You’re reading a post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.
One of the major issues of our time has to do with the status of Islamic terror. Is it something that should fill us with fear and panic, distract us from the ordinary affairs of life and prompt us to cede extraordinary powers of preventative surveillance to government? Or, indeed, to take the concrete measures outlined in terrorism expert James Jay Carafano’s new book Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror (of which, more later). Or is it merely another of those unpredictable disruptions and upheavals that happen along life’s road, deplorable, certainly, but inevitable, that we should come to terms with and go on conducting business as usual? In light of the recent murderous assault at a free speech symposium organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks in Copenhagen, followed by an attack on a Copenhagen synagogue, we will no doubt once again hear cautions that we must not over-react to Islamic terror.
Many observers have contended that terror is insignificant compared to natural disasters. Ronald Bailey, writing in Reason.com, argues from statistics that people are “four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.” In fact, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic develops the same notion, as have innumerable others, namely, that we should refrain from exaggerating the threat of terrorism, given the much larger and vastly more lethal number of accidents and natural calamities. Here ensues the nub of his thesis. Since, as statistics show, Acts of God and quotidian mishaps far outnumber acts of terror, and since even these general misfortunes remain statistically insignificant, Friedersdorf contends we should not trade civil liberties for (excessive) security. From this point of view, the national security state presents a greater threat to our way of life than does the spectre of jihad, creating “a permanent database that practically guarantees eventual abuse.”
Admittedly, there is considerable sense to the apprehension that the surveillance state may prove invasive, as it surely has under the reign of Barack Obama and his decadent administration. Clearly, a degree of balance between liberty and security is necessary, though especially tricky to work out in practice. That the surveillance apparatus can be abused goes without question. That it is necessary, given the number of terrorist attacks that have been thwarted in embryo, is undoubted. It’s a good bet that the matter will never be resolved to everybody’s satisfaction.
Here in Canada, prime minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for criminalizing the promotion of terrorism under Bill C-51, which enhances the powers of Canada’s national spy agency CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). As the country’s politically correct paper of record The Globe and Mail puts it, “Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.” The Globe, of course, like the rest of Canada’s major media outlets, relentlessly lauds the virtues of multiculturalism, which asserts the moral equivalence of all religions and cultures. This means, in practice, affirming the innocence and splendor of Islam to the detriment of Christianity and Judaism. Terror is not Islamic, but a mere excrescence of disordered minds or, alternatively, one of those incidents that may sometimes trouble the daily commute. Nothing to concern yourself about, certainly nothing to be unduly wary of or to keep under stringent observation. The attitudes of the gated community still prevail as the cultural orthodoxy of the day.
The underlying issue, however, is that those who oppose preventative measures, whether from ideological reasons or because they live sheltered and privileged lives, are reluctant to acknowledge terror—that is, Islamic terror—for the particular menace that it poses to our settled way of life or to recognize that we are in the midst of a millennial war that shows no sign of relenting. They are eager to adopt a tactic that we might, on the model of moral equivalence, call category equivalence, the attempt to neuter the unique fact of terrorism by equating it with natural contingencies and “normal” hazards of everyday existence. Once this false equivalence has been accepted as persuasive, the statistical machinery is duly wheeled in, like the eccyclemata of the Attic theatre, to confirm the hypothesis as given. But “[w]hat do we do,” asks Carafano, sensibly enough, “if the enemy isn’t Mother Nature?” Rather than conflate terrorism with nature or accident and urge us to carry on with defiant insouciance, Carafano devotes a considerable portion of the book instructing us to be—and how to be—prepared for acts of terrorist violence.
You’re reading a post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.
People who go overboard to prepare for disaster scenarios are easy targets. I think back to 1999 during the whole Y2K scare, when the pastor of our church at the time held a seminar about what to stock up on when all the computers failed on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight. I’ll never forget grown men arguing over who had the bigger food stash. My own personal stash consisted of two cans of green beans, and those cans helped me survive the crisis of what to serve with pork chops one day in January 2000.
National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers series brought the eccentricities of modern disaster preppers to light in an entertaining way, showing us what some otherwise normal Americans do to prepare for “when the s*** hits the fan,” as so many of them were apt to say. These folks could have been your neighbors, except unlike you they were also worried about implausible scenarios like the super-volcano underneath Yellowstone Park erupting and throwing New York City into chaos. We’re talking about people who make plans to live off bathtub water or stockpile liquor to use as barter — people whose endearing wackiness packs a perverse fascination.
But the reality is that we do have genuine threats to worry about and ways to prepare for the worst without going off the deep end. That’s the point national that security expert and my PJ Lifestyle colleague James Jay Carafano, PhD makes in his brand new book Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age Of Terror. Nowhere in this book will you find advice on how to create the ideal liquor stockpile or how to “bug out” to the wilderness, and you won’t read about an eruption at Yellowstone Park. What you will find is sober-minded advice on how to prepare for real, plausible scenarios that threaten the American way of life.
Carafano writes not with a Chicken Little doomsday mentality but with an eye toward clear thinking and calm judgment in a crisis (and with just the right amount of humor). His solutions are not over the top or prohibitively expensive — rather, his ideas only require reasonable amounts of time and money. Most simply put, Carafano drills down his philosophy of preparedness to health, faith, family, and education.
In Surving the End, Carafano looks at five distinct threats: epidemic disease, nuclear explosions, terrorism in its may forms, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses), and cyber attacks. While each of these scenarios carry their own scariness, they’re all quite real and carry their own far-reaching consequences. With each threat, Carafano examines the potential danger and fallout (no pun intended) and looks at practical and reasonable ways to ensure safety and long-term survival in each situation.
One theme that emerges throughout the book is that we should be proactive as families and communities to prepare for the worst, rather than relying on the federal government to help us out in a crisis. While he admits that Uncle Sam does provide some good resources and gets responses right once in a while, Carafano goes to great lengths to point out the failure of federal authorities when both sides are in charge. Glaring recent examples like Hurricane Katrina and the Fukushima nuclear disaster stand alongside historical records like the 1918 Swine Flu epidemic to warn all of us that governments rarely have the answers in a crisis.
Carafano’s recommendations in the book are always practical and doable. Some of them require investments of time and money, of course, but so do most worthwhile pursuits. Nothing the author suggests requires the odd leaps of faith that eccentric preppers promote. The fact that Carafano recommends so many well-researched and sensible responses to worst-case scenarios lends a genuine credibility to his writing. Surviving the End is no doomsday manual — it’s a guidebook for practical preparedness.
When all is said and done, Carafano has brought a new attitude to the arena of disaster prep — neither the quasi-Biblical urgency of a Glenn Beck nor the smug fatalism of reality show preppers, but a common-sense, can-do approach to readiness. And in the end, Carafano encourages us to realize that being sensibly prepared is the American way.
This guide has given you the best there is to offer of simple, practical, useful measures you can take to keep your loved ones safe. But there is another important message in the guide as well. We all will survive better if we pull together – not as mindless lemmings following Washington, but as free Americans who fight together for the future of freedom.
As terrible as the terrors we have talked about here are, they are no worse than the suffering at Valley Forge, the slaughter of Gettysburg, the crushing Great Depression, the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, or the terror of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This generation of Americans is every bit as capable of besting the worst life has to offer. If we do that together, our odds are more than even.
You know, he’s right. I really only had to read this book for the sake of this review, but I’ve already begun making a list of things I want to do to become more prepared (including getting in shape — as if I needed another reason to remind me), and I’ll recommend that my loved ones do the same. For this kind of sober-minded preparation boils down to common sense, plain and simple.
Carafano suggests that we all become preppers, and if we take the advice we read in Surviving the End, we can do so. We won’t turn into the kind of weirdos who are ready to off the pets and high tail it out to the wilderness or move to a bunker with more canned food than a Super Walmart “when the s*** hits the fan,” but we’ll be the kind of people who embody the robust, enterprising American spirit that has made our nation so great. And we’ll do our part to help ensure that America survives just as much as our families survive.
It has become a cliché of political arguments that when someone on the conservative-libertarian axis gets even mildly heated, the call for civility goes up. It goes up not only from the left but from our fellows on the right (I still protest libertarians being on the right, but never mind) who say that we have to stay civil to be taken seriously.
