Jan 27, 2015

Should Your Avoid Topical Issues in Your Writing?

Today I'm once again visiting my friend Janice Hardy, talking about tackling topical issues in your writing.

Stop on by!

Jan 21, 2015

Seeing Women's Issues From a Male Perspective

It's been over a week since my last post. I'm sorry about that. I've been dedicating a lot of my time to completing Red Skies so I can send it to my editor.

With this post, I'm fully expecting to receive some flak. And honestly, that's okay. I'm only human, and I'll say some things the wrong way. I'll own that, and try to correct myself if I don't manage to say this right.

I'm also about to get back into a topic which was a source of much debate for me last year; sexism. And I'm about to address a particular response to women's issues that I'm frankly tired of seeing. To preface, this is not directed at All Men (I can't tell you how much I hate even having to make that clarification, but it seems I do), but rather at any man who has seen an article shared detailing the experiences of women, and the negative consequences of those experiences, and felt compelled to comment with anything along the lines of "not all men do this", "this happens to men too", or any variation thereof.

Feminism takes a lot of heat. When it began, it was because women were generally seen as having a particular place in society and a role to fulfil, and if they stepped out of that place, it would be detrimental to humanity as we knew it. Years, decades passed, and we saw many feminists naturally become more frustrated and aggressive, as women were still not taken seriously in their issues. This was the start of the "RadFem" or "Feminiazi" movements that we sometimes hear about today. The perception of feminism shifted from "women stepping out of their place" to "women hating men and blaming them for their problems."

But therein lies the problem. Men, seeing a woman express her concerns, needs, and fears, and thinking "how does this affect me?" Guys, we're all horribly insecure. How could we not be? We have the media telling us how many women we're supposed to sleep with, how good we're supposed to be in bed, how much money we're meant to make. When we see someone with a problem that might, in some way, relate to us, we go into defensive mode. So "how does this affect me?" becomes "are they blaming me for this?"

We don't stop and think "how can that person's situation be made better?"

There are three fundamental obstacles that hinder a person's ability to help another with an issue:

  1. The issue does not affect them directly
  2. Inability to see from the other person's perspective how the issue affects them
  3. Inability to understand the difference between "I want you to understand my problem" and "I want to blame you for my problem."
Now imagine you're a straight white man. All other issues of economics, health, and education being equal, a straight white man has a significant advantage over a person of any other gender, skin colour, or sexual orientation. The circumstances of your life have told you one of two things: (1) You are supposed to strive for everything you desire, and/or (2) you are entitled to have everything you desire. These carry with them certain pressures. We want things, we feel we deserve them, and we worry that we'll be judged if we don't achieve them.

So when a woman says she's suffering unfairly, it's a common instinct to go "Hang on, I've worked hard to get where I am, why should she be treated better than me just for being a woman?" 

What many men don't realise is that for as hard as we work, most women have to work harder, or with obstacles we're not aware of, to achieve the same amount.

Another common reaction is "Well I didn't do that to her, so why am I being blamed?" This comes from that insecurity I mentioned before. If a woman is telling us about a problem, she must think we're to blame, right? But that's not what's going on. The single biggest thing standing in the way of equality, no matter which group you're dealing with, is getting other people to take your issues seriously. That's the goal, here. When you see someone sharing an article about how women frequently avoid walking home alone at night, or have a friend informed when they go on a first date, just in case they're assaulted, they're not saying "I blame all you men for this." They're saying "I wish you could understand why this happens, and why it's a problem."

So what can we do? Not Men, as a collective, but men, as individuals? If we're not the ones to blame, and we're compassionate enough to realise that another person's problems are important even if they don't directly relate to us, what can we do?

It's not about us

We don't have to (and shouldn't) bring every conversation on women's issues back to how men are affected by similar things. Yes, men suffer from unique issues too, and those things should be addressed, but there's nothing constructive, when a person says "I've got this problem" by responding with "Yeah, but what about my problem?"

It's not all-or-nothing

It's not all men that are rapists, but it's certainly enough men, and enough women are held to blame for being a victim, that there are serious problems with how we address the issue. It's not that every time a woman expresses an opinion on a comic book cover or video game that she'll be persecuted, but it's enough times that we should examine why it is that a man's opinion on these matters is given more credence and leeway than a woman's. It's not that men never get raped or abused or the victims of violence, but that these are usually in different enough circumstances that the problems and potential solutions are not always the same. 

