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Posts tagged ‘James Young’

Implications

As I sit down to write this, it is the very early hours of Pearl Harbor Day. A day that can never be forgotten, a black mark on the calendar like few others in American history. As I was sitting in the dark at my desk contemplating what to write, digging my bare toes into the warmth of the sheepskin rug, and firing off a snarky comment to a friend’s message from overnight, I debated with myself what to write about. It’s the little things. It’s the implications of ‘what if…?’ that allure those of us who write fiction. I’m not a historian, a mere dabbler, but I do know a little bit about what happened in China in the late 1930s. I was contemplating that, and the Holodomor, and other massive genocidal events, comparative to the Holocaust that was in full swing at the time of Pearl Harbor. The difference? Record-keeping. We have minutely detailed records, photos, even video, that came out of Germany after the war. In the places where no one was writing anything down? We can only speculate. Speculations, on the other hand, can be backed up with forensic evidences, so we have a pretty darn good idea of what could have become of us if Pearl Harbor had been a pivot-point in the other direction. Read more

Guest Post: Lines of Departure by James Young

Note from Cedar: James said to warn you all that this is a dark post, with deep underlying violence and adult themes. I said oh, goody! and laughed… I think you all can handle it. If you haven’t already, you should check his work out, he writes action-packed space opera (and not everyone survives, if I can deliver a spoiler) and alternate history novels.

Lines of Departure

This blog post actually got started in a conversation about wasp spray. Yes, that’s right, my expressing dissatisfaction with the fact that the nerve foam was taking twelve hours to kill some of the wasps somehow led to my friend (and fellow blogger) Lisa (henceforth Prolific Trek) asking on FB “Hey James, weren’t you just talking about torturing characters?” Cedar, ever the opportunist, immediately asked for more explanation…which led to me revealing the illustrious Holly Messinger (author of The Curse of Jacob Tracy) had been asked the following question in her Writing 101 panel:

“Y’all talk about torturing your characters… are there any lines you won’t cross?”

Well…you’d have thought I’d been handing out briefcases of cash with complimentary free passes to Big Bob’s Gigolo Shack (“Big, Small, Bob Screws Them All”) from the way Cedar lit up (well, heck, I just wanted the wasp story, but this is better!). After a little back and forth, here I am…and I have a confession to make:

I am among the worst people to ask about this subject there is.

I’m not saying I go out of my way to torture my characters. But ever since Holly told me about that question getting asked, I have been quietly cataloguing things that I have done to main POV characters since I first started writing. In no particular order:

*A main character received a posthumous note from his fiancée…that he had basically sent to her death.

*In my first post-apocalyptic novel, the protagonist returned from a six month journey to find his hometown burned mostly to the ground and almost all the inhabitants murdered. The sole “survivors”? His tortured best friend and brutally raped significant other, both of whom he subsequently shoots in the head as they are beyond medical help.

*Said rather perturbed protagonist goes on what The Bride called “a roaring rampage of revenge.” First stop? Executing another POV character’s wife and twin kindergarteners in front of him, then dropping a thermite grenade in the man’s crotch ala The Crow.

*In my alternate history universe, there is a POV character that readers may get attached to. He gets shot down over the Pacific, but manages to bail out. Oh the ocean. I mean, it’s so full of life, so bright with sunlight, so utterly expansive that a single pilot can get lost in its rea…oh, sorry, I forgot myself there for a second.

The list could go on, but I think you get the point. Asking me “Is there anything you won’t do to your characters?” is like Simon de Montfort asking Genghis Khan if the sack of Beziers was a bit excessive. Is there any doubt what that response is going to be?

Dearest Simon,
I received your letter with great humor and admiration for your pithy guidance. While a godless barbarian myself, I can acknowledge ‘Kill them all, for the Lord will know his own…’ is a pretty succinct set of instructions. The chroniclers tell me that you did not have many problems with towns after that. I’ll have to remember this when I go on my “From the Steppes to the Wall” tour of Jin next year. Please ask the minstrels accompanying my messenger to play our latest hit, “Your Son Ran Like Your Mother and Screams Like Your Wife”
I won’t keep you, but to quell any misgivings you might have: Were the townsfolk buried in accordance with your religious rites in consecrated ground? Putting them to the sword? Cool. Having them roam this plain as disembodied spirits wailing in the agony they died? A little harsh. I don’t know how this whole Christianity thing works, but I figure as long as your guys didn’t pack the women and children like cordwood, build a dance hall over them, then kill them by moshing the night away their souls still went to haven, hoven, heaven, whatever, right? (BTW, have you heard of this new minstrel, John Davis?) Ergo, you followed your instructions and it’s all good in the hood my friend.
Your Obedient Servant,
G. Khan.

P.S. I’m having a bit of trouble with some guy named Sultan Muhammed. Do you have any tips?

All that being said, from beta readers and observation of issues other authors wrestle with, I can give ten general tips an author may want to consider with regards to character distress. Why ten? Because Clemenceau’s response to Wilson’s Fourteen Points (“The Lord God only expected us to remember ten!”) is a pretty good standard for everything. These aren’t so much “Don’t venture beyond these lines…” but “Before you cross the streams, erm, lines, have these things in the back of your head.” So…:

#1—Demand Satisfaction
Whoops! Wrong list!

