Yes, Virginia, I Do Hate Christmas

Yes, Virginia, I Do Hate Christmas

I actually don’t have a huge beef with the holiday itself, mind. I don’t mind going to Mass or Liturgy. I don’t mind the Biblical teachings or the religious songs at all. I think that Nativities are charming and that there’s not much cuter in this world than a bunch of kids in terry-cloth robes trying to remember their lines as they re-enact the First Noel. I don’t mind the Christmas trees and the candles and lights so much — after all, I’m damned proud of my Scottish heritage. We were Nordic, once. The holdovers from the feast of Frey are charming. The holly. The mistletoe. The wreaths hanging on the doors.

 

But I hate Santa Claus. Oh, when I was younger I adored Saint Nick who brought presents to everyone. The magic of it all. I loved that. Still do. But what really has made me hate Christmas with a passion is the commercialization of it all. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Sale sale sale! Get the hottest new toy of the season! Get this! Buy that! Augment your winter wardrobe. Get this sexy lingerie for that special Santa in your life. Buy! On sale now! Savings! Just in time for the holidays…Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching.

 

I work in marketing. I’ve worked in marketing for a lot of years now. At my old job, we did marketing right. At my current job, we don’t. There’s nothing sacred, nothing holy, nothing we won’t exploit in the chase for the Almighty Dollar. Frankly, most marketing departments would exploit and screw over a wet dream if there was money in it. I probably shouldn’t work in marketing — I’m tremendously bad at exploitation. Instead of writing gift-guides about how to get the hottest, greatest, and most expensive thing for your kids/SO/spouse/parents/friends/aliens from the Triangulum Galaxy whom you met while doing the pub crawl, I write gift guides about what might actually be useful and welcome by people in your life. I’ve always thought that if you were buying a gift for someone, you ought to put a little thought behind it. I generally avoid gift-cards unless I know it’s something the person would want. Me? I love getting gift cards for Amazon because I’ll use them. I go through books like most people go through underwear. And, I do tend to buy books for my loved ones because I want to share that magic with them. Books are like hand-held TARDISes. You can go anywhere in all of time and space just by opening one. And you can go back again and again. You can take an adventure and then imagine other ways it might have happened. Take characters and imagine other things they might have done.

 

Giving people books is my last, desperate, probably-in-vain attempt to re-infuse that lost magic in this exploited winter holiday. Giving people music is next on my list. Lastly, for the kids, I get them toys. Toys that they’ll keep for years. Things that they’ll play with and explore the world with. Last year, Mini-me got a bunch of dinosaurs, a book on dinosaurs, and a holding case for them. I like to imagine that she pulls them out and plays with them. Or that she matches the toys up to the pictures in the book. I like to imagine that she makes up stories about the dinosaurs. Maybe she does. Maybe she doesn’t. But she’s never going to get the Latest and Greatest in Toys from Aunt Kelly. No. I’m going to give her books. I’m going to give her toys that make her use her imagination. And, if I ever get a job where I can spend time with her, I’m going to do that and see just how her little brain works. I gave my nephew a book as well. It was from a game we both liked. I hope he enjoyed it. I gave his mother — my sister-in-law — a book. A book that helped me survive high school. I gave my quasi-sister a book. A book that made me want to become a writer. I gave my dad some books — books from a series that he and I both like.

 

I gave my mother an angel figurine because she collects those. That’s what she likes. But if she liked stories like I do, I’d give her a book. Books are magic. Books are my first love.

 

My most precious Christmas gift was a book. My late brother gave it to me. The Blood Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. I still have it. I still read it. Took me a while to get into it but I did. My brother knew what I liked. He liked to read — albeit not to the extent that I do — and he shared that with me. He found a series he liked and he shared it with me. The fact that it was the last Christmas present I ever got from him just makes it that much more precious.

 

It wasn’t anything “on sale.” It wasn’t the latest, hottest release. It was a story. It had dark parts. It had funny parts. It had sad parts. It took you on an adventure. And he shared that with me. For so many years, I’d been trying to get him to read. And now he was. And he was sharing that with me.

 

Shit, I read Twilight because he did. He enjoyed it. I critiqued it. But I read it because he did. That was something we could share. My dad reads A Song of Ice and Fire because I got him hooked on the HBO series. But he got tired of waiting to see what would happen next and so he asked for the books. And he got them. That’s something we can share. I’m hoping to get my dad into The Wheel of Time, into Dragonlance, into The Death Gate Cycle, into The Mistborn Trilogy. Because that’s something we can share. I’m hoping to get my family watching Doctor Who because that’s something we can share. Great stories. Great acting. Very, very sexy Doctors. Wonderful companions. Adventure. Love. Separations. Tears. Life. Loss. Something that can be shared.

