Authors and Other Persons

That’s not true, but I needed to say that so I could post this:

The first retweet was by Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Can you blame her? Who can resist a Billy Dee Williams reference?

John Scalzi is a science-fiction writer, and a former President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. For reasons passing understanding, he gained the attention of an unpleasant fellow who roams the ether under the modest pseudonym of “Vox Day.”1 This the second time in as many weeks that Vox Day, or “VD” as people have taken to calling him, has come to my attention. This is two too many. The first time, I learned that VD is also the author of a hilarious book entitled The Irrational Atheist (Wait… he was serious about that?!).

Scalzi has become on of VD’s favorite targets, and the unpleasant fellow has been trolling Scalzi’s blog, being sufficiently racist, sexist, and/or homophobic in the author’s eye to warrant an inspired response. In effect, Scalzi will donate $5 to one of four charities dedicated to fighting racism, sexism, or homophobia. Others has pledged to support his campaign and, to date, he has raised as much as $50,000. The good news is that there’s still time to get in on the fun.

I could go on, but really, Mr. Scalzi can tell it better than I can and already has.

  1. A play on “Vox Dei,” or “the voice of God.” []

Background

Senator Remington Jeffries is the father of Colin, our hero in Human X, and plays a much bigger role in the follow up novel, which I am currently writing. Since he’s is so important, both in the life of our protagonist and in the story to come, I thought you’d like to meet the man.

Beware, the following does get a bit wonky (politically nerdy, that is)…

Washington, D.C. — Senator Remington Jeffries is best known outside the Beltway as the man who orchestrated a revolt within Republican ranks, some might even say a revolution, leading to the formation of the insurgent Constitution Party. Before that, however, he served two terms in the Virginia House of Representatives before taking over his father’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. After eight terms in the House, he was elected to three terms in the Senate.

Unlike other conservative uprisings of recent times, the Constitution Party came from the center and not the far right. The change in the political landscape has shocked many experienced Washington observers from both the left and the right. The Republican Party has been reduced to an also ran in the Senate, while settling for a three-way tie in the House.

The Constitution Party’s relatively small delegation in either house is offset by it’s ability to form a majority with either party, giving it’s leadership a surprising amount of power during negotiations.

As the new election year of 2040 dawns, the senior Senator from Virginia sat down with this author to discuss the future of his party and his hopes for a possible Jeffries Administration after this November.








I have a love hate relationship with the back roads in that part of country. They are beautiful and, when you know where you’re going, a lot of fun to drive. That part about knowing where you’re going is key.

Back in the days before in-car GPS systems, I was in the Vienna/McLean/Tyson’s Corner area on business. I landed at Dulles at night and was driving to my hotel. If had gone right, I would have been in the brightly lit heart of Vienna. I went left instead and found myself in a semi-rural residential neighborhood. Back in those days (1995), the people in those parts didn’t believe much in street lighting. About once every block, the road I was on seemed to be named after a different Confederate general.

This was also before I owned a cell phone, of course. Fortunately, my search for a pay phone led me across the road where my hotel was supposedly located. If I hadn’t stumbled on that, I might still be roaming the wilds of Northern Virginia like a Flying Dutchman in a rented Chevy.

Characters

Senator Remington Jeffries is the father of Colin, our hero in Human X, and plays a much bigger role in the follow up novel, which I am currently writing. Since he’s is so important, both in the life of our protagonist and in the story to come, I thought you’d like to meet the man.

Beware, the following does get a bit wonky (politically nerdy, that is)…

Washington, D.C. — Senator Remington Jeffries is best known outside the Beltway as the man who orchestrated a revolt within Republican ranks, some might even say a revolution, leading to the formation of the insurgent Constitution Party. Before that, however, he served two terms in the Virginia House of Representatives before taking over his father’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. After eight terms in the House, he was elected to three terms in the Senate.

Unlike other conservative uprisings of recent times, the Constitution Party came from the center and not the far right. The change in the political landscape has shocked many experienced Washington observers from both the left and the right. The Republican Party has been reduced to an also ran in the Senate, while settling for a three-way tie in the House.

The Constitution Party’s relatively small delegation in either house is offset by it’s ability to form a majority with either party, giving it’s leadership a surprising amount of power during negotiations.

As the new election year of 2040 dawns, the senior Senator from Virginia sat down with this author to discuss the future of his party and his hopes for a possible Jeffries Administration after this November.








In Human X, the one and only time we see Ted, Colin’s original partner, he say he’s headed to Della and Lisa’s house. Presumably, Della and Lisa are friends of Ted’s and acquaintances of Colin’s. Their role at first is twofold. First they symbolize the estrangement between the two partners, as the two men seem to live in separate worlds. Second, they define what Ted’s world is, in contrast to Colin’s.

At the beginning of the story, Colin is defined more by his job than by her personal life. His friends are other lawyers, his social circle revolves around the legal community. They only meet because Ted was the target of a vicious gay bashing attack, and Colin’s firm was involved in a law suit similar to the one that bankrupted Tom Metzger and the White Aryan Resistance.

Like Antonia Milos, neither Della nor Lisa were originally intended to be on-stage characters, but of course, that changed and the two women had to first appear on the phone. Well, Lisa did anyway. Apparently, she’s one of those people who gets along with everybody, and she and Colin were always close, even while Della barely tolerated him just for Ted’s sake.

