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The Top 10 Most Overrated Super-Heroes Of All Time

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Ever wonder why some things are shoved at you from every direction while others are virtually ignored? Why some things seem to dominate the pop culture scene and you feel almost guilty for not embracing them like everyone else…even though no one you know likes them either? Why, for the life of you, you can’t figure out the reason for a character’s popularity when nothing about him is terribly interesting?

If all those things have occurred to you after running into a TV show, movie, celebrity of the moment, novel, or…in this case, super-heroes, you’ve likely discovered something that’s overrated. Something that might have little demand or is largely uninteresting in and of itself but keeps getting pushed before the public, viewing audience, or readers by the powers that be for reasons unknown or simply inscrutable.

In the field of comic book heroes in particular, there could be any number of reasons including sales figures (once, in the 1960s, sales figures indicated that having apes on the covers of their comics improved sales, so editors at DC made sure covers featured an ape or two every few months), political correctness (by the 1990s, ideology trumped common sense in editorial offices), or simply to create a buzz (Dazzler anyone?).

Of course, some comics characters such as Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man may have appeared to be overrated at different points in their careers, but time has proven that to be untrue as they have demonstrated their staying power over the decades. Truly original characters can overcome the threat of becoming overrated through overexposure from the sheer inspiration they offer to creators in succeeding generations.

Such, however, cannot be said of most other characters. Surprisingly, few of the thousands that have been invented in comics over the years have been so overexposed as to render them overrated, that is, reaching a point of over-saturation based on a false hysteria whipped up by an overheated media.

But can anyone really blame comics publishers or their editors for promoting any character in their stable that displays even the slightest amount of heat? After all, do they have any other choice than treating the shrinking pond of comic book buyers as an indicator of what the larger public might go for? (On the other hand, how reliable is the enthusiasm of a few thousand comics readers in gauging the tastes of the larger public?) Be that as it may, publishers must justify their existence now that the movies have become the tail that wags the dog of the comics industry. How else to explain the mutual spectacle of multiple reboots of hundred plus million dollar film franchises or their equivalent in comics shops where their featured heroes star in a dozen different titles at once?

The danger of course, is that the requirements of the film industry feed into a narrative that sometimes only exists, not in the minds of the public, but in those of editors, marketing consultants, and comic shop sales representatives making for a toxic mix that grant some comic book heroes a false cachet to the point where they inevitably become: overrated.

10) Lex Luthor

Okay, so most of you are going to say “No fair! He’s a villain!” And for the most part, that’s true. On the other hand, there have been enough scenarios in the comics (as well as in other media), especially lately, where Lex is portrayed as a super-hero (complete with Iron Man style armor) and even President of the United States, that there’s some justification for his inclusion on this list. His overrated index which has been pumped up over the years by a much ballyhooed John Byrne comics reboot in the 80s, a Superman cartoon show in the 90s, and various movies (including one made in 2006 ) that he’s become synonymous with Superman himself. And why? Well he’s a millionaire tycoon! He can buy and sell mad geniuses to invent stuff for him! And…and…he’s bald! Exactly why does Lex deserve all the attention he’s gotten over the years? Why? Is Superman’s rogues gallery cupboard as bare as all that?

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I have been reading Barbara Oakley’s new book A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) this week. It’s a fascinating and fun read if you want to learn math, science, or, like me, just want to improve your memory.

I was actually pretty decent at math as my father was a mathematician and I grew up learning to love numbers. However, I had no natural talent, just no fear, which is important in learning math. Oakley makes this point throughout the book as she believes most people can learn math (and science) with the right tools and mindset. She is an engineering professor who failed her way through high school math but tackled these skills as an adult. Here is more about the book:

In A Mind for Numbers, Dr. Oakley lets us in on the secrets to effectively learning math and science—secrets that even dedicated and successful students wish they’d known earlier. Contrary to popular belief, math requires creative, as well as analytical, thinking. Most people think that there’s only one way to do a problem, when in actuality, there are often a number of different solutions—you just need the creativity to see them. For example, there are more than three hundred different known proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. In short, studying a problem in a laser-focused way until you reach a solution is not an effective way to learn math. Rather, it involves taking the time to step away from a problem and allow the more relaxed and creative part of the brain to take over. A Mind for Numbers shows us that we all have what it takes to excel in math, and learning it is not as painful as some might think!

Relaxing while trying to learn math sounds counterintuitive but it works, according to the book. One of my favorite chapters is called “tools, tips, and tricks” and it gives the reader positive mental tricks to use to their advantage in learning. She tackles procrastination and gets tips from experts regarding their student, such as “No going onto the computer during their procrastination time. It’s too engrossing,” “Before procrastinating, identify the easiest homework problem,” and “Copy the equation or equations that are needed to solve the problem onto a small piece of paper and carry the paper around until they are ready to quit procrastinating and get back to work.”

All this seems to lead to being a bit more creative and perhaps a bit more relaxed. Come to think of it, the above tips would be helpful in writing a blog post except the writer has to use the computer and cannot avoid it. Anyway, the book is great and goes into more detail about how to increase your memory with metaphors and visualization. Pick it up if you want to know more about how to succeed at math and science or if you just need to improve your memory and learning ability.

*****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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The 10 Best Sherlock Holmes Mysteries

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Don Sucher

What would Arthur Conan Doyle say if he could see all the fans his great “consulting detective” has today? It has been, after all, over one hundred and twenty-five years since the first of his Sherlock Holmes stories were written.  And, what’s more, that fandom is continuing to grow day by day, thanks largely to the new, exciting and inventive versions of his stories being produced on film and video.

Many of us here share in the thrill of these visual retellings of the Holmes stories, but still we insist: The very best way to get to know Sherlock Holmes is via Conan Doyle’s books, be they on the printed page or on an e-reader. And what surprises many fans who got to know Holmes “on screen” is how accessible those stories are! Fifty-six of the original stories are quite literally “short stories” — only 12 to 15 pages in length.  But within those few pages are captured, not only some of the world’s greatest mystery stories, but something even better: the persona of Sherlock Holmes himself.

Have you actually read the Sherlock Holmes stories? If not we truly encourage you to do so! Indeed we are willing to bet that if you do you will find the pages flying by so quickly that as soon as you finish one you’ll be looking to start the next.

What follows, then, is a list of the top 10 Sherlock Holmes stories. Each one is a winner. And the list goes from very good to even better all the way to what many Holmes fans think may be the very best of them all.

We are also including video snippets from each of these selected stories – some short, others a bit longer. These will give you a delightful taste for what the story contains. But remember… it is only a taste.

Happy reading!

10. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”

A befuddled old man, a lost hat and a goose. Such things hardly seem the stuff of a great mystery.  But by scrutinizing each of them, and applying pure ‘Holmesian’ logic, Sherlock is able to solve one of the most perplexing crimes of his day – and, at the same time, save the life of an innocent man.

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It’s Your Party Too — Book Plug Friday 53

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

We can't wait for our terrible twos!  You ain't seen nothing yet!

We can’t wait for our terrible twos! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

 

Book Plug Friday turns one today.  Like all toddlers, it’s mobile, running around and creating havoc.  It’s still somewhat ineffectual, but we pride ourselves in thinking that over this last year we brought to the attention of readers many fine books or entertaining reads that they would otherwise never have heard of.

And since that was all we wanted to do: to lend a little impetus on the outer fringes of the digital book revolution, little Book Plug Friday is mighty proud today.

Out there, the adults in this business are winning battles too.

We’re the barbarians at the gates of publishing, yeah, sure, and our little horses are mighty fast, but you know we’d not be half as effective, if publishing hadn’t stopped adapting and started imploding from within long before technology set us free.

The Fall of Rome is still debated. How could such an empire fall? Various theories are floated; taxes were too high, barbarians joined the army, borders became too porous, corruption and incompetence were rampant.

But I would argue that these were mitigating factors. Empires always fall for the same reason.

They stop adapting.

Adaptive Capacity is the technical term for an ecological or social system’s response to changing conditions in the environment.

A system that cannot adapt, self destructs.

Go read the whole thing.

And there are true signs of hope out there.

At a glance, we can see how each publishing path performs in the top genre categories, and we can also see how these genres compare to one another in both total revenue and market share by publishing path. This last distinction is crucial, because the old-time advice to “never self-publish” has now faded to the advice that “self-publishing only works in certain genres.”

The truth is that, regardless of which publishing path an author chooses, some genres of trade ebooks sell vastly better than others, period. Other genres languish. For Big 5 authors, Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense is by far the most lucrative genre. But you don’t hear many people assert that traditional publishing is only good for people writing sleuths. Another common refrain is that nonfiction and literary fiction are uncrackable genres for indies. But in non-fiction, self-published authors are earning 26% to the Big 5′s 35%.

It turns out that Big 5 publishers have nearly as small a portion of Romance earnings (18%) and Science Fiction & Fantasy earnings (29%) as indies have of Literary Fiction earnings (13%) and Nonfiction earnings (26%), respectively.

Here, too, we say onto thee, go read the whole thing.

There are riches in the comments there too.

 Data Guy: The short answer to your question is yes, time and schedules permitting.

I did take a brief look Historical Fiction earlier today.

Historical Fiction makes up 7% of the overall gross Kindle sales. Indie books are somewhat underrepresented in Historical Fiction today, having so far captured 10% of the unit sales and 14% of the author earnings. I’d tend to see that as an opportunity.

And you know, he’s right.  Sarah’s top performing book of the reissues (books previously traditionally published and a whole different ball game from new and original indie releases, which do better for various reasons,) is No Will But His, straight up historical fiction.  It does so well in fact, that as soon as she finds the time, she will write the rest of what she terms “dead queens.”  That is the queens of Henry VIII and possibly, time permitting the queens of the War of the Roses.  There is gold in them there hills.

And that’s the message we want you to take on this anniversary of Book Plug Friday.  Go forth and write what you will.  Try any path to sales.  You no longer need to sell to a traditional publisher, and if they don’t like your idea, you can still publish it and make money.

Set yourself free.

And send us your book plugs!

 


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Streiker’s Bride
By Robin Hardy

What would you do if you received the offer of a lifetime—marriage to a billionaire—with one catch: you had to make up your mind without ever seeing him? When lowly bank teller Adair Weiss receives such an offer from reclusive philanthropist Fletcher Streiker, she is dumbfounded and disbelieving: Why me? What does he know about me? What does he want?

Rejecting his offer would end her dream of dancing. But accepting it would change her life in ways she never guessed. . . .


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The Lost Book of Anggird
By Kyra Halland

Stodgy Professor Roric Rossony has been asked to find a way to stop the deterioration of the powerful magica. He hires Perarre Tabrano to translate books for his research, and finds his orderly existence turned upside down by his unexpected romance with her. Caught up in his new-found love and the most important work of his life, he goes too far in his search, delving into forbidden books hidden away for centuries. When the most dangerous book of all falls into the Professor’s hands, magical disaster strikes, and he and Perarre flee from the authorities in search of the secret of the magica’s origins, a journey that only their growing magical powers and their love for each other will help them survive.


