Monday, September 29, 2014

Who Do We Have To _____ To Get a Little Respect Around Here?

Guest post by Lorraine Devon Wilke

The following blog post caught my eye, and I thought I had to do what I could to bring it to more readers. The author, Lorraine Devon Wilke, graciously agreed to let me re-blog it.

Read the original on her blog, After the Sucker Punch. And if you agree, please share and promote this post as much as you can.

The cheers of indie authors who’ve FINALLY found outlets for their books—whether Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, indie bookstores; wherever—can be heard far and wide from every corner of the globe. It’s been loudly exclaimed by everyone in the know that it’s the dawn of a new day for writers everywhere. After years of dismissal and disrespect from traditional publishers and their gatekeepers across every element of the literary landscape—from query letter browbeating, ice-cold rejections, overly possessive editors, and blasé publishers with no marketing budgets—independent authors have now taken control of their destinies and ventured forth, filters, limitations and grumpy gatekeepers be damned.

Good, right?

Yes, in some ways. In others, we indies are still very much the ugly stepsisters to our more vaunted and valued legacy colleagues. Don’t think so? Just today I clicked on the website of a “recommended book blogger” (whose name I will leave out for the sake of decorum) who seemed hell-bent on insulting those self-published writers who’d had the audacity to contact him for reviews. His FAQ page not only went out of its way to discuss how unreadable he found most self-pubbed books, but his hissing condescension about “amateurish” writers incapable of even understanding the word “no” led to a sneering pronouncement that he didn’t want to read, hear about, or otherwise experience the books of said authors and, therefore, please don’t waste his time by contacting him.

Sheesh. The fumes of disdain emanating from his page practically choked me.

And he’s not the only one. Media sources abound with snitty-toned announcements that they DO NOT TAKE SUBMISSIONS FROM SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS (caps are theirs). Review sites that cover legacy authors free-of-charge gouge self-pubbers in the hundreds of dollars. Feature writers who ooze admiration for the latest debut novelist from the Big 5 have actually figured out how to roll their eyes on Twitter over the pathetic shenanigans of indie writers trying to get their attention.

We’re definitely the “not cool” kids on the playground and this persistent — and, in many cases, undeserved—marginalization makes launching an indie book all the more difficult. When the overriding presumption is that your book is—to put it bluntly—a piece of shit (a presumption with which I personally take umbrage), you’re not only starting from zero in the world of marketing and promotion, you’re climbing from less-than-zero.

Fair? No. But let’s face it; we kinda dug our own hole, we self-published writers. Despite the fact that the industry is changing and evolving on a daily basis, with increasing numbers of options and outlets available, and more and more authors—even some from the traditional world—opting to go the self-published route, the rickety stage set early-on was built largely by anxious amateurs eager to define themselves as “authors” before availing themselves of the various elements of true professionalism. 

There are still far too many self-pubbed books that are amateurishly written, with poorly edited copy and covers that fairly scream “I’m a self-published writer!!!” And, unfortunately, still too many authors who relegate those necessary services as negotiable rather than essential—a professional blunder akin to a restaurateur opening a bistro without a qualified chef, a decent waitstaff, or a well-designed room. The resulting customer and industry response (see above) is the sad and subsequent remnant of that miscalculation.

We are all, every one of us, tarnished to some extent by the mistakes of the early (and prevailing) corner-cutters, but those mistakes are, hopefully, being mitigated by the growing number of independent authors who do approach their work, their books, and their presentation with impeccable and unassailable standards. And that growing number (of which I count myself) deserve to NOT be automatically generalized into a category of “subpar” by media, reviewers, bloggers and the like. 

Just as many traditionally published books (to once again put it bluntly) suck, yes… so do many self-published books. Conversely, just as many traditionally published books are profound and not-to-be-missed works of literary wonder, so, too, are many self-published books.

That the aforementioned blogger and his snarky cohorts refuse to consider that is evidence of literary shortsightedness. Like geezers who discount useful technology as “newfangled” or antiquarians who bemoan penmanship while ignoring heartfelt emails, they’re missing out. On a gem. A “stunning debut.” A “keenly executed character study.” A really good book.

Their loss. But the unwillingness of the wider media to explore indie authors with the same open-mindedness—and vetting and reviewing protocols—implemented for those traditionally published, is creating a literary ghettoization. And the resulting deficit is felt not only by the writers being dismissed simply by virtue of being self-published, but by readers who have less access to those authors and their work because of that ignorance.

Just as self-published writers are obligated to evolve and demand of themselves the highest levels of professionalism, so, too, must accompanying media evolve away from their myopia and literary bigotry. If they do not, what is being wasted is far more than their time; also lost is the cultural embrace of much talent and many good books being written by courageously independent authors who deserve at least a look.

Follow Lorraine Devon Wilke on Twitter, Facebook, and Huffington Post. Her article archive can be found at Contently, her photos at Fine Art America; details and links to her other work @ Stay current with her books at Author Central, and if you a member of Goodreads or Shelfari, be sure to stop by and connect.

To pick up your own copies of After the Sucker Punch andShe Tumbled Down,” click titles and check back for updates at her Amazon Author Page.

