Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘John Ringo’

It is time to fight back

Almost a month to the day when it was announced John Ringo would NOT be a Guest of Honor at ConCarolinas, Origins Gaming Fair decided it wanted to play too. First it announced Larry Correia would be its literary guest of honor. Then, very shortly after that, the invitation was revoked. All signs indicate the decision was made by one man, John Ward. It didn’t take long for the tidal wave of reaction to set in and, since then, Origins has done everything wrong in how it has handled the situation.

In fact, we very well may be watching the slow suicide of a con that decided to follow the saying, “Get woke, go broke.” Read more

Cranky Writer is, well, cranky

When I went to bed last night, I knew exactly (kind of, sort of) what I was going to write about this morning. It was a toss-up between a post on some comments about the cover of Black Tide Rising, an anthology based on John Ringo’s  series of books, and a response to an article The Passive Voice linked to about how real writers don’t go indie. As you can imagine, I had plenty to say about both topics. That doesn’t even begin to go into my thoughts about the condemnation and disrespect that has been flung Kate’s way because — gasp — she respects the wishes of readers more than the gentile feelings of some authors who are apparently worried that they have been recommended for a Hugo because — gasp again — the wrong sort of fans might have made the recommendation. But all of that seems minor in light of what has happened in Brussels this morning. That does not, however, mean it shouldn’t be said.

So, here goes.

Starting with the attacks on Kate and the desire to be removed from the recommended list Get over yourselves. Kate has run SP4 exactly the way she said she would. It has been in the open. The recommendations have been made on the SP4 blog. Kate herself spent more than a month here on MGC discussing each of the major — and some not so major — categories people could nominate works in. Those posts were not closed to comments. They were not hidden from view. They were, in fact, promoted on Facebook and elsewhere. No one was asked if they were Puppies, sad or otherwise. No one was told that only a certain kind of book could be recommended.

Did some people campaign to be included on the list? Sure. Not that it is anything new. Authors have, for years, reminded people what work they had that was eligible for the award. Funny how no one objected until folks outside of the “in club” started doing it. I guess it is a prime example of that old adage of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

As for those who don’t want to be associated with SP4, I suggest you go back and look at what Kate has done throughout the year. The list is not something she pulled out of thin air. This is a list that is based solely on recommendations made by anyone who wanted to take part. By telling Kate you don’t want to be associated with the list, you are basically telling your readers — your fans and the people who buy your work — that you don’t value their support. You are letting fear of what a few in the industry might think of you override what should be important: keeping your fans happy. Unless, of course, you don’t give a flip what your fans think and you like slapping them in the face for daring to support your work and recommend it for what has been one of the most prestigious prizes in the industry.

Which leads me into the article I saw listed on The Passive Voice. This oh-so-elite author doesn’t care if she starves. She will never, ever sully her writing by going indie. Serious authors shouldn’t even consider joining the unwashed masses, at least as far as she is concerned. She raises some of the same tired excuses we have seen for years. No gatekeepers to keep the dreck out. No editing. No good covers. Indie authors can be obnoxious with their constant promotion. You need to suffer for your art — oh, wait. That’s my take on what she has to say because she is the one who put a dollar figure on everything.

Look, I don’t care what course you take, be it indie or traditional. Both have strengths and weaknesses, although the line is thinning between the two. The reality is, if you go indie and you are serious about it, you will treat it as a business. That means you will get professional looking covers for your work. You will have it edited. You will develop a platform that will help get word out about your work. The hardest thing you will do is get your books into physical bookstores. That, too, is the one thing that traditional publishing makes easier. But, as I said, that is becoming less of an issue.

The second reality is that traditional publishing doesn’t always give you everything the article’s author seems to believe they do. The vast majority of traditionally published authors don’t get the type of promotion they expect. They, too, have to create their platform or “brand” to promote their work. Editing isn’t what it used to be for a number of houses. Yes, it can vary from editor to editor but it isn’t of the quality, on the whole, of what it once was. Ask Sarah about some of the copy edits she had from a non-Baen house where the copy editor apparently didn’t understand what a sword arm was and how it was suggested she “correct” the problem.

Read the article and let me know what you think.

Finally, the cover for Black Tide Rising. I hadn’t paid that much attention to it when the cover was first released. Then I started seeing the cries of outrage, first on Facebook when some of the usual crowd started crying over the fact that their hero, John Scalzi, would deign to allow his name to be associated with such a horribly sexist cover. The complaints continued across social media. Evil Baen! Bad John Ringo and Gary Poole! Evil, mean men using sexist covers. How dare they!

