Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Sci-Fi extrapolation can become reality…

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

As readers of my novels know, my stories treat important themes. Here’s one: healthcare will become a worldwide problem.  It already is in the U.S., of course, because the whole system is based on making money for greedy Big Pharma, greedy insurance companies, and greedy healthcare networks and their associated professionals.  But other places will have problems too.  Even single-payer systems will have problems as they start having to limit costs in order to cover everyone.

Here’s a recent headline: “British Health System Felt the Strain of Cuts: Doctors Vent over Being Overwhelmed” (NY Times, 1/4/18). What? The standard for single-payer systems is in trouble? Of course, this is a question of governmental priorities—the conservative PM Theresa May is in trouble. and she can’t control her party’s desire to slash anything that benefits the middle class and poor.  Sound familiar? Speaker Paul Ryan has proposed slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to pay for the deficit increases attributable to the tax cuts for corporations and the rich.  And Trump’s proposed budget does exactly that!

OK, I made a New Year’s resolution not to write any more political op-ed and dedicate myself to storytelling this year, but that’s the point of this article: warnings in many sci-fi stories can easily become reality. While that’s true in general for any story (I watched the movie Enemy of the State again recently and thought, “it’s much worse now!”), sci-fi writers often extrapolate current problems into the future. They sometimes get it almost right, like Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451—we aren’t burning books yet, of course, but we’re doing much the same thing because the number of readers is diminishing, and our illiterate-in-chief in the White House seems only to be capable of reading business charts with bulleted items, if that, and surely wants to burn one book in particular if extracts from it are any indication.

But back to healthcare. I’ve been concerned about it ever since Nixon and the president of Kaiser Permanente sat down and invented the HMO concept, figuring there was a lot of money to be made on the backs of the infirm and poor.  The system we now have in America should fulfill their wildest dreams…and U.S. citizens’ wildest nightmares.

I probably co-opted the phrase “full medical” for the title of my first published novel from Frederik Pohl—that’s a theme in his novel Gateway (part of the HeeChee Chronicles).  Of course, no one in the U.S. besides the filthy rich and government people have complete medical coverage, so Pohl’s main character would feel right at home in our current setting—he wouldn’t need the HeeChee. My version of that book has a 1976 copyright, so Pohl beat me by some thirty years—my novel Full Medical was published in 2006 (it now even has a second ebook edition).  But I make more specific predictions than Pohl did in reference to the theme of health care (so much so that one idiot reviewer thought it was a medical book).

Here’s one: I imagine a strong black market in body parts, leading in its extreme to clones being used to generate them for the one-percenters, including corporate and government VIPs.  This book is the first in the “Clones and Mutant Series.” In the world of 2053, most people without full medical coverage just die; the rich elites can live forever with body parts taken from their clones.  The first is happening now, of course, so we don’t have to wait for 2053; the second is a distinct possibility.  After Dolly, human cloning WAS possible, and they’ve done it with other animals, so it’s not surprising that many nations have outlawed it.  And with that personalized source of body parts, free from the danger of rejection, we have the ultimate full medical policy for the rich and famous.

Of course, Pohl was writing his HeeChee stories in the seventies when “sci-fi thriller,” that is, a combination of sci-fi and thriller, hadn’t yet been invented.  To his credit, there’s plenty of action in his trilogy, but my three novels combine the two genres. But when it comes to health care, his “solution” is less probable than mine.  The theme recurs all through the “Clones and Mutants Series,” starts in earnest in the bridge novel The Golden Years of Virginia Morgan (nursing homes for the elderly, with a nasty government wrinkle for certain elders), continues after the clone series in the bridge novel Soldiers of God, and ends with the dystopian nightmares of the Chaos in the first book of the “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy,” Survivors of the Chaos (the trilogy is bundled in The Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection, a real value for readers).