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A Distant Eden (Book 1 of 5)
By Lloyd Tackitt

December 2012, a massive solar storm knocks out the power grid. Three hundred million Americans are suddenly faced with a survival situation. They have no water, electricity or fuel. Food rapidly disappears from the store shelves, not to be replaced. Only three percent will survive. Those three percent will have much in common. What does it take to be one of them?


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Adrian’s War
By Lloyd Tackitt

Three years after a solar storm wiped out the power grid Adrian Hunter embarks on a journey to the mountains, determined to live and survive by utilizing his knowledge of stone age techniques. He encounters a band of raiders who attempt to take him prisoner – and Adrian’s War begins.


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The Last Falangist
By Kevin Trainor

A military history buff shares his thoughts on religion, society, science fiction, anime, and affairs of the heart.

It is both a personal book and a glimpse, at moments, into the history of “The Blogosphere.” Readers are treated to a retrospective of moments in online life–the debates that raged at various points in the 2000s and 20-teens—along with moments in the life of the author, one of the co-bloggers at the online magazine The Other McCain. As a bonus, there’s an appendix, “21 Books,” that discusses the war stories, Russian novels, Westerns, and history books that have left the most lasting imprint on Trainor’s life.

Together, the entries and essays comprise a slice of gritty reality.


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Moonstone Obsession
By Elizabeth Ellen Carter

Secrets, scandal, and passion…

Selina Rosewall had given up on love, but while helping her brother further his merchant fleet business, she meets Sir James Mitchell, Lord of Penventen. Their attraction is mutual, but what James wants from the relationship goes further—much further—than Selina could have expected. And she learns that in the world of the Ton, scandal and deceit are commonplace.

For Sir James Mitchell, Lord of Penventen, it’s hard to say which is more dangerous: being a spy or being considered husband material by the Ladies of the Ton. With political machinations threatening to draw England into the violent wake of the French Revolution, the last thing James expected was to fall in love with Selina Rosewall, daughter of an untitled seafaring family. But when James’ investigation stirs up a hornet’s nest, can he protect Selena from danger that threatens her very life?


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Men Are Pigs: And That’s A Good Thing
By Ron Sturgeon with Mark Stuertz

Entertaining and enlightening, Men are Pigs is an unabashed peek into the differences between men and women. Women (and “enlightened” men) think men are pigs because all they think about is sex. Men think women are pigheaded because they think men are nothing more than women with whiskers. In Pigs serial entrepreneur Ron Sturgeon (and PJ Media contributor Mark Stuertz) takes aim at the current orthodoxy that idealizes the feminine and maligns the masculine, and how this destroys relationships and frays the social fabric. A little naughty and packed with humor and actionable tips, Pigs offers strategies on how men can attract more women, enjoy better sex and relationships, understand the differences between men and women, and keep the fires burning hotter and longer. Though written for men by a man, Pigs offers valuable insights for women too.


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Jennifer’s Neighbors: Part One: Try This
By Lilith Revnik

Jennifer’s parents are having troubles; Sammy has lived with her stepfather since her mother died. They’ve been next-door neighbors since they were little girls, and they’re the best of best friends.

So Jennifer and Sammy are just two teen-age girls — beautiful, sexy and sexual, shy, scared, learning about themselves, what they want, what they need, what they like. One of the things they want is sex, and they’re … uninhibited about getting what they want. Intrepid explorers. It’s not always easy, but they learn a lot about themselves, and even more about the ways of the world.

[Ed. Note: This book is erotica. If you don't like erotica, don't buy it.]

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10 Reasons to Give Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a Chance

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken a lot of flak, even before it premiered. PJM’s own Scott Ott declared “no interest” in the series despite loving its source material. I confess to holding my own doubts regarding a superhero show without superheroes. However, unlike Ott, I was willing to give the series a chance. After watching the first season in its entirety, I’m glad I did. Here are 10 reasons to take a look at Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

10. Cinematic Action

Certain shows have come along in recent years to demonstrate that the small screen can nonetheless explode with cinematic action. Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica comes to mind, a genre show which looked better than many films from past years.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a similar case for the possibilities of televised entertainment. In essence, it’s an international spy thriller, much of which takes place in the enormous aircraft our heroes call home. The special effects, while lackluster here and there, largely do justice to their Marvel cinematic pedigree.

Now if we can just get a live-action Star Wars series, life will be good.

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MindWar: ‘A Cross Between Tron, This Present Darkness, Ender’s Game, and The Matrix.’

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

500x500-v1_MindWar

Had a chance to chat in depth with Paul Cook at CBS station KMOX NewsRadio 1120 out of St. Louis. The talk ran from writing fiction to politics to my new novel MindWar, the first in a trilogy of Sci-Fi adventure novels for young adults. First reviews for the book are starting to come in over at Amazon. I like this one from Wheelsms: “It reads like a cross between Tron, This Present Darkness, Ender’s Game, and The Matrix.” Not bad.

The story centers on Rick Dial, a one time star high school quarterback who retreats into obsessive gaming after his legs are shattered in a car crash. Turns out, his gaming skills combined with his quarterback reflexes and mentality, make him the perfect candidate to fight the MindWar and he’s injected into a video game-like atmosphere where the stakes are very real and very high.

You can buy it here, and you should!

*****

cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

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10 Ways ’90s Pop Culture Destroyed the American Male

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…

Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.

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The Top 10 Best Super-heroes Of All Time!

Sunday, July 13th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Can there ever be a more incendiary topic than asking who are the best super-heroes of all time? Bar fights have been started and wars have been fought over lesser topics! Nevertheless, this writer will attempt to answer the question and then immediately duck to avoid the inevitable brickbats.

First, how to pick from among the hundreds, nay perhaps thousands, of super-heroes that have paraded across the four color page since that fateful day when Superman first sent bad guys running on the cover of Action Comics #1? I say “since” because before the debut of Superman, comics had hosted many other heroes including such stalwarts as Speed Saunders and Slam Bradley. The difference was twofold (one which we shall use subsequently to help define what is meant by the term “super-hero”): Superman had super powers and a colorful costume that couldn’t be mistaken for street clothes.

Indeed, in retrospect, it seems that it was those two points, powers and costuming, that made all the difference; not only placing Superman at the top of the super-hero heap and initiating an avalanche of colorful imitators, but granting to the lowly comic book its raison d’etre. For better or worse, the super-hero would become synonymous with comics and by the 21st century, have eliminated all other genres for dominance of the industry.

That said, what to do with all those Superman imitators? How to sort the wheat from the chaff and pick out the very best of the lot? Aside from the basics of powers and costuming, something more is needed to differentiate the best from the rest. Metes and bounds need to be established to lend some legitimacy to those choice few that’ll make the cut (and cut down on the brickbats). For that, I suggest staying power, a hero who, decade after decade, comes on and off his own title, shows up steadily in other characters’ books and adventures, and continues to capture the imagination of readers over the years; originality, qualities in the creation of the super-hero that differentiate him from all others; and iconic status, a position captured over the years above and beyond the often insular world of comics readers.

With those parameters in mind, let the brawling begin!

thor

10) Thor

Sure, there were other Thors in comics before Stan Lee and Jack Kirby came up with their own version in Journey Into Mystery #83, but none of those others had the sheer durability of Marvel’s own god of thunder. What set the character apart from those others? Like them, he had super strength, a magic hammer, and connections to Asgard. He was better looking too: gone were the traditional scraggly red hair and beard. But Marvel’s Thor had one thing more: personality. Making this otherworldly being with godlike powers the alter ego of a lame physician who couldn’t make it with his pretty office nurse granted him a sympathy to readers absent in other versions. Together, it all added up to staying power and blockbuster movie status!

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Why the Freed Tiger Sings

Friday, July 11th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
FREEDOM!

FREEDOM!

This is Sarah and I have a message for my friends and colleagues still trapped in and only in Traditional Publishing:

First of all, that moist stuff on the back of your neck?  I don’t care how often they tell you that, but that ain’t no gentle rain.

Look, people, you might choose to close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears, and believe that your publishers are your friends.  They’re not.

Oh, okay, perhaps a small exception can be made for Baen books, a small family run company that treats its authors like family.  The others?

They’ve made it very clear what you are.  Widgets.  Another can of beans.  Burn your career (snap of fingers.) No skin off their noses.  There are another ten saps, patsies, writers just like you in line waiting to break in.

I learned this lesson in 2003.

I first started to write when I came to the US in ’85.  It’s not the publishing industry’s fault I didn’t make it in earlier.  Oh, okay, fine, maybe it is a little, as barriers to entry had accumulated and the preferred method of selling by the time I broke in was to meet the editor and pitch in person.  It took me to ’98 to be able to do so.  One of the books (oh, heck, Darkship Thieves) I’d later publish had gone in the drawer by then because my agent (which I’d acquired by then, the first of four) didn’t want to send it out.

So in ’98 I pitched my Shakespeare trilogy on proposal. The first came out October 2001.

You might have heard of the little contretemps a month before.  I don’t know if you remember what you were doing then.  I do.  I was trying to finish the third book in the series only I was so anxious I could only work in front of the TV, with the news on.

No one was buying books. Some people might have been reading old favorites for comfort.

Of course the publishing industry knew this, right?  I mean, had to.  They are in NYC.

Of course – considering all the paeans we hear to how caring, how wonderful traditional publishing houses are – publishers accounted for this, and gave all those writers who were new and hadn’t sold any so well another chance, right?

Are you kidding me? Baby, Cold Equations and its strict calculations of mass and fuel didn’t have anything on the publishing industry. It had taken me almost twenty years to break in, hand over hand from pays in copies to penny mags, to finally professional shorts, to going to a workshop and selling my novel, to—

But you see, my book didn’t even get unpacked in most stores. It spent the entire time in a closet.  I know.  I tried to do drive by signings. And then it went back.

And at the 2003 World Fantasy, my editor attempted to fire me.  She had fired most of the people who came in that year by then.  I’ve never seen so many crying people, not even at my grandfather’s funeral.

Tried to fire me? Well, I refused to say fired, but that’s a story for another day.  For months after World Fantasy I thought I was fired, and that all the years of working and improving my craft meant nothing.  That I’d done it all for nothing, because events outside my control could kill my career forever.

Hey, readers, did you like Darkship Thieves? Consider I already had it in the drawer at that time. Imagine Baen hadn’t picked me up, and Berkley hadn’t decided they didn’t want to be left behind.  You’d never have read it.

Now think of all those Darkship Thieves, or perhaps better books, languishing in drawers.

Hey, you know who allows writers to put their work up, to let readers decide what they want to read?

Oh, that’s right, Amazon does.

Which is why SFWA is so grateful to Amazon hates Amazon with the fire of a thousand suns.

