Houston, We Have a Problem.

[Warning: Anger and Profanity Ahead. Lots of profanity. If my mother is reading this, she should probably stop right here.]

Another school shooting yesterday. That makes how many this year?

Oh, that’s right. 18.

EIGHTEEN SCHOOL SHOOTINGS.
IN THE FIRST FORTY-FIVE DAYS OF THE YEAR.

That’s one every 2-3 days. Following that estimation, we’re due for another one tomorrow since the third day is a Saturday.

But according to this country’s administration, half of the internet, and gun enthusiasts everywhere, we don’t have a problem. No, not at all. Not even a little bit. It’s perfectly okay that children are dying in horrifying ways at the hands of their peers.

How is this NOT a problem? How are our children’s lives so fucking insignificant that we can’t admit that there might be a little bit of an issue?  What’s it going to take for our lawmakers to finally admit just how wrong this is?

Now I don’t normally open up my big, opinionated mouth and fly off the hip about anything (yeah, right…y’all know me better than that), but right now I’m hurt, angry, and scared. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is let my daughter go to school this morning. After she ran off toward her classroom, totally oblivious to danger, I got back in my car and I cried for an hour. Even now I keep wondering if this morning’s hug could be the last one.

But I’m done worrying about stepping on toes. Fuck all y’all who say we don’t have a problem.

Ahem.

So the first thing gun nuts did after this happened was to start screaming about their second-amendment rights. Let’s review, shall we?

AMENDMENT II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,
the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

First and foremost…most people squawking right now aren’t part of a militia. They’re individual citizens who think it’s okay to own an AR-15, Uzi, or other assault-grade weapon for fun.

Now, I agree with part of the above statement — taking away the right to defend oneself is going too far. The solution is not to remove all firearms. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Let me explain something, first.

There are currently two firearms in my house – a pistol and a .45 muzzle loader. Both belonged to my father. The pistol is a six-shot revolver, by the way. Simple, but effective. There’s also a box of hollow-point bullets to go with it locked safely away. I, personally, have never fired either. I know how, mind you, so if you come into my house without asking you take your life into your own hands because (1) you don’t know where in the house they are, (2) you don’t know where I am, and (3) you don’t have a clue if I’m going to be in a bad mood or not.

You see, my Daddy was a huge hunk of Grade-A, USDA Certified Country-Boy Meat, and he taught me well when I was very young. Though I haven’t used that firearm knowledge in years, it doesn’t mean I don’t still have it. I have great respect for firearms, and to a certain extent I fear them. They are capable of causing great damage in the hands of the wrong people. They can save lives as well as take them away. I get that.

I live in South Carolina, so weapons registration isn’t a requirement. My guns aren’t registered. However, they can and will be very easily if the PEOPLE IN CHARGE so decide that it needs to happen. I don’t have any problem at all taking them in for registration. If that’s going to save even one life, then it’s worth it to me.

Back to my point.

In a perfect world where they could all be gone in the blink of an eye, yes…I’d love to see guns go away for good. But this isn’t that world. It’s the real world.

So no, I don’t think it’s fair to remove firearms from the hands of law-abiding citizens completely. I do, however, feel that some change is necessary. And not all of it has to do directly with the right to bear arms.

Now for the part of this that’s gonna piss people off…

NO CIVILIAN NEEDS AN ASSAULT WEAPON. Period. End of discussion. They were made for the specific purpose of killing PEOPLE. And it seems, more recently, CHILDREN.

Someone told me one time he uses an AR-15 to hunt because he has coyotes near his house. You can kill a coyote just as easily with a single-barrel shotgun. If you’re a bad enough shot that you need high capacity rounds, then you probably don’t need to be playing with a gun. If you have a “collection” of weapons (as in three or more on display), that collection needs to be under supervision and locked away from the hands of those who don’t own them.

BUT.

But… but there’s more to it, yes. Registering weapons and limiting the availability of certain types only solves part of the problem.

Yes, people kill each other with more than just guns.

If you want to keep people from killing each other, you’re probably going to have to just kill everyone on the planet and be done with it. If I so choose, I can kill a person with a pillowcase. Or a frying pan. Or a car. Poison. Kitchen Twine. A toothbrush. A bomb. A brick. A baseball bat. A spoon. My bare fucking hands! The possibilities are endless. Human ingenuity is an amazing trait. We, as a species, have the ability to manufacture tools from common objects to get any job done. That’s how the industrial age started.

Did you know it takes 5 psi to crush a windpipe and effectively suffocate someone? My mother could do that one-handed. Yeah, it’s THAT easy.

I’m a writer. I know these things.

BUT IT HAS NO BEARING ON GUN VIOLENCE. None at all. Apples and orangutans. I can’t go into a school with a baseball bat and a sword and do the same amount of damage as I would with an assault rifle. I might injure a couple of people…even manage to kill one if I catch an artery. Even then, the other sixteen are still alive.

But there’s a bigger problem than the gun nuts and their impinged rights.

Our Government.

The assholes driving this flaming shitshow don’t care. Not even a little. They got paid already, and they have no conscience. And that useless, lumpy bag of dicks we’re supposed to call a president has exacerbated the horrors of a corrupt government with every breath he’s taken in the last 16 months. That idiot never should have been given the kind of power he has, and the sooner it’s taken from him, the better.