Well and good, and in principle I agree. I was taught to wipe my feet before entering someone’s living room, not to talk with my mouth full and not to slander people unless I’m absolutely sure of the charges and/or the charges matter to the discussion at hand.
However there are times when the most decent and professionally-minded woman in the world [which I’m not -- I’m just Sarah] feels like hoisting down the lacy handkerchief and running the jolly roger up the mast.
There have been many of these in the last two years or so since I came out of the political closet. My kids at cons where people don’t know who they are will be told that I’m racist, homophobic, a prude, and countless other things that make them wonder about whom, exactly, these people are talking.
Larry Correia, faced with the same dichotomy, found himself talking about THAT Larry, you know, the one who is racist and sexist and hates women and gays. He calls him Straw-Larry, and we all agree that guy is a d*ck. What precisely he has to do with the gentle, mild mannered and brilliant Larry Correia, though no one knows.
I suspect straw-Sarah (who is a b*tch) hangs out with straw Larry and they go out at night and beat up on people because there’s nothing good on the telly.
I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met her.
The latest of these moments was when our piece on editing was picked up by the Passive Voice, which, for those who don’t know, is one of the best resources for indie publishing around. (I so badly want their t-shirt that says “BezelBezos is my dark god.”)
The comments immediately sprouted a bunch of people talking trash about me.
Let’s take someone on the left of whose intellect I think less than… less than of the intellect of my cat Havelock who routinely gets lost in the hallway outside my room. If one of them, say, Damien Walter who is good for pronouncing himself on things he knows little about, did an article on editing, or covers, or how to start a book.
I might make raspberry sounds and say “well, when he has a book published, I’ll pay attention.” But I wouldn’t say that he was the worst person in the world. That would just be silly. He comes in a solid thousand, two hundred and tenth among the living. (What? Little list? My dears, it ain’t little.)
However the left can invent calumnies, destroy characters, repeat baseless accusations often enough that they become “everyone knows” without the slightest shred of truth.
And there’s no calls for civility, particularly not from other people on the left.
The right doesn’t act that way (well, not usually.) Not only do I read writers who are solidly on the left and also wobbly on the left, I still have friends who are so far to the left of me that we’d best not discuss politics. On the other hand, any number of “friends” on the left of me dropped me like a stone when I came out of the political closet. And Straw Sarah goes rampaging through gossip from con to con.
There are reasons for this imbalance, and it’s not because libertarians and conservatives are better people (in general) or possessed of the milk of human kindness. No. It’s because of the power imbalance in the field.
For my entire conscious life, let alone my entire publishing life, the power in the field has been in the hands of the people on the left. The way to get promoted and hailed as the greatest genius since Shakespeare was to parrot leftist shibboleths.
In a field where writers were treated as supplicants and had to beg hat in hand for the chance to sell their product to a limited number of markets, almost every editor and publisher was a man (or more often a woman) of the hard left.
A rumor that an author was a heretic or even (gasp) an apostate in the church of Marxism-Leninism was enough to get a promising career stalled if not outright shut down.
So, of course, the left could call names, and accusing someone of being right wing became a weapon in fights among writers.
Also, in a field where everything was controlled by a small and not very open-minded minority, it was important to be in with the right people and rumor and innuendo ran rife.
In other words, it was middle grades in the parochial school of Our Red Lady of Eternal Redistribution. Forever.
Now… well, now it’s not like that, and I’ll note several people came to my defense when the crazy people attacked me on… a technical article about editing!
And that, my dears, is the cure to the disease of rumor and innuendo.
We can’t have all these straw writers running around. For one, I’m sure they’d write very bad straw books, which would be flammable and stuff.
If you hear rumors, innuendo and insanity spoken about a writer you know, speak up.
If you see something, say something.
Rumor has a cure and it’s the truth. And it’s time our colleagues on the left learned some civility. Before the field goes up in flames.
I’m starting the links this week (this is Charlie) with a special mention. Rolf Nelson’s book The Stars Came Back, plugged here a year ago, has been nominated for a Prometheus Award.
And yeah, this is late. I had a really bad hardware weekend.
THE STARS CAME BACK is part space-western, the story of folks just trying stay alive, seeking work to earn money for repairs to get to the next job, with no shortage of action and adventure along the way. It is part military sci-fi, with a company of mercenaries, spaceship combat, mortar and rifle combat, spear-and-shield battle, and PTSD. And it is part philosophical investigation, pondering the lessons of Achilles, if a computer can have a soul, what freedom means, and how one stops a bar fight with earplugs.Written in a format similar to a screenplay, the book includes various graphics, including the blueprints of the ship.
After funding well over a thousand loans as a loan officer, and running a consumer education website for ten years, Dan Melson has written a coherent guide that gives consumers insight into how people qualify for mortgages, how not to sabotage their application, and how to stop wasting thousands of dollars making poor choices on your mortgage.
[Ed -- Notice this is reference, not fiction. We are more than happy to get indie-published non-fiction!]
Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to find a better homeworld. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship, leaving the corruption and crime of Earth behind. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his head down and the decks clean?
He never counted on the interstellar trade routes having their own problems, including wars and pirates – and the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead…
Young deceit sprouts timeless trouble.
Motherless Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble. Bad trouble. Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage . . . and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.
A twist on a classic, THE TROLL’S BELT builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.
Ancient, cold, and perilous.
Its truth forgotten in the mists of time, the old bridge harbors a lethal secret. Neither marble statues awakened for battle nor an ancient roadbed grown hungry, something darker and more primal haunts the stones and the wild river below.
Kimmer knows the stories, but she doesn’t know why the crumbling span feels so fraught with menace. Her way home lies across the ruin. Dare she take it? Or will horror from the lost past rise up to claim her, when she does?
Last year I read three books that challenged the mainstream view of the 1960s.
(Herewith I’m employing the folk definition of “The Sixties” as that stretch between the Kennedy assassination in November 1963 and the May 1975 fall of Saigon.)
I say “mainstream” because I haven’t entertained many illusions about what really happened during that overlong Baby Boomer idyl since I was a kid.
In the first place, I grew up “soaking in it,” in the dishwashing liquid commercial catchphrase of the era, and I hated almost every minute.
In the second, as an adult, I discerned certain disruptions in the official “peace and love” narrative.
Being a bratty pest by temperament, I’ve made a minor career out of helping debunking the myth of the selfless hippie, the noble white liberal, the enlightened radical, the powerless housewife and the era’s other stock characters.
(I’m also rather fond of rehabilitating the laughingstocks of the age.)
This year, I read three books that, to various degrees, reinforced my view that what we call The Sixties — an allegedly Edenic era that canny progressives continue to evoke when crafting 21st century policy — was a Potemkin village of the imagination, or, in the words of the narrator below, “a mass hallucination”:
This holiday season, I know you’ve been wondering: what can I give the Southern culture lover on my gift list? Well, worry no more, because I, your intrepid Southern culture expert, have decided to swoop in like a Christmas miracle and save the day!
Here’s a list of 34 awesome gift choices that cover just about every area of the culture below the Mason-Dixon line. The best part: nearly everything on this list is eligible for Amazon Prime, for all you procrastinators. Enjoy!
5. Explore The Literary South
One of the greatest traditions in the South is storytelling, and a classic Southern story makes a wonderful gift for the bookworm on your list. Here are just a few recommendations.
William Faulkner is one of the best known and most respected authors in the South or anywhere. I’ve always had a difficult time keeping my concentration reading his novels, but I love his short stories. I highly recommend The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (also available for Kindle) as a sort of greatest hits collection and The Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner for deeper cuts (get it here for Kindle).
Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor also made a name for herself in literary circles, and her short stories are some of the best in American literature as a whole. Check out The Complete Stories (also on Kindle) to experience her true genius in all its glory, but I also recommend the slim volume A Prayer Journal (also on Kindle) for some of the most beautiful, lyrical Christian prayers I’ve ever read.
Of course, there are plenty of great Southern novels to choose from, but here are some of my favorites. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God delves into the lives of black people in rural Florida with a lyrical flair. In Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons, a precocious orphan tells her own story. James Dickey’s Deliverance is the same harrowing story as the movie, but with greater depth. And Family Linen by Lee Smith is my all-time favorite novel — a twisty, darkly comic family tale.