Wait, what? Isn’t SFWA supposed to be a writers organization?

Ah!  Fooled you, did they?

They’re not really, you know?  They’re an organization of the establishment and their main function is to keep the establishment going without change. Otherwise, explain to me letter the first, and letter the second, both supporting a publisher known for its numerous dirty tricks, while berating the people who would set them free.  (Or to quote my colleague Cedar Sanderson, F%$K me, SFWA, One More Time.

Oh, wait, I can explain it.  In a novel (Revolt in 2100 unless it’s the Benadryl speaking) Heinlein talks about a tiger who is set free but who still paces in the confines of imaginary bars.

Oh, yes, here it is:

“Please understand me-it is easy to be free when you have been brought up in freedom, it is not easy otherwise. A zoo tiger, escaped, will often slink back into the peace and security of his bars. If he can’t get back, they tell me he will pace back and forth within the limits of bars that are no longer there. The human mind is a tremendously complex thing; it has compartments in it that its owner himself does not suspect. I had thought that I had given my mind a thorough housecleaning already and had rid it of all the dirty superstitions I had been brought up to believe. I was learning that the ‘housecleaning’ had been no more than a matter of sweeping the dirt under the rugs-it would be years before the cleansing would be complete, before the clean air of reason blew through every room. “

Right now SFWA and those of you who agree with SFWA are that tiger. You’ve grown so used to and so comfy in your prison – treated like widgets, forced to do more and more of your publicity and even your editing, all for the princely fraction of profit you get of your books, and even in that scammed – that you’re afraid of the bars going down.  You’re afraid of being free.  Freedom is scary and cold. Or as the ever loving Grauniad  El Guardian tells us self-publishing is a reactionary activity and antithetical to community.

Oh sure, I have more colleagues I cooperate with, help and encourage than I did when I was strictly traditional, because there are no publishers playing mind games, and this is no longer a zero sum business. But never mind that.  It’s “anti-community” and you’re afraid of dying alone in the dark with no one to close your eyes. (You are aware, right, that your publisher would steal the sesterce from your eyes before you cooled. Never mind.)

Which brings us to my second point: You’re free. You’re not dependent on anyone to get your stories in front of the reading public. Whatever you want to imagine the bars are gone.

Get used to the scary now. Once you get over your fear you’ll realize you have control – real control not just doing all the work and being blamed for others’ mistakes and even for national tragedies – over your career for the first time in your life.

You’re free.  Surely you can get out of that cage at the computer and walk into your own career.

Do try. You’re letting the writer side down.

Even if you never came up against the “Writers are widgets” mentality, you are bound to, sooner or later. Because you see, in traditional publishing, you have no power. The publishers have all the power  When things get pinched, you’re out of there. They think they can replace you just like that.

Indie publishing is scary, but it’s also yours.  You do it, you take responsibility.  You reap the rewards.

I understand that freed slaves walked as far away as they could from their place of captivity, just in case someone changed his/her mind and enslaved them again.  Surely you can at least stop beating the companies that allow indie publishing long enough to start your own career.  All it requires is that you walk the road to freedom in your own mind.

Forget the Stockholm syndrome.  You’re free.  Act like it.


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Hunter’s Home
By Ellie Ferguson

They say you can never go home. That’s something CJ Reamer has long believed. So, when her father suddenly appears on her doorstep, demanding she return home to Montana to “do her duty”, she has other plans. Montana hasn’t been home for a long time, almost as long as Benjamin Franklin Reamer quit being her father. Dallas is now her home and it’s where her heart is. The only problem is her father doesn’t like taking “no” for an answer.

When her lover and mate is shot and she learns those responsible come from her birth pride and clan, CJ has no choice but to return to the home she left so long ago. At least she won’t be going alone. Clan alphas Matt and Finn Kincade aren’t about to take any risks where their friend is concerned. Nor is her mate, Rafe Walkinghorse, going to let her go without him.

Going home means digging up painful memories and family secrets. But will it also mean death – or worse – for CJ and her friends?


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Vengeance from Ashes
By Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.


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Chosen of Azara
By Kyra Halland

Juzeva: Born a princess of the beautiful land of Savaru, dedicated to the service of the magical Source Azara, she is forced to marry a man she doesn’t know for the sake of her country’s survival, and finds herself trapped in a web of evil and betrayal…

Sevry: The last king of the war-ravaged land of Savaru, he is tasked by Azara with finding the secret that his aunt Juzeva carried with her when she disappeared – the secret that will bring Savaru back to life – and finds himself hounded by evil men who want to use that secret for their own terrible purposes…

Lucie: A pampered young noblewoman, haunted by visions of a desperate man, she is unaware of her true heritage and the power she holds to restore life to a long-dead land…

Then Sevry, Savaru’s past, and Juzeva’s secret catch up with Lucie, leading her to adventure, danger, and a love that will forever change her life and the lost land of Savaru.


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Wings
By Sarah A Hoyt

From Elizabethan England to the Far Future, discover who really was Shakespeare and why Marlowe was called The Muses Darling. Discover the horrifying secret that Leonardo DaVinci found beneath a cave in his home village. In the far future, find a new way to keep Traveling, Traveling. Use cold sleep to find your love again, and join the (high tech) Magical Legion.

Seventeen short stories from Prometheus Award Winning Author, Sarah A. Hoyt. This edition features an Introduction by Dave Freer and a Bonus Short Story “With Unconfined Wings.”


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Witchfinder (Magical Empires)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


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Elizabeth of Vindobona: Book Three in the Colplatschki Chronicles
By Alma T.C. Boykin

All’s unfair in love and politics.

Countess Colonel Elizabeth of Vindobona has fought against Frankonia and the Turkowi, faced down a heretic traitor, evaded the romantic attentions of the emperor’s brother, and rebuilt the estate of Donatello Bend. But Court politics prove too much even for her. Sent to the far end of the Empire, Elizabeth and her allies race to save the Empire when a surprise invasion puts all else to naught. Even if she succeeds, love may prove Elizabeth’s final undoing.

Fortune favors the bold—but gunpowder settles everything.


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The Grave Artist
By Paula Lynn Johnson

“Johnson presents a believable, multilayered heroine whose narration is lively and insightful . . . The action is brisk, with a surprising but believable twist near the end. Never stilted or clumsy, this debut novel reads like the work of a far more experienced writer.” – Kirkus Reviews

16-year-old Clare can’t stop drawing the bizarre, winged skulls she calls “Sammies”. Her psychiatrist assumes the compulsive drawings are just expressions of Clare’s grief over her father abandoning her. But then Clare discovers that her Sammies are exact matches for the Death’s Head on the grave of Samantha Forsythe, a teen who reportedly fell to her death over two centuries ago.

Before long, Clare’s drawings morph into cryptic writings that urge her to uncover the truth behind Samantha’s death. Together with Neil — the friend she might be falling for — Clare scours the local history for clues. She finds that, although Samantha was engaged to a wealthy landowner, there were whispered rumors of her involvement with a younger, biracial man.

Soon, Clare is haunted by disturbing dream images — a mysterious eye, a broken chain — that point to someone Samantha called her “Dearest”. But who is Dearest? And why does Samantha need Clare to find him so badly?

Isolated and carrying hidden scars of her own, Clare fears her obsession with Samantha will threaten her sanity and safety. But it seems she has no choice in the matter . . .

The Grave Artist is a compelling paranormal murder mystery and a poignant story about loss and what it means thrive in a less-than-perfect reality.


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Cold Trap
By Jon Waskan

Economic geologist Og Rowley knows Unity well. He helped design it. He led its first science team. And upon his return home, he looked forward to reuniting with gal pal Moochy and plucky protégé Sej, who were each completing Unity missions of their own. But when word arrives that Sej has vanished, NASA sends Og back to Unity to investigate, launching him headlong into a secret battle to thwart the global aspirations of the Sino-Russian Entente. As for Moochy, well she has a secret of her own, one that could unlock the mystery of complex life and even deliver up a key to the stars … if it doesn’t cause a mass extinction first.


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What the Deaf Mute Heard
By G.D. Gearino

When ten-year-old Sammy awakens in an empty bus after an overnight trip, it’s a moment of paralyzing disorientation: He doesn’t know where he is, his mother has disappeared, and he’s surrounded by strangers.

The town is Barrington, Georgia, and Sammy grows up there — never leaving the bus station, in fact — and almost three decades pass before he speaks another word. But the man who everyone in Barrington assumes is a deaf-mute handyman reveals the town’s secrets, and in the process learns the story of his own life.

The basis for the most popular television movie in a generation (not to mention the most-watched Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation in history), “What the Deaf-Mute Heard” is a tale that stays with you long after the last page is turned.


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Slow Death in the Fast Lane
By J.W. Kerwin

On the surface, Slow Death in the Fast Lane is a wildly entertaining story about an unconventional attorney who defends a client charged with criminal tax fraud by putting the IRS and America’s tax laws on trial. But underneath the fast action, quirky characters, and outrageous courtroom stunts is a scathing indictment of a federal agency that many believe has become far too powerful.

Although a work of fiction, the book reveals a number of IRS practices, including a little known sting operation targeting small businesses.

In the particularly entertaining chapter, “Dean Wormer must be running the IRS,” an expert witness uses the “double secret probation” scene from National Lampoon’s Animal House to explain why the Internal Revenue Code violates constitutionally mandated due process requirements.


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The Mystery of the Dying Woman
By Paul Leone

London, 1888 AD. Zillah Harvey came to the city to make a better living than the country could offer… but a brutal encounter on the streets of Whitechapel opens doorways to a new and sinister world. The first in an occasional series of Victorian occult detective stories.


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Trail of Second Chances
By Paul Duffau

A high-octane adventure on a wild Montana mountain as one girl finds herself racing for her life against a malignant fire. It should have been the highlight of the summer, a training camp for elite runners in the mountains of Montana. Coached by her father, and frustrated by his efforts to hold her back, Becca Hawthorne dreams of competing in the Olympics. She earned her chance to test herself against the best runners in the Pacific Northwest. But now she faces a tougher opponent than even the fastest girl. An action-filled roller coaster ride that keeps you turning the pages as the fire creeps closer.

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Want to Get Rich? Buy a Walgreens

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

9781619697256

I am reading a book by Tom Wheelwright called Tax-Free Wealth: How to Build Massive Wealth by Permanently Lowering Your Taxes (Rich Dad Advisors) and trying to figure out how to reduce taxes. Many of the strategies are a bit too complicated and risky for many people, including myself.

For example, in chapter nineteen on “The Magic of Real Estate,” the author suggests that you find a Walgreens to buy. You buy Walgreens property, they find the land, build the building, sell the land and building to the investor, and lease them back for 30 years. Okay, so now, you as the investor pay the mortgage. Then Walgreens sends you a check that you deposit in your account. “So you don’t have to do anything. You travel all over the world with the investment income for your Walgreen’s property til a ripe old age.”

