Being a Better Writer: So Make Your Own

Welcome back readers, to another episode of Being a Better Writer! This week’s entry is a bit of an odd one. In fact, I almost tipped it over to an OP-ED piece initially, but upon thinking about it realize that yes, it was an important writing topic, if a little more unusual than normal. So we’re talking about it for this week’ Being a Better Writer.

But really quick (and I do mean quick, no worries) I do want to issue a heads-up to all prior Alpha Readers: the pre-Alpha for Axtara – Banking and Finance will like finish up today or early tomorrow morning. So this week, Alpha invites will go out!

That’s it! I did say it was quick. It’s also really good news. The last I’ll say on it is that I have immensely enjoyed my time prepping Axtara for Alpha. It’s a lot of fun.

So then, with that bit of excellent news spoken for, let’s get down to today’s topic. Which is, again, a bit weird, even if the title is anything to go by. So for a moment, to explain, let’s talk about some of the weird social climates around the process of creating.

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Want Diversity? Start Supporting Indie

Hey readers, got a short post for you here today. It may not have escaped your notice in recent weeks (or maybe it did, and you’ve spent your time better than I) that the book industry, specifically traditional publishing, has been under fire.

Okay, in fairness, that’s nothing new. The traditional publishing industry has been suffering for years. That’s why Simon & Schuster is up for sale. But right now it’s under fire from readers for a reason that, given the current political climate in the United States, you can probably guess at.

Yup, the publishers are under fire for diversity. Or rather, for a lack of it.

Before I go further with this post, I want to make one thing clear: I actually agree with this concept, but for entirely different reasons than most locked in this battle would probably agree with. Most of them are painting, as they put it, a lack of books from certain ethnic groups or a lack of good royalty for those books as a deliberately targeted act of racism.

I’m not so sure. At least, not in the way most of the accusers seem to think. Personally? I think it’s far more likely that it’s the same story repeated a thousand times with the traditional publishers: They’re out of touch, behind the times, and refusing to adapt to the modern era. They’re “risk averse” to anything they don’t understand, and buddy, there’s a lot they don’t understand.

So basically, while many are accusing book publishers of being deliberately racist, I think that’s giving the publishers too much credit. It’s an “achievement” of ignorance as much as anything else. Ignorance and willful refusal to adapt. Not at all helped by many publishers trying to kill as many birds with one stone as possible and push out books that “hit” every margin the publisher hasn’t at once.

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Op-Ed: How Covid-19’s Impact Might Be Good for the United States

Hello readers! I’m going to start this post with a bit of a disclaimer. Two, actually.

First, I know Covid-19 has been bad for a lot of people. It’s caused a lot of deaths, and a lot of disruption. There are people who have lost family members and friends because of this, or jobs and livelihoods. At the time of this writing, the global death toll was about 140,000. The goal of this post isn’t to say that Covid-19 (AKA Coronavirus) is good, it’s unmistakably a situation which we should take very seriously. But the impact it’s left on the other claw, could be good. Much in the way an early architectural disaster arising due to unknown elements can lead to a greater understanding of building stresses and safer buildings overall (this has indeed happened).

Second, this post is really only concerned with the United States of America. Because it’s where I happen to live, and where therefore I’m both most familiar with the structure of things as well as the effects Covid-19 has had on that structure. If you’re one of my many readers from outside the US (shoutout to Europe, including Sweden, Norway, Spain, and Finland, New Zealand, Brazil, and even Africa!) then this post may not be quite as relevant except maybe as a curious thought exercise or puzzlement or another opinion piece on how the US functions (or in this case, doesn’t function, as we’re about to discuss).

So, with both those things said, then, let’s move on to today’s post, and how Covid-19’s impact could be good for the US … if we’re aware enough to make it happen.

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OP-ED: The Foolish Hypocrisy of “What We Had is Good Enough”

Hey readers! Taking a moment from Fireteam Freelance to make a quick post. One that, well … Let’s just see how this goes. But first, a heads up that Colony and Jungle have picked up something like six new Five-Star reviews/ratings in the last week! Welcome new readers, and thank you for leaving your thoughts! I’m glad you’re loving Colony and Jungle!

Okay, news over! This post, like some here on Unusual Things, is one of those posts inspired by an actual conversation. In this case said conversation was between myself and an individual who shall remain nameless, but who is an outspoken critic of the “younger generations.”