I’m not going to claim that everything dealing with health care in my books will come to pass, but I’m definitely afraid it will. More importantly, given current events in the world, exemplified by the first few paragraphs of this post, we know that health care will be an important theme for sci-fi to consider for a long time. And that’s critical: no sci-fi storytelling should be without important themes where the futuristic setting can provide us with the opportunity to stand back a little and analyze objectively what it all means.

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In libris libertas…

Coincidences…

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Quite a while ago, a reviewer of Aristocrats and Assassins (in the seven-book “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series”) was generally positive about the book but didn’t like the coincidences. I’ve even had Detective Chen or Castilblanco say, “I don’t believe in coincidences”—this is a common statement from a cop in crime stories.

But coincidences are important in real life, so they’re important in fiction too. You wouldn’t have met your significant other but for coincidence, although I suppose a few people still sometimes marry their main squeeze from high school. Where we end up working is often determined by coincidence. Generally speaking, your world-line through the four dimensions of space and time is often determined by a series of coincidences.

In that reviewer’s defense, it seemed like quite a coincidence that Castilblanco just happened to be near terrorist attacks in Europe while on vacation. At the end of the book, though, that “coincidence” is explained away. Of course, it’s still a coincidence that the terrorist-mastermind of the royal kidnappings decided to also get even with Mr. C, but he was also an old nemesis from a past SEAL op.

Life is often full of coincidences.  Considering Clancy’s maxim that fiction has to seem real, there is no harm in including them in your fiction. Can a story start with a coincidence? My book mentioned above does, but because you might not have read it (shame on you!), Clancy’s Patriot Games offers a similar example (that novel convinced me that including European royalty in my book was OK as long as their roles are positive—the afore-mentioned reviewer seemed surprised that I made them so, but why not?). Jack Ryan was coincidentally in London to receive an award when he offs an Irish terrorist’s brother.  Every Jack Reacher book is an example too. Reacher is basically traveling around with just his toothbrush, but trouble always manages to find him.  Coincidences are essential to fictional storytelling.

Authors have to be careful, though. Coincidences have to seem real. If the story’s coincidences seem too improbable—Deus Ex Machina is an extreme case—the reader won’t swallow the storyline. If the majority of readers stop and say “Huh?” the author is in big trouble, especially at the beginning of the novel. Clancy’s coincidence defines the storyline and isn’t improbable. One can argue that the beginnings of most Reacher novels are also in that category.

But the mystery/thriller author, or even a sci-fi writer, must get his characters involved in the action. In the case of crime fiction, that’s generally more coincidental than if the main character is called upon to solve the crime. Most of the time, that’s Chen and Castilblanco’s fate—Aristocrats and Assassins is an exception. But even Inspectors Dalgliesch, Gamache, and Rebus get involved in some cases because of coincidences.

Bottom line for authors: manage your coincidences, but you don’t have to avoid them!

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Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format, including a .mobi (Kindle) version, at Smashwords and the latter’s affiliate retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo). It’s also available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it).

In libris libertas….

The death of imagination…

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Social media is addictive. Computer games are addictive. Streaming video is addictive. Writers can be addicted to these technologies as well as readers. Or should I say ex-writers and ex-readers? As a consequence, the number of readers dwindles, and writers will stop writing books.
The ultimate casualty in this depressing scenario is human imagination. When someone reads a book, s/he turns words into real scenes, real people’s dialogue, and real action, especially while reading fiction. Writing is the reverse process: the author’s imagination turns those elements into words. Imagination is the common denominator, and losing it makes all of us less human.
Social media doesn’t take hardly any imagination, as a famous Twitter addict has shown, so I won’t dwell on that. Gaming and streaming media need even less, as the players and viewers participate passively in something audiovisual a company’s multiple workers have toiled to create, usually each contributing a piece. That process is formulaic and more geared to encourage the addicted to buy more of the same type of product. The storytelling, if it happens to exist at all, needs no imagination on the part of the viewer, only their attention.
As imagination dies, all those wonderful gizmos so many are addicted to, especially young people, will no longer improve, and new ones won’t be created either. Creation needs imagination. If you think that an iPhone or Space-X rocket is created without imagination, you don’t understand science and technology. You’re just a technological savage, an addicted user of technology and completely dependent on those who supply your daily fixes. It’s not all about imagination, of course. I can imagine a different kind of thermostat, for example, but I don’t have the engineering skills to make it. But the first step is to imagine it.
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Storytelling…