You can’t go wrong with any of these choices for literature lovers.
The “Christmas single” phenomenon is unknown in the U.S., unless you’ve ever watched Love, Actually.
It’s sort of the “Black Friday” of the British music industry. Since so much music is sold (or, at least, used to be) during the holiday season, having the #1 song on the charts during that time gives one lucky record company a financial boost.
After Slade took the top spot in 1973 with their “Merry Xmas Everybody” — beating out “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Wizzard — “an emotional attachment to the Christmas countdown has developed, and for many [in the United Kingdom], it is part of the fabric of their childhood.”
So I doubt many American readers care that there’s a campaign to get Iron Maiden’s old chestnut “The Number of the Beast” to the top of the charts in time for Christmas, “for a laugh.”
What’s really funny (sort of) is that, during the early 1970s, such a campaign would have been denounced on the front page of every British tabloid, and remarked upon within American newspapers’ “entertainment” sections, at the very least.
Because culture-watchers would see it as yet another sign of the satanic takeover of the culture, and the world — the one I wrote about last week.
The Drudge Report remains one of the most accurate barometers of what’s happening right now.
But can we augur near-future trends by sifting through that site’s headlines?
Lately, Drudge has posted lots of news stories about “the devil” and “exorcism”:
Camera captures exorcism performed on shrieking woman “possessed by devil:
Church Turns to Exorcism to Combat Suicide Increase… Archbishop: “Satanism has spread among young people”
BILLY GRAHAM: In Our “Lawless and Wicked Age We’ve Taught Philosophy of Devil”
Aside from the uptick in stories like these, I’m not sensing a resurgence in interest in all things diabolical, a new version of the “occult” fad that helped make the 1970s so miserable, and led to the “satanic panic” of the 1980s that was almost as bad.
Peter Bebergal doesn’t agree.
According to him, “we’re currently experiencing ‘an Occult Revival in rock music and popular culture.’”
He’s penned one of the year’s most talked-about books, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.
“My argument is that the spirit of rock and roll — the essential rebellious instinct of rock and roll — is certainly social and sexual and political, but it’s also a spiritual rebellion,” Bebergal explained. “And the way in which it expressed that spiritual rebellion was through the occult imagination.”
That “occult imagination” conjures everything from Ouiji boards to Christian and Jewish symbolism to LSD trips to “alternative spiritual practices.” Bebergal says it ultimately helped rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath save rock from sounding too poppy, sappy and mainstream.
See Part 1 in Kathy Shaidle’s series exploring punk rock here: How the Sex Pistols Made History by Lying About It
Let’s get this out of the way:
Randal Doane is an assistant dean at Oberlin.
Politics aside (and he doesn’t shove it up your nose), this means you’ll trip over academic, culture-critic jargon — “codes” and “gestures” abound; “Eros” crashes the party — while otherwise enjoying his new book, Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of The Clash.
And there’s a lot to enjoy.
Stealing distills one fan’s decades of wide reading, deep listening, and just plain thinking into a multi-faceted gem.
In the hands of a less skillful writer, this book would feel like an out-of-your-league sexual pass, an awkward attempt to squeeze too many topics — the evolution of punk music (along with the etymology of the word); the rise and fall of AM and FM radio; the underground scenes in New York and California, to name but three — between only two (virtual) covers.
Somehow, though, Stealing works, distinguishing itself from similar titles by piling on plenty of original insights; for one thing (a bit like the recent How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll), this book explores how the medium changes the message — that is, how the technology we employ to consume music alters music itself, along with the culture at large.
(To cite a particularly cliched example: The LP made it easier to have sex to music, as one didn’t have to leap up to change the record, or worry that a radio DJ might ruin the mood with the wrong selection. How many children were conceived as Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers spun away on the other side of the room– besides me, that is — I couldn’t begin to guess.)
Doane also demonstrates, in pointillistic detail, how a tiny band of now-forgotten local DJs championed (today we’d say “curated”) punk, and “broke” The Clash and other English bands in America.
In doing so, he reveals what we lost when that free-form radio format was killed off.
(P.S. — A note about audio that follows throughout: These interviews with Joe Strummer were recently uploaded to YouTube by HazyRock.com. While the date is unknown, they seem to correspond roughly to the “early days” period Doane focuses on in his book.)
Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriend and Blondie co-founder Chris Stein has just released a photography collection, featuring his lifelong muse.
And why not? No less an authority than rock photography guru Bob Gruen famously said, “You can’t take a bad picture of Debbie Harry.”
Unfortunately, Stein marrs the collection with a stunningly multi-level-stupid comment, regarding his famous picture, above.
UK tabloids don’t push the limits of credibility any more than their American counterparts, but in a way they got there first. Here, Debbie is reading about sexism under the ayatollah.
Get it? Decades of well-documented, sharia-inspired violence against women in Iran was probably exaggerated, according to Stein, because it was reported by a lower class “red top” English tabloid back in the 1970s.
Stein further ingratiates himself with his British host by slagging stupid, hysterical American “yellow journalists,” too, for no apparent reason.
Factor in the word “sexism” as his mealy-mouthed synonym for “rape, torture and murder,” and it’s quite breathtaking how much smug “enlightened” ignorance Stein managed to squeeze into two just sentences.
Especially the same week that Iranian authorities executed a woman for killing her rapist.
All this from a man I feel safe in presuming voted for Obama twice, and whose views on every subject are reliably, predictably “progressive.”
But of course!
Why, yes, Mark Steyn does mention me in his new book, thanks.
But leaving aside pages 228 and 409 for a moment:
Why (else) should you read The (Un)documented Mark Steyn?
Because a “greatest hits” collection — and that’s what Steyn’s new book is — is an ideal way to either introduce yourself to an artist’s work, or have all the “good ones” in one convenient package.
So no more having to google “Martha + Stewart + coxcomb + topiary” when Christmas rolls around.
If you’re looking for that pithy Mark Steyn quote that you just know will be perfect for your next best man speech or poli-sci 101 term paper, you’ll probably find it in here.
Hi, this is Sarah, and I’m a writer. Yes, I have actually tried to give it up, but the longest I lasted was two weeks, and then my sons and husband got together to beg me quite eloquently (which was a miracle as the younger kid was then one and a half) to go back to writing, because what I did instead of writing (obsessive cleaning and minding THEIR business) was driving them nuts.
I’ve been a writer since then, nineteen years woman and… woman.
Which is why there are some things that have the ability to make my blood boil, make me foam at the mouth. This happened when I read my friend, Amanda Green’s post on our shared writers’ group blog, Mad Genius Club this week.
Let’s start with this article from USA Today. I knew from reading the headline that it was probably something that would have my blood pressure rising. After all, how else would I react to “Real books can defeat Amazon and e-books”?
Wait! What? Real books?
Then I started reading and I realize the headline was only the beginning.
And then she quotes the article. Oh, my, does she quote the article.
The book business believes that Amazon is unfair in the way it sells books. It believes, in fact, that Amazon in its sales practices — pressuring the book publishers to lower their prices and profits — is the enemy. Amazon’s ultimate design, publishers believe, is to ruin them or to wholly shift the center of gravity in the business from the creators of books to Amazon, the dominant seller.
You should probably read all of Amanda’s post, but this is about the time that I turned Green and started stomping around the room, screaming “Sarah Smash.”
It might not have been so bad if it weren’t for an experience my friend Cedar had this week. Cedar Sanderson is a young and upcoming writer. I’ve been mentoring her for the best part of – eep – thirteen years, back when all she wanted to do was write some inspirational essays. Well, a couple of years ago she started writing books, and now she has four in two series out and this year she’ll make in the low five figures from them.
She was talking to me about this a few weeks ago and said “I know it’s not much” which is when I told her the first time I made 15000 came when I’d been in the business for ten years, and had written ten books. Oh, sure, I get almost that per advance, but advances aren’t paid outright. They’re paid in three (sometimes four) installments linked to signing, delivery, acceptance and, sometimes, release of the book. It’s amazing how many years that can stretch across.