The problem is, the ones screaming and pointing fingers made one big mistake. They condemned the cover based on their own prejudices. They didn’t wait to see if it had anything to do with the anthology. All they saw were cheerleaders with guns and they made that weird, non-logical leap they have gotten so good at. Even when their mistake was pointed out, most of them continued to point fingers and scream “Misogyny!”

So here’s the deal. Black Tide Rising is, with one glaring exception, a great read — and this comes from someone who is not a fan of zombie books. (Ringo’s series is different from the other zombie books I’ve tried to read and a series I have very much enjoyed.) If I remember correctly, there are 12 stories in the anthology. One of them, Not in Vain, was written by Kacey Ezell and is the inspiration for the cover illustration. For those not familiar with Ezell, here is an excerpt from her bio: Kacey Ezell is an active duty USAF helicopter pilot. When not beating the air into submission, she writes military SF, SF, fantasy, and horror fiction.

Her story centers around a group of cheerleaders, their coach and what they have to do when the ZA happens. They are on their way home from a competition — hence the uniforms. They are, as most serious cheerleaders these days, true athletes and anything but the empty headed bimbos cheerleaders have been stereotyped as. Sure, they get scared because of what is happening but they adapt and cope. It is that or die. And yet, to those complaining about the cover, none of that matters. Cheerleaders, you know. Short skirts and bare midriffs and guns. Must be nothing but a bunch of old white men deciding on a cover that “excites” them.

Grow up and quit making yourself look bad by condemning something before you do your homework.

I guess what I’ve done is spend a little over 1,200 words proving that I’m cranky. I’m tired of people condemning things about my profession and about my friends without doing at least a minimum of research first. I’m tired of being called names and condemned because I don’t fall into lockstep with those who are trying to hold onto a professional business model that is outdated and that threatens the industry because the suits are too scared or too tied to their ways to adapt to changing times and demands. I’m tired of authors forgetting that they need to please their readers first and foremost or their books won’t sell. I’m tired of being told I’m doing it all wrong because I haven’t served my “apprenticeship” and bowed down to the gatekeepers.

Guess what, times change. The apprenticeship can be served in different ways now. Yes, it can be served by trying to break through the walls of the gatekeepers. Or it can be served by ignoring the gatekeepers and going straight to the customer. Please the customer and you make money. Don’t please them and you either have to learn your craft better or move on to something else. It is that simple.

So is the adage that the customer is always right — something certain authors have forgotten or have decided they don’t care about.

And, since I am one of the unwashed indie authors the blogger for the Guardian complained about, here is my bit of self-promotion:

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) will go live in less than a month. It is available for pre-order now.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is part of the Honor and Duty (2 Book Series) series. Click either the link or the image to the left for more information on the series.

Thanks and now back to work for this writer who, for the record, does better as an indie than the blogger does as a traditional author. But then, I look at this as my business, as my profession and treat it as such.

Science Fantasy

high crusadeWhile it seems contrary, there really is a subgenre of science fiction where magic and science occupy the same plane. For about a decade, from roughly 1965-1975, there was a spate of books published by authors like Arthur Landis and Christopher Stasheff that blended the two into a harmonious whole. In a recent conversation, Christopher Stasheff revealed the reason: Lester del Rey had said not to do it. Turns out that author-fans then were as contrary as they are now, and there were promptly quite a few books written, including the Poul Anderson Three Hearts and Three Lions, which may have been the first of them. It makes me wonder if Heinlein’s Glory Road was inspired by this thrown gauntlet, as well. There are many old treasures if you haven’t read them, but they continue to this day, written by authors like Dave Freer (the Forlorn), Anne McCaffrey (Pern series), and Sarah Hoyt (Witchfinder). I’ll have a list of recommended titles up at my blog. Why am I breaking science fiction into subgenres? Well, I’m not, really. This started with the Hard SF discussion, rolled into Space Opera, and now I’m bordering on fantasy. Although I don’t plan to delve into that genre until I’ve at least covered Military SF. Science Fiction, as a genre, is like a tree. These are the branches on that tree. They may cross over one another, and be hard to pick out from a distance, but it will help a reader who likes one book to find others like it, by assigning books to branches. Each book like a leaf, rustling in the wind… Ok, enough of that metaphor. Let’s turn a new leaf and move on. Science Fantasy may be distinguished from other fantasy genres by the existence of scientific mindset at the same time as accepted magic. The magic may be explained, or not. Often in modern interpretations, like John Ringo’s Council Wars series (first book There Will be Dragons, free on Amazon) the magic is simply very, very advanced technology. I used Clarke’s Law in my young adult take on this, Vulcan’s Kittens. I wanted to introduce the concept to kids who never think about what’s in the little magic box they use for texting, and chatting, and gaming, and sometimes even making a phone call.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. —Arthur C. Clarke“Profiles of The Future”, 1961 (Clarke’s third law)