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Readers of this blog know I’ve recently doubled my storytelling power. I’ve entered a collaboration with A. B. Carolan. He is rumored to be a descendant of the great Irish harpist and troubadour Turlough O’Carolan. Whether true or not, he was a child who was stolen and raised by leprechauns, who either taught him or honed his skills at storytelling. He now lives in Donegal, Ireland, where he communicates frequently with me, as all good collaborators do. We don’t always agree and argue about turns-of-phrase and the bons mots, but we both favor Jameson whiskey, a mighty fine drink.

Storytelling dates from human beings’ pre-history. It makes us more human.  If readers and writers disappear, we will be less human.  Cultural anthropologists (I almost became one) and other scientists often study the hunter-gatherer foundations of civilizations and use the few remaining hunter-gatherers as test groups for their theories. They predate agricultural society and got us started down that long road to where we are today. Stephen Greenblatt in the Times’ op-ed column “Why Our Stories Matter” (12/21/17) asks: “How did humans learn cooperative behavior such as food-sharing, the care of others, the coordination of tasks, [and] the acceptance of [social] norms?” His answer: it “…has everything to do with the stories we tell.”

I suppose many of these stories originally were pantheistic myths to explain the world around the hunter-gathers: day and night, sun and sky, the seasons and weather, flora and fauna, and so forth—simple stories that acted like social glue. Fast forward to the wandering minstrels of the Middle Ages, troubadours like O’Carolan and his predecessors, and even the singers in Harvard Square, MA, where Joan Baez acquired fame as a folk singer before she became political. These were often poets as well, creating sagas of romance, heroism, and war and conflict. And let’s not forget those Irish monks who preserved the great classic stories that would have been lost as warring Viking hordes burned and pillaged their way across Europe.

Storytelling is as old as any cave painting, I’m sure—it’s the oral/aural part of ancient art while those paintings are the visual, but they probably often told similar stories. No fiction writer should ever forget this tradition. No fiction reader should either. The ability to tell stories, listen to them, and read them, is quintessentially human. While one can argue that plays and movies tell stories too, they start with and depend on the written word. When I saw the movie The Shape of Water, I noted that Guillermo Del Toro, the director, had written the story and collaborated on the screenplay, and immediately thought, “That’s why this movie is so good!” All plays and movies start with the written word; the great ones carry on the storytelling tradition that makes us human.

I like to think I tell good, entertaining stories. Some are better than others—that’s a given—and some readers will never see because I don’t think they’re good enough. Note that I don’t say that agents or publishers think they’re not good enough. Too many of them don’t know a good story when they read one, and too many care more about profits and representing publishers, not authors, than great storytelling.

That’s what we’ve come to these days. Too much of our entertainment is passive drivel that can’t even compare with the most pre-historic oral myths or cave paintings. That’s sad because humanity is becoming less human in the process. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is effectively occurring now as reading and literacy take their nosedives into irrelevancy, and we humans will have no one to blame except ourselves.

Have you read a good book lately?

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Last chance for my Smashwords sci-fi sale! More than Human: The Mensa Contagion is about the strangest first contact you’ll ever encounter in your sci-fi reading. A benign ET virus creates homo sapiens 2.0, and society goes through major change. One consequence is that this new society becomes more motivated to colonize Mars.  Rogue Planet is the story about a rebellion against an oppressive theocracy. It has “Game of Thrones” fantasy elements, but it’s still hard sci-fi. If you missed either book, now is your chance to download some good reading to cure the cabin fever caused by all this bad winter weather because these ebook prices are reduced from their already low prices. All formats are available, including .mobi. Use the Smashwords coupon codes at checkout.

