The World Needs Heroes by Tom Knighton

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The World Needs Heroes

By Tom Knighton

The world needs heroes.

If we learned nothing else over the last couple of weeks, it should be just how badly our world needs heroes. After all, the events in a church in White Settlement, TX illustrates just how important heroes are. One of that particular breed put the shotgun-wielding maniac down in just six seconds. Countless lives were spared.

Yet our society often denigrates the hero. Our fiction is filled with not just anti-heroes, but the non-heroic protagonist. Yes, I’m speaking to the male type of hero here, not because of some sense of sexism, but for other reasons which shall become clear in a moment.

And honestly, that’s perhaps the biggest reason we sometimes feel like we live in a world without heroes.

To be fair, we don’t. There are heroes out there aplenty. They’re your neighbor or co-worker, your husband or brother. They’re people who stepped up in the aftermath of 9/11 and went to war with the forces of evil.

But once those folks are out of the game, they often go back to being meek and mild.

That’s not surprising. After all, our society tells them that’s what they should be. Some reject that, but many more don’t. In fiction, that’s brought about by the fact that real, pure heroes are a thing of the past, something relegated to the dustbin of history.

Some will argue that art follows life, and to some extent that’s true.

However, life also follows art.

What’s more, we all know that the left knows this. They know it with a burning passion, which is why it’s so important for them to use art to undermine the institutions that they find antithetical to their Marxist positions. They undermine tradition, family, and yes, heroism.

They prefer moral ambiguity not because sometimes that’s part of life—it is, but not nearly as often as they like to pretend it is—but because it undermines the idea that sometimes life is black and white, that there are good guys and bad guys, and that it’s not always necessary to look at something from a different perspective.

As such, the push for years is the “morally-complex hero,” the guy who is neither good nor bad. He simply exists.

While it’s perfectly acceptable for a female protagonist to be unambiguously good, the same isn’t true about male protagonists. Then again, we live in a world where masculine virtues are denigrated and ignored. Whether this is a case of art following life or the other way around is largely irrelevant at this point.

What isn’t irrelevant is that a change is desperately needed.

The shooting in Texas illustrates quite well that a good guy can stop a rampaging scumbag if given the opportunity, but we never should have allowed our society to get to the point where we had any doubt that such a thing was true.

We need more heroes.

The easiest place to start that, though, is in fiction. Much as I love Liam Neeson’s character in Taken or the incomparable John Wick, both are men who do some pretty sketchy things in their lives. While I would never remove them from popular culture, there’s something to be said about the unambiguous hero as well.

I honestly think that half the reason Harry Potter did so well was that Harry wasn’t some little prat going on that he was the chosen one simply because Rowling wanted to give him some depth. Instead, he’s a kind, sweet kid who while less than perfect is still someone fans can root for.

Owen Pitt of Monster Hunter International isn’t perfect either, but he’s a genuine hero with little moral ambiguity. In the first book, his most jerk-faced moment was tossing Grant into shark-filled water. However, he’d forgotten about the sharks, so it was a mistake, but not a lack of morals that dictated the actions.

Our own esteemed hostess has a whole slew of legitimately heroic characters in her Shifter books (which I want to read more of [hint hint]) where they’re not perfect, but they’re not immoral simply because someone thinks that’s what it takes to make interesting characters. [The DST books too, Tom. Read that while you wait for Shifters to get rebooted somewhere around the middle of the year!-SAH]

The problem is, there aren’t a lot of them.

Now, I have little doubt this crowd can name a pile of them, both from the golden age and from more recent works. Please do, in fact.

However, the truth is that so many of our heroes aren’t just heroes. As a result, so many men aren’t valuing heroism.

So the place to start is in our fiction. Let’s stop vilifying men and making them less than heroic simply to score political points. The existence of strong men doesn’t negate the existence of strong women. The presence of strong men doesn’t immediately place them at odds with strong women either. The two can co-exist on the page just as easily as they do in reality. [In fact, strong men tend to like strong women and vice versa.- SAH]

We need them, though, because as Sarah has pointed out before, storytelling is an integral part of being human. Stories fill us and guide us. They teach us what is acceptable and what isn’t. Fable, parables, chivalric romances, are all basically just stories meant to instruct us as to the proper mode of behavior.

Stories do more than entertain us or inspire us, they teach us. They instruct us how to be better people. [Or, unfortunately, worse people, as we have proof daily – SAH] They always have, which is why holy books aren’t just dull lists of things to do and things not to do. They’re instead filled with lessons in story form because our minds are just simply better at remembering those.

As such, we need those stories of heroic deeds and heroic men as a way to help guide us as a people.

While I enjoy a good anti-hero as much as anyone, it’s time to dial that back as a society. Instead, let’s bring back the heroes of yesteryear. [And learn to be fearless and brave in defense of the people and things we love again. YAY – SAH]

You can click on the image above to buy Tom’s book, The Last Champion, or click on the title link.

The Garden, The Beasts and The Human

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There was a time with Adam in the garden
When the beasts walked beside him in trust
And they all talked, because all had voice
Before the fall

Bird and lion, elephant and hyena
All came to hear the Man’s Counsel
For he was favored and could
Give them names
And tell them what they were

(And here you must understand, it wasn’t Adam as Adam
It wasn’t a garden as a garden
And the beasts too, were not quite beasts
These are ideas outside all we know
And outside time and space as our poor senses
Feel them.
But in the poor words we have, it was Adam
And beasts in a garden.)

But in that day when he sinned and he fell
As the angel held the sword and pointed
Adam and his crying wife to the hard realm
Of Earth, to earn their living with the sweat
Of their brow

Only three went before the Maker
And said, “Give us to him, Oh, Lord
Who is our Friend and who has Named us.
We know through him all have fallen
And all must go
To that harsh place where flesh eats flesh
And nature is red in tooth and claw

Grant us only to go with him
And be his helpers.
Let him shape us and change us
To his need.
Grant only that we may serve
His needs and ease his way.
His and his children
Till the end of time”

“But I cannot, the Lord said
Give to you his inheritance of eternity
That is his and his children’s.”

“We know, they said. And we do not
Ask that.
Only the joy to serve, the right to protect
To carry, to love, to comfort
To help in his toil, and keep away
Predators and vermin which would hurt
Him.”

Face with that love, at which even some
Angels failed
The Lord said “So be it. You will be Adam’s
And his progeny forever
To change and shape
To conform and to use.
But for your love, I will add
That through him and his you may
Join in eternity
With those humans who loved and
Whom you loved.”

And so, horse, dog and cat
All different from what they
Once were
Go with humanity through
Good times and bad
They carry and they hunt
And guard the graneries
And tame giant and house wolf
And house panther, they lick away our tears
And mend our hearts and love us without
Demanding anything in return

And through some great and imutable
Magic have they shaped us
As much as we have them
And made us human
Because being human is not walking
On two legs, or making tools
Or even striking fire from the inert wood

Being human is loving your companions
So a spark of your heart goes with them
And opens for them the gates of the eternal
Land

Where they’ll wait in perfect love
Until you come

(A very bad poem, on the occasion of Euclid-cat, my tame house-panther, refusing to eat, and after our twenty years together, the time coming when — if this doesn’t reverse — we will part this week or next.  The picture is him (the black one) and his best friend, D’Artagnan (son’s cat) who is dying of renal failure.  I have a feeling when one lets go, the other will also, and that they will walk the rainbow road together to that place where there’s no more pain. Where they will wait us and we’ll come in what will seem no more than an eye-blink to them.

Like Heinlein, I’m never quite sure there is an afterwards, or its boundaries, or even that I’m worthy of it. But the one thing I know is that in a well-designed universe, perfect love will not simply vanish.)

Put Out the Fire In Your Hair

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image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/users/davidblaze-1524661/

Sometimes the crazy is so crazy I don’t even know what to do about it.

For instance, even what is nominally OUR political side was posting “start world war III” memes on facebook.  Yeah, I get you, I get you, some were really funny. But here’s the thing, they’re also truly, bizarrely, outlandishly crazy.

Why? Because there is no path, as things are right now, for the thing with Iran to start anything like WWIII.  While Iran is an oil producer, its capacity is kind of diminished in recent years, and in any case, there is no way that Europe, much less Russia and China are going tow ar against us over Iran, of all places.

Yeah, yeah, joint military exercises. Those have been planned for months, and at any rate, one thing is to have a joint military exercise with your crazy cousin, to show the rest of the neighborhood you’re totally friends. Another is to actually go to war with the big kids in the neighborhood, whom your cousin has been throwing rocks on for years, to defend your cousin’s putative sanity or honor or something. In the long run? Iran isn’t even that hard to defeat.  Also, it lost its best friend, funder and supporter when Obama left the White House.

As for running around with your hair on fire, because Trump engaged in “assassination” of a foreign leader: if you are Rand Paul you’re allowed to do that.  Why? Because he also bitched, loudly and often about Obama’s happy go lucky murder by Drone. But even he should take a powder on this one for various reasons (he won’t. Big  L Libertarians share with liberals the belief that the rest of the world are big, harmless teddy bears and that if the US doesn’t commit violence no one will attack us. Also the belief that if we don’t retaliate, the crazies of the world won’t attack again.  Look, I don’t get it either. All I can say is that they must have grown up in a much more…. sheltered neighborhood than the one I grew up in. There you learned quickly that it doesn’t matter how peaceful you are. There’s always a crazy bully who’ll attack you because you nostriled at them wrong.) The main reasons being that this was an enemy combatant in a war zone. That he was actually part of the military of another country (a part of the military devoted by that country to actions abroad) doesn’t make it better. This is not a case of “oh, they’re just invading this country, still, at least nominally, under our protection, so we’re not allowed to shoot them.” No. It is very much a case of good riddance to bad rubbish. Where he’s going he won’t terrorize any more innocents.