#1–No puppies, no kids
In the movie The Professional, Leon the Hitman observes the rule “No Women, No Kids” with regards to people he won’t kill. Well, given we are in the 21st Century, the first half of that rule is only followed by chauvinists and idiots. However, I can tell you first hand that people tend to get mad as hell when you kill an animal. This anger is followed closely by the rage you’ll get to suffer after putting Little Timmy to the sword. Pull the equivalent of having little Timmy and Lassie walking on the Aioi bridge around 8:13 on August 6, 1945? (“Look Lassie, a four-engined symbol of America’s massive industrial might! Oh, hey, a parachute! Man, I’m so glad that weird wizard neighbor sent us back in time…”) Well, let’s just say that people are going to have words with you. Four letter words, many of them involving unnatural acts of copulation and questions about your parentage.
Trust me when I speak of this. Not even the bonds of matrimony will redeem you if you cross this line. Indeed, the better half stopped reading my novel An Unproven Concept when I didn’t even downshift driving over it. She was totally okay with the fact I’d splattered, battered, and stirred a couple thousand innocent passengers. But the following passage?:
A great hound the size of a small adult whining piteously as it furiously licked its master’s face, the animal’s back as clearly broken as the dead human’s.
Yep, that was it, I was officially Satan incarnate and out my First Reader for that book. Similarly, one of my beta readers for the aforementioned post-apocalyptic novel basically bowed out after my protagonist went on his revenge spree. “I can see no purpose in shooting a 6-year old. Can’t tell the difference between the good and the bad guys at this point, I’m done.” Which leads to my next point…

#2—When you leave that way you can never go back

Confederate Railroad for the win. (“Um, James, we don’t talk about Confed…” “Shut it.”) Understand that if you want your main character to be sympathetic, you must take care not to have him or her do something that is beyond the pale. It will not matter if this is a reasonable response to their tribulations, readers will be pissed. To think of one example, I’m always struck of the people who are sympathetic to Jaime Lannister either as his toned down HBO version or the unrepentant asshat in the Game of Thrones books. I’m sorry, but even I lack sympathy for a man who shoves a 10-year-old out a window because the child saw him giving the business to his sister. Add in the fact that this set in motion a chain of events that results in half of a kingdom getting turned to wasteland, and I’m thinking the wrong POV character got his “pillar and stones” turned into a SNL skit.

I’m not being hypocritical on this one. In response to the negative feedback, I rewrote the post-apocalyptic revenge sequence. Instead of my MC wiping out the other POV character, he will instead have a serious crisis of conscience but not kill the family. I’ll admit, the adjustment was very grudging, but I stopped to consider that my MC was not a lone wolf. Indeed, he was surrounded by several other professionals…and it was very unlikely they were going to be down with the sweet genocidal cleansing called for. Which segues nicely into my next point…

#3—Secondary characters have a breaking point
Even if your MC is stoically taking the kicks to the groin and chairs to the back of the head, other characters won’t. The following is not intended to pick on David Weber, but I got to wonder at what point do people stop being friends with Honor Harrington? Seriously—ever notice “The Salamander” neglects to sprinkle some of her good luck fairy dust on those around her? Being one of her guards is deadlier than being Mack Bolan’s girlfriend (RIP April Rose). Yet, despite this, you never see anyone say “Eff this shit, I’m out…”. Unfortunately, if your secondary characters have their own desires, goals, plans that require them to still be breathing, they’re not going to keep hanging around a MC whose associates drop like flies. Or at least, not without very good reason. Just remember that your hero is called a hero for a reason. Short of Imperial Japanese Army or Waffen-SS levels of conditioning, secondary characters should start having to make morale checks when the fecal matter starts to hit the air circulator.

#4—Gratuitous evil is gratuitous
“The villain is the protagonist in his own version of the story.” I have heard various versions of this advice, and I try to take it to heart. Basically, unless your antagonist is a psychopath (which, there’s a place for that—see Heath Ledger’s Joker or Ramsay Bolton), they should be torturing the main character for a reason, not because they’re evil. Contrary to his caricature, Darth Vader doesn’t just run around choking people because that’s how Palpatine programmed the suit to stimulate his pleasure centers. No, generally if Darth Vader is doing the Trachea Tango with an unwitting partner, it’s either because they got mouthy or had it coming. (“What part of ‘don’t bring the fleet out of hyperspace so close the rebels have time to crap themselves’ was in Swahili?” = dialogue selections that should be available in all Lucasarts games.) Don’t cheapen your otherwise logical antagonists by having them drop Willie Pete all over that orphanage because they want to make some s’mores. (“But, but I like the way the singed formula gives a sweet aftertaste to the marshmallows.”<-Bad example, as even this is logical. Twisted, but logical.)

Note that this also applies to extraterrestrial antagonists. While viewers don’t necessarily like the Queen in Aliens, in general Ripley Scott does a good job of explaining she’s in it for the procreation. Similarly, Timothy Zahn’s Conquerors and Cobra-series also explain why sentient beings might decide to go oops upside Humanity’s head.