This was another way to highlight the separation between the worlds in which the two men were living. To Della, Colin was not only a workaholic careerist with no connection to the gay community, he was also the son of a prominent conservative politician who shared his father’s beliefs.

I don’t suppose it’s much of a spoiler to say that the plot hinges on the death of an important person in Colin’s life, so the first part of the book ends with a funeral. Being the old softy that I am, I couldn’t keep Della from showing up and reaching a genuine rapprochement with Colin. By the end of the book, the “intellectual apartheid” between them has melted away and she becomes a fast friend.

The lesson here is I have a hard time writing antagonistic female characters. Whenever I crack through whatever is eating at them, I tend to find something noble and nurturing. I don’t know what that says about me as a writer, but it does speak volumes about the women who have had an impact on me over the course of my life.

Coming Soon

January 22, 1973. The United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that no government, state or federal, had the power to outlaw abortion, that it was an individual choice. That has been the law of the land ever since, but many will not rest until that decision is reversed.

What would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned? My next novel drops you right into the middle of a world where that has already happened.

In the year 2019, more than half the states in the Union have outlawed abortion. A underground network has emerged to help women get to those states where the procedure is still accessible. Already facing harassment and arrest, they are suddenly confronted with a new threat as a serial bomber starts targeting their members. As FBI Special Agent Roana DeSanto hunts the bomber, her investigation is stymied when the victims she is trying to help are unwilling to trust her while she works alongside the same local law enforcement agencies that have been trying to throw members of the network, the bomber’s targets, in jail.

Coming this spring: The Coat Hanger Railroad.

Last week, I offered a small preview of my upcoming novel, which takes place in the year 2019.

For this week, I give you another:

Part of Valentina’s volunteer work involved holding the hands of terrified young Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish girls, and doing her best to translate for the doctor as he explained the procedure. She had seen the results when these girls went to back alley quacks, so when her adopted country went a little crazy, so did she.

She had to be crazy, to be sitting in this fast-food joint in rural Georgia, hundreds of miles from home, engaged in activity that almost every state in the old South had branded as criminal. If she had been in Alabama, she would have been aiding and abetting a murder, and subject to life in prison according to the new statutes on the books there.

In plain fact, however, she was helping to drive a pregnant seventeen-year-old girl to Ohio.

So, in the year 2019, driving a pregnant girl to Ohio is considered murder in Alabama. Very strange…

Editing

Here’s a confession. Even after the initial publication, Human X still needed editing. The original version contained more than its share of typographical whoopsies. It had been through several passes from myself, as well as friends and family, but I still heard from a reader that the book was run through with small errors.

Admittedly, I hadn’t been willing to part with approximately $1,000 or more it would take to hire a professional editor, and I still wasn’t in a position to invest the cash. I could do something else. I read the book again, but this time out loud to myself. Reading aloud forces you to see every word on the page, but not the ones that you thought were there because you could swear you remembered writing them. It’s not a totally foolproof method but it’s far more reliable than reading visually.

It’s not something that you can just knock out in one nine-hour stint. Even doing an hour at a time is mentally exhausting, and I’m was not even reading like I would if I were recording an audiobook. That comes later (but, oh yes, it’s coming).

Thus, I broke it down into a few fifteen-minute bursts, adding up to about an hour or two per day. That made it possible to keep up a real pace and finish in a little over a week. All it requires a fresh printed copy of the manuscript and a red pen.

Even if you have no intention of doing your own audiobook, this method of proofreading is worth the risk that you’re family and friends might think you’re slipping your moorings because you’re always locked in your room talking to yourself.

History

On December 7, 1941, Imperial Japanese naval air forces attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Unless your primary and secondary school education was completely deficient, you should already be well aware of this fact.

The Reader’s Digest narrative of the event tells us that the surprise attack brought the previously reluctant U.S. of A. into World War II. The tinfoil hat narrative also suggests that President Roosevelt and his top brass were aware of the Japanese plan and did nothing, believing the attack would finally get the United States into the war.

The theory that FDR allowed the attack to happen in order to go to war with Nazi Germany to help his buddy Churchill is almost accepted as fact these days. Certain right wing sources embellish it to suggest that Roosevelt and George C. Marshall, two “known” communists in their eyes, really wanted into the war to help their good pal Joe Stalin.

There’s only one problem with any version of this theory. It’s bullshit.

That FDR wanted the U.S. to join the war against Nazi Germany is well established. He had been gently nudging the country’s foreign policy that way for the last year, over the concerted opposition of isolationist politicians, so the conspiracy theory seems superficially credible.

But if that was Roosevelt’s plan, it was a stupid plan that should not have worked.

What most people forget these days is that from December 8 through December 10 of that year, The U.S. was only at war with the Empire of Japan. On December 11, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy declared war on the United States, finally getting Roosevelt into the war he wanted to fight.

And Hitler’s declaration of war came over the strenuous (but probably silent) objections of his top advisors. He was not under any treaty obligation to declare war, since the Japanese had been the aggressors. And his advisors were correct. After unwisely starting a war with the Soviet Union and its nearly bottomless supply of manpower, the Fuhrer gave the Brits and Soviets another ally, this one with a bottomless supply of natural resources and industrial capacity far beyond Hitler’s reach to capture or bomb.

