Category Archives: Public Service Announcement

Things People Should Stop Doing – Part 1

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I have opinions I often share with people around me, and most of the time those people tell me I’m an idiot. Obviously that’s because I’ve struck a nerve, right? Challenged some deeply-held but obviously incorrect belief of theirs. That has to be it.

So I’m going to share my latest crop of judgements:

1. No more “ghosts” on TV.

I don’t mean that I’m against a weekly live-action Ghostbusters musical extravaganza, but that I’m sick of main characters having dead people talking to them as a means of expository dialogue. This has happened all the freaking time on Dexter, and apparently because the last four seasons of Dexter have been universally acclaimed, The Walking Dead decided to do it, too. Of course, poor zombie-killing Rick also got those fake phone calls, too.

I doubt I’m abnormal in that I’ve never had a hallucination in my life; perhaps that’s due to a distinct lack of drug use, but it’s not like Dexter is dropping acid whenever he’s offscreen. How can I understand a character’s motivations if that character lives in a world of hallucinations? It distances me from the character.

Now, if a writer or showrunner wants to include a character who has a realistic illness that includes hallucinations, or they want to put in a few scenes of people licking psychoactive toads, then that’s fine. Hallucinate away. Otherwise, you’re going to have to find a better way of showing me what the character is thinking and feeling. I mean, can you imagine if Breaking Bad’s writers borrowed the same pair of sweaty crutches?

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So no more “Ghost Harry”. No more “Ghost Lori”. And while we’re at it, no more cryptically prescient homeless ladies, Mr. Kurt Sutter. Either give your audience some credit (which is sometimes undeserved, I know) or just start adding some stupe-titles to the screen: “Dexter wants to kill, but here’s why he might not:” or “Rick blames himself for Lori’s death for some reason, maybe… we don’t actually know, but aren’t hallucinations cool?”
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2. Stop telling me that things you didn’t like “gave you cancer”.

This might be the only trend that could rival actual cancer in my level of hatred. Cancer isn’t funny, even when that asshole you know from the gym has to have his testicle removed. (Okay, so that’s a little funny, and so was that bit on Futurama with Calculon.) But if something sucks so hard that you feel like it might kill you slowly and painfully after numerous rounds of chemotherapy, find an analogy that doesn’t remind people of everyone they’ve lost to one of the least hilarious diseases in history.

spider-man-hospital-bed-500x320-1

Don’t worry, I’ll help:

  • “That was so bad it gave me jock itch.”
  • “Your dating profile has created a rash in a very hard-to-medicate place.”
  • “Your terrible, terrible YouTube video has quite possibly given me gingivitis… in my eyeballs.”

3. Let’s come up with a unified rule vis-à-vis tipping the proprietor.

Now different countries/cultures have different tipping etiquette. In the US, it varies by state, since some states actually pay employees who receive tips as little as $2.13 per hour. Now I’m cheap, but I used to subsist partly on tips from drunk people, so I try to tip 15-20% for any service that is better than soup-in-the-lap or dessert-fork-lodged-in-pelvis. But I don’t like tipping proprietors, because to me, it seems like an insult.

If I ran a service business, I would want people to think that I’m running it at a profit. That I’m successful or whatever. So someone giving me a tip when it’s clear that I’m the owner (a situation that is not always clear)… well, I’d probably be a little insulted. Sure, I’d take their dirty money… but I’d wonder if they felt like I needed their charity because I obviously didn’t know how to run a business.

But most people tip the proprietor, because for one thing, it’s hard to know if someone’s the proprietor, rather than being an employed manager or a sorely underpaid relative of the proprietor. And apparently, most proprietors are forgetting what may or may not be a tipping rule:

You should never tip the owner or proprietor of an establishment. In fact, it is their professional responsibility to tell you that they do not accept tips.

