authors to publish their work. Oh the howls of outrage from traditional publishers and many of their authors. Agents beat their chests in anguish. We were told there would be nothing but trash, pure dreck, put out that way. After all, where was the quality control if there were no gatekeepers?

You know what happened. Amazon once again proved its critics wrong. MGC became a champion for all writers, especially Indies. We’ve done all we can to help anyone who wants to be a writer.

Along the way, some of the faces have changed but the message remains basically the same. If you are a writer, write. If you are a reader, read. We’d love it if you’d buy our books and leave reviews.

All this has been a long about way of getting to the point. After 10 years of blogging, sometimes it is difficult to decide what to write about. So much has been covered. We try to keep in mind that what we wrote a year–or 10–ago might need to be updated. Information and advice change as the market demand changes. We have readers who haven’t been with us for the long haul.

So, do us a favor. In the comments tell us what you would like us to write about. If there is a workshop or clinic you’d like us to conduct, describe it. If you’d like to see a regular fiction offering to be added to the line up, let us know (by this, I mean a regular snippet post or the like).

This is as much your blog as it is ours because we wouldn’t keep doing this if it were for each of you. Now, I’ll go find a cup of coffee and leave it to you.

97 thoughts on “Kate is being held hostage by the internet gods

  1. When I first read the title I thought, ‘The internet gods will wish they had snagged the Red Chief instead.”

    1. So what can we do to help you? What topics would you like to see us tackle? Remember, many of us write in a number of different genres, including romance, mystery, humor, etc.

      1. I realized the other day if I put my back into it, I might be remembered more as a mystery author than a scifi one. And hell, I have a “mainstream” novel kicking around the brain.
        So, ask.

      2. I would request no changes at all. I find value in the occasional posts on techy crap like formatting a work for publication (my current cursed burden) and enjoy the gossipy elements like the inevitable slow decline of the trads, and the SJW histrionics. Also, I find the discussions of new releases interesting.

  2. How about a discussion on the rationale and the pros and cons of writing under one or several pen names.
    And then there are these outfits that advertise on the radio that they can make you a published author, take care of all the details for you. Someone ought to do a Project Veritas on them and see what jumps out.

      1. At the moment I m]am running benchmarks of AWS EC2 instances to derive the performance for 3d rendering of the various configurations. From that i will make a video to take this data and present it to the small studio/freelancer type of artist.

  3. Funnily enough I was thinking about this the other night and hoping you would ask.

    Amazon adverts; the pros and cons etc, and how to, too.

    Amazon series page, is it worth it, again pros and cons. The how is to ask, but I wonder is the separation doesn’t work against discoverability?

      1. As a reader I really find the “Next in Series” option on my Kindle app useful. If I like a book I’ll binge the whole series using it and follow the author to get series updates.

        Subscribing to author’s mailing lists is kind of hit and miss and our firewall/filter kills a large portion of the book links going through trackers so I end up unsubscribing and depending on Amazon’s updates.

      2. Cheers. At the moment I’m just pursuing Amazon as to why two of my titles are not showing on my author page. Once that’s resolved I’ll ask for a series page. I know that sounds like I’m shirking, but at the moment doing one thing at a time is all I can manage, and sometimes doing that reduces me to tears.

        1. Ashley, if you haven’t done so yet, go to your Author Central page and use the help link from there. You will get much faster response and that side of the help desk is keyed to authors.

        2. I’ve been there. Don’t stress over it. I will say that when you’re ready, the series page is as easy as putting series identifiers in on the KDP page – the series page auto-generates from that. So that’s not a big deal.

          And try to take some time to care for yourself. I’ve been just where you are, was there last week, actually (this week? I’ve been working too hard) and I just laid everything down that wasn’t imperative, and slept as much as I could. It helped.

            1. I said “Chuck it” yesterday after work. I worked extra hours, looked at the computer and my “should be reading pile”… and curled up with Solomon Kane short stories and the cat all evening. I felt much better this morning. The brain break was much needed and much appreciated.

