I Am Writing For You: A Guide To Treating Readers With Respect

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This last week there’s been a barrage of authors out there who are taking shots at readers. We saw this a lot with the situation in the comics industry over the last year, where so many of the creators fought the fans when they’d produced a lot of politically driven narrative their fans didn’t like, and sales dropped substantially as a consequence.

Instead of owning up to the fact that they’d made product that didn’t appeal to their readers, most of the creators took to social media to throw public tantrums, telling fans to “check their privilege” and “Not everything out there has to be for you.” Well, when you tell your fans you’re not writing for them, who are you writing for?

That’s the question. It’s of course important for an artist to stretch and try to do new things and always make new fans, but being condescending to your existing fanbase because the work has changed into something they didn’t like — especially on something that’s an established property where there are sets of expectations — is not a good tack to take. I understand authors being frustrated when things aren’t selling and they’re getting negative reviews, but taking it out on the existing fans is a sure fire way to amplify that situation, not to resolve it and get back to work.

The comments this week were similar. We saw a NYT bestseller complain about receiving the question “are your books any good?”

This seems innocuous at first, but he went off on a sarcastic rant about how his books are terrible, a very odd thing to do. But let’s break down the interaction that has him so flustered. Someone asking “are your books any good?” is a person taking interest in your books. That’s a POSITIVE thing. Your answer should be “yes, yes they are, try this one.” Or something along those lines. Remember, to most people, you’re an author, you’re someone who they’re not sure if they should be wasting your time, and they’re a bit intimidated to interact with you. Phrasing the question like this isn’t some slight to you, but it’s done because they’re trying not to appear too eager in posturing to you, so that you treat them a little more like an equal than (in their minds) like someone who’s annoyingly gushing over you.  Bottom line is: when someone takes an interest in your books, let them! This is something to applaud, not to condemn.

And next we had an author state “I don’t give a f*** what you want to read” in criticism to a sales elevator pitch the author gave on twitter, which didn’t talk about the story’s merits, but focused on identity politics. Again, all this is serving to do is to turn off potential fan groups. If someone’s taking enough interest to criticize in a reasonable manner, they’re doing so because they have taken enough interest in you. It’s not fun to get negative feedback, but being mindful that there’s readers out there and that this isn’t a one time thing, but your interactions mean future reads for the rest of your career is so important.

It comes down to viewing interactions with readers as people who are there to at some point buy your book. They might not now. They might not stay and might not like it, but regardless, they’re people to be treasured because they are the customers.

I, by contrast, kept getting messages about how James Gentry didn’t get enough development in For Steam And Country, and my readership wanted to see more of him. What did I do? I wrote a novella sequel to the book where it’s entirely from his perspective. Why? Because I care about what my readers want. That’s all I care about. And that’s why I’ll still be in business in a couple of years. Will these guys?

My James novella, “Knight Training,” comes out on July 18th, but for now, catch up on the first book For Steam And Country. It’s all about giving you, the reader, a fun experience. Check it out here.  

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Authors Don’t Trick Your Readers – An Analysis of The Batman/Catwoman Wedding

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DC Comics’ big event hype over the summer has been the Batman/Catwoman wedding. Now we all know how comics have worked the last couple decades, and we know by proxy that “nothing is forever” – and by forever, I mean lasts more than 2-3 years before it gets rebooted, redone, respun. How anyone can take these comics’ continuity seriously anymore is beyond me, but that’s another story for another blog.

I want to talk about the importance of staying true to your readers, and how DC failed spectacularly in doing that in this issue. Spoilers of Batman #50 ahead if you care about such things and haven’t already seen it posted all over the internet.

Over the last several months, DC has put out a ton of issues tying into a Batman/Catwoman epic. Readers have had to drop significant amounts of money to keep up, like with every event, and the big wedding shebang was supposed to hit in issue 50. Long story short, DC hyped all of this with marketing machine, invitation cards at local comic shops, dozens of books with THE WEDDING stamped onto it.

As a reader, one was being led by the marketing hype to expect Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle relationship drama on a level we’ve never seen before. While we knew this would be temporary because of the way comics work these days, it sounded like an interesting storyline to many.

The big issue, oversized, overpriced, overextended then features Catwoman leaving Batman stranded at the altar.

That’s right, after all that hype, DC Comics ended with, “Ha! We tricked you!”

Moreover, tricked Batman, the “world’s greatest detective” and beautiful billionaire playboy by getting him completely shafted, and blindsided never seeing this coming. It doesn’t make sense on a character level, and from all the promises DC made to the audience, it doesn’t make sense on that level either.