Our legislators – so far removed from real life so not to be personally affected by any of this – offer empty condolences, pretend to pray, and go right back to quietly stripping the people of their basic rights while waving a red flag in front of things that should ultimately be non-issues.

Who the fuck cares what bathroom someone uses or what color my neighbor’s skin is or what direction he faces when he prays? I certainly don’t.

We all bleed red.

Case in point: CHLDREN ARE FUCKING DYING AND YOU’RE LETTING IT HAPPEN, YOU IGNORANT TWATS. Those children and their grieving families are innocent. They’re not to blame for going to school and trying to become something more.  They aren’t in the wrong for being young and joking with their friends. They should be worrying about history tests and prom, not lockdown drills and final messages to their mothers from a closet.

They’re cattle in a killing field right now because our lawmakers are uncomfortable with the truth.

That truth is ugly…lax laws lead to massacre and the NRA fighting against protective regulations lines it up to land squarely in terrorist territory.

No, we can’t stop all gun violence in this country right now. But doing nothing isn’t gonna make it better. Inaction perpetuates the violence. Using black market trading as an excuse is a stupid argument. It’s a cop out, and even suggesting that illegal activity begets inaction means you’re a fucking idiot.

One more time for the people in the back: SUGGESTING THAT ILLEGAL ACTIVITY BEGETS INACTION MEANS YOU’RE A COMPLETE FUCKING IDIOT. Do with that what you will.

Yeah, people still commit crimes. But by this flawed logic, the police should sit in the station playing canasta because their presence isn’t a deterrent to thieves. Hospitals should shut down because people will always continue to get hurt.

Which is insane.

Now, the solution… we take baby steps. There has to be common ground before real change happens. Forget the loudmouths at either end of the spectrum. They’ll still be standing on the sidelines screaming offense no matter what you do.

Here’s how this should go down:

  1. Both sides take a breather, have a glass of water and a sandwich, and CALM THE FUCK DOWN. ‘Kay? Can we do that? Good.
  2. Find the source of the problem, be it mental health, firearm education, more stringent acquisitions, limitation of allowable firearms, or a combination of these and other factors yet to be decided.
  3. Civilized discussion. Again, it’s a stretch…but it’s what needs to happen. Whether we agree with the opinions or not, they need to be heard and taken seriously on all sides. Being civilized is the only way to reduce the risk.
  4. Accept now that both sides have to compromise. In order to make this work, we have to come together as a community and sort out what portions of the issue need regulation and what can go on as is.
  5. Write regulations that are fair to both sides – which allow the retention and use of firearms but protect innocents from slaughter. Create education programs. Tighten up acquisitions. Limit availability of assault weapons.

The one thing both sides need to remember going into this is that firearms are powerful. They’re a huge responsibility, and not everyone is qualified to own and operate them. You don’t get a driver’s license without first exhibiting your ability to operate a motor vehicle. You can’t fly a plane without proving you won’t crash it. You can’t practice law unless you KNOW the law. You aren’t a surgeon because you want to be; you’re a surgeon because you train extensively for it.

It’s going to take time and effort, and those of us who know change is necessary continuing to loudly demand change. The solution will not be instant, but it’s there, waiting to be discovered.

And don’t talk to me about arming teachers as a solution. Those poor souls have enough on their shoulders without having to worry about a handgun in a kindergarten classroom. That’s one more burden they don’t need, and makes the classrooms LESS safe. Besides, when the guy with the AR comes through the door blowing everyone to shit, the teacher is going to be too busy herding the kids into a dark corner or closet to unlock a box, flip the safety, and go find the bastard doing it. That’s ludicrous and you’re an idiot for thinking it.

“But now isn’t the time to talk about the laws…”

Fuck that noise. Right now is exactly the time to talk about it. While emotions are high and it’s fresh in everyone’s minds. While we all know the horror of wondering how many CHILDREN survived that unimaginable atrocity. While we remember who we’re fighting for.

But “don’t tread on me”!

I’ll stomp all over your motherfucking face if it means my daughters stay safe. And when I’m done, you’ll beg me for more, bitch.

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Just Pay the Writer Already!

There’s been much controversy this week over whether artists should be paid for their work. Until now I’ve remained silent because I didn’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction. I wanted to know my facts and present sound evidence as to why these arguments are so ludicrous.

Some of those arguments include:

  • I can’t afford to buy books because I don’t make much money. [Understandable, but not an excuse. KU is cheaper than Netflix, btw.]
  • I deserve to read any book I want without paying for it because I’m a special snowflake [yes, I’m paraphrasing this one specifically to be spiteful].
  • Authors shouldn’t make the same amount for the first copy as they do for the 500th since each copy isn’t a new item. [Let’s address this in a minute.]
  • Art should be free for everyone to enjoy. [And some art is. Enjoy that.]
  • If an artist wants to be paid he/she should get a patron. [Ha!]
  • I’m not really stealing. I just downloaded it from someone who did steal it.

Let’s address that last point:

Yes, 95% of us on the internet are guilty of downloading illegal content at some point in our lives. My point here is not to villainize those who don’t know any better. It’s to educate people so they understand why what they’re doing is wrong. Sadly, the majority of those involved in this self-entitlement hoohah are too young to remember the Napster incident. I admittedly still chuckle at the Napster Bad videos and comics making fun of Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield from Metallica. On a serious note, while they may appear more Neanderthal than man, they do have a point. File sharing sites are bad, because they subvert the system.