In other words, Roosevelt’s alleged plan depended on Hitler being a complete idiot. In December of 1941, with the advance on Moscow just beaten back, Hitler’s idiocy was still mostly a rumor, and it was his declaration of war on the United States that confirmed it. Roosevelt would have no way to know that Hitler would cooperate in his plan. And since the United State getting into the war was not in Hitler’s interests at all, Roosevelt had every reason to believe that the Fuhrer would not play his part in the grand conspiracy.

Also, rather than get the United States into the war Roosevelt wanted, the attack on Pearl Harbor got us into a war with Japan that he didn’t want. And had Hitler not been so cooperative, the job of getting the country into the war in Europe would have gone from difficult to almost impossible.

In the early days of the war, sentiment ran vastly in favor of “getting the Japs first,” since they had attacked Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt and Churchill’s “Germany first” strategy was far from universally popular (and never really followed by the U.S. until the D-Day invasions of 1944).

Had the U.S. found itself only at war with Imperial Japan, convincing the American people to enter a “second” war against Germany would have been a tough sell. Germany would have been seen as London and Moscow’s problem. We had to lick Tokyo.

So we would have gone to war with Japan, leaving Europe to Britain and the Soviets. It’s impossible to predict what would have happened, but I suspect that first several months of the war in the Pacific, up through the Battle of Midway, would have been very close to what actually happened. After that, without the war in Europe to distract American plans, the counter offensive against Japan would have occurred on an accelerated timetable. It would not have been a whole lot faster, since the historic timetable also depended on the United States ramping up its war production.

Also, without a war with Germany, concerns about the Germans developing an atomic bomb would have seemed less urgent, and the Manhattan project would have been scaled back, given a much lower priority, or never happened at all. Whichever the case, it’s unlikely that the U.S. would have had an atomic bomb ready to use against Japan by the end of that war. Therefore, the invasion of Japan we avoided in reality would have been necessary. The consequences for Japan would probably have been devastating. People who are appalled by the use of the bomb against Japan should consider the impact of a million or more revenge-minded GIs rampaging across the home islands.

The altered course of the European war would have depended greatly on the fate of “Lend Lease.” Giving vast mounds of the U.S. war materiel to Great Britain and the USSR largely on credit was not universally popular in the States, and if we had found ourselves at war alone with Japan, it would have been even less so. It might even have been politically impossible for Roosevelt to keep the program intact as is, making very likely the program would have been cut back or scrapped entirely.

Without Lend Lease, I suspect that the United Kingdom might have successfully beaten Rommel’s forces in North Africa, but would probably not have had the manpower or wherewithal to undertake offensive actions against Sicily and Italy. With Lend Lease at least partially intact, I’d like to think that Great Britain would have been able to invade Sicily and Italy, and perhaps knock Mussolini out of the war.

Under neither scenario is there a cross-channel invasion of France. That was mostly an American initiative that Churchill did not favor. Without the U.S. actively in the war, I can’t see the UK having the manpower, materiel, and national will at that stage to successfully invade the continent. The war in Western Europe would probably have ended in a negotiated peace, with Germany still in control of the continent.

In the East, I believe the existence of Lend Lease would only impact the length of the war. Ultimately, the vast landmass and manpower of the Soviet Union would have worn down the German invaders. The Red Army would have at least beaten the Nazis back to the original Soviet frontier. With less of a war in the West, however, Germany resistance would have stiffened, stalling the counter attack. With or without Lend Lease, the war in the East also ends in a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany.

This post-war Europe looks much different than the one we have. France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Greece, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary are all Nazi puppet states. Czechoslovakia and Austria are permanently absorbed into Germany. Britain, broke and its manpower spent, has to toe a very careful line with Berlin.

The Soviet Union is probably worse off than it actually was at the end of the war, having had no help in beating back the Nazis. Whatever victory it achieved was probably at greater costs than in reality, and its ability to project its power worldwide is less than historically true. Possibly the USSR turns inward to licks its wounds. On the other hand, there is probably even more hostility toward the U.S., since we never got into the war with Hitler, and possibly even cut off Lend Lease.

Perhaps most significant, the millions of descendants of Holocaust survivors living today are never born. It’s likely the world suspects that something monstrous happened to European Jews but the exact details would be sketchy for a long time to come.

In Asia and the Pacific, the lack of a Grand Alliance means that the Soviets probably don’t commit to enter the war against Japan, which means no such country as North Korea, and no Korean war.

The continued Nazi domination of France probably means no attempt to reclaim its colony in Indochina, and the lack of Soviet presence in Asia means no communist insurgency against the non-existent colonial power. In other words, there’s also no Vietnam War.

I believe the United States emerges from the war much as it did in reality, strong and prosperous, but forced by circumstance to get along with the Nazi reality in Europe. But we do so as the predominant power in Asia and the Pacific. Our chief theater of post-war conflict is probably China. It’s impossible to know what all this means for that country. If the Soviets emerged from the war a lot weaker than they really did, it’s possible the communist victory in China is less than absolute or their civil war just drags on and on.

This is the world that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor should have created, had Adolf Hitler had an ounce of common sense. Fortunately for the world, he didn’t, and he gave Franklin Roosevelt the greatest early Christmas gift a maniacal dictator could give the world, the seeds of his own destruction.