Oh, and I was in the business four years before I got my first royalty check, after which the book was immediately taken out of print, because in the then-model, the publisher didn’t count on paying royalties. Not to midlisters. (Unless the publisher was Baen. Which is why I’m still with Baen.)
Well, last week, Cedar went to a panel at the university she attends and was talking about career prospects. The doyenne of the assembled group was an elderly woman staunchly against self publishing, who just loves her publisher and all its works (and all its empty promises – oops, sorry, thought I was in church for a moment.)
When it came Cedar’s time to talk, she said something about hoping to be able to make a living from writing. At which point the elderly love-my-publisher writer laughed and said, “Honey, you can’t make a living from this. I’ve been writing for twenty years and I’m not even close to that.”
That is not only factually wrong, (ask Chris Nuttall, Peter Grant, Doug Dandrige and a dozen more I can’t call to mind right now) but it is also morally wrong.
When I was a kid in Portugal, during the revolution, there was a whole lot of screaming about “the land to them who work it.” This was mostly in the South where, since Roman times, the land has been held in a system of Latifundia. And the cry to expropriate the owners and hand out the parcels to the workers was wrong on several heads: first because most of them wished to form collective farms, aka going broke on the installment plan; second because the land in the South of Portugal is so poor that even if you dolled it out into little parcels, each person would starve. By having the huge farm, the owners made it possible for their various hired hands to make a living from farming.
When I read that journalist above talking about the publishers as the “creators” of the book, I thought of the same “The books to them who create them.”
Except the publishers don’t create the books anymore than those hired hands each farmed a parcel of land.
The publishers used to be an essential part of getting the book to market, pre-amazon. They printed large numbers, publicized, acted as an intermediary between the writer and their public.
They were, in that sense, good hired hands.
And then the costs of producing a book and getting them to market, through print on demand (which according to my Berkley editor they were using in 03) dropped. Electronic typesetting dropped it more. Publishers outsourced the search for books to agents (all but Baen, which still has a slush pile.) And then they had the bright idea of making the writers publicize their own books.
This would be like the hired hands taking a break and demanding the owners of the fields use robots to do all the work, but they still expect to be paid. What do you think would happen? Well, it happened.
With the market in a shambles, with publishers using their power to bring to market books they thought were socially relevant and not what the readers wanted to read, Amazon gave writers a chance to go to the public directly.
Which brings me to what a publisher can do for you, which is… Give me a minute… Other than Baen which has a brand that will bring you at least a few thousand readers, like that, with no effort… what the other publishers can do for you is… uh…. Yeah….
Oh, yeah. They can fudge your statements and take your money. There I knew they did something. Fortunately writers who used to work from Harlequin have won the right to class action suits this week, which means more will follow.
And at some point, will stupid journalists realize they’ve been sold a pot of message and that publishers as they exist now are as essential to the book business as a bicycle to the fish?
I doubt it. They’re too busy putting playing cards in the spokes of publishing, because they like the noise so much.
As for the rest of us, we have work to do.
We work for a living. And making a living from our hard work is a beautiful thing.
And as a final musical interlude, to remind you of what mainstream publishers REALLY do, by and large, sang to the tune of “Putting on the Ritz”
Have you seen the well to do?
Walking down Marx avenue
Crying that everything’s unfair
While their butlers do their hair
Condoned with lots of dollars
Spending every dime
Made on other guy’s lines!If you’re blue, and you want dough
Why not lean on someone you know
In the pubbing biz?
Robbing the midlistDifferent types will write a dystop-
ian cliché or bash on the pope
It all fits
When you’re robbing the midlist
Cashing in their six-figure advances
Even if their book has got no chances
Of a profit
Come let’s mix where pampered authors
Politic to get job offers
Hope they’re picked
For robbing the midlist
Tips the scales to favor their own voices
Tries to “Push” to cover their bad choices
Disappoint usNYT Bestsellers topping the list
Make readers stop or numb their wits
Robbing the midlist
Robbing the midlist
Robbing the midlist!
“Mercury retrograde” is the term used in astrology for the times when the planet Mercury appears to be moving backwards against the “fixed stars”. According to astrological lore, during periods when Mercury is retrograde, matters of communication, information, and relationships are impaired. Computers and networks are more likely to fail. Mail may go astray.
Mercury went retrograde on the 4th of October this year. I am a scientific materialist and of course don’t believe in this astrology stuff, but Mercury goes back prograde on the 25th of October. And not a minute too damn soon.
So, if you want to get your book plugged on Book Plug Friday, send an email to email@example.com.
But maybe wait until tomorrow.
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.
Nevermore is a dark, historical fantasy filled with romance, southern charm, and all the trappings of a classic historical romance. Walking the line between the occult, the paranormal, and the reality of 1800s life in The Great Dismal Swamp, Nevermore is also chock full of action and adventure. Follow Edgar Allan Poe and Lenore into The Great Dismal Swamp and experience one version of the birth of Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven.”
Satire, politics, geekery, and dogs.
“In Jenna Vincent’s Romantic Suspense novel, Rae Vigil stumbles into an ugly case of domestic violence with a young child caught in the middle. The parents are very powerful and the police are powerless. Torn between saving the child and professional confidentiality, every instinct tells her not to get involved, but sometimes instincts are wrong.”
Jim Reade, a volunteer Texas Ranger, is the sole survivor of an ambush in the contested Nueces Strip. Rescued by Indian scout Toby Shaw, the two pursue a mysterious wagon carrying a cursed treasure. Sworn blood-brothers, Jim and Toby meet with other challenges and mysteries, including a trove of documents sought after by spies of three nations and a den of murderous robbers on the Opelousas Trace. The classic Wild West rides again, in this collection of adventures intended for younger readers by the author of the Adelsverein Trilogy.
The Son Also Rises . . .
On a near future Earth, Good Man does not mean good at all. Instead, the term signifies a member of the ruling class, and what it takes to become a Good Man and to hold onto power is downright evil. Now a conspiracy hundreds of years in the making is about to be brought to light when the imprisoned son of the Good Man of Olympic Seacity escapes from his solitary confinement cell and returns to find his father assassinated.
But when Luce Keeva attempts to take hold of the reins of power, he finds that not all is as it seems, that a plot for his own imminent murder is afoot—and that a worldwide conflagration looms. It is a war of revolution, and a shadowy group known as the Sons of Liberty may prove to be Luce’s only ally in a fight to throw off an evil from the past that has enslaved humanity for generations.
Sequel to Sarah A. Hoyt’s award-winning Darkship Thieves, and Darkship Renegades, this is Book One in the Earth’s Revolution saga.
At the publisher’s request, this title is sold without DRM (DRM Rights Management).
Oscar Wilde’s 1882 journey to America continues to fascinate, and why not?
Everyone loves a fish out of water story, so the true saga of a Victorian dandy roughing it on the wild American frontier, hanging out with (and winning over) rugged coal miners and cowboys is pretty irresistible.
(That Wilde’s garish velvet get-ups clothed a beefy 6’3″ Irishman perfectly capable of beating up bullies no doubt surprised and delighted his new admirers.)
Now a new book revisits Wilde’s visit to the New World, but with a twist.
David M. Friedman’s Wilde in America presents his subject as the proto-Kardashian:
If that seems unfair to the acclaimed playwright, essayist, poet, children’s author (and gay movement mascot), Friedman reminds readers that when Oscar Wilde stepped off the ship onto America’s shores, he was, in fact, none of those things.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Lisa de Pasquale’s memoir of life and love in Washington, D.C., Finding Mr. Righteous. Her honest, sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking tell-all about dating life in the conservative world struck a few chords with me, so I asked her some follow-up questions. Keep reading to find out how she’s dealt with people trying to figure out who’s in the book, the current status of her dating life, and the latest steps in her spiritual journey.
Lesson #5: Everybody’s human. Very, very human.
I once heard a guy tell a story about a disastrous first date he went on. He was ultra-liberal, and didn’t realize the girl he’d asked out was a libertarian. They discovered their differences soon enough, and their debate was so fierce she left in tears. It didn’t end there, though; he followed up with links to articles and documentaries she had to see, to correct her point of view. She participated as well, sending him material from her own side. But it was clear there was no romantic possibility between the two of them — instead of finding love on a blind date, they found hate.