(“Hey, wait a second, we’ve read your books! You’re a jerk who never explains the aliens’ motivations!” “Yeah, well, wait for the sequel.” “You mean the damn sequel you’ve been promising us for like 3 years, then told us is going to go backwards?!!” “Excuse me, writing a blog post here!”)

#5—Psychological trauma needs to be addressed
Ever had someone tie you up and beat the bejeebus out of you? Been helpless as your family was made to suffer before your very eyes? I know I haven’t (thank goodness), but I’ve talked to folks who have suffered through both. Despite what Hollywood would like you to believe, this is not something most people get over. PTSD is not trivial, and it is the kind of thing that can build with time. Before you decide to put a character through the wringer, might want to figure out the plan to make them functional on the far side. People don’t just watch their loved ones’ throats get slit, narrowly escape themselves, then make breakfast the next morning. No, your character doesn’t need to be a psychological wreck who is crying every other chapter. However, they should be sort of like Daniel Craig’s James Bond, i.e. you’re starting to see the accumulated toll of losing Vesper, friends, getting shot at M’s orders, etc. by the middle of Skyfall.

#6—Physical trauma also needs to be addressed
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had surgery, broken a bone, or had a concussion. Have that trick knee that decides to kick out at the most inopportune time. Can usually tell the weather is going to change thanks to that broken pelvis you got when the mechanical bull malfunctioned at your favorite watering hole. The point here is simple—if you’re going to have your characters get tortured physically, you better either have a doctor on site (yes, that’s another Hamilton reference), a magical way of healing, or budget recovery time into your larger story arc. If your environment is in any way austere, i.e. post-apocalyptic, you better not have someone getting willy nilly beat about the head and shoulders yet just shrugging things off. Lastly, the Joy of Beating is not a bestseller for a reason. Most people don’t enjoy seeing a major secondary character, nevermind a MC, slowly and laboriously pummeled. There better be a reason you subject your reader to the crunch, crunch, pop! of a favorite character’s skull getting beat in with a barbwire-wrapped baseball bat (some of you know what I’m talking about and are nodding sagely, some of you will find out soon enough). Oh, hey, look…speaking of which:

#7—Dead characters = angry fans
Who here remembers Jadzia Dax from Deep Space Nine? How about Andrea Harrison from The Walking Dead? Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days? *muttered whispering from off stage* “Well, yeah, but think how much better things would have been if Fonzie had gotten whacked by the shark?” See, the point of this is, both of the first two characters are usually remembered for their cheap deaths. Unlike producer actor feuds, the #1 killers of TV stars, often times authors go to whack a significant others to “shake things up” or in a cheap bid to cause emotion. This is a bad idea. Consider how mad everyone was after “The Red Wedding.” Now think about the fact that those deaths served a purpose. As I can tell you from dealing with Prolific Trek on a regular basis, kill a strong character like Jadzia for no good reason, you will earn your fans’ enmity for all eternity. Similarly, having a character like Andrea go out because you apparently don’t know what to do with her will similarly get your pilloried by reviewers.

“But wait, I totally had a reason for that character death, so my fans will forgive me, right?” Wrong. To go back to “The Red Wedding,” George R.R. Martin set it up beautifully and whacked Robb Stark for a good reason. I can tell you that there are people (First Reader included) who basically decided they were done with that franchise after that point. So, if you’re going to spend two or three books in a series doing character development, especially with major POV characters, understand you’re going to take a hit when said individual catches the Last Train West.

#8—Rape is not a gimmick
One of the standby things that would happen in old ‘70s and ‘80s men’s action adventure novels would be either someone close to the MC or the “damsel of the week” getting viciously violated by the main villain. Said woman would then be magically healed within the next 100 or so pages, and hop right in bed with the MC prior to said villain getting his just desserts.
The real world does not work this way. Let me quote from FM 22-102, the “official manual for wall-to-wall counseling”:

Rape
No offense is as damaging to the victim as rape. Murder does not come close, since the victim is dead and knows nothing. A raped soldier will have psychological scars for the rest of his or her life. A male soldier who is the victim of a homosexual rape is especially damaged, and many commit suicide rather than live with this burden.
Fake manual, real shit. Reach towards this line with caution, as the reason every freakin’ hair on your body is standing up is this is like playing Russian roulette with five rounds in the chamber and twenty million dollars on the table. In other words, this better be a “high risk, high reward” situation, not a “Oh, people will think this is edgy!” or “Hmm, I need to do something interesting to the main character’s significant other.” The character who was raped is going to be messed up, and before you open this can you better figure out how they’re going to react.

Also check out the above with regards to male rape. In most societies, this is a topic that is not dealt with. That’s not “dealt with well,” it’s not dealt with. If your society has high machismo coupled with patriarchy, there will likely be nowhere for a raped male character to turn for help. So, no, don’t go there unless you’re ready to do it right, lest you end up the “other guy” in a Rihanna song.

Bottom line: If you have someone getting raped, it should be written in a manner that’s going to make your skin crawl, as that’s what will be happening to your readers. One of the best rape scenes (*record skritches, bystanders gasp*), erm most well-written rape scenes I remember is from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Blue Moon. Suffice to say, Hamilton was sure to stress that the character who was raped needs, seeks, and gets therapy, along with his mother who was a near witness to the crime. It’s powerful, and some of the best writing in the series before Anita Blake became a…well, let’s just say the series sometimes ends up in the paranormal erotica section.

