On riots

Adapted from a conversation today on facebook, about riots in response to police brutality.

Have you ever felt like you were asking for something and being ignored? Asking and asking and asking. Mostly asking for something to stop, because it hurts you. And the people you’re asking just kind of laugh and ignore you? If they respond at all, it’s to make it a joke, or to tell you to stop being what you are? And eventually, you ask louder and louder, and they start getting defensive and a little uncomfortable and block you out, and finally one day you just start screaming, and they get upset because you’re hurting their ears and why are you so angry anyhow, you’re making them FEEL BAD, god damn, and maybe you eventually get through that the thing they were doing MATTERS to you and maybe they change a little, either because they understand, or maybe they don’t understand but they don’t like being screamed at either, and then things return to how they were, but maybe a little bit better in that one way.

And later, you’re being hurt again, in a different way. And you ask for it to stop. And you’re ignored and laughed at. And you know, KNOW that it’s going to end in screaming again and you’d really like for that not to happen, wouldn’t it be nice if they would JUST LISTEN and take you seriously and adjust their behavior? But they don’t and the whole cycle repeats. And there’s a little bit of improvement, but only a little, on a very specific issue.

And next time, next time…. you ask and ask…. and you know it’s going to end with screaming and they tell you how you’re HURTING THEM, why do you keep HURTING THEM and you try to explain but it takes another few cycles before they learn to try and listen before the screaming starts (or maybe they never do).

Have you ever felt like that? I’m curious.

For so many people, what I’ve described is just ordinary life. They would describe themselves in all the same ways you describe yourself, except there’s some element of their life they can’t, for whatever reason, remove themselves from. It’s just that their ordinary life features some element of oppression and diminishment that is so… typical… that those who have never experienced it can’t even imagine what it’s like because they accept that it’s normal. But it’s nothing very remarkable, nothing far away, no storybook suffering. It’s right there, ordinary. It’s the mother who works all day at a job and all evening running a household while her husband watches TV. It’s being careful when you drive because being pulled over could lead to death. It’s being told that you’re emotional, weak, a criminal in the making. It isn’t cinematic trauma. It’s just a life, underneath.

Some people speak of a line of civilians protecting the police lines as a way of ‘ending the madness’. I have no idea what ‘end the madness’ even means. How does a line of people in front of the police stop the police from murdering people? Aren’t they simply more potential victims?

Ah, I see. You explain. The ‘madness’ is the property destruction and looting.  Of course.  And you go on: Minorities must be like Dr. King: peaceful, and effective, and dead.

And so: you are continuing to make the same error as so many others: that the madness began with the destruction and the violence. That the murders are not madness. You are saying the screaming is the problem, not what prompted it. And you are idolizing a murdered man over all of the living people working every day to find a peaceful solution and being ignored, over and over and over again. They have been patient and they have been good, for decades since your hero was killed, and yet they are still being killed. How long must they be patient and must they be good?

Because I can tell you, from personal experience, that being good and asking quietly and politely for change does not produce change. All it leads to is death. And the reason for this is exactly what you are demonstrating: you condemn the aggression and ignore everything else in order to idolize somebody who you believe behaved appropriately.

Indeed, rioting is madness. It is a city’s tortured soul expressing itself. It is a city cutting itself. And a line of people protecting the police will not do anything at all to cure the madness. All it is doing is hiding the razor blades.

Violence never made anything whole again and the people protesting are the ones who know that best. The people who forget that are the ones in positions of power, because they are sheltered from violence. They drive people to the brink of violence and believe they can escape unscathed, despite the many proofs presented by history. I don’t know if they think, “This time it will be different,” or if they’ve been so sheltered from violence they no longer remember what it feels like to be driven into a corner with no other options left.

You don’t know the right response but you’re sure it isn’t violence? Yes. The ‘right response’ is making sure that what happened doesn’t ever happen again, and that power is denied to the people who assemble peacefully, while the people who do have the power to make the ‘right response’ choose not to, over and over and over again.

The ‘right response’ is people like you, older privileged white people, getting passionately involved before the protests become violent: using your power and your privilege and your concern for property to do more than armchair quarterback. The ‘right response’ is noticing and stopping this before a city screams. Yet again. The ‘right response’ is not on the victims. It is on us.

A blogging platform

I’m tired. I’ve got stuff going on in my daily life that provides a great excuse for being tired, so it’s okay, but all the same, I’m tired.

I’m managing to get my work done. I don’t do as many fun things with the handy small child as I used to when I had more free time, but he hasn’t complained. He may not have noticed. He works hard on his art.

And I’m feeling more threatened by the current political situation than I have since I grew up in the 80s on a military base. And the economy is hurting too many people I’m very close to, in too many ways. And I’m seeing dreams ground underfoot.

And I have to keep writing, because what else have I got? What else can I do?

And it’s time to blog again.

But I’m tired. And I don’t know what to say that’s positive, interesting, and instructional, and not a rehash of places I’ve already spent a lot of time.

So, let’s talk about how authors are supposed to blog as part of building their audience. I’m not good at it and I’ve been honest about that from the beginning. The only way I started this blog was by knowing, at the time, that nobody was reading it. I can write interesting characters, and I understand the idea of making myself into a character and turning my life into an entertaining story.  But all the interesting stuff in my day-to-day life happens around the handy small child, or inside my head. In the stories in my head, specifically.