(from a five-year-old article about the “new” rules of tipping)

So here’s the problem: if I don’t tip the proprietor, while everyone else on Planet Earth does tip the proprietor, I look like a cheap jerk. And I don’t like looking like a cheap jerk, despite the fact that I tell everyone I meet that I’m a cheap jerk, including the aforementioned proprietor. Doesn’t make sense, you say? Well, you could say the same thing about high heels.

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Feels good to get that off my chest. Coming up next time: what’s the deal with airline food?

My Favourite Google Searches – Writers, Weirdness, and Watchlists

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So I saw a post on reddit about weird research, asking what kind of strange things we’ve typed into Google. I’m not so much worried about government surveillance… I’m just thinking that one day someone will stumble on some strange things on my computer. Like that time the cable guy saw a racy (and possibly a little kinky) photo on my computer desktop. I just looked at him and shrugged… any other response would have made it worse.

I remember another story: when I was doing some consulting work for a GLBT newspaper, developing their website, I was troubleshooting an issue with classified ads and popup windows. When a user would click on the thumbnail, the larger image popup wouldn’t come up. So I wrote a fix and tested on the first live ad on the list. My wife came down to my office / basement lair to ask about lunch just in time for the giant popup of a man’s crotch to appear on the screen. For some reason, she wasn’t the least bit surprised.

I don’t work on giant penis pictures anymore. Now, I write stuff. And I research the stuff I write. And that’s lead to some strange Googling. So I thought I’d compile a list of some of my favourites from my browser history:

The Explicit in Fiction: Where’s the Line Between Realism and Obscenity?

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I grew up in a family where foul language of any kind was never allowed. On the banned list where words like “idiot” and “bloody”, and we certainly weren’t supposed to say “oh my gosh” or “shoot”.

We also didn’t talk about sex. Like ever. I remember my first orgasm (which came about completely by accident, actually), wondering what the hell it was but enjoying the feeling too much to worry about it. I also remember looking up masturbation in the dictionary in the desperate hope that it would tell me how to go about it. And no, Websters, calling it “sexual self abuse” did not shed much light.

Like all “taboo” things from my childhood, I went through a phase in adolescence where I experimented with swearing and sex. The end result: those taboos lost their power. They became meaningless. “Fuck” and “shit” weren’t evil, but they weren’t exciting or special, either. They were just words, words that make sense in some contexts but not in others.

But that’s my experience.

Your experience will differ.

When I started writing After The Fires Went Out: Coyote, I didn’t think about profanity. All I thought about was trying to write as honest a story as I could. I didn’t think about foul language, sex, or violence. The only thing I worried about was the combination of sex and violence, which is not only a very serious problem in the world, but is also considered obscene and illegal in many countries (including mine), particularly when used to entertain or arouse.

I consciously tried to downplay the depiction and occurrence of sexual violence in my novel; I believe that in a post-apocalyptic setting, sexual violence against women, children, and even men will be as severe as it has ever been throughout history. But I don’t want to write torture porn or a rape fantasy book, at least not under my real name.

So I broke my personal pledge to be honest with the story, and limited the amount of sexual violence. Not by much, mind you… but I feel it was enough to limit both titillation and triggering.

So far, I haven’t received any complaints about sexual violence. I’m pleased with that.

But I have received numerous complaints about foul language and sexual content, sometimes mentioned separately, but usually mentioned together.

And I’m not sure what to do about it.

My first instinct is to dismiss the criticism outright; not everyone’s going to “get” what I’m doing. I’m trying to be honest here, and some of my characters say and do things that are explicit. I’m not going to bowdlerize my “art”.

But how many potential readers am I losing because of my stubbornness?

When I look over my Amazon reviews, I find that the most hostile reviews aren’t really about the language or sexual content; most are hostile for what I assume is a mismatch between book and reader. I set out to do something different, and because of that, Coyote doesn’t suit everyone, particularly within the post-apocalyptic subgenre.

So from my guess, cutting out half of the language and sex, assuming that this chopping could satisfy those offended readers (and that’s a big assumption), I might be able improve my average rating by a star or so, over time. That’s a huge deal, actually. Because of my unusual number of hostile one star reviews, my book is rated three stars, and that is definitely affecting sales and promotional opportunities.

