The Dragon That Can’t be Fought

With the demise of Borders, the battle of eBooks is one that is primarily fought between Barnes and Nobles and Amazon. I won't discount Kobo, Sony or Apple, but in my mind they are three minor players in this particular battle. For my own part, I have a Kindle. I've had one for roughly three years now and I love it. If I were stranded on a desert island with only one piece of tech (and a solar charger) I would choose my Kindle without a seconds hesitation. Out of all the little gizmo's I have, it is without a doubt my favorite one. It even beats out the iPad, upon which I am writing this right now.

Chances are though, that if I had a Nook, it would be my favorite device. Really, the eReader itself is just the platform that allows me to enjoy well over 300 books on a device that weighs less than a paperback. I know, I know. Some people will go on and on and on about how you just can't read without the feel of the paper turning or blah blah blah. Sure, your physical book doesn't need to be recharged either…but that's not really much of a concern anymore. I plug the sucker in once a month and I'm good to go, despite how bloody much I can read when I really get into something.

Whether you like it or not, whether you have a Nook, or a Kindle or a Kobo or just use your cheap Android tablet or even your phone, eBooks are here to stay. Here me now, believe me later if you must, but eBooks are to Books, as mp3s were to CD's (as CD's were to tapes). And this is the point: There will always be a place for physical books, but the eBook will be the future, and just like with the music industry dragging its feet when digital music came about, the established publishing industry is having to be dragged into the future kicking and screaming.

Right now, Amazon is using some pretty shadey tactics to dictate its own terms to the publishing industry. Take the recent frakas between Amazon and Hatchet. Its really hard to brand Amazon as anything but the heavy of the piece. Yeah, they might be trying to get a better deal for authors, but they're also trying to get a better deal for themselves, and that's probably the most important thing for them. With every move it makes, Amazon is trying to corner more and more of the eBook market, and largely, its kicking ass.

The major publishers, the Big 6, (or is it 5 now?) don't like this. And I can understand why they wouldn't. Amazon is doing all sorts of crazy shit, like making an all you can read eBook service that tastes a lot like Netflix for books. Lets all remember what exactly Netflix did to Blockbusters for a minute. Anyone been to a Blockbuster lately, except for the going out of business sales? They're offering royalties that make a LOT of authors (myself included) wonder why they'd want to go with a traditional publisher. Not only that, but they're doing their level best to make sure that those same authors keep their books with Amazon as exclusively as possible. They've offered eBooks for a nominal price if you've bought the physical book with them any time in the past. You can RENT school books from them. They just introduced a book crowdsourcing service for indie authors that give some pretty good incentives for non-established authors.

You see that big list of stuff Amazon is doing up above? Every one of those things is something that the Big 6 should have doing. The problems they are having with Amazon being too big and powerful now? Its entirely their fault. Is Amazon right in throwing its weight around? Eh… I don't know. Will we regret it if they get an effective monopoly over the new publishing world. Most likely. Still, if the Big 6 don't like how Amazon is using its power now, they have only themselves to blame.

Seriously guys. This was your game to lose and, lets face it, you're losing. You even had a ready made ally in your corner in Barnes and Nobles. Their entire business was built on selling books… and now its half selling books, half selling other stuff and coffee. Not only that but there's TONS of indie bookstores you could have worked with. A year after Amazon started doing its “buy a physical book and get the eBook for a little more” thing, I still can't go to a Barnes and Nobles, buy the book and also get an eBook sent to me, even if I owned a Nook. That's just plain stupid.

I'll admit, several publishers are coming around, getting wise about how winds in publishing are going to blow. Tor and Baen are getting pretty good in the new digital world, as I would expect from people who publish genre fiction. It used to be you couldn't even buy Baen eBooks on the Kindle, BUT you could buy them from their own site, and all their books were priced damn good, were free of DRM and came in multiple formats. They didn't NEED to work through Amazon because they went and made their own system. If a publisher their size did it, there is absolutely no reason why the Big 6 couldn't have. If readers knew where to get their authors for cheaper, Amazon would lose a lot of its gas. Or at least, it would have.

Instead, the big publishing houses got scared of piracy. They slapped DRM on their books and raised prices because…reasons. I would love a reason from Penguine why the Dresden Files eBooks actually used to cost MORE than the paperbacks. No no… I'll wait. I am a Dresden Files FANATIC and I would have snapped them up without hesitation, even though I already own most of the paperbacks, and some hardcovers. But when you tell me that I have to pay $2 MORE for the eBook than I paid getting the paperback, there's something wrong with your brain. Its mistakes like that and many others that put you in your current position, and Amazon in their's.