The next paragraph goes into how one can use depreciation deductions to further shelter your taxes. All this “sounds” easy, right? Wrong, not to me anyway. You need accountants that are hard to get in touch with, constant documentation, and tax planning that sounds pretty complicated. In addition, I thought there was a depreciation recapture which means some of the money will have to be paid back at some point if you sell it. It sounds like a headache. And what if Walgreens goes bankrupt? What do you do then? Books like these always make it sound like nothing will go wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is good, interesting and makes some good points about how to save on taxes but dealing with so many professionals, their costs and all of the accounting really sounds time consuming and if time is money, as the book mentions, aren’t you just trading one form of work for another?

If you have some simple tax saving strategies, please share them below (legal ones please!).

*****

cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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The 10 Most Interesting Superhero Alter Egos

Monday, July 7th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

IncredibleFamily

What’s a superhero without a secret identity? A common sense question because they can’t be super-heroes all the time, right? Well, if you go by what you see at the local cineplex, you could be excused for thinking that super-heroing is the only thing super-heroes do. Granted, the possession of a secret ID seems to be divided along Marvel/DC lines with Superman and Batman upholding the tradition (flimsy as it seems to be what with any of the heroes’ girlfriends able to penetrate it at a the drop of a hat) and Marvel’s characters abstaining. (Although there too, if one of their characters has an alter ego, he’s more likely to give the secret away to a female admirer than not).

So with the vast number of people now familiar with these characters via the big and small screens now trained not to think of the necessity of a secret identity, it behooves us to revisit just why super-heroes needed secret identities to begin with. And beginning with means going back to the beginning, namely the golden age of pulp heroes, the prose universe of superheroes that preceded the four color comics page with characters like The Shadow, The Spider, and the Phantom Detective all of whom operated outside the law or feared for loved ones who might become targets of the super-villains and gangsters they warred against.

That tradition, like many others from the pulp era, was transferred lock, stock, and barrel to comics when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first introduced Superman to a waiting world and instantly created an archetype that endless numbers of similarly caped heroes would be patterned after. And although they would take from Supes the idea of a secret identity, ironically it was reversed for the Man of Steel whose real identity was that of Superman not the invented Clark Kent!

Be that as it may, secret identities became a staple of comics heroes if only as a springboard for endless complications involving its protection against discovery often with the seeming object of making any connection between the hero and the man as unlikely as possible. In addition, unlike the aforementioned pulp heroes whose occupations were simply being independently wealthy, our beleaguered comic book heroes usually had to earn a living when out of costume. Thus, our list of the top ten most interesting occupations/alter egos/private lives in the four color world (secret or otherwise)!

Consumer warning: The following list is based on traditional versions of the heroes, the versions that comics companies have returned to time and again and more often than not television and film have used as well. Editorial upheavals at Marvel (reboots and alternate versions of its continuity) and DC (the New 52) in recent years have made characters’ current back stories uncertain to say the least.

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The Declaration of Independents

Saturday, July 5th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

uc006330

“When in the course of human events….”

The funny thing about revolutions is that they don’t stop, even though there are always Tories who think things would be better done The Old Way. These words, 238 years ago, started a revolution that goes on today — a revolution of people who asserted their right to their own life, liberty and property.

For all the halting and inconsistent progress, this revolution continues — this week, there were demonstrations in Hong Kong demanding greater political freedom. In the Anglophone West, the revolutions are smaller, but happen every day: cell phones making us independent of the old Ma Bell, and independent even of wires; the Internet letting us contact people world wide in real time; the World Wide Web becoming the platform from which we do business with everyone from major corporations to a small-time craftsperson on e-Bay.

One of those revolutions is the e-publishing revolution: now we get our music, our news, and increasingly our books in the form of bits transferred over the Internet. In some ways, perhaps, the most exciting part of this revolution is the e-book publishing revolution: through Amazon (primarily) and the Kindle platform (again primarily) it has become possible for a writer to publish a book and make it available to an international audience without needing a publisher, or the limited and expensive resource of a printing plant and a distribution network.

(See, this is a Book Plug Friday column, even though it’s probably Saturday when you see it because that’s the way Thursday and Friday went; and this is Charlie, by the way. If you listen closely you can probably hear Sarah struggling against her bonds in the background.)

Even better than being able to be published, the e-book revolution has made it possible for writers to make a living by getting published, with everything from 99¢ thrillers to porn to science-fictional series that would be wrist-breaking volumes in physical realization.

This is really new, and as Sarah has been detailing for the last year, it’s causing consternation and dislocations that have been amazing to behold. Fiction had become, really, pretty limited — personally, I blame the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and MFA programs. We have been learning to see “good fiction” as approved fiction, and the approvers increasingly have seen themselves as an Elite, the Guardians of Proper Literature, with the Right Attitudes and the Politically Appropriate Opinions.

It hasn’t been quick, but it’s been amazingly thorough, and while it went on, we saw the death of many markets, especially for short fiction. The funny thing was that when there was a market for short fiction, it was publishing Hornblower, and Heinlein, and Agatha Christie — writers and characters we still read today. But as it became necessary to write serious IWW fiction to get published, it also became harder and harder to pay for a fiction magazine. By the time I was first trying to write fiction, there were probably at most a dozen commercial magazines that still published fiction, and usually one short story a month.

Strangest thing though — if you looked at the magazine stand, down a couple racks and to the left, there were another two dozen or more monthly “true confession” magazines that had pretty immense circulation. But they weren’t “serious” fiction, just as the pulps weren’t “serious” fiction. What they were is emotionally involving, mimetic, and cathartic. Basically, Aristotle would recognize true confessions and pulp as good art. The IWW literati would say those were boring old clichés and not good art at all — and this recent generation would ask if there were enough women, gays, people “of color”, and transgendered people, and whether the author was from an under-represented group.

All that has changed because of the possibility of publishing independently through Amazon, and the Boston-New York Literature Mavens don’t like it. People are writing, and sometimes writing wonderfully well, the fiction that Aristotle would recognize, and they’re selling it too.

The big publishers, and the literature Tories, don’t like it. They’re like everyone to stay in proper line and read what’s good for us.

The ability to publish without their permission that comes from ebook publishing is a Declaration of independence, a revolt against another aristocracy that knows what’s good for us.


I wanted to correct something from my piece last week. Since it was published, I was contacted by a source, an industry insider with some knowledge of the big publisher contracts with Amazon. It appears that the big publishers do indeed manage to get the 70 percent royalty from Amazon, even when their books are outside the Kindle Direct guidelines.

Here’s the kicker, though: they pay the same royalty to the author (assuming they report ebook sales honestly, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.) So, if a publisher sells a book for $30 in hardcover, they get something like $15 for it, out of which they have to pay for the printing, shipping, warehousing, and so on. Then they pay the author something like $3.

If they sell the ebook for $13, they get $9.10 from Amazon. It costs them effectively nothing on the margin to “print” or “warehouse” the book. They still pay the author $3.


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CRIMSON
By Warren Fahy 

Voyage into an enchanted world in this epic fantasy of adventure and romance as a young king with god-like powers inherits a kingdom and a curse: what he loves most will be his doom. How he decides to fight his fate will endanger his entire kingdom, unite him with his true love in another world, and launch a desperate voyage across a sea of seething monsters and fearsome illusions that will test the will of an intrepid crew of mariners and determine the fate of their world forever. Get ready for an epic fantasy like no other in CRIMSON by Warren Fahy, author of the New York Times bestseller FRAGMENT and PANDEMONIUM.


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Extendedcompanion
By William Krasinski 

Breakthrough technology is great, until you live long enough to become obsolete. Wilek and the other ABC Captains have successfully handled this over the past century, but a resurgent Earth jealousy eying the Off Worlds will soon put the hype to the test. Add to the mix an unasked for new crew ‘mate’, salty recruits and a happy bio, Captain Wilek may reach his last good nerve long before Earth.


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Au Pair Girl
By Judy Klass 

Janine Larson’s parents don’t like her spending her summer hanging out with her boyfriend and her ditsy friends. To teach her responsibility, they get her a job taking care of the kids of a rich, unpleasant doctor and his wife in their summer island home. Janine wins over the small boy, but not the creepy little girl. Janine tries to see the rotten job through, and wonders if she is paranoid about some things . . . When the doctor and his wife realize she has discovered their unsavory, criminal secrets, her cell phone disappears. That night, they chase her around the island, trying to kill her.


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The Morning Which Breaks (Loralynn Kennakris #2)
By Jordan Leah Hunter & Owen R. O’Neill 

For eight years, Kris was the property of a brutal slaver captain. Now she’s free and a cadet at the League’s military academy. All she brings to this new life is a unique set of skills, a profound ignorance of ‘civilized’ society, and a large chip on her shoulder.

But Kris isn’t quite sure what to make of the Academy, and the Academy isn’t at all sure what to make of her. The medical staff thinks she’s homicidal, her fellow cadets think she’s crazy, and her instructors don’t know what to think.

So when she’s approached about helping capture a terrorist warlord, she’s more than happy to leave the halls of academia behind for awhile. Kris knows she’s not signing up for any pleasure cruise. What she doesn’t know is that the key to the mission’s success is reliving her very worst nightmare .

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5 Deep Books For Overcoming Our Addiction to Idol Worship

Sunday, June 29th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Over at the PJ Tatler last week I unveiled my newest e-book size, giant list post: “30 Books For Defeating Valerie Jarrett’s Cult of Political Criminals.”

I organized the list into eight different sections by either theme or author, the second to last being a subject I’ve been preoccupied with perhaps more than all the others the past few years: “5 on cults, idol worship, and the origins of religion.” Here are numbers 21 through 25. I intend to eventually do a much longer, more in depth list devoted specifically to this subject. What other books do you think I should include? I’m now taking suggestions… Also related from earlier this month for those looking for more: ”Is God a Noun or a Verb? 6 Great Books Introducing Jewish Mysticism

"Idolatry comes from the way in which an image is worshiped, and not from the image itself." Leora Batnitzky, page 23 of Idolatry and Representation: the #Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered. #God #Religion #Bible #Judaism

21. and 22. Idolatry and Representation: The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered by Leora Batnitzky and The Star of Redemption by Franz Rosenzweig

From PJ Media columnist David P. Goldman‘s articles and books I’ve developed a fascination with Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig. This book provides accessible insight into a core component of his thought very much of relevance to those wanting to better understand and overcome the powerful personality cults dominating America today. Leora Batnitzky focuses the discussion of Rosenzweig on idolatry, the primitive religious practice Judaism evolved against. For Rosenzweig idolatry is not based in the images or in the “foreign” customs of competing religions. It’s based in an incorrect apprehension of how to worship. Rosenzweig argues that the postmodernist, Nietzchean, truth-is-relative philosopher engages in the same practice as the ancient idolaters, self-worship, from page 47:

"Rosenzweig's suggestion is that the point-of-view philosopher's worldview is one of self-worship." - page 47 of Leora Batnitzky's fantastic #Idolatry and Representation: The #Philosophy of #FranzRosenzweig Reconsidered

Once I finish reading Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed this year it’ll be time to focus on The Star of Redemption. As Goldman’s first essay book demonstrates, Rosenzweig’s ideas provide piercing analysis of our culture today…

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A Mainstream Publisher May Not Be Your Friend

Friday, June 27th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

mrpotter

Charlie here. So Sarah is away at science-fiction-writer summer camp, and I’m doing the prose for the book plug links this week. (Don’t forget to email book.plug.friday@gmail.com for guidelines if you would like your book plugged here, leading to fame and fortune.) I can’t promise a fiery Latin rant like last week, but think of this as an appendix — small, kinda slimy, and no one is quite sure what it does.

