Amazon Concerns

Amazon has begun removing books that fall outside the primary viewpoint of its executives and I assume employees. They basically came out and said “we do what we want and find this offensive; we don’t have to tell you why specifically.” (I cannot find the statement itself on my work break this morning, so I could be off.)

This is concerning. No matter your opinion on the book that was removed, the fact is that’s a pretty open ended statement. People get offended by different things, even people ostensibly on the “same side”. Monty Python no doubt greatly offends one left-wing Amazon employee while another left-wing employee loves it a lot, for instance. I assure you that there is a variety of offensiveness on display among Amazon’s indie authors. If it can offend a sense- aesthetic, moral, whatever- it is present there.

On top of that, the author of that removed book has resources to find workarounds. Most indie authors don’t. Amazon dominates the reading market. The best way to reach readers is through them. If Amazon comes for your tiny little novel and this endeavor is largely just a dream you’re trying to make real, a hobby you pay taxes on, what other option is there? It’s intimidating.

I know the response is that “they won’t bother with the unimpressive likes of you.” Which is presently true. I made less than $60 on my books last year. I’m nobody, and frankly, but for money, I am content with that. But the likes of me is a lot easier to crush utterly than someone established in some way and I’m not greatly worried, but I do see a concern. I was bullied some in middle school. People who like to crush others aren’t looking for a challenge. They like the act of crushing and softer targets are much more appealing because it’s easier to crush them.

There are alternatives. I like, in a technical way, the way Amazon does most things. I’d rather not try to hunt down a less optimized, less profitable alternative. I’m not writing things that I think will offend anyone, but the rules seem to move a lot and I’m busy making ends meet at my day job. But I worry a bit.

Book Review: The Cadfael Chronicles

I have been depressed (like many), then busy, and then found out my desktop version of WordPress is no longer working, so this post comes to you on the app after much delay.

I’m not typically one for historical novels. I like a bit of the fantastic in my reading, or just go for pure nonfiction. However, I grew up occasionally seeing the Cadfael series starring Derek Jacobi, which I enjoy, and have known for awhile that they are also books. This past December I embarked upon this nineteen book journey and it has been an absolute delight.

More

Wookie Mandalorians

No-Katan’s army needs Wookie Mandalorians.

They were legitimately a thing in the old EU (“Legends”). In fact, one is a key quest giver of the bounty hunter questline in the last lingering part of the EU, The Old Republic MMORPG.

And they could look so cool:

Creed, not race, Favreau. You said it.

Book Review: A Bloody Habit

It being October at the time of this writing, I decided to reread and review a fitting novel for the spooky season: A Bloody Habit by Eleanor Bourg Nelson. Set in early 1900s London, the lawyer Jack Kemp, a young English gentleman bachelor, finds himself tangled in the dark truth of vampires (while he’s reading Dracula, then a new novel). Also, there are Dominican friars who hunt vampires and occasionally play practical jokes on each other.

More

Last Few Months Update

With The Mourning Company in editing and myself searching for a job, this blog has been even more quiet than usual. I’m also planning my wedding. The dog days of summer are behind us here in the Valley of the Sun and lovely September is starting to set in. Soon, I shall be able to write on the patio.

For my…fan (hi mom)… I have been mucking about with another project. It’s sci-fi, an old idea I’ve been refining since childhood, and I think will be a smoother experience than The Paladin Trilogy. Yes, yes, I have an outline for book #3 in the works, too. And a pacing problem, but that’s why we outline….To be honest, this new project probably has more commercial viability, but having a backlist never hurt anyone.

The next few months are looking at the completion of The Mourning Company edits, completion of wedding planning, finding a day job, doing Doomwalker v2 edits (yes, I know about the typos), and finishing Book #3 outline. I also have a Mandalorian helmet that is wanting of paint. Sometimes I need something to do with my hands.

This year has been a challenge. Like many others, I dance on the edge of depression. I pray for anyone in this place and I certainly need prayers as well. I, too, am sick of political ads, sick of madness and worry. It’s important to set your sights on the horizon you can see. Not a distant future, not some perfect dream, but a clear thing you want that is doable, something you can build bit by bit.

Hang in there. Sink your claws and your teeth in and don’t let go. You’re worthy of more than the yawning abyss below.

Doomwalker’s Pandemic Performance

So how did my book Doomwalker do in the pandemic, sales-wise? Well enough that I could pay for a reasonably pleasant dinner and happy hour drinks for me and my fiancé with the earnings.

It’s been slow of late, but I think part of that is my own life going…down an unexpected road, a not uncommon one these days, employment-wise…and my original marketing plans being utterly shot by lockdown (as well as my sanity). My original plan was to poke around at local bookstores, such that we have around here, and see what I could do in terms of events or networking. I was also going to be more consistent and interactive with social media.

I toyed even with commissioning character artwork as part of those marketing efforts. I still do when I’m feeling self-indulgent.

Well, the bookstore event thing has been out and then social media has just become a pit full of alternating rot and inanity that I am having trouble with. Trying to focus has been hard, but I am going to finish The Mourning Company (Paladin #2) soo, if nothing else. It appears so far that the public library system’s local author fair has gone the way of the dodo. I was looking forward to that, my first “big” author shindig.

So where does that leave the author? Sitting in her loft drinking flavored vodka and soda water…ahem…trying to finish her next book and praying for things to get better.

In marketing terms, well, well…let’s see.

