Tag Archives: Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey post-debate

Hugh Howey posted a blog today titled "The Greatest Threat" which echoes some of what I've been thinking. I don't generally post much political stuff here, but I really don't think this is political.  It's just common-sense.  Give it a read, if you believe (or if you don't believe) that income inequality in our country is a serious problem.
The Greatest Threat

Pessimism in Science Fiction

I've been interested in the Walt Disney Corporation for some time now.  The whole history of the company and its genesis and growth to finally become the behemoth it is today fascinates me. I've gone to visit the parks several times as a adult (and parent) and enjoyed it every time, especially Epcot. I read a book called DISNEY WAR by James B. Stewart, and was doing some internet searches when I happened upon a blog called Re-Imagineering, which seems to mostly be a series of short essays about the problems with Disney as it exists today and what could be done to solve some of them.  The blog is basically dark today; it hasn't had new content posted in years. One of the old discussions (about Epcot) was talking about exhibits people would like to see, and what sorts of things they might try to freshen it up, make it less corporate in feel. It was also talking about Tomorrowland and its original optimism about our future. But that discussion shifted to some comments about the science fiction, especially in film, of today.  As an avid reader of SF and as an author, the discussion interested me enough to write this blog post about the topic. It seems that most of today's SF is dystopian, and that most of the film projects outside of stuff like STAR TREK and STAR WARS (not really SF in any classic sense) are very dark visions of the future. They named Blade Runner, Minority Report, AI, and The Matrix. (I'd say that Vanilla Sky, Dark City, and I, Robot are also fairly dystopian, along with stuff like Final Fantasy, Waterworld, all of the Terminators, The Postman, Battlefield Earth, and maybe even The Day After Tomorrow (though the last is not far in the future at all).)  There's a bunch more SF films that I haven't seen recently because I just don't have the time to get to the movies or even watch them on TV. As I think about the SF I've read in the not-too-distant past, first, there isn't a whole lot of it. ALTERED CARBON was a good book but pretty dark. Dan Simmons' HYPERION series and his latest pair, ILIUM and OLYMPOS, are not exactly happy fantasies of the future. I haven't read much else in the field recently, sticking mostly to mysteries with some horror tossed in here and there. Indie fiction introduces more variety, and more optimism, into its vision.  But even there, the story comes from the "negative."  I'm thinking of Steven M. Moore's THE CHAOS CHRONICLES and Edward W. Robertson's REBEL STARS series.  There's also Hugh Howey's WOOL series, which is pretty darned negative for most of the series, right up until the very end. As I think about it, my question is, is there a story in a utopian future? Is it a story I want to read about? Novels are about resolving problems. In some ways it seems to me that any story is essentially a mystery. If there is a mystery, there is a problem to be discovered and sorted through. If there are no problems to resolve, if everything is hunky dory, it might make for a nice pretty painting but is there any story? I don't know. I was thinking about something like Asimov's Empire series, and while there is a lot of optimism there with the direction of humanity, when the story takes place, things are not so good. Heinlein's juveniles are more adventure story set in a fairly positively imagined future, but some of his adult works are a lot darker. I see where they're coming from with respect to Tomorrowland, they don't want pessimism at Disney World, nor does it have a place. But I don't see a story in a future where everyone is happy as clams. Those Morlocks in HG Wells' novel weren't all that happy, and the surface beings couldn't have been thrilled with the status quo either. But THE TIME MACHINE wouldn't make for a very good Disney ride. *****