In libris libertas….

Book review of M. J. Neary’s Wynfield’s Kingdom…

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

(M. J. Neary, Wynfield’s Kingdom, Crossroad Press, ASIN B01LM3QZT8, ISBN 978-1519020086)

Novels should have more than good plots.  They should have meaningful themes interweaved reflecting on problems humanity faces.  I don’t read fluffy romances or cat mysteries.  Thank you, author Neary, for writing an excellent one that is more than fluff…a lot more!

The British aristocracy and government never historically promoted slavery per se, but they exploited other ethnic groups in their colonies and allowed the latter to exploit them and have slaves. And Britain effectively exploited their own people in the poor city slums they created from medieval times to the present day. The worst aspect of this was the exploitation of women and children, especially the children.

This is the setting at the beginning of this novel, gritty historical fiction (mid 1800s) that makes Dickens’s stories (Dickens is mentioned as a Wynfield contemporary) and Gay’s Beggar’s Opera (made famous by Hauptmann and Weill’s Threepenny Opera) seem like sugar-coated visions of a much grimmer reality.  Dark and gloomy doesn’t really begin to describe it.

Life is hard in Bermondsey, a London slum. Dr. Tom Grant, a physician black-listed by a rich patron, retreats from medicine and saves two waifs, a boy Wynfield and a girl Diana, from evil experiments linked to their orphanage; the two become the author’s main characters. Wynfield and Diana have their own separate pathos created by an uncaring British society as they struggle to survive clinging to the underbelly of London propriety. Their lives seem more than fictional. Instead, they’re a dark biographical indictment of an empire where aristocracy still reigns and lies heavily on its people, especially on the middle class and poor.

Poverty is where revolutions, be they good or bad, are born; that’s a lesson we shouldn’t forget even today. People who are pushed too far and have nothing left to lose can justifiably cope in many ways, as this novel shows. When men, women, and children are treated like street mongrels, they have a tendency to bite back. With their absurd monarchy, the British have never realized this. I’m not sure the rest of the world has either.

But I digress. Let’s summarize the story. After Dr. Grant saves Wynfield and Diana, the two foster children grow up and become closer.  Diana becomes sick and Wynfield becomes the king of the slum, a rowdy rake of a fellow without many scruples when it comes to minor crime. The two become close, but he meets a ship’s captain named Kip who befriends Wynfield; the latter becomes obsessed with Kip’s girlfriend who leads Wynfield on a bit. Kip and his girlfriend have a hidden agenda, but I offer no spoilers here. When a gun Wynfield stole from a local cop is used to kill that cop, Wynfield is arrested and faces the gallows as the cop’s replacement tries to use the case to make his mark so he can move up to a Westminster beat. Things get hectic from there, as the author takes the reader through many twists and turns in the plot, leading to a surprising ending that involves none other than Victor Hugo.  There’s a bit of nuance here: Dr. Grant is to Wynfield as Jean Valjean is to Cosette, and the wretched in Wynfield’s Kingdom live squalid lives similar to those in Les Miserables.

Some interesting scenes that captured my attention: A play about Cromwell performed by Wynfield and friends is important for its portrayal of the Irish people’s nemesis as seen through the eyes of a Brit. The confrontation between Wynfield and the old thief, who was his mentor yet sold him for experiments as a child, is a curious coincidence. There are also some interesting quotes too: With respect to child labor, Henry Mayhew, a founder of Punch, states: “…since crime was not caused by illiteracy, it could not be cured by education…the only certain effects being the emergence of a more skillful and sophisticated race of criminals.”

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Make a fast start…

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

In my blog post “The End Game,” I discussed what back material should be at the end of an author’s books. While Big Five authors in their arrogance mostly ignore this, indie authors and authors published by indie publishers (small presses) shouldn’t. I was imagining a reader who had just finished a book, a complete entree, but still wanted some dessert.

