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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#Romance Writers are Not Beneath You

Of all the things I have in mind to write about now that I’m reviving the blog, this one got shoved to the forefront. A comment was made in a writing group on Facebook the week before last that nearly set my hair on fire. Someone asked a question about why it takes so long to write a novel.

Most of the responses were decent enough – day jobs, families, every writer being different, etc.  Then there was one…

“Romance novels take like a week or two. I’d guess most others take a few months.”

My initial response was less than professional. I immediately wanted to tear the guy a new asshole in thirty different ways. I wanted to point out all the issues with that statement and how obnoxiously untrue its implications really are. Then I walked away from the internet, took a breath, and remembered that people tend to talk out of the sides of their necks.

My actual response was a suggestion that unless it was meant jokingly (there’s another issue here…we’ll address it in a minute), then it was highly offensive to actual romance writers. Of course the guy came back immediately with the “I’m just joking around” statement, but the damage was already done.

Contrary to what the internet troll community seems to believe, romance writers are not just horny ho-bags sitting behind a computer looking to get laid. We aren’t sleazy barflies. We’re not strippers or hookers or any of those ridiculous stereotypes the internet has built around the concept of “romance writer”. Nope…we’re hard-working women (and men, because I know quite a few men who write fabulous romance) with families and morals and a very keen understanding of human nature.

We’re the woman next door, or in front of you in line at the grocery store. While some romance writers base their books on their experiences, most of us don’t. Most of us are dreamers who love the idea of a happy-ever-after. We create ideal relationships as we would love to experience them, and then we share our dreams with the rest of the world so they can fall in love with us.

But it’s really more fundamental than that… forget that we’re romance writers. We’re still writers.

Here’s the thing, kids… writing any book of quality is hard work. It doesn’t matter what the genre is, if you’re going to write a story that has a plot and substance beyond sex (another point for down the post), then you’re going to be doing character and world building, plotting, planning, and research.

Being that I write in multiple genres, I can honestly tell you that writing romance is harder than writing speculative fiction. When you’re playing with human emotion, you have to get it right, and there’s no room for error. Your characters have to be believable, relatable, and consistent. People read romance for the emotional value and gratification. They read it so they can experience what the main characters experience. They do it to fall in love.

Yes, some people prefer Erotica. Erotica is a totally different animal – the focus of the story is on the sex, not on the relationship. In many cases you get both (hence Erotic Romance — which, by the way, uses sex as a plot device to further the romantic relationship), but the primary motivator of the text is explicit sexual gratification. Humankind has proven more than once that you can have sexual gratification without emotion, and you quite often find that emotionless dynamic in erotic literature. I know many, many authors who write erotic literature, and yes, they do finish books in a couple of weeks.

By book, we’re usually talking 20,000 word or less novella. Single scene, no through-story. One and done. That’s their market and they write to it. There’s very little that changes in sex. Tab-A, Slot-whatever, repeat, repeat, repeat. They just find creative ways of framing the act. I can tell you from experience, writing sex is much easier and faster than following an extensive plot.

There’s nothing wrong with that, either. It gives readers the opportunity to explore new scenarios without diving into lifestyles they know nothing about. It also offers that gratification in a safe and secure manner, in the privacy of one’s home.

But erotic literature isn’t what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about romance. Yes, they are different things. Pretty much any writer of either will agree.

*

Back to the point…or points, as this post would have it:

Point #1: “Writing Romance is Easy.”

This pisses me right the hell off every time some asswipe says it. It isn’t easy, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either not doing it right, or an idiot. It seems there are a fair few who had this brilliant idea that “hey, I’ll write a romance novel and get rich”. Uh, no. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way in most cases. Yeah, there are some who got extremely lucky, but to expect that every time is insane. Romance is the largest literary market out there, which means there are a LOT of other books and a LOT of other authors to compete against. That means you can’t just write a bunch of crappy slush and shove it onto the shelves. In order to make any money at all, you have to write GOOD romance. Which ain’t easy, kids. And it takes a hell of a lot longer than a week.

Point #2: “Writing Romance is Fast.”

Hmmm…nope again. Sorry. While yes, everyone writes at different speeds, there does need to be some real thought behind the words. (See point one about slapping out slush.) Slapping out a poorly edited book is going to do awful things for you as a writer, for the market itself, and for the genre as a whole. I’m willing to bet a large portion of the reason romance writers are frowned upon by others is that there are so many who DO push out unedited slop just to make a buck. I’ve stopped being nice in reviews about that, too. And yes, I DO review.

But back to the idea of “fast”. Everyone is different. Some people can push out a novella in two weeks or so. I can’t. I also don’t know anyone personally that can. But I an my local contemporaries write much slower than a stay-at-home-mom who has two kids in grade school and six hours a day to sit in front of the computer uninterrupted. I have a day job, small children, and other obligations. My time is limited. My process is also much different than hers. I think very hard about every word that goes onto the page. I’m not a “write it all first and edit later” kind of person because the typos will run me up the wall and across the ceiling. While process plays heavily into the end product, the end product still has to have substance to stand up in the market.