He asked, “What do you do? When you meet up with these DC vampires who are just dead set on destroying the world?”
I told him the first thing you do is stop denying their essential humanity by calling them monsters. Then, give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they hold their views because they want to make the world a better place, too — or, at the very least, not because of some desire to burn it all down. I wish now I could have just given him a copy of Finding Mr. Righteous, the romantic memoir by conservative activist Lisa de Pasquale.
(Hi, this is Sarah.) When I was a young writer, knee high to a trilogy print out, I subscribed to every possible market listing in the world. [“What is a market listing?” “That’s what people used to have, back when they needed gate keepers to publish them. Back in prehistory. Publishing was expensive, on account of having to dispose of the chips you carved out of the rock with your chisel.”] Partly this was, of course, because there was no internet. [“Seriously, no internet? Now you’re just making stuff up.” “Okay, you’re right. There was internet. It’s just the t-rexes kept snapping the cable with their toe claws.”] You couldn’t just search for “markets for science fiction” and then spend three hours reading about Amazon’s dispute with Hatchette and dino porn. [“I don’t read dino porn.” “Of course not, the Amazon/Hatchette thing makes you feel dirty enough.”]
Anyway, so I subscribed to all of these in the certain hope that eventually I’d find the one that said, “You, Sarah A. Hoyt, sitting there, with your manuscript of dino porn inchoate pseudo literature, you’re the person we want to publish.”
Alas, this never happened. But I used to come across this listing that baffled me. After the pro markets to which I sent for fastest rejections, and the semi-pro markets which were buying me, and the penny markets, where I sent stuff that had been rejected everywhere else, there was a “for the love” column.
Look, I yield to no one in my love for writing. [“Liar, you just say that to get it into bed.” “Only because the pterodactyl isn’t willing.”] And I’m one of those people who think if something is not making you rich, and you don’t love it, then you’d be better off doing something else. [“Unless of course writing is the only thing you can do. Not that this has ever happened at low points in our personal finances.” “Er… right, never.”] Writing, in particular, while easier than digging ditches, is still a lot to do day after day if you don’t enjoy it. But… “for the love?”
I mean, if no one is ever going to pay you, are you going to give this story away just so someone will read it? [“Yeah, like someone who wrote fanfic so that it would actually get read, when nothing else was selling.” “That was different. How many people make money rewriting Jane Austen with dragons? Don’t answer that.”]
Then I broke in, started selling to those pro markets, and then started getting paid more so the pro-markets attracted me, and I never gave this another thought.
Until today when I was thinking about writing for readers and writing for prestige. For most of my traditional career, I argued with my agents/editors/publishers that I wanted to write popular and accessible fiction, while they tried to push me into writing convoluted, difficult “literary” fiction.
My fault in a way, because I broke in with a series that was a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s biography, this time with elves. But at least I realized that though I loved that series, it had a limited audience. The average person on the street doesn’t want to relax after a hard day with Shakespearean word-play. Also, the idea of writing nothing but literary fantasy forever made me want to slit my wrists.
I wanted to write mystery, and science fiction, and funny things, and serious things, and romantic things. And while some of them would come out in a way that could be described as “literary” that was not what I was aiming for. I mostly wanted to write to be read and to make a living.
I knew for a fact that “literary” works sold very little.
So why were publishers and agents so interested in them? Because their interests aren’t the same as writers’. Writers want to make a living, and to get the sincerest form of appreciation in foldable form. Publishers, or at least editors, working for multinational corporations where their salary is assured, don’t want that – they want to be hailed at the next cocktail party as the person who discovered the literary wonder of the century. And agents, too, want the prestige of being known to have exquisite taste. They won’t object to a lot of money, but mostly they need the prestige.
Eric S. Raymond said that what is destroying mainstream science fiction… (and more so mystery. I’m going through my shelves to get rid of excess paper books, and if I had a dime for each “high prestige” mystery I got because it was up for some award or other and which is now worth less than one cent, I’d have a lot of dimes.) … is not so much politics, as this entire idea of “worth” that’s predicated on an academic culture which ignores readers and the ludic aspects of reading. [“Ludic. My, aren’t we posh?” “Ludic means fun. Like, you know, dinosaur porn. At least I presume people have fun with it. Never having read any, I wouldn’t know.” “Yes, but growing up in the Jurassic would give you a different perspective.]
He is right at that. But I don’t think it’s something that can be wrung out of the publishing establishment. If the shrinking of the bottom line didn’t convince them, neither will our telling them what they’re doing wrong.
Fortunately, though, we don’t have to. It’s entirely possible that, after the shocks and aftershocks, traditional publishing will settle into a prestige and validation role for academic writers, bringing out little gems of books (possibly leather bound) for a small clientele for whom they’re objets d’art and not a way to while away a couple of hours of a rainy evenings.
I’m fine with that. They can do whatever they want.
Those who want to read and write for fun can always go Indie.
Set some time after Lost Years: The Quest for Avalon and before The Grail War, Blood and Dreams continues the story of Parsival, who in middle age finds himself more the jaded cynic than the wide-eyed fool of his youth. Waylaid as he journeys home from his latest “bloody bit of work for Arthur,” Parsival must escape his captors, save his kidnapped family, and prevent the forces of Clinschor, the mad sorcerer bent on world domination, from finding and exploiting the Holy Grail, all while enduring the disdain of his teenaged son, Lohengrin.
(Charlie here: Richard has been one of my favorite writers for longer than either of us would care to think. This is free for the rest of today, and worth the $4.99 any time.)
When The God’s Wolfling opens Linnea Vulkane has grown up since the summer of Vulcan’s Kittens. Sanctuary, the refuge of immortals on an Hawaiian island, is boring. When the opportunity for an adventure arises, she jumps right into it, only realizing too late the water may be over her head. Literally, as she is embroiled in the affairs of the sea god Manannan Mac’Lir. Merrick Swift has a secret he’s ashamed of. Then when he meets Linnea and her best friend, he doesn’t like her. She’s bossy, stuck up… and oddly accepting of his wolf heritage. Like her or not, he must do his duty and keep her alive. The children of the myths are being plunged into the whirlpool of immortal politics, intrigue, goblin wars, and they might be the only ones who can save a world.
Entertaining pulp crime stories written in 1979 and 1980. Paul F. Gleeson was a lawyer, but he ached to be a writer, of tales of murder and intrigue and dark forces and witty twist endings. He submitted manuscripts to the pulp mags, and actually got two stories published, but the rejection letters kept piling up, and he finally stopped writing. After he died in 2012, his sons and daughter found the manuscripts in a cardboard box. They collectively decided that these stories would finally be published for the world to enjoy, the way their dad always wanted.
“Paul F. Gleeson’s hardboiled fiction paints characters who live in swirling cesspools of corrupt human nature in a rich, distinct voice that’s not to be missed.” — David Cranmer, editor of BEAT to a PULP
LB Johnson knew how to get things done. The former jet commander was singularly driven, capable and highly educated, immersed in a world of complex puzzles, tangled story lines and the intricacies of the law. So how hard would it be for one redheaded federal agent to raise a black Labrador retriever puppy?
Mayhem on four legs was named Barkley and he led his owner down a path of joyful self discovery, loving frustration and self sacrifice, changing the way she viewed the world, and those that shared it with her. Her home and her heart were never the same.
Free from August 1-5
A short story of a woman who looks to the stars as she tries to protect her children and offer them a future. In a world with no escape for those who cannot undergo a genescan, a fugitive mother has vanishingly few options left to her. Ultimately, only her sacrifice can change the world… but what becomes of the children?