Still here…

I haven't disappeared.  I just haven't had anything much to post on the blog.  But I have been writing a bit, and reading quite a bit.  So I thought that I'd just sort of list some of the things I've been working on, and give a couple of shout-outs to books I've read as well. I finished up a 27K horror novella called NEVER ENDING NIGHT.  Actually, it's been finished for a while, but I finally went back and reread it and formatted it for uploading.  I played with some covers but I'm not sure I like them. I've been writing on a post-apocalyptic tale that started life as a piece being written in Hugh Howey's WOOL universe.  I finished the first part, about a group of college students who get wind of an upcoming "event" and try to build a shelter to wait it out.  Then, as I wrote that part, one of the college kids up and left without explanation, then so did her boyfriend, so I wrote their story as they are invited to a shelter in Texas.  Then I thought, nothing is 100% fatal except nerve gas, and so I made this one, like, 99.8% fatal, and another story I had started a while ago ended up being a story of some of the few survivors of this biological agent.  I've been writing on that one.  It's been fun to tell these stories. Also a while ago, I decided to expand ODD MAN OUT into a longer story, perhaps a novella or a short novel.  So I've been working on that one somewhat diligently.  I'm around 21,500 words now (the original story was something around 1800 words, I think). Then I started something set in the fictional upstate NY community of Addison Falls.  The shared world comes from back in the 1990's when a bunch of us on a Delphi forum called The Horror Discussion Group created a bunch of common characters along with our own original characters in order to write stories set in this world.  Well, the stories (for the most part) died when the forum became inactive after the host (Bookhound) passed away at a very young age.  I have a story in my DIE 6 collection that was written back around that time in Addison Falls (THE GHOST TRAIN), and I thought that it might be fun to write a novel set in that town.  I decided to once again do missing kids, but this time I am going to focus on a math teacher at the high school and his friend/something more(?) newspaper reporter.  I've written about 18K words in that story, and I've been adding to it a little at a time.  No end is in sight. Last, I started a story back in the late 1980's that was also postapocalyptic, set in a small Wisconsin town after a disease claims all the adults.  I decided to expand that one as well, including three more settings, and bouncing back and forth between the four places to tell the story of kids coming together and conflicting in each.  I now call it INHERIT THE EARTH, and I think it's pretty interesting.  (I tossed out all the boring parts and rewrote most of it.)  I think it stands at something around 20K or maybe a bit more.  No end in sight on this one, either. Reading:  I've knocked out some pretty good books.  I read all of Kate Wrath's E series, five books in all.  I finished Orson Scott Card's VISITORS and Paul Draker's NEW YEAR ISLAND (wish I would have tried that one sooner, because it was really good).  I read William Malmborg's Halloween homage, SANTA TOOK THEM, and J. Stirling Robertson's SEPSIS.  Then I finished two or three Robert Crais books, including the non-Pike, non-Cole book SUSPECT.  Lots of good reads in there.  Those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head and skimming the Kindle. I hope to be a bit more active here in the future.  And I hope to have a new book announcement soon. Take care. *****  