So I’m definitely tempted to try and “tone down” the content.

But I don’t feel right about that.

I don’t want to artificially suppress the emotions and actions of characters who have started to feel like real people to me.

Now, I’ve seen authors offer “PG-13” versions of their books in addition to their regular version, but from what I can tell, that hasn’t been successful. So it seems to me like I either chop or I leave intact: one version fits all.

And I have no way of knowing how much chop is enough.

So… I decided to count how many bad words there are in Coyote. Here are the results (out of 152,000 words):

Fuck: 242 – 0.2%

Shit: 168 – 0.1%

Damn/Goddamn: 83 – 0.05%

Asshole: 55

Bitch: 16

Bastard: 4

Cunt: 2

Whore: 1

Total: 484 – 0.4%

These words are often in heated dialogue or emotional narration, including phrases such as:

  • “The only people still on your side are the ones you’re fucking and sucking.”
  • “When I get home tonight I’ll tuck my kids into bed and then I’ll fuck my wife up the poop chute.”
  • “And then you can come by and shit your pants for me.”
  • “Not while you and that fucking asswipe there are putting my family’s life at risk.”
  • “How about I grab a broom handle and we see just who gets fucked?”

So yes, I have characters who use foul language. My main character, Baptiste, uses foul language from time to time in his narration. I also have characters who do not use foul language.

I don’t want to change my characters.

As far as sexuality is concerned, there isn’t much of it at all, and most happens off stage. The sex that does occur on stage is integral to the plot; if I removed those few scenes, there would be a hole in the story. Sex scenes are harder to count that foul language, but from my estimate, I have well less than 5,000 words of “sex”. That’s around three percent.

I’m not saying that my offended readers are wrong, since this issue is incredibly subjective. But that’s exactly why I don’t think I can rectify this problem to anyone’s satisfaction. Removing fifty instances of “fuck” probably won’t do enough to make readers less offended, while removing all instances of “fuck” will change the story completely.

But I’m not sure if I’m right.

Am I right?

Is there such a thing as being right on something like this?

Self-Publishing, Fake Scarcity and the Curse of the Freemium Author: Turning Fresh Pony Plop into Glittering Diamonds

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What’s the difference between the worst-written best-selling books and the best-written non-selling books?

Probably not quality, at least not in a way that compliments the poorly-written best-sellers. The big difference is the value placed on the book, by the reader and sometimes by the author.

That difference in value outs itself in several ways:

  1. Cover: Did the author/publisher invest in a good cover?
  2. Blurbs: Did the author/publisher put in enough time and testing on the descriptions of the story and the author?
  3. Editing: Are there blatant issues regarding spelling, grammar, or continuity?
  4. Marketing / Word of Mouth: Has money, time, and the personal investment of others gone into the promotion of this book?

These are all things self-published authors are working on. I’ve blabbed on about my covers for a while now. Eventually I’ll complain about my lackluster blurbs, or people calling me on using fifty ellipses per page…

But there is another thing I’ve started experimenting with to increase the value of my work: scarcity.

Yesterday I had twelve books available through multiple channels, including Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Today I’ve started whittling the number down to seven, and soon that will probably drop to six. Some of this is in preparation for the release of my contemporary fantasy / paranormal collection, Catholic Guilt and the Joy of Hating Men, as some are stories within that collection, while some of the culling is just because there’s too much of mine out there available for free.

People have to choose from too many “starter stories” from me. It’s a case of too much choice. Do they want one from this pile of science fiction? Or how about a story from my contemporary fantasy pile? This one’s related to my upcoming novel, while this other one here’s related to absolutely nothing. And they’re all free, so… start reading!

I don’t want to be a freemium author. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life shouting “Hey! Hey! Read my books! They’re FREE!”, all the while hoping that people will start paying for some of my work at some point down the road. Why would someone pay if they know that I keep releasing new stuff for free every few weeks?