Yes, I understand, technically — but not happily — that we can’t simply drone Maduro, blow up Evil Chinese Winnie the Pooh or take the mullahs out one by one. I do understand that it might have horrible international implications. (But what if we did them all at once, on camera, and laughed maniacally while we did it? Oh, come on.  Surely there’s an insanity defense for nations. Like nuking the moon, but more so. Okay, yes, yes, I know. But my inner 13 year old DOESN’T. Deal.)

However, if one of those…. ah…. gentlemen were in a theater of war in a country we’re obligated to protect, for the sole reason of attacking us, if he had in fact led an attack on our embassy?  Yep. Perfectly all right to drone the SOB. Much more so than most instances of death by drone under Obama. (And incidentally, can we convince those people to attack our embassies? in person? Because…. Okay fine. I get it. No. I get it. Being adult means you never get to have any fun. I’ll be sulking here, but I totally get it.)

Then come the bed wetters and nail biters who are afraid, somehow, this will personally lead to their deaths, unless they apologize to Iran right now and tell them how sorry they are.

Look, it’s mean to make fun of the terminally neurotic. But I’m going to assume, again, they came from a neighborhood where there was no interpersonal violence among the young. Because if they’d ever been through group wars, they’d know telling the other group “please don’t attack us” is what will MAKE THEM ATTACK YOU. Because it makes you sound weak. Which, of course, you are, but it doesn’t mean the US is. Pull your socks up, stop sniveling, and for the love of heaven, talk to someone over 55, who remembers when Iran took over our embassy and held our people hostage while Jimmah fiddled. Ask him about all the times that Iran screamed “Death to America.” Their claim now that they only hate Trump is either disingenuous or an admission that they have invented a time machine. Which do you think is more likely?

And what do you think their plans for YOU are if they get Trump out of the way?

Grow up. I know five year olds in tough neighborhoods with more intestinal fortitude than you display, and more strategic thinking too.

The fact is, you moral cowards and wretched snivelers are only going to lead Iran to attack us again (as they did tonight) because since the media amplifies your whining, screaming, and temper tantrums, Iran will assume that we’re all in agreement with you and won’t let meaneviltrump hit them again.

Which means they’re going to attack instead of surrendering, thinking they can win this, to the glory of the caliphate. Or something. And then we’re going to really, really hurt them. We’ll probably shut down their oil business, which means they’ll have to eat sand. Not to mention that no matter how targeted, SOME innocents will be caught by our retaliation.

If that’s what you want: to increase casualties as much as possible, most of them amid Iranians, carry on. You’re on the right course.

If not, have some milk and cookies and take a coloring book to bed. When you’re old enough to read about strategy and history and to fully comprehend foreign cultures are different from us, and that Middle Eastern Cultures are very very different, we can talk again.

Then there’s the kids. Okay, I was going to say it’s not fair to laugh at the maleducated young. But the truth is, if they are as ridiculous as we were at their age, before we shed all the cr*p they taught us in high school (and double for college) they need to be laughed at.  It is the sound of unbridled guffaws as you state the very important opinions TM you acquired from your teachers and professors that often cause you to reconsider that they might not be in line with reality. Right?

So, let’s laugh at them.

The young people are running around wearing la chevelure en flambe this season are afraid… wait for it… of being drafted.

It’s okay, it’s okay. I swear I’m okay to type.  I’m sorry. Did my laughter alarm you?

Yes, I know they’re being scared by the dems, who have one play book: “Hey, in the sixties, we got the young people on our side by threatening them with the draft. Let’s do it again.”  The dems are so much like the Iranians in that each has only one play in their playbook — we’re pissed off at America. Let’s find the nearest US embassy and attack it — that I’m not surprised the Dems are defending the Iranians.

But the truth is both embassy attacks and the draft are contingent on the conditions at that time. The Iranians made the fatal mistake of thinking Trump is Obama. (I guess all Americans look alike to them.) And the dems… never mind. They are managing to scare the young people…

So, listen you young idiots: contrary to what the Dems tell you, in the 21st century, war is rarely a matter of warm bodies.  I will grant you if we were fighting China, we might need a lot of warm bodies, because they have a lot of warm bodies. But even that is highly unlikely. Unless we have a dem president who hampers us and puts both our military legs and one arm in a sack, we’re unlikely to need to overwhelm the Chinese with your skinny bodies. We’re more likely to fight them with technology. You see, we have an advantage over them. Our tech tends to work.

I’m not saying that should we get in a real pinch people won’t be drafted. But if they are, it will be a selective draft.  The new, technologically equipped armed services aren’t likely to need to recruit ten underweight barristas and five overweight computer gamers.  Actually, of the two the computer gamers are more likely to be needed, but it’s still not likely.

If they need people, it will be “We need five civil engineers, ten mechanical engineers, and 20 medically trained people in this age range.”

The era of the warm bodies sent to war to become cool bodies has passed.  I understand that the dems think progress is moving steadily towards the 1930s, but it ain’t gonna happen, and war is very different now.

Before they get to you they’ll call back all the reserves (and we have a lot) and a lot of the veterans.

If they ever need to call you up in batch lots, it is because some virus has decimated most of the fighting age population of the US, while leaving say China and Russia intact.  And honestly, if we get to that point, I’ll set my hair on fire myself. Because outside of a John Ringo novel, that war is already lost.

So put out the fire in your hair. Relax. No, the missiles flying tonight are NOT a sign that Donald Trump should not have killed Al Soleimani. It might be a sign that your bizarre displays of childishness has convinced Iran that the US is ripe for the plucking. But I don’t even think that. I think these were pre-planned actions. They were going to hit us anyway. These things take time to plan, you know?

The only way to prevent this from going on is to not ignore that Iran has been at war with us since 79.  Wars don’t end when one side stops fighting. Unless that side surrenders. And I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of living under the mad mullahs.

No, wars end when we take away the other country’s ability to keep attacking us. If in the process we liberate the long suffering Iranian people from their Mad Mullah oppressors? Bonus.

But I don’t like foreign adventurism. And honestly? This is a tiny skirmish. If we get the fifth column to shut up for ten minutes, it will be over.

Put out the fire in your hair. You’re disturbing me while I’m eating popcorn waiting for the whole impeachment farce to collapse.

Iran? Meh. We’ll get this shut down, whether Nancy likes it or not. (She doesn’t. No president without a D after his name is allowed to kill foreign enemies.)

But at least now, the actual enemy in our midst has self-identified. It’s not nothing.

 

Indie Publishing, a guest post by Ken Lizzi

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Indie Publishing, a guest post by Ken Lizzi

Any new endeavor, any new project comes accompanied by equal parts worry and excitement. It’s a step into the unknown, with outcomes you can’t wholly predict. It could be a kick in the pants — an appropriately ambiguous phrase, I think, since the new project might be a lot of fun, or it might be a pain in the keister.

I’m venturing out into a personal terra incognita myself. Indie Publishing. A frightening new land, the very name of which is laden with preconceptions. I’ve steered clear of it thus far, finding homes with publishers for all my novels to date. I wanted that…prestige, I suppose. There is a certain comfort that accompanies placing a novel with a publisher: you’ve established that at least someone thinks your book is good, good enough to invest the time and resources required to publish it. And then there’s the knowledge that someone else is now shouldering the rest of the work: producing the cover, formatting, distribution, marketing, etc. You can get back to writing, let the publisher publish.

There’s also a degree of snobbery involved, let’s be honest. There is the notion that independently published books, self-published books, are little better — if at all — than vanity projects. There’s the commonly held prejudice that such books are released by the authors only because no publisher would touch them, the corollary being that having a publisher for your book is a hallmark of quality. This latter proposition is clearly nonsense, easily disproved by reading some of what publishers have deemed worthy.

But the self-publishing stigma is persistent and deep-rooted. I’m as guilty of harboring the prejudice as anyone. In fairness, you can find evidence to support the notion; it’s as easy to find poor quality indie work as it is poor quality traditionally published work.

The path to success I’d plotted for myself traced the conventional route on my mental map, and I rode each new book to publication, never considering publishing one myself. Boss was merely another mile-marker on that map. I found a home for it with a publisher. I received encouraging comments. In fact, the editor suggested I write sequels, with the goal of rapid release, one after the other. This wasn’t what I’d had in mind; staid, conventional me wanted to wait until sales results came in to indicate the level of interest before I descended down into the word mines once more. But, willing to do my part, I set aside other projects and spent a year writing sequels.

After all that effort on my part, and additional steps by the publisher to see the manuscript to print, I was informed that the publisher was cutting back on the number of releases it wanted to commit to. Well, publishing is a business. Taking the decision as a personal affront would have been a) delusional (dollars and cents doubtless prompted the culling, not some animosity to Yours Truly) and b) a pathetic indulgence in victimhood mentality. Suck it up and drive on, soldier. So, I asked to be released from the contract, and we parted ways with, I believe, goodwill on both sides.

It was about that time that I began to hear the proselytizing siren song of the indie authors. No one knocked on my door and handed me a tract. There was no coordinated campaign of conversion. But at conventions, at gatherings, at dinners, I’d find myself chatting with successful indie authors. (Hello, Sarah. Howdy, Blaze.) They were all encouraging, and enthusiastic about the benefits of self-publishing: the freedom, the opportunities, the larger chunk of the royalty pie. Over the last several months I’ve been deluged with with good advice, best practices, tips, tricks, and on-line resources.

And I have succumbed. Why? Because it is new. I want to explore this new land. I’m trepidatious, sure. Where’s my publisher to turn to if I get lost along the way? But more importantly, I’m excited. This is a new activity I want to try my hand at. I want to learn. I want to tackle the challenge.

I don’t see myself abandoning the traditional model entirely. Frankly, I’m too lazy. So my path forward will probably be a hybrid one. But I want to see where indie publishing can take me. Why don’t you check in on my progress from time-to-time? Boss: Falchion’s Company Book One is now available. And you can drop in for my weekly musings and nonsense at www.kenlizzi.net.