Independent Fiction

I was looking at the books I've downloaded on my Kindle and they are probably 95% by indie authors.  That's pretty amazing, really, considering that a few years ago I didn't know anything about the field. I remember how I started downloading books by indie authors.  The first one I did was a book called BONE SHOP by Tim "TA" Pratt.  It is an urban fantasy, the fifth book in a series that had previously been published by a BPH imprint but was dropped after the fourth book.  Why, I don't exactly know.  Was it not selling?  I bought the first four at Barnes and Noble bookstores, where they had exactly one copy on the shelf.  I always looked when I'd go back in to see if they had anything else by Pratt, and once I bought the single copy of whichever they had, well, that was it. I was following a blog of editor Annetta Ribken on Journalscape back in the day, before she was an editor.  She had a very entertaining blog, and she was working on a novel, which was released as ATHENA'S PROMISE.  She decided to release it indie via Kindle and Createspace, and I bought the ebook of that one as well.  Both of those ebooks costed $4.99, which, at the time, I considered a bargain.  Now I consider it a premium that I'm willing to pay for authors I like.  Even then, I think twice about it.  "Just how much do I want to read this book right now?" I started thinking that if Annetta could do it that way, so could I.  Another author-friend who I met at Chicago's Printer's Row Festival, Sean Hayden, was working with a small press, editing and writing his own fiction.  He and his significant other, Jen Wylie, opened their own small press called Untold Press, and began publishing their own fiction as well as a few other authors.  Yeah, it's technically a small press, but it started as a way of indie publishing their own works. Connecting the dots, I found the blogs of Dean Wesley Smith and J.A. Konrath, and then I found Hugh Howey.  WOOL was, for me, a revelation.  It was engrossing -- I couldn't hardly put it down when I purchased it as an ebook.  Howey's story was almost as engrossing.  He put the book out in shorter installments, five of them, at $0.99 each, then compiled them into the single edition at $4.99.  And Hugh was making a killing financially, or so it seems. I found "The Passive Voice" and answered a submissions call for a SF anthology called QUANTUM ZOO, and lo and behold, mine was one of the twelve stories accepted for publication in the volume.  If nothing else, it validated me in my own eyes as a writer. From Konrath's blog, I read a comment by author Steven M. Moore, and somehow realized that he wrote SF and thrillers, and I followed the link to his blog, and now I've read everything he's written save (I think) two books.  (I'll correct that oversight this year.)  I also found horror novels by Bryan Smith and by William Malmborg, which led me again to other horror novelists. Now I'm reading one indie work after another, generally.  (I am trying to get a good run into Robert Crais' third Joe Pike novel, called THE SENTRY, but haven't found the time to get into it much.)  I am in the midst of a series (starting with E) by Kate Wrath.  I'm reading Mit Sandru's novels.  I read Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, John Ellsworth, Bobby Adair, and Edward W. Robertson. I've found tons of the fiction I want to read, and I haven't broken the bank buying all these books. Not to mention, I've become an indie author myself, with a bunch of short stories and collections out as well as two novellas. Buy indie.  Cut out that middle man! *****  

THE HURRICANE by Hugh Howey – my mini-review

I wanted to post this review of Howey's THE HURRICANE, which I ended up enjoying quite a bit.  It wasn't perfect, but...well, you can read my review, copied from Amazon... I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, and at first, I was a little disappointed, because it took the story a little bit of time to grab me and pull me in. It seemed that a lot of pages were dedicated to showing me what a non-descript high school kid Daniel was. But I knew it was a Hugh Howey story, and so I kept reading. Finally, as the storm hit, the story kicked in, and when Daniel meets a neighbor girl who he previously didn't even know existed, we are treated to the real Daniel...the kid being hidden by all the BS that is high school social interaction. And from there the story became (for me) a compelling read, demanding that I continue until I reached the end. At first, because I hadn't been grabbed by the story, I was noticing the simplicity of the writing. After finishing a Stephen King novel (REVIVAL) before starting this one, I missed the masterful command of language that I believe King has. There was a lack of elegance and beauty in the words and phrases used to convey the story. I started to wonder if, because of the great plots of other Howey offerings, I'd missed this about his writing. And I still don't know, because when the story grabbed me, it grabbed me, and if that lack of elegance was still there, I didn't notice it. (I suspect it was, and I just was beyond paying attention to it.) For me, the mark of a really good story is that I want to know what happens to these characters down the road. Howey made me care about them, and that is a success in my book. *****