The front material is more likely to get the reader to read the book, so it’s more important in that sense. It represents the appetizer. Here are the key elements:

Title. Too many authors don’t spend enough time creating their title. Here’s a list of titles that have recently turned me off: Darker, Artemis, Restless Hearts, Lizzie Borden Zombie Hunter, Good Girl Gone, and Leaving Earth. If the title doesn’t work for an author’s readers, the book has one strike against it. S/he should come up with something that catches the reader’s attention and won’t find annoying. In the latter category are titles too close to the title of a successful book.

I’ve seen so many books with titles that have “…Girl…” in them, trying to mimic Girl with the Dragon Tatoo and Gone Girl (the quality of the first book is far superior to the latter one, by the way), that I cringe when I see such a title. But only one of the titles I’ve listed made me cringe in that sense. Some are ambivalent, fluffy, and/or do absolutely nothing to grab my attention.

The best title is like a short blurb of the book. Rather than use any of my own titles as examples—not all good, by the way—let me give some famous examples. Crichton’s Jurassic Park immediately said to me that the story is about dinosaurs that are in an amusement park, but I’ll confess that I assumed the park was in the past where rich time travelers went to gawk and play. Baldacci’s Absolute Power told me right up front that the book was about some VIP abusing his power to do bad things. That it was POTUS was a surprise, though (probably not so much today).

Cover. Abstract covers are sometimes OK, but I don’t like abstract art and prefer ones that, like the title, tell me something about the book. For example, I just finished a reprint of Chad Oliver’s classic sci-fi tale The Winds of Time. The title is bad enough, although it contains “Time,” an important theme in the book, but the original book couldn’t have had this awful cover. It looks like a still taken from some 50s B-movie with iconic bug-eyed ETs from abduction accounts. Terrible, especially considering the ETs in this book are just ordinary men, not something some conspiracy theorists would have in Area 51.  Rampant anthropomorphism if you will, but not bug-eyed ETs.

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Why Amazon is anti-indie: Part Two…

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Why Amazon is anti-indie: Part Two…

Now that I have your attention, in Part Two, I’ll belabor the point that Amazon is anti-indie. We can see that right away when we compare how the retailer compares to Smashwords. Let’s forget how negative Amazon’s KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited are for indie authors for the moment.  Amazon has many other problems that work against indies.

They restrict the author to the propriety Kindle .mobi format for ebooks.  They always try to create monopolies, of course, and this is only one example.  But one format does keep things simple. They offer DRM for that .mobi format, which allows some protection against piracy, but at a cost—most authors turn it off (and should) because it requires one file per reading platform, so it doesn’t permit readers who are family members to share an ebook easily (an advantage of print, of course). The author can create a print version with Amazon (usually the proprietary KDP Print or Create Space) along with the ebook version and take advantage of Matchbook. And Amazon offers some marketing help to authors—for an inflated price, of course (they have sneaky ways to take people’s money, even the money of their content providers).

Millions of users visit the Amazon site, but they’re not all readers, of course.  And reviewers of your ebook are probably writing product endorsements instead of reviews—in fact, they and Amazon will treat your book just like any other product because that’s what Amazon wants. (I once had a review from a person who specialized in lady’s apparel and women’s shoes.  You can imagine the quality of that review!)

Smashwords is a better place for authors—no doubt about it! It offers a lot more. It’s only a retailer and distributor of ebooks (Amazon retails but doesn’t distribute)—people visiting there are only interested in buying books, not other merchandise. There’s no competition from Big Five publishers either. While Amazon treats the Big Five with kid gloves and coddles them more than indie authors and publishers, Smashwords’s ebooks on the site generally originate with those indies. There are good reasons for that.

Smashwords offers ALL ebook formats, and the author can choose (I always exclude plain text and PDFs, the easiest formats to pirate). It has affiliate retailers (Apple, B&N, and Kobo, for example) and lenders (Overdrive, Scribd, CloudLibrary, for example)—in fact, Amazon has no affiliates beyond a few greedy sites that sign up to be screwed by Amazon.