 

I can recall one Christmas when I was a teenager. I got lots of nice clothes. I got lots of nice things. But I wasn’t happy. Not until I opened up the last present and saw the first three books of the Meetings Sextant from the Dragonlance series. Then I was overjoyed. Because, even back then, when I was a surly, sullen, sarcastic teenager who lived to sass off her parents, something inside me knew that the clothes, the gadgets, the games, the gizmos — they wouldn’t last. But those books? Those damned books about elves and dragons and magic and love and death and betrayal and hope? Those would last.

 

People constantly wonder about what to get me. After all, I have plenty of computers (I own two and a half). I have plenty of games and gaming consoles. I have a good smartphone (iPhone 5s). I don’t really need a tablet computer. I have a Kindle. So, what to get me? Especially at Christmas? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s not that difficult.

 

Get me a book. History. Science. Math. Religion. Philosophy. Myth. Legend. Ghost Stories. Get me a story. Something that will last. Or, give me a memory. Instead of stressing over whether the turkey is perfect or there are enough deviled eggs or if the icing on the cake is right, sit down and talk to me. Tell me funny stories from when I was a kid. Tell me embarrassing stories from when I was a teenager. Tell me things about your life. About your childhood. Your youth. Things that happened before I was born — good and bad. Tell me the truth. Tell me about girlfriends or boyfriends you’ve had. Things you did. Memories you have. Sit down and listen to music with me. Not that tinny pop modern shit. The old songs. The Old Ways. Go to Mass* or Liturgy* with me. Don’t bother getting dressed in the latest Approved Fashions. Wear something warm and comfortable. Laugh with me. Cry with me. Watch frickin’ Doctor Who with me. Listen to me ramble on about things that don’t matter to you at all but are so terribly, terribly important to me. Things like Legend of Zelda. Video games. A TV series I’m writing. My dreams of going freelance or pro-writer.

 

You want to give me something? Give me something that will last. Something that won’t rot in my closet because I already have enough clothes and shoes (seriously, I have three pairs of shoes. How many more could I need?) Give me a memory. Give me a story. Give me laughter and tears. Give me your time.

 

Because one day, none of us will be here. We’ll all just be memories living in our descendants’ minds. Because that’s what lasts. Not the latest fashion. Not make-up. Not the stupid hats you Protestants insist on wearing to your weekly “who’s better dressed than you and who can say ‘Amen’ and ‘Halleluiah’ the most” meetings.* Not the food. Not the decorations. The memories. Give me those. That’s all I want. Memories. Things that tie the past to the present and the present to the future. Keep the bows. Keep the fancy wrapping paper. Keep the frivolous. I want your time. I want your memories. I want your stories. And I want to share mine with you. Because they’ll last.

 

Presents and Santa are for kids. Give me my meat and my mead. Give me yourself. Because you’re not going to be here with me forever and I want something of you to wrap around myself when you’re gone and it’s just me here all by myself.

 

Don’t ask me what I want for Christmas. I hate that over-commercialized excuse for a holiday. Instead, just give me you.

 

— G.K. Masterson

 

*All right, I’ll fess up. I was raised Catholic and converted to Orthodoxy because Catholicism was too liberal in doctrine for me. I think that Protestants are cute and adorable like little toddlers. But I have a really hard time taking them seriously. I mean, c’mon. Every week there’s a new Protestant church opening up because Brother Billy Joe Bob had a Deee-vine Re-ul-a-shun after eating some bad fish. I’m sure that the Trinity is flattered but doesn’t take them too seriously. Yeah, they’re Christian but they haven’t figured out the whole “coloring inside the lines” thing. They’re adorable but…honestly, who can take them seriously? Sorry, Mom! It’s the truth and if you doubt that, go open a history book. Catholics and the Orthodox were 1000 years old before the Protestant Reformation even thought about getting started! Your church is adorable but…yeah, I’d rather go to Mass with Dad and Mamaw because that makes sense to me.

 

Still, love you!

Being A Writer…

Being A Writer...

Is frustrating. Really, truly, properly frustrating.

 

Non-writers will never understand this. They’ll try — especially if they’re family — but they won’t know it in their bones the way that another writer would. No one chooses to become a writer. You’re doomed to be one from the minute you’re born and no matter how you try to escape it, your destiny always catches up to you.