  • I’m not sure social media works, especially Twitter, though writing twitter is fairly cheerful place, if inclined to spirals of one sort or another. If you are a super cool person or a famous one, it is a useful platform. I am sitting in my loft drinking flavored vodka and soda water, contemplating unemployment. My mileage there is a bit more limited.
  • Paid advertising is still mixed in results from what I can tell and is, alas, paid. See previous mention of contemplation. I also thinking some of it is on the edge of a scam at least. Other types don’t work for your genre. Caveat emptor. And read the fine print before you switch over from window shopper to emptor. I made a rule not to spend more than $20 a pop, $100 total, on marketing this first book. No proof of ROI.
  • Are people reading more during the pandemic? I’d say my book got more page reads during the initial few months. Also more hits on my Facebook page. It’s tapered off, either because everyone has snapped and opted for, I dunno, heroin, or because my book is kind of alright and boy do I need to get the edits done and get version 2 up. I have the time.

What’s the way ahead? Good question. Finish the second book, that’s for sure. I’ve got a marketing plan of sorts tied to that when it gets done and properly polished. From there, I’m not sure. I need to do social media more consistently. I really think that in-person connections would have been valuable but who knows when people will stop treating each other like lepers. If I was less of a squeaky voiced introvert, I could figure out a Youtube or Twitch thing, I guess, but that requires its own capital investment at the moment as well.

Ah, well, life goes on. Sufficient for the day is its own evil. (Also, please read my book.)

Book Review: Superego

Superego by Frank J. Fleming is an awesome, fun sci-fi thriller that lets itself go off the beaten track of the genre. The main character, Rico, is a sociopath and a highly skilled mob hitman in a galaxy populated by multiple species and governments. Dispatched to do a mysterious something at the kind-of-UN meeting meant to create an alliance to crush his now genocidal bosses, things go awry when he finds himself stopping a terrorist attack. From there, things continue to go awry, though maybe they also go a bit right, too.

First of all this book is darkly hilarious. You will laugh out loud often because of such gems as this:

“I’m going downstairs,” I said, “If there are any terrorists down there you care about, you’d better tell me now, because I shoot unclaimed terrorists.”

-Superego, Frank J. Fleming

More

Doomwalker Sequel!

I’ve neglected the blog a bit- strange days- but I am pleased to announce the title for the sequel to Doomwalker: The Mourning Company!

Envy and Wrath as Virtues

As I all too slowly wrap up the work on the Doomwalker sequel (I have a name, but announcing that and commissioning a cover Are thing I want to hold off from until I put the last period into pixels), I get ideas. The present moment lends itself to it, as it’s weirdly stressful and does what weirdly stressful present moments do: lay bare human nature to the bone. This is actually a post about writing, by the way.

I am fascinated by how how people transform their perception of outright poisonous (and classical) vices into virtues. I used to think people did this because they lacked awareness of these particular flaws of theirs, as we do, but I’m starting to doubt that.

Recently Papa John gave a tour of his ridiculous massive mansion. I don’t particularly care of itself, it’s silly, I’ve been to Hearst Castle (medieval manuscript lampshades) and am hard to impress in this fashion. He has the house he wants, good for him. The reaction was what interested me.

Envy is monstrous. The depiction of it as changing people into raging destructive beasts is very accurate. Lots of those beasts were on display in regard to that house tour. Papa John- or Jeff Bezos, or any other rich person- is a human, maybe a jerk, maybe cruel, maybe callous, I don’t know, but as much a person as anyone else. To wish everything they have, and often built themselves, torn to the ground is vicious and self-degrading. We modern men and women of the first world live better than kings, all of us. Someone worse off than you could wish the same of you and actually might. Does that seem right to you?

To the envious in this, however, their jealousy seems to them a virtue. Demanding angrily that someone else surrender everything…to them…ah, it’s often presented as ‘to the less fortunate’ or ‘to others’…is something they see as noble. They decree what’s necessary or desirable to another like tinpot tyrants based on matters of taste- not that they aren’t as ridiculous as their target, given opportunity.

The most recent Star Wars brought to light that the same dynamic is in play with wrath. Rey doesn’t have many standout personality traits, but one of the few is a deep abiding anger. This is an interesting thing to explore in a hero, a tendency that requires one to resist to be a good person, but it’s not treated that way. Her rage is presented as one of her many virtues (she has no outright flaws by the movies’ logic; even her seeming naïveté is actually proven to be the right mindset in the story). You see this online, where ‘getting angry’ is trumpeted as the correct and best solution to problems. In some circles it’s more common than others but it bleeds over everywhere.

Wrath, like envy, turns you into a destructive beast. One thing that stands out about it as a sin is that the destruction you seek to bring is that it becomes the consuming focus, even if you state that you want to build something better on the ashes. It’s not a sober or calculating thing, though some people have that tone by merit of personality (less than think they do). Broken, doomed, obsessive Captain Ahab is the result of being consumed by wrath, not apocalyptic destruction followed by heaven on Earth.

Sin makes us small. They didn’t call them the Seven Deadly Sins for fun or fashion or even control. They make us less- while wallowing in them, mistaking them outright for virtues often enough! I didn’t understand this until recently. Besides being being spiritually or philosophically interesting, it’s also something I think makes for an interesting setting or character element that can be very compelling.

It’s certainly a simple but effective set up for character development. If you’re writing a dystopia, or just a setting or culture with glaring flaws, making envy or wrath or pride to be treated like virtues instead of the obvious sins they are is a useful start. It’s an insidious thing, more so because it doesn’t seem like it should be.

If you- like me- often come up with a good setting, plot, or characters but not always at the same time, this might be a way to figure out how to combine them. People and cultures and places do not exist in vacuums and the effects they have on one another, like this twisting of vice into virtue, has impacts large and small on all of them. Thinking about may help bridge a gap in a story you are writing in an interesting and perhaps even disturbing (but interestingly) way.