Note: If you thought “Oh, a boomer!” or “OK boomer” then you’re on the right track here. Anyway, this individual holds that the social difficulties of today aren’t difficulties at all, that they’re simply a byproduct of the younger generations being lazy and incompetent, and that no one has had it harder than their generation (red flag much?).

But … that’s not where I’m going with this. No, I want to use this interaction to show the hypocrisy of a mindset that is, unfortunately, bought into by many. The idea that “Well, we had it good enough, so anything past that we perceive means you’re coddled/weak/less than us.”

Let me give you an example. The individual I was in the conversation with gave their “example” of “you have it so much better than the generation before you who had it so bad, how dare you complain about anything” by bringing up cell phones. Cell phones and smart phones, they argued, were just a sign of a coddled, weakened generation. ‘The younger generation doesn’t have money,’ they argued, ‘because they spend it on cell phones, which they don’t need. If they were really poor, they’d get rid of their cell phones.’

Okay, now despite the holes of logic that one could pilot a star cruiser through (such as even basic, minimum-wage jobs—so you know, banks, retail, medical, etc—requiring their employees have cell phones for scheduling, 24-7 access, etc), this person didn’t stop there. They just had to “drive the point home.”

‘When I was the age of the younger generation, the apartment block I lived in had one phone, at the end of the hall. Most used it only once a week to call someone important like their family.’ And here’s the moment where they messed up. They then finished if ‘If it was good enough for me and my generation, then it’s good enough for you.’

I responded in a way that caught them off-guard. I asked why they felt they needed to use the phone, if a letter worked just as well. They replied that why shouldn’t they use the phone? After all, it was there to be used.

‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘But did your parents have access to a phone like that when they were your age?’

‘Of course not,’ they quickly retorted. ‘They sent letters. There was no phone.’

‘Then why didn’t you send letters?’ I asked. ‘After all, if it was good enough for them, shouldn’t it have been good enough for you? You didn’t need to use a phone.’

Instant. Anger. And cue the rant.

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The Pitfall with Patreon

Okay, I realize that this title may be attention-grabbing enough to start people off with the wrong ideas. So I’m going to make it clear right up front: I am extremely grateful and thankful to those of you who donate to my Patreon. There have been months where I’ve only gotten by thanks to the kind and generous donations of my Patreon supporters. Writing is … a tough job. It doesn’t pay great pretty much until it does. But I am forever grateful to those of you that donate a little bit of your income each month as a thanks for the articles I post. I couldn’t do Being a Better Writer without you guys (especially as BaBW is ad and subscription free).

No, this post isn’t to have issue with that. Rather, it’s to bring up something I’ve mentioned before. An issue with Patreon that’s, well, quite prevalent. And ultimately, a death sentence if someone falls into its trap. Which I’ve seen happen more than once.

It’s not the fault of Patreon, and I don’t wish to insinuate that. I believe it has more to do with human nature, and the idea of “being owed.”

Okay, so let me just dive right into things. Patreon, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a modern take on the “Patron of the Arts” idea. See, back in the old days of history, “Patrons” of artists would basically donate money to various artists, musicians, so that these artists would have money to live while they made their creations. You have to realize the idea of a musician selling records is entirely unique to our modern era. If a talented young musician, say a classical composer, wanted to be a classical composer, they could find a patron who would support them with money for living needs in exchange for the musician creating music. If they stopped creating, the patron would stop funding them.

Patreon is the digital equivalent of this concept. Find a webcomic you like? An artist? A modder? Any sort of creative soul you want to support? You can support this person on Patreon, donating them a sum of money each month. The idea being if that 100 people donate $5 each, that creator then makes $500. So for the cost of a half-price lunch a month, 100 people can support their favorite webcomic creator, for example.

Cool, right? I agree. It’s a modern take on the “Patron of the Arts” formula.

But not one without its weaknesses. And it’s flaws. Some of which are, without mincing words, almost deadly to a creator.

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The Shifting Tide of Employment – Follow Up

Hey there readers! Sorry for the lateness of this post. I just wanted to get a bit more work done on Axtara: Banking and Finance before I had a work shift tonight. But speaking of work, remember that post I made about two weeks ago about how employment as we know it is soon going to shift completely as increasing automation quickly overtakes everything? The one where I pointed out it’s already happening and only accelerating, and we need to figure out how we’re going to adapt to it?