              Hang in there and remember to breathe a little every so often. šŸ™‚

              1. So my relaxation brain break reading this last week was this fun, fluffy magical series by an Alma Boykin… her Familiar Tales are a blast, and I went from having them through KU to buying all of them for my baby bat (hah! I love that term) to read because she’ll love them too.

  4. I and my horse-loving daughter really enjoyed the Horses for Writers series – good info for readers too.

    Are there similar topics? Ships for writers? Medieval warfare for writers?

    1. I was probably going to do a firearms one, but iirc Brad did one that covered a good portion of what i was going to do.

      1. I’m sure there’s room for more, because firearms changed significantly after rifling and interchangeable parts.

        Also, how about bow and arrow?

        How accurate were they? (Somehow I don’t think Robin Hood is accurate) How long to reload?
        How many reloads carried?
        How much could they pierce?
        What about recoil?
        Getting wet?
        Use of bayonets?
        What do you shoot for (disable vs kill)
        Shotgun vs pistol vs Colt 1911 (I’ve only shot the 1911 and M14) vs rifle vs etc

        1. Come to think of it, I’d like a step back from that. More tactics or even strategy.

          If your enemies have the tactics to be skirmishers, how do you counter that?

          Personally, I’m working on GameLite, so “how does a band of high-level adventurers counter goblins that fire bows and run away?” (besides using grease, tanglefoot, and slow spells), but it’s probably a general topic.

          (I blame The Monsters Know What They Are Doing for my interest. 0:)

    2. There are a number of farming topics that could be done — I’ve raised goats for a long time and have seen some really silly misinformation about goats in published works, just as an example.

    3. The only one I can figure to do is A Writer’s Guide To Made Up Language. (Though I suspect Margaret Ball could do it better, though perhaps more deeply than you lot want to follow. My suggestions are shallow as a watering pond.)
      And perhaps, if relevant to scifi “Acculturation and how it works.”
      Anyone interested?
      No, I will not do a guide to refinishing furniture. Would you lot stop emailing me with your refinishing problems? (And why do I answer those emails? Good question.)

      1. Nah, I’m pretty sure you’d do it better. I get just a tad overenthusiastic when playing with languages.

            1. Well, you’ve got a whole lot of freedom with a truly alien language, because it doesn’t have to work the way natural human languages work! The main thing you need is to make sure that whatever structure you invent has adequate communicative… ah, maybe we should discuss this offline? Email me? That way I won’t put everybody else on the blog to sleep!

              1. Oh, please, oh pretty please, a blog post? Because this is exactly the crowd that won’t go to sleep on this topic!

                1. [sinister cackle] Oookay. Some alternate Thursday afternoon, I shall test y’all’s resolve. (Oops – is y’all politically incorrect now? Or is it ‘you guys’? I have trouble keeping up with the Language Police.)

                  1. The last time the Thought Police tried to come up the road house, they vanished en route. Very Mysterious.

  5. I’m a wanna be and have difficulty staying motivated since an acquisitions editor told me my novel had a very “publishable quality”. When she said that I was mid-way through the story. Now I’m on my 2nd draft and hating every minute of it. Fear of success? Of failure? I’d love to hear from anyone who struggles with this. Also, I’m Canadian and my story is blatantly so. My characters drink Tim Hortons coffee, they cheer for the Canucks and the Flames, they obey speed limits posted in kilometers per hour, and they wear runners, not sneakers. Does it matter to readers?

    1. Fear of success is totally a thing. I locked up on book 2 after book 1 did really well, and Sarah talked me through it, and told me that’s a common reaction.

      For me, no, it doesn’t matter, but I read British fiction, American, Canadian, a smattering of Scandanavian (translated) and George MacDonald in the dialect, for my sins. I don’t think anything you describe is going to throw readers out of the story.

    2. Readers who are not Canadian will find your Canadian setting (and vocabulary) to be exotic. It will draw them in. It’s a feature, not a bug. My opinion.