First and foremost: COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS ILLEGAL. ACQUIRING PHYSICAL OR DIGITAL GOODS WITHOUT PAYMENT UNLESS RECOGNIZED AND PROVIDED AS A GIFT BY THE OWNER OR CREATOR IS THEFT. It does not matter if you’re just getting it from someone else; you’re still stealing. You can go to jail for this, and you will deserve it.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, sweetness, but that’s the cold, hard truth. Your “innocent” actions are breaking the law. You aren’t special. You can’t break the rules and expect preferential treatment [We are not even going to talk about that little jackass rapist in the news right now or I will have a stroke.]. END. OF. DISCUSSION.

PoePoe
Because we need some levity. And because the police are coming for you, you damned, dirty thief.

MOVING ON.

I sat down and did something very unusual for a literary type: I did math. [Insert awestruck gasps here.] Anyone who has a job should be able to appreciate what’s coming. This is a salary breakdown for writers. We as artists would love nothing more than to make our art our full-time jobs, but most non-artistics don’t understand just how much work goes into the things they think don’t deserve a price tag. So let me break it down for you.

THE NOVEL:

Let’s assume I write one novel which tops out at 80,000 words, and I’m going to publish this novel in a traditional manner (i.e. through a publisher, small or otherwise). This means I’m not paying for edits, artwork, or formatting.

Now, let’s assume I’m an average-speed writer, fairly clean. I’m going to write 1,000 words per hour for decent copy. First novel draft: 80 hours of work.

Now we have revisions. Assuming clean copy and minimal self-editing is required on my part, we’re going to estimate another 15 hours for reading and revising. Accumulated total: 95 hours.

Then I hand my labor of love over to the publisher. I will then have at least one, possibly two or three, more rounds of edits with a professional editor. Let’s assume two rounds of edits at another 15 hours each. That’s 30 additional hours of work for this one book. Then it’s released into the wild.

Final total: 125 production hours.

For one book. Base rate. We aren’t going to factor into this the endless hours of promotion which goes with the successful release of a novel. Right now it’s irrelevant and the cost will increase so exponentially it will outweigh the benefit of writing the book. Today we’re figuring out how a writer can be full-time based on today’s financial standards JUST BY WRITING BOOKS.

THE CONTRACT:

Say my publisher is a generous one and offers me 40% of the net royalties for my book. If we list this ebook on Amazon at $3.99 (which, by the way, is MORE THAN FAIR for an 80,000 word novel), Amazon is going to pay the publisher at a 70% royalty rate, or roughly $2.80 per domestic copy. This, in turn, means I’m going to see approximately $1.12 per copy sold.

US LABOR STANDARDS:

Minimum wage in the United States is currently $7.25. This means the average full-time minimum wage worker brings home $15,080 per year, pre-tax. Net income is going to hang out somewhere around the $12,000 mark.

Now, let’s compare minimum wage standards to a single title, shall we?

THE UGLY TRUTH:

125 hours at $7.25/hour is $906.25 pre-tax. Once we make it, we’re going to have to put back 20-30% to pay our taxes because we’re contractors, not on payroll.

Assuming we’re steadily selling books, that’s 809.16 copies sold in a year JUST TO BREAK EVEN.

Now there’s a national movement to raise minimum wage to $15/hour because we’ve firmly established that American inflation rates make it impossible to support a family on $15,000/year. Let’s revisit the numbers under this new standard.

$15/hour means a gross annual income of $31,200 pre-tax.

125 hours at $15/hour is $1,875.00

That’s 1,674 copies I have to sell in one year. 140 copies per month.

This means an author making minimum wage writing full-time (while only being reimbursed for the time accrued by writing and editing) would have to publish 16 ½ novels a year. That’s 1,320 hours of work to produce enough fiction to make a living.

Unless an author is already established with a wide following, selling 1,700 copies of a book will take longer than a year. The average indie author is selling somewhere between 5 and 50 copies a month. Which means assuming the best (50 copies per month), we have to triple our output to 49 books per year. 

3,920 hours of work in one year to make a lower-middle class salary.

Let me point out here that a full time job consists of 2,080 hours of work per year. 40 hours per week for 52 weeks. That means to break even at “minimum wage” standards, we authors have to work 1,840 hours more per year than the average fry slinger at Mickey D’s without receiving overtime pay. That’s 75.39 hours of work per week to make the same money you make in 40… with no guarantees that we’ll even meet that minimum.

So please allow me to call bullshit on this self-righteous notion of art for art’s sake. You can take that shit back to MGM and let them keep it on their logo.

To those who want to say an author’s work should be prorated and they should make less per copy the more copies they sell, I pose this question to you: how would you feel if your boss approached you today and told you the following: “Yeah, we really like your work but you’ve been here several years and we’ve already paid you your value. We’re going to start paying you less money for each hour you work.”

You’re pissed just thinking about it, aren’t you? It’s unfair, right? Well guess what, sugarbritches… THAT is EXACTLY what you’ve suggested for us. It’s disgusting. It’s despicable. And to us, you’re now an asshole.