Two millennia ago, a demon named Suwraith thundered into the skies and cast down the First World. In a single horrific night, a glorious age of enlightenment was ended, leaving the world in fearful darkness. Humanity survives by a thread, only surviving in cities protected by an Oasis, mysterious places impervious to Suwraith’s power. Throughout the rest of the world Humanity is an endangered species, fodder for Suwraith’s deadly Chimeras. Into this world is born Rukh Shektan, a peerless young warrior from a Caste of warriors. He is well-versed in the keen language of swords and the sacred law of the seven Castes: for each Caste is a role and a Talent given, and none may seek that to which they were not born. It is the iron-clad decree by which all cities maintain their fragile existence and to defy this law means exile and death. But all his knowledge and devotion may not save him because soon he must join the Trials, the holy burden by which by which the cities of Humanity maintain their slender connection with one another. In the Wildness, Rukh will struggle to survive as he engages in the never-ending war with the Chimeras, but he will also discover a challenge to all he has held to be true and risk losing all he holds dear. And it will come in the guise of one of Humanity’s greatest enemies – perhaps its greatest allies. Worse, he will learn of Suwraith’s plans. The Sorrow Bringer has dread intentions for his home. The city of Ashoka is to be razed and her people slaughtered.
Free on 8/1 and 8/2
Alex Sanderson doesn’t like much of anything, but of all the things he hates, getting locked up in an alien prison on trumped-up charges tops the list. All he wants is a fair hearing and he’s sure he can get out. His cellmate on the other hand, she has different plans for Alex….
Note: This story contains profanity, some violence, and sexual situations, although not especially graphic, they may be offensive to some readers.
This story is a Novellette, about 14,500 words long.
The first thing you have to understand about this list, 18 Influential Voices in Literature on the Internet, it’s not mine. Yes, I published it on my blog, but that was after polling a bunch of people and then tallying up how many votes for whom. This isn’t a list of old school friends, or my twitter followers, it’s the names I was given when I asked simply “who do you listen to?”
The list of the top names voted for appeared on my blog, and I was surprised at the response to it. See, the original list was of 35 literary people who run the internet, and it was a list of (mostly) people none of us had heard of. My list, on the other hand, tilted heavily toward people who were mentors, who nurture good stories, and mostly, people who are vocal in caring about literature. Story is king, and these folks never lose sight of that.
Larry Correia tops out the list, which was ranked by number of votes received. Why? Well, Larry may not blog about the ins and outs of writing and publishing, but he does serve as an inspiration to indie authors, having gone from self-publishing to his new (hilariously funny) rating of being a “D-List” author. He also gives other new writers a hand up with his semi-regular Book Bombs. In short, he’s awesome.
Hugh Howey has become practically the voice of the Indie Author, with his best-selling series Wool, and his reports on the nitty-gritty of how independents are eating Big Publishing’s pie. In a recent blog post, he says “I advocate for: Reasonably priced e-books, for publishers to take risks and do exciting things, for us to embrace the future of storytelling and allow it to coexist with the past, to release all editions of a work at once, to get rid of DRM, to mix up genres and do something fresh and new . . . these are all things I’ve wanted as a reader for longer than I’ve been writing. These are things I complained about with fellow readers and bookstore workers long before I sat down and penned my first novel.”
Sarah A. Hoyt came in next, and her reaction to seeing this was ‘I don’t belong there… Why am I there?’ Sarah, you’re there for two reasons. One, alphabetically Hoyt comes before Konrath, and you were tied with him. Two, you are a strong, clear voice for writers to come to for help. You’re paving the way for some, and publishing how-to’s on the Mad Genius Club blog, providing support for those who are trying to find a place to start. Like Larry, you’re an inspiration and you put story above navel gazing. Of course we think of you. You’re like a mother to us… ducks and runs, fast
JA Konrath on his blog tackles thorny issues independent writers are concerned with, he’s responsible for the brilliant Writer’s Declaration of Independence, and spot-on for this particular topic, had this to say about legacy authors, publishers, and group narcissism: “I wish other people would recognize the authority of my group -Self-pubbed authors have no group. But many of us strive to be heard because we want to help, not because we want our authority recognized. Whereas the Authors Guild is recognized by the media, and many authors, as having authority.
My group has all predispositions to influence others – Self-pubbers don’t predispose to influence. We want to help. Legacy folks believe they are part of a special club. It is an ideology to them.”
Passive Guy, the formerly anonymous man who founded Passive Voice, is an attorney, although he warns nothing he says on the blog is to be taken as legal counsel. But a great deal of what he doe say is enormously helpful if you want to stay informed in this industry. Tapping into Passive Voice will keep any of us writers abreast of the news, as he posts lengthy quotes from blogs and other media several times a day, sometimes with pithy and relevant comments of his own attached.
John C. Wright, when I contacted him to ask him for a quote for this article, first sent me his bio, then rather than words from him, a nomination for someone he felt better suited to fill the place of an influential voice. “I nominate Tom Simon. He is the man who invented the term ‘Superversive’ which I took as inspiration to start a superversive literary movement in science fiction. The goal of the movement is to get SFF out of the doldrums. He has written several books, including nonfiction.” Which is interesting, and I look forward to reading them, but Mr Wright, I will insist you do belong on this list, as you have a way with words that may not cut to the heart of the matter immediately, but rather as an artist creates a sculpture with a thousand precise cuts.
Jerry Pournelle, one of the grand old men of Science Fiction, made it onto the list despite not having a traditional blog. What he does instead is to take fan mail and publish it, with his own trenchant comments. Less about the mechanics of writing will appear here, but for the earnest writer who wants to find bleeding-edge science, the site is a trove of information. Also, he is reviving his review column, which I will be interested to see what he has to say about new books.
Toni Weisskopf of Baen Publishing pointed out she hates talking about herself, Baen doesn’t really have a mission statement besides making SFF fun, and suggested that I refer my readers instead to something she wrote earlier this year when it seemed fandom was ripping itself apart from the inside out. “Yes, it took the brilliance and guidance of one person to set it in motion and shape it throughout, but it is the result of hundreds of people pulling together to explore and create on their own. Not as some side “fan fiction” endeavor, but as part of the—commercially viable—whole. And when I say “commercially viable” it is shorthand for: “lots of people like it and are willing to show this by paying money for it to continue.”
Brad Torgerson sent me to a blog post of his when I asked him for a few words, and suggested I glean from it. It’s all good stuff, and I recommend you take a look at his whole post. But the very first topic is perfect for this article, I think you will agree: “1. You must never self-publish.”
This was gospel when I was plowing through my proverbial first million words of “practice” fiction. And at the time, it was good advice. Self-publishing invariably meant vanity publishing, which is a form of publishing where the author spends hundreds or even thousands of dollars of his/her own money, to put his/her book into print. Vanity presses tend to be scams as often as not, and with the advent of widespread electronic book platforms (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.) as well as print-on-demand options like Amazon.com’s CreateSpace, vanity presses are also wholly unnecessary. Plus, self-publishing doesn’t carry the same stigma it used to. Once upon a time self-publishing was a warning flag to the rest of the genre—hey guys, I couldn’t cut it with editors! These days, not so much. There are good writers who are self-publishing, and making a decent amount of money. You have no doubt heard of a few.”
There are more names on my original list, but in an attempt at brevity, which I have deeply failed, I’m leaving them to you to research through the links provided at my blog. I hope I have introduced worthwhile people to you, and I’m curious: who do you consider an influential, positive, nurturing voice in literature active on the internet? Comment below, and perhaps we can make another list of great voices to listen in on!
Oh, and I have permission to add this… my fifth novel is being released in a week. The God’s Wolfling is a tale of adventure, myths, goblins, troll blood, and more. If you’re interested in entering to win a signed print copy, possibly sketched in if the mood strikes me, step over to my blog and leave a comment here. Winner will be announced on August 2, the day after the release.
[Charlie here:] Sorry the links didn’t make it in on time. As I said in the comments, when I was prepping the links, Google Mail suddenly decided not to let me get at the BPF email (at firstname.lastname@example.org, where you can also send an email to get submission guidelines, which say “Send the TITLE, AUTHOR’S NAME, a SHORT blurb, and an AMAZON KINDLE LINK.)
Oh, and here’s some hints: don’t bother to send a cover photo — I link to the one on Amazon anyway. Don’t forget that the official deadline is the Tuesday of the preceding week. I’m keeping up right now, but this turned out to be pretty long; if you submit a book with the necessary information, it’ll get up eventually, but if you hae a promotion, then make sure you send the book in plenty of time.