      Regarding your motivation: some writers find the first draft to be painful and scary and LOVE revising; other writers adore writing the first draft and find revising to be tedious and hateful. Perhaps you are of the latter persuasion. In which case, just gut it out and get through it, so that you can move on to the next story and the fun stuff.

      1. Hey, I got paid to learn! The only catch was I had to insert a soft porn scene every 50 pages or so… and after the third book I was able to recycle those scenes.

            1. I was offered the chance to do that at 28 and I literally couldn’t stick to the outline. I think it was part of my brain being messed up by post partum depression. Never tried again.

              1. Odd. I would’ve thought mild brain damage would make it easier to navigate through the monumentally stupid plots required in order to have the sex scenes sprinkled throughout but the protagonists not to get their HEA until page 400. I mean, I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that the kids started school and I began getting a full night’s sleep shortly before I had to tell my editors that I could not write according to the formula any more.

                  1. For the necessary few years I staved off boredom by setting the romances in historical periods that I wanted to read about anyway. Using the Peninsular War as a backdrop didn’t produce a very good romance, but it did give me an excuse to read all the wonderful memoirs by soldiers, starting of course with Harry Smith.

  6. It might be interesting to see some shared-world flash fiction.
    It has the potential to be fun, and might build into something marketable.

      1. “A Costumer’s Guide to Renaissance Fashion” or “Blade and Flame: Clearing Ground for Agricultural Use”?
        I could see either being quite popular here.

  7. Amanda,
    Off-topic. I’ve just finished re-reading the “Ashes” series (fortuitously, since I see that the next – last? – is due for publication shortly. As I went through, I picked up a number of typos and bookmarked them. Is it more or less useful for you to have them? If so, what format is preferred.

    1. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this. I got laid low by food poisoning and am just now getting back online. You can email them to me. Email to amandgreen at the gmail (okay, you know what to really do, right? Also, note the lack of an “a” at the end of my first name.) Thanks.


  9. “Kate is being held hostage by the internet gods”

    Um, the internet doesn’t have gods. It has daemons.

    1. Well, let’s unpack that a bit.

      1. At the beginning of a writing session: just keep writing. You need a little time to get warmed up. I can not count the number of times when I told myself that I would just get to my quota of one page and ended up writing several.

      2. At the end of a session, if I can get no further than a few hundred words, I often switch to another project. This can only work if you force yourself to circle back, otherwise you end up with a hundred unfinished tales, but it can freshen your writing.

  10. Open floor on Fridays/Sundays/whatever? “Pop in with a question and bat it around for the week” sort of thing? As a total noob, I keep having stuff pop up that I hadn’t ever thought about.

    1. We might be able to do that as an additional post of the day. But, to be brutally honest, if we devote a day to it, we lose page hits and then it is difficult to get them back. I will, however, talk it over with the rest of the mad ones to see what they think.

      1. True. I know nothing about the ins and outs of bloggery. šŸ™‚ Just a random thought.

  11. Well, as a relatively new blog reader — a short hauler so far? — I have to say that I read the archive-linked articles obsessively. And as a direct result of advice on this blog:

    I told my designing artist daughter (who daylights as a nurse) to go check out the lousy book covers blog so she could do something for my next book (as opposed to the unfiltered photograph I put on the cover of my first — and I admit I don’t know why it is wrong but I have accepted that the oracle CS says it is wrong, wrong, wrong). I also dumped my WIP to try out NaNoWriMo because people on here were doing it and because some of you have suggested trying something different when you are stuck (which I was). I have read the genre advice over and over and over because I find genre the hardest thing to understand — but — I can’t say ‘write more about genre’ because I don’t know that that would help my problem. … it might …

    And I’ve read stories from half of the authors here and had a blast doing it. (If I quit my job I can start on the other half.) I was so stuck in a rut with my reading that it was pathetic, although plenty of you have written about the things that made finding good reading hard, that I never understood.