#9—The “Grandma Rule” is in effect
Remember that if you’re even semi-successful, you will have no control over who sees your work. The most chilling words an author can hear from someone important to them are, “So, I read your book.” I call this “The Grandma Rule,” i.e. always remember that your grandmother just might find your novel no matter how well you try to hide it. Say you tuckerized a good friend, and she’s the person you had the MC have to mercy kill? You’ll hear about it for decades. No really, decades. If you are in a community that frowns upon certain activities like a MC lovingly spending ten hours flaying the villain with a knife? Express ticket to social pariah status. I mean, sure this well-deserved comeuppance will have your readers needing the rhetorical cigarette and change of clothes, but is that payoff worth having to drive two hours for milk? Similarly, if your grandmother is going to have a heart attack when she reads what her favorite grandchild has written about a MC trading two innocent bystanders to a pack of cannibals in exchange for a couple crates of ammo, Thanksgiving is going to be a little awkward. (But hey, you’ll be able to afford one hell of a turkey with your chunk of the inheritance.) Last but not least, if your employer will look dimly on you raining nuclear hellfire down on certain nations, cities, or regions, don’t do it. Why yes, your helpful narrator can tell you exactly what a JAG looks like as his mental intel processor is trying to process the hypothetical of “So, say I published a story where ______________________ happens. Would that be a terminating offense?” While his answer wasn’t “FOR F___K’S SAKE, YES!”, it was close enough that story has only seen limited release to a few friends. I’m all about pressing the envelope for my art, but I’ve got a mortgage.

#10—Editors are interested in selling, not your “art”
Speaking of people with mortgages, editors are notoriously risk averse. I know, there’s probably a couple hundred examples of stuff that got greenlit where all manner of bad things happened. I’d go to Vegas with the odds for every example you can name, if we got an experienced editor drunk enough they could give me another dozen that got stamped “NO! GET THERAPY!” It is hard enough to break through with a major publishing house. No need to make things more difficult by opening the book with the main villain saying, “This youngling is dry. Pass the Worcestshire sauce…”. Save the crazy stuff for book two if you’re going traditional publishing, as your editor will almost always be thinking “Do I want to explain this on a special news segment?” Think of it like a relationship: If you just met someone off a dating service, you wouldn’t let them know “I crush civilizations beneath my heel and make people scream in anguish…” right off the bat, would you? No, of course not—that’s for after they’ve already moved in with you and signed a two year lease. (“Wait…wait…you’re that guy?!”Filed under “I’ll take conversations that are about to go horribly right or wrong in the next 30 seconds for $1000, Alex.”)

*takes deep breath* Okay then, that about covers it. I think Cedar has now officially taken me off the guest bloggers list, but dammit it was worth it.

Nope. Not even close. I always enjoy James’s insight and sense of humor. Why yes, I may be a little twisted too… 

Guest Post: A Pro At A Show: Into Conness

Please welcome back  James Young to share some of his experiences as an author at a con. He’s been here before imparting solid knowledge, and you can find that post here.  If you’re wondering about getting a booth, merchandising, or just plain curious about cons, this is the man to talk to. If you’re curious about his books, his Amazon author page is here

Yes, I’m as mystified as you all are that Cedar and Sarah have let me back.  I mean, it seems like just yesterday I was all…

Coooonnnnn!   Cooooooonnnnnn!   Cooooonnnnnn!

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Now I’m all like… CoooOOOOOOOOONNNNN!!!

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In my own geeky way, that’s me telling you almost everything I said last time still holds.  Everything from networking (hi Thaddeus, Susanne, A.R. Crebs, and Tracy) to battery packs is generally the same.  What this article is, basically, is the voice of a grizzled, tired veteran speaking to highlight what the neophyte got right and how you too can win “The Green Award” at a local, semi-local, um, within a days’ driving distance con.

First, like anyone claiming authority, let me display the skulls of my foes:

badges

What you see here are the assembled bones of most of the cons I attended in 2015.  There were gaming cons (Fear the Boot), there were professional cons (Conquest / LibertyCon), there were non-celebrity cons (Air Capital Comic Con), then there were what I will forthwith refer to as MegaCons (10,000+ people).  Note that this does not include things like literary festivals, library get togethers, or signings.  In other words, I’m not saying I spent a lot of weekends away from home this last year…but people have been mocking me saying I go to “all the cons.”

Was it worth it?  Well, let me put it like this—unless you have Norman Reedus (Daryl from The Walking Dead), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica), or Bruce Campbell (Ash from The Evil Dead) on speed dial and ready to attend your next signing, there is no other way you’re getting 10-20,000 people all within close proximity of your book.  Nor are you, unless you’re extremely lucky, going to be in a position where you can hand out 5-600 of your bookmarks over the course of 72 hours to interested people.  Yes, the original outlay can be rather pricy in space and cash:

bookmarks(Bookmarks…Bookmarks Hurt)

 

 

However, once you’ve gotten through trial and error (or ask someone who has done it before), the costs drop off significantly.  A keen eye will also note the differences between, say, my first con display (top photo), the second one, and the most recent one I’ve done:
banners

banners too

 

(Banners hurt too…but they’re like tractor beams)

banner guns

(Wait…wait…are those GUNS in the background?)