This is the driving concept behind Freer’s The Forlorn, as well. The technology has been forgotten, but the power still remains. The other book I remember vividly with a similar concept is the third in a series, David Weber’s Heirs of Empire, where fallen technology is worshipped as magic, and a stranded lifeboat of tech-savvy people have to make their way through hostile religious furor. There are a lot of this style of science fantasy out there, which border on the Space Opera branch, wielding tech like a magic wand. McCaffrey’s dragons may have been born of advanced science in the beginning of the story, but the later books certainly feel more like fantasy, even though magic is not part of the tale. On a twig near it hang the other sorts of science fantasy books, where a modern man is pitched suddenly into a world that has magic. The Wizard Recompiled by Cook is one such example, where a computer programmer is forced to learn the connections between magic and his programming skills as he struggles to survive. The parents of the genre, Anderson, Stasheff, and Landis among others, usually wrote books like this. Arguably, John Carter of Mars is science fantasy. Certainly the science bits seem far-fetched to us now, but the mindset is the same, a man of science and technology dealing with a vastly different world than his own through mysterious forces.  I’m sure there is more out there which is escaping my mind, or that I simply have not read yet. What are your favorites? I’ll add suggestions to my list.

List is now available! Click here…

A Fresh Look

Cedar here: I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with school and work this week, so when Sanford emailed me this I was delighted. Not just because it meant less work for me, but because we talk all the time, and this has been a topic recently. When is it time to stop? Do you leave them wanting more? I mean, personally I love series and following characters as they grow and age, even when it leads to tears as it did with the Vorkosigan series. Sanford has been reading both the Monster Hunter series by Larry Correia and Butcher’s Dresden series in parallel, recently, which led to lively discussions about series. But he has a good point about the Big Bad in the series getting too big, and the Hero becoming invincible, and the series jumps the shark… Although I want to see this scene: Franks fighting the creatures in the picture, standing knee-deep in the surf! The MHI series could literally jump sharks and it would work. 

Raptor shark laser

I wonder what the PUFF on this is?

Hi, Cedar is a bit busy with school, etc. this week, so I’m pinch hitting today. I’m Sanford and you’ve probably seen me around here on occasion. 🙂

I’m not a writer but I am a reader so I can discuss things pretty well. What I want to talk about this week is keeping a series fresh.

I’m old enough to remember the Destroyer series about Remo Williams, government hit man. There were about 3 decent novels in that series, after that it got ridiculous. I think most of the rest (around 150) were written for… well I’m not sure why anyone would read them. You have seen series jump the shark, most of you know the Xanth series which even the author admitted he was phoning in after a while.

So, how do you keep your stuff from getting that bad? OK first things first, if you can sell books that bad go ahead, cry all the way to the bank and write good stuff in your spare time. That’s exactly what Anthony did. I’d do it too. Problem is that most of us have no chance of developing such a cult following. So we need to figure out how to balance our fans requests for more against the dreck we will eventually be churning out. Better yet, let’s avoid getting to the dreck stage.

Again the question is how? Well there are several ways to do this that I’ve seen. The simplest and best in my opinion was the way Heinlein did it. He didn’t write a series so much as use a loose universe that he could write almost anything in. The major drawback to this is that it pretty much ignores doing a run of novels about the same character(s). Cedar has three Pixie For Hire novels planned starring the same characters Lom and Bella. She doesn’t plan to write any more Bela and Lom stories after the third comes out. We are looking at doing more stories set in the same world/time frame but focusing on other characters (Cedar: well, he really wants me to write Alger’s story, for instance… LOL). This is more or less the Heinlein model but, those wanting more Lom and Bella will be terribly disappointed. Note, we have discussed a series of x short stories filling in all of Lom’s background, selling them as collections as we get enough.

The next way is to do stand alone books or duologies or trilogies and introducing the stars of the next book/duology/trilogy in the book/last book. This way the reader doesn’t realize you having been doing the old bait and switch because the old favorites are still there, just faded into the background. This is somewhat unsatisfying because it is the old bait and switch. It can be very successful though, I would love to see John Ringo do a series based around Portena the armorer from his March series.