Interviews

I first stumbled across Timothy Kurek on a LinkedIn group about book marketing. It wasn’t until a couple weeks later that a realized that he was the same guy I had been reading about, the former Conservative Southern Christian who went underground in Nashville’s small but vibrant gay community, effectively going into the closet as a straight guy and coming out a year later with his outlook profoundly changed. The book that resulted, The Cross in the Closet (read my review here), has earned the author an appearance on The View, been dissected on Huffington Post, and received glowing praise from no less a figure than Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Too often, issues surrounding our gay and lesbian neighbors get clouded by superficial discussions of sexual morality and abstract arguments about legal equality. Kurek’s book cuts through that and performs the not-inconsequential feat of bridging two communities who seem irreconcilably at odds, and opening a channel for communication, for those who choose to use it.


In the following interview, Kurek says his lack of a college degree was one factor which contributed to his early reluctance to go ahead with a book. I suspect he learned more about life in that year than a lot of college graduates managed to absorb in four.

I believe there are a few among us have, under the spell of curiosity, alcohol, or some really good weed, “experiemented” with a member of their own gender, but that never goes beyond the surface and past the moment. Kurek “experimented” with every aspect except the sexual for an entire year, immersing himself in the humanity behind the endless discussions, and the result should be illuminating for anyone willing to hold their own bias, about gays or Christians, up to the light he’s shining on the issue.

Upon reading the book, I thought I needed to have a talk with the author. He was gracious enough to agree.

Just For Fun

Common Goods, a bookstore in St. Paul, MN, and founded by none other than Garrison Keillor, has posted this delightful ode to the delight of buying locally.

Personal

When I was a kid, Bill Eadington was the likeable low-key guy who married my godmother, Margaret Dean. The Deans and McElligotts grew up next to each other on Coronado Drive in Fullerton, California. When I was little, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were cooked in both kitchens and passed over the side fence. On the Fourth of July, our two families, plus our neighbors on the other side, the Bakers, and another family down the street, the Marcons, managed to spread the party across all four yards. It wasn’t exactly Norman Rockwell, but it was close enough.

Bill EadingtonIn our little town, Bill was descended from citrus industry royalty. Back when the land around Fullerton was just one big orange grove, the Eadingtons and the Bastanchurys were the kings of the Valencia orange. There are still streets named after both families.

To rest of the world, for most of my adult life, William R. Eadington, Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada, Reno, was the go-to guy on the subject of the gaming industry. I’ll let his own school say it:

Eadington is the current holder of the Philip J. Satre chair in Gaming Studies, a professor of economics, and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). He is an internationally recognized authority on the legalization and regulation of commercial gaming and has written extensively on issues relating to the economic and social impacts of the industry.

That’s all true, but one fact alone tells me that Bill was a sharp cookie on the subject of the gaming industry. He didn’t gamble himself.

Bill died today after a battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, two children, Michael and Diana, and three adorable granddaughters.

He may have been the oracle of all things gambling, and flags are probably flying at half-staff from Vegas to Macau, but tonight I’m remembering the all-around nice guy who literally married the girl next door.

I’ll miss you, Bill.

Other Voices

Press Releases

Self-Published High-Tech Thriller Features Gay Character in “Jason Bourne” role.

June 27, 2012, Lake Forest, CA — Paul McElligott, of Lake Forest, California, has published his first novel, Human X, a futuristic thriller about a man who has lived thirty-five years unaware that he was the product of an illicit military genetic engineering project. He is publishing the book electronically on the Amazon Kindle™, the Barnes & Noble Nook™, and as a trade paperback edition.

Colin Jeffries is a fast-rising Beltway lawyer and the son of a powerful maverick senator who is almost certain to run for President in the upcoming 2040 election. He appears blessed with an almost effortless excellence at everything he does, but when tragedy strikes Colin’s life, he learns that he may have been the target of a misfired kidnapping plot, and the reasons go back to a secret military project from the turn of the 21st century. Forced to use his exceptional abilities to find the people behind the plot, Colin leaves behind almost everyone he knows and loves.

“This novel has been percolating in my brain since the mid-nineties,” McElligott said, “but I finally buckled down and wrote it late in 2011. It took many tries to get this story off the ground but I hit on something last fall that helped get my creative brain out of neutral.”

McElligott also added, “I believe self-publishing gives authors the tools they need to reach exactly the right audience for their work. It does place more demands on the author, who is now responsible for both the design of the book and business aspects of publishing. I also have to tackle the marketing myself, but that’s also true with a traditionally published book.”

As a high tech thriller, Human X is also unique is one respect. In addition to being highly capable and brave, as heroes are supposed to be in this type of novel, the hero, Colin Jeffries, is openly gay. “The decision to center the novel on a gay character happened early in my processes,” McElligott said. “This was back when the genetic origin of sexual orientation was first gaining traction with the public. The idea of the physically perfect man, the classic hero, who just happens to be gay, appealed to me as a writer for multiple reasons.”

“Beyond the challenge of exploring unknown territory, so to speak,” McElligott continued, “I think that, in the near future this sort of mainstream fiction with an incidentally gay hero or heroine will be common enough to be unremarkable. It’s satisfying to be slightly ahead of that cultural curve, even if it’s only temporary.”

Paul McElligott lives in Lake Forest, CA, and publishes under the banner of Castle Island Books. For more information, contact Paul via www.paulmcelligott.com.

Press Release: Lake Forest Author’s First Novel Pushes Back Boundaries (PDF version)

Publishing

As a general rule, I’m not out to hurt anyone with what I write (unless you’re a small-minded, bigoted, moron). So when I posted a story about newly minted British writer named Abigail Gibbs who, at the ripe old age of 18, received a six-figure advance for her first novel, The Dark Heroine: Dinner with a Vampire. I had no intent beyond poking a bit of fun when I posted the story to Facebook, when a snarky comment to the effect that it was wrong that someone so young be so successful so quickly.