Yes, other than noting that the last pic is from a firearms show rather than a con, a keen eye will notice that the book displays (bookstands to clear racks), backdrop banner (pop up alternatives here), attention grabbers, number of titles, and placement of titles all changed.  Also note the prominent placement of prices, which is something a fellow vendor suggested on the FB page dedicated to Artist Alley.  What is not quite as visible is the Munchkin Bait (stickers to attract kids, who then in turn bring parents) as well as the exercise mat behind the table to help reduce wear on the knees. Bottom line, in order to make cons work you’ll need to evolve, have products that ranges widely in price (don’t just take my word for it), and a plan for how to pitch it.

Now I will admit there are some different opinions on whether one can make money at a con.  Indeed, a fellow author is pretty skeptical about the odds of actually making a profit.  (I will submit I will not do any con I have to fly to unless someone else is footing the bill for the plane ticket and lodging.)  Moreover, some people have had flat out bad cons.  Finally, there are those cons/venues that will do outright unscrupulous things (the previously linked Dashcon with the “we have to raise $17,000”-gambit in addition to the various event centers / arenas that have been fined by the FCC for jamming signals in order to increase their profits on internet services).

Taken altogether, these factors can make it perilous to set out and try to make money at event.  So, to further refine the advice I handed out last time, here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re researching a convention:

1.) What are the table prices and how do I pay for them?  Well run and likely to be lucrative conventions usually have a methodology for paying online through a reputable service such as Paypal or a ticket site.  This protects both the convention and the vendor from any shenanigans like, “Oh no, you paid that money to Billy Bob.  He’s no longer with the con.  Sorry you drove eight hours and booked a hotel…but we’ll cut you a special deal.”  Also, table prices are usually commensurate to some combination of the number of people who are going to be present, their intensity (i.e., if you’re at the only anime convention for 400 miles, odds are the folks who show up are going to spend some coin), or the talent (see below).

2.) Who is going to be the main draw?  This is critical, as a decent draw is the difference between a convention and a “nerdy Tupperware party (hat tip, Kertts Kazuka).”  People are usually not coming to a con check out the cool vendors in Artist’s Alley—they’re coming to hug on Chris Evans.  Look to see who the con is bringing to the party, then see how that relates to the size and fandoms represented.  To wit, if it’s a Dr. Who convention but they’re inviting the Doctor’s fourth companion’s third cousin who had one speaking line in the entire season, that’s not going to bring a lot of folks.  However, if they’re bring said fourth companion herself, or even a character who was popular back in the original iteration, said convention is likely going to have fans hanging from the rafters.  More fans equals more targets, I mean prey, I mean…well, you get the drift.

3.) Will the con have volunteers and how do they pick them?  Volunteers are the key to making a con run smoothly.  If you read the “volunteers” section of the con page and find yourself going, “Wow, no one’s going to want to volunteer at that gig…” then guess what?  No one is going to volunteer at that gig.  Which means you’re going to be doing Thunderdome at your table space (those tape marks and signs don’t put themselves up) and the con runners are probably a bunch of a$$hats. Speaking of tables and spaces…

4.) What size are the tables, how are they oriented, and does the con publish this beforehand?  Tables should be of uniform sizes in artist’s alley.  This information should also be easily accessible a reasonable time beforehand (read: not the day of the con).  Why? Because my 6′ display looks a bit different than my 8′ display, and nothing is more annoying than finding out the table is in a traffic choke point that will turn my customers into rocks in the rapids.  In that same vein, if a site is telling me to bring my own tables, they better not be charging me any more than $40-$50 plus the spaces better be clearly defined.  Otherwise, some village idiot with his 12’ table and 10’ “side table” is going to be miffed when he’s pinned in a corner by all the other vendors.  (I’m not saying there’s con justice…but there’s con justice.)  On the other hand, if it’s an 8’ table with two feet on either side and room to store plenty of merchandise?  Well howdy darlin’, I’ll be happy to shell out $10-$20 more to stretch my wares.

5.) What is the convention’s marketing plan?  Even with a good draw, people have to know the convention exists.  A good way to check on this is to ask friends / fellow authors in the area.  (Again—see Artist Alley International link above.)  Some cons can get people to just show up because they’re that popular in the local area (e.g., Smallville in Hutchinson, KS).  Others are famous based on the awards that will be given there (see Worldcon in its iterations). However, if you’re going to be expected to shell out $300+ to get a con table, then it’s probably a good idea to see if anyone has heard of that event that’s not a regular con goer. Which leads to the final question:

6.) What is the word of mouth of people who have been there before?  After checking to see if “normal” (hey, most people who go to these things are fellow geeks, so I may be stretching that word to describe all of us) people have heard of something, see how the “pros” have done.  Did someone else who sells books in your genre get their a$$ handed to them and lose $200 on their table?  Knowing the person, can you explain that based on their product or technique?  (It’s cold cold-blooded, but I’ve seen some vendors who got pounded spend the entire con with their face in their phone, never get up to greet potential customers, fail to compliment people on their costumes, etc..  Here’s a hint—if you never talk to anyone about your product, you’re never going to make any money).  If this is a person you’ve seen sell Kryptonite to Superman cosplayers, they’re usually happier than John McClane with a machine gun, and you know they’ve got stronger Kung Fu than Pai Mei?  Well then this is probably a convention that you want to stay away from.  As for the venue–if you’ve heard that an event is going to have a lot of controversy and angst involved (why no, I don’t have a table at Worldcon even though it’s in the same convention center as KC Planet Comic Con and KC Comic Con…why do you ask?), best give it a miss.  Finally, if you’re having trouble getting information back from the convention runners or they’re abrasive as sandpaper even when answering the questions, give the event a pass.  Trust me, if you think they’re abrasive over e-mail, you’re likely going to want to murder them in person—and having resting murder face is not going to get you a lot of sales at a convention.

