Where’d the Discourse Go

I’ve been doing some interesting reading this week that had me thinking. Music used to be a communal experience. Whether it was a guy with an acoustic guitar, or a boom box, music was a shared experience. Now it is pumped directly into listeners’ brain cavities through thin white wires that go into a pocket somewhere. Then there are the serious head hugging Princess Leia cans. You know you’re into your beats with a pair of those. People aren’t sharing their music any more, that got me thinking.

This post isn’t about music. Another story I read was about Facebook’s attempt to incorporate their messaging app’s bubble style into the comments part of posts. This is an attempt, on their part, to engage people to comment and reply more. This is really where I wanted to go and put two and two together. In the months leading up to the inauguration and even the election itself, Facebook posts filled with a back and forth that became heated at times and at other times managed to reach a general consensus. Recently I’ve noticed a definite lack of that. It is almost as if both sides have retreated to their corners, put their blinders on, and plugged their ears. They even have cute names for each other, fascists and snowflakes. There was a time when you could count on the common ground of facts to reign in the debate, but even that is no longer true. Our facts, like our music, are whatever we pump into our brain cavities. In the recent past we would stand in our corners and shout at each other. Now it appears the fog of war is so thick we don’t even see the opposite corner anymore. I am guilty of this too and it bothers me.

The scary part is, if debate is the foundation of an effective democracy, and we no longer have that, how much longer can we expect to have democracy.

It’s the Details That Will Wreck You

via GIPHY

I hate it when I’m enjoying a really good book only to have the whole thing marred by a really foolish mistake. Without going into the title of the book in question, the part I’m talking about is a rescue of the main characters who’ve been tied up in a building about to be demolished. The rescuer uses a piece of glass from one of the windows to cut the ropes. There is only one problem. When a building is going to be demolished all of the window glass is removed to prevent a wave of shattered glass tearing across the city. Now, I cannot fault the writer and editor, who may or may not know that fact, but I can wonder why he or she didn’t do some research on building demolition to make sure some curmudgeon like me doesn’t come up and say, “well you know…” So let this be a cautionary tail, even if your book isn’t about building demolition make sure you get the real life stuff accurate.

Scalpers Suck

Nintendo SwitchTypically when you mention scalpers images of $500 Guns and Roses tickets come to mind. As much as that pains me there is also a new type of scalper that really sets me off. Last week Nintendo released their 7th home console in the US, The Nintendo Switch. Almost immediately, and as little surprise to anyone who hoped to get one of their Classic NES consoles this Christmas, the pre-orders disappeared as soon as they posted. When release day came, lists of Switches for sale filled eBay and even Amazon.com with one minor difference. They all ran at least $70 more than the suggested retail price. To the bystander, it looked as though every one of those pre-ordered systems was now being cashed in for a quick 100 bucks. Unlike with concert tickets, it is all free and legal.

On the one hand it makes sense for sites like eBay to welcome these sales as they get a commission on each one. The harder question is why a site like Amazon would allow it. Well, that isn’t to hard to figure out either because they also get a cut of the sale. So it makes sense for them. Hell they probably made 8 or 10% on the original sale so if that person turns around and puts it up they stand to make another 15% on that sale as well. As an adult it’s easy for me to say no thank you and wait for the item to return to stock at its original price. An adult with a kid will have to figure out how much their incessant whining is worth compared to the hit on their wallet. I urge you, resist. As long as people are willing to pay inflated prices for the convenience of being the first to own this practice will only continue, and dare I say worsen.

The Day I Canceled My Sales Tax License

sales use taxThis week found me in the predicament of needing to renew my sales tax license with the state. Plus I was already spending 44 cents a month to mail in a form to one of the cities to report that I have nothing to report. So I’ve decided to cancel all my licenses. I really wasn’t selling many books anyway. In addition the prices for tables at events have increased to a point where I just never saw myself selling enough books to break even. The hard part is, for a self-published author, your best bet at selling your books is to get out there and make those one on one connections with readers. In the process of that I’ve learned I’m not a very good sales person, at least not concerning my own work.

I like to tell myself that I can now concentrate more on my writing and less on worrying about selling enough books to make up the cost of getting out there to sell my books. Still it feels a little like giving up. Such are the decisions we face and the second guessing that goes along with them.

Steps For Avoiding Overwriting

This was a great post from The Creative Pen on how to avoid overwriting. I know myself, I am guilty of this from time to time, and from time to time I like reading works whose writing is thick with description. Then again I am really turned off by works where I am just wading through piles and piles of prose, cough Cryptonomicon cough. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot. The good news is you aren’t going to get there overnight, but persistence with a good bit of editing will see you through. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/02/18/avoid-overwriting/ 

Doomed By Self-Publishing?

This was a great little piece I found on Janet Reid’s blog. Will Self Publishing Doom ME? I think it is a question facing many new unsigned authors. I have fielded a few myself and I never felt that I have doomed my writing by self-publishing. Notice I didn’t say career, my career is still in the library, mostly because I am not that good a sales person. You know self-publishing is only the first step. To have any measure of success you need to invest time and money into marketing and selling your book. You need to make contacts and pound the bricks. None of these are my strong point so I’ll just bask in the reviews and good word of mouth my books have afforded me and put off worrying about stellar numbers. Follow this link to read Janet’s take on this question: http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2017/02/will-self-publishing-doom-me.html

Villainous Thoughts

The good guy may get the girls but it’s that bad guy that keeps the pages turning. I find writing a compelling villain is tougher than a book’s lead character. Male or female it is that villain that will be the measure of how good your protagonist truly is. Even when that antagonist isn’t a person, you must write about their actions that the reader can make no mistake about their villainy. Myself, I like cunning villains more so than overly powerful ones. I also like villains who have a morality too. Huh?

Think about it this way, in Marvel’s X-Men, Magneto is the villain to Charles Xavier. Yet all Magneto is interested in is the well being of his fellow mutants and protecting them. His methods vary drastically from Professor Xavier’s, but the moral compass for both points in the same direction. The challenge in writing about a character such as this is making sure that his or her actions remain true to that morality.

Another fun type of villain is the off the rails amoral variety. The sheer chaos of writing for one of these characters is demanding. Still the end result can be very rewarding as your hero rises and meets every nefarious deed. Yet all is not lost even for these types of villains. I’m thinking about Godzilla here. Obviously he or she was the villain of the first movie in 1954 but latter movies would see the unstoppable force of nature become the hero protecting humanity. That he or she had to destroy half of Tokyo to do it is another matter.

In both these examples you can have a wide range of villains that combine components of each, though like I said before I like my villains morally guided if not socially minded.