Closed for the Holidays

Closed for the Holidays

This week’s blog post isn’t about writing or reading or even about having a great holiday. It’s about self-care.

Ordinarily, I don’t create an entire blog post about being closed for the holidays, but this year I’m making an exception.

I used to work for a company that closed during the entire period from December 25th through January 1st, the idea being that it was a dead time business-wise. Since I’ve been on my own, however, I’ve worked quite a few holidays.

Not this year.

With an aging parent in assisted living who needs some assistance from me, it’s practically a guarantee I’ll be heading over there on Christmas.

In short, if you need me, I’ll be trying to catch some rest in between existing obligations. Office hours will be subject to change at any time.

So have a great holiday season, everybody. And remember, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to do much for anyone else!

Whizzers

Book Promotion Sites: Which Are The Best, and Are They Worth It?

I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert when it comes to book promotion sites. When I published my first three novels simultaneously on December 10th 2015—a day that will live infamy, and yes, I know now that it was a harebrained marketing scheme—I knew nothing...
announcing

Announcing The Whizzers Launch Team!

This weekend, I got my edited copy of Whizzers back from editing and sent out my monthly newsletter announcing the formation of the Whizzers Launch Team. Stuff is a-happening! As Mike Ehrmantraut once said to Jessie Pinkman, "Big doings today." Of course, that...
interregnum

What To Expect From An Interregnum

I had a very strange, little-used word pop into my head the other day: interregnum.  Cambridge English defines interregnum as "a period when a country or organization does not have a leader." That certainly seems to apply at this moment. Merriam-Webster's definition:...

Writing Based on Experience

Recently, I’ve been writing more about writing, giving some explanations about why I write what I write…or, in the case of the three novels I’m currently promoting, why I wrote what I wrote. Brothers’ Hand, which takes place in the fictional town of Carverville, NY,...

How Freelance Writers Can Ditch The Content Mills – And Get Paid What They’re Worth

So today turns out to be a great day for a guest post, since I've got a sprained wrist – time to rest my hands and arms. Without further ado, here's freelancer extraordinaire Tara Malone on how to ditch the content mills! You’re sick and tired of your day job and...
deadline

I’d Never Missed a Deadline Before—Until I Missed My Own

I’ll be the first to acknowledge my willingness to write about the newsletter I send to my email list. In fact, I know I’ve done it more than once. Back in February, I offered readers of this blog a “sneak peek” at the quarterly newsletter—the joke being that it...
book

Who Gives A Damn About Your Book?

Back in April, I wrote a blog post called What I’ve Learned in Six Years of Growing An Indie Author Business. Since I have  those six years of experience, I figured I’d list six things I’d learned—not necessarily one per year, but one for each year. The response was...
authenticity

Putting Yourself Out There

I see a lot of social media posts these days about "authenticity." The idea is that clients and customers, and potential clients and customers, really appreciate your authenticity—mainly because so many fake people have tried to sell them something they didn't want to...
IngramSpark KDP

Using IngramSpark and KDP Print For Your Paperbacks

This week's post is about using two different companies for Print-On-Demand publishing—IngramSpark and KDP. Ever since Amazon began offering services to authors, there's been a question in the indie author community: should I use them? My answer, initially, was a...

Short Story Contest Part III

Happy Labor Day, everybody! To celebrate, I’m posting part III of a short story I’m including in an upcoming collection. If you haven’t already played along, check out parts I & II from the last two weeks. The person who sends in the most helpful suggestion or...
Why Trigger Warnings are Bad for Everybody

Why Trigger Warnings are Bad for Everybody

Recently I almost got into a Twitter skirmish about trigger warnings, or TWs, as they say in the trade. One of my followers asked the Twitterverse their opinion on them, and I gave mine. In essence, I said I don’t believe in them. While trigger warnings originally seemed like a considerate idea, I wrote, no author should be required to include one. And, I added rather sardonically, if your mental health is so fragile that you need a trigger warning on a book, you should probably stick with children’s books.

I stand by my position.

When you choose to begin reading a book that is not clearly a children’s book, you should understand that anything is on the table. Period. But in our current age of entitlement and maximum sensitivity to people’s neuroses and psychoses, I immediately got pushback. I wanted to respond. I was dying to respond. (Oops. Does “dying” need a trigger warning?) Because I am an actual adult, however, I chose to ignore those who tweeted at me.

Interestingly, both individuals were rather combative, to say the least. In fact, I could have been triggered by the level of hostility, especially since this was the way they chose to engage with me for the first and only time. Ah, the irony.

Upon reflection, I decided to research trigger warnings more than I had previously, and was surprised by what I found: an article in The New Yorker, of all places, entitled What If Trigger Warnings Don’t Work? 

Turns out that “a dozen psychological studies, published between 2018 and 2021, are remarkably consistent, and they differ from conventional wisdom: they find that trigger warnings do not seem to lessen negative reactions to disturbing material in students, trauma survivors, or those diagnosed with P.T.S.D. Indeed, some studies suggest that the opposite may be true.”

  

Are There Exceptions?

Sure. Like anything, there can certainly be exceptions to the rule. I couldn’t care less if Netflix provides their list of warnings about such evils as smoking, language, or nudity. I do find it funny that their trigger warnings are so wildly inconsistent: they don’t necessarily even mention violence for movies where someone gets shot in the head, but if a guy is yelling at his girlfriend in a limited series, we have a “domestic violence” trigger warning. Ridiculous.

The idea that college students are demanding TW for books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Things Fall Apart is both pathetic and infuriating. These children going through a prolonged period of adolescence need to (language warning) grow the fuck up.