It's about listening

There's nothing to be gained by speaking over someone who's trying to speak up for themselves. Step back and let the woman speak, see what she has to say, without jumping to conclusions. When you really listen to someone's problems and try to understand how this effects them and why they're coming out with it, you can learn some amazing things.

It's about compassion

If you'd been attacked or hurt, and you went to someone for help, you'd want to be treated with compassion. If someone you loved was hurt, you'd care. Give the compassion you'd like to receive, and spread the care you'd give to others, regardless of their relationship to you. It's incredible the different a simple "That's awful, are you okay?" can make to someone who's been through a traumatic incident.

It's about working together

I'm a member of HeForShe, the UN's new movement to get men and boys involved in women's rights. I was once, long ago, the kind of guy who thought feminists were all killjoys who wanted to blame men for their problems and take all the fun stuff out of movies and games. But I started listening to women and realising that what they were asking for was no more than I'd want for myself, to be treated fairly, without their gender becoming a deciding factor in their career or social situations. And I learned that if I didn't want to think that women were blaming me for mistreating them, then I should start by not being the kind of guy who mistreats women, whether that be by my actions, my words, or even how I think about women's issues. I stopped getting defensive and trying to explain how I was "not that kind of guy" and started responding to what was actually being said. 

Guys, most of us are basically decent. Let's start making sure that enough of us act that way.

Jan 12, 2015

A Turn of Events

Last week I was talking about trying to raise the money to pay for Red Skies to be edited.

This week I'm delighted to say that, thanks to a refund of overpaid tax, I have the money to get the edits done! This places me nicely on schedule, as work on the manuscript is going well, and I'm on track to have the first draft completed before the end of the month.

I still need to see how the edits themselves go, and have a cover designed, but all going well I think the book should be ready for release some time in the spring. I'm very excited. This series means more and more to me every day I work on it, and it's been an exciting challenge to push myself into a new genre and to tackle new themes. More than anything, I think Lady Raven was what really made me realise that I wanted to write stories to show that monsters can be beaten.

I'm hopeful that I'll get the print version of Lady Raven re-released soon, too. I'm planning some promotional stuff to go with it, and if anyone would like to help, by hosting me for a guest post or interview, or doing a review of the book, please get in touch.

So stay tuned and sign up to my mailing list to keep up with the latest news and promotional info.

Jan 8, 2015

Thoughts on Stacey Jay

Some of you may have heard about Stacey Jay, the pen-name of an author who set up a Kickstarter for the sequel to an earlier book after her publisher decided not to continue with the series. For those who haven't, what happened was that there was some backlash to the fact that she stated that around $7,000 of the $10,500 goal would go towards "mortgage, groceries, and gas for my family during the three months it will take me to write the book."

Now, Kickstarter has this guideline against "fund me while I do X." The money raised has to go towards a specific project, which must result in some product at the end. Let's put a pin in that for now.

Stacey advised potential backers that she wanted to take three months to concentrate on this book, as opposed to using some of that time to work on other writing projects which she knew could earn her money. In other words, the extra money she was hoping to raise was in order to bring out the book sooner than if she'd had to work on this book alongside other projects. And she was honest about that.

But there was a negative response to this, with some questioning whether it was appropriate to take Kickstarter money and put it towards something other than the creator's own expenses. Stacey seems to have been having a hard time of late, and this wound up being the final push that has left her deciding to cancel the Kickstarter and give up on her pen-name, at least for a while.

I'm left trying to figure out where the line is drawn between a creator's freedom to use their funding as they feel is required, and a backer's rights to decide how their money is spent. When you pre-order a book on Amazon, for example, you would never assume that the royalties the author earns will only be spent on editing and cover design. Leaving aside the specific amount of money being requested up-front, if someone's willing to pay $10 for an ebook, and they get the ebook as promised, whose business is it how exactly the money is spent?

I asked over on Chuck Wendig's blog, but didn't really get a response from the naysayers I was addressing, what is the difference between the following:

(A) An author asking for $10,000, on the understanding that $7,000 of that would be used to ensure that the book would be released in 3 months.

(B) An author asking for $3,000, on the understanding that the book would be released in 6 months, but receiving $10,000, and as a reward for the enthusiastic backers, deciding to leave aside other projects and release the book 3 months early.

