A huge wasp nest in a birch tree.

This has been a week full of unfortunate events and unpleasant discoveries.

The company I work for is having a rough time and there have been rumblings of internal upheaval, yet somehow the gears of corruption and good-ol’-boy favors keep turning. On the home front, I discovered a basketball-sized wasp nest hidden in the woods west of my house.

As you might imagine, both situations involve unpleasantness I’d rather stay far removed from. But when you discover a hive of scum and villainy right in your own back yard, what do you do?

Continue reading “Unpleasant Revelations”

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Tweet advocation the privatization of libraries.

On Saturday July 21st, 2018, Forbes triggered a flood of outrage from the literary, academic, and library-using communities by publishing an opinion piece advocating for the replacement of libraries with for-profit retail outlets. Specifically, Amazon retail outlets. While Forbes has since pulled the article, it can still be found here.

The owner of this controversial opinion is Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post and guy whose name sounds like someone’s about to unleash an army of evil dead, Panos Mourdoukoutas.

In a piece that sounds like it was written by a fourth grader badly in need of an editor, Mourdoukoutas argues that libraries have become obsolete. Their services are provided by other (coincidentally not free of charge) entities like Amazon and Starbucks. No, really. I’m not joking. Stop laughing.

Continue reading “The Library Question”

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Conflict ahead sign

Let’s talk believable antagonists and realistic sources of conflict.

I’m not going to get into the four types of conflict, or six, or however many it is now. I am going to talk about creating a believable antagonistic force, rather than one of those cardboard caricature, source-of-all-evil bad guys.

The concept of a having one person be the source of all of a story’s conflict has always seemed overly simple to me. Either the antagonist has help, or the protagonist’s problems are going to be disappointingly simple to solve. A lone enemy, unaided, is easy to overcome.

Continue reading “Antagonistic Forces”

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No, not that kind.

I’m talking about the kind of book spam authors receive after they’ve gotten well enough known that spammers think the author might actually have some money, but might still be naive enough to fall for an obvious scam. Newsflash, scammers: I’ve never been that naive.

This post is inspired by an actual email I received this week.

Scammer fail

Maybe I’m just new to the world of scammy solicitations landing in my inbox, but holy scam alert Batman!! Does anyone actually fall for this?

Let’s review what this would-be marketing savant did wrong.

Continue reading “Book Spam!”

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Medusa sculpture

I’ve always liked Medusa. Like a lot of the more interesting components of Greek and Roman mythology, she’s a remnant of an earlier civilization that the Hellenic peoples (those who would later become what we think of as the Greeks) overran. Demonized by the invaders as a fearfully ugly monster who could turn men to stone, it’s likely that Medusa started out as the goddess of another people, perhaps hidden behind a Gorgon mask intended to discourage the profane from trespassing on her mysteries.

The problem with the myth of the Gorgon Medusa is that her history was written by her murderers.

Continue reading “Mythical Monsters & Ancient Biases”

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Go be poor somewhere else

Yesterday evening I went out to get a few things done, and it was… interesting. I’m not a people person. Thus I do as much of my errand-running as I can either very late or very early, in order to avoid the worst of the crowds.

My avoidance of peak traffic times has become more difficult in the last few years due to a disquieting trend. It has to do with the lengths to which a certain segment of the population will go–and the number of people they’re comfortable inconveniencing in the process–to make life even harder for the poor.

Continue reading “A Sign of Our Times”

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Don't be one of many. Names matter.

Something came to a head recently that’s been bugging me for a long time: we (Westerners, especially those in the United States) need to get a lot more creative with our names.

Recently one of my employees pointed out the ridiculousness of creepy old men who demand to be on a first name basis with the people who work the front counter. In terms of accountability or identification, a first name means next to nothing. At my company alone, if you were helped by “Jessica” that could be Jessica in Cargo, Jessica in Fuels, Jessica in Accounting, or Jessica in Parts & Acquisitions.

This is a problem.

Continue reading “Names Matter”

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You should be writing. No. Seriously.

I see a lot of motivational posters aimed at authors. You know the ones: a movie character pointing out that you should be writing. Or maybe it’s a pop culture icon. Or maybe the message is framed as a comic strip. Or maybe it’s just a blank page with the words “You should be writing!” emblazoned across it.

And while some are fairly benign, many seem designed to guilt the viewer. I don’t know about you, but I write to feel free of my daily obligations. Writing is my own world, a world free of deadlines and restrictions. The concept of feeling guilty because I haven’t put enough words on paper lately is anathema to the whole reason I write.

Why is it that we, as authors and as a society, conflate guilt with motivation?

Continue reading “Motivation vs Guilt”

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Flood waters and sign

Some time back, a friend posted in a group we both frequent. She was frustrated with the flood of conflicting marketing advice for authors, and listed some of the contradictory advice she’d heard.

  1. Socialize with non-writers on Facebook. Don’t try to sell. Make friends.
  2. Advertise on Facebook.
  3. Advertise on Amazon.
  4. Forget Facebook and Amazon. Focus on Goodreads instead.
  5. Forget Goodreads. LibraryThing is the place to be.
  6. Advertise on other sites.
  7. Give away books on Net Galley.
  8. Don’t give away books for free. It invites pirates!
  9. Give away one book to entice readers.
  10. List with genre sites.
  11. Concentrate on Twitter.
  12. Forget promotion. Sign up with KU.

While I can’t stem the flood of contradictory and often counter-intuitive advice, I can offer my experiences. I spent a lot of time sorting through a veritable avalanche of marketing advice to come up with my strategy. These are my answers, backed up with research and personal experience.

Continue reading “Throttling the Flood of Conflicting Advice”

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Strong Women

I have had the honor of knowing and working with many extraordinary women over the years. (Obligatory shout-out to my mom, who taught me about equality, civil rights, and treating people decently regardless of their color, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. She also introduced me to science fiction and turned me into a life-long C.J. Cherryh fan.)

Amazing women are all around us, and chances are they have touched all of our lives in some significant way. They’re public defenders who keep the innocent from going to jail. They’re courageous civil rights advocates who don’t let threats stop them from pursuing the truth. They’re extraordinarily patient, skilled surgeons. They’re compassionate paramedics.

Continue reading “International Women’s Day”

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