I had brief hopes that the book publishing industry wouldn't have to learn the same lessons that the music publishing industry had to learn. Unfortunately, it seems that change is scary no matter what your business in. But hey, maybe its not too late. Like I said, its still your game to lose Big 6. If you want to beat Amazon at its own game you're going to have to start changing your mindset. If you embrace the digital change, start treating your authors better, and start courting the indie, there's no reason you can't take some of your own back. Not that you will… but I live in eternal hope that someone will listen to my advice. Now, if anyone of you is interested in an increasingly epic fantasy about an evil empire cast in the role of the good guys, I will instantly rewrite this to cast you as the hero of the piece. Let me know. I will completely be your bitch for a good publishing deal. Just sayin'. Think about it. Call me. Please?

Alright. Yeah. I'm coming on a little too strong. How about we give it a couple days and see how we're both feeling then?


Tropes Vs. Women in Video games deserves your respect

Every time Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency and Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games, comes out with a new video in her series, I feel like I need to write a post because the same thing happens every time. Before we get going into this I’m going to set the tone. Do I agree with absolutely everything Anita says in her videos? No. I think that some things she points out are reaching a little too far, and that storytelling should excuse some of the faults she points out. We’re not going into those because they don’t matter.

Why don’t they matter? Because they’re her opinion and she has every right to express herself online and the sad fact is, that while I may not agree with her on some points, she raises a great many concerns that I agree with whole-heartedly. Even if I didn’t agree with her, she has every right in the world to express her opinions and concerns with the gaming industry freely and without fear of being singled out.

Is that what happens? No. With every new video she is met with an ever increasing amount of bile and misdirected rage. Bile? No, that’s not quite the right word. Let me try again. For the simple crime of speaking her mind and standing up for what she believes in she is met with behavior so foul and putrid, so revoltingly infantile and rank, that bile would be a considerable step up. There are times it makes me ashamed to call myself a gamer, to associate with the group of moronic ass-hats that claim they are defending my hobby.

What sort of behavior am I talking about? Well, it ranges from standard troll activity, loathsome on the best of days, to threats of death and rape, threats so specific and threatening that Anita actually had to leave her home for fear of her own safety last month. Why? Because she says that video games have a problem with sexism. That female characters in games are often treated little better as props or eye candy for male gamers to fantasize about. What is she asking for? Not for the industry to change overnight, but for people to start thinking about it and to start pushing for a broader range of characters in video games. She’s not invading your home and taking away your Grand Theft Auto disc, but she is pointing out how differently the game treats its male and female characters.

For this heinous crime, she is reviled by an extremely vocal and disturbing minority of gamers. There is a level of contempt and anger directed at Anita Sarkeesian, and other women in the industry, that you’d expect to be directed at an ACTUAL murderer, instead of someone who’s saying “There’s too much violence against women in video games.”. From the hate directed her way you’d think that she was some sort of baby eating monster… but no. She’s articulate, well spoken, says things that people don’t agree with and has the audacity to be a woman while doing it. The nerve.

And Anita isn’t alone. Her treatment is more par for the course for women in gaming than it is the exception and this saddens me so much.  Zoe Quin, creator of Depression Quest and other games I haven’t played because I have no damn time, has recently been at the center of what can only be described as a “shit storm”.  Don’t believe me?  Read her own account of it.  Am I just taking her word for it?  YES!  Part of the problem is that some people (men) don’t believe women when they talk about the kind of shit they have to deal with online.  Me?  I tend to refer to John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory: Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Dickwad.  See the scientific research here.  Basically, we need to teach people that online is not different from real life.  What you do and say online doesn’t “not count”.  If you threaten to rape or kill someone online just because they have the audacity to have opinions or lifestyles different then YOU are the bad guy.  You’re the stain on society’s underpants.

The thing is, Anita is absolutely right. We need change in the gaming world. We need more inclusive games, we need more women protagonists who are more than just male characters with a different skin to give them boobs. We could really benefit from the stories that would result from games told from perspectives that aren’t aimed at “Male: age 15-35.” How many times do we have to tread over the World War II, first person shooter ground? There are different stories to tell, and different audiences who might love them.