At least I thought it was in good fun, but when the story got duplicated over to Twitter, I got an unexpected reply from the author herself. She was dismayed and insulted by the implication that her success had come too easily. I was surprised and then chagrined that she had taken such offense. I also gathered from her replies that she had gotten other less than friendly feedback and felt like I was just another hater piling on. For any inadvertent offense I may have given, I sincerely apologize.

Hopefully, that will entitle me to offer a little friendly advice:

  1. Don’t engage the haters, Abigail. They’re out there to drag you down and playing their game, letting them know they got to you, will just drain your energy from more rewarding pursuits.
  2. You’ll need a thicker skin to last in this business. Especially you. Early success breeds jealousy, and you will not be able to stop people from saying some pretty mean things. You can either ignore them or let them wear you out.

Abigail’s biggest beef was with the suggestion that her success came easily. She started writing the book when she was 14, and it took approximately two years, approximately 8 times longer it took me to write Human X. That’s working hard. And I’m not bragging about my speed, either. I did have the advantage of not attending high school at the same time. I still stayed up until 3am, too, which I could do because I was between jobs, and that’s why I finished in three months.

I would, however, caution Abigail to keep “easy” and “hard” in perspective. J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel while a single mother, living on benefits, writing when she could get her baby to sleep. Stephen King wrote Carrie in the closet of an unheated trailer, while working as teacher for poverty wages, after years of writing short stories for men’s magazines to earn grocery money. So Abigail worked hard on writing her novel, but she still scored a hole in one with her publishing deal. Again, it’s all about perspective.

I haven’t read Abigail’s novel yet, and to put cards on her table, I can’t promise I will. She says it’s inspired by the Twilight series and those are so not my cup of tea. My idea of a vampire story leans more toward King’s Salem’s Lot. On the other hand, Abigail says her main issue with the Twilight novels was that they weren’t ‘bloody or edgy’ enough, so this girl does seem to know what a vampire novel is supposed to be.

Regardless of my reading choices, Dinner with a Vampire is available for the Amazon Kindle for the princely sum of $1.99. If you’re at all interested in the genre, you ought to check it out.

Other than that… Congratulations, Abigail. Welcome to the club.

The Amazon Kindle was not the first electronic reader on the market. Sony had been marketing one for the better part of a year, but Amazon took the concept mainstream, making it the first e-reader that the average layperson could get his or her mitts upon.

Now there are a few players on the field, but the economics of e-book are similar and the Kindle still represents the bulk of the e-book market. Therefore, it’s a good model to use when comparing the numbers side of e-book publishing versus the dead tree model.


Let’s assume for a second that a big dead-tree publishing house is releasing your hardcover book at the usual price of (let’s say) twenty-four American dollars. Assuming a middling hardcover royalty rate of 12.5%, your share is an even three bucks for every copy sold. Your agent get his or her grubby mitts on 15% of your income, leaving you with a tidy sum of $2.55 for every copy sold.

Now, if you were to publish the same book yourself on the Kindle, you could pulled down the same three bucks (and more, without sharing a red cent with a grubby agent) selling the book for less than five dollars. Now, given that you and I are relative unknowns, I think we’ll both sell a hell of lot more copies at $5.00 than we would at $24.00.

“Yes,” you say, “but the publisher will promote my book, and I’ll sit next to Ellen Degeneres on TV.”

For the average author not named James Patterson, that moment typically happens shortly after pigs are seen soaring over the frozen landscape of hell. Most books aren’t promoted at all, or barely at all. As the author who slaved for hours in solitude, putting words after other words, you are also responsible for the heavy lifting for marketing your book, just as if you published it yourself.

And the sales and income from a book, published traditionally, wouldn’t start until close to a year after you signed a deal to publish your book, and that alone could take years to accomplish. Now you may never have a New York Times bestseller , but that’s true regardless of how your book is published.

So, to sum it all up:

  • You can make as much or more money per copy selling your book on the Kindle as you could from a traditional publishing deal, while selling your book for far less than the paper edition.
  • Even with a traditional publishing you will be the prime mover when it comes to publicity and marketing.
  • While you’re waiting for some traditional “dead tree” publisher to decide that your books is worthy of their efforts, it’s certain that no one is reading your book, and equally certain that you’re no earning any income from your work. Even if you only sell a couple hundred copies, that about $600 (using my example above).
  • It should be noted that self-publishing via the Kindle (and other mediums) does not preclude a traditional publishing deal later, and may help you establish a track record that will help you attract the attention of a publishing house. It certainly can’t hurt.

Of course, if you have any success as a self-publisher, you may not see a deal with a traditional publisher as a step forward. If you find yourself in that position, let me know, so I can spend some envying you.

In future posts, I will discuss the nuts and bolts of preparing your book for publication on the Kindle. I’ll also go into the economics of self-publishing the print edition with CreateSpace, as well as the various steps along the way.

As I make the necessary steps to promote Human X (and other books down the road), I will point out these steps and explain why I do the things I do.

Reading

As I said in an earlier post, the arrival of my Kindle truly reawakened my passion for reading. The ease of finding, purchasing, carrying around a new book whenever I wanted, all without requiring me to find a new space on my already crowded shelves, has turned me back into the reader I used to be. But that doesn’t hold a candle to what it did for my mother.