These epithets aren’t coming from the minimum-wage crowd, either. This is coming from the middle class – people who have the luxury of cars, cell phones, blu-ray players, coffee addictions, and expensive hobbies. You can pay $5 for a cup of coffee to enjoy once, but you’re too damned cheap to spend $3 on a book which will last forever? If that’s the case, then you don’t need the book. And if you’re willing to go to jail over $3, then please have a nice life, wherever it may lead you.

By the way, the days of patrons are pretty much over. The plebeians don’t need the support of the patricians because they can do most of the work themselves. That and the patricians tend to be the ones demanding freebies, so your argument is invalid.

This is why you need to stop poor-mouthing and pay the damned writer.

But you still want free books because somewhere five years ago your mama told you that you were special and you can have anything you want. Well, you can. And you want to know how to get them?

Become a book reviewer. Reviews are a form of currency in the literary world. Most authors and publishers are more than happy to hand over free books to reviewers – to people who actually leave reviews. Unfortunately, Amazon’s system is built on a review-based algorithm, meaning books with more reviews receive more visible promotion space. If you leave a review, good or bad, you’re helping that author.

Even if you insist on stealing the book to read, the least you can do is review it. If you refuse to pay money, you can significantly lower your douchebaggery level by giving two minutes of your time. And for god’s sake…don’t tell the writer you think all of their stuff should be free and pirate sites are a good thing.

There’s a pretty good chance you’ll get punched in the face.

Manic Monday: State of the (Writing) Union Address

Guys, I’m having a moment, and it’s not pretty.

So I found myself wandering through the digital racks of Amazon this morning, perusing the freebies in the hopes that I might find a fun new author (like I really need ANOTHER book to read) or discover interesting new concepts not yet apparent to this world. Unfortunately, the farther I wandered, the more disheartening and, quite frankly, disgusting, it became.

People are giving away their blood, sweat, tears, and time for chump change. Books are releasing and within a month have hundreds upon hundreds of glowing reviews – none of which come from verified purchases, mind you. From my research, the majority of the verified purchases appear to give these “masterpieces” one star and generally tell prospective readers the equivalent of don’t freaking bother.

All the goodies are hanging out there, cheap and/or free, in the hopes someone might stumble by and happen to snatch that particular piece of low-hanging fruit.

Now we all know I’m not the world’s best or most prolific author. At this point in my game, if I’m completely honest with myself and y’all, I’m still struggling to attain mid-list mediocrity. My own fault, yes, but that’s another rant for another day.

I bust my butt to produce quality work and I take pride in the finished product. I’m not out there schlock-hocking, writing to a formula or a trend for the sake of making a buck. I don’t just slather words on a page and slap a pair of half-naked people on it to throw up on Amazon for free just to get attention. I’m doing my best to do this the right way.

[Pause: I’m not saying self-publishing isn’t the right way because (1) I’ve done that too, and (2) there is no right way to go about publishing… what I’m saying is I make sure my work meets a certain standard in editing, artwork, and overall production, which is what readers deserve.]

The problem I have is this:

I just find myself dumbfounded time and again at the low quality and lack of concern people have for literature. Everyone and her best friend seems to be thinking these days, “Oh, I need to make a quick buck. I’ll just go write a book and be a bestseller!” And you know what, kids? Goshdarnit, it just don’t work that way.

I hate to break it to you, but not everyone in the world is cut out to be an author. You might have the best, most original idea ever conceived, but I have a pretty strict policy around here – if you don’t have at least a basic grasp of grammar, punctuation, and dialogue, you are not a writer. And you’re dragging down the quality of something I love, so step off.

Writing truly is a dying art. And that cold, sad fact makes me want to sit down and cry fat, ugly tears. This rise in I-can-do-it-myself-ness has made a complete mockery of what we as professional authors do.

Guys, we can’t let this stand. We have to take back our craft, to rise above the masses of people scrabbling for the petty change at the bottom of the basket. It’s going to take some work, but we can do it if we stick together and demand that change.

Screw that… we’re not going to demand change and wait for it to happen. We’re going to make the change.

Well, yes…but how?

I’m so very glad you asked! It appears the problems with our market boil down to five simple rules, and we’re so busy keeping up with the Joneses that we’ve lost track of what’s important.

1. DON’T GIVE AWAY THE GOODS.

no-freebies-480_thumbMy mother is a voracious reader. So am I. So are the people by whom I’m surrounded. Yes, we do troll the bargain bins from time to time, but that isn’t where we spend the majority of our lives.

We, as respectable authors, need to step out of the cheap-trap. If our work is truly worth its salt, then we need to recognize and respect it by not giving it away. Promotions are one thing – go ahead and have a freebie week to gain interest. Give a short story away as a teaser. But don’t fork over a three-novel set for $.99 because you think it’s going to get you somewhere. By giving away your best work, your readers will come to expect it of you. Now that’s not to say a short story can’t live at that $.99 mark for it’s entire life. But you don’t want to take that kind of horrible cut on a novel. You’ll never get anywhere like that.

Price your books accordingly. Let the tramps have their pennies. Eventually the readers will tire of wasting good money on subpar writing and start looking back toward the more reasonably-priced works, where you’ll be hanging out in the henhouse with us.