This is what I think: that if I need to spend time manufacturing content for people to read on the internet, I might as well make that content fictional.

I mean, I like writing posts when I have something to say. Explaining how I do something, sharing something I’ve learned, commenting on an ongoing event. I also like writing posts when I want to rant, but I do less of that these days. But you can consider this a rant, if you like. A quiet, tired rant.

The internet is full of blogs. The writing blogosphere is full of blogs of a certain nature, blogs written by writers talking about writing, passing around advice on the best ways to succeed. It’s odd. Aspiring food bloggers don’t write about how you need to have a food blog in order to be a successful cook. You do, of course, need to cook– and writers need to write.  But I’m not sure how beneficial dutifully writing little nonfiction articles is to the business of crafting good fiction. And I’m not sure how helpful it is to selling fiction, because the people who read blogs on writing are writers, not readers.

I don’t like the popularity of the idea that you have to blog to sell fiction. I don’t like the focus put on crafting the perfect query, either. They seem equivalent to me. It might be helpful, but a lot depends on the audience and persistence and luck and patience and focusing on something that isn’t your fiction.

I saw advice somewhere that said it was easy– just cut out one of your TV shows, or get your spouse to put the handy small child to bed. And I laughed. I don’t watch TV. My spouse already bathes and tucks in the handy small child. It isn’t easy. Writing well isn’t easy, and writing great blog posts is a particular skill that doesn’t take a lot from fiction skills other than basic language arts.

I want to do my best. I don’t want to bore my audience. It’s convenient today that I had something on my mind that could carry me despite my lack of energy and general crankiness  And I certainly don’t want to lie to my audience, so it’s a grey post for a grey day. I could pepper it with exclamation marks, I suppose? And exciting questions! And list off tips you’ve probably already read before!

But instead I’ll just say:

Tomorrow’s storypost is called ‘Home is a Four Letter Word‘ and Friday’s story post is called ‘Monsters‘. And isn’t that the most interesting thing I’ve said so far?


Thank you for reading, and resharing if you have!


Looking Backwards

I’ve just read a list of tips from an author on how to help that author be successful. It boiled down to ‘buy the hardcover at a brick and mortar store the week of launch because only sales of physical books the week of launch contribute to NYT bestseller list. And ebooks don’t count as much for royalties, so please please buy paper books instead/as well’.

Which, well, okay. They know their own contract and royalty statements.

But I was bothered when, in the comments, a supporter said, “If an author doesn’t make good sales figures, they won’t be able to sell their next book to anyone!’.

That was true once, I’m sure. I’ve certainly read enough stories about authors needing to switch names and reinvent themselves in order to keep publishing.

That was true once.

I’m pretty sure these days any midlist author (with a solid readerbase) who made an effort could sell their books directly to readers if publishers decided to ditch them. It might not be as hands-off for the writer, and it might not be as many copies sold,  but I suspect they’d get a lot more money from each book,  including those elusive poorly-reported author-cheating ebooks.


I’ve been tracking the sales of 40 or so semi-randomly-selected novels in the Kindle store, via http://www.novelrank.com/ for more than a month now.

I’m hesitant to make too many declarations based on this casual study…

…but it is vividly clear to me that midlist authors published via the Big Houses in the Traditional Way aren’t selling as many ebooks as either the big names in fiction, or the big names in ebooks. So I can understand why they may not believe in ebooks. It’s actually really interesting to me, and my not-quite-a-conclusion is that there’s somewhat different audiences buying the indy ebooks and buying the trad. ebooks. (Although midlist authors generally have something I’ve observed as crucial to ebook success: an extensive backlist.) But the midlist books are selling solidly, all the same. You know. Midlist.

I do wonder how much price figures into it. I haven’t seen a shockingly-successful indy book at the $7-$10 price point yet– but a lot of the midlist backlist books are less than that, too. I’m sure buying a book for $3.99 is satisfying for many– for older readers (like me) it feels like old times, when that was the standard price of a paperback. And for younger readers, heck, it’s a blended coffee drink of your choice.

But the math is not hard. The royalty rates on Kindle-direct-published books are standard. There are observably ways and means for authors to earn income from writing without being Amanda Hocking. There are certainly ways for your favorite author to sell you books even if their publisher doesn’t renew a contract.


The only physical books I buy these days are for my son, or otherwise full of pictures. I’ve been known to say that I actually think an ebook is more valuable than a physical book. I can’t lose an ebook as easily as I can lose a paper book. I can’t damage an ebook as I can damage a paper book. Paper books are very nice for people who are organized, who are themselves gentle with their books, and only live with pets and children who never, ever damage books. And paper books are very nice as gorgeous, well-made luxury items. But comparing a cheaply-bound paperback, with a cover that will fade in the sun and paper that will crackle to pieces in 10 years (if the binding lasts that long) to a collection of electrons that I can read on my device of choice? Please. For me, the choice is clear.

So I only buy ebooks. I’m excited about the way bookstores are starting to try to get in on this action, with both Google Books and B&N, because I also like bookstores and for a long time it pained me to abuse them as I did. I’d like to buy from brick-and-mortar stores, but I’d like to buy ebooks from them. And I hope all the authors with contracts that allow them to be cheated of ebook sales get those sorted out in the future. I’m pretty sure the benefit to them will be enormous.