Point #3: It Ain’t All About the Sexy, y’all.

Your focal point is what dictates whether you’re writing romance or erotica. Yes, romance can have sex and erotica can have plot, but there’s a very clear distinction between the two. As I said above…it’s emotional vs. physical. Some of the best romance novels I’ve ever read don’t have explicit sexual content. Hell, some of them don’t even have sex. You don’t have to have physical activity in your work to tell a satisfying story. They’re two very different things. And while neither of them should be denigrated by anyone, there needs to be a bit of education among the masses. There’s nothing wrong with writing either, and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with erotic romance. And anyone who wants to say otherwise can kiss my lily-white ass. Please and thank you.

*

So that having been said, next time you decide to let fly an aloof and insulting comment about romance writers, think twice. We aren’t stupid. We practice our craft just like any other writer. We take pride in what we do. And you’re likely to end up as the next adulterous prick in one of our books.

In Memoriam

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Last week, the world lost a truly special soul.

I had the good fortune to have Brenda in my life for fourteen years. My only regret is that we didn’t become such good friends sooner than we did. She had the biggest heart, and I am so very honored to be able to call her a friend.

Her funeral was this past Tuesday, and there were so many things I wanted to say – things I wanted to tell her family – but I couldn’t do it. Just the thought of voicing everything in my head and heart brought me to tears. It’s hard to express in words how much I love her and how much I’m going to miss her.

I’m also not much for eulogizing. But these are things that need to be said. So bear with me. I’ll try not to be too long-winded.

*

The first thing I was told when I came to work here was simple: “Don’t trust Brenda.”

But nobody could tell me why. I was young, and at the time we had split factions around here. It was kind of a warzone and I was stuck in the middle, everyone hanging around to see which way I’d fall.

I don’t play those games.

Over the years, Brenda and I became friends. Tentative at first, but friendly toward one another. Most of our conversation was superficial, and then one day we had a real conversation. You know, one of those conversations where you really get to see who someone is.

Then one day not long after that, we were good friends. Somewhere in those light conversations about movies and comic books and music, that trust grew. It happened without my knowledge

One afternoon I took her home – this was before I became her regular ride – and we got into a really heavy discussion. I don’t remember what the context was exactly, but it had to do with some racial issue. I made a comment about fair being fair regardless of what someone looked like or what they believed. Brenda just looked at me, and after a minute she said, “You really believe that, don’t you?”

Something changed that day, and shortly thereafter I stopped thinking about her as a coworker, or even a friend. She became family. She and my mother grew into a very tight friendship. She gave my mother the unconditional love she never had from someone outside our family, and though they only had a couple of years together, I’m thankful for that time.

She had this light about her. You always knew exactly where you stood, but even when she was telling you to get the hell out of her office, she was doing it with a smile. She made everyone’s day better just by being in it.

As it turns out, over the years I found she was one of the very few people up here I could trust, and I did so implicitly. She was my rock at work, a beautiful friend with a big heart and a lot of love to give. It never mattered what was going on with her; she always wanted to know what was wrong with us. She took care of us.

I tried to take care of her. As I write this, I feel like such a failure because she’s gone. I know, logically, there’s nothing I can do for a massive heart attack. But I tried. I wanted her to be here so much longer.

I can never remember a time when Brenda wasn’t here. She’s always been a quiet constant in the next office. She had a true passion for her job, and she loved this place. It’ll definitely be an adjustment, and one I’m not looking forward to.

Rethinking the Thinking

So I tried to mothball this thing awhile back and if we’re perfectly honest, it didn’t work. I have too many thinks and logging into the website is too exhaustive a process. That means I’m just going to start talking here again.

I know…you missed me and you’re thrilled. Right?

The End of an Era

Hey, y’all…

So you know how sometimes people hit a wall? I’ve done that. For the last six years, I’ve been moonlighting as two different people, not that any of you weren’t already aware of that.

The problem with that, however, is that I’m splitting my attention too many different ways, and it’s not healthy, and I’m not getting anywhere. So that having been said… I’ve made a decision. I’m going to consolidate my efforts. Siobhan and I have come to an agreement that we can’t take away from each other anymore. We have to go back to being the same person before it kills us.

This will, at least for the time being, be the last post to this blog. Everything is migrating to my website at www.SHRoddey.com as we speak. This blog will remain, as there’s lots of good stuff here. It’s also being copied to the website so I can keep everything in one place.

Thank you all for being part of this experiment, and please drop in at the website from time to time.