Amazon forces readers to their proprietary services (that monopolistic tendency again)! The author can set up special library pricing at Smashwords too (I do so because I’m a big supporter of public libraries and have donated my print books on both the East and West Coast as well)—Amazon doesn’t give a rat’s ass about libraries or bookstores because they would like to eliminate them!

Best of all, Smashwords doesn’t try to force an author to be exclusive (Amazon is the only bookseller that does!). Along with this comes the opportunity to offer sales via coupons, either general site-wide sales or targeted ones (to reviewers, for example). While I find gifting a reviewer an ebook in return for an honest review easier via Amazon’s Whispernet, it’s really not a problem to do so via Smashwords. And reviewers often want some other ebook format Amazon can’t provide (I don’t hand out PDFs anymore—every pirated ebook of mine has its origin in PDFs).

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Why Amazon is anti-indie: Part One…

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

I’ve been analyzing why my book sales on Amazon are so low. They never were great, but now they’re terrible. Yeah, I don’t play the review game very well, but almost all my reviews are serious 4- and 5-star ones and not the short product endorsements that Amazon encourages. I don’t have endorsements by V.I.P. authors; I don’t know many Big Five authors—I’m not sure I’d want their endorsements anyway.  And I can’t afford much PR and marketing, not that it seems to matter.

When I first started publishing 10+ years ago, I tried the traditional route. Frankly, I was a newbie to publishing (although not for writing), and I didn’t know anything else. After over 1000 rejections from literary agents (not quite as bad as real estate agents) and editors (especially those from major publishers), I didn’t give up—I went indie and tried POD. Both Xlibris and Infinity did nothing for me, although the latter people treated me better than the former.  Xlibris has since become part of the Random House consortium and gobbled up other PODs, showing its true colors. I then jumped on the ebook bandwagon, found my wonderful Canadian friends at Carrick Publishing, and started publishing what I, not some agent or editor, wanted to publish.  I could never have published so many ebooks without having gone indie, but now I’m assessing where I go from here.

Readers might have problems with my stories because I don’t write fluffy fiction and I do consider serious themes.  I won’t write cozy mysteries or romantic fantasies.  But I’m 96% an indie author (I have one book, Rembrandt’s Angel, that’s traditionally published by Penmore, a small press run by a great bunch of people), and I value the independence.  That’s all segue to why I’m writing this post.

Amazon is now anti-indie.  Mark Coker of Smashwords has made a great argument for doing ditching Amazon exclusivity because of this in his yearly analysis of the ebook industry. I came to the same conclusion a while ago. This post much more about explaining my decision than supporting Coker and Smashwords. Butto begin, let’s have a quote from him: “Authors who now derive 100% of their sales from Amazon are no longer indie authors.”

Why is that? Because indie means independent, and authors who are exclusive to Amazon, a retailer that’s anti-indie, have given up their independence.  They’ve been lured to exclusivity by KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, magical spells Amazon has cast on the indie community that will eventually lead to authors paying Amazon to be read (I think Coker already proposed this dystopian vision of publishing, but it’s an obvious extrapolation).

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Does the NY Times know books?

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

As readers of this blog know, when it comes to news, I often bash the Times. They put their slant on everything, just like the Wall Street Journal, but the Times v. WSJ story isn’t as bad as the MSNBC v. Fox News one (if anyone’s interested, I ignore both Hannity’s and Madow’s rants and listen to Jake on CNN).  One can argue that any media outlet will have a slant–in this polarized political state, that’s become the new norm.  However, it’s the Times’ book biases that bother me.

Newspapers are fast becoming irrelevant compared to TV and streaming video, of course. But my foray into political op-eds is on hold for the time being as I dedicate more time to my storytelling, so in this article  I’ll focus on what the Times has to say about books. They work hand-in-hand with and are sycophants of the Big Five—after all, they’re a major publisher too. In this blog, I’ve complained about them as much as I have about Amazon (it often seems that Bezos wants to take over the commercial world more than Trump wants to become the despot of the political one).