Oh, and I do try to be flexible about the submission format, but I’ve been giving a BPF No-Prize for the first submission that actually completely follows the guidelines, and it’s often not awarded until the fourth or fifth book. However, if your submission is like one this week, with no title, no author’s name, an Amazon link and about a five page excerpt of the book, then you’ll just get a new copy of the guidelines.
ON SALE FOR 2.99 7/25 THROUGH 7/29 ONLY
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.
FREE on Kindle for a few days!
Korea vet steps irritably into the twilight, but unexpected guests make him feel young again. (Warning: a few salty epithets, and maybe some VIOLENCE.)
“Short. Deadly. Hilarious.”
“[I]t’s like a punch in the solar plexus, only it tickles.”
A teen trying to improve concrete for a science prize stumbles onto a formula that transforms the foundation of his parents’ house to mud. Hilarity does not ensue, even when it dries into something “rich and strange.”
Moscow wants that formula, and so do Tehran, Peking, and Tel Aviv. Can Michael and his family find a safe haven?
“Unique and Thoughtful Thriller”
“A Gem in a Genre that Usually Lacks Gems”
Trouble’s never more than an ear-twitch away.
After fifty years away, Rada Ni Drako and her business partner Zabet return to Drakon IV and find themselves entangled in Lineage politics. Then a corrupt King-Emperor and a series of natural disasters force Rada to choose between obedience and duty, with near-fatal consequences for all involved. Add a dash of feudal justice and a child whose death uncovers a hidden crime, and Rada’s got her forefeet full in this Cat among Dragons story set.
Only one Mage Guardian now defends Aerope from the malevolent plans of Denais and his dreams of conquest and revenge. Ardhuin desperately tries to make the Allied governments see the danger and replace their murdered Guardians, but the long peace dulls any sense of urgency. Her new husband Dominic fears the Allies consider Ardhuin’s phenomenal power sufficient—and in no need of help from their mages. And yet…a weary traveler from the ends of the earth rushes to their home to deliver a message from a man thought dead. A desperate plea for help, invoking the Compact—as only another Mage Guardian would. Does another survive after all? And what new danger threatens the world?
(FREE this weekend!)
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.
“Better a world that might kill you, than a world you know wants you dead.”
A premium human in a genetically enhanced future, Rylen Weir was bred for a life of harmony and balance. Being kidnapped by unenhanced “throwbacks” and finding himself the key to which version of humanity survives was never in the plan.
Rylen has little choice, however. An unknowing test subject for the Traveller Enhancement, allowing him to send his consciousness back through time among his own ancestors, Rylen can possess the one man who set this future in motion. Which gives Rylen the power to save everyone, and everything, that he has ever known—or to prevent his world from ever happening.
Only neither side knows what Rylen will choose, because Rylen Weir is flawed.
A screenplay for a film that never was…
Red on Blue is a former high-level bureaucrat and Republican appointee’s observations on re-organizing and managing a government designed by and for Democrats so that a Republican executive can actually run that government. The primary focus is on getting control of the money, people, and stuff in the government, getting the holdover Democrats out, and avoiding scandal in the process. Since there are few Republicans in government where there are heavily unionized public employees there is a dearth of working knowledge in conservative/Republican circles concerning dealings with unionized public employees. When I was Alaska’s director of labor relations Swartzenegger’s guy and I were the only Republican appointee-level heads of a state’s labor relations function; the rest of the union states were Democrat controlled. Consequently, I put a heavy emphasis on the dynamics of taking over a government from the Democrats and dealing with public employee unions in the aftermath.
The Confederated Worlds, Book 1
The Confederated Worlds implanted in Tomas’ brain the skills to make him a soldier. He had to learn for himself how to survive interstellar war.
Tomas Neumann sought escape from his backwater planet and overbearing mother, and a mentor to replace his long-dead father. “Taking the shilling”—enlisting in the Confederated Worlds military—promised both. But despite the soldier’s skills implanted in his brain, combat still threatened to destroy him, in body and in spirit. Grieving for lost comrades, demoralized by a spiral of atrocities, could Tomas learn what he needed to survive, before facing his war’s ultimate challenge?
The Confederated Worlds, Book 2
The Confederated Worlds lost the war.
Can Lt. Tomas Neumann win the peace?
By the terms of the peace treaty, the citizens of the planet Arden will vote to stay in the Confederated Worlds or join the victorious Progressive Republic. Newly-minted Lieutenant Tomas Neumann leads his overstretched and demoralized Confederated Worlds Ground Force platoon in a mission that pushes men and machines to their limits, against elusive, deceptive foes out to tilt Arden to the Progressive Republic—and turn the Confederated Worlds against itself.
Book one in the Pixie for Hire series.
You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…
Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…
“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.”
Dave Freer, author of Dog and Dragon, The Forlorn, and many others, says: “”To those of you who thought there was nothing new worth reading in Fantasy: Cedar Sanderson’s Pixie Noir proves that you are wrong. The author plainly knows and loves her setting and characters, and this carries through to the reader. The pace picks up throughout, so save this book for a weekend, or you’ll be complaining about a lack of sleep at work. A very good read!”
In this first novel in The End Times Saga, we follow how the Evans family gained their riches and eventually their power to influence events in the United States. We see important events that the Evans family gets themselves involved in: such as the return of the Israelites to Israel, the assassination of President Kennedy, the terrorism of 9/11, and eventually events that lead to government tyranny in the United States with the sole purpose of destroying Christianity and its influence in the United States.
Do you believe in miracles?
When Marni Taylor meets her new apartment neighbor—brash, good-looking Dallas Narcotics Detective Sammy Kidman—she pegs him right away as a heartbreaker, a user. Still, she agrees to help him with an undercover assignment. By the time he’s through with her, Marni is so traumatized that she is driven to find healing in a faith she never knew she had.
That same faith forces Marni to decide what to do about a man she both hates and loves, while Sammy, faced with the terrifying consequences of his actions, makes a blind grab at redemption. But Sammy is a cop, first and last, and his life comes down to the choice every cop must make of how much of himself to give. The question is, when the time comes to give your all . . . how much do you believe?
Sammy: Dallas Detective is the first book in The Sammy Series. The story continues in Sammy: Women Troubles.
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.
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.
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!
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. . . .
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.]
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 email@example.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.)
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.
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?
“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!
A new collection of science fiction and fantasy stories for Summer 2014 on the theme of “intelligence.”
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bought the book in the morning. Finished it in the afternoon. Literally could not put it down.
That may sound odd when you learn that I’m a 52-year-old father of four and I’m talking about a nonfiction book written by a geeky teenaged girl about her efforts to become popular. But it’s weirder than that: I actually had to reach for the Kleenex more than a time or two.
In Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, Maya Van Wagenen, 15, lives and writes an engaging adventure — a social experiment, in which she tries to apply the lessons of “Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide,” which her Dad found in a thrift store. Maya manages to bring precocious insight into the human condition through a fun, often dramatic, personal story.
Did you ever wish you could go back to high school knowing what you do now about human nature? Maya actually does it, but as a middle-schooler willing to test out principles of grooming, attire and attitude tailored for 1951. And she doesn’t update them. She lives out the vintage popularity guide as written.
How could paleolithic advice about makeup, girdles and etiquette survive the onslaught of feminism and political correctness? Quite well actually — surprisingly well. But ultimately, what Maya learns has little to do with superficial attractiveness. It really gets at the core of why some people seem to naturally attract friends, and have more fun, while others live lives of quiet desperation.
It’s easy to understand why this book, out since April 15, has already been optioned for a movie. I hope that the studio realizes that this is much more than a story of teenage angst — that it has broad appeal, and deep meaning.
I just finished Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, which oddly enough I found much more comforting breakup reading than all the books out there about breakups. Abbey mines wisdom — and churns up insanity — from the contemplation of nature. Reading his book I felt I’d found a new friend, someone who wouldn’t ask me how it’s interesting or comfortable to sit and stare at the trees and sky for hours on end (a question I get from those who haven’t really tried it). He’d understand the need to bask in nature, the healing and invigorating qualities of letting your mind roam free; and as a complement, the meditative aspect of scrambling over rocks, up mountains, through bushes and streams — few things sharpen the mind to the beautiful, intricate, rich present moment.