 

Give and Take: A #HoldOntoTheLight Post

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I’m a Giver.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t know how to say no, who thrives on making people smile, who will run herself into the ground trying to do everything without asking for something in return. We take care of the unwell. We volunteer for all manner of unsavory tasks. We’re fixers, problem solvers. Nurturers. We’re natural-born victims, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

We do it all at our own expense. We don’t know how to say no. Seriously…if something is asked of me, my first inclination is to say okay, to take on yet another task or project (even if I’m already so backed up I’ll never see light again), and try my hardest to accomplish it not on time, but early. This mentality leads to emotional drainage and breakdowns.

givetakeHence my comment about natural-born victims. We aren’t abused in the standard “you suck and you’ll never accomplish anything” way. We smile and nod and even though we’re dying inside, we continue to take on everything, because we live in fear of letting someone down. We allow ourselves to be abused.

Enter the Takers.

The Takers are the ones who give the orders, who make the requests, who feed on our emotion without returning the investment. They’re predators. Parasites. Many people don’t even know they’re takers. They don’t realize what they’re doing, that even though there’s a “thank you” attached to the back end of the request, it’s still a burden which has been placed on someone else. They don’t realize they aren’t giving back.

Some people are just selfish. Those kinds of Takers are the ones who generally inflict the abuse on the Givers. Takers will take until there’s nothing left, just as Givers will give until they’re empty. Takers – the chronic abusers – don’t care who they have to stomp on to get what they want. Don’t get me wrong, Takers can be generous. They can be extremely generous, but it’s done in such a way that it gets them something in return. They give just enough to get it back tenfold. They know how to work the system, to keep the Givers coming back, even if they do it unconsciously.

Takers feed on the energy of Givers to fuel their own selfish desires, to fill their own souls. Some of the closest friends I’ve ever had have been Takers. Those friendships flare bright and burn out fast.

Over the years I’ve learned to identify the Takers pretty quickly. I’m in a position now in my life where I know I need to distance myself from them, and if someone is only interested in what I can do for him or her, then that person is toxic. I’m learning to say no. I’m learning to balance my emotions with others’ expectations. I’m learning to stop apologizing. I’m learning to just walk away. But it hurts to lose friends, because I genuinely care about people. That’s the rub.

Givers will hold onto a dying situation until their light is fully extinguished. It hurts like hell to see I’ve been unfriended on Facebook, particularly by someone I’ve met in person. I’ve had episodes of emotional drainage that have thrown me into serious depression. I’ve contemplated hurting myself over it. I’ve cried so many tears over people and situations that don’t deserve them. But it’s a long game, and I don’t let it win. I know the rules now and I know I’m better than that, and I know that there are others out there who appreciate what I have to give and are willing to give back.

I love to cook, to test and create recipes, and see the satisfaction on the faces of my test subjects when something is good. I’ve taught myself to make all manner of delicacies and sweet treats because those things bring happiness. Even if it’s fleeting, the taste of a warm, flaky croissant with butter will put a smile on anyone’s face. From time to time I bring hand-made cinnamon rolls to work for everyone for breakfast. I like making people happy.

But I’m a busy woman – I have a day job and two little girls who depend on me for everything. I’m running an administrative office by day and a household by night, so there’s little time for just me. I’m pretty damned tough by anyone’s standards, but I can – and do – break. When writing becomes a chore, I know it’s time to step back and reassess. I’m at that point now.givetake2

Confession: I have not completed and published a new piece of fiction since October 2015, when An Improbable Truth came out. Last year I was very pregnant and very sick for a very long time. Subsequently, I only wrote the two short stories last calendar year, and one of those is currently dying in an anthology that was never really promoted. I love that story, and I’m sad that first publication rights were wasted.

I realized too late I was involved with a Taker. I was invited to submit a story to fill a hole in an anthology he was publishing, and asked to step in as a co-editor for one anthology and the editor of another. I jumped at all three offers, excited to be involved in something again. I solicited work from most of my literary friends. Then when the sickness started, I was offline for long periods of time because if I wasn’t at work, I was either caring for my older daughter or sleeping. I tried to meet my obligations, and for reasons often beyond my control, I failed. I lost touch with a lot of people last summer because of that, but afterward I got nearly every one of them back.

I found out through the grapevine I was blamed for many of the issues surrounding the press. I was used as a scapegoat for a failing business that had nothing to do with me. I wasn’t “pulling my weight”, I was told. Then I discovered one day I’d been unfriended. Now because these anthologies and the press itself have withered away into obscurity, I’m trying to get over the fact that I’ve let my friends down, and I led them into disaster. The unfriending just pissed me off.

Bridge burned.

A little of that guilt has been lifted, though. Another publisher friend has started negotiations on something similar, which gives me new hope and eases the pain in my heart. That offer gave something back to me. This same publisher friend has been a ray of light in my life over the last six months, and he will never, ever know how much I love him for his kind words and off-the-cuff encouragement. I need more friends like him in my life. We have the kind of give-and-take relationship we both need.