 

Writers, also, don’t get to choose the stories they write. Oh, yeah, we do get to plot them out. We do get to outline them and refine them. We do, in some sense, get to “play God” with our stories. But we don’t choose the stories we write. They choose us. They sneak up on us and jump on us like small children on Christmas morning. One minute, we’ll be asleep in our nice, warm, comfy beds. The next, we’re woken by our stories pouncing on us, screaming for our attention. All writers have been dragged out of bed at an ungodly hour to start outlining or typing a story that has demanded their attention. We can’t ignore them anymore than parents can ignore the cries and screams of their offspring. Our stories are our children.

 

Stories also like to rebel against us. Sometimes we think that they can only turn out a certain way. We’re convinced that the characters will act in a certain manner. We believe that we know everything about them…until they stand up to us and rebel. Then we’re left completely flat-footed trying to figure out just where that came from.

 

Writers spend hours lost in thought, lost in dreams. The real world is an annoyance we tolerate. Family, work, bills, friends — these are things we put up with because we realize that if we don’t have them, we’ll starve to death in front of our computers (or notebooks or typewriters) because we’re so lost to other worlds, other times, other places. All writers have a TARDIS strapped atop their shoulders. Some live in the future. Some live in the past. Some travel to parallel dimensions. But, none of us are really “here and now.”

 

Being a writer means that you get damned tired around people. People who demand your attention. Who ask you inane and asinine questions. Most writers are introverts. We live inside our minds. We don’t get a thrill from “hanging out.” We want to be left alone to dream. When we have to interact with the world, we do it as actors. We do it as if we were strangers in a strange land. Only when you get a bunch of us together do you find us in our “native habitat.” We can go days without saying more than a dozen words to the people around us because we’re so busy living in our own worlds.

 

None of us choose this. It just happens.

 

Yet, every one of us longs to find that Someone. That other person who will understand us. Who might not be able to share the rich, internal world we’ve developed but who, at the very least, won’t be jealous of it. That Someone who will give us the freedom to live as we are, who will not make demands on our time and energy, who will not drain us with pointless small-talk and silly social conventions. We long to find that person who will complete us. Who will be our Better Half. And, in rare cases, some of us find them.

 

But even that person, that “perfect mate,” will not understand us. When we get tired. When we’re exhausted. When we weep in frustration because we want a few weeks of peace without a story jumping on us and demanding our attention, our “perfect mate” will think we can just stop being writers. That we can turn it off. That we can take a vacation from it all.

 

But we can’t. Because no one chooses to be a writer any more than they choose to be gay or straight. Male or female. Trans or cisgendered. Blonde or brunette. It’s something you’re born with. It’s not something you choose; it chooses you.

 

Being a writer is like being a parent. You’re going to have long nights. You’re going to be exhausted. You’re going to cry in frustration. You’re going to have hope and lose it. You’re going to wish you had the kind of control that outsiders think you should have. And, in the end, you’re going to wake up and know a satisfaction that others can’t even conceive of.

 

No one chooses to be a writer. It chooses you.

 

Whether you want it or not.

 

— G.K.

There Will Come Soft Rains…

There Will Come Soft Rains...

This post was written in response to hearing some stupid teenager asking about what “Armistice Day” on the calendar meant and then responding “oh. Who cares about World War I? That was like, forever ago. It’s not relevant now.”

 

There will come soft rains
And the smell of ground
And swallows circling
With their shimmering sound

 

And frogs in the pools
Singing at night
And wild plum trees
In tremulous white.

 

Robins will wear
Their feathery fire
Whistling their whims
On a low fence wire.

 

And not one will know of war
Not one will care when
At last
It is done.

 

Not one would mind
Neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished
Utterly.

 

And Spring herself
When she awoke at dawn
Would scarcely know
That we were gone.

 

— There Will Come Soft Rains, Sara Teasdale, 1920

 

I first read this poem when I read the story by Ray Bradbury “There Will Come Soft Rains.” It’s probably one of the first poems I took the trouble to memorize without it being an assignment. This poem inspired one of my earliest stories “The House of the Ancient Writ” which got published in several literary magazines in my home state back when I was in high school. It also inspired the story “A Moment Too Late” (well, it and the movie Some Kind of Wonderful. Hey, lay off. I was fifteen!) which also netted me a fair bit of attention and resulted in me going a whole week without being harassed at school, as well as being published in quite a few magazines.

 

At any rate, it’s a hauntingly beautiful poem written in the aftermath of the Great War (what we Americans call World War I).

 

Many people reading this will take a moment to think about all of the veterans of the various wars we’ve fought in today. They’ll place flags on graves. They’ll maybe take some time to give a phone call or email to any veterans in their families. Others — especially the young and thoughtless — won’t even understand the significance of Armistice Day. After all, the Great War ended almost a century ago. Surely it can’t have any bearing on life today, right?

 

Wrong. So terribly, tragically, fucking wrong.