Dystopian vs. Post-apocalyptic

Ran across the internet site The Short List, who posted this list of "dystopian novels."  The list was controversial, omitting plenty of good novels and listing some that were arguable, like THE HUNGER GAMES and ARTICLE 5.  Also it mixed "dystopian" with "post-apocalyptic" novels as if there were no difference. I think it's likely that both dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories attract many of the same readers.  I know I am attracted to both.  But is there a difference?  In many comments, it is argued that post-apocalyptic novels are a subset of dystopian fiction, while others argue that the two are separate, closely related perhaps, but both branches occupy the same level of whatever tree one might be making to categorize science fiction. I have my own "End of the World" list of both types of novels on Amazon on which I tried to stick with "post-apocalyptic" types of novels.  I did not include classic dystopian stories like Orwell's 1984 or P.K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? because they don't paint a picture of a society that's been wiped out by some catastrophe (hence, the "apocalyptic" part of the genre tag).  I stick to stories describing the world after something decimates (not literally; "decimate" means eliminate one of every ten people, I think) human society.  In The Stand, it is disease.  Likewise in Edward W. Robertson's Breakers novels.  In Hugh Howey's Wool, it is another form of disease brought on by nano-bots.  In Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle, it is an asteroid hitting the Earth.  In Stephen Baxter's Ark and Flood, it is a flood of super-biblical proportions that destroys the environment as we know it.  In Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, it's Ice-9.  (Read the book!  It's lots of fun!)  In David Brin's The Postman, it's nuclear war.  In a bunch of books, it's zombies!  How do the zombies get created out of your friends and neighbors?  Disease, usually. I see "dystopian" as being something different.  I see it as a society that's gone "off track".  Orwell's vision is the classic example.  Suzanne Collins paints a dystopian society in her Hunger Games trilogy, and so does Veronica Roth in her Divergent novels.  (Apparently, The Hunger Games is a blatant rip-off of another earlier novel, possibly of Japanese origin, which I'd never heard of...but the knowledgeable commenters knew all about it.)  Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged paints a dystopia of sorts, and apparently so does her novel Anthem.  (I've read the first, not the second, and I remain unimpressed with the "philosophy" found in Atlas Shrugged, but that's just me.)  A lot of current young adult fiction can be categorized as dystopian, especially The Giver.  How about The Maze Runner?  Dystopian, and possibly post-apocalyptic (I haven't read the follow-ups yet.)  (Oh, and I know The Giver isn't really current, but my kids were both assigned it for school reading recently, so for me it's current...) Anyway, lots of good suggestions for reading were given in the comments, and I plan on checking out a few of them.  There's something about the current crop of dystopian novels, especially the YA stuff, that grabs me - maybe it's the attention to social orders as we see them today, and the way that kids relate to one another.  Maybe it's just that it's more accessible, with a more modern style of writing.  I don't know.  But I know for me, it's sometimes hard to get to the excellent story, because of the style in which an older novel was written.  Earth Abides and On The Beach are both like that for me; so is Brave New World.  Great, if frightening visions of the future, but stylistically, they seem to take more concentration or something, and seem harder to get into, for me at least. If you have comments about any of this, I'd love to hear them.  (And I really don't need to hear from the Vuitton Bags or Nike whatever spammers anymore...everything gets caught in the spam filter and I delete it all because I simply don't have time to check four or five hundred posts...) *****

Amazon vs Hachette again?