To be clear—I’m not saying anything I’ve said to this point will guarantee you make money.  Sometimes you have the misfortune to be placed in the worst possible location of the con (it happens), you find out that your genre just does not resonate with the crowd (selling military sci-fi at a hippy convention comes to mind), or there is a major ice storm the weekend of your event that basically cuts off every major artery to the venue.  However, I am telling you that if you have multiple titles, write science fiction / horror / urban fantasy / paranormal, and can fake extrovert for up to eight hours a day then cons are definitely a place to try and make some cash while spreading your “gospel.” Besides, where else are you going to get a picture with a Cylon while holding your book (courtesy Iron Brothers of Topeka)?

(Note: A partial list of conventions can be found here.)

James Young: approved by giant robots everywhere.

James Young: approved by giant robots everywhere.

 

 

 

Sort of a repost and sort of not

With Christmas almost upon us, I know there are folks out there like me who still have gifts to buy. So, with indulgence from Cedar, I am going to re-post the Indie Author Christmas Sale. After spending some time yesterday trying to find a book for my mother and absolutely refusing to pay $10.99 – $13.99 for e-books, I appreciated going to the Indie Author Sales listing and finding books that didn’t cost the price of a meal out.

That is the sort or a repost. The sort of not is simple and short. If you find a book on the list — or any other book you would recommend to someone else — leave a review for it on Amazon or elsewhere. If you have a blog, write a blog post about it. That is the best form of promotion any author, and especially an indie author, has. I know I’m not the only one out there who appreciates every review. Well, almost every review. The negative ones can hurt and the ones left by folks who haven’t read the book but who leave negative comments simply because they don’t like the price or author politics or whatever are always a head meets wall moment.

And now for the list:

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Dragon Noir (Pixie for Hire Book 3)

By Cedar Sanderson

On sale for the first time from Dec 17-23rd

The pixie with the gun has come home to see his princess crowned a queen and live in peace. But nothing is ever easy for Lom. A gruesome discovery on his doorstep interrupts their plans and sends Lom off on a mission to save not one, but two worlds. It’s personal this time and the stakes are higher than ever before. With friends falling and the enemy gathering, Bella and Lom must conquer the worst fears and monsters Underhill can conjure. Failure is not on the agenda.

Or if you would rather give the whole trilogy, Pixie for Hire: Omnibus Edition is now available in ebook form only.

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Young Warriors (Wine of the Gods Book 10)

by Pam Uphoff
Free for five days!
It’s traditional for young lords in the Kingdom of Ash to spend two years in the army. Xen Wolfson is a young wizard, and Garit Negue a young prince. And the world is filled with adventures and danger . . . and learning experiences.

Their world has been in sporadic contact with two different cross-dimensional worlds–generally as a target for conquest. When the Empire of the One returns, the young warriors are standing foursquare in their path.

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Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4)

By Amanda Green

Brand New Release!

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

The first three volumes (Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude
are available individually or as the Nocturnal Lives “boxed set”.) are also available.

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Hilda’s Inn for Retired Heroes

By Cyn Bagley

In Delhaven, there is an Inn run by a retired mercenary. If you are a down-on-your-luck mercenary or men-at-arms, come to the public rooms and Hilda Brant, the owner, will give you a bowl of stew. If you want ale, hand over the coins. Hilda may give you floor space, but she expects you to pay in favors or coins.

Hilda isn’t prepared for the damage and chaos caused by a dragon, black mage, and elementals. And a very angry Lord Barton.

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The High T Shebang (The Baby Troll Chronicles Book 1)

By Mark Alger

Dolly was reborn into a new body just last week. Right out of the birthing chamber, she was tumbled into a conflict that goes back to the stone age. Her creator, the Greek Goddess, Aphrodite, has disappeared, and the God in charge of her institution — the Babylonian Marduk — has called for her death. Her lover and Geppetto, Mitchell Drummond, is threading his way through political minefields to keep Dolly safe.

New in love, they soon find they can’t keep their hands off each other. Their sexual fever comes to worry them. They suspect there’s more to the situation than mere new love. Meanwhile, they have a job to do. Keeping up the pretense that all’s well and nothing’s going on is wearing thin. But in Upothesa, you’re not allowed to talk about secrets. Dolly is a secret. Trying to keep it together, Dolly and Drummond go on a mission to New Zealand to protect the Dolly’s secret and the life of a major TV drama star.