This time, I’m going to do a little arithmetic. Amazon’s royalty options are a little bit arcane, because of special programs and multiple currencies, but here are the basic rules:

  • You can get 35 percent of the sale price as a flat rate for any book from a minimum of between 99¢ and $2.99 — depending on the size of the book in megabytes — up to $200. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a $200 ebook.
  • Or if you meet some conditions, you can get 70 percent of the sale price, as long as the price you set is between $2.99 and $9.99. You also pay a data transfer fee, which is 15¢ a megabyte. (Which, for most fiction, means about 15¢.)

The conditions aren’t particularly onerous: first, if you have the right to publish the work in some country, Amazon has to be able to e-publish your book in that country; second, the book can’t consist primarily of public-domain content — you can’t ebookify something from Project Gutenberg and get the 70 percent rate; third, the e-book has to be enabled for text-to-speech; and you have to set the e-book price at least 20 percent below the cover price of the physical edition.

So, now I picked a novel at random from the ones Amazon is pushing, The Hurricane Sisters. It’s from the most mainstream of mainstream publishers: William Morrow, part of HarperCollins. From the blurb, it’s a standard sort of Southern-gothic chick-book, with the powerful lover, the gay brother, the BFF, family troubles. (God, no, I haven’t read it! The blurb sounds like it would be a more honest work redone as porn, but that’s a topic for another time.)


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The Hurricane Sisters: A Novel
By Dorothea Benton Frank 

Hurricane season begins early and rumbles all summer long, well into September. Often people’s lives reflect the weather and The Hurricane Sisters is just such a story.

Once again Dorothea Benton Frank takes us deep into the heart of her magical South Carolina Lowcountry on a tumultuous journey filled with longings, disappointments, and, finally, a road toward happiness that is hard earned. There we meet three generations of women buried in secrets. The determined matriarch, Maisie Pringle, at eighty, is a force to be reckoned with because she will have the final word on everything, especially when she’s dead wrong. Her daughter, Liz, is caught up in the classic maelstrom of being middle-age and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. And Liz’s beautiful twenty-something daughter, Ashley, whose dreamy ambitions of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds.

[Shortened....]

The Lowcountry has endured its share of war and bloodshed like the rest of the South, but this storm season we watch Maisie, Liz, Ashley, and Mary Beth deal with challenges that demand they face the truth about themselves. After a terrible confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness, but can they establish a new order for the future of them all?


But look at the price. $12.99. Easily more than 20 percent less that the hardcover price, text-to-speech is enabled, and I’m sure that HC will happily sell it anywhere they have publication rights.

So, this is the part of Book Plug Friday where we do arithmetic.

$ 12.99  
x  0.35  
-------
   4.65  

Amazon is paying $4.65 to HarperCollins for each copy of the e-book they sell. But they seem to be able to qualify for the better rate in terms of the other conditions. Which means

$  9.99  
x  0.70  
-------
   6.99  

Let that be a lesson to you indie writers: 70 percent is better than 35 percent. Also, let that be a lesson to you, HarperCollins: 70 percent of $9.99 is better than 35 percent of $12.99.

And let that be a lesson to you, Dorothea Benton Frank: for some reason, HarperCollins is happy to give up $2.34 of your money.

Don’t you wonder why?


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Golf Cart Blues
By Walt Pimbley 

“A foursome from Fordo (Iran’s nuclear bomb research center) take a breather on the links, where they discover that Commies make poor caddies. When Mossad
shows up to play through, things get dicey.”

FREE on Kindle for a few days!


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Master Minds
By Edited by Juliana Rew 

A new collection of science fiction and fantasy stories for Summer 2014 on the theme of “intelligence.”


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In Treachery Forged
By David A. Tatum 

Following the rebellion of the Borden Isles, the Kingdom of Svieda was forced to make a pact with the Sho’Curlas Alliance in order to maintain the world’s balance of power.

Many years later, that pact was betrayed, suddenly and irrevocably, when the Sword King of Svieda was brutally assassinated by the Sho’Curlas Ambassador in the opening act of an invasion.

To help save his country in the ensuing war, Sword Prince Maelgyn must travel to the Province of Sopan, take command of his armies, and join his cousins in battle. Along the way he rescues a Dwarven caravan, forges a badly needed alliance, and accidentally gets married.

And then he learns about the dragons….


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Urdaisunia
By Kyra Halland 

Rashali, a widowed Urdai peasant, has vowed to destroy the Sazars who conquered Urdaisunia and brought her people to ruin.

Prince Eruz, heir to the Sazar throne, walks a dangerous line between loyalty and treason as he tries to do what is best for all the people of Urdaisunia.

The gods who once favored Urdaisunia have turned their backs on the land and left it to die.

When Rashali and Eruz meet by chance, the gods take notice, sending peasant and prince on intertwining paths of danger, intrigue, love, and war – paths that will change their lives, the destiny of Urdaisunia, and even the fate of the gods, forever.


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Wizard’s Heir
By Michael A, Hooten
Gwydion ap Don is a talented harpist, and a known rogue. But his Uncle Math sees something more: a young man with the magical talent to succeed him as Lord Gwynedd. But to learn magic, Gwydion will also have to learn self-control, duty, honor, and the martial arts. He’s not sure which will be the hardest. And when his training in magic begins in earnest, his whole world will change, as well as how he sees himself.

Based on the ancient Welsh myths from the Mabinogion, but set in the world of Cricket’s Song, this new series looks at one of the three great bards of Glencairck, Gwydion. But long before he became a great bard, he had to learn how to be a good man. This is the story of how his uncle tries to temper him into a leader, and a suitable heir.


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Fate and Fair Winds
By Dory Codington 

Adventure / Romance: Fate and Fair Winds takes place in Philadelphia in the months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The novel explores what it means to be free and independent from both a personal and a political standpoint.

Rebecca is a stubborn Pennsylvania farm girl, searching for her right to independence. Her father has used her dowry to buy a neighbor’s land and has offered to arrange her marriage to that neighbor as an alternative to having a dowry. This is an option she finds repugnant, but perhaps inevitable.

John FitzSimmon has been traveling the coastal colonies to learn what he can about the mood of the Colonists for his commander Gen. William Howe. He stops in Philadelphia to meet with his brother Jason, the captain of a merchant vessel docked at the harbor. When his shadow falls over the sketch Rebecca has made of the pretty ship, she asks him a question that will change both their lives.


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Self-Publishing With Burning Slug
By Anthony W. Hursh 

The Burning Slug book engine (http://burningslug.com/) is quite possibly the fastest way to get your text into book form. From the same manuscript file you can produce:

  • EPUB format (iBooks, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and many other readers)
  • MOBI format (Kindle)
  • Print-ready PDF
  • Stand-alone website

This manual was itself compiled with Burning Slug. The EPUB, Kindle, and print versions were all generated from the same manuscript without any text changes for the different versions.


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What About the Boy? A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son
By Stephen Gallup 

Nobody knew what hurt little Joseph, and no one was offering a way to help him. He cried most of the time, and thrashed about as if in pain. He wasn’t learning how to crawl, talk, or interact normally. Doctors told his parents to seek counseling, because nothing could help their son, and the quality of their own lives was at risk. Refusal to accept that advice changed their lives forever. WHAT ABOUT THE BOY? A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son chronicles a family’s rejection of hopelessness and their commitment to the pursuit of normalcy.


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Father’s Day: More Married. More Husband. More Father. More Man.
By Greg Swann 

Families without fathers typically are not families for long, and they are rarely strong families. The families from which children emerge the strongest – best-prepared intellectually, emotionally and in future earning-power – are the best-fathered families. Dad is the unchallenged leader of his brood, and everyone recognizes that it is his steady, unwavering, mission-critical leadership that most makes them a family. He never stops driving his family, and – in direct consequence – they are proud to go where he takes them.

Father’s Day is about making more families like that, helping Dad find his way back to his leadership role, helping him take charge and get his family moving again.


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Scout’s Honor
By Henry Vogel 

Told in a relentlessly fast-paced and breathless style, SCOUT’S HONOR is an exciting modern homage to the classic tales of planetary romance made famous by writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett, as well as the cliffhanger-driven energy of the early science fiction movie serials. If you like your heroes unabashedly heroic, your heroines feisty and true, and your plots filled with dangers, twists, turns, and double-crosses upon triple-crosses, you’ll enjoy SCOUT’S HONOR.


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Dark Invasion
By Mark Whittington 

Having escaped the Nazi vampire hunter, SS officer Kurt Hesselman, the Contessa Gabriella Doria finds herself in neutral Switzerland and in the company of American spy master Allen Dulles. Dulles sends Gabriella on a mission that might cut short the war by a year. She is to infiltrate occupied France, contact Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and persuade him to change sides and fight on the side of the allies. But Gabriella will soon face peril from all sides, including from an enemy that she had thought dead and buried.

A direct sequel to Gabriella’s first World War II adventure, Dark Sanction.


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War To the Knife
By Peter Grant 

Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide.

Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers an opportunity to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed.

That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.

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The 10 Greatest Comic Book Writers Of All Time

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Over the course of comics’ 70 plus year history there have been many hundreds of writers toiling in the four color medium with many who were just punching the clock waiting for that great American novel to hit the bestseller lists or for Hollywood to come calling. It wasn’t until fans began to replace professionals in the early 1970s that comics writing began to be considered as a career in itself.

Not that comics writing lacked craft. Before the revolution in comics scripting begun by Stan Lee, writing for comics was far more labor intensive than it later became. Before the dawn of the Marvel Age of Comics, the writer, generally speaking, was the guiding force in the creation of a typical comic book. Oh, sure, the editor had a big role to play in the early stages of a script, conferencing with the writer, working through a plot (if not coming up with the story idea himself), and approving the story. But outside the guiding role, the writer took over: putting words to paper (and before the Marvel Age, there were plenty of words… just take a look at any EC Comic to find out), orchestrating the action, describing to the artist exactly what he was to depict in every single panel of the story. Written in the style of a movie script, there was little left out of a comics script for an artist to exercise his own imagination.