It seems every other article on The Passive Voice and on Joe Konrath's blog (okay, it's every article on Konrath's blog) is about the Amazon/Hachette dispute.  Most of them center on the 900 or so successful authors who signed Douglas Preston's letter (I'm not bothering to link to it; it will be easy enough to find from TPV or Konrath's blog if you want to find it) and their accusations against Amazon, who they feel is holding their books hostage, and therefore costing them money.  How it's costing them money, I don't know.  You can still order their ebooks at the click of a button, and you can still order their physical books as well - apparently their pre-order buttons are gone and so people aren't able to buy their books before they're out and then they don't get listed as highly on the NY Times bestseller list the day their book is released and... Well, you sort of get the idea.  They're complaining about the fact that the dispute between their publisher and Amazon is costing their publisher sales - presumably sales that will be held against them in the future, since they've pretty much already been paid for their books with their seven figure advances.  I mean, Stephen King is a very rich man.  If he never wrote another book, he'd still be a rich man.  If his SON never wrote (or sold) another book, his SON would be a rich man, simply by inheriting his father's estate (or a third of it).  Is King Koch Brothers-rich?  Probably not, but he's so much wealthier than the rest of humanity, he certainly falls into that 1%. But that's neither here nor there.  The hard fact is that most people who write a book will NEVER be published by a large publisher.  Most will never be published by a publisher of any size...unless said publisher is themselves.  Who has made it possible for anyone with a book to get it published?  Amazon.  I suppose you can give some credit to iBooks/Apple, Kobo and Sony, and even to Barnes and Noble's Nook.  But Amazon's the big fish in this pond. So Amazon's publishing anyone and everyone...right?  No, not right.  The writers are publishing themselves.  Amazon (and B&N and the others) are distributing their works.  They are making it possible for a writer to reach readers.  In some cases, like mine, it might be only a couple of readers with each book.  In other cases, it's hundreds, maybe even thousands.  In still other cases (we're all looking at you, Mr. Hugh Howey), they sell enough to basically get rich.  Cool, huh? Well, I suppose it isn't cool if you're Stephen King, or James Patterson, or Douglas Preston.  If you're those guys, you want the club to remain closed to new members.  Only those approved by ... by who? ... can get in.  Meanwhile, every dollar spent on a Scott Dyson (or an Edward J. Robertson, or a Steven M. Moore, or a Bobby Adair, or a D.J. Gelner, or a J.M. Ney-Grimm, or a Lindsay Buroker (I'll stop there) is a dollar not spent on a book by King, or Patterson, or Preston.  Maybe, instead of buying books by all three of those guys, and supplementing the purchases with more purchases by Coben and Evanovich and Child and Connelly and..., this buyer only buys two of those authors' new books. Plus, we write trash, swill, whatever.  We must write swill, because no agent or editor at a big publishing house, ever got to look at our work, and no one could tell us that we sucked.  Except the reader.  The readers can tell us we suck.  And apparently they do, in blogs and in Amazon reviews and such.  But they also tell King and Coben and Patterson and Preston and Evanovich and Child and Connelly and... that they also suck.  Sometimes. Because the reading experience is subjective, what one person likes is not necessarily what another person likes. Well, I went a little off track there. The truth is, Amazon  is not always a publisher.  What it always is, is a RETAILER.  Just like T.J. Maxx and Walmart and Target and Macy's and Walgreens and Michael's and Barnes and Noble and...wait, Barnes and Noble...they're the ones Amazon is competing with, not the publishers.  They're a purchaser of supplied product, in this case, books. Why is that so hard to understand? They aren't paying a 70% royalty to KDP writers, they are taking a 30% cut for distribution from KDP author/publishers.  30% is their margin between $2.99 and $9.99.  Above and below those numbers, their cut is far worse for the author/publisher- 65%.   But when you think about it, what is being sold at that lower number?  It's short stories and short-ish novellas, works that were otherwise unsellable.  I'm sure they do it that way because that is how they want these ebooks priced.  So those are their terms.  As an author/publisher, it's take 'em or leave 'em. What happens to RHP or Hachette or whoever, when they price above those lines?  I'm not sure, but I have a feeling they're getting more than 35% of the profit.  I really don't know. Nor do I care.  While it bothers me to see misinformation getting bandied about, and authors saying things about Amazon that do not appear to be grounded in actual facts, in the end, it doesn't affect me as a writer. I have seven short (ish) stories priced at $0.99, and three collections/longer works currently priced at $2.99.  I just would like to see myself move more copies. As a reader, however, I can unequivocally state that I refuse to pay more than $9.99 for an ebook.  Actually, I refuse to pay more than about 6 bucks for an ebook for myself.  I might go higher for my kids' books.  I also will never pre-order a book (or a movie or just about anything else).  I don't see the need for it.  It's not like there is suddenly a shortage when it comes out, and it's not like I don't have enough books to read.  If they are successful in pushing up the price of ebooks to the reader, I will simply buy even more independent fiction.  There are plenty of authors I like writing plenty of books I like.  I'm not all that picky when it comes to a good story.  I will buy less traditionally published fiction.  What I do buy will likely often be remaindered copies. So there.  That's the extent of what I can do about higher ebook pricing. *****  