In closing, my advice for the Givers is this:

  • Learn to say “no”. It’s okay. It’s your right, and your only method of self-preservation. You don’t need to make the world happy, so stop trying. If you can’t do it, admit it and move on.

  • Stop apologizing when you fail. You’re human. Failure doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re going to lose a friend. And honestly, if it does cause a friendship to end, it means that person wasn’t a friend to begin with and you’re better off without them. It’s hard when it ends, but it’s even harder when you hit bottom and your giving gets gone.

  • Assert yourself. DO NOT LET A TAKER BULLY YOU INTO SEEING THINGS THEIR WAY. It’s unhealthy, and Takers need to be put in their places. Have your own back, because there won’t always be someone there to rescue you.

  • Accept Help. When someone offers, take it. It’s hard, yes, but accepting assistance will help refuel your soul. It puts something back so you can refresh and give more.

  • Just Do You. What we need more than anything is emotional balance. Surround yourself with people who care. Do things that invigorate and inspire you. Put yourself in positive situations with positive people. Enjoy yourself and your life. You are worth it, and you spend so much time making others happy that you deserve your own happiness.

 

About the Campaign

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

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.

ConCarolinas Wrap-up Thinky Post

It’s Tuesday after ConCarolinas, and I’m finally out of the post-con coma. I’m almost human again, too. Conventions these days wear me out almost as much as the day after. Yesterday was spent buried beneath my little girls while they wallowed all over me. It was our first time away from the little one, and two years since we had an extended weekend away from the big one. I admit, I slept like the dead this weekend, but it didn’t really do much to make me not miss my babies.

So, ConCarolinas.

First of all, a huge shout-out and love-filled thank you to Carol Cowles, Jada Hope, and Misty Massey for being the most awesome con mistresses ever. You guys are my heroes.

I love this convention. Not only is it the closest one to home, but it’s also one of the best. It isn’t a huge con, but it’s got a good crowd full of great people. We’ve all been together for so many years that we really are a family now. It was huge fun getting to play with Alexandra, Crymsyn, Nicole, and Melissa at the table. In case there was ever any doubt, we ARE the party at a convention. We have a big old time, and we give people candy. I really enjoyed Mom-talk with Sarah and getting to meet her family. I didn’t realize how much I missed talking to Faith since our days in the CC dungeon behind the escalator. The extended family – John, Jay, Misty, Gail, Tamsin, Emily, and all the rest that I’m forgetting to name… I love these people. I’ve made so many friends in the eight or nine years I’ve been attending, both as fan and as guest, and that roster continues to grow every single year.

The panels were a blast, and I really enjoyed this year’s Writer’s Workshop. It’s nice to see so many talented people coming up through the ranks as compared to all the nonsense floating around the interwebs these days. I didn’t sell much, but then again that isn’t really why I go to ConCarolinas. I went for the reasons mentioned above. These are my people, my tribe. Even the readers are so freaking awesome it makes my heart sing. It was well worth the cost of the hotel room. And the food… OMG. There’s a blog post coming later on truck food. It makes me hungry just thinking about that lobster dog.

All in all, and despite the issues with the A/C, it was a good weekend.

This year’s shindig is particularly significant as it marks my return to the con circuit after a year off. My con-going ended abruptly after MidSouthCon last year, and did so on quite the sour note. Then I spent the last twelve months pregnant, sick, depressed, and all manner of other things which are not conducive to the creative lifestyle. Suffice it to say I approached this event with no small amount of trepidation.

Social anxiety has been a growing problem over the last few years. I started out on a high note, publishing my first book in May 2011 and following it up with multitudes more. Conventions were big fun and I was just really starting to get the hang of this being-a-writer thing when my world collapsed. We won’t get into the psychological trauma of losing my father again (we all know we’ve been over that too much), but it was the primary catalyst for my withdrawal from society and, almost completely, from writing. And the tragedy didn’t stop there. The last few years have been an onslaught of sadness coupled with the all-consuming NEW MOM tag. My girls take up most of my time, and between them and the why-bother feeling from the general state of the writing market, it’s been a tough trek getting my mojo back.

I have to say, though… ConCarolinas has done wonders for my writer’s soul. I came out of it renewed and inspired. And the September deadline I acquired Saturday night can only help. It’s ambitious for me since I’m a slow writer, but I think having that project and the expectations of a publisher waiting on it will help me to drag myself out of the dirt and get back to it.

Which brings me to my last, and probably most important, comment: I just wanted to say thank you to John Hartness for being a great friend, and for believing so strongly in me even when I don’t believe in myself. And for calling me out on it in public. I needed that kick in the ass.

So enough of this. I have a book to finish.