 

The twentieth century was a time of many revolutions. It saw the blossoming of the Industrial Revolution, the Education Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Women’s Suffrage, the Sexual Revolution, the Technological (or Digital) Revolution. The Space Race. The Nuclear Age. But it was also a charnel house. It gave us the first Industrial Era war (the Great War). It gave us World War II. The Cold War. The Korean War. The Berlin War. The Berlin Airlift. Vietnam. The Doomsday Clock. The Iranian Revolution. Operation: Desert Storm. The Dissolution of the Soviet Union. The twentieth century was turbulent, filled with highs and lows. Never have we, as a species, come closer to the greatness inherent within us and never have we, as a species, come closer to annihilating ourselves, leaving nothing but dust, bones, and the skeletal remains of once-great cities to attest to our turbulent and momentary existence.

 

And the whole damned thing started with the Great War. The Great War set the tone. The Great War irrevocably and unalterably changed the balance of power on planet Earth. The Great War showed us the horrors we are capable of. It overthrew five hundred some-odd years of history and flung the oddest of oddball of nations on a trajectory for greatness.

 

So don’t ever fucking tell me that the Great War doesn’t matter. It does.

 

Europe in the early twentieth century truly was a foreign land to all of us — American or modern European. None of us born after the Great War can even begin to understand the constraints, the conceits, the concepts under which our grandparents, great grandparents and, (for some of us) great-great grandparents lived. Only those of us who have delved deeply into history can begin to wrap our minds around it. Back then, women didn’t have a voice — unless they could influence their husbands. Their “rights,” such as they were, were subsumed by the doctrine of coverture by their fathers and their husbands. Courtship consisted of men escorting their potential brides under the ever-watchful eyes of chaperones. A man who wished to woo a particular woman had first to receive the permission of her father. Yes, yes, bordellos existed. Very few men of any caste came to marriage as virgins — such visits to houses of ill-repute were considered a milestone of manhood. And men — all men who were able-bodied — were part of the army in most countries. Officers were drawn from the ranks of the upper-class and nobility. Every country thought itself better than the others. Every country knew itself, by blood and honor, to be superior. Only the United States stood apart in that regard and even she had her prejudices (and if you doubt that, look at her treatment of the Irish and of the Eastern European immigrants during this era). “For King and Country!” cried the British. “Pour la gloire de la France!” cried the Frenchmen. Europe had expended its blood and treasure building empires during the 1800s. Britain and France reigned supreme in that. Spain gave a good showing. In the 1900s, after unification, Italy and Germany made plays for rulership of the world. The United States, alone among Western nations, had found that imperialism left a bad aftertaste in the wake of the Spanish-American war and had little desire to expand itself. (Scratch an American, even today, and you’re going to find an isolationist). Alliances were formed. Vows to stand together against the Other — the ones who were ravenous and inferior — bound nation to nation against other nations. The Triple Entente. The Triple Alliance. The Central Powers. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the United States was busy praying that European troubles wouldn’t bleed over to their hemisphere. Americans couldn’t have cared less about what Europe did to themselves.

 

With these alliance systems, with these beliefs in superiority, with these hold-overs from the era of the Divine Right of Kings, Europe in the early 1900s was a powder-keg waiting for a spark. The assassination of the Arch-Duke Ferdinand was just that spark. The Alliance system kicked in. Every nation who had delusions towards being a major player (or, at least, allied with a major player) mobilized. The battle-lines were drawn. Young men — unmarried or married — were sent to the front lines by generals eager to win the last war and unwilling to go against their classical training and learn the tactics of modern warfare. And there, those men died. Human wave attacks saw thousands mowed down. Barbed wire saw thousands hang and bleed to death. Primitive chemical weapons, most famously mustard gas, saw thousands drop like screaming, writhing flies. And still, the generals ordered their men out of the trenches. Ordered them to hurl themselves at enemy embankments guarded by machine guns.

 

Europe’s fire died in the Great War. The sons that could have kept her greatness were mowed down at the Battle of Verdun. A costly combination of ignorant generals, of poorly-designed tactics, of the modern era meeting the older era head-on, shattered the heart of Europe. Whether French or British, Prussian or Russian, the men who could have kept Europe prominent died in the Great War. No, the United States did not “win” the war as many believe. The United States’ actions came too little, too late. The Great War ended in a stalemate though there was enough of a threat of bringing in fresh troops from the overseas power to cow Germany into signing the misbegotten Treaty of Versailles. The United States, influenced as ever by the Monroe Doctrine, withdrew back to its own borders, believing that the enlightened European nations could work things out on their own.

 

The Second World War was the inevitable child of the Great War. And we all know how that turned out, don’t we?