That changed when Stan Lee, long time editor for Marvel Comics, found himself with little time to write all the books in his fledgeling line of super-hero titles. To do it, while also finding the time to fulfill his editorial and art director duties, he began giving his artists synopses of stories, leaving much of the decision making in how the stories unfolded to the artists. When the completed art was returned, Lee would write the dialogue. To be known ever afterward as the Marvel Method, the formula saved much time, divided creative responsibilities between the writer and artist, and made for a less intense work experience for the scripter.

That said, for much of comics history, the medium was considered kiddie fare, the bottom rung of the pop media ladder. For that reason, with few exceptions such as the aforementioned EC Comics, not much energy was expended by writers to create sophisticated fare, at least until the dawn of the Marvel Age. Some might argue that the establishment of the Comics Code was a setback to the acceptance of comics as entertainment for adults but that is a canard. With the end of the Comics Code in the 1990s, the medium has shown little improvement compared to what came before. In fact, an argument can be made that the medium has devolved in that time.

In any case, the foregoing is by way of helping to better tease out the greatest comic book writers of all time from the hundreds who have worked in the field. To make even finer distinctions, the best writers would have to possess longevity, have worked in a wide array of different genres, and display a high level of craft peculiar to the comics medium, not only in coming up with original story ideas but telling those stories in an understandable manner critical to clear and concise storytelling.

10) Alan Moore

A Johnny-come-lately compared to others on this list, Moore was recruited from the British comics scene by DC execs and made an immediate splash with his inventive take on the sluggish Swamp Thing feature. There, the writer immediately challenged Comics Code rules and regs writing entertaining stories with a touch of brilliance. Due to the uncompromising nature of much of his work, DC decided to create a new line of “mature” comics rather than tone down Moore’s work under the Code. Moore went on to many more off-Code projects including The Killing Joke and Watchmen before striking out on his own with such titles as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell. Over a long career beginning in 1978, Moore’s popularity among fans grew but his own dark interests in pornography, violence, and paganism undercut his reputation as one of the best comics writers of later years.

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10 Fiction Stories I Love, Which School Forced on Me

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Despite my largely public education, I still learned a few things by accident. My favorite subjects were Social Studies and English, which figures for a kid who grew up to be a political writer.

Over the years, I was exposed to a number of fiction stories which I resisted at first but grew to love. It’s something I recall whenever trying to convince my finicky five year old to try new things.

Here are ten books, films, and plays which grew on me after being forced down my throat. They’re presented in ascending order of my personal enjoyment, not necessarily their critical or literary gravitas.

10. My Fair Lady

Yeah, yeah, go ahead with the jokes. I like The Sound of Music too. It’s a brave new post-modern, genderless world, or something. Get over it.

Despite its feminine trappings, the story at the heart of My Fair Lady emerges from unbridled masculinity. What else would you call a gentlemen’s bet that an unrefined flower girl could be transformed into a convincing lady of high society through an act of male will? It’s a theme so reliable that it’s become a cliché used in romantic comedies to this day.

This was also my introduction to Audrey Hepburn, who ain’t too bad to look at.

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The Publishing Business Is In Crisis

Friday, June 20th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

 People surround a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, which was toppled by protesters during a rally organized by supporters of EU integration in Kiev

This is Sarah and this week I realized that traditional publishing is in more trouble than I thought.  In fact it’s entirely possible the end is nigh at least for the business as it’s been since I entered.

You see, there have always been cracks and signs of break down amid the glitzy façade of traditional publishing.  Most of it, though, was the normal churn of the business, as it changed and tilted and adapted, for a certain version of adapting, to new conditions.

When I came into this field I was told two things by older and more experienced colleagues.  One of them was that for all its glitzy innovation and its very real new ways of doing business, the publishing business remained at heart a nineteenth century business: contracts weren’t as important as a hand shake; who you were as someone for people to work with was more important than cold hard sales; your publisher would take care of you.  All of these things – except for one publisher in the field (Baen Books) – were a lie by the time I started in the late nineties.  Well, maybe not the first.  If your book was a year late in being published, and technically out of contract (my very first published book, Ill Met By Moonlight, now indie) the contract meant nothing.

This was my first experience with the fact that the book business was in fact not a nineteenth century business, but a fourteenth century one. You came in and you were an indentured serf.  No matter how badly you were treated, you had to be nice to the Lord, because he held your life in his hands. And no matter how badly you were treated, the other Lords would side with each other and conspire to keep you in servitude and destroy you if you spoke out against it.

The second thing I was told when I came in was “the publishing business is in crisis.  And it’s always been.”

This was meant to imply that for all the moaning and bitching from publishers about how bad things were (usually when making an offer for a book) things went on and the publishers continued being paid their salaries and their pensions and writers had both the security of knowing the business would continue and the awful certainty it would continue the same way – with them as peons.

This was the same kind of truth as the one above.  To an extent it was true.  You saw churn and failing lines and ups and downs in the field, but the field went on, no matter how many times your publisher told you they were effectively broke.

Except it wasn’t true in another way.  For all the “keep on keeping on” the average print run for your “normal” (midlist) author had changed drastically, from around 70K or so books in the seventies, to around 7K nowadays.

The excuses abounded: “People no longer read” and “It’s all the other entertainment media” and even “Our books are too smart/daring/special for those dumb readers.”

Truth of course was nothing of the kind, as most of us who are readers knew.  It’s more that the books that were being offered and how people found them had changed profoundly under the cloak of business as usual.

How many of you in the past twenty years or so went into a chain book store and came out with no books and disappointed?  You remembered perfectly well going to the convenience store around the corner and against your will spending your last dime on a paperback because it looked so good, but now here you were, in a chain store, surrounded by metric miles of books and unable to find anything you even wanted to look at.

I realized around the early nineties that my reading life had changed.  It had changed because I rarely found a book I wanted to read.  Reading remained my main form of entertainment, but in the mid nineties I turned to fanfic on line, because I couldn’t find anything to read in the stores.

The problem was this: most of the books on the shelves, whether at our large indie store, or Barnes and Noble, or Borders (all then within easy distance from my house) completely failed to interest me.  And I read Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and both popular history and historical novels.

However, with very few exceptions, no matter what I got from the shelves in SF/F it always turned out to be a lament about oppression, a glorification of victimhood or a “Humanity is vermin on the Earth” book.  So I stayed home and re-read my Heinleins until they became part of my thought process.

As for Mystery it went through a long slog of trying to be “realistic.”  I don’t read mystery to read about real cops doing their jobs, which, like most other jobs, are boring day-to-day routine, even when the results turn out exciting.  And I certainly don’t read mystery to come up in the end against the conclusion that there is no justice in this sad workaday world.  For that, I read the news.

I knew what the issue was, at least to an extent.  As a would-be writer I’d bought a ton of how-to-write mystery books, all of whom sneered at Agatha Christie and explained to us that cozies weren’t “real” mysteries.  In real mysteries, professionals solved murders, and the professionals were always right.  This maligning a fiction genre because it isn’t “real” is something that could only make sense to intellectuals.  People on the street know enough to say “of course it’s not, you dope. Real life isn’t FUN and fiction is supposed to be. In fact, this is still going on.  See this for instance, which a friend of mine characterized as the publisher equivalent of a chocolate manufacturer complaining that the customers liked sugar and not ground glass in their chocolate and were therefore “unsophisticated rubes”

That is part of how the business had changed.  It had changed to becoming a “push” business in which the customer would take what the publishers wanted to sell them and like it.  (Which is why even when “cozy mysteries” came back, we kept getting weird waves of stuff no one wanted to read, like the solid two years when EVERY character in a mystery sounded like a Sex in the City character to the point even this shoe addict had no interest in it.)

But publishing had been taken over by MBAs and had been concentrated in the hands of six conglomerates. Selling books the public wants to read is fickle.  You never know what those rubes your clients will want. Look how they embraced Dune which was published by a tiny press. Who could have guessed they’d like it? And why had all those mom and pop bookstore owners pushed this obscure book from nowhere?

When publishing fell in the hands of people trained to manage businesses predicting how a book would do was REALLY important.  It was also impossible.  So the new CEOs moved to do what dictators always do: eliminate the human factor.

Slowly — helped by changes in book retail, which in turn was helped by giving discounts to chain bookstores and leaving mom and pop’s out in the cold — they turned book selling into a “command economy”.  Someone at the top had a five year plan, predicted how much each book would sell, and it sold that.  This was accomplished by telling the stores how many books to stock and it was aided and abetted by stores stocking the same books in a “tri-state area” and also stocking according to “publisher confidence,” i.e. how many books the publisher said they would sell.  Fortunately the new bookstore managers were “Sales Professionals,” not readers, so very few read or hand-pushed a book.  Also fortunately most of those messy power readers whose main form of entertainment was reading (on vacation I can power through six novels a day, while doing stuff with my husband and sons on the side) had given up.  They were re-reading their extensive collection, or they kept changing genres in search of one that was still fun to read.  (In the early two thousands I found that most of my friends were now reading popular history because, bizarrely, it was less politically correct than fiction. It didn’t last. The publishers caught on and started pushing PC there too.  In fact, about five years ago, when things started falling apart for them, they were in the process of doing this to Romance, where I’d been driven to escape their insanity. I read my first romance in my thirties, and by five years ago was reading five or six a day. And then all the new releases featured historical heroines who were suffragettes or modern-day-style feminists, or evil business owners, or… you know the drill and so do I.)

The result were lowered print runs, but by gum, the publishers had total control on how a book would do.  If they targeted you for bestseller, you’d become one, even if they had to fudge the numbers to do it. (Look, the numbers are inherently fudged because according to the publishers themselves, they pay according to Nielsen numbers.  Those of us who have become publishers and know what ships know that Nielsen represents at best one-third of books sold.  For some books – those that sell in less traditional markets, like military-base stores or comic bookshops – it represents one tenth or less of sales.  Yes, you’d think it would be a matter of counting how many books shipped and how many were returned, but trust me, because of legacy systems it’s far crazier than that.  And even ebook sales, due to the byzantine way in which they’re reported, are very hard if you’re keeping track for anyone but yourself.)

This worked about as well as you expect of top-down systems. By the time Amazon came along, we were more than ready for them.  Don’t let the Amazon-whiners deceive you.  If everything had been fine in publishing – say if Amazon had come around in the seventies – it would have had an impact, but not nearly as large.

But Amazon moved in on a vacuum. Even now, the main publishers don’t get it (as Joe Konrath proves, taking Hachette to task.) Suddenly readers could find the authors that never got stocked, and found out that hey, books were still being published they wanted to read.  (From the other side, the authors’ statements didn’t change much, even though they suddenly found themselves hailed as celebrities by neighbors and repairmen who came to the house.  Strange.  It’s almost like those numbers are the ones the publishing house decided on, and not what really sold.  Some day, when my husband has time, he’s going to do a dissection of my mystery royalty reports, where – I swear – the print run changes in a quantum manner, to avoid paying me royalties. It’s obvious even to me that they’re lying, but my husband is a mathematician and will have lots of fun with it.)