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A city governed by wizards can still have an underbelly that is governed by crime lords. Out-of-work mercenary, Falchion, arrives in the city of Groft and signs on with the boss of the organized crime outfit. But when Falchion’s distaste for the work angers the Boss, his only move is to become the Boss himself. Even if he succeeds, Falchion will have more trouble in store, trouble that his sword alone may be unable to cut through, for there is a connection between the underground criminal organization and the wizards in their lofty towers, and no one received wizardly permission for a change in leadership.

 

The Quality of Mercy

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Forgiveness and redemption might not be a natural human characteristic.

By natural I mean something that goes back to our ape ancestors and worked itself out through our becoming fully human and civilized. Or I could be talking completely out of my socks, since I haven’t done a study of ape behavior (which is the closest we can come to understanding our ancestors) in that respect. I’m fairly sure that if it has been done, it is a little known study. (Since I do read about ape behavior.)

I don’t remember a single instance of someone being cast out of the ape band, and coming back with apey apologies to be restored to his former position.  Instead, if an outcast comes back it is to defeat the strong man and take over the band (and note that this is one of our oldest stories.)  Of course, the earliest written or oral sagas of mankind proper often deal with redemption and forgiveness, though perhaps in a round about way.  And often deny it.  The Titans are imprisoned, Cronos is banished to the outer darkness, Prometheus is chained and has an eagle eat his liver, etc.

This makes perfect sense in a way, because primitive societies (and ape bands) cannot to get all Shakespearean afford to nurture serpents in their bosom. If you have a small band, of say, twenty people, and someone has already proven disruptive or even treasonous, to invite them back in and forgive them, would be foolhardy.

This is where we’re caught, to use the over-used analogy, between falling angel and rising ape.

Insert long digression on the duality of being human; between instinct and reason; between body and will.  You probably have read enough on that — including from me — to write it yourself.

In the end, the problem of forgiveness and redemption in human society is the problem of our very long lifespans and our will power.

“But Sarah, in other circumstances, you’ve talked about how brief human life is.”

It is, when compared to that of the group entities we’ll call cultures (they can go on forever, like the energizer bunny) or to evolution (which is even slower, and really has been going on forever) or to the rise and fall of civilizations, or even the the repercussions of cultural trauma or triumph in the future. (Hence the whole seven generations thing.)

But it is very long when compared to the integrity of the human personality, something that worries both psychologists and theologians.  Who are you, really?  Who is that person behind the eyes?  Are you the same person you were at 10? at 20? or ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? Twenty years ago? (if you’ve lived that long, of course.)

Of course you’re not. Some characteristics remain, including say your attention span, your general mood-tendencies (depressives rarely become naturally cheerful. People who are uncomfortable in public might be more comfortable as they get older, but it will never be a favorite thing, etc.), your general intelligence (barring disaster or a Flowers for Algernon experiment, and perhaps whether you’re naturally industrious or inclined to intellectual or manual work. (I’m more inclined to enjoy manual work for instance. Stop laughing. I approach writing very much as a carpenter or a potter.)

BUT who you are, that voice behind the eyes, including your fundamental beliefs can change drastically with your life experience.  And I’m not talking Road to Damascus experiences, though heaven knows those happen too, sometimes with startling rapidity, often with a religious nature.  (A lot of our books and stories are about that too.)

More often, though, you change with experience. And the most common one is the shedding of prejudice or fear.  Metaphorically speaking, we all come from a small ape band.  Your family. Your immediate community.  And communities have prejudices, because they define us/not us by the things we do that those others don’t, the things we are, that those others aren’t.

For instance, my family had — for various reasons — on both sides a thing about CLEANLINESS and defining itself as opposed to the rest of the village, who didn’t clean themselves or their environment as often.  My earliest “prejudices” were against the little kids next door who didn’t wash and played in mud, and were often infected with lice.

I can’t say I have changed markedly on that, but when I visit someone I no longer judge them on whether they spend their mornings dusting and polishing so the house is immaculate by 10, because frankly, I would have to ostracize myself. The level of cleanliness mom demanded is only possible if you have no inside pets and you’re a full time housekeeper or — as she did — have someone come in and clean every day.  I’m going to register that if I could afford it, (society and costs for that are very different for me, now, than for mom 50 years ago) I’d totally do it, and it’s on my wish list to have someone come in once a week, instead of my spending the day scrubbing and cleaning like a thing possessed. But that’s neither here nor there. I no longer judge my tribe by “when they go to work in the morning the house is spotless, or on its way to being so.” I’m not precisely prejudiced against people with lice — particularly since those run rampant in our public schools — but I also won’t invite them home.

There’s other stuff. There’s the old racial prejudice. If you grew up racially prejudiced — I didn’t though I confess Scandinavian blonds were so weird that the first time I saw one I thought he was an animated doll and ran screaming, then had nightmares about it for years. In my defense I was six — and you later encounter those dirty Krasnovians and find you get along with them, you’ll of course change your mind and might even try a waffle. (Keep this example in mind. It’s relevant later.)  This is perhaps, or was, when I was growing up, one of the most hackneyed stories.

But there’s other things, which is why I mentioned both our lifespan and our will power.  You and I change, every day, insensibly.  Little things.  Your habits, or what you eat, or what you do for a hobby change over time.  And that in turn changes you, because it changes how you react to things.  Before I started compulsively reading history for fun, and some profit, for instance, I would react more excitably to everyday news. Or expect historical events to be even faster than they are in our current day and age.

And sometimes you change on purpose. Most of us here, probably, given the general …. inclination and demeanor of the group, had probably a need to learn to be sociable and not come across as impatient, haughty or as though we swallowed a book that morning, and all we want to do is regurgitate it at people.  That’s where will power — and a decision to change — comes in.  To be blunt, we figured out what behaviors lead to better results, and set about training ourselves.

The same could be said for my acculturating. There was absolutely no point living here while behaving as they did in Portugal. It only led to grief on both sides, and besides, my kids would pick up bad cultural habits from me. So I deliberately set about changing, including changing the language I think in.  (The accent, alas, shall always be with me. Yes, a therapist could probably change it. I can’t, because it is complicated by mid-range hearing loss.)

That was quite deliberate and also profoundly transformative, to the point I keep forgetting that Portuguese do things a certain way, and being shocked when I go over (grin.)

But even if you don’t try to change, and don’t move around much, you change with more experience of life. Very few of us are the same we were half a life ago.

Which brings me to the whole concept of redemption and forgiveness. Just as the earliest sagas of mankind are all about the lack of forgiveness, and throwing out the outcast who committed the unbearable offense, it is also obvious that as civilization progressed (and let’s say, our life spans extended) the idea of forgiveness and redemption crept in.

It was a major part of the earliest religions. Offerings for sin and purification, as well as (if we’re not talking Judaism, which was rather more sophisticated than that) the purchasing of favors and good luck and the like from the Divine.

The idea that with divine help you could change your spots, so to put it, was part of religion. And the collaboration in doing so — in changing yourself so you’re better, so the divine forgiveness/intervention are granted — is a part of Judeo-Christian culture.

I will not here go on about whether Christian redemption is free or requires work, or whatever, because I’m not reenacting the 17th century wars of religion on my blog. Also, my own feelings about it are complicated and I have a book I’m unholy late on, and don’t feel like spending the rest of the morning — let alone the day — looking at my belly button lint.

What I do know, though, is that in our time, or at least when I was young, and outside the “high brow” literature that Agatha Christie accurately described as “Unpleasant people doing unpleasant things in unpleasant surroundings” there was usually redemption. Even in satisfactory murder mysteries — ie. ones in which the bad guy is thoroughly punished — there was redemption.  Some of the minor suspects might come to realize how close they were to the unforgivable crime and turn around.  One of my favorite Agatha Christie’s is “The Moving Finger” precisely because the … for lack of a better term… love interest realizes how close she has come to living her life FOR hatred and turns it around. Pride and Prejudice has the same team. Heck, even Romeo and Juliet.  “All are punished,” sure, but the parents learn better at the expense of the tragedy.

Which brings us to mercy, forgiveness, etc.

It could be said to be THE distinguishing factor of civilization.  We trust our disobedient children will learn better, and no longer stone them to death, for instance. (Though a good smack to the behind should not be out of the question.)

Which brings us to what is driving me insane currently.  While indie books are now available (and even in those sometimes I growl and return the book halfway through) movies and series for TV are still by and large the product of an extremely leftist establishment. And over there, on that side of the fence, things are getting worse.  I wish it were only that they are becoming infected with lice.

It’s more like having rejected the long civilizing influence of Western civilization, they are devolving to the ape band.

As those who read me probably know, one of the things that I like doing is watching British mysteries.

Lately I haven’t been able to find any of them I care to stay with.  We started one recently, with great hopes, and then realized each episode boiled down to something like “This person is evil and therefore has done everything, and will never get better.”

And by that I don’t mean the criminal.  For instance, one we watched recently and stopped halfway through with no intention of going back, is one in which this woman volunteers with immigrants of color. Not necessarily a formal thing. For instance, she has in all but name adopted the child of a drug addicted mother, and has shepherded him into a gifted program (we’re given to understand the child is brilliant. Also, I’m not up on ethnicity, but I THINK Jamaican, from certain speech patterns,) also SHE IS MARRIED TO A BLACK MAN and has been for the last 30 years or so. In fact, they lost (I assume through accident, I didn’t watch till it was explained. Could be racist incident) a teen son, which is part of why she is so devoted to this tween boy.  (Her husband is a gym teacher, which is how she came to know the boy.)