She was constantly reading as long as I can remember. A visit from my sister, Maureen, would usually involve the exchange of multiple books before they parted. But Mom is now 85. Her knees and back aren’t what they used to be. Spending hours browsing the shelves of her local Borders was no longer in the cards for her, even before Borders went to that Big Bankruptcy Court in the Sky. Some time last year, she was actually reaching the point where the stack of books next to her favorite chair was down to its last volume. At that time her knee was really bothering her, so the idea of going to Barnes and Noble really didn’t appeal to her. Then her youngest son came over with his new purchase, the latest (at the time) Amazon Kindle.

As an aside, no one is less technologically inclined than my mother. She could easily figure out the gadgets we all take for granted, but she can’t be bothered to give a rat’s ass. Mom still balances her checkbook with a printing calculator, because she always has and that works just fine. Why would she fix what ain’t broken? She’d also much rather order from catalogs than use the Internet. Thus, up until this point, she had barely taken notice of the existence of Kindles and NOOKs. They couldn’t be as good as a “real” book, could they?

Then I knelt down, handed my new toy over, and showed Mom how it worked, how easy it was to order a book, how much cheaper Kindle books often were compared to the print editions, and most important, how you could make the words bigger, making life much easier for her 85-year-old eyes. Before I left that day, we had logged into Dad’s Amazon account and ordered a Kindle for her.

When it came two days later, the words “like a duck to water” were never more apt. If Amazon’s Kindle operations have been more profitable since May of 2011, Mom can probably take credit for that. She has devoured ebooks like a competitive eater with a plate of hot dogs. I mentioned that I had sampled Sue Grafton’s A is for Alibi, and the next thing I knew, she has re-read the entire series.

So when I read Meghan Laslocky’s heartwarming article on Huffington Post, “How eBooks Saved My Father’s Reading,” I was instantly reminded of my mother’s experience. I agree with her. Book snobs who look down their noses at e-readers fail to appreciate the way they make accessible to many lifelong readers who, due to advancing years, aren’t able to pursue their passions without this technological assist.

I start a new job next week. It’s just a three-month contract, but the big downside for me is that the office is about two miles from home. What, you may ask, is the problem with that? I’m sure many of you would kill to have a commute that short.

Well, I guess you don’t listen to audiobooks. My most recent job location was just about perfect. It was about fifteen minutes to and from, and 10 minutes to and from lunch every day. That was about 50 minutes of audiobook listening per work day. When you are listening to a book as long as Doris Kearns Goodwins’ fantastic Team of Rivals, that is a decent bit of listening every day.

With the new job, I might not live long enough to finish that particular book. Unless, of course, I walk to work. That’s about 40 minutes each way. Fortunately, the job site has a gym with a shower, so my coworkers will not be subject to my sweaty aromas. If it wasn’t for Doris Kearns Goodwin, I would just drive.

Tools

For most people, GoodReads.com is a little like Facebook for reading. I guess they couldn’t call it Booksbook. Because that would be silly. It combines the social media aspect with something similar to DVD collection sites like DVD Aficionado or the late, lamented DVDSpot. You are able to list the books you’ve read, the books you’re reading, and the books you want to read. It also has a separate list for the books you actually own, so you can include library books and borrowed books on your reading list.

It’s pretty cool, and of course I’m just OCD enough to want to have the correct edition on my list, not just the titles. The database is thorough enough to make this possible most of the time.

If you’re an author, GoodReads gives you a platform to connect with a community predisposed to buy what you’re selling. If you’ve got a book out there, it’s probably in their database. Human X already was. Find your book, and click on the author’s name, which hopefully is your name. You can then “claim” the author’s name. I’m not sure how they verify it, but a few hours later I was a “GoodReads author.”

There were a few more steps. Fortunately, I only have the one book, so it wasn’t a lot of work. I had to upload a cover for Human X, then enter the data for the Kindle edition. I then needed to “combine” both editions, telling GoodReads that they were different editions of the same book. I’m not sure why it didn’t already know this, based on having the same title. Amazon automatically connected the paperback and Kindle editions for me. GoodReads is still a work in progress, but it’s already very usefully.

Once you’re set up as a GoodReads author, you have a lot of tools at your disposal.

  • A Blog – You can maintain a blog on your author page or just enter the feed information for your own blog, which is what I did.
  • Events – You can list all of your appearances here which you can also do on Facebook and Amazon. It never hurts to have that information in as many places as possible.
  • Groups – These are like virtual books clubs (and they can be actual local clubs, too. As an author, you can set up a Q & A group, which is a like a free-form, long-running public appearance, enabling you to interact with your readers (or at least the ones who have discovered GoodReads) in a structured way.

Most of these tools are available on other sites, especially Facebook and Amazon, but with GoodReads you are interacting with an audience that actually reads, and is visiting the site for that very reason. No one stumbled across your book while searching for a new hedge trimmer or photos from the last girls’ night out.

If you have some books out there, and haven’t checked out GoodReads, it’s worth your time to see what they have to offer. I think it’s one of the more useful tools out there for authors.

Venting

On December 7, 1941, Imperial Japanese naval air forces attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Unless your primary and secondary school education was completely deficient, you should already be well aware of this fact.

The Reader’s Digest narrative of the event tells us that the surprise attack brought the previously reluctant U.S. of A. into World War II. The tinfoil hat narrative also suggests that President Roosevelt and his top brass were aware of the Japanese plan and did nothing, believing the attack would finally get the United States into the war.