If you don’t, or haven’t read it, than you really should. Not just because it’ll give some needed context to this post, but because it may bring to light some things you didn’t know or realize and should probably be thinking about. It was called The Shifting Tide of Employment – The Sci-Fi Future is Already Here. It produced a lot of talk in comments here and on other sites where it was linked, because most people don’t realize how swiftly this change is moving. It’s not “when will it come” because it’s already here. Which is kind of the point of the post, along with a note that in my personal opinion, as a culture and a society we are not prepared in the slightest for the magnitude of change this will bring.

And then yesterday, things shifted again. In my first post, or at least in one of the comments, I compared the coming of automation to be an avalanche that’s already started. We can’t stop it, but we need to figure out how we’re going to weather it. It can be a good thing, or a bad thing, but we need to make those decision now, not later. A video someone mentioned in the comments (and I’ll link it again in this post for good measure) compares us to horses looking at the car and wondering if it’ll ever replace us.

Yes. The answer is yes. And this week, we moved a step closer. Take a look at this video from Boston Dynamics:

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Invisible Censorship and Books

I made an interesting and alarming discovery a few weeks ago.

Like most authors, I happen to love reading books as well. Between my local library, the occasional purchase, and my Kindle, I go through a good number of them every year. I have my entire life. Sands, in my small-town library, if I happened to be around the librarians would sometimes ask me if I knew a book a patron was asking about. I read a lot.

So, naturally, I gravitate to places online that talk about books. Forums that offer book reviews, or book chats, etc etc.

It was on one of these forums that I discovered an extremely disturbing trend.

Let me catch you up. One of the book places I hung out at quite regularly—or did, before this discovery, which all but killed my interest in it—was a place for book recommendations. It was pretty simple and straightforward: One person posts what they’re looking for, be it a historical romance with specific traits, or just something like what they’d already read and enjoyed, like Dune. Then, participants could post replies listing, detailing, or talking about other books that the poster might be interested in.

Good idea, right? I sure thought so. And so I went to it. It was fun dredging my brain sometimes for lesser-known authors or books that someone might have missed, or thinking “Oh, what was the name of that book!” and digging back several years through my Goodreads list to find it.

It was pretty good … Or so I thought.

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The Price We Pay – Are Book Prices too Much?

Honestly, I was going to hold off on a second post this week until Thursday (I’m blitzing through edits on Jungle right now) but this post had already been on my mind, and then a discussion yesterday online regarding MacMillan’s continued crusade against libraries basically poured gasoline over the spark and, well … Here we are.

Look, something that I see brought up constantly online, including in the very post that kicked this whole chain of thoughts off, is the price of books. It’s a hot topic anywhere. There are a lot of people who see them as too expensive, too overpriced, whether digital or not.

And you know what? I think they’re wrong.

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Are Libraries Bad for Authors? Part 2: Overdrive Fires Back!

It’s time for round two, folks, and Overdrive has come out swinging and swinging hard!

So, remember yesterday’s post on MacMillan? Who are, by the way, the owners of Tor (whoops as I actually missed that fact), the folks who last year decided to ban new releases of their books from libraries as libraries, they felt were the equivalent of piracy and book theft.

Yeah … Anyway, yesterday’s post on MacMillan’s announcement (and claims) was read by a many of you, if the site stats are any indication. Well, in that post, I called MacMillan’s numbers into question (mostly by bringing up the ridiculous price they’ve set for ebooks, and them being a market leader despite that, yet somehow claiming they can’t afford to pay their authors, and then attempting to blame libraries for that fact).

Today, it looks like I’m not the only one. You ready to read a verbal smackdown?

What am I saying. Of course you are.

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Are Libraries Bad for Authors?

Before we stumble into a cliche-filled moment of drama where inferences are made off of the title, I’ll be blunt: No, I don’t think so.

Let me say that again. Are libraries bad for authors? No, I don’t think so.

MacMillan, on the other hand (one of the larger book publishers), does.

Remember about … I want to say eight months or so ago, but it may have been longer, when Tor went ahead and decided that libraries were a threat to their business, since they let people check out books “for free” (the library pays for the book at a high price, mind). And therefore, they were going to be barring libraries from purchasing new copies of their books until a set time after release so that readers would be forced to buy them, rather than reading them at a library?

Well. apparently this idea is catching. MacMillan is the latest publisher to jump on this train. Now normally I’d sort of shake my head at this and move on, because this is just more book drama with publishers trying to recoup a market that’s slowly and steadily slipping away from them, but then in the news release, something else caught my eye. Something that really said a lot to me, personally, about how MacMillan is seeing things.

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