Here is a black list of recent items that have upset me about the Times’ coverage of books and the publishing industry:

The Times is out-of-date. Because of their pandering to the Big Five, it’s understandable that the Times mostly ignores indie authors and indie publishers (small presses). Most “official mouthpieces” and sycophants of the Big Five do so—that includes major newspapers, websites, agents, and editors, of course. But sometimes that goes a bit too deep into the weeds.  The Big Five, for example, lives in the past with its emphasis on print books over ebooks and charge as much for the latter as the former, when that’s absurd.  When the Times acts as their mouthpiece, that’s prejudicial to readers and also many good writers.

But the Times actions get worse and more insidious. In the Times’ interviews featured in their Book Review Sunday supplement, they ask, “What books are on your nightstand?” Many modern readers have converted to ebooks, so the only thing on their nightstands is a Kindle or some other e-reader! (iPad or smartphone? Horrors!)  In other words, the Times has become the cheerleader for retrograde Big Five dinosaurs.

They feature the old stallions and mares in the Big Five stables. Again, this really goes down into the undergrowth of the Times’s weed patch because they run only Big Five ads. Sure, they allow non-Big Five ads if indie authors and indie publishers are willing to pay Big Five prices. That’s the greed factor.  Even worse, though, they run absurd Big Five ads where some horses in the Big Five stables endorse another horse’s books (to add –ass would be a double animalistic metaphor that PETA might protest, although the metaphor is appropriate in many cases).

Lee Child and Michael Connelly did this favor for James Patterson recently for his new and formulaic Alex Cross book (Patterson doesn’t need any endorsements, of course, although maybe his fandom is slipping), and a larger list of authors destined for the glue factory also did so in a full page ad in the Times. We’re seeing the actions of an exclusive club promoting only its members, a club of literary one-percenters.  Sorry.  I didn’t see one author in this list I’ve read recently!

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Holiday Greetings 2017-18!

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Happy Holidays to everyone! Take this time to enjoy being with family and friends.  Forget those New Year’s resolutions, but plan what you’d like to accomplish in the New Year and how you’d like to change in your life.

The last is segue to informing you about a change in this blog.

First, I’ll not be posting again until January.  Second, I’m changing both the frequency and content of what I’ll post.  Many of my posts are very time consuming and need a lot of investigative journalism; I’d like to spend more time on fiction writing.  To this end, starting in January, I’ll only make one post per week, something related to reading or writing—maybe a short story, book or movie review, my online newsletter, and so forth.

For loyal followers of this blog, this post might be sad news.  Please understand that I just want to spend more time storytelling.  Maybe it seems like I have a lot of books, but I have a lot more in me.  Remember my muses are really banshees with Tasers…and they’re always after me to get the stories written!

To fill those days when I no longer post, I’d ask readers and writers to consider contributing a post.  Interviews are easy—I can send you a list of questions from which you can make selections, or you can add your own.  If you have something to say about reading, writing, or the writing business, please consider being a guest blogger—just keep it clean.  Your post can even be a short story.  While some of my own short stories have adult themes and language, this website is generally PG-13, so be careful with your short story submissions too.

I’ll be at my laptop most of the time during this festive holiday season—it’s a good time to write when not celebrating—and you can always email me using my contact page.  So, until January, good reading!  And be warm and safe….

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The entire “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” is on sale now at Smashwords until December 24. The NYPD homicide detectives’ cases usually start out in New York City but expand to national and international crises as they fight all sorts of criminals—gun runners, sex traffickers, evil hedge fund owners, drug smugglers, terrorists, and more. The crime-fighting duo also have their own personal battles to fight. These seven ebooks make excellent holiday gifts for the reader on your gift list—maybe that’s you? Use the coupon code when you checkout at Smashwords to receive a fantastic sale price and hours of reading entertainment! And don’t forget The Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection, a bundle of sci-fi novels that’s ideal as a holiday gift.

In libris libertas!