There are probably exceptions to the rule when it comes to TW. For Young Adult (YA) books and others that target a reader demographic under 18—a genre or category I’ve had neither the time nor inclination to review since I was an actual child—certain warnings may be recommended by authors and readers alike. Even in these limited cases, however, I still have reservations based on the data: if you’re warning a reader about abuse in the book, won’t they get all keyed up when reading it, and possibly more “triggered” when they encounter the relevant scene or scenes? 

The data would suggest so. But whatever the case, it should be up to the author and/or publisher whether or not to include a warning. If you’re a parent, and you’re concerned about your child’s entertainment intake, maybe you have to monitor it. You know, like a parent.

 

Trigger Discussion in My WIP

Unfortunately, the Netflix culture has gotten people used to being warned both equally and inconsistently about anything and everything, from graphic violence to all sorts of low level issues like profanity and scenes that depict characters (gasp) smoking cigarettes. Here’s how a character discusses it in my Work-in-Progress, Jihad Insurance.

 

“You know how I knew we were fucked as a culture?  I started watching some movie on Netflix, and they always have the little warning about what the ‘adult’ content is, right? The movie I was watching listed ‘sex, nudity, language, smoking’…all this rinky-dink shit. No warning of violence whatsoever.

“As the movie went along, there was all sorts of violence: a guy getting shot in the face, someone else getting beaten to death with a shovel. Blood everywhere. And I thought, What the fuck? You’re going to warn me about bad words and freaking smoking, but not this?

“I realized we’re almost stuck in the Puritan era with sex, but with violence, Americans are like people who enjoy watching the carnage in a train wreck.”

 

Here’s the thing: no one has a basic right to trigger warnings. It’s not a basic right, anymore than Coca-Cola or ear plugs. It just isn’t. If you want them, if you feel you need them, and you can get them…good for you. But they are not a right.

And if I taught at a university that caved in to student demands for trigger warnings for books that have been around for a hundred years, I would hand in my resignation letter.

Talk of der Führer at the Local Library??

This past weekend I had a pretty weird, disturbing experience related to Nazism, which I only documented on my personal Facebook page. In retrospect, it's probably just as good for blog fodder as anything else. I must be a little naive, because somehow I've managed to...
answer

We’re All Looking For The Answer

Today’s post is a bit of a topic combo, if there is such a thing. What’s on my mind? Elements of a February 2019 post called No More For The Road and the March 2019 post I Survived Catholic School. Don’t worry. I won’t repeat what’s in them. You can read them for...

Coming Soon: Rides From Strangers

I don't typically recommend blatant self-promotion in blog posts, though I do have a post here somewhere entitled Blatant Self-Promotion...ha! This week, however, I'm getting excited about my upcoming release, and decided it's time to talk about it again. I thought...
IngramSpark KDP

Using IngramSpark and KDP Print For Your Paperbacks

This week's post is about using two different companies for Print-On-Demand publishing—IngramSpark and KDP. Ever since Amazon began offering services to authors, there's been a question in the indie author community: should I use them? My answer, initially, was a...

And So The Tour Ends

Well, it's finally over: the blog tour for the relaunch of Miles of Files ends today with a stop at Novelgossip, hosted by the fabulous Amy. I say fabulous because, man oh man, has she got a following! Not even four o'clock, and already 33 bloggers have liked the...
rewriting

New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #6: How Much Rewriting is Too Much?

Today's blog post was supposed to be an expansive one, delving in the subject of rewriting. In my own case, I spent years obsessively returning to manuscripts, revising them again and again until they were—as far as I could tell—perfect. As perfect as I could make...
characters

It All Starts With Character

“Sahno offers a compelling vision of a community whose need for companionship and support in the face of life's struggles is stirring.” “The characters are deep, well thought out…” “I read this novel in a few short days, drawn in by a believable plot and characters...
genre

Have You Ever Written In A New Genre?

When you don't normally write genre fiction, it can be difficult to talk to non-writer people about your work.I love the classics, and have always worked hard to create modern classics of my own. You could call them Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, or just...
door

The Open Door Of A New Year

Dawn another year, Open it aright; Thou shalt have no fear In its fading light. —Joseph Krauskopf   I read this quote in a meditation book a couple days ago and it kind of stuck with me. Not the exact wording, of course—I mean the overall spirit. After all, the...

Strictly Commercial In SE Asia

Three weeks is not a normal lapse of time between blog posts for me. I try to blog at least once a week, anyway, but from November 9th through November 23rd, I was on my first real vacation since 2015. The destination: my wife's native Thailand. This was my fifth trip...
The Scary Weekend I Thought I Had COVID-19

The Scary Weekend I Thought I Had COVID-19

Since March 2020, I’ve lived almost as though there was no such thing as a coronavirus vaccine.

You might wonder why, as multiple vaccines have been available since earlier this year, some even before that.

I’ll tell you why.

My wife is an essential worker who encounters a variety of people daily, both masked and unmasked. She’s a total rock star, and started wearing a mask at work before almost anyone else in the country. I’m talking February 2020, when the CDC issued its first warning and there were only a handful of positive cases here in the U.S.

Since then, over 787,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. At 61K deaths, my adopted state of Florida is the third worst, behind only Texas and California. 

What does all that have to do with me? Well, I don’t only interact with my lovely wife. We also visit my 85-year-old mother, who lives a few miles up the road from us. She has multiple co-morbidities that COVID-19 just loves, like asthma and chronic bronchitis. It’s a worthwhile goal, I think, to do my utmost to make sure I don’t commit matricide.

 

Another