Monday, September 22, 2014

We are entering the Negative Zone

Annihilus, copyright Marvel Comics
Parliament has reconvened in Ottawa, and the buzz is already about the next election—which could be more than a year away.
I’m bracing myself for a year of public negativity to come. In Canada, all the parties are already in full campaign mode. And in the US, the presidential election process will get going in 2015 for the 2016 election.
I know. It’s waaaayyyyy too long.
But that’s not the worst part. Worse is the tsunami of negative messaging that comes with elections these days. Politicos in the 21 century seem to believe that it’s a lot more effective to criticize your opponent than it is to put forward your own ideas. So we can expect a lot of messages like these:
·         “All my opponent’s programs have failed.”
·         “That’s socialist!”
·         “That’s fascist!”
·         “That’s against the spirit of the constitution.”
·         “That’s contrary to our shared values.”
·         “That’s tax-and-spend.”
·         “That’s catering to the corporate elites.”
Image courtesy Canadian Press
And even worse than that is the tendency to get personal. Then, it’s not even about policies that you disagree with: it’s a worse-than-useless, distracting pseudo-debate about “character”:
·         “My opponent is a lightweight.”
·         “My opponent has been in office too long.”
·         “He/she’s a dreamer.”
·         “She/he is corrupt.”
To me, that’s not politics, it’s a middle-school screaming match.

The negativity dilemma

Most people I have spoken to, and most political commentators I have read, say they do not like negative messages. Yet, they must work, because all political parties use them. Some use them even when there’s no election campaign going on.
I find this whole process aggravating. It does not help me to decide whom to vote for. Sure, I may admire one candidate’s character, loathe another politician’s personality, but since I’ve never met them, I don’t think that’s any basis on which to judge a person.
But I’m unusual. It seems most people don’t make political decisions rationally. Well, we humans don’t make many decisions rationally. We “go with our gut,” fall in love and respond to a huge number of non-rational (not the same as irrational) impulses when making a decision.

Last week, I listened to a call-in radio program about Rob Ford stepping away from the mayoralty race in Toronto, and his brother Doug taking his place as a candidate for mayor. Callers were both in favour of and opposed to this series of events, but one caller in particular stood out for me. She said she favoured Doug Ford’s candidacy, because the actions of the two brothers showed the Fords are a “family that supports one another.” This spoke to their character, and apparently, means these are the kinds of people she wanted to be her city’s mayor.

What’s even more surprising was that this caller said she previously opposed Rob Ford, based on his policies. Her one-hundred-eighty degree turn was based on an emotional response to a candidate falling ill, dropping out of a political race and his brother taking on the role.

Image Creative Commons
It makes a romantic story: one man stricken by disease has to step away from a contest, so his brother steps into his place.

Personally, I try to make my political decisions rationally, based on the issues I believe important in the day, and which way the candidates will move on those issues.

I know. That makes me weird.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

A very proper proposal: boycott Fox News — and not just them

The only kind of fox thinking people should pay attention to.
Photo Red Fox #3 by Rylee Islit Photography. Used under Creative Commons licence.

Last week, the satirical site The Daily Currant ran a story saying conservative ranter Ann Coulter recommended that the US government purposely infect refugee children who arrive at the border with ebola.

It was a satire, sure, but it was shocking partly because it seems only a little more extreme, stupid and disgusting than the things Ann Coulter has already said. Like “…college campuses serve as sort of internment camp for useless leftists in wartime. We know where they are, this way. And, as General Patton said, 'I love it when they come out and shoot at me because then I know where they are and I can shoot the bastards.’” (Source:

Coulter never advocated (at least publicly) deliberately infecting people with Ebola, just shooting them.

The far-right crew spouting regularly on the Fox network and similar outlets has a habit of making comments and suggestions that collapse under the weight of their own stupidity, let alone a single fact.

Sean Hannity: “Here you are, you're a liberal, probably define peace as the absence of conflict. I define peace as the ability to defend yourself and blow your enemies into smithereens.” October 2009 (Source:

Bill O’Reilly: “Asians aren’t liberals because they’re industrious and hard-working”—2013 (Source:

Fox doesn't have a monopoly on stupid lies, of course. 

Rush Limbaugh: “So Miss Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.” March 1, 2012, saying that a woman who wants health insurance to cover contraception is a prostitute.

Sarah Palin: "Why are you even worried about fast food wages?"—on her own Internet TV channel.

Fox Noise—What does the Fox say?

In short, Fox News and their ilk of right-wing US commentators are not a viable source of information or analysis for anyone who likes to think to decide how to feel about the world.

They are great fodder for comedy, but that raises a problem: does commenting on them, even making fun of them, raise their profile even more? Give them credence?

The uproar that Rush Limbaugh causes every time he makes an especially horrible comment feeds his ego and his career, proving to advertisers that he can draw an audience. And encourages him to say even worse things.

Very proper foxies

“Very Proper Charlies” was a novella by Dean Ing, published in 1978 about journalists thwarting terrorism by refusing to report it. Terrorism in the 1970s seemed almost innocuous compared to today: it usually involved hijacking a plane and threatening to kill passengers one by one until their demands were met, as opposed to the mass killings of the 21st century.

In the story, journalists theorized that if the goal of terrorism is to attract media attention to a cause, then the solution would be to ignore it. The logic was “if we didn’t report it, the terrorists would have no reason to spread terror.”

Journalists around the world stopped reporting any terrorist attacks. In the story, when the terrorists realized their antics were no longer effective, they gave it up.
I don’t think this a realistic approach to solving terrorism. But it may be a useful approach to silencing the verbal bullies. Let them talk; just don’t listen. Tune out.

They’re all on various commercial media and dependent on advertising. If thinking people stop reacting, and more importantly, stop listening and watching them, their sponsors will notice, eventually, that the audience is declining and stop paying them. And finally, they’ll be silent.

So this is my proposal: to counter the hate-filled and false prophets such as those I’ve listed, but not limited to them, let’s boycott them. Thinking people everywhere, ignore the Coulters, Limbaughs and their ilk in all languages. Don’t tune in to Fox News, read the newspapers or visit the websites of those who use lies and made-up bullshit to mislead people.

This strategy may take a very long time to have an impact. It may not work at all. But it’s an experiment I’d like thinking people to try.