In the course of the investigation, it is revealed she was once a member of a skin head gang, and arguably the worst of them. When this is revealed, instead of doing what human, normal, sane people would do, and have a conversation with her and figure out why, and what made her change her mind, her husband leaves, and the boy she’s been mentoring decides her support of him is all a lie and that he should give it all up because everyone is racist and he should just become drug addicted like his mother.

THINK ABOUT THIS FOR A MOMENT. This woman who is about fifty, is condemned for sins she committed when she was 15 or 16 (and a runaway from an abusive home, to whom the skinheads provided an ersatz family. ) She’s been married to a black man for at least 30 years. But you know, in her heart she’s still a racist, because she was an idiot borderline criminal as a confused, abused kid.

If this were the only episode of its kind, I’d have shrugged and gone on. But over and over and over I see this coming up.  And you know, I could say “It’s just bad storytelling and they’re trying to force the tragedy” if it weren’t for other incidents in real life, like the thing over on the RWA side, with going through a twenty year old book in order to accuse someone of racism.

The accusations were blinkered and specious, at least the ones I saw, and mistook cliche and romantic bullshit for racism. But let’s suppose it were true, in fact. Let’s suppose this woman 20 years ago had some mild prejudice. How do you know she’d have it still? Or that it influenced her life in any way?

Or the way they turn on J. K. Rowling for saying something they don’t agree with, and cast her out into the outer darkness, because of course SECRETLY she must be everything they hate.

I see this come up a lot in indie books, btw, particularly by younger authors, as though they were indoctrinated in it and can’t break free. This is most obvious in Pride and Prejudice variations (Different ways for the story to develop. Don’t judge me. Yes, I read fanfic when I’m stressed. Deal.)  More and more I’m coming across these where NO ONE IS CLEAN.  I mean, I’m used to ones where Lady Catherine (Or Wickham or Mr Collins) are made outright criminal villains, because, well, that’s human.  “She’s proud and a pain in the ass, so she’ll totally try to poison Lizzy.” (Rolls eyes.) It’s also a characteristic of very young humans.

But lately I’ve been running into “no one is clean.” Mr. Bennet is not just kind of detached and an unintentionally bad parent, but an evil man, selling his daughters into awful marriages. Because he lets himself be persuaded to leave Jane, Mr. Bingley is a mercenary villain, etc. etc. etc.  And always, always, there is no redemption. No matter how young, how old, how tired, how ill you were when you made the bad decision, that bad decision is what defines you NOW AND FOREVER. And it must be hung around your neck again and again.

This is bizarre since Pride and Prejudice IS a story of the mutually redemptive qualities of love. Both are at fault, both get better through trying to love the other.

But apparently the young fans see only “You made a mistake and you must be punished forever.”

It’s kind of funny because as a kid I was taught by my lefty teachers of the horror of Victorian childhoods where the children were told of their childhood sins again and again and told how they were tainted and must therefore be ever vigilant and improve themselves.

But at least the possibility of improvement was there.

Now the left does not believe in improvement or redemption. Step out of line with their rigid dogma and you’re now a villain forever, of whom the worst might be believed and the most heinous things said, and to whom the most heinous things might/must be done, in “vengeance.”  Hell, it’s not even needed for you to step out of line PERSONALLY.  if you’re born to “not one of our protected groups” because of their binary world-system, you’re automatically a villain. Hence holding slavery in America and its evils against the sons of people who immigrated here well after the abolition and who, frankly, probably had ancestors who were treated worse.  Or being told that your hard work that achieved you a comfortable life is “privilege” and therefore you must be punished.

I’m not going to get into how wrong (and ever mutable, for that matter) their principles are. I’m just going to say that dissent or even unintentional divergence is not allowed. There is no redemption. No one can change their mind. Your sins, or those of people who looked vaguely like you shall be hung around your neck forever.

This gives the left strength in the short run. It is what causes corporations to grovel.

BUT in the long run (and we’re seeing the beginning of it) it will destroy them.

Living in unforgiveness and hatred will destroy the individual who does so. We joke about the unhealthy appearance of those who oppose us, but honestly if you lived with as much hatred as they do, you’d try to “mutilate” yourself to look unpleasant, etc.

If you lived in a world where no one is clean and everyone hates everyone else, well…. what is the point of living?  In the long run, it kills you, anyway. Even if your beliefs are completely crazy and wrong.

It leads you not only to commit crimes against others, but crimes against yourself. And that this is being propagated in every form of narrative from visual to literary to even history teaching in school, is one of the worst things happening to our civilization.

By itself, and alone, it can unmake civilization.

Be aware of it, and how it affects both you and the young ones you might be able to reach. Fight it every time you can. And if you are a creator of story, create stories that uplift and show the possibility of redemption.

The other is not just, ultimately, horrible art and forced tragedy. It is actively harmful to those who imbibe an unalloyed stream of it.

Some theological theory in the older religions hold that heaven and hell are the same place. Only in heaven everyone tries to make everyone else happy/comfortable/fulfilled. And in hell everyone tries to tear each other down.

Build heaven, not hell. Because hell is almost impossible to escape, once it is inside you. It takes an act of will and redemption. And if you’ve been taught those are impossible, the doors of hell are locked from the inside. Forever.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM T.L. KNIGHTON:  The Last Champion (The Champion’s Cycle Book 1)

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When the kingdom of Altria falls before an expansionist lord, the champion Korr is tasked with spiriting off the next in line to the throne as well as a princess who could be used to legitimize the duke’s claim to the throne. Joined by his childhood friend, one of the legendary Rangers of Altria, Korr seeks shelter with the man who trained him to fight many long years ago.

FROM JULIE A. PASCAL:  The Storyteller.

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The Grandfather tells Kiralee stories. He talks in riddles about bondage and freedom. He whispers to her that her whole world is a lie. Should Kiralee trust him, or does he have an agenda of his own?

FROM BLAKE SMITH:  Fairyland: A Short Story.

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Eleven-year-old Branna fell asleep on a hill in the foggy Irish countryside and woke up in a land that was supposed to be a myth. Fairyland is a beautiful place of green oaks and golden light, but it is also a dangerous land, and Branna must use all of her cleverness if she is to escape the clutches of the fey creatures who rule over it.

FROM SARAH A. HOYT:Deep Pink.

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Like all Private Detectives, Seamus Lebanon [Leb] Magis has often been told to go to Hell. He just never thought he’d actually have to go.
But when an old client asks him to investigate why Death Metal bands are dressing in pink – with butterfly mustache clips – and singing about puppies and kittens in a bad imitation of K-pop bands, Leb knows there’s something foul in the realm of music.
When the something grows to include the woman he fell in love with in kindergarten and a missing six-year-old girl, Leb climbs into his battered Suburban and like a knight of old goes forth to do battles with the legions of Hell.
This is when things become insane…. Or perhaps in the interest of truth we should say more insane.

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: GOLD

So, you want to join a conspiracy!

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*This is beyond horribly late, partly because I spaced my morning ADD meds which happened because Havey cat had intestinal issues all over the bed spread. When you wake with the bed covered in poo, it turns your day into a mad race to get the bed de-pooified, followed by a mad race to get the cat who is still spreading…. er… stuff around with what got attached to his fur. So, if you want to blame the following post on someone, blame it on the cat. Also, the lateness of it. Let’s put it this way, I’ve JUST showered and had breakfast, because the little so and so hid, and spread the joy in the process….*

So, you want to join a conspiracy!  I get it. It’s the done thing. Anyone who has been part of  blog life since the early 2000s knows that sooner or later you get accused of being a shill for some vast conspiracy that secretly runs the world.

Since my favorite scene of Grosse Pointe Blank is when the character confesses his avocation and the old friend asks him if the job comes with a dental plan, I decided the benefits and pay are the crucial thing of every conspiracy. So, I’ll go with it. Feel free to add any I miss, as this is typed in haste:

Vast Right Wing Conspiracy – Guys, I don’t think this one is real. Sorry. But the individualists failed to organize. There is probably a plan for paying people, but the two founding members never agreed on what to pay them, what to pay them for, or in fact where the money is coming from.

International Zionist Conspiracy – I’ve gotten accused of working for them so often, that I think I have some insight: they pay by check (I’ve never gotten one, alas) and if you manage to reach them they tell you the check is in the mail.

I understand if you level up, you get to become a banker? the owner of most of the world’s resources???? Not sure.  As I said, I’ve never actually got the check.

Illuminati – Judging from their spam, they make you very very rich, but weirdly their email and phone is based in Nigeria. No word on health care. I’m going to assume it’s some guy named Ngumbumbu and the mummified head of his grandfather. (Bonus for identifying that last reference.)

Opus Dei – pays in Spanish gold doubloons from the Vatican basement. (You usually get a premium on them at your old coin store.) At first, you’ll think you just joined a sort of lay order, with strict regulations on your behavior and commands for mutual aid. BUT after you level up, you get the command of albino assassins and also the opportunity to avail yourself of medical and surgical care. Don’t do the later. It’s administered by a guy named Guido, and your only chance of survival is fervent prayer.

The Knights Templar – We understand they pay in ancient artifacts from the city of Jerusalem. They have an exercise program that consists of riding horses while in armor and hefting very heavy swords. We’re not precisely sure what they do, because when asked they answer “everything.”

Communism international – only considered a conspiracy because people refuse to see it happening right under their noses, even when told it’s happening right under their noses.
Pay – very good. Initially it will get you advancement out of proportion to ability in all established left-leaning fields. For about a century it has been a ticket to riches in literature, the arts, music, teaching, and more recently it’s reaching into politics and science.
Advice is to get while the getting is good. Because come the revolution, most of the initial agents are first against the wall (see Trotsky) and after that only the very few get paid. For the majority, it’s a conspiracy to die for.

The Deep State – the schrodinger conspiracy, at once denied and thanked by the left (see above.)  Pay – other people’s taxes. Health care plan – very good.
Downside – you’d best learn to swim or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times, they are achanging.