It’s so important to fulfill promises as a writer. And unfortunately what we have here is current literature’s obsession with “the twist” taken to much too high a degree. For those who aren’t into writing and the like, when you have a story going linearly, writers usually add a twist so something unexpected happens that makes sense in context of the story. This gives the reader a sense of surprise so they’re not bored with having everything happen as they’ve expected.

But there’s a fine line between that and tricking your reader. With all the marketing jazz, we needed a wedding here. We were prepped for it, and it’s not a twist to not do that, it’s a broken promise. It leaves readers feeling angry because they were led so far down a path only to have the rug yanked out from under them.

It’d be a lot as if I promised my readers a #SummerOfSteampunk with sequels to my hit novel, For Steam And Country, and then turned around and delivered a bunch of urban fantasy werewolf romance novels. When you hype something on the marketing end, it has to match the product you deliver, and if it doesn’t, you’re going to lose big.

I think writers tend to think they’re clever when they’re tricking readers. And the end result of what it does is makes readers feel like their intelligences are being insulted. And they are. Readers aren’t stupid, but they are buying into several event tie-in books based on what the event’s supposed to be. If the book hadn’t been hyped for what it is, there are still so many character issues with the story, but at least the readers wouldn’t have been tricked into their purchases.

And that’s where comics have gone wrong for a long time. It’s always about a hype gimmick, it’s never about the story, the characters, real development. It’s not always about politics with these companies, sometimes they just treat their readers with disrespect in other ways. It’s leading to their downfall, but also giving independent artists a new avenue to compete.

If you like character development that goes in a direction where I promise, then do read For Steam And Country. It’s the #SummerOfSteampunk after all, and there’s going to be a lot more adventures to come. Read it here.

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Last Night On YouTube

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Yesterday we did an impromptu reading of the beginning of “Knight Training” which will be the novella sequel to For Steam And Country out July 18th. Edwin did a great job reading. We followed up with a discussion of my books and the comic industry so worth the watch!

Make sure to grab For Steam And Country and get ready for the #SummerOfSteampunk if you haven’t already. You won’t want to be behind when Zaira and her crew become the epic fighting force needed to save Rislandia! Check it out here.  

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An Open Letter To Kevin Roche Of Worldcon

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Last night I had a dream, and it’s a dream that I want to see become reality. It’s one where divisiveness, hatefulness, and petty politics can be overcome by rationality, love, treating each other like humans.

I dreamt that I was at some house party where Kevin Roche, the chairman of WorldCon, was attending with several friends (though this is to you, Kevin, thousands of people are going to read this so I need to define who you are). Dream Kevin immediately panicked just from seeing my face, threatening to call the cops to get me removed, even though it wasn’t his place. But then something magical happened. I stepped forward, palms up, in peace. “Kevin,” I said, “Let’s stop all this. I’m here. Let’s talk.”

Dream Kevin looked me in the eyes, nodded, and called off his friends who were about to try to get me removed.

We had a conversation. I talked about how I’ve only been trying to ensure my own safety because of people on the internet actively trying to harm me, and how I’d never in any capacity threatened to violate any rules at the convention (just like real life). We had the conversation I’ve wanted to since November of last year when I sent this email to you:

A full two months before your epic banning proclamation, where you still haven’t told me the specifics of why I was banned from your perspective, only referencing vague “rules” which apply to no one else, you knew there was danger to conservative authors. You did not reply. I guess it would be admitting there’s a bias issue with the con.

What was my first reaction?

“Kevin, call me.” i attempted to talk. I didn’t do anything wrong. I still haven’t, and you, other than a statement libeling me as if this is some grand crusade for a mostly white Worldcon staff to remove a Hispanic in the name of “racism”, couldn’t be bothered to respond again. There was lots of bothering with removing comments from Facebook in my support so it looked like everyone agreed with this. If you had time for that, why not a call?

Of course, then there was the Hugo Award nominating party on March 31st. I showed up. I was there. I caused no trouble at a Worldcon event. No one tried to bother me. The Worldcon committee (including you) KNEW I would cause no trouble at your event, which makes the defense of what was done to me before very flimsy. But still,  I came up to you, I broke the ice quickly. Why couldn’t you take 30 seconds just to talk with me and work out whatever your fears are?

I followed up on the message and received this response (at least you’re responding now!):

Another refusal to talk. Why are you so quick to make public proclamations libeling about “racist bullying” when you won’t stop to take a breath and see what happened? Isn’t liberalism about open mindedness, tolerance, love? That’s what I hear all the time, but it looks to me that the only people who don’t care about race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed seems to be conservatives or libertarians. LibertyCon this weekend had a wide group of diverse individuals and I never even saw the subject broached once. Everyone loved each other. Everyone came together in fandom and fun. This is what WorldCon could and should be.