 

The Great War sucked the life and soul from Europe. Before the Great War, if Britain or France sneezed, the rest of the world — yes, even the United States — put on a sweater. America had been somewhat ascendant but her tendency towards isolationism, her desire not to become entangled in “European affairs” as counseled by George Washington, the father of the United States, was still strong within her people. Her reluctance towards empire — showcased by Mark Twain’s anger and his belief that America had betrayed her very soul by taking up imperialism at the end of the Spanish-American war — demonstrated her exceptionalism among nations. Think about it for a second. What other nation has had the ability to force others to bow to her? To force them to worship her as an Old Testament God? And has no desire to do it?

 

Scratch any one of us, and you’ll find an isolationist. It’s our default setting.

 

Europe, though, died in the Great War. It will be centuries before she recovers. No more do we talk about the British Empire and the British naval control of the trade routes. America stepped up to take that over. No more do we care about France and her leadership. France can’t even get her own naval flagship out of port without it losing a propeller. No more does anyone talk about German ascendance. No more does Europe define and decide the fate of the world. Because Europe committed suicide during the Great War.

 

Perhaps, in the centuries to come, Europe will recover. Europe will regain her place as the ruler of the world. Not under the current-European Union government — that’s a waste of ink, oxygen, and money. But, Europe ruled the world from the fall of Rome until the Great War. That’s over five hundred years. Perhaps, one day, she will rise again. But for now, we look back at her folly. At the Great War. At the sons she sent to the slaughterhouse. And we mourn them.

 

Those boys, those men, those young fathers — they were the victims. They were the innocent. They believed, Goddammit all, that their generals, born amongst silken sheets to the gentry, knew what they were doing. Those peasants, those farmers, those factory workers — they believed. They believed and they died for that belief. Their blood sanctified the soil of so many battle fields. Their sacrifices paved the way for that unholy and misbegotten Treaty of Versailles that led, inexorably, to the Second World War. Their blood, their lives, their souls laid the foundation for a shift in power across the Atlantic to Washington D.C.

 

Their lives brought us the end of the Pax Europa in the fires of the Second World War and the rise of the Pax Americana.

 

So don’t ever, ever, ever tell me that the Great War isn’t “relevant.”

 

The Great War and her poor murdered sons paved the foundation of the modern, digital age. Thus shall we remember them. Thus shall we honor them, poor misled boys that they were. Thus shall we humble ourselves knowing — especially for us Americans — that if they had not died…the world would be a much different place today.

 

So, as we draw closer to the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year, let us pause. Let us reflect. Let us remember.

 

And, dear God in Heaven…let us learn.

 

— G.K. Masterson

Kobogeddon Phase III

Kobogeddon Phase III

Just when you thought it was over…it starts to get better.

 

That’s right, Kobogeddon is still going strong. The protest pricing seems to be working out well and Kobo keeps putting their feet in more mess. Honestly, I think they should fire their web team and hire a new one because they’ve gone beyond “shovel” territory and into “backhoe” region. At this point, they would probably do better to hire the chimps at the nearest zoo to run their website.

 

Yeah, it’s that bad.

 

Still, Kobogeddon Phase III has kicked off with the publication of Daddy’s Kobo Tales. A.J. Church put together five flash fics written in protest of Kobo’s slandering all indies and summarily booting them off their platform. So, if you want to show your support for indie authors, grab a copy of Daddy’s Kobo Tales today!

 

— G.K.

Twilight of Lanar’ya Now Available from Rooster and Pig!

Twilight of Lanar'ya Now Available from Rooster and Pig!

The release date has come and Twilight of Lanar’ya is now available exclusively through the Rooster and Pig store. It will be a few weeks before you can find it on Amazon or other retailers. But, if you want to get a copy, you can grab it now from the R&P digital download store for only $8.99.

 

And, to add to the news, I finished the first draft of Midnight of Lanar’ya and sent it for the first round of revisions back on October 31st. So, if you’ve been waiting to hear back on that, there you go!

 

For my friends over at FanFiction.net, I will be putting up a chapter of Adrift early to celebrate this occasion.

 

Now to get back to work on A Man’s Life, my NaNoWriMo project!

 

PDF ePub Format MOBI Format

 

— G.K.

Kobogeddon: Phase Two — Protest Pricing

Kobogeddon: Phase Two -- Protest Pricing

Update: if you’re unsure what price to use, Rayne’s brilliant brain just suggested $666!

 

It seems that Kobogeddon is still going strong. Lots of indie authors are pulling their tradpubbed books off Kobo or deleting their accounts. Others who have had their books restored because Kobo “reviewed” them and found that they weren’t smutfests that lacked the imprimatur of one of the Holy Publishing Houses are taking their books down and going over to Smashwords or another indie-friendly service. The indies and their readers are getting pissed and Kobo (and hopefully W.H. Smith) are starting to feel their ire.