I want to sell diamonds, not horse poop. Are diamonds actually more valuable than manure? Depends on your point of view, and whether or not you need fertilizer. But diamonds cost more, because a crapload of work was done to show that diamonds are high value.

I want my readers to assign a high value to my stories. I want my readers to read my stories not because they happen to be lying around, but because they actually enjoy them. If they’re not worth more than free, I need to add enough value to my stories to make them worth something. That’s my incentive to keep trying: to write better.

There’s a lot of talk about getting a thousand true fans. I want a thousand true fans, to buy my latest release, to tell people about me until I’m hated solely by association. Right now I might have two or three true fans; I’m not sure. One of the reasons I’m not sure is because I’m not giving my readers an opportunity to make that commitment. I’m not asking them to buy my newest release, or to fall in love with my series… I’m throwing out free stories like confetti and hoping that these true fans will follow along behind me and scoop it all up.

There’s no direction in that strategy… if that is a strategy. So here’s a new strategy: I will place value on my stories, and hope to find readers that feel that value is not out of whack (or “in-whack”?). Hopefully the people that agree with the value I’m placing will consider becoming a true fan. And that number will grow, but only if I do my job well.

Searching for Word of Mouth: Who does a guy have to kill? You’d be surprised…

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Dateline: somewhere in the American Midwest.

Dirty (and smelly) East and West Coast Liberals make fun of the Midwest, calling it “The Flyover States” or derisively referring to it as “The Real America”. Or, in the case of self-satisfied Canadians, trying to coin a new phrase for it like “The Land of Cheese and Jesus”.

But in reality, there are many wonderful people in the Midwest, people who are more than willing to try out eBooks from strange new writers and maybe even leave a nice rating and/or review. I’m sure there are people in California and New York and even Delaware who are also giving self-publishing authors a fair shake, but I don’t want to talk about anyone who wears a sports coat with blue jeans.

Somewhere in this I have a point. My reviews and ratings are starting to look better than before, and I’m starting to feel better about the possibility of reaching an audience of readers. I feel like there’s some potential here.

But I’m still not close to critical mass, or even understanding what critical mass is or why people keep yapping about it. I’m getting my short stories out there, but I’m missing out on a key ingredient: word of mouth.

The occasional reader might find one of my stories and they might download it for free or even (gasp) pay for it. They may even enjoy it enough to read some of my other work; from the numbers I do have, that seems to be the case often enough to make me less prone to sorrow-fueled McChicken binges.

But those readers aren’t out telling their friends about me. At least I don’t think they are. A few times people might “Like” me on Facebook or post a nice review or rating, and I definitely appreciate that more than I’m about to tell some Internet strangers, but I don’t believe there’s any “hey… you need to check out this author I’ve been reading” involving me.

And that makes sense. Not just because people may not want to advertise their deep-seated love of cannibals and fiery apocalypses, but because it’s a little unusual to recommend something that you can read in a sitting.

You can see that with other authors (even real ones). Most science fiction fans know Asimov’s Foundation or Clarke’s 2001. Fantasy lovers know Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Jordan’s Wheel of Time. And it’s not hard to find fans who know the last few years of Hugo or Nebula award winning novels. But when you start getting into short fiction, it’s harder to name stories, even by big name authors. It’s hard to talk about a twenty-minute read with your friends. It’s really hard to review something that short.

In order to get people to start making referrals, I think I’m going to need something substantial enough to be referred.

So I’m pinning my hopes on my upcoming collection and novel series. If I can do a good enough job on putting those together, maybe I can have a couple things that are worth a few Midwesterners telling their friends about over a nice can of Pabst Blue Ribbon… assuming that there are people still drinking PBR in an unironic east-coast hipster fashion.

I get all excited when I think about the possibilities of self publishing, especially the idea that my success or failure is largely dependent on the work I put in. But obviously it depends just as much on the readers, and I am grateful for all of the support I received already.