Amazon-bashing…

No, not from me.  I'm not going to bash Amazon.  Like I said in my last post, if it wasn't for Amazon and their Kindle Store, I would never have published.  But after a weekend of no blog reading, I came back and checked some of my usual spots and found that there was plenty of Amazon bashing, and Amazon supporting, going on.  The latest is Konrath and Howey vs. Chuck Wendig.  I've been thinking about Amazon in terms of the "letter" that Douglas Preston posted, which has been signed by something like 400 major authors, including personal hero Stephen King, and the rebuttal, written by Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey and "edited" by Barry Eisler and others.  It seems that people (read:  trad-published writers) want to frame the rebuttal as an Amazon-love fest, and others (read: self-publishers) want to frame the Preston letter as a big-publishing apology.  When I read the quotes that Konrath put on his blog, I couldn't help but agree that Preston's letter is pro-Hachette AND anti-Amazon, but when I read Konrath's and Howey's "reader thank-you", I saw a piece that mostly tried to excuse Amazon for any of the harm done to Hachette authors (like Preston, I assume, and many others). I don't for a minute think that Amazon and Hachette really care about the authors, any more than I think Walmart cares about Green Giant brand vegetables.  With respect to Walmart, if a producer of one of the products they sell goes under, they simply shift their sales to another similar product.  Amazon, like Walmart, is a retailer, and in the end, they don't care about me as an author EXCEPT in terms of how much money they can make by retailing my products.  I'm a supplier to them, definitely part of the (very!) long tail because I only sell a couple units a month.  But even at that, they aren't losing money on me.  In fact, they're making a small amount every time my mom buys a book by me.  (I'm kidding.  My mom doesn't buy any of my books.)  If things change and Amazon begins losing money on me and those like me, they'll dump me like a hot potato, only faster. On the other hand, Hachette is not a retailer.  They're a supplier.  To them, writers are the growers of the corn and green beans that they package and ship to many retailers, not just Amazon, but Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Costco and Sam's Club, Target, and thousands of mom-and-pop bookstores across the country.  Should they be concerned with the well-being of their suppliers?  Well, maybe not.  If farmer A fails to provide quality corn to them, they can go to farmers B and C and D. I'm reminded of health care providers' relationships with the insurance companies that pay them for most of the services they provide.  We have a love/hate relationship with those companies.  The best ones, the ones we most like to work with, do not try to place themselves between the doctor and the patient aside from reimbursement.  They don't try to determine the necessity of treatments and reimburse fairly for services rendered.  Patients don't sign up with an insurance company to get a health-care costs manager, but usually that is exactly what they get. In my practice, we breath easier when we see patients listing certain insurance companies, and we clench our teeth when we see patients listing others that we know are hard to work with.  I hate it when an insurance company questions me as to necessity of a particular treatment.  I'd like to think I don't recommend treatments that are not necessary.  It is just extra work for me to explain to them why its necessary.  This is always something I've already done with the patient. How does this relate to Amazon and Hachette?  Well, in both cases we have to realize that the companies are primarily interested in one thing - their own bottom line.  But we also have to look at what they are providing in return for our production of the products that they sell.  And how much are they getting in the middle of the only relationship that matters - that between the writer and the reader.  It's very similar to insurance companies in medicine.  The less they get in between the doctor/patient relationship, the more we like them.  We as doctors (and patients, possibly to a lesser extent) would be happiest if they would just shut up and pay as we believe they've agreed to do.  But they, in the interest of their bottom line, would prefer to monitor those out-going expenditures and make them as small as possible while collecting every last premium dollar.   We depend on insurance companies; without them few of our patients would be able to afford high level care.  But we hate them anyway. Same with Amazon and Hachette.  We'd love it if they'd just shut up and sell our products and send the checks.  Amazon does this, for the most part, if you're an independent publisher.  You see how many units sold, and they cut a check based on that number.  They're pretty clear up front on the amount they're going to pay, and you can see exactly what you're getting.  But then again they're a retailer.  They're simply taking their cut out of your sale and passing on the rest to you.  (What's the cut for?  It's for making the distribution process simple.) Does Hachette do this?  Most of us will never know, because Hachette isn't interested in using us as suppliers.  Maybe their authors are happy with all of their contract terms.  Or maybe they aren't. But what does any of that have to do with Amazon?  Simply because Amazon isn't pre-selling their products while they're in negotiations with Hachette, and authors are losing sales?  Because Amazon is stating as fact that it may take longer than expected for Amazon to ship a Hachette product, because they aren't stocking them in huge numbers because of this dispute? Amazon's just the retailer, or so it appears to me.  Understand that Amazon, like those health insurance companies and like Hachette, only wants to make as much money as possible and believes that the way to do so is to honor their promises to their customers, so without assurance that they can get Hachette products in the near- or more-distant future they won't commit to advance ordering.  Just like Hachette wants terms from Amazon that will allow Hachette (not Hachette authors) to make as much money as possible.  Is Hachette changing their contract terms based on whatever happens with Amazon?  Somehow I doubt it. It appears to me that authors' ire should be directed at Hachette, not at Amazon.  Amazon's ONLY the retailer.  Okay, it's the biggest retailer, but still - there are still other online outlets for their works.  iBooks and Barnes and Noble and Kobo can still sell their works, and you can side load a Nook app on a Kindle Fire (though not on the Paperwhite - has to be an Android OS, I guess). If Walmart stops selling your merchandise, hopefully you have a few other  ways to get your stuff to your customers .  Target, maybe?  Or Jewel?  Or even K-mart or Old Navy or whatever.  Do you direct your customers elsewhere?  "AVAILABLE AT TARGET STORES NATIONWIDE!!!" Or do you start suggesting that Amazon is evil, their founder is the devil, etc etc, and insisting that HE and THEY cut their profits for your benefit?  Because they're not evil...and the chances of them cutting their profit margins are about the same as Hell freezing over... *****