The Clinton conspiracy – I know nothing that will lead to the arrest and conviction of Hillary Clinton or anyone associated with her. And I can’t even reach the back of my head, much less shoot myself there three times.

The lizard being conspiracy – See entry immediately above.

 

Stopping The Fifth Column

 

Trump ordered a strike back against terrorists responsible for the death of Americans and others.  The left lost its mind. Film at eleven.

I had a spectacularly bad night (there’s a uri working itself through the family. Yes, I HAVE had the flu vaccine and I actually urge you to. It’s a poor match to this year’s strain, but it offers SOME protection, and this year’s strain is deadly.) and woke up at four AM and couldn’t go back to sleep, so even the ADD meds are ineffective for getting me to keep my concentration for any length of time.

Which means I sat down to write this post, I — instead — ended up reading news sites, and checking on friends on facebook, because my own thoughts were interrupting me.

Which is how I came across this:

Idiot coward

And she went on:

idiot traitor

Okay, the most common answer to my friend who shared this (making fun of it, mind you) was “WHO is she?” Perhaps because, being people of words, we’re not the most plugged in to well…. media. I actually have a dysfunction of actor-knowledge. Except for very few, rare actors and actresses (come on, in a physical medium it is rock bottom stupid not to make a difference between the sexes. Men and women have different ways of interacting with the world and therefore should have different acting techniques) I have no clue who these people are. I just assume they came into being for the role, and vanish into some nebulous never-never once the movie or play is over. It works for me, particularly because the strange things that come out of their mouths when they mistake themselves for deep thinkers disturb me less.

So why am I giving this chick any importance?  Several reasons actually:

1- because this won’t end her career (any more than it is already,) and she KNOWS it. In fact, it might help her. While someone on twitter admitting she voted for Trump brought out the cancel mobs.

2- because it’s not just brainless actresses. I heard similar sentiments all the time from editors of major publishing houses who thought they were amid liberals and therefore safe.  (And how one kept one’s meals down in such situation was by itself amazing.)

3- While this simply doesn’t raise to the level of treason or sedition — not because it isn’t, but — because we’ve been ignoring its like for so long (like Nancy Prancy going to Syria (?) to show she liked them, unlike that meany-evil Booosh) and you can’t enforce a law you haven’t enforced for fifty years, it is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. In fact, across cultures, it is convincing countries that tightly control their “face” to the world the impression that the American people really don’t want to defend themselves and are ripe for plucking.

4- It shows that what I have been saying for decades — based on hearing people say this stuff in private ALL THE TIME when they thought they were safe (they were still keeping the mask on) — that Americans who paint themselves as understanding foreigners so well and being “peaceful” are only doing this stuff because they’re craven cowards who hope the crocodile will eat them last.

5- It shows how much people use leftist dogma as a positional good, (ie to make themselves appear big, or good, or more moral, or smart or whatever) without thinking, (I have yet to see any evidence Rose McGowan, or her ilk (yes, up to and including many editors in traditional presses) CAN think. No, I’m not saying they’re stupid. I’m saying their circles reward unthinking strict adherence to the dogma promulgated by the left. In fact, thinking is dangerous, because you can accidentally step out of the choreographed circle dance and find yourself the target of group aggression. An environment in which conformity is rewarded is one that trains people not to think. (And if you have kids in college, consider, please, that this is what you’re actually paying for.)

This, guys, is the strength of the left and cancel culture. Even people who aren’t CONSCIOUSLY aware of it, know that they will be DESTROYED if they say something that betrays they’re not dancing in the perfect circle, and that they dissent with any point of the left’s program.

So people stay quiet, and the idiot left — which is probably at MOST 20% of the population — gets to terrorize everyone, from big corporations to every field where they’re the majority, up to and including traditional publishing, art, journalism, etc. etc.  Thereby they amplify the sense that they’re the majority and gain some number of adherents.  At least double their number, I’d guess, because HUMANS ARE SOCIAL APES who want to be in with the group. Which BTW accounts for the socialist clown show that are the dem candidates this year, all of which would objectively destroy the economy and with it plunge the world into a depression that would make Obama’s great recession seem like a… well, summer of recovery.

Oh, I get staying quiet. UNDERSTAND please that I get staying quiet. I did, for decades, because I wanted to keep being published, and baby needed shoes. And, as most of you know, I paid the price, career and money, for speaking out. There are people who will never pick up one of my books, because they heard, and therefore “know” I am racist, sexist, homophobic and don’t want to read that. (The fact I’m none of those makes absolutely no difference. You can find anything in any work of more than 20 words, if you want to. Witness how people devoid of genetic knowledge decided that an off beat color in a half-Asian woman’s eyes meant you were racist. I haven’t checked lately, but violet eyes on elves are probably specieist, instead of merely goofy.)

So, I understand. But we were perpetuating the left’s slide into madness and amplifying the most bizarre elements on that side every time we stay quiet.  We are empowering the fifth column.

Now, keep in mind, I don’t think they win. For one, most of these people are too crazy to fight their way out of a wet paper bag, with someone pushing from behind. Their decision not to think might help them stay cozy within the group, but it doesn’t make them very competent.

Also, the fact they silence us means they don’t know the sheer amount of rage under the surface of every day life.  The rage will out. At them. Eventually. The longer it takes, the more explosive it will be. And frankly any of amount of suppressed rage involving a vast majority of the population isn’t a good thing. It is what pushed what would otherwise have been a middle-class revolution in France into the insatiable hunger of madame guillotine, it fed the “sudden and unexpected” downfall of the Ceaușescus.  And if this goes all the way to “rage burst” I expect it will be like a mix of both. And what came after, in both cases was not exactly the platonic ideal of a constitutional republic (or really any form of it.) Which is not what I want for our country.

But Sarah, you’ll say, besides speaking out having a horrible price, they won’t listen. I can’t argue with these people!

Sure, but even arguing does show they don’t have it all their own way. Most people aren’t going to analyze things like the fact that the wokest always go brokest. And corporations are even less likely to do that.

HOWEVER the most important thing isn’t even to rationally discuss this.  Sure, once you get someone — a spectator — who genuinely wants to discuss points, then you engage your logic. BUT UNTIL THEN and more important than it, it behooves you to realize who you’re dealing with.

These people are signaling they’re smart (a characteristic that in the left has long come to mean “has the correct beliefs”) and educated, and totally worthy of being upper class.

They’re not thinking, or reasoning, or in any way being …. rational.

So what is the best way to stop that cr*p? Short of cancel culture, which requires us to act like the left, and try to shut down opposing voices (and why would we do that, when the more they talk the more they reveal themselves as the despicable creatures they are?) something that is not precisely in the right’s playbook because the individualists have trouble organizing?

Well, stuff like this is a good beginning,

talk back

But more importantly, her original tweet is full of comedy gold. For instance, she thinks the US is misogynist…. compared to a nation in which women can go to jail, get raped and executed (they have to get raped first, because Islamic law has problems with killing virgins. Chew on that) for going out of the house with their hair uncovered!

She opposes nationalism…. compared to what? Are other countries not nations? Note that you can’t criticize Mexican DRUG CARTELS without the Mexican president being offended.

Racism? WHAT COLOR DOES SHE THINK IRANIANS ARE?

But more importantly, her assumption that if you cower before someone attacking you, they’ll stop attacking you.  She’s not only not too bright, but why is she denying “little tan people” agency? Does she think they can’t decide to attack even if we don’t? (I guess the crowds of people shouting death to America while Carter — and Obama — were appeasing Iran would blow her mind.)

More importantly, if she is so mad at the “terrorist regime” we should tweet back at her (and I would if I were on twitter) instructions on how to buy a ticket out of the country, followed by instructions on how to renounce citizenship. And make fun of the fact she doesn’t seem to know how to do that.

As hard as it is to mock her basically pledging allegiance to Iran and its flag, because she tweeted it out with the Shah’s flag (LOL) because what she wrote already sounds like a Babylon Bee article, it must be mocked.  One should perhaps — very seriously — endorse her perspective that no flags should be disrespected, which is why we expect she’ll join us in outrage at the kneeling during the anthem and the flying of the American flag.

Mock them. Ridicule them. They’re a target rich environment.

More importantly, necklace the democratic party with those of them who drop the mask. No, seriously. They are, as they are right now, a profoundly anti-American party.

They hide it behind a bunch of things, from concern for the “environment” to “looking after the little people” but all their policies would cripple and destroy the US. Being the rump end of the Soviet agit prop policies of infiltration, they have convinced themselves that America is the enemy, and that ending it will make the world a better place.

Only it won’t. It is America standing tall and opposing the tyrants that makes the world better.  And while we are tired of foreign wars, and sending our young to die on foreign shores, and I completely approve of the president’s policy of limited engagements, we ALSO can’t allow our enemies to hit us impunely. That is to invite more attacks, and ultimately a war of a magnitude that none of us wants to see.  Aggression against us MUST be responded to with maximum force, so that the bullies of the world know we’re not a safe target.  And contrary to what Ms. McGowan’s stupidity conjures up for a world picture, the bullies shall always be with us. Be we ever so kind and pure, we’ll be hated by individuals, religions and nations whose drive for total (and totalitarian) power our mere existence challenges.

More importantly, resisting and defeating attacks against us sometimes has the side effect of freeing other people.

I understand there were Iraqi demonstrations celebrating the death of Al Soleimani.

Will there be repercussions to the death? Undoubtedly. But the question we must ask the fifth column is: WHAT are they going to do to us, beyond killing Americans and encouraging terrorism against us, something they’ve been doing for decades?

And by the way, no, dear lefties, this doesn’t mean they will eat you last. The enemies we face are variously very nationalistic, deeply racist and extremely misogynist.  If you’re a white woman (or an American of any description) who is showing disloyalty to your own people, they’ll eat you FIRST.