But the track record’s been very clear: I’ve been to Worldcon, never caused an issue. I went to FogCon this year, where it was very hostile toward me, no issue. LibertyCon had me as a guest along with John Picacio — your worldcon partner and identarian — no issue.  Even at your event with the awards, no issue.  So you can’t defend even the possibility that you think I would cause an issue. There were issues to my safety that you refused to address by even conversing with me, however?

Let’s change all this. I know you’re in a tough position. You have several folk attending your con who are just hateful, angry people, and you’ve made this a very public mess that if you even talked to me, you’d be seen as a traitor to your political team. I get that. But why be a political team? It’s almost July 4th. We’re Americans. We should be on the same team. It starts with talking like human beings. Let’s see what we can accomplish, Kevin, rather than letting Worldcon continue on a path of hatred that’s telling half the country long term that they’re not invited. It’s a bad business strategy, and I can help. I’ve always only wanted to help.

You have my number, call me.

 

 

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LibertyCon Is The Undisputed Best Convention In The World

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I spent the weekend at LibertyCon in Chattanooga TN, and I’ll do my best to tell most of the story in pictures, because that’s a lot more fun, but this convention had so much going on from dawn until next dawn (they certainly don’t stop at dusk) that it was incredible. Programing had me running so ragged I barely was able to do much else other than what they had me listed as, and that’s not a bad thing. I’m far more comfortable WORKING than doing anything else, so when a convention fully utilizes me as a fairly charismatic speaker and event organizer, I actually feel far more appreciated than I would otherwise.

So kudos to the programming folk right off the bat.

I started off with a reading (which is on video), where I had the great author A.M. Freeman doing an interpretive dance to my rendition of “The Snake” by Al Wilson, followed by a sneak peak at The Adventures of Baron Von Monocle 2: The Blood of Giants (which will be out in August). Quincy Allen actually coaxed me into doing Zaira’s 16 year old female voice for the dialogue… I’m not sure I’ll do that again so if you want to laugh at me, you’ll want to watch that.

Then came the Superversive Panel, which was very special for me in particular as I was on a panel with Jody Lynn Nye, who was one of the first people to teach me how to write at Dragon*Con. I owe everything to Jody, her class did wonders for me, and she is the classiest, coolest professional in the field, so it was a pure honor for me. I introduced myself on this panel as President of the Jody Lynn Nye Fan Club.  It was a lot of fun.

Perhaps the most interesting part was the opening ceremonies, which were stormed by folk wearing Make Science Fiction Fun Again hats and Happy Frogs shirts.  Over the course of the convention of folk who wore or bought it, I tracked that more than 5% of people were wearing my apparel brand, so a big thank you to everyone who picked it up and ran with it! You guys are awesome. The guys over at CryptoFashion tell me that if folk missed out on the winning and want to get a good deal on next year, they’ll be running a sale this week on all of my apparel so winners who couldn’t make it can still get in on the winning.

The opening ceremony itself was so packed it went into overflow with people unable to get in. And for good reason. This was the best opening ceremony I’ve ever seen at a con. Gray Rinehart SLAYED a song he created for the event, which made everyone laugh and put everyone in a great mood. And then Chuck Gannon delivered the most entertaining convention speech I’ve ever seen in my life. The con made it clear: THIS CONVENTION IS ALL ABOUT FUN.  And they delivered.

I won’t detail all my other panels, which were fantastic and fun down the line, but the weekend continued much like that, and we also had a great time doing a Star Realms tournament on Saturday night. The parties were great, met some of the most wonderful people in the world or saw them again (shout out to Arlan Andrews, Julie Frost, Jason Cordova, John Van Stry, Mark Wandrey, Chris Kennedy and I’m sorry to probably the 200+ other folk I spoke with over the weekend I love you too but this blog would get long!).

Bottom line was the convention stuck to science fiction/fantasy, they stuck to fun, everyone was a joy to be around, there was no drama, no politics, no identity bullshit, and this is what people come for when they come for fandom. If you’re a convention, this should be your model. Fun first. Put everything else aside. Your mission is to grow science fiction, and the way to do that is to welcome everyone and have a good time, just like LibertyCon accomplished. I know certain organizers from certain places are reading this – and I most certainly am talking to you!

I also made an announcement on the Steampunk panel that I’ll be doing the #SummerOfSteampunk. If you have steampunk works coming out, join in on the hashtag, have some fun. My release schedule will look like this:

Von Monocle 1.5: James Gentry’s story “Knight Training” – July 18th.

Von Monocle 2:  The Blood Of Giants – August

Von Monocle 3: Fight For Rislandia! – September

Truly a steampunk filled summer. If you haven’t caught up on my bestselling and award winning novel For Steam And Country yet, now’s the time. It’s on amazon, free on kindle unlimited, and there’s even an audio version! Check it out here.