    As a teacher I understand the value of repetition to drive something home. How about a post or possibly just a bunch of links to your old articles about which word processing is good? People talk about Vellum but I don’t even know what I don’t know about that thing.

    Anyway, Thanks.

    1. An essay presents facts, a story evokes emotion.

      An essay might explain how to debug a program, argue for possible interpretations of a set of facts, or point out that Bob isn’t overwhelmingly bright.

      Good instructions proceed in order, giving you the facts needed at each step. A good interpretation essay might go over the facts, and then discuss each possible interpretation separately. The last might go, I know Bob, I know morons, and here is why Bob is clearly a moron.

      Genres are likewise labels we attach to patterns of the types and intensities of emotions evoked by a story. A bunch of story patterns might have key similarities. If enough stories fit those patterns, and if there are enough fans for whom those patterns are interchangeably satisfying, boom, market for a genre. Romance is a category for one group of story patterns. Horror another, etc.

        1. I went to see my eighteen-month old grandchild today and my son was playing a game with him. I didn’t realize at first that a game was about to start but baby had a very funny look on his face. Dad was holding the baby close to his chest and suddenly tipped him backwards and let him fall — at least two inches. Baby laughed and clutched. Rinse and repeat the expectant look and sudden dip. And because I am an obsessive grandmother and watched closely I saw that baby tried not to grab instantly. It was very subtle but part of the game.

          And my meditations on genre, sparked by the above, have me thinking that genre is like the baby’s game. You know what to expect, and you feel safe but … properly done, the thrill is still there.

          So I guess if a book isn’t genre then it is just fiction. And then it is harder to market because if it is any good it will have “types and intensities of emotion” but no-one will know what to expect or whether they will like it. And then of course what’s wrong with modern fiction in part, is the deliberate effort to raise emotions that aren’t part of older patterns or include frustration and disgust, and a few negativities I can think of. Subverting the reader’s happiness is a goal sometimes.


          1. Glad it helped.

            Done right, genre is a marketing aid because it helps readers and writers with a common taste find each other.

            A thriller that slogs through three hundred pages of scenery doesn’t thrill.

            A mystery whose protagonists are so depraved that they could’ve done the deeds on a lark will not see justice brought.

            Genre works were values are shared. Change in values, change in the mix of what works in fiction and what doesn’t. There’s a narrow range of values that can make an advanced civilization run. But publishing can be run out of a dysfunctional sub-population.

  12. As reader, I could really do with a pointer to some sites I can bookmark about *how to review & write about it*, because as it currently stands I can do two types of review.

    Number one is “”I liked this, but can’t tell you why without spoiling it to the point you probably won’t be able to enjoy it yourself”, number two is “I hated it, there was too much idiot ball, mostly in the authors hands, *and I’m going to spoil every specific thing I think the author got wrong* so that if you read it anyway, you’ll be forewarned”.

    As such I think I’ve only ever hit save/send on three or four “I hated it” reviews, all RP Gaming materials, & another two or three “I liked it” (& the last of those was how I learned I spoil too much).

        1. I can see that in hindsight. I guess Denbeste’s anime reviews might also be a bad model for the same reason.

          I guess the worst advice I could give would be to do pastiche reviews. This worked well a fiction, but very poorly as white nationalist fiction, etc sort of thing. That’s bad advice, because I’m not near foolish enough to publish that sort of joke in today’s environment.

  13. “I’ve Written A Novel…Now What?”

    Starting from that point, talk about things like how to find editors (and what kind of editor you need), how to get or make a cover, what your choices are to get it published, do you form a LLC, all those sorts of things.

    1. Check out that link at the top, about navigating… you’ll find links to a lot of those steps, laid out sequentially. Yes, it does need updating, but right now there’s a ton there that is usable immediately.

  14. I’ve shared the Writing Navigation page quite a bit; I think that a similar collection for knowledge dumps (like the Writer’s Guide to Horses) would be a good addition to the header. This blog is a fun resource and I hope you keep on that way.

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