I know.  I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, better and by smarter more eloquent people.  Just take a look, you’ll find it.  All I really want to do is take a stand and say that, whether I agree with her completely or not, Anita should be listened to, considered, and treated with respect. Everyone deserves that right; to be able to say what they believe and not have to fear that doing so will get their personal information leaked, and their very well being put at risk. I’m not saying you’ve got to agree with her, or with me, just don’t be a horrible, disease of a person about it.


Quick site updates

I know they don’t look the best yet, but I’ve put out a couple quick updates to the site. ‘Projects’ is now Stories and will be where I keep everyone up to date on what I’m writing and how far along it is. I’ll also be putting up a ‘Read the first chapter’ bit on certain items when time permits.

I’ve also added a new ‘Free Stories‘ that will feature tidbits that I want to share. These will be things that I might put up on the Amazon store as an option for people to buy after they try, so to speak. We’ll see how it works. For now, what I just finished for a submission this weekend – The Hard Truth. Let me know what you think!

It’s a bit slap-dash and could use some styling, but life is a bit busy right now.  I’ll get around to making them look nice in a few days, after the move.


Social Media – What I’ve learned so far (Part 1)

In the not too distant future, I want to be able to write, full time, and not be a homeless bum. The chances of this happening are somewhere between small and insignificant. depending on a variety of factors. One of those factors is developing and keeping an audience. Right now, I've got 136 followers on Twitter, picking up an extra one or two a week. I think that's pretty decent, considering that I haven't even DONE anything yet, aside from being my delightful self out where everyone can see. So, I'm something of novice when it comes to socializing on the web. That being said though, I've learned some very valuable things in the last few months. I wanted to share some of those things here, and maybe encourage some discussion on the topic.

First off; I love Twitter. It is the perfect platform for someone who's brain is as riddled with ADD as mine is. It's also great training for learning how to concentrate complex thoughts into as short a space as you can. You've got 140 characters to express an idea, feeling or carry on a conversation. Just from a reading standpoint, its incredibly interesting and fun. If you're a bit of an introvert, sharing short succinct interactions with people is perfect too. If you're an author, looking to build an audience, you could do worse than to get yourself on Twitter and start tweeting. There are a few do's and don'ts that come with it though. Here's what I've learned:

  • Do: Find yourself a good Twitter agent. No, I don't mean hire someone to use it for you. I mean a program that helps you keep track of the things going on on Twitter. In my browser, I use the TweetDeck extension in Chrome. It's fantastic! You can have several columns that show your main feed, the interactions that you have with other users and create custom columns for hash-tags (I'll get to this.) On my iPad, I use TweetBot, at least for now. I'm always bouncing from one solution to another on my iPad and iPhone, because the pace of development is pretty quick. I'm also open to suggestions here. Does anyone else have a favorite program?
  • Do: Find people whose content you enjoy. This is a lot easier than it sounds. Twitter has quite a few ways of discovering fun and interesting people to follow. If you're an author, I recommend looking up other authors you like. One of the first things I do, when I discover a new author, is find out if they've got a Twitter account. Authors will also interact with each other, tweet about new books they're writing or that friend in their network are writing. Plus, they have some of the best conversations on Twitter. Writers are really awesome people.
  • Do: Learn how to use “lists”. Twitter has an excellent feature that allows you to create sub-feeds, called “lists”. Are you following 1000 people and unable to find the tweets from the people you're most interested in? Make a list! You'll find that you follow certain people back, just to be polite or for other various reasons (I'll address this too) but you don't really want to read every stupid thing they post. To this end I've created a “short list” of people that I follow who have the most interesting and entertaining or educational tweets. I've also got an “author's” list that just contains the authors that I follow. Another tip: You can make your list public so that other people can follow it. Find someone on Twitter you like? See if they have a list. It may lead you to more good people to follow.
  • Do: Learn how to use hashtags. Hashtags are a handy feature of Twitter, and a couple other social networks, that let you “tag” your tweets by putting a '#' in front of a word. This lets users search on that term and find everyone who's tweeting with that hashtag. A great one for authors to keep an eye on and use is #amwriting. This is where Twitter has really been shining for me in the past month since I made a special column in TweetDeck for that hashtag. Its increased how many people that I'm exposed to and I've had some very fun interactions because of it.
  • Do: Jump into a conversation. Its weird, I know. Twitter will sometimes seem like a bunch of people shouting into the void. You'll probably feel like that when you're just starting out: Like you're standing on a cliff in the middle of no-where, shouting out into nothingness. You're lonely, you're scared, and you'd just like someone to come along and tell you that you aren't a gibbering mad person. I think a lot of people on twitter feel this way. The truth is though, you're actually in an infinitely large room, full of people who are largely talking to themselves, alone in a crowd. This, is stupid. There's people everywhere! You don't need to be alone, and neither do they. Go up and talk to someone. Use the #amwriting tag. If someone says something interesting, or funny, tell them. If they ask a question, answer. Make a cheeky response. Sometimes this will work, sometimes it won't. I remember getting royally chewed out once for being friendly, but that's the exception, not the rule, in my experience. Put yourself out there and make some friends! You'll be glad you did.
  • Do: Be polite, damnit! Seriously, this isn't a hard one and it correlates to the next rule, and its a rule, not a “suggestion” but we'll get to that later on.