2. DON’T FALL INTO THE NICHE TRAP.

Let’s face it…by the time we recognize a trend, we’re already behind it. Unless you’re writing ten of everything out there right now in the hopes the market will circle back around to your favorite type of critter, you’re never going to be that guy who writes that book and becomes the next Stephenie Meyer. Writing to the market may make a few people marginally successful for a month or two, but it’s never going to sustain a career for anyone. Rather than doing what’s already been done, we should be focusing our strength and energy on creating the next thing. We should be writing the books which will define the new trends, not follow in the footsteps of someone else. Sure, werepenguins are the hot thing right now, but that doesn’t mean the wereskunk will follow.

Be original. Write your own story, and let the trendy schlockfest continue without your participation. Make yourself that new and different thing everyone wants to read.

3. HIRE SOME OUTSIDE HELP.

You need an editor. You need a professional cover. You need proper formatting.

I repeat: You need an editor. You need a professional cover. You need proper formatting.

Should I say it again? Because I will. And here’s why you need those things:

Because if you’re fighting the good fight, you want to put your best foot forward. A reader is not going to want to pay fair market value for an unreadable turd, which is why a professional product is the bet thing we can ask for at the end. Yes, sometimes it’s a pretty hefty outlay of cash on the front end, particularly for good editing, but it’s worth it in the end [this is where the credit publishers never get comes into play…they pay all of this for you so you don’t have to]. A professional product will go the distance and will likely suffer less returns than an unpolished hunk of words.

I learned to format out of necessity. I had a background in digital artwork so I was ahead of the curve with covers. I got lucky in that one of my good friends has a Master’s degree in English and will cut me a break. I also offer these services to other authors for reasonable rates because I want others to succeed. I can’t fix your technical ability, but I can make your book pretty.

Your readers deserve quality, so give it to them.

4. DO NOT PURCHASE REVIEWS. EVER.

Product_review1.jpgThe Perfect Review DOES NOT EXIST.

You might think you’re doing yourself a favor and putting yourself ahead of the game, but YOU AREN’T. Trust me on this… if you’re going to shell out huge chunks of cash for something, see Step 3. A review from a verified purchase is going to go much farther than some nobody giving you the digital equivalent of a tongue bath. Because the dirty little secret is this: 300 good reviews from a questionable origin will not hold a candle to that one verified critical review. Readers who consider reviews are going to read those low ratings first because those are the ones which tell the truth.

Now that’s not to say you can’t offer your book to reviewers for an honest review. I’ve done that. Yeah, it’s bitten me in the butt a time or two, but you know what? I’d rather have an honest opinion than a “OMGILOVEITSOOOOOOOMUCH” review any day. You know why? Because honest reviews keep me honest, and show me my mistakes so I can learn from them.

Expend your resources elsewhere, kids. You owe it to yourself to be honest.

5. WRITE WHAT YOU WANT TO READ.

I believe this, above all others, is the most important rule. If you aren’t enjoying what you’re writing, how can anyone else enjoy reading it? Writing on autopilot reads on autopilot. Believe me, I’ve read enough poorly-executed, trend-trailing garbage to know the difference between a story with heart and a kc-readstory for cash. I love reading as much as I love writing, and I often find myself disappointed by what I’m reading because it doesn’t share the love I feel for the craft. Emotion plays heavily into writing. I want to feel what the characters feel and see what they do. I don’t want to go through the motions of being in love because this chick is supposed to fall for this half-vampire werepanther. If she’s going to be in love with something so sensational, I want to suspend my disbelief and be in love with her. Likewise, if a psycho clown is on a killing spree in my bedroom, damn it I want to feel like I’m next.

We’re readers, not statistics. We aren’t dollar signs. And if we aren’t willing to pick up what we’ve written and read it, then we’re writing the wrong thing. As I said, it’s time to take it back, to do what we love for the sake of the craft. This…this is how we’re going to do it. We have to rise above, to band together and stay strong.

Yes, the market sucks at the moment. But with persistence and forcing quality back into our products, we can turn that around. Who’s with me?

Things Which Shouldn’t be Things That Actually Are Things

As the title of this post suggests, I’ve had a new inner mantra these days.

“Jeebus…why is that even a thing?”

screaming girl

I find myself constantly amazed, annoyed, disgusted… in Gordon Ramsay’s words, Gobsmacked, by the world around me. Things keep happening on all fronts, and I can’t seem to wrap my head around these goings-on and still function properly.

[Warning: angry speech and profanity ahead. Continue at your own risk.]

I’ve been pretty silent lately (okay, completely silent), but as I’ve said in the past, my mother always taught me to keep my trap shut if I couldn’t be nice. Seeing as how she’s been living with me these last few months while we were having the work finished on her new house, I’d probably do well to abide by her suggestions since she can do things to me in my sleep now.

[When she reads this, she’s going to laugh and yell at me for it, but that’s okay.]

This post will probably offend everyone at one time because, well, that’s just how I roll lately. Most of these things probably shouldn’t be a thing, but they are, and they annoy me. And this is my blog. And before we get started, watch this. It’s kinda true:

[Disclaimer: I’m not actually a mean person. I am, however, VERY pregnant and highly annoyed. I’m tired of everyone feeling so entitled to change everyone else’s worlds just because something hurts their feelings, like it’s going to make a bit of freaking difference in the long run. Everyone has a right to be offended, but the people doing the offending also have a right to their opinions. So everyone really just needs to suck it up and sit the hell down. And for the love of Pete, get over it already!]