And rest assured when that time comes, we’ll show you the deep felt compassion and empathy that Hilary Clinton showed the Benghazi dead.

Because at that time, really, what difference will it make?

Don’t tell us you never saw it coming. You’ve been warned. Leftism is no longer a positional good. And we’ll make sure no one mistakes it for such.

You’re wearing last century’s intellectual fashions, covered in the corpses of the 100 million people massacred in their name, and the millions more who gave blood and life to fight their way out of it.

And it’s not a good look.

 

 

 

Rats in their Heads – a blast from the past from April 2013

 

*Sorry, I was going to put this up much earlier and it was to be an original post. BUT I woke up too late. I’m going to blame Greebo. Since he came back from treatment, he’s been very clingy (And yes, he’s gaining weight back, let’s hope this is permanent) and last night he put himself in a ball up against my waist. Since I sleep on my side, we were curled one around the other. This is kind of important, because it was very comfortable, which sleeping with cats normally isn’t. He also purred all night, which is very soothing. So I slept till almost ten.  Unfortunately Havelock cat chose to have intestinal disturbances… everywhere. We know it was him, because it included his spot at the foot of our bed, where no other cat dares sit.  Yes, I know. Ew.
Well, I’m trying to finish Other Rhodes to go to betas (due the 31st. Yeah. well.) So normally I’d ask Dan to deal with it, do a blog post, then write. BUT we have house guests coming this afternoon, which include practice grandchildren, so the floor and anything they might touch MUST be cleaned. Meanwhile I found this post. I think it’s old enough most of you never read it/don’t remember it.  Enjoy.*
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Rats in their Heads – a blast from the past from April 2013

There is a meme going around facebook, an innocuous little question of “What was the last female writer you read, and the book?”

It’s very popular and being echoed all over.  It’s also a good example of how people think when they get rats in their head.

“But, Sarah,” you say, “why would you object to being introduced to authors you might not have heard of?”

Brother!  This is not how book recommendations and word of mouth happen.  First, with few exceptions, no one in mixed company is going to admit to having spent the entire night awake reading something called “The Sinner” (a romance) or “Three For the Chair” (a mystery) or even “Martians Go Home.” (Satyric science fiction and very funny.)  Instead they will mention the sort of book people buy and leave sitting around on their coffee table to look smart or caring or whatever it is society values this week.

Word of mouth book recommendations are far more targeted.  They’re done by people who know you or at least know what you like to read.  Even I, who read almost anything, have stuff I will not read.  One of them is insufferably stuffy books my kids were forced to read in school.  I couldn’t read them even to give them help with studying them.  In fact, I’d rather have a root canal than read most of those.  The other one is zombie fiction. [I read Ringo’s zombies, but they’re not the rotting falling apart kind of zombie. They are scary, but not that way- SAH-2020]  I truly don’t care if your zombie book is a masterpiece.  I don’t read zombies because yuck.  (Actually I don’t read most horror.  Not because I’m squeamish: I can write blood, guts and wading-through-both-of-those scenes.  I just don’t enjoy being either grossed out or scared.  So reading horror would be fatuous.)  You can recommend me those till you’re blue in the face.  I still ain’t gonna read them.

However, if it were “What was the last writer” or even new writer “you read and the book?” the meme would be merely stupid and vacuous.

It is far worse than that . “The last FEMALE writer” you read.  This is because female writers are supposed to be discriminated against.  Statistically (if you look at it sideways and squint) females get reviewed less than males, and this leads to their selling less than males and this leads–  Excuse me.  I’ll dissect this nauseating fallacy later.  First tell me the last book you read where you gave a good goddamn about the author’s sex.

Unless you are reading true accounts of childbirth or of surviving testicular cancer, if you were specifically looking at the gender of the name on the cover, you’ve got rats in your head.

The first rat is a cute and fluffy baby rat that leads you to believe that the name on the cover has anything to do with the gender of the author – but we’ll let that go by.

We’ll let it go by because the big rat is stinky and dropping pellets all over the culture, and will destroy us if we don’t trap him and kill him.  It’s stained with the blood of millions and it’s called Marxism.

One of the things Marxism does is treat people as widgets.  Take me.  Female, Portuguese origin, married, mother of two, liberal arts post-graduate degree.  I’m supposed to be exactly the same as anyone else with those characteristics.  You should be able to pop me out of this blog and pop someone with those same exact characteristics in my place, and the results are supposed to be indistinguishable.  (Stop laughing.  It’s impolite to laugh at the mentally afflicted.)

No?  How no?  What is the purpose then of all these comparisons “more men get reviews,” and “More men are bestsellers” and—

Even if those are true (some of them are for certain fields) what makes you think they’re fixable?  Or that they should be fixed?  Or that there is anything to fix?

Look up there to where, no, you can’t pop me out of this blog and pop someone else in its place and have it be the same.  So, let’s suppose – don’t I wish – my blog became one of the most popular on the internet.  Does this mean that Females of Portuguese Origin, married, with two children and a liberal arts ABTD are being discriminated FOR in blogging.  No?  Why not?

The second rat is “diverse thinking.”  First of all there is the un-examined, cute, fluffy rat that says “diversity is strength.”  This is a shibboleth that’s never been proven, anywhere at all.  In fact, I can give you plenty of examples where diversity was the downfall or at least a serious handicap to a society.  But it is an almost adorable rat compared to the true repulsive idea that you can get more diversity of ideas by getting more PHYSICAL diversity.  This idea is something Hitler would have loved.  No, I’m not breaking Godwin.  I’m simply being factual.  The whole idea behind the eugenics movement that was all the rage when Hitler came to power (and not just the rage in Germany, btw.  If you think that, you have more than rats in your head) was that culture was inherited and inhered to your racial ancestry.  The white race was this and this and this, and the Black race was this and this and this.  And the pink race with polka dots was this and this and this.

THAT was the brilliant idea that filled the ovens with human beings.  The Marxists were so scared people would be repulsed by the results that for a while, they hid their “scientific governance, by the numbers” under The Worker Class and the Capitalist Class and the Intellectual Class – instead of calling them by race names (Both are constructs, in case you wonder.  Particularly in a blended society like the US.)

But it is impossible to run a society by the numbers without always coming back to the same primal sin of treating people as things.  Because if Bob over there is an exemplary person and Joe is a terrible person, there’s no way the government can equalize that.  But if Bob is rich and Joe is poor, the government can take money from Bob to give to Joe.  And if Bob is white and Joe is black, you just won the support of all the black people who aren’t doing very well monetarily (most white people aren’t either.  It is a characteristic of doing exceptionally well that few people do that. By definition. That’s what “exceptionally” means.)  Not just because you might also give them money like you gave Joe, but because – by claiming that the reason Joe didn’t succeed was a social injustice and invisible racism – you gave them an excuse for failing (and most people, anywhere, under any regime, fail.)

It is perhaps no wonder, then, that this big stinky rat of an idea has got fixated on women, the minority that isn’t.  I mean, how much more virtuous can you get than by supporting the majority of people, while claiming you’re fighting discrimination?

So people take to the statistics and examine how many women are mega bestsellers, and how many women get reviews and how many women…

This shows that women are discriminated against and then the drumbeat starts for “how many female writers have you read today?”

Rats.  Or perhaps hamsters.  I think if you lean close to those brains, you can hear the hamster wheel squeaking.

First, where are those statistics coming from, and exactly what is taken in account? The last three major popular successes, pushed under everyone’s noses and talked about on every blog, magazine and show that cares about culture and books are…  Harry Potter, Twilight and Fifty Shades, all of them in fact written by women.

Almost every romance published is written by women.  So is most of the fantasy.  Quite a few of the historicals, unless they’re military history, are written by women.  A good number of the Christian books (a huge part of the market) are written by women.

Now, almost every thriller, almost every hard sf, almost every adventure story and police procedure seems to be written by men.

So – how come most bestsellers/most reviewed, etc. are men?  Isn’t that unfair?

Lies, damn lies and statistics.  Writing (except for Romance) used to be a mostly male profession.  You could tell there was actual prejudice against women writing, in say SF, because women wrote under male pen names.  (In romance there is prejudice against males and most people still write under a female pen name.) [Turns out I was wrong about SF. Most women wrote under male pen names because writing it wasn’t quite respectable. It was their acquaintances in real life they were hiding from, not the fans. SAH-2020]

Writing was a male profession when you could make a living from it and back when women were not expected to make a living. [Note this only applies to the US/other wealthy countries and mostly in the 20th century for the middle class. Before that everyone was expected to contribute to the household’s survival- SAH- 2020]  By the time I came into the field, unless you were willing to do what I did and engage in EXTREME writing, you made ON AVERAGE five thousand a year.  And the funny thing about social expectations is that they cut both ways.  Given that writing doesn’t make a living wage, most men could not engage in it.  They couldn’t engage in it long enough to even break in, let alone try to get big. A woman can stay home with the kids (or even just stay home) and though in our crazy society that incurs some societal censure it is nothing like the censure incurred by a man who stays home and is supported by his wife.  (Yes, I know some brave souls do it, but they’re rare.)

When I came into the field 90% of the new authors making it in fell in one of three categories: women, gay men, academics – i.e. people who could have other means of support while they pursued their art.  Of this, by and far the largest contingent was women.  (Who often overlapped with academics.)

This has been a fact of life for the last fifteen years.  However, there are still some remnants from the ancient regime back when it was mostly a male profession.  They’re old and having stayed in the field long, revered.  They’re mostly best sellers and widely reviewed.

There is another effect.  Think back on the first women that broke the gender barrier in science fiction.  They were almost instantly notable.  Why?  Because they had to make an extraordinary effort to break in.  This is going to select for driven individuals, who immediately will do better than the run of the mill “followed the usual path, had an easy time getting in.”