The End of the World!

I've always been a big fan of end-of-the-world stories.  I don't know why.  Something about them just tickles my imagination.  Maybe it's my own buried desire to test myself against such circumstances to see if I would come out on top.  Maybe it's just that the stories that come out of such situations, the good versus the evil, intelligence versus stupidity, the luck versus the well-planned action, the way the characters react to the changed circumstances and to each other -- all of that grabs me and pulls me in Stephen King, author of what I consider to be the gold standard for post-apocalyptic fiction, once said in an interview, "The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! ... Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke." Maybe that explains it for me.  It's just fun! I've tried to write some post-apocalyptic fiction; so far I've been unsuccessful.  I think it's because I put myself into the stories too much.  I've tried writing main characters that I can't really identify with too much, but that's hard too.  I don't know if others have the same problem, but I like to sort of "be" the main character.  Not me, obviously, but with enough of "me" in him (or even in her).  It's hard with post-apocalyptic stories because I tend to think of how I'd react in the same situation and write my character that way.  And I'm a conflict-avoidance type, and you can't really have a good story without a lot of conflict, or so it seems to me. I already mentioned that I see The Stand as the gold standard.  That's my personal opinion, but I have my reasons.  It's a classic good versus evil story, and I really like the way that the survivors of the superflu separate.  People's basic nature makes them lean one way or another, but yet there are shades of grey in the good and the bad.  It doesn't hurt that King wrote some great characters.  Nick Andros, Larry Underwood, Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, even Harold Lauder are all characters that open themselves to exploration and contemplation.  They are all complex with complex motivations. My second favorite story is Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  It's a very different story.  There are no supernatural elements in this one.  It's all about people.  And it's probably the type of story I prefer, generally speaking.  In this story, a comet is streaking toward Earth on a near-collision course, and it is first noticed by a couple of amateur astronomers.  The tale follows several different characters whose paths converge on a Senator's ranch in the mountains.  One of the main characters is a TV reporter who decides to do a story on how to prepare for a possible disaster.  I found his preparations to be a very interesting part of the story.  In the end, it's a story with a hopeful vision for humanity -- the Senator (a good guy; could a story like this be written today?) says with his dying breath, "Give my people the stars."   Science and technology win out, and I like this vision.  It's almost opposite of King's version:  in The Stand technology is depicted as being sought by the forces of evil, even if its purpose is turned to good in the end. So what prompted me to write about this stuff today?  It was my weekend reading of Bobby Adair's Slow Burn books.  There are four in all, and I'm about half-way through the third.  It's sort of a zombie apocalypse.  Take King's plague and put it with Night of the Living Dead but throw in the self-reliance message from Niven and Pournelle and you have Adair's vision of the future.  I've read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, and I have enjoyed most of the sub-genre coming out of indie fiction (especially Edward Robertson's Breakers series and of course, Hugh Howey's Wool series), but I'm not a huge fan of the zombie versions.  They're okay.  I've read several of them.  They just aren't my favorite ways to approach this sub-genre.  they aren't what I'd choose to write. But this one is grabbing me more than any of the others I've read, including ones by Amanda Hocking, Dan DeWitt, Brett Battles, Scott Nicholson, and others.  Why?  I think it's the characters.  I really like the main character, Zed.  He reacts like I think I might react (not that I'd get the gun stuff) but the way he latches onto the other characters and hangs on for dear life.  I like Murphy too.  They make a great pair. But it's also the situations he finds himself in.  Setting the story in the locations Adair sets it in works for me as well.  Having Zed work his way around the college and then around the suburban homes and such captures my imagination also. I have a list of "End of the World" stories on Amazon and I think these stories are going to get added to it as worthwhile post-apocalyptic fiction very soon. *****