So now that everyone is properly pissed off, let’s begin, shall we?

5 THINGS THAT SHOULDN’T BE THINGS

1. The Confederate Flag Debate: Seriously. I’m glad people finally had the good sense to take the flag down. I hate that 9 good people had to lose their lives senselessly for it to happen though. This should have happened 60 years ago. Contrary to the redneck mentality (and yes I can say that because I am the daughter of a card-carrying redneck southern boy, God rest his poor soul), it is an offensive and highly inappropriate symbol of a horrible time in this country’s bloody history. Do I think all Confederate monuments, graves, and paraphernalia should be wiped clean from the books? Hell no. By trying to erase the past, future generations won’t learn from it. Put the damned flag in a museum and shut up about it already.

Side Rant: You see, Charleston is my home. In my previous life as an employee of the Diocese of Charleston and a student at the College of Charleston, I had the pleasure of meeting the Reverend-Senator more than once. He was a good man and neither he nor his congregation deserved the things that happened to them. The dumbass who did it shouldn’t be hailed as a hero or a martyr or a poster-child for any racist faction. He’s a dumb kid who was taught to hate people for no reason. He’s a criminal and should be treated as such. End. of. Discussion. No, he doesn’t need to be lynched in the street. No, he doesn’t need to be set on fire. He needs to pass through the system just as every other criminal should, be tried, convicted, and sentenced. Reverend Pinckney would likely have been appalled by the threats of vigilante violence against the kid. If memory serves, he was one who campaigned against violence in the first place.

2. Kindle Unlimited: Okay, so Amazon sucks giant, hairy donkey balls. We know this. We have known it for awhile. Amazon is almost single-handledly responsible for the destruction of the literary market because their platform allows anyone to publish anything at any time for any reason without guidelines or regulations in place to keep the work at a minimum standard. I’m a writer; I’ve studied this market. And yeah, it sucks. So, in a maneuver to combat the shitstorm they started, Amazon is looking for new and improved ways to boost their sales while simultaneously trying to bork the authors out of their royalties. WE SAW THIS COMING, PEOPLE. So now that a bunch of people bought into Amazon’s hype and allowed the consumerist hydra to grow yet another head, we all want to be hurt, horrified, and offended by their dickheadedness. Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t the literary market always been about the publisher making the money while stealing shamelessly from the artist? You want to stop the insanity? Opt out of KU and move on with your life. Createspace ain’t the only print-publishing platform out there.

HOWEVER, let me play Devil’s Advocate here: I’ve talked to several authors who are in the KU program. The deal here is KU pays the author based on number of pages read. So yeah, if you’re churning out crap for the sake of doing it thinking you’re gonna make a buck, then no you probably won’t make money. If people go into the book, read two pages, and walk away because they’re bored or irritate or, heaven forbid, the writing is so atrocious they can’t read it, then you get paid for two pages read, not the other fifty. Though if you take your time and write something good, chances are the readers will be hooked and your whole book will be read. This is happening to quite a few people I know, and the preliminary research shows the KU rates for a completed book are actually better than standard KDP rates.

3. Rape Culture: Yep, I’m going there. RAPE CULTURE IS NOT A THING, PEOPLE. It’s a tag placed on a horrible reality by a bunch of entitled assholes who don’t want to admit that the things they’re doing are wrong. Rape is not a culture. It’s a crime. And I’m so terribly effing sorry, but looking at women and saying “Oh, well just don’t get raped” ain’t gonna fix the problem. Yer gonna have to teach the people doing the raping that why yes, it is actually A BAD THING. There shouldn’t be questions of consent. There shouldn’t be blurred lines. Victims shouldn’t be villainized. Rape is rape is rape is rape is rape. It’s illegal. It’s bad. It’s traumatic. It’s horrible. And rapists deserve all the punishment this world has yet to conceive of. I don’t give a flying f*** how much money you have, who you are, or how pretty you might be. You take away another person’s right to choose to have sex with you, then you’re a rapist. End of story. You have no goddamned argument anymore, so STFU and go to freaking jail, you prick.

I’m just gonna put this out there: Bill Cosby, funny as his comedy may be, is a rapist. Was I sorry to see the truth come out? A little, because I grew up watching The Cosby Show and a tiny part of my childhood died that day. But the fact remains, he drugged women, thereby removing their ability to consent to sex, which means *gasp* HE’S A GODDAMNED RAPIST. Don’t sugar-coat that shit just because he’s famous or old. Apples are still apples, no matter how you paint them, folks.

4. Race & Gender as Factors in Writing Ability: So this one really tweaks my ass. Hard. And let me be perfectly clear up front – this has NOTHING to do with racial or gender bias. I’m a woman, damn it. I know what discrimination is because I do write in the speculative fiction realm. Yes, I go play in the boys’ sandbox, and you know what? I’m pretty damned good at it. I know I am. I don’t need validation or vindication. But what I do need is for all the trolls out there to sit down and shut the hell up because ninety-five percent of them don’t have a freaking clue what the hell they’re talking about. It pisses me off that this has to be a thing because it shouldn’t. Who or what someone may be should have absolutely no bearing on his or her ability to do anything. Everyone talks about how this country has swung so far into PC-land that everyone is afraid to talk about certain things.