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One America News – Tonight 5:25 EST + Captain Frugal Tonight 8:30 EST

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When it rains it pours. I was invited to One America News tonight to be on Liz Wheeler’s program, Tipping Point. Make sure to tune in if your cable provider carriers the network, if not, they have a youtube channel here. 

And after that, I’ll be on Captain Frugal’s comic book related channel livestreaming and talking about my upcoming Flying Sparks crowdfund. You won’t want to miss it!

 

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Worldcon Protest Update: Standing Against Pedophilia In Sci-Fi

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There’s been an epidemic within sci-fi over the last several decades. Walter Breen. Marion Zimmer Bradley. Samuel Delany. These and others were known to abuse children. In the light of Sony Pictures Actor Peter Fonda calling for the rape of an 11 year old boy on his social media, it’s clear the culture has gotten so far out of control that something needs to be done. Why did this happen?

Because organizations like Worldcon and SFWA, who are supposed to merely be professional writer advocacy groups, have intentionally driven out people with good family values, banning someone like me, and yet have advocated for and given awards to people listed above who were and are openly pro-pedophilia.

This has to stop. Children are getting hurt. Their lives are getting ruined because of the tolerance these organizations has toward pedophilia.

Our rally outside worldcon will have an anti-pedophilia focus. We will be reading from Moira Grelyand’s tell all, “The Last Closet” which gives the horrible truth about what happens at conventions like Worldcon and is covered up by the people involved while they’re hard at work trying to purge all conservatives from being allowed inside.

This is the end result of this kind of politics. We will stand up and exercise our rights to speak against it. Will you join us Saturday August 18th at 1 PM outside of Worldcon and take your stand against pedophilia? The children need you.

Join our facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/479274785823669/

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Space Force: Old And Busted Legacy SF vs. New Hotness Indie SF

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Sci-fi is about sense of wonder. It’s about exploration. It’s about seeking the unknown to better humanity.

If you’re confused, it’s because you’ve been reading Hugo Award winning fiction for the last 20 years and their cohorts who have taken over the industry. This is a group of people ridden by mental disorders who have been on social media so much that they’ve created vast echo chambers of constant political outrage. And their books have turned into vast echo chambers of political outrage as a consequence.

It’s interesting seeing the reactions to the Space Force announced the other day. What can be more sci-fi than that? What can be cooler than the US leading the way with a dedicated team to both be in and defend the great frontier? It’s everything we wanted from Starship Troopers, it’s the beginnings of Star Trek, this is science fiction become reality. It’s a beautiful and exciting thing.

Naturally, the new hotness indie sci-fi authors embraced the idea. The memes flowed like I’ve never seen them before.

I immediately came up with a Space Force novel idea, and have outlined the potential book. Greatest comic writer alive, Chuck Dixon, wrote a Space Force comic which he’s doing with one of the top artists in the industry, Timothy Lim and superstar colorist Brett R. Smith (I got to see a portion of the script and it’s gonna be YUGE! believe me.).

How did the legacy establishmentl sci-fi authors celebrate?

By whining about politics. Nothing can just be a moment of celebration. Nothing evokes a sense of wonder in them because they have none. All they do is the relentless DNC talking points angry outrage 100% of the time. What an exhausting life. No wonder they can’t write as fast or as interesting as folk like me:

And it’s probably a good indicator as to why indie sci-fi is eating up so much of the market. Who wants to turn to science fiction to feel like crap and be outraged by fake news all the time?

That’s the difference in a nutshell. Onward and upward to the stars. The American people seem to want it. Maybe these authors should pay attention to things that matter to sci-fi instead of relentlessly beating a political drum.

If you are interested in my space force novel concept, it’s a ways off. But I have a space military with humanity in the stars, dealing with an alien race that’s getting aggressive and attacking. See how they solve space force-style problems in The Stars Entwined! 

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NK Jemisin Libels me, calling me a Nazi

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This is extremely shocking and defamatory. First off, I’ve never spoken with Jemisin in my life. I found out I was insta-blocked by her awhile back just because she uses auto blockers against other science fiction authors’ followers.

I’ve submitted this case to Twitter Support, as I was suspended for saying “transgender is a mental illness by definition” in a discussion on gender related politics. Surely, NK Jemisin libeling as “Nazi” is much worse than that. She must delete this tweet or face the same standards I faced.

In the meantime, please check out my latest book, The Stars Entwined, which deals with an individual who has misgivings about the mob behavior of her race when it comes to blaming humans for their problems. She stands up for what’s right even in the hardest of circumstances in a galactic war. Read it here and fight the bigots like NK Jemisin who try to stifle differences of opinion in the publishing industry.

 

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