And once I figure out a way to ensnare you readers even further… JACKPOT!

Reading in One Sitting Died a Quiet Death, Surrounded By No One

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I’ve been thinking about the “right” length for a story. Obviously some stories seem like they’re too short, others too long, blah blah blah… but if a reader were to pick out their ideal length for a story, what would it be, and how has that desired length changed over the years?

There was a time when all stories were either fables and folk tales that were more often recited than written, or voluminous, deep and never-ending tomes about the lives of kings or the tribulations of the saints. Tales from a life-sized storyteller were easier to follow than reading a scrap of papyrus by the campfire, while heft made sense when you were expecting your audience to pay for inscription in a scroll or some type of hide-bound codex. The needs of your audience has always been a determining factor, whether your audience is your rich and powerful patron or the father of that ten-year-old girl you’re hoping to marry before she turns eleven and gets all old and wrinkly.

When the printing press came along, there started to be some short-short-short works, but they were mostly pamphlets about feeding your enemies’ rotting corpses to worms (paraphrasing Martin Luther, I think). They weren’t stories, for the most part. Stories were still either tales you told to anyone bored enough to listen, or hefty gold-flaked luxuries that you wouldn’t be able to finish in one trip to the chamberpot.

My German is shamefully rusty. This is either Martin Luther's "Concerning the Jews and their Lies" or liner notes from Rammstein's second album

But eventually the printed stories got shorter, most likely because of the spread of magazines and newspapers, and we witnessed the golden age of the serial and later, the short story. There was this notion among most writers that the reader would want to read the story in one sitting, usually in a comfortable chair with a pipe or a Lucky Strike handy. In those days, people still thought of radio and television and swingers’ key parties as a once-in-a-while thing.

I blame Donna Reed for causing short stories to bleed out from the hip. TV was the new deal, and short stories were being read less and less. Reading fiction started to be something most people did once in a while, rather than being the go-to activity for people who’d never gone in for stickball or beating the Irish. Eventually reading was something you might consider doing if you had a book handy, or if you were stuck on the bus, or if your parents told you that there’d only be one hour of TV per night, and as long as you live under my roof…

You can tell she'd DESPISE everything you ever wrote for your college lit journal.

Then the Internet came along and shoved a rusty blade into the glittering belly of television, and people started reading again, even if that reading consisted mostly of bulletin board arguments about Hitler and the occasional subscription plea on the freemium clown porn site. In time, some visionaries even declared that the short story would thrive once again, and every semi-pro writer with a love of the short form and a desire to never have any money ever, ever again launched their own online fiction magazine.

And here we are. Online magazines are buying short fiction, some for as high as a tenth of what you could get for the same length sixty years ago. That’s some serious penny bingo cash. Meanwhile, rebels and fools (I won’t say which label describes me) are throwing their short stories up on Amazon and Smashwords, hoping to earn some money for scotch and alimony and wondering how long it will be before people finish reading a three-thousand-word story and stop asking where they can find the rest of it.

It’s almost enough to depress a lonely writer with too many big ideas and not enough uppers.

But I have a theory, my friends, a way of making everything better.

I believe that the short story of the comfy armchair is being replaced by something similar, but different. I believe we are witnessing the rise of the novella.

Yes, that plucky little wannabe novel, always a few chapters short of a paperback, is a perfect vehicle for the new world of e-readers and smartphones. The reader loads it up on their device and reads it whenever they get the chance, carrying it in their pocket or purse, and hopefully not shoved up somewhere wrapped in two layers of plastic baggies in order to counteract the occasional cavity search.

Novella, and her cute and petite friend Novelette (I’m not sexist; they’re clearly girls) are standing by the wall at the school dance, fidgeting with their hair and chewing their gum, just waiting for any old awkward kid to limp over and ask if they want to slow-dance to whatever the 2012 version of Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses” happens to be.

Those novellas don’t have to be series, but Hugh Howey certainly makes a case for them with his dumptrucks full of Wool money. But they need to be long enough to engage readers whose only experience with short fiction was whatever they had to read in those high school textbooks about [...]