That’s sooooooo not true.

It appears race and gender are the two things everyone is hellbent on screaming the loudest about, and both topics, to be perfectly honest, should be non-issues.

So here’s my actual gripe: It doesn’t matter what gender or race you are…unless you’re an A-list author with a rabid following writing for a large press and have been doing so for years, you are not making money as a speculative fiction author. The market sucks. It does. It just really and truly sucks for all of us. We’re all struggling. People just don’t read anymore unless it’s some half-assed young adult romance or badly written pseudo-mainstream BDSM. I think Stephen King might actually be the only non-romance genre writer still making money today.

Am I a woman? Yes.
Am I ashamed of that? No.
Do I advertise it widely? Not really.
Why? Because it isn’t necessary.

A good book is a good book, and I personally don’t care what the author looks like. Coincidentally, one of the best genre writers I know is an African-American woman. She’s a beautiful person inside and out with talent coming out of her ears. When she’s finally “discovered”, this world will never be the same. [But don’t take my word for it…go see for yourself.]

Lexxx and I had this conversation the other day because we have so many friends caught in this trap. It really upsets me to think these people who are so talented aren’t allowed to believe in themselves due to this stupid social bias. I get angry every time I think about it.

For what it’s worth, here’s my advice to every non-white-male speculative fiction author: Presenting your specific race or gender as a marketing tool shouldn’t be necessary. Promote your work as your work and let it shine. Don’t pigeonhole yourself to prove a point that most of the population is going to just ignore anyway. Oh, and one more thing… if you’re concerned about a person buying a book based on your photo, chances are that’s not the type of reader you want in the first place.

5. Gay Marriage: LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

Before you come after me with the torches and pitchforks, shut up and listen for a minute. This is probably the thing that should be the least of a thing there is right now. Why? Because we’re talking about BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS. The ability of two people, regardless of who or what they are, to engage in a civil union, shouldn’t even be open for discussion. The supreme court said it’s a constitutional right, so LET IT GO ALREADY. And all the religious nutbags out there screaming that their constitutional rights are at stake (1) clearly don’t understand those rights and (2) are dumb as hell. Just because the supreme court ruled that gay couples can’t be denied a marriage license doesn’t mean they’re forcing the clergy to perform those ceremonies. Besides, the officiant is more scenery than substance at a wedding anyway. As soon as you have the marriage license in hand, you’re married. You don’t need a preacher. You just need a notary public. That’s just how it is. All they’re saying is that the government can’t discriminate when it comes to the issuance of a marriage license. Because let’s face it, it may not involve skin color, but it’s still effing discrimination. Might I remind everyone that Separation of Church and State was implemented in the founding of this country FOR A REASON? Seriously. Feds don’t control churches. Likewise, churches can’t control the feds. Nor should they think they’re important enough to try (Yes, I’m looking at you, Texas.).

Oh, and if you can’t tell, I completely support gay marriage. Some of my best friends and favorite colleagues are of “alternate lifestyles” and I love them all like family. If they want to get married and be as miserable as the rest of us married schmucks, more power to them. Oh, and once my Notary application is finished processing and my license is issued, yes, I’ll be more than happy to officiate.

So there you have it. None of these things should be things, but they are because common sense seems to be lost among the trolls. And now that everyone is sufficiently offended, I’m going to go do something constructive.

Media Freakshow

A friend of mine went off in a blog post awhile back about how Southerners are portrayed as toothless hicks in reality television these days.  I sort of went off on a smaller rant in her comments, but the point is we think the same way. For those that are curious, Alexandra Christian’s Post is the one I’m talking about.

All of this resurfaced yesterday when a coworker brought in a picture of his jacked-up truck he had custom made to haul his lawn care equipment… all he could talk about was how it made him feel like one of the Beverly Hillbillies… and oh, boy did I want to cuss.

I didn’t. I behaved myself. But now all bets are off. It’s bugging the crap out of me. Between that ridiculous image and the constant smear of anti-southerner television filth, I’m about to blow my top.

What irritates me the most about not just the southern-fried reality shows but ANY of them is the fact that they’re contributing to the de-education of American society. I’ve got a whole list of issues with reality television. Hold onto your hats, kids, because Imma go off…

 

MY ISSUES WITH REALITY TELEVISION:

1. Children Should Not Be Watching It. With the problems the United States has involving education and keeping kids in school up to and through college, many of these shows paint a very negative image of society. The impression kids get from this drivel is something along the lines of “well, why should I finish school? These people are stupid and they got rich by making a TV show. I’m going to do the same thing…”  I’m sorry… WRONG.  Yes, some of the shows portray very successful business people running companies they created, but far more are detrimental to society’s well-being.

2. Children Should Not Be Whored Up And Paraded Around. I cannot imagine the mindset of a mother who is willing to dress her child up like a hooker and put her on stage for other people to judge. Repeatedly. WHEN THE CHILD IS BEGGING NOT TO BE UP THERE. I take issue with children’s beauty pageants on a fundamental level that goes far beyond what is shown on syndicated television. Some of the parents on those shows, to me, are candidates for a very long prison sentence for child abuse. Teaching a young child that physical image is the most important attribute in his or her life is wrong. Those kids need to be out playing with their friends and sitting in class at school learning skills to function in adult society, not being forced to sit through hours of grueling preparation for ten minutes on a catwalk with too much makeup on. The failed beauty queen moms really need to get over themselves and get new obsessions because let’s face it… getting pissed off at your six-year-old because she turns left instead of right while she’s dancing complicated choreography is stupid as hell.