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Collisions of the Damned: The Defense of the Dutch East Indies (The Usurper’s War Book 3)

By James Young

My God, we are losing this war.—Lt. Nicholas Cobb, USN

March 1943. The Usurper’s War has resumed, with disastrous results for the Allies. In Hawaii, the U.S. Pacific Fleet lies shattered after the Battle of Hawaii. Across the Pacific the Imperial Japanese Navy, flush with their recent victory, turns its gimlet eye towards the south and the ultimate prize for their Emperor: The Dutch East Indies.

For Commander Jacob Morton and the other members of the Asiatic Fleet, the oncoming Japanese storm means that the U.S.S. Houston and her Allied companions must learn to fight against overwhelming odds against an enemy who claims the night as their own. In the skies above Houston and the other old, tired vessels of the ACDA Fleet , Flight Lieutenant Russell Wolford and his men attempt to employ the Allies’ newest technology to even the odds. With full might of the Japanese Empire falling on them, the ACDA’s soldiers, sailors, and marines must fight to hold the line long enough for reinforcements to come.

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Blackbird (The Colplatschki Chronicles Book 7)

By Alma Boykin

$.99 Dec 21-24, 1.99 Dec 25-28

One man becomes all that the Turkowi fear – and respect. Matthew Charles Malatesta, second son and rumored bastard of a mercenary, grandson of Duke Edmund “Ironhand” von Sarmas.  One man, who will fight to the last breath to carve a place for himself, who will create a court of learning and civilization, who stands alone between the might of the Turkowi Empire and all of Godown’s people.

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One In Infinity: A Reality Crossing Novella

By Amie Gibbons

On sale for $0.99 from 12/19 to Christmas

Turns out coincidences do happen, and it sucks when it leads killers from an alternate reality to your door…

Rose plans on partying her last weekend of freedom before her residency starts, but fate has different plans. When men straight out of a fantasy novel attack, she gets pulled into a blood feud between magical beings thanks to a random stroke of luck. Now she has to adjust to her new world view and help one of the men to save herself from a fate worse than death.

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Tick of the Clock

By Travis Clemons and Michael Z Williamson

A man awakens in a 21st century Illinois hospital, holding very distinct memories of being shot in Switzerland decades earlier. The nurse calls him Detective Crabtree and says the DuPage County Sheriff will be by to check on him shortly. Yet he remembers his name being Sherlock Holmes.

When Sabrina Worthington is killed during a home invasion, her billionaire husband has an ironclad alibi. But Adam Worthington does not appear to be the grieving widower people would expect to see. Meanwhile, their former girlfriend keeps tugging on every possible string to convince the authorities to indict the man for murder.

By the tick of the clock, it would seem impossible for a man to be shot in the 19th century and wake up more than one hundred years later. It would also seem impossible for a man to shoot his wife while she’s at home and he’s at a theater thirty miles away. But when the seemingly impossible is properly analyzed, will Holmes determine the improbable truth behind her death and his life?

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The Spaewife

by David L. Burkhead

Pricing will be $0.99 the 19th through the 26th.

A young mother hears the Norns. They tell her of terrible things to come. When Ulfarr wants her gift of prophesy to serve him, he takes her, murders her husband, and steals away her children. Can the young mother escape from Ulfarr’s clutches and save her children from him? Only the Norns know.

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Via Serica

by Tom Rogneby

on sale from the 19th to the 26th for $1.99

Marcus Aemelius Paullus has a problem – he is playing with fire and falling in love with the wrong woman. Appius Plinius also has a problem – he has a unit full of warriors who continually get themselves, and him, in trouble. Caesar Augustus has a solution to their problems, but it may cost them their lives. Eastward lies fame, fortune, and the key to returning home. Deserts, mountains, marsh, and ocean lie between, occupied by barbarian cultures and hostile rulers. On this grueling journey, Marcus and Appius will find their courage tested to the limits. But before they’re done, the world will know the unconquerable spirit of Rome!

Diversity in Science Fiction

unproven conceptI asked fellow author James Young to give me a guest post on diversity, rather unfairly, as he is a new writer, and this is a sticky topic. But he was game enough to rise to the challenge and send his thoughts along. Thanks, James, and I know, there is no good way to tackle this topic. But it needs doing, and I appreciate your contribution very much. 

Diversity in Science Fiction

(Or “Y’all are about to kill us all with your shenanigans…”)

Diversity (n.)– The state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness: diversity of opinion.

Sorry for the dictionary quotation, but I’m just getting a definition out of the way before I set about getting myself uninvited from all the right parties.  Thanks to Cedar for maneuvering me into giving her a week off, I mean, asking me to guest blog.  Imagine my joy at opening up my “guest blogger” gift box and finding a topic for which there is no clean end to pick it up: diversity in science fiction.

Due to recent events, diversity in Sci-Fi is in the news a lot lately.  I mean, between some members of the Science Fiction Writer’s Association (SFWA) crowing about an all women Nebula slate, accusations of Hugo padding, the announcement of Tim Bolgeo being disinvited from Archon (gee, guess I won’t be driving to Collinsville), and the unveiling of a Kickstarter for a project entitled Women Destroy Science Fiction, I must have missed the memo directing the formation of a self-destructive, circular firing squad within our genre.  What both sides don’t realize (and boy howdy is that amazing for people who craft wastelands) is that the “Diversity War” is going to end up like Hamlet’s duel with his uncle: one side dead, the “victor” wondering why the lights are getting dim.  There are way too many options these days, and rather than listening to a bunch of spoiled brats whine about their feelings being hurt battle a cohort of wrongfully maligned people proceeding to take said idiots (and their enablers) to the woodshed, consumers are  likely to limit their Sci-Fi exposure to the leviathan franchises and gaming.  There are not enough hours in the day as is, and those without a dog in the fight aren’t going to waste their leisure time putting up with either side.