 

Now, while it would be great for all indies to refuse to sell through Kobo, that might not be enough to get the message across to them that indies are the future of the publishing world. After all, the traditional publishers have a lot of cash and influence. Indies are still getting established and breaking through to let readers know that the lack of an East Coast Elites Seal of Approval doesn’t mean squat (and that such a Seal of Approval might actually mean the book sucks). So, the ever-clever and brilliantly sneaky Rayne Hall has an idea that will hit Kobo where it hurts the most — it will keep them from attracting new customers and it might scare existing ones off. Her idea? Protest Pricing.

 

The concept is simple and brilliant. If you are indie or support indie and you have books up on Kobo, set the price to something absurdly high. Rayne’s setting hers to $999/£999 and suggests that others do the same. However, there is the concern that if everyone uses the same price, it will be simple for Kobo to just delist or delete those books. So, I’m suggesting that people vary the prices a bit, keeping them between say $/£/€59 and $/£/€999. Edit: Actually $666 would be the most epically awesome price ever. While this won’t net you any sales on Kobo (I mean, come on. You might be good but the only books that can command hundreds of dollars/pounds in pricing are either rare print editions, antiques, or college textbooks), what it will do is kill Kobo’s price competitiveness against other, more indie-friendly stores.

 

So, if you’ve deleted your Kobo account, create a new one if you can and put your stuff back up with an insane price. If you sell through Kobo using Smashwords, disable that distribution channel and create a Kobo account, adding your stuff back to Kobo that way and setting up the insane prices. Once you’ve done this, let us know by dropping a comment here or hitting Rayne and I up on Twitter (@RayneHall, @GKMasterson). I’ll keep a list of authors who join in this action and do my best to buy some books off you guys (not for the crazy price, though. Not unless I win all the lotteries) and give you a review.

 

#Kobogeddon continues on!

 

— G.K.

The Four Horsemen of the TradPubocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the TradPubocalypse

Or “Riding towards Kobogeddon.”

 

The Twitterverse is all aflutter with the latest screw-up from across the pond. Rayne Hall, the first horseman of the TradPubocalypse has been sounding the horns over W.H. Smith and Kobo’s recent dumping of every indie author from their shelves — virtual and otherwise. If you’re curious to get caught up quickly, the tag #kobogeddon should get you started. Or you could just keep reading.

 

So, what kicked off this kerfuffle? Apparently, the webmonkeys at W.H. Smith and Kobo are too busy playing around to code filters and search-check results. They could be relying on the ancient “show all keyword matches” method that ceased being effective sometime back in the mid-1990s. So, if you had a book that had the word “Daddy” in the title, their search engine would show it in the results page for any search involving that word.

 

Even if it was clear that the book in question was part of a genre called erotica.

 

So, chances are that someone’s kid found an erotica title while searching innocuous keywords. It happens. While I don’t write or read erotica myself, I know that it exists. I’ve known that it existed since I was a teenager. Used to be that it was treated a lot like porn magazines and movies and kept tucked safely away where kids couldn’t come across but those who wanted to get at it could do so. Stores generally wouldn’t sell erotica titles (though one could argue that the entire freaking romance genre is just “erotica acceptable to middle class housewives”) but, if you really wanted to find the stuff, a trip to your local adult bookstore would net you some results. You could also order it via mail. Advertisements in certain kinds of magazines told those who wanted to know where to go to get their fix.

 

So, a kid or something finds one of these rather disgusting books and their parents get their knickers all in a twist. Complaints are made, cries about the collapse of civilization because someone wrote erotica that would fit comfortably in Genesis (like, oh say, Lot’s daughters, perhaps?) and W.H. Smith pulls down their website. Okay, so far, so good. After all, if you come across a book that is offensive during a common keyword search, you should let the site owner know so that they can tweak their search engine results or their user-controlled search filtering/browsing preferences so that erotica is only found by people who honestly want to buy the stuff and not by kids or people who would like to pretend that the dark side of humanity doesn’t exist.

 

However, instead of, you know, filtering their site better and going over to ensure that keywords return better results and possibly kicking off authors who purposefully mis-tagged their books to get higher search results, W.H. Smith and Kobo kicked off every. indie. author. They didn’t just kick off erotica writers. They threw out authors who have never written a sex scene in any of their books. They kicked out children’s writers. They kicked out sci-fi writers. Fantasy. If you were indie, you were out. Meanwhile, erotica itself is thriving on both sites, just so long as it’s backed up by a publisher. So, you can still find all the disgusting erotica you want…but you can’t find any indie-published books of any genre.