I saved the hard one for last because it is hard. Jim Butcher is writing the Dresden Files series. There are 20-25 books planned in the series and he has outlined the entire series from the beginning. This way he can pace the characters and not have his mage become all powerful too soon. Larry Correia has apparently done something similar with the Monster Hunter series, which is why he can foreshadow 4 books in advance. Most of us are going to have trouble looking that far forward. I admire them but would hesitate to attempt emulating them.

Those are the ways I see to do it. Any of you have any decent ideas how to keep series fresh? One of the neatest things about this blog is that the bloggers can learn as much from the commenters as the readers get from the blogs.

Humor in Writing



Yesterday my body switched to “off” and left me feeling as though I couldn’t think straight, much less write. Sanford Begley offered to step up and write something for the Mad Genius Clubbers, which was very noble of him, considering he is somewhere at the headwaters of the River Nile when it comes to admitting that he can write. But I will let you judge for yourselves. Here, my friends, is a man who cultivates snark like fine orchids, an inverterate flirt, and a master of the lowest of humor. 

Hi! Cedar is not up to par so I’m teeing off for her today.  A few things about me, so you know how much weight to give what I’m going to say. I am not a writer, pay no attention to what most of the Mad Geniuses say. They share a group mind and one of them loves me so they all approve. I have however spent a lot of time with writers going back more than 30 years. I’ve been intimately involved with one for years. Lately I have been showing some signs of a knack for editing. All those things are not the place where I find the info for this post though. I am a voracious reader of everything and have been for years. Now you know how much weight to lay on my words so I’ll start.

Should you use humor in your writing? Absolutely! Or maybe not. The first thing you have to find out is, can you? Everyone has a sense of humor, unfortunately not everyone has a good sense of humor. There are people who find murder hilarious, most of us don’t. Well, there have been funny books about murder, but the act itself isn’t funny to most of us. Some people love slapstick, others prefer a more cerebral approach. What I am saying is, use humor but only if your target readers will enjoy it.

The above doesn’t mean you can’t use humor in a serious story. John Ringo kills off millions and leaves you laughing at times as he does. Sarah Hoyt writes mysteries with a gentle loving humor infusing all her characters, sometimes even the villains. Louis L’Amour did asides in his books talking about the language they used, mostly to inject humor. Every one knows that Terry Pratchett uses farce and absurd humor as the basis of his work. Erma Bombeck was the mistress of everyday life humor. The funny ones often talked about serious issues through their humor, the serious ones use it to break tension.

Some of you may have noted that I used a small, very small, joke to start this post.  It is traditional to start speeches with a joke. And while this isn’t a speech it doesn’t hurt to put levity in where you can. At least if you can do it well, and place it appropriately. A task much more easily said than done.

So, how do you know if you have placed it appropriately and done it well? The short answer is, you don’t. What you say in your writing is informed by your own unique experiences. Seeing someone get poked in the eye ala The Three Stooges may be hilarious to you, it will not be at all funny to others. Timing is part of it, jokes are funniest if they have an unexpected twist. People make good money to tell jokes. Others, like me, can sit and tell jokes for hours, some of them funny, some not. I have friends who cannot tell some of the jokes I tell and get even a half smile. Then they tell one of the ones I bomb with and the same people who didn’t laugh when I told it roll on the floor.

Now that I have made the prospect of humor as daunting as possible, I will let in a small ray of sunshine. There are things you can do to include humor in your writing and make it work. The first thing is to realize not everyone will get it. When I read John Ringo and David Weber’s We Few one of the major characters in the Empire was Admiral Helmut, Dark Lord of the Sixth Fleet. I didn’t get that joke for two years, never even realized it existed.

Another trick is to inflict the work on friends who read that sort of thing, but aren’t so close to you that they share the same in jokes. This is also called using beta readers. One of the things you need to do when you have beta readers is ask them. Did this joke work? Was that scene funny? Do you buy the one liners the hero is biting off as he is swarmed by Zombies?

And finally, trust yourself. If you hate your work, others will too. If you think a joke stinks there leave it out. If you want to add a silly monkey there just to break the tension go ahead. You will find your audience eventually and they will like it as well as you hope.

For a final statement on the topic I’ll quote a man who can tell jokes for hours. “I tell jokes, some are good, some are bad, some are corny enough to solve the bio-fuel crises by themselves. As long as people laugh more often than they boo I’ll keep pitching them.”