Then Amazon opened the market to self-publishing, and people could find things that they wanted to read that insulted neither their intelligence nor their political beliefs.

Thereby precipitating whining, denial and outright illegal price-fixing from the publishers.

But you know, I didn’t quite believe in the revolution.  Oh, I believed I could make a living from it, at least at the level I was making.  Witchfinder proved that, if nothing else.  (Though I need to bring out the two sequels soon or sales will crash.  Indie has low attention span, because it’s spoiled for choice.)

However for real push, for real penetration of market, traditional publishing still held control. They could still make something a bestseller if they wanted to and pushed enough. Or at least so I thought.

I saw some signs it might not be so, because if I’m right, they tried to push Night Circus to the same level of publicity as Twilight.  It didn’t get there.  Nowhere near.

But then maybe I was wrong, because this was like a middle school chick watching the boys to see who liked her, or the free world watching the May day parade to see who was in and who was out at the Kremlin.  One thing was sure, we’d get things wrong.

And then this week, I saw the walls tumble down.  I saw the statue of Lenin dragged through the streets.

I saw Hillary’s book tank.

Oh, sure, they spin it.  They’re publishers.  They know how to spin.  They’ve been doing it for decades.  They say it’s selling well enough.  They say it’s the “changing book market.”  But it’s not.

““The rollout was touted as the best planned book tour ever, meticulously crafted by the smartest Hillary aides, publishing PR gurus, and the savviest superagents,” writes another publishing source.

“The book will probably debut on the bestseller list at number one and then fall like a rock. After the smoke clears, with tens of thousands of books sitting in warehouses collecting dust, there’ll be a lot of handwringing and probably a few people without jobs.”

The book will debut on the bestseller list, because that’s determined not by books bought but by “laydown”, i.e. how many books the publisher shipped.  (Bet you didn’t know a book can be a “bestseller” without selling a single book.

What you might not appreciate from the outside is how amazing, how impossible this is.  They still have control over what ships (and therefore gets on the bestseller list for at least one week), they have control over the figures they show, they have control over publicity, they can strong-arm bookstores to stock a book and to push it.  And you bet your bottom dollar they deployed all this in favor of Hillary.

And it tanked.  It tanked so publicly, so visibly, it can’t be denied.

Even five years ago, they could push Obama to bestsellerdom, whether that was true or Memorex.  (Those of us with experience saw a lot of discounted Obama merchandise, but never mind.)

Now they can’t.  And if they can’t do it for Hillary! having pulled all the stops, then they certainly can no longer do it for the industry darlings, those politically correct parrots they’ve been pushing up readers’ noses for years.  They can still probably lie about those.  They’re not as public a flop as Hillary.  But all the lies and all the gloss won’t save them from losing their shirts.

Will they go bankrupt?  I doubt it.  As we’ve learned with Russia the fall of evil empires is complex.

However, it’s safe to say their domination of the market is over.

I’ve seen the equivalent of Lenin’s statue dragged through the streets this week.  They can’t take that away from me.  And they can’t take my freedom.  I’m like one of those East Germans who, when the wall came down, rode their Trabants as far as they could and then walked away, west, ever west, many of them ending up in Portugal, by the sea.

As both a writer and a libertarian who decries the domination of the left-pc point of view in our culture, I’m perhaps more moved by this than the average person. Forgive me the religious-sounding quotation.  I’m going to quote Elizabeth the first, quoting the Bible. When, against all odds, she found she had survived her two siblings (without being killed) and become Queen (news were brought to her in the tower, so it was a near thing) she’s reported to have said “This is the day the Lord has made, and it is marvelous in our sight.”

And so it is.


Hat tip to reader Laura Montgomery, who points us to Indie Author Land:

Indie-Author-Land

 

Their “about us” page describes them as:

But since you’re here, this is what there is to know: Indie Author Land is run by a couple.  She is a journalist covering the arts, and he is a computer programmer. Neither one of us is an author, but we are both voracious readers and both want to contribute, in whatever way we can, to the creation of good fiction.

Hence, Indie Author Land…

The site is growing, and this is what we want. Our idea is for that growth to be organic, fluid – growing to fill whatever void it may come across.

(And, selfishly, helping us find our next favourite book!)

They sound like the right kind of folks.


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Witchfinder (Magical Empires)
By Sarah Hoyt 

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


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Cardinal Points
By Dory Codington 

Adventure / Romance. Cardinal Points begins at the very beginning of the American Revolution, the night the colonists of Boston, threw crates and crates of good China tea into the harbor to protest, taxes and Governors Hutchinson’s decisions about shipping and selling.
Jason, a merchant sailor and the fourth son of a Duke, arrived in Boston just in time to get caught in the brewing turmoil over the tea stored on three ships.
Oona was there to help, anxious to be a part of the town’s search for freedom and independence. She did not expect, while she stuck feathers in dark wool caps and boot black on familiar faces, to see a smile she had not seen for ten years. When the man attached to the impish grin picked her up and kissed her while the crowd of disguised men howled, it was as if her dreams had come true


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Deadly Secrets
By Autumn Killingham 

The murder of socialite, Jackie Johnson, during a dinner party in her mansion, plunges Detective Slivy Brown into an unfamiliar world drenched with privilege and excess. Besides an unfaithful husband eager to inherit her fortune, dinner guests and servants harbor marvelous motives for murder.

Slivy, the daughter of a cop killed in the line of duty, is unhappily partnered with Detective Wilbur Pendleton, the annoyingly pompous son of the police chief. Together, they chase elusive clues and watch each suspect slither away.

Stumped by the evidence and stymied by Slivy’s recurrent nightmares, the investigation stalls until Slivy uncovers a sordid family secret that brings her face-to-face with the murderer and drags the detective into the heart of her own spine-chilling nightmare. There, she confronts the demons of her past and the challenges of her future.


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The Long Voyage of the Little Fleet
By Mackey Chandler 

In the first book of this series “Family Law”, Lee’s parents and their business partner Gordon found a class A habitable planet. They thought their quest as explorers was over and they’d live a life of ease. But before they could return and register their claim Lee’s parents died doing a survey of the surface. That left Lee two-thirds owner of the claim and their partner Gordon obligated by his word with her parents to raise Lee. She had grown up aboard ship with her uncle Gordon and he was the only family she’d ever known. Him adopting her was an obvious arrangement – to them. Other people didn’t see it so clearly over the picky little fact Gordon wasn’t human.

After finding prejudice and hostility on several worlds Lee was of the opinion planets might be nice to visit, but terrible places to live. She wanted back in space exploring. Fortunately Gordon was agreeable and the income from their discovery made outfitting an expedition possible. Lee wanted to go DEEP – out where it was entirely unknown and the potential prizes huge. After all, if they kept exploring tentatively they might run up against the border of some bold star faring race who had gobbled up all the best real estate. It wasn’t hard to find others of a like mind for a really long voyage. This sequel to “Family Law” is the story of their incredible voyage.


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The Fields Where Soldiers Play
By B. J. Beck 

FROM THE DEPTHS of a tunnel to the peak of a mountain, a soldier rarely chooses his battlefield …

Sir Jacien Blyne of Newelen was coming home, but a conspiracy has formed in his absence to overthrow the kingdom. Given no time for rest or to reconcile with his wife, Jacien must take up arms once again.

Along with a cave-dwelling Daferin and a disciplined female warrior, Jacien will face an overwhelming enemy with the advantage of Reticulative Magic on its side.

His chances, however, are irrelevant when his country is at stake.

Unfortunately, the invaders want more than Newelen.


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Priestesses
By Francis W. Porretto 

Helen and Martine run unusual establishments: “sex shops” in Los Angeles and New York that never ask payment for their wares. They aren’t there to make a monetary profit. Their mission is more serious than that. As priestesses of fleshly desire, they seek to spread erotic knowledge throughout Mankind. Quoth Helen: “A dollop of physical pleasure here and there, a little instruction in the ways of the body, a helping hand toward the fulfillment of this marriage or that affair, can sometimes avert the most terrible alternatives you could imagine.” Erotica for good people.


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Let No False Angels
By Wesley Morrison 

The others came for Heinrich Aguirre when he was a child. Born in one of the Germanies with a light inside his mind, Aguirre is raised to take his place as one of the Magian, the rare few who can part the veil between the many versions of Earth. Vowing to protect these endless worlds and all who live in them, Magian do not hesitate. But during his first battle, while still less than a man, Aguirre does, only to see the magus who raised him die instead.

For his sin, the others banish Aguirre to the solitary path.

Seventeen years later, Magian are being slaughtered, and with a kind of power no magus has ever seen before. Suspicion quickly falls on Aguirre, who realizes that his only hope is to find the truth himself. So Aguirre turns his back on those who have already turned their backs on him, and with the Magian in pursuit, he races to save his own kind before they kill him first.

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Comic Book Tropes That Need to Die, the First in An Occasional Series

Monday, June 16th, 2014 - by Stephen McDonald
gotham

Pictured: Gotham in the 80s.

You know the drill: a city without hope where the police and politicians are a wholly owned subsidiary of organized crime. It’s dirty, violent, economically depressed, and has been for decades.

Yet despite all the blood on the pavement and corresponding plummeting property values, good people remain. 

joffrey-baratheon_327509

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Mars the Hard Way

Friday, June 13th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

My friend Les Johnson, my colleague at Baen, is both a real writer and a real scientist, one of those renaissance men we all aspired to be at some time. Most of us never made it, but Les did.

Recently Les co-authored the book Rescue Mode with Science Fiction legend Ben Bova, and he was kindly enough to allow us to interview him about space, about working with Ben Bova, and about our chances to get off the rock and go out to space.

Sarah: What is holding us back on the rock, in your opinion, from the practical viewpoint?

Les: First of all, I need to say that the opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent NASA.

There is no technological reason keeping us from going back to the Moon to visit or to set up a base there. What we’re lacking are the systems to go. By systems, I mean the actual hardware to launch the people and the hardware needed to keep them alive while they are on their way to the Moon or living on the surface. NASA and several private companies have the technologies to develop the hardware we need — all they are lacking are the money and the will to make it happen. By the way, the same can be said of sending humans to Mars. We can go if we want to.

An aside about money. I contend that going to the Moon, Mars or an asteroid with people is not that expensive – in relative terms. For reference, look at the 2015 NASA budget of $17 billion. For you and me, that’s a lot of money. For most countries and certainly most private businesses it is a lot of money. But for the US Government it is a relatively small amount when you consider that our total budget is over $3.9 trillion (or $3,900 billion). $3900 – $17 = $3883, which is, in practical terms, not much different from the $3900. In other words, NASA’s budget is a rounding error on the total federal budget. Sending humans beyond Earth, which would cost less than $17 billion and be spread out over 5 years or so, is a very small cost in the grand scheme of things. It just isn’t a priority. People spend more money on Coca Cola than they do on space exploration! ($46 billion global revenue for Coca Cola versus $17 billion for NASA.)