(I don’t know… I’m already falling asleep trying to remember what was in those textbooks. I remember the word “diversity” and lots of perms… then the room goes dark…)

I’m sure novels will remain the top-sellers for a while, but since it’s risky to spend two years writing and editing novel number one just to discover that nobody cares what would happen when a Tacoria on Mars hosts the Harlem Globetrotters for an Intergalactic Luau… you may want to try a few 30,000 worders on for size.

That’s my ingenious plan. Maybe. We’ll see how long the next few stories happen to be.

I’m not sure anyone can do 30,000 words on gnome sex. But if anyone can…

The Kobo Konundrum

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I’ve beaten this dead llama to within a pectolitre of its life more than once, but I’m at it again. As my therapist said, I’m nothing if not thorough (and possibly a narcissist).

Based on the ratings I’ve received, people on Kobo don’t like my ebooks.

Yes. Those people.

The problem with ratings (as opposed to reviews) is that you have are not provided a reason for the rating. So you need to use a soon-to-be-patented system now known as Libropannomancy (I’ll come up with a good name later): the art, science and philosophy of randomly guessing at why you got a bad rating.

Now maybe “bad” is a strong word, since two stars could be construed as “meh”. Either way, my Kobo ratings are lower than elsewhere.

So what is my theory?

Well, like most of my crackpot conclusions, this one comes courtesy of my wife. Thanks, wife.

My wife, as a card-carrying Canadian, owns a Kobo and not a Kindle or a Nook. She has bought some books and downloaded some free ones as well. Whenever she grabs an ebook and goes through the process of loading it on her Kobo (a convoluted process at our house), she gets really, really angry if she discovers the ebook she’s slaved over is actually a short story and not a novel. This is a person who knows full well that her husband writes short stories. Yet she’s still pissed.

My covers usually have “a short story” somewhere on them, but I’m not sure that little tagline is obvious enough. So I’m adding “A Short Story” to each title. This might not stop the low ratings, but it will at least give me an excuse to assume the worst about my writing. :)

Self-Publishing Standalone Short Stories: Time to beat a hasty retreat?

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I’m nothing if not jittery. It could be the caffeine, or the self-esteem issues, or the joys of being a parent to two spirited children.

I know that I can be too rash in my decisions, and that it’s always a good thing for me to take a breath and sleep on it and weigh the options and etcetera. I need time to let the common sense float in. That’s the number one reason I don’t own a gun. (Note to potential burglars: I do own other weapons for self-defense, and that may or may not include a crossbow.)

Right now my arm hairs are standing on end like meth-addled meerkats, and that’s because two of my short stories on Kindle are receiving the same complaints by readers over and over again: they’re too short.

Sometimes it’s packaged with other helpful criticisms about character development, setting, or that my writing reads like porn for children. Other times it seems that the reader is saying “I’d like it a helluva lot more if it was actually a full-length story.”

To Science Fiction readers in particular, and to Fantasy readers a little less so, the short story is a perfectly legitimate form of storytelling. But the short story has been dying a quiet death in mainstream fiction, to the point where I’m curious how many non-genre readers have even read short fiction outside of English class. (Yes, I’m aware that some people never took English, but these people are generally fortunate enough not to encounter my writing in their daily lives.)

Oooh! Oooh! Anecdote time, because anecdotes are almost like data: :)

My wife told me today that when she downloads an eBook for her Kobo reader, she sometimes grabs a short story without realizing at first. And by the time she does realize, part way through or at the now abrupt last page, she finds that she usually gets angry. It’s almost as though she feels she has been tricked into investing her time in something that’s for all intents and purposes not a real story.

So, based on my scientific anecdote, mainstream short fiction may not be considered “a real story”. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are scores of Fantasy readers who feel the same way. Science Fiction might be different, but I’m sure there’s still a large minority of readers in that genre who feel that only novels are worth reading.