3. Noodling and Gator Hunting ARE DANGEROUS. Yes, these are serious sports and/or jobs for people. No, not every person participating in these activities is as backwoods and half-witted as some of the people showcased in these series. Not everyone speaks with an accent that should have subtitles. Not everyone is willing to jump out of a boat into a river to chase a maneating beast. We do have technology here, and we do read books.

4. IT IS NOT FAIR TO CATEGORIZE AN ENTIRE CULTURE BY THE STUPIDITY OF A FEW PEOPLE. Besides, most of this crap is scripted by producers to up the entertainment-factor. Do you really think those people find all that stuff in abandoned storage lockers? Is it realistic to believe that every single recovery job means the owner of the repossessed vehicle is going to throw things and act like an untrained baboon? HELL NO. It’s the producers. All of it. It’s what you call “False Advertising”, and I can’t take it anymore.

5. There’s no imagination. None. At all. People don’t have to think about it. They just have to sit in front of the boob tube and be amused. Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Producer… I want something that’s going to challenge my brain, not turn it to mush.
See?  I told you I was gonna go off. I couldn’t help it… I had to get it out or I was actually going to explode. Normally this would be the point in my post where I tell you to buy my book, but chances are I haven’t made very many fans today. Sorry kids… them’s the breaks. I’m opinionated and loud.

Most people don’t hold that against me, though.

Writer’s Block…Not Just an Excuse

So I reappeared in the world late last week and while I was writing that post I realized that I had a rant to share with the world. It’s sort of apropos considering November is National Novel Writing Month and we’re half-way through it. I’m sure at this point there are lots of writers out there who need a little bit of encouragement and they’re feeling that mid-project slump. I know it well.. and yes, it will pass. I promise.

As for the rant, it’s obviously my opinion, but I think it’s a pretty legitimate one. People shouldn’t feel bad about the inability to write, and I’m going to tell you why. This rant, ladies and germs, is about

WRITER’S BLOCK

I’ve been to lots of conventions and I’ve heard lots of arguments on this subject. Some I agree with, and some I don’t.

Let’s start with the arguments I don’t agree with:

1. It’s an excuse people use for being lazy.

2. It doesn’t exist.

3. It’s a creation of the mind and is easily overcome.

4. It’s not real. It just means you don’t know what you’re doing.

Of those four, the first one makes me irrationally angry… to the point where I did, in fact, blast a fellow author in the middle of a panel for spitting that out with such snot-nosed conviction that it made the audience uncomfortable. I don’t think it was the statement so much as the way it was said. I’m sorry, but when you’re on a panel and telling people your methods for writing and how to become one, you can’t be mean about things like this… and in the writing world this one is a pretty hot topic.

Here’s how I see it…

Writer’s Block is absolutely real. It isn’t one specific thing, though. It’s the term any writer gives to a situation that blocks him or her from accomplishing the task of putting words on paper. Whether it’s a form of depression or a busy workload or school or research or even exhaustion, it doesn’t matter. If it stops me from writing, it’s a block.

Depression is a big one. Trust me on that, I know well.

Looking at the big picture, Writer’s Block is an undefined variable in the life of an author. It’s the name you give to your current problem. It’s how you easily explain to a reader/author/agent/editor/publisher/whoever why you haven’t been able to write something.

Laziness is not classified as Writer’s Block as some would have you believe. Laziness is laziness, and every writer knows that. If I want to procrastinate, then damn it I’m going to procrastinate and I know full well that it isn’t Writer’s Block.

And no, not every author knows all the time where every single story goes. When you get hopelessly stuck on a story and you don’t know where to go next, yes, that is a form of Writer’s Block as well. IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.  Not every writer adheres to that formulaic philosophy. Some of us like to wing it and we have unconventional ideas. There isn’t a thing wrong with that, even if it means we don’t always get to the end of the story as fast as a hardcore plotter.

Personally, that’s the point when I put down the pen and walk away for a few minutes. I go cook, or I go for a walk, or I go play video games. And then I come back to the story and if I still can’t fix it, I move on to the next project until that one unlocks. There’s a reason I have so many projects going at once.

My response to “I don’t have writer’s block because I don’t believe in it. I never have trouble” is this… if you don’t occasionally stumble over something or get stuck on something at some point, chances are the story is too safe. It’s too easy. There has to be something in it that keeps you writing, because if you’re anything like me, you’re going to be just as excited about discovering the story while writing it as you would be if you were the one reading it.

No, I don’t go into a story without a single clue as to what’s going to happen, but sometimes my characters take turns I didn’t expect. Sometimes situations arise and things happen that I didn’t originally consider, and it makes me take a step back and reconsider my position in the story. And that, kids, takes time.

I might not be the fastest writer in the world, but you know what? I’m a good writer. And I’ll take being good over being fast any day, even if it means someone might tell me that my reasons for not being fast don’t exist.