The males in my generation – particularly those supporting a family at the time, like Dave Freer – who broke in, were strong enough and driven enough to come home and work at their dream after pursuing a full time career elsewhere.  Do you wonder that they have more staying power than someone who was told “Just pursue your dream, dear, someone else will pay?”

Then add another layer.  New York Publishing by definition has got the rat of Marxism in their heads.  They always treated writers as widgets anyway.  Round the mid seventies, early eighties they realized that they had more widgets with outies than innies, and they decided to correct it the usual way.  “Buy more women” the cry went out.  And in came not only a barrage of women who had an easier time breaking in than men, but of women who were told what kept them out had been discrimination.  And who, therefore, hated the field they were getting into, because those meanies had kept them out.  Out came an outpouring of “poor me female” writing.  Which in the early nineties caused me to snarl at a Barnes & Noble, “I wish someone would pass a law forbidding women from writing.” After I’d walked up and down a fantasy shelf and found NOT ONE novel that wasn’t about some abused high-magic chick whose father was a monster.

Here we digress from writing in general to genre writing.  It will shock you to realize that different genres appeal to different people, right?  In general romance – by and far the blockbuster of genres – appeals to women.  I know this shocks you, since women are not at all by evolution designed for being fascinated with relationships.  This doesn’t mean men don’t read it.  I know several men who read Romance (and no, it has nothing to do with their orientation) but the proportions are so grossly skewed that if you see someone in public with a romance novel and can’t see what gender they are, you can take a safe bet it’s a woman.  At the other end of this, military fiction is read mostly by men.

I can tell you as a female reader and writer that from my teens I was upset by the assumption that whatever I was reading was OF COURSE a romance.  Ditto for what I was writing.  To this day total strangers assume I write romances or (I DO have an accent) children’s picture books.

The ridiculous equalizers of author genders ALWAYS concentrate on those that appeal least to women.  Say, thrillers, or science fiction.  (Why don’t they try to get more men in romance?  Why do they devalue a female way of seeing the world, which always centers on relationships?  Are they anti-woman?)

The problem with trying to equalize the innies and outies is that you get people who aren’t going to appeal to the genre’s majority readers.  For instance the attempt to bring in more “sf” writers of the right physical configuration gave us science fiction that rotates around someone’s belly button.  (There is a difference between novels about colonizing a world, even with strong character development, and novels about someone angsting over colonizing a world, so that the book could take place entirely in my laundry room and there would be no difference.)  This meant readers – male and female – who liked SF as it was left in droves.  The same for those who liked adventure fantasy but were tired of the female-revenge-fantasy woven in.

Of course these things shake out, they always do.  By the time I came in, NY publishing had got the idea that somehow their experiment had been less than successful.  Of course, since the rat was still spinning in their head, the only thing they could think – and which was told to me over and over – was “Women can’t write science fiction.”  Which is why Darkship Thieves was unpublished for thirteen years, while they pushed me to write fantasy.  Other gems I was told were that “you don’t write like a woman” – this was said derogatorily by the way – to which I probably shouldn’t have responded that no, that part of my anatomy was grossly unsuited for typing.  That my women were insufficiently “strong” (by which they meant that they fell in love with men.)  That I couldn’t write gay males because that was stealing victimhood and because gay men weren’t transparent to people who didn’t share the experience (to which one of my gay friends said he was glad he wasn’t transparent, he’d hate for me to be seeing what he ate for lunch.)

That is, the people who treat people like widgets, all in the name of equality, were telling me what I could or could not write, because my thought wasn’t conforming to their ideas.  I.e. it was too “diverse.”  That is, all of the above was “bad widget, bad.  Fall into your category.”

Again, the primary sin behind this entire meme is treating people as things.  The secondary sin is expecting physical characteristics to dictate the way I think.

Do my experiences have a lot to do with who I am as a writer (and a person)?  Sure they do.  How many of those are experiences only a woman can have?  I can think only of being pregnant and giving birth.  (And a man who is sufficiently connected to his wife, or who has asked a lot of friends could write those as convincingly as most women.  I mean a lot of them are physiological.)

But doesn’t my experience of going through life as a woman, of relating to men as a woman, etc. color how I write?  Sure they do.  But I have enough male friends and enough imagination to write men convincingly too.

So should you read my books because they give you an experience of what it’s like to be female?

Rat droppings!

I write science fiction, fantasy, mystery and historical.  You should read those for the joy of reading those.  And my books should be enough to hold you and get you to buy the next one whether the name on the cover is Sarah Hoyt or Joe Smith.  (How DO you know I don’t write as Joe Smith?  I could if I wanted to.)

If you’re picking my books because they have a female name on the cover, forcing yourself to read them to prove you’re not sexist, and hating every minute, that makes you LESS likely to pick up the next female author.

Writers are not their books.  There are men who write women better than women do.  And there are women who write men better than men do.

And the books should stand on their own.

Everything else is rat droppings.  Big stinky rats with blood on their teeth.

Welcome To the Year of Go Big or Go Home!

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Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/alan9187-2347/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&amp;

*This morning I’m taking the very unusual step of doing identical blogging here and at Mad Genius Club. Mostly because I think what I woke up thinking is important in different ways for the different audiences. Just be aware the posts are identical, but the discussion will probably be different, so you might consider peeping over at MGC sometimes.  Oh, and yeah, I wasn’t going to blog, but I woke up going “Oh, duh!” and I had to share.  And, oh, yeah, happy New Year.*

This is where I confess I’m a wussy. I’ve spent most of the last year (not all of it because there were significant medical issues, including a near-fatal drug side effect to deal with) hesitating on the edge of the sea of indie publishing, unable to motivate myself to write.

Given that traditional is done with me, this was the equivalent of considering giving up on my career of twenty years, and the only skill I’ve worked on seriously in my adult life.

There were reasons. The reasons just might have been completely wrong. And one of those reasons is important for the rest of you to know.

Some of the reasons are intensely personal. The aforementioned drug side effect, for instance. People with my odd form of auto-immune are often helped by singulair. I was too. Until I fell into a depressive spiral from which I could not pull up. Turns out I’m one of the 0.1% people who have a bad reaction to singulair.

Once that was fixed, there were other personal hurdles, including family matters — by and large good, but time consuming — which ate the first half of the year.

Once that was done–

The problem is that all through this, and in fact till this morning, I was struggling with some facts I couldn’t understand. It goes something like this:

  • Traditional and Indie careers seem to have no point of contact. What I mean is, traditional mid list (or even high mid list, or even some bestsellers — though not all — ) authors who go indie seem to do dismally.  At the same time, indie authors are bringing down serious cash and even getting serious name recognition.
  • Most traditional authors who are dumped or leave the field seem to make a significant amount of their living from teaching. While I like teaching, I got into this to tell stories, and honestly it’s all I want to do.
  • Except for Witchfinder, and that was 8 years ago and it’s a strange book, my indie publications the last two years have been oh, hum.  In trad, I can count on selling 3 to 4k in the first month, usually, in indie, I was seeing first-month sales of 500 copies, with some additional KUL reading.  Now sure, the things I have published, recently were mostly collections and recently a short novel, Deep Pink,which is also profoundly weird.  And I get those aren’t things that sell normally. Still watching the counter go up to 500 had me scratching my head and going “I thought I had at least 1k hardcore fans.”  Again there’s a long tail, and my publications have been one-off, and I won’t know what splash a full length space opera novel makes till I release it (end of January), or the next Dyce novel (end of February) but all the same, you know, it’s disquieting.

If it weren’t for the fact that I know several other traditional authors experiencing the same thing — leftists, centrists, and people who think politics is a strange dish we eat with onions — I’d think my problem is that I am profoundly politically tainted.  I mean, if someone admitting they voted for Trump is enough for a twitter mob to try to drive them out of romance publishing, what does being an avowed anti-Marxist do to one’s numbers.  (And yeah, sure, I could keep my mouth shut. Except I can’t. I have kids and will have grandkids (and have “adopted”, practice grandkids now) I’ve seen this movie before, and therefore I can’t allow it to continue playing and for the consequences to fall on those I love after I’m gone. My voice might do very little but it’s a voice, opposing the madness. At any rate, I was never very good at pretending or fitting in, and mean girls think they’re psychic and can “find” whatever they want in your books, as we’ve had proof lately.)

But what else could it mean?

It is at this point most traditional writers I know, particularly if they were always mid list (Represent!) sigh and say something like “I guess I never really had that much of an audience. There’s something in my writing that just doesn’t sell. Well, I’ll know the craft and people will pay for lessons/coaching. I guess I’ll do that.” Or you know, decided to start sewing stuffed dragons or stuffed Mr. Trashbags for a living. (Shhhh. It’s a hobby.)

Which, okay, fine, maybe it’s a thing.

Except that I’m sorry, I’ve met young, (thirty something) indie authors making a living after 1 year.  I’ve looked at and read their (usually fairly short) books, and there is no magic sauce. They read like very young-in-writing authors, who will get better in time. Some of them are eminently readable but I have to turn off the part of my back brain that groans and goes “oh, hey, I used to do that.”

….  So, what gives?

Well, this morning I woke up with the solution. No, I don’t know HOW. My brain doesn’t work like a normal human being’s brain, which turns over things rationally and comes up with a solution. No. I think most of my IQ is in either my subconscious or my toenails or perhaps, given my peculiar form of getting drunk (I become annoying and exhaustively rational. Think Mr. Spock.) my waking mind got tired of blurting out truths others find unpalatable and therefore shuts itself down hard.

Which means my most productive insights come about something like this: worry at a problem for days, weeks or months or even years, (depending),  and get nothing. Then suddenly while I’m doing something completely unrelated, or just woke up (or on the case of plot problems, often in my dreams) get the solution with startling clarity.