The theory that FDR allowed the attack to happen in order to go to war with Nazi Germany to help his buddy Churchill is almost accepted as fact these days. Certain right wing sources embellish it to suggest that Roosevelt and George C. Marshall, two “known” communists in their eyes, really wanted into the war to help their good pal Joe Stalin.

There’s only one problem with any version of this theory. It’s bullshit.

That FDR wanted the U.S. to join the war against Nazi Germany is well established. He had been gently nudging the country’s foreign policy that way for the last year, over the concerted opposition of isolationist politicians, so the conspiracy theory seems superficially credible.

But if that was Roosevelt’s plan, it was a stupid plan that should not have worked.

What most people forget these days is that from December 8 through December 10 of that year, The U.S. was only at war with the Empire of Japan. On December 11, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy declared war on the United States, finally getting Roosevelt into the war he wanted to fight.

And Hitler’s declaration of war came over the strenuous (but probably silent) objections of his top advisors. He was not under any treaty obligation to declare war, since the Japanese had been the aggressors. And his advisors were correct. After unwisely starting a war with the Soviet Union and its nearly bottomless supply of manpower, the Fuhrer gave the Brits and Soviets another ally, this one with a bottomless supply of natural resources and industrial capacity far beyond Hitler’s reach to capture or bomb.

In other words, Roosevelt’s alleged plan depended on Hitler being a complete idiot. In December of 1941, with the advance on Moscow just beaten back, Hitler’s idiocy was still mostly a rumor, and it was his declaration of war on the United States that confirmed it. Roosevelt would have no way to know that Hitler would cooperate in his plan. And since the United State getting into the war was not in Hitler’s interests at all, Roosevelt had every reason to believe that the Fuhrer would not play his part in the grand conspiracy.

Also, rather than get the United States into the war Roosevelt wanted, the attack on Pearl Harbor got us into a war with Japan that he didn’t want. And had Hitler not been so cooperative, the job of getting the country into the war in Europe would have gone from difficult to almost impossible.

In the early days of the war, sentiment ran vastly in favor of “getting the Japs first,” since they had attacked Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt and Churchill’s “Germany first” strategy was far from universally popular (and never really followed by the U.S. until the D-Day invasions of 1944).

Had the U.S. found itself only at war with Imperial Japan, convincing the American people to enter a “second” war against Germany would have been a tough sell. Germany would have been seen as London and Moscow’s problem. We had to lick Tokyo.

So we would have gone to war with Japan, leaving Europe to Britain and the Soviets. It’s impossible to predict what would have happened, but I suspect that first several months of the war in the Pacific, up through the Battle of Midway, would have been very close to what actually happened. After that, without the war in Europe to distract American plans, the counter offensive against Japan would have occurred on an accelerated timetable. It would not have been a whole lot faster, since the historic timetable also depended on the United States ramping up its war production.

Also, without a war with Germany, concerns about the Germans developing an atomic bomb would have seemed less urgent, and the Manhattan project would have been scaled back, given a much lower priority, or never happened at all. Whichever the case, it’s unlikely that the U.S. would have had an atomic bomb ready to use against Japan by the end of that war. Therefore, the invasion of Japan we avoided in reality would have been necessary. The consequences for Japan would probably have been devastating. People who are appalled by the use of the bomb against Japan should consider the impact of a million or more revenge-minded GIs rampaging across the home islands.

The altered course of the European war would have depended greatly on the fate of “Lend Lease.” Giving vast mounds of the U.S. war materiel to Great Britain and the USSR largely on credit was not universally popular in the States, and if we had found ourselves at war alone with Japan, it would have been even less so. It might even have been politically impossible for Roosevelt to keep the program intact as is, making very likely the program would have been cut back or scrapped entirely.

Without Lend Lease, I suspect that the United Kingdom might have successfully beaten Rommel’s forces in North Africa, but would probably not have had the manpower or wherewithal to undertake offensive actions against Sicily and Italy. With Lend Lease at least partially intact, I’d like to think that Great Britain would have been able to invade Sicily and Italy, and perhaps knock Mussolini out of the war.

Under neither scenario is there a cross-channel invasion of France. That was mostly an American initiative that Churchill did not favor. Without the U.S. actively in the war, I can’t see the UK having the manpower, materiel, and national will at that stage to successfully invade the continent. The war in Western Europe would probably have ended in a negotiated peace, with Germany still in control of the continent.

In the East, I believe the existence of Lend Lease would only impact the length of the war. Ultimately, the vast landmass and manpower of the Soviet Union would have worn down the German invaders. The Red Army would have at least beaten the Nazis back to the original Soviet frontier. With less of a war in the West, however, Germany resistance would have stiffened, stalling the counter attack. With or without Lend Lease, the war in the East also ends in a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany.

This post-war Europe looks much different than the one we have. France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Greece, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary are all Nazi puppet states. Czechoslovakia and Austria are permanently absorbed into Germany. Britain, broke and its manpower spent, has to toe a very careful line with Berlin.

The Soviet Union is probably worse off than it actually was at the end of the war, having had no help in beating back the Nazis. Whatever victory it achieved was probably at greater costs than in reality, and its ability to project its power worldwide is less than historically true. Possibly the USSR turns inward to licks its wounds. On the other hand, there is probably even more hostility toward the U.S., since we never got into the war with Hitler, and possibly even cut off Lend Lease.