 

That, to be charitable, was pretty freakin’ stupid.

 

Erotica exists. People buy it. They read it. Not too long ago, Fifty Shades of Gray was all over the place. You couldn’t take two steps without someone talking about that book. And it’s erotica in an almost pure form. Not my cup of tea but then, I’m not getting my knickers in a twist or my corset knotted over someone else wanting to read about Sub/Dom relationships. I am, however, most displeased at the thought that someone like Sarah Hoyt, Jonathan Broughton, or even David D. Levine would have had their works pulled down because some idiot thinks that all indie books are erotica.

 

Sure, the traditional publishers are probably clinking their champagne glasses together now, all celebratory at us upstart indies getting pulled because W.H. Smith and Kobo can’t be arsed to hire competent web developers. However, their victory will wind up being as short-lived as Valenti’s attempts to make VCRs illegal (“The VCR is to the movie industry as the Boston Strangler is to a woman alone at night.”) Indies aren’t going away and traditional publishers aren’t going to stop being dinosaurs. The “gatekeepers” have had control of the market for way too long. They let in crap like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray and shut out things like Harry Potter (seriously, J.K. had to go to twelve publishers before she found one willing to print her work. She’s made over a billion dollars now. Tell me again why I should take the big houses seriously?) Indies are telling stories and building worlds that people want to read about. We don’t all hew to the politically correct lines and some of us aren’t to the left of Stalin (go ahead, try to get an in with a sci-fi house if you’re not an authoritarian. Go on. I’ll wait). In the indie world, you really do sink or swim based on how good your story is and how hard you’re willing to work to get word out there. You don’t wind up in print-hell because your publisher decides to only do one print run and then, if it sells out in a week, won’t do another because, well, you forgot to bow and scrape properly while doing your daily rounds of arse-kissing.

 

I’m working to put together a list of authors who had their non-erotica works pulled from Kobo and W.H. Smith. If you like good literature and are sick of reading the same regurgitated crap that hits all the acceptable politically correct points but neglects to develop an actual, you know, plot, then consider buying from an indie.

 

And yeah, I’ll keep posting about how Kobogeddon is going. Earlier this evening it looked like they’d banned Rayne Hall’s account entirely because she’s stirring up trouble. Methinks someone’s never heard of the Streisand Effect.

 

— G.K.

Twilight of Lanar’ya Out November 4!

Twilight of Lanar'ya Out November 4!

Yesterday, my new publisher Rooster and Pig let me know that they’ve set a release date for Twilight of Lanar’ya. It will be out for sale again with a new cover and less typos on November 4. I’m really excited about this and loving the new cover by the super-talented Lex Valentine. So, if you’d like to get your hands on a copy, I’ll be posting the information about where you can get it here on November 4.

 

 

Tell me that isn’t awesome looking.

 

And, in other news, I’m close to finished with the first draft of Midnight of Lanar’ya. I’m hoping to get it wrapped up before the end of October so that I can focus on one of my back-burner projects for NaNoWriMo. I’ve already outlined the third book in my Lanarian Empire trilogy and will probably get cracking on it in December or January — once I’m done with the edits and revisions on Midnight. It’s not a good idea to try to write a follow-up book while you’re still working through revisions of its prequel. Too easy to give into temptation and move scenes around and all that.

 

I’m also, as always, looking for a better job. I’m going to break down and take the LPI 1 exam in the next few weeks to get that certification and open my horizons up to a broader array of jobs in hopes that I can at least get somewhere better than where I am where the hours don’t leave me so drained and worn down.

 

Well, for now, I’m going to go get some more rest. My room-mate brought home Con Plague and I caught it. Once I’m back on my feet tomorrow, it’ll be back to the grindstone on Midnight of Lanar’ya.

 

— G.K.

And the Award for World’s Worst Blogger Goes to…

And the Award for World's Worst Blogger Goes to...

Me! I am absolutely horrible at updating this place.

 

Though, in my defense, I have been pretty busy lately. I’ve been working on a complete redesign of Rooster and Pig’s site that is coming along nicely. I’ve also still got my day job. And, I’ve been writing. A lot. I’m about half-way through this draft of Midnight of Lanar’ya and hoping to crank out the rest before November. I will be joining in NaNoWriMo, probably with either The Penitent or the third book in the Fall of the Lanarian Empire series. Also, I’ve been doing a good bit of editing for R&P who will soon be re-releasing Twilight of Lanar’ya.