I’ve released a large number of my short stories for free on Smashwords over the past two weeks, and they seem well-received. Meanwhile, I gave away 55 copies of one of my stories from Amazon, “Gnome on Girl on Gnome: A Love Story” on LibraryThing. I gave away 26 copies of another story, “Vegans Are F**king Delicious”, as well. The stories were not as well-received as I’d hoped; in fact, I’d say that from what I can tell, more readers disliked the stories than liked them. Not only is that a surprise considering the size of my ego, but it doesn’t match the feedback I’ve received through other channels for my other stories.

But there are differences between the stories I’m worried about and the stories that I’ve received positive feedback from readers and editors:

  1. The “good” stories are free, free, free. The Amazon stories are $0.99 each.
  2. The “good” stories are science fiction and historical fantasy stories, with a couple of humourous fantasy shorts. The Amazon stories are a strange flavour of contemporary fantasy/paranormal; I thought they were light and quirky, but my wife has informed me that cannibals and gnome sex don’t really qualify as “light”.
  3. The “good” stories are built around more traditional genre ideas, new spins on old tropes. The Amazon stories are weird, weird, weird, and I think they have a strange sexuality to them that could be a turn-on for some people and a turn-off for others.

I haven’t found any writers talking about self-publishing short stories being a bad idea. I know that Dean Wesley Smith talks about charging $2.99 for a short story, but I’ve also noticed many of his single short stories (5-6000 words) being priced at $0.99 on Smashwords. I personally think that even $0.99 is a hard sell for a short when so many authors are giving away their novels for the same price. But you can do $0.99 or you can do free; there is no in between for many ebook distributors. If I’m selling for $0.99 and people are saying what I’m selling is too short, maybe the only alternative is lower the price to nothing or stop selling those stories on their own.

It’s possible the world isn’t ready to buy standalone short stories. Not yet, anyway.

So what is a jittery writer to do?

Why, gather more information, of course.

So the experiment will continue. From Wednesday, July 17 to Friday, July 19, “Vegans Are F**king Delicious” will be available for free on Amazon. The following week I will be doing the same for a slightly revised version of “Gnome on Girl on Gnome: A Love Story”. (I’m listening to feedback on that one.) I’m also doing another LibraryThing Member Giveaway, this time for my Science Fiction Adventure Novelette, “Ghosts of Niagara”.

Maybe I’ll learn just what it is that’s causing the negative reaction. Is it story length, genre, or subject matter? Or maybe it’s just a sign that I need to critique the work some more and get some additional beta readers?

Hopefully I’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.

“The Hill Where Thorvald Slew Ten Skraelings” Published in On Spec Spring 2012

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The latest issue of Canada’s On Spec Magazine features my short story about Vikings in the dying Western Settlement of Greenland:

“You are not like them, Sveinn. They are blinded by their beliefs, and desperate to appease their jealous god. To them I am the reason for the plagues of cold winters and vicious skraelings.”

This is one of my favourite stories I wrote, and I’ve been eagerly waiting to see if my judgment is WAY OFF.

Obviously, you should buy the issue. Or better yet, buy the issue AND subscribe to On Spec for speculative fiction that’s just a little bit different from what you’ll find anywhere else.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Note: this mailing list may also be used as an early warning system in the case of either alien attack or the impending cancellation of the hit TV series Community.

So yeah… publishing a racist column is rarely a good idea…

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McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, an Internet-famous humour website, recently had a new columnist contest. One of the winners was a woman from Oregon who had a strange perspective on refugees from Somalia.

It was well received by some people, but not by others. Now #IDontHaveFactsToBackThisUp, but it looks as the people who liked it were mostly white, and the people who didn’t were mostly not white. A good rule to follow with racism is that if people of colour think something is racist, it probably is.

My forever-and-a-day galpal Safy pointed out exactly why this column is a problem, and why McSweeney’s should rethink its decision to publish it, no matter how ironic they were trying to be.

You should read Safy’s post. You really should.