Perhaps most significant, the millions of descendants of Holocaust survivors living today are never born. It’s likely the world suspects that something monstrous happened to European Jews but the exact details would be sketchy for a long time to come.

In Asia and the Pacific, the lack of a Grand Alliance means that the Soviets probably don’t commit to enter the war against Japan, which means no such country as North Korea, and no Korean war.

The continued Nazi domination of France probably means no attempt to reclaim its colony in Indochina, and the lack of Soviet presence in Asia means no communist insurgency against the non-existent colonial power. In other words, there’s also no Vietnam War.

I believe the United States emerges from the war much as it did in reality, strong and prosperous, but forced by circumstance to get along with the Nazi reality in Europe. But we do so as the predominant power in Asia and the Pacific. Our chief theater of post-war conflict is probably China. It’s impossible to know what all this means for that country. If the Soviets emerged from the war a lot weaker than they really did, it’s possible the communist victory in China is less than absolute or their civil war just drags on and on.

This is the world that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor should have created, had Adolf Hitler had an ounce of common sense. Fortunately for the world, he didn’t, and he gave Franklin Roosevelt the greatest early Christmas gift a maniacal dictator could give the world, the seeds of his own destruction.

Since Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Seth MacFarlane aired their brilliant update of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos earlier this year, I’ve heard occasional misguided talk of a second “season” of the show, perhaps starring Dr. Michio Kaku.

Apparently, people in the TV industry have gotten it into their heads that either A) a show must run for seven years or more to be considered a “success,” or more likely, B) something that got ass-kicking ratings like Cosmos needs to be milked for every dime it’s worth.

Dr. Sagan didn’t need a second “season” of his immortal 1980 series, and neither does Dr. Tyson. Cosmos is what it was and all it ever needs to be. I have nothing against Dr. Kaku, and if Fox wants to finance another science show with him, that would be outstanding.

As far as Cosmos goes, let sleeping classics lie until we have 35 years of new science to illuminate.

Writing

James Scott Bell is a published author with a diverse portfolio of fiction, from period short stories about boxing to zombie lawyer novels (don’t ask). Anyway, in the promotional material for his writer’s coaching service, Mr. Bell divides writers into two groups:

  1. Plotters map out their stories in advance, making sure they know how it’s going to end before they even start writing.
  2. Bell calls the other type “Pantsers,” but that’s an unfortunate choice of words. Puts me in mind of bullies yanking down a freshman’s shorts in gym class. Whatever you call them, they just start writing, with implicit faith that their stories will find their way to the end. They plunge ahead. So maybe “plungers?” That’s got an unsavory connotation, too. We’ll have to work on it.

Of course, most writers will find them in both camps to varying degrees at different times of their lives. For the first two published novels of my career, I have definitely been a hybrid of the two.

In the case of Human X, I had been sitting on the back story of my main character for about 15 years, waiting for a storyline worthy of it, so the first two chapters or so almost wrote themselves. They had been percolating in my brain the whole time. After they were written and chapter three had started to take shape, I began alternating between writing and plotting.

For plotting, I don’t use any fancy software, but a web-based service called Backpack from 37 Signals. It’s really nothing more than an elaborate note-taking system, but it allowed me to collect all my thoughts regarding characters and story elements. Most important, it’s checklist feature allowed to do a kind of “free association” plotting, where I jotted down “story waypoints” as items on the list. I could then rearrange them on the fly.

I could map out the story, concentrating on what happens next but also sketching in the later plot points a little more loosely. As the story evolved, I could add, modify, and rearrange the points as I go, but having the novel mapped out gives me the confidence to keep writing, knowing I can poke my head above water and check my bearings.

For Human X, a relatively short and straightforward novel, I didn’t need a hugely detailed outline to keep myself on course. My second novel, The Coat Hanger Railroad, the story involved multiple character and story lines, building toward two different crescendos, plus a love story for the main character and the political backdrop. My outline of this story ended up being insanely detailed, but it worked. As I re-read the first draft, I failed to find any elements where something I said early in the novel contradicted a later story element. Again, the ability to know my heading, the route of my journey, allowed me to plunge forward with confidence.

So why am I a “seat-of-the-pantser” first, a plotter second? Why not just plot the whole story out before starting to write? That might work for some people. Probably works for a lot of people, but by starting to write first, I get a feeling about whether I actually connect to the story, if there’s any “there” there. If I can get two decent chapters out of an idea, I have confidence that it worth my time to start hammering out the rest of the story.

It works for me. Your mileage may vary.

Last week, I offered a small preview of my upcoming novel, which takes place in the year 2019.

For this week, I give you another:

Part of Valentina’s volunteer work involved holding the hands of terrified young Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish girls, and doing her best to translate for the doctor as he explained the procedure. She had seen the results when these girls went to back alley quacks, so when her adopted country went a little crazy, so did she.

She had to be crazy, to be sitting in this fast-food joint in rural Georgia, hundreds of miles from home, engaged in activity that almost every state in the old South had branded as criminal. If she had been in Alabama, she would have been aiding and abetting a murder, and subject to life in prison according to the new statutes on the books there.

In plain fact, however, she was helping to drive a pregnant seventeen-year-old girl to Ohio.

So, in the year 2019, driving a pregnant girl to Ohio is considered murder in Alabama. Very strange…

Let me know what you think!