So which am I?

Lots of activity in the blogosphere about self publishers recently.  It seems Hugh Howey had someone do a study about numbers of self published titles in the Amazon best seller lists, and then did some data extrapolation to determine estimated sales numbers and estimated dollar figures for sales, and he found that self published titles were beginning to become the majority of ebooks sold.  Others jumped on his data, and reblogged it, making their own comments about it. On top of it all is the old "tsunami of crap" argument resurfacing, that as more and more people self publish, more and more "bad" books surface.  Apparently by "bad books" they mean poorly edited, typo-laden works, mostly by self publishers.  Maybe they mean bad stories as well, but mostly they talk about the quality of the craft used to write these books.  In other words, the stuff that a good copy editor will find and presumably correct. Well, I wonder where I fall.  Am I part of the tsunami or are my works professional? Here was my hope.  Most of the short stories I've published have been through the wringer with readers.  Then I put them through my wringer again as well.  I read them and reread them, correcting turns of a phrase and adding in missing words and fixing typos that generally were something like using "fee" instead of "feel" (in other words, typos that the spell check didn't find). So I thought (and still think) I'm putting out a pretty good product, even though I haven't had anyone "professionally" edit these works.  Am I the best judge of that?  Probably not.  The reader is the best judge. But maybe the stories aren't good enough.  Maybe I'm not a good enough storyteller.  Again, I can't judge.  I think the stories are pretty good; they're the stories I wanted to tell.  So who does judge?  Readers, I'd guess. Yes, I made three of my covers.  But I had four of them done for me by a professional who happens to be a good friend, someone who has designed covers for small presses.  Two of them are a little rough, I know.  My latest, for DEAD OR ALIVE, looks pretty decent to me. I started with these short stories because they've been through the wringer, and because my hope was that they'd generate some sales and some income which I could then use to pay professionals for editing and covers on my longer works.  It hasn't happened yet, but I've only got the short stories, a 14 story collection, and a Disney guidebook (under my real name) out there so far.  I don't do much promotion; I'm not on Facebook every day suggesting that people buy my stories.  I don't tweet; I have been less than regular with updates to my blog.  I've hoped that somehow word will spread and a few will get sold here and there.  We'll see. So the question remains:  am I part of the "tsunami of crap"?  Who gets to say whether I am or not? In my estimation, the only ones who get to make that judgement are readers.  So far they haven't voted enough to let me know one way or another (all of my reviews are 5 star so far, but there aren't many of them), but I intend on continuing to plug away until either something happens, or nothing at all happens. Thanks if you've bought one of my stories.  Heck, thanks if you're even here reading this.  I appreciate any recognition I get. *****