To make the money available from a government or from the private sector, we need a vision and an explanation why space exploration and development is important – one that people can hear and understand. We haven’t adequately done either.

What are hopeful developments in space exploration?

I am optimistic about the future of space exploration. Our military and our economy now depend upon space satellites. (You don’t believe me? Ask any major retailer if they can manage inventory, shipping, and other logistics without GPS and satellite communications.) We will eventually run out of easily accessible resources and be forced to go to the asteroids to keep our civilization going. It is just a matter of when this will happen. It could be in 30 years or 300 years. The Earth has finite accessible resources and we will one day stress the system to the point where costs make space resources look attractive. Environmental concerns may make this happen sooner rather than later. My personal vision of how we can use space to solve our resource, environment and energy problems is described in my book, Harvesting Space for a Greener Earth (Springer 2014).

Space tourism will make space accessible to more people and that is great. The increased flight rate will also drive down launch costs, making science and exploration missions less expensive to fly – enabling more to be flown. NASA’s new heavy lift rocket will enable us more easily send people beyond the Earth-Moon system to asteroids or to Mars. Our robotic probes will continue informing us of our place in the universe and help us to understand the local neighborhood that is the solar system. I am hopeful.

If you had your dream funding and dream project, what would you be doing?

My dream project has to be Interstellar Probe. Imagine a square solar sail 1/3 of a kilometer on a side, carrying a small spacecraft out of the solar system at speeds greater than 50 kilometers per second, racing into nearby interstellar space. Solar sails use sunlight for propulsion, requiring no fuel. And when they are deployed close to the Sun, they get a much larger push than a comparable sail deployed at the Earth-to-Sun distance. Solar sails are real. The Japanese are flying one called IKAROS and NASA is building one called Sunjammer. The neat thing about sails is their scalability; today’s solar sails can be made ever larger to go ever faster to even greater distances. I believe a very large solar sail will one day take a spacecraft to another star and Interstellar Probe will have been the first step.

What was it like to work with Ben Bova?

Working with Ben on Rescue Mode was just… awesome. Ben is an icon and the inheritor of the Asimov/Heinlein/Clarke legacy. His writings have inspired me since I was in high school (many years ago) and working with him on a book was an opportunity of a lifetime. He provided guidance throughout the project and seemingly effortlessly guided me out of many literary corners and potholes as the book was evolving. The nuts and bolts of the collaboration occurred by email, though we did talk on the phone a few times to bounce ideas off each other. Mars exploration is his passion and I think our story complements his other ideas about how this might actually happen. Though hopefully without some of the near-death experiences we put our characters through!

Tell us a little about your book.

Rescue Mode, published last week by Baen Books, is about the first international human mission to Mars. The mission is launched after a robotic mission finds signs of life there. Worldwide interest in learning more finally causes a few nations to come together to make it happen. But, in the spirit of the classic “man versus nature” theme, something goes horribly wrong during the journey which places our characters in a struggle to survive. In the process of surviving, they come up with a novel approach to assure that Mars exploration continues beyond their one mission. I better not say much more — I want you to read the book!


Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com to be plugged here on PJ Media.

It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like

TITLE

My Book

AUTHOR

My name as it's on the book cover.

AMAZON LINK

http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/

BLURB

no more than about 100 words.


cover

A Touch of Power: A Cat Among Dragons short story pack
By Alma T.C. Boykin

“Just a little consulting work,” Joschka said. “Nothing dangerous,” Joschka said.

After all, just how much trouble can Rada get into serving as the “strange things” adviser to a minor military group on a small, backwater world? Wandering interstellar anthropologists, an increased Trader bounty on her head, and a musician who’s just a little too good all make Rada Ni Drako’s easy new part-time job a lot more interesting than planned. Interesting enough to make serving a Lord Defender of Drakon IV look like a quiet vacation.


cover

War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1)
By Peter Grant

Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide.

Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers news that may change everything. An opportunity is coming to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed.

That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.


cover

Spring That Never Came
By D. Jason Fleming

Tammy Kirsch has had her shot at fame. She came to Hollywood with stars in her eyes and lint in her pockets and looks that would open any door in town just to try to get her onto the casting couch. After several guest roles in TV shows, one starring role in a movie that nobody saw, inadvertently dodging the mid-70s porno chic moment and keeping her dignity and reputation intact, her career sputtered to a halt.

Then she lost her daughter in a custody case, and what was left of her world came crashing down around her ears. When the crazy homeless man tried to talk to her incoherently as she was leaving the court building, that only seemed to be the cherry on top of the layered dessert of her misery. In fact, it was just the first step on her path, a path that would end with her defending the entire world from an invasion of other-dimensional eldritch horrors.


cover

Somewhere In His Arms
By Katia Nikolayevna

She was drawn to the dark stranger; she could not help it. He was everything her broken heart needed, and everything her body desired. She was shy and sweet and he would never let her go.

She married him that night and he took her virginity. He seared her mind and body with the remembrance of erotic bliss and tormented every waking moment even as she tried to forget…

She fled her husband’s loving embrace but searched for him in her dreams. That is when he comes to her…and claims her as his.

But Lucy cannot forget, even as she tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and finds another..

He will always be her husband. For he is the one who seduced her in a night of drunken passion and the only man she craves…

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Will Tripp, Pissed Off Attorney At Law

Friday, June 13th, 2014 - by Roger Kimball

Now that we have the “disinvitation season” behind us, that spring frolic in which our pampered institutions of higher education indulge in a little bacchanal of politically correct frenzy, inviting only to disinvite commencement speakers who have said or done something, anything, that does not pass muster with this week’s Commissar of Correctness—now, I saw, that we’re well into June and the feminists, transexuals, racialists, eco-gender lesbian vegan anti-capitalists, and all the other assorted exotic fauna that congregate in and around the academy have decamped to restore their tissues and dream of victims yet to come, it is time for a little respite from that stultifying hothouse of intolerance.  I can think of few more delightful antidotes to that lank, joy-killing species of snarling self-indulgence than Harry Stein’s new novel Will Tripp, Pissed Off Attorney At Law. 

Meet Counselor Tripp. He’s a proud dwarf who was paying his way through law school by means of his athletic prowess, sort of. He made good money being tossed by the inebriated patrons of a local bar until some do-gooding crusader took time away from battling against second-hand smoke and carbon emissions to intervene to Save the Dwarfs and got the sport of dwarf tossing declared illegal. Will’s new employment as he struggled through law school was inspecting sewers.

It was while padding down the local cloaca maxima that Will’s settled dislike of politically correct busybodies hardened into a gem-like and hilarious contempt. I won’t give away the plot of this clever divertissement, except to say that the story takes place on a college campus near you and involves a deliciously repulsive feminist charlatan—you know her, too—and various emasculated specimens of homo academicus. 

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‘Never Let Anyone Tell You that Sports Doesn’t Matter’

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Long time Sports Illustrated columnist and ESPN commentator Rick Reilly is retiring from the business at age 56.

Reilly didn’t invent the human interest sports story, but he may have perfected it. His “Life of Reilly” columns at SI were full of ordinary athletes performing with incredible handicaps. He wrote of their families, their teammates, and their communities with love and respect.

And man, could he write. Reilly and P.J. O’Rourke are the reasons I decided to try my hand at writing so late in life. Reilly had an ability to boil down the essence of a story until nothing but shining truth remained.

Reilly reminisced about some of the people he wrote about along the way at ESPN.com:

I’d notice how Michael Jordan never appeared before us until his tie was tied, his $3,000 suit buttoned, his silk pocket square just so. From him, I learned professionalism.

I watched safe after safe fall on John Elway’s head — Super Bowl losses, divorce, the loss of his twin sister and his beloved dad — and yet he refused to allow himself one ounce of self-pity. From him, I learned grit.

I’d see how Jim Murray would get up out of his chair in the press box to greet each of the dozens of people who just wanted to shake the great sports writer’s hand, even though he could hardly see his chair, much less their hands. From him, I learned humility.

I wrote about the teammates of high school cross country runner Ben Comen, who would finish their 3-mile races and then double back out onto the course to run with Ben and his limping cerebral palsy gait. From them, I learned love.

I discovered the athletes of Middlebury College, who would pick up a severely handicapped fan named Butch, load him into the car and take him to every game, where they’d provide a hot dog, a Coke and a buddy. From them, I learned service.

Never let anyone tell you sports doesn’t matter. Never let them tell you it’s all about the wins, the losses and the stats. Sports is so much more than that. It’s your grandfather and you and the way a Sunday Bears game bonds you like Super Glue. It’s what you ask of yourself to break four hours in the marathon. It’s the way your softball buddies can still laugh about you hitting the ump instead of the cutoff man 30 years later.

From his perch at SI, Reilly brought readers into the world of sport like no other writer of this or any other generation. Using the drama and sweep of sports to tell the most intimate of stories was inspired writing and the fact that he could pull it off most of the time speaks to his talent and his heart.

Reilly has not been forthcoming about his plans for the future except to say he’ll be living in Italy. His fans will look forward with anticipation for whatever genius flows from his pen.

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10 Heroes and Villains Not Yet Featured in an X-Men Movie But Who Should Be

Monday, June 9th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

As the new movie X-Men: Days of Future Past and its expanded cast of super-powered characters thunders through local cineplexes earning its way to summer blockbuster status, it behooves fans of the franchise to wonder if anybody is being left out.

Not that the producers of the various X-films have been lax in introducing as many new characters as they could without having scripts collapse under their own weight. Entries such as X-Men: Last Stand; First Class; and Days of Future Past have each featured a wide range of heroes and villains. Unfortunately, for all the delight fans have in spotting their obscure favorites, a few minutes of exposure is all they usually get. That’s because such characters as Prof. X, Magneto, Mystique, and especially Wolverine have been taking up most of the valuable screen time. For instance, as in the comics, Wolverine has so completely dominated the X-movie franchise that the X-movies have not been enough for him with two solo films having been released between main events. As a result, there has barely been enough oxygen left in the room to keep other characters on life support.

That, however, may change.

With the end of Days of Future Past, time has been reset with the events of the first three films in the X-franchise and with the newest being erased from reality, there is an opportunity for the studio to reboot the series. Of course, the dream reboot would be for a younger Prof. X to gather the comics’ original X-team; that’s a given. But what about the villains they’ll have to fight? A reboot could be an opportunity to introduce a whole line of new characters culled from 50 years of the comic’s history. Thus, purely as a public service, allow this writer to suggest the top 10 heroes and villains from the X-verse (in reverse order), as yet unseen on celluloid, who could really make things exciting for a rebooted franchise:

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What Creative Magic Makes Some Adaptations Succeed and Others Fail?

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

1. Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?

2. Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?

3. What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?

4. Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?

5. Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?

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