Wow…this is ending up being a lot more of a post than I thought it would be. So, for the sake of sanity, and having some good content to post the rest of the week, I'm going to break this into two parts. So, stay tuned for the second part of this post where I go into the “Don'ts” of using Twitter. Until then, get on Twitter and have some fun!

 


Awesomesauce – Not just one of my favorite phrases

This week for #wanaFriday we’re prompted to post our favorite recipe and possibly a story to go along with it. So, this week we’ll delve into the origins of “Awesomesauce”!

As far as healthy eating goes, I’m probably not the world’s best role model. Now, I’m not saying that I won’t eat a vegetable if it gets within arms reach, but I’d be more likely to make it garnish or a side dish. Potatoes go great with steak. … Mmmmmm…steak. Huh…what? Sorry, I checked out for just a second.

Anyway, I love cooking, especially for my friends. I don’t cook a broad range of things, I tend to specialize and make something really well. What I’m known for in my group of friends is my pasta. I’ve got a few good recipes which I’ve honed and made my own, but my absolute favorite is the one that I came up with myself.

In our house, cooking tends to be a science … mad science. A lot of what we make starts with the phrase “I wonder what would happen if we…” Sometimes this works, sometimes not so much. But there was one fantastic success: Awesomesauce. (My wife, named it.)

Its actually pretty easy. Here’s what you need:

1. Marinara sauce of your choice ( Prego is good, but you can go with your favorite or make your own)

2. Alfredo sauce (Once again, your choice, but I like Bertolli)

3. Portabella mushroom caps (cut into smallish squares)

4. Fresh tomatoes, diced (You can also use canned)

5. Spicy Spaghetti seasoning (This is best, otherwise toss in some salt, pepper, oregano, and whatever else to taste)

6. 3 cloves garlic, minced.

7. About a pound and a half of a nice, spicy italian seasoning.

8. Red pepper flakes.

Now, I don’t have any idea of exact measurements, since I cook by taste, smell, color. But, I’ll take you through it as best as I can.

Steps!

1. In a good sized sauce-pan combine the marinara and alfredo sauces in about a 1:1 ratio. When you mix them together the sauce should be an orangish color (the real reason I decided to mix the two).

2. Put in the mushrooms and start the heat up, medium should do it. You want the sauce bubbling, but not bursting out of the pan and splashing all over your nice clean stove. … You did clean your kitchen right? Washed your hands? No… Eeeewwwww.

3. Put in the tomatoes, and garlic, add a couple tablespoons of the spicy spaghetti seasoning, and a little … just some red pepper flakes. Gotta be careful with those.

4. Cook up the sausage, drain off the grease and add it to the sauce. Not the grease, the sausage…. that would be gross.

5. Let the sauce simmer for a while. Basically you want to cook it until the mushrooms are nice and juicy, soaking up a little of the moisture of the sauce. While its simmering, taste it every now and again and adjust the spices. This is when you add a bit more of the red pepper flakes until the sauce has a little kick.

6. While that sauce is cooking, cook your noodles. You can cook any noodle you want, though I like the little spirally ones. They hold a pretty good amount of sauce.

And there you have it, my patented Awesomesauce. Change it, make it your own. Tell me if you like it.

What’s your favorite recipe? Feel free to share in the comments or make a blog post of your own for this #wanaFriday.

Other nummy recipes by my fellow #wanaFriday participants:

Ellen Gregory shares a recipe for chocolate pudding.

Janice Heck tells us about her chocolate dream dessert.

Cora Ramos also gives us a recipe ~ a recipe for murder.

Kim Moser Griffin poses a quandary:  meatballs and what?