 

Other than that, though, I’ve been slacking. I really need to get a better routine down for everything. I also really need to get a job that doesn’t mess with my Circadian rhythm so much. However, the economy is still in the crapper and so that makes finding something more suitable just that much more difficult. If any one out there is looking to hire a writer/editor, drop me a line!

 

At any rate, I just wanted to wipe the dust off this place and give all three of you who read this blog a quick update on my status. Yes, Dad, unless the world comes to its end or the TARDIS shows up out back, you’ll have the second book within a few more months. Now quit asking me what’s going to happen in it! 😛

— G.K

Writers and the Fan-Fic Culture

Writers and the Fan-Fic Culture

Cross-posted over at Rooster and Pig’s blog

 

It’s no secret that many of us — especially fantasy writers like me — got our start by working in someone else’s established universe. For me, my first “real” creative work was from the Legend of Zelda when I was eight or nine years old. After that, it was the worlds of Dragonlance and the Death Gate Cycle when I was thirteen years old. I did also work in my own universe, though the concept (Atlantis) wasn’t terribly original (hey, cut me some slack, I was fifteen), and the execution was…well…adolescent to say the least (again, I was fifteen).

 

In time, I graduated to world-building while playing and writing campaigns and adventures for Dungeons and Dragons. I also developed a healthy dose of respect for cartographers, artists, and dungeon designers — not to mention architects! By the time I got into college, I was generally writing my own original works, mostly plays and short stories as I had not really developed the chops for novel-writing. I did, however, continue to write fanfics. I wrote several set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe and one set in the world of Final Fantasy VIII. The fanfic that really got me convinced I could finally do a novel was Alayne’s Story. I spent the better part of five years writing that story, posting it on the World of Warcraft European forums every Friday. Even today, I still dabble in fanfics when I need to just build up my chops or let something original percolate so that I don’t over/underwrite it too badly.

 

The Internet, through services such as Fanfiction.net, have really given a good boost to remix writers. None of us ever think to try to profit from our works. After all, the characters and the settings are not “ours” in the ownership sense of the term. However, it is distressing to sit back and see just how many authors and corporate owners feel threatened by fanfic writers or feel as if having fanfics written with their property would somehow diminish the value of that property. This is a rather blinkered view, if you ask me. Yes, certainly, there are a lot of poorly-written fanfics out there. I’ve seen plenty of them where I wondered if the writer had any concept of grammar, spelling, or readability. There are some fanfics that, while earning passing marks for grammar, spelling, and formatting, fail because the story is unoriginal, the pacing is poor, or parts of it were too gratuitous. Granted, I’m sure all of us have written at least one or two scenes or treatments just for catharsis (and if you haven’t, you’re either not a writer, lying, or under the age of six). But, for the most part, we wouldn’t show those to anyone. There are many fanfics out there that cater to a specific audience or attempt to “fix” the story that the creator told because parts of it were unsatisfying. There are some, like mine, that delve into the “what if?” realm where we change events and then ride the ripple of that change throughout the universe (these are often called “alternate universe” or “AU” fanfics). There are some that attempt to tell the story of the characters in the days after the ending. And many of these are quite good. Many are very original. Many, in my opinion, rival the “canonical” or “licensed” works in quality.

 

For those authors and owners who either tolerate or, better still, embrace their fans and their fans’ written fanfics, these things can enrich and enhance the community — not only of that particular work, but the writing community in general. For those authors who try to stamp out fanfics using their works, who focus on exercising complete control over their works, the community of writers is left much poorer for their successful efforts.

 

After all, in the end, we’re all fanfic writers of one kind or another. All of us grew up hearing nursery rhymes and fairy tales and I’ll bet every last one of us, even the non-writers out there, would sometimes imagine “what if?” “What if Snow White didn’t eat the apple?” “What if the evil stepmother was actually nice to Cinderella instead?” “What happened during ‘happily ever after?'” “Why was the Wicked Witch…well, wicked? What made her like that?” From these questions and our imagination, new stories were born. And from practice in doing that, we began to build original tales with new characters, new roles, new monsters, new conflicts.

 

“There is nothing new under the sun.” By tolerating — nay, encouraging — fledgling writers to test their wings out with established characters, events, and universes, we enrich the literary universe and ourselves. At least, that’s what I think. And I will always be eternally grateful to Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto,* SquareSoft (now Square Enix), Blizzard, and the BBC for not suing the crap out of me whenever I, unlicensed and unauthorized writer that I am, decided to dabble in their universes for a little bit when I needed a break from my own.

 

— G.K.

 

Shigeru Miyamoto, Robert Jordan, and Brandon Sanderson are my Holy Trinity of Writers. They are served by the Archangels Russel T. Davies, Margaret Weis, Tracey Hickman, Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Piers Anthony. Don’t you dare judge me.