Kickstarter is a great tool. It's yet another way for authors to bring their work to a quality that can compete in today's market. It's probably not right for me, at the moment, and yes there are Kickstarter projects I haven't backed because I don't like the reward levels offered or the amount I would have to pay to receive what I'd want from the creator. I've seen publishers offer the chance to write a book for them as a reward for backing a project at a certain level. I've seen people set up a Kickstarter to fund their pledge for another Kickstarter. I don't approve of these, so I don't back them. I might even bitch to a friend about it. But I don't take the creator to task for it.

When a man can receive $55,000 to make a batch of potato salad, what is inherently wrong with a woman trying to see if there's enough reader interest in a book that she can devote her full attention to writing it? Particularly when compared to the likes of the guy who took $122,000 (after a $35,000 starting goal) to produce a board game and simply cancelled the project, claiming the money was all spent and the game couldn't be made, with no explanation of where the money had gone except for a vague summary of costs, including using some of the money to move back to Portland.

People use Kickstarter to raise money for business projects. Business projects are intended to make money for those behind them. If you don't like the idea of someone making money off of things they create, perhaps don't back Kickstarters? Or buy things. At all? I don't know. Perhaps Stacey Jay would have been better off just asking for money and not telling the truth about her intentions.

What do you guys think? Am I way off base here, and Stacey was engaged in truly unethical practices, or is the answer to seeing Kickstarters you don't like to simply not back them?

Jan 6, 2015

Give Me Money!

I was running some numbers yesterday. I need to raise money in order to pay for the edits on Red Skies. Without these edits, I'm not comfortable sending the next book in the Lady Raven series out into the world.

Unfortunately, my current book sales aren't coming close to covering what I need, and I don't have enough disposable income to shell out the amount I need.

I looked into Kickstarter, since it seems to be the hot thing for many authors, musicians, and game developers. But if I've done the math right, in order to account for possible stretch goals and reward levels that would include hard copies of books, I would have to raise over three times the amount I expect to need, per book. Given that the very people I'd be turning to to back the Kickstarter are the same people I'd be turning to to buy my books in the first place, I don't see the logic in this. While hitting stretch goals would mean that backers could get all three books for about €10, that is very unlikely.

See, in order to make sure that backers weren't getting screwed over, paying above the odds post-release, I would need almost 2,000 people to back a Kickstarter that would result in being able to release just Red Skies. To say nothing of the third and fourth books in the series.

But, if 2,000 people bought any one of my books, I would earn enough to cover the editing costs for Red Skies, easy. And it would have the added benefit of increasing my ranking on Amazon and free up a lot of organisational time that I can put to writing more books.

So folks, if you've read any of my books and want to read more, particularly if you want to see the Lady Raven series continue, buy more of my books! Hire me as an editor or tell your writer friends about my services. Buy my books as gifts. Tell people how much you enjoy them. Leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and blogs. If you're a published author, and you're willing to be quoted on my site, on Amazon, or on my cover copy, tell me what you've thought. Anything at all will help.

A question to get some discussion going: What encourages you to pick up a book? Knowing the author? Amazon reviews? Good marketing?

Jan 5, 2015

Announcing Origin!

My first blog post of 2015 is something special. Beginning this month, I will be releasing my all-new e-serial, Origin.

Will Thorne lives an obedient life. He goes to work to support his mother and brother. He follows the law. He reports dissident behavior. He looks the other way when a police officer brutally subdues a suspect. It's easy for someone like him to get by in a world controlled by the men and women who watch over the people. The ones with the powers. The ones who once wore masks.

But Will's obedience is put to the test when his brother's criminal activities finally catch up to him. After a terrible accident, Will finds himself imbued with unique powers of his own, and conscripted into the ranks of the Power and Authority Department. 

Finding himself on the other side of the protests and barricades, using his superhuman abilities against ordinary people desperate for freedom, how far can Will push the limits of his  conscience? Will he become another part of the oppressive forces that rule the world? Or will he find the strength within himself to rise against his superhuman masters, and show the world what a real hero can do?

Obedience, Part 1 of Origin, will be released on January 31st, initially through Wattpad. Sign up and follow me there to read for free! Following this, I will release it, and future installments, on Amazon, for Kindle.