This morning I realized why your traditional career might give you a little boost (or a significant boost) in indie, but it won’t be at the same level starting out.  And why even those who have dual careers need to start out again in indie, even while they’re still doing fine (and are sometimes megasellers) in traditional. And also why traditional publishers think the indie market doesn’t really matter and fail to understand the significance of ebooks.

Are you ready for this? Once you see it, you can’t unsee it: it is because traditional and indie play to fundamentally different sets of readers.

What? Do I mean paper and ebook? Do I mean non-KULL and KULL?

Yes, but no.

One of the things that has always frustrated hell out of midlisters caught in the funny house of traditional publishing is that traditional publishing ignores a VAST number of readers, and they’re the readers midlisters are most equipped to do well with.

They’ll tell you it’s not a vast number. It’s something like 5% of the reading public. And they’re right. Except that it’s 5% of the reading public that accounts for 80% of sales.

This is a known demographic. They go by many names from super readers to compulsive readers. To call us — yes, I’m confessing — by our real name, we’re story addicts.  The threshold to be one is RIDICULOUSLY low: 3 books a month. I have no clue what they call people who in slow times average three books a week, and when on vacation or otherwise not busy can do that a day, but I know we exist, and I know I’m not alone. (Right, I’m not alone? Right?)  We’re the people who sneak a book into the pocket of our formal clothes and panic because you can’t figure out how to sneak a book into your wedding dress. We exist, and we won’t live in the shadows anymore. I mean… ahem… whatever.

The point is that traditional publishing always ignore these people. There are reasons for it, having to do with production times and laydown. Traditional books follow a weird and convoluted trail to publication, a trail that takes scheduling with many people, and independent entities like stores. This makes doing even four books a year very difficult. Which means that most authors, be they big names or midlisters are locked into a book a year.

Then there’s the produce model of publishing: your book supposedly spoils or ages after being on the shelves for 1 week and gets returned after that. And then there is ordering to the net and a bunch of other things that seem completely insane to the rest of us, and which have essentially killed midlist but which cater to ONE audience: the people who read one or two books a year.

These are fundamentally and intrinsically different groups of readers: they read mostly on paper, for one. They usually buy their book in a bookstore (though with the scarcity of those, a lot have moved online). They often — though not necessarily — read as a positional good. I.e. they read because they think of themselves as smart people, and smart people read. I suspect as a whole they trend left-ier (because left politics are also a positional good in our society,) more display oriented, and tend to think of themselves more as “intellectuals” than your average book addict.  They overlap with people who read less than us story addicts because they’re busy, have kids, are in a phase of their life when they simply don’t have much time to devote to reading, or reading is not their primary form of entertainment. These people don’t trend leftier, snobbier, etc, but they tend to only be aware of books when they’re pushed, or only pay attention when they have a marketing campaign telling them “read this”.  For the very busy (I went through phases when I was rebuilding houses, and the kids were tiny. Keep in mind I’m an addict though, so to go without a fix I need to be insanely busy. But yeah, it happens.) this makes sense, as you want to be assured that book you just started is no going to come apart in the middle.  A lot of us midlisters tap into that fandom as do odd-ball authors, mostly in the Baen stable, (for sf/f) or cozy authors for mystery who get enough push to hit that audience. (Or in midlister’s case, who are lucky enough to be found sometimes.)

It wasn’t always like that. In the pulp days, authors were known to put five, six, seven books a year, and have fans fall on them like starving puppies.

In fact, the pulp model is much like the indie model.

Those careers died/were killed slowly, and there’s a number of factors, but what put the final nail in that coffin (in my awareness-time as a writer who wasn’t published yet, but who was analyzing what she saw happening) were two governmental interventions (and no, I’m NOT just being a crazy libertarian, this was obvious and clear.) One of them was Bill Clinton’s (executive order? signing a directive? I don’t remember the specific model yet, and I want to register that a representative republic shouldn’t give anyone wholly ignorant of an industry the ability to interfere with it by such injurious means, period, and that we the people SHOULD have means of actual redress to stop these ridiculous regulations, beyond voting the bastards out) dictating that there should be some percentage of recycled paper in every book.

This completely silly — since trees grown for paper are trees grown for paper. No one is cutting down virgin forests to print books. (So this is the equivalent of “save the brussel sprouts.”) — but it has been proven extensively and conclusively that paper recycling and re-processing is more injurious to the environment than MAKING paper.

Also, since recycling paper is more expensive, within a month it took the cost of printing your common, run of the mill mass market paperback from $5 to $8.  I was a new-mother at the time, and those $3 put most newly-printed mmpbs out of my reach. I went from buying a couple a month to buying maybe one very three months, and I had to have heard of the author before.  The distortions caused by this killed the careers of a lot of mostly mmpb writers — those who write for the story addicts — and also caused distortions that included the rise of the goat gagger (books of more than 250k words) and making hard cover the most profitable format for the houses. Which in turn caused a whole lot of other distortions. I won’t go into those, which at any rate were amplified by Borders clever stupidity of ordering to the net, which all the idiots then copied. I’m not going into these because, a) I’m over 2k words and most of you are hungover and b) I start shooting green light from my eyes and foaming at the mouth.

Anyway, suffice to say as I said above it makes sense for the trad pub market as currently constituted to cater to the one or two books a year market. Which explains a lot of their choices, from the books they choose to promote, to their covers, to the fact that they tend to shed any writer to the right of Lenin, and shed us faster and harder if we’re minorities or women, or both (represent!) because as pointed out that market trends left-ier than the general population.

Which brings us to the story addicts. These poor souls can’t GO without books. I know. I am one. So, how did we survive?

Barely.

The dark years of the late nineties and the oughts tried our hearts full sore. There were actually groups of us online, in email lists and some sharing the same “I’m being driven from pillar to post” sad tales.  We started buying used A LOT. Which involved reading books by authors who had since been shut down from no initial sales. Which meant that we would read two three books and break our hearts because there were no more. Or read books printed before we were born. And we expanded our genres because everyone outside a massive city eventually runs out of used books in their favored genre. (We almost all started reading romance, for instance, at that time, which given my groups is not a normal read for us. And some of us “ate” history books like m & ms, because they tended to be LONG, which meant more reading for the money. Also they’re usually priced cheap as used books.) And read marginal books to the end (and sometimes three or four times) because well, it was a book.

Which is why, not just as a writer, but as a reader, I say Thank G-d for indie.

You see, Indie by its nature, the fact that books are cheap (and a lot of us lunatics are subscribed to Kindle lending library, too) and that they are varied, but mostly THAT THEY’RE IN SERIES and series that are published two to three months apart for new installments, caters to the 5% who buy 80% of the books.

COMPLETELY different market from traditional. And one about which I can speak authoritatively because, again, I AM THAT market, or a typical member of it.

If you write anything remotely readable and non offensive in one of our genres or subgenres, (we can now be picky) we will find you and we will read you.

EXCEPT that it comes with a caveat: indie has a high cost in finding an author initially. Oh, not as high as trad is getting, by publishing a lot of utter crap, but still high. You will find that about 50% (and for some genres higher) of books you sample make you scramble backwards away from them going “dear Lord, no.”  In science fiction I’ve found this often includes people who think they’re inventing the genre from scratch, or are adamant they’re not science fiction, while writing all the tropes… as if they were brand new and earth shattering (but enough about traditional publishing!), in romance and mystery they often include recent college graduates (I was one once) who think serious must equal “there are no good guys” or “no one is clean.”

Anyway, covers often warn you away from those, by being of startling inappropriate horribleness. BUT not always.

What this means is that you WANT series.  Judging by ancient mythologies’ tendency to become convoluted soap operas, I suspect humans crave series, period, but indie reinforces that. I’ve been known to fall into a series and read it to the end even when it’s just “so so.”

If a series is actually good, and it has a lot of books? BLISS. I know what I’m reading that week.

This explains why a lot of the high-money makers in indie are releasing books every other or every month, in a series. (Though that might drive me insane, and I have a starting public, and I’m willing to give it a little extra time, too, so I’m going to run a few series to start with.)

So:

Trad pub and indie are marketing to fundamentally different people. Trad pub is not utterly blind, it just doesn’t cater to us, and never has.

In indie, you benefit from long series (even if sometimes what you put out any given month is a short story) and from publishing frequently.

And while some of your readers from trad pub will find you right away, it might take time for them to figure out you’re publishing in the new model, particularly if you’re still publishing traditional or if you’ve been silent for some years (as I sort of have, due to illness.)

So, your initial sales for your first indie books will be disappointing. This is almost inevitable.

But you still have the skills and the know how. If you’re writing for your fans and not the editors (and sometimes this takes a bit of mental adjustment, but you can do it. If you’re a long time writer, you’ve survived about a million changing trends, anyway.) you can be successful at this game. (Yes there are other things you can/should learn to ease your journey, like keywords. I SUCK at keywords. I suck like a hoover. But I know people who also suck and are making REAL money. By which I mean more money than most trad pub midlisters ever saw.)

You just need a serious publishing schedule (and to take it seriously) beta readers and editors you can count on and a decentish cover designer (I’m one of those. I’m getting better. I aspire to good, as I do in everything I do, but that takes time and practice, and it’s a career I never wanted, but which makes my life easier than dealing with finding artists.)

THIS IS POSSIBLE.  You can do it. I can do it.

Or at least I’m going to try really, really hard, which is why I sat down with my husband and wrote a schedule for 2020 which would probably give most people nightmares, and which involves my learning to keep regular hours, not get distracted by things like house cleaning and learning (again) to produce reliably.

But you know, if my insight is correct (and I made the schedule before I had that insight, just based on what I see working) it should work.

Which makes 2020 the year of go big or go home.

Wish me luck. Or join me in the insanity. Whichever your inclination!

Let’s go!

*Yes, yes, I had a typo in the title. Note not in the title at MGC. But instead of copying i wrote out the title again, and this happened while my entire family was moving and talking around me, and before I went away from the computer for a while. Typos happen.*