Given this, it’s time for the more mature side to stop trying to counter the other side’s idiocy head on.  There’s a saying about wrestling with a pig in mud, and it certainly applies to anyone who is going to try to bean count your characters based on race.  Yes, they’re guilty of exactly what they’re trying to accuse more traditional writers of, but no matter how many times it is pointed out that withholding publication without a given quota is in and of itself racism the other side will still do it. Zealots are funny that way, and unfortunately most site admins are more interested in appearing “fair” than in doing their jobs.  (Note: Fair is tossing out the asshat who is ruining the party for everyone, not letting him be rude because he has “just as much right to be there.”)

This is not my way of saying conservatives should concede the field.  Instead, I’m saying perhaps it’s time for the conservative, established side to vote with their check books and time in several ways.  First and foremost, it’s time to start organizing events that are truly diverse by example.  For example, there are people to the left of John Ringo who are perfectly capable of sitting on a panel without falsely interjecting race and gender.  Invite these people to every con possible, then buy their books when they put together a good story.  If you know of someone in an “underrepresented community” who loves Sci-Fi, take them to a con as a gift.  Word of mouth is a powerful weapon, so when this individual talks about what a great time they had at LibertyCon, perhaps it will make others question the larger narrative. In that same vein, if you’re a conservative invited to a convention where the hosts have a spine and a willingness to apply pepper spray to unruly protestors, go.

“But why should we go where we’re not wanted?”  Because if there’s one thing I have learned in a lifetime of being either the sole or one of two minorities in a room, there’s more gained by a minute of articulate discussion and quiet dignity than hours of rage.  Is it easy?  Hells no.  Indeed, sitting on a school bus while listening to fellow bus riders chant “Biggity biggity boo, the Klan is after you…” or having to flee another town because the local racist welcoming committee was sure to drive by and show me a noose was not easy (thanks Warsaw, MO!).  However, rather than screech about how I was oppressed, I found that the judicious application of logical jujitsu on the resident racist gained lots of allies in a given room even if the original idiot was unmoved.  You will never silence the screaming nimrod brigade who thinks they are owed something, but simply explaining your plot will probably convince dozens of folks on the fence that conservatives do not possess tails or horns.

With regards to telling the stories, do what’s natural to you and do not lose heart.  First off, despite what the current crop of thought police claim, science fiction was never a seething cauldron of racism and misogyny.  To cite a few examples, I must have missed the part where Honor Harrington was an oppressive male, Elizabeth Winton is as pale as Queen Elizabeth I of England, and Poul Anderson’s Emerald Moody and Hope Hubris could have qualified to lead an Einsantzgruppen.  Or alternatively, maybe the folks crying about a lack of diversity need to read farther afield, as I’m pretty sure space opera and military sci-fi have had minority characters for at least the last five decades.

Does the above mean that minorities, LGBT, and women are necessarily well represented?  Not just no, but Hell no.  However, the solution to this is not to demand all writers start complying with some arcane formula lest the powers that be freeze them out.  That sort of thing never ends well, and to keep with my Hamlet analogy there is a horde of proverbial Danes just waiting to waltz right into sci-fi’s current market space if that becomes the new norm.  Instead, perhaps the journey to having a more diverse character field has three paths.  In lane one, rather than yelling about how conservatives need to start “writing more inclusively,” the burning keyboard brigade needs to get off their collective asses and write stories themselves.  Second, established writers without these characters can provide help on how to break into the market, learn the ropes, etc. when politely asked.  Last but not least, we can stop defining characters by their plumbing, orientation, melanin content, etc..  Considering I still have the comment sheet from a prominent sci-fi magazine that says, “This character is black, but he talks like a white man…”, it is readily apparent to me that this is not only a widespread problem, but that people are apparently comfortable with it.  It is well past time to start having characters who are people, period, and through that mechanism create true diversity in our views of what the future holds.

James Young is a Missouri native who escaped small town life via spending four years at a small, well-known Federal institution in upstate New York. After being set free from the Hudson River Valley, Mr. Young spent the next six years of his life in various locations (both foreign and domestic) having the cost of his education repaid one nickel at a time. Along the way he collected a loving, patient, and beautiful spouse…and various animals that did not fit any of those descriptions.

After leaving the Republic’s employ, James returned to the Midwest to pursue his doctorate in history–a process that has taken approximately twice the time he planned. Currently living with the same great woman and roughly three times the weight of pets (in the form of a snoring, flatulent Newfoundland/Lab mix), Mr. Young spends his time researching history, working for the Republic (again), and plotting new and interesting ways to torment characters.

Check out James’s fiction on Amazon. You can begin with the free short Ride of the Late Rain, which opens his tales set in the Vergassy universe.