If you were to read just one chapter from Desert Solitaire, pick “Down the River,” the story of Abbey’s rafting trip down the Colorado, a poignant journey taken just before the construction of the Boulder Dam. It can never be replicated; the canyons and grottos he describes are now all flooded under Lake Mead.
The crystal water flows toward me in shimmering S-curves, looping quietly over shining pebbles, buff-colored stone and the long sleek bars and reefs of rich red sand, in which glitter grains of mica and pyrite — fool’s gold. The canyon twists and turns, serpentine as its stream, and with each turn comes a dramatic and novel view of tapestried walls five hundred — a thousand? — feet high, of silvery driftwood wedged between boulders, of mysterious and inviting subcanyons to the side, within which I can see living strands of grass, cane, salt cedar, and sometimes the delicious magical green of a young cottonwood with its ten thousand exquisite leaves vibrating like spangles in the vivid air. The only sound is the whisper of the running water, the touch of my bare feet on the sand, and once or twice, out of the stillness, the clear song of a canyon wren.
Is this at last the locus Dei? There are enough cathedrals and temples and altars here for a Hindu pantheon of divinities. Each time I look up one of the secretive little side canyons I half expect to see not only the cottonwood tree rising over its tiny spring — the leafy god, the desert’s liquid eye — but also a rainbow-colored corona of blazing light, pure spirit, pure being, pure disembodied intelligence, about to speak my name.
If a man’s imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder not so limited, he would abandon forever such fantasies of the supernal. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves and silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of the ancient dreams.
Take Desert Solitaire with you on your next camping trip. Or better yet, read it before your next camping trip and them spend the trip bending your mind and soul to nature.
This past Sunday, American audiences finally had their chance to wave goodbye to Nurse Jenny Lee, the lead character in the famed Masterpiece series Call the Midwife. However sad it may be, the departure of the show’s Hollywood-bound lead actress Jessica Raine was, ironically, in no way a traumatic one.
Most American shows die when their lead actor disappears. Dan Stevens’ untimely departure from Downton Abbey still enrages fans over a year later. Yet, while Nurse Jenny Lee will be a much missed character, fans are far from outraged at her departure. Perhaps this is because Call the Midwife was never just about Jennifer (Lee) Worth, but about the many lives she encountered and a profession that is finally being given the credit it so sorely deserves. But there is more to the massive success of what began as a 6-episode BBC show about nursing in mid-century London’s bombed-out East End than giving credit where credit is due.
In an era of roughshod marketing tactics and semiotic overload, Call the Midwife, with its pure, heartfelt approach to the vicissitudes of life, is therapeutic television. We are a desensitized audience: No one cries when a pregnant mother is stabbed to death on Game of Thrones. Yet, everyone, including the burly guys on set, shed a tear at every birth on Call the Midwife. We are treated to an East End rife with chamber pots, not sexy chamber maids, and yet audiences are drawn to the show in droves. We love the midwives, even when they are dressed in habits and wimples; they are the ideal face of medicine, mother, and God in an era when we’ve been taught to doubt all three. Like a nurse checking our pulse, Call the Midwife reminds us that we are human after all, and perhaps not as sick as we’ve been led to believe.
And yet, while TV execs struggle with sex and violence in the name of Tweet power, they remain blind to Call the Midwife’s axiom for success: There is powerful endurance in simple truth. Call the Midwife will survive without the character of Jenny Lee because the show has embraced Jennifer Worth’s own mystical sense of timelessness. It is the stuff that fueled her memoirs of both London’s East End and her time as a nurse caring for the dying. Brilliantly captured in the season finale, this sense of the eternal in both life and death is what makes Call the Midwife a healing balm of a show and transcendental television in its finest form. Forget bloody battles and wild, nameless sex. Call the Midwife empowers its audience with the strength to face, not escape, life’s pressures, and the faith to believe that while “weeping may happen for a night, joy breaks forth in the morning.”
Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.
We had the honor of attending our son’s graduation from Hillsdale College last week on a picture-perfect May day with chairs lined up in tight rows on the east lawn of the beautiful campus. In addition to the joy of watching our eldest son walk across the stage to receive his diploma, we were blessed to hear the insightful commencement address from author Eric Metaxas. In addition to sharing stories from his youth and his faith journey, Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, discussed at length the connection between faith, virtue, and freedom. You’ll find the video of the speech at the end of this post.
Here are ten incisive quotes from Metaxas’ address, “The Role of Faith in the Story of Liberty”:
1. Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state.
Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state. It’s something that either be encouraged and smiled upon or discouraged and frowned-upon. Or, simply crushed, as it has been in every Communist country…Religious freedom, which was at the very heart of the Founders’ vision for America, cannot be compromised without all our liberties being compromised and America as we know her being redefined into non-existence.
At the beginning of the year, I realized what’s wrong with me–I’m a creative.
It wasn’t until we moved to the Nashville area that I understood that it’s not what you do, it’s a personality type. People from all over the world come to Nashville to follow their dreams and find their own kind. Writers, artists, recording artists and songwriters–all creatives from every area of the arts flourish and wither here.
Living with your creativity is a challenge. Making a living with it is a lot like trying to make two marriages work at once.
Creatives of all genres want a muse. Every artist has watched with amazement as their best work flowed effortlessly through their fingertips as though they were the instrument, not the creator.
Call her what you like. Although she is fickle, selfish and obstinate, she is a most desired companion. She is the whisperer of the words to a song in the middle of the night. She is the unseen hand atop your brush as it glides across the canvass. She is wisdom. She is color, song and prose. She sows thoughts in the mind that blossom at the fingertips. She is your creative self, set free.
Without her, the fields of creativity are rough, rocky and require long hours of toil– often abandoned, and left to lay fallow.
With her at your side, the creative life is a joy and new every morning–but if you wait on her to feed you, you will become an artist all right–a starving artist.
As any marriage partner, she is to be treated with respect, courted and never taken for granted.
But first, you have to know where to find her.
I just finished reading Freakonomics for the first time. I know, I’m behind the times. I picked it up out of curiosity (I’ve heard so many things about the book, its authors, and the subsequent podcast) and convenience (it was left by a previous employee in the office I just moved out of, and while I was packing up unwanted books to donate, I set it aside).
One thing that struck me is how often economist Steven Levitt’s self-deprecation is cited as proof of his sincerity and trustworthiness. Everyone is fallible (even economists!) but you can probably trust the guy who’s wise enough to admit it, right?
I won’t play a guessing game on whether Levitt uses self-deprecation cynically, to manipulate readers, or whether he really is that humble a guy. The thing is, either way, there’s just too much of it. My relief and pleasure at discovering an economist who admits he may be wrong was quickly dampened by irritation at the way self-deprecation is used to excuse whatever happens to come next.
It’s possible I’m wrong, and there are a lot of variables involved that are nearly impossible to scientifically measure, and you should do your own research and think critically before making up your own mind, but…I’d posit that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is actually a documentary. Cats are secretly in control of the White House. And we all live in a computer program called The Matrix.
Obviously, admitting my potential error before I drop these theories makes them no less ridiculous. But the example above illustrates how self-deprecation can really be a rhetorical device to persuade someone into hearing out your outlandish theory (“Well, if he admits he might be wrong, he can’t be that nuts — what’s he got to say?”) and also a verbal insurance policy (“You can’t hold me to that, I told you up front I might be wrong!”).
My question is: does that verbal insurance policy really cash out? Is “I told you I might be wrong” actually a good defense for sharing a theory that may not be completely sound, but may spread disinformation or encourage bad policy? (I’m done picking on poor Levitt now, and just wondering generally — though some of his more famous theories may be grouped by some readers in that category.) It’s actually a close cousin to an infamous tabloid journalism trick — start a statement with “rumor has it” and you’ve admitted the following report may not be totally factual, but most readers who remember it will just remember the claims in the story, not the qualifier that they may not be true.
I still enjoyed Freakonomics for its refreshing and unusual take on a variety of interesting subjects. I hope Levitt continues to do his work of overturning common wisdom and examining topics other economists consider beneath them. I just wonder if he, and other fans of his favorite rhetorical device, realize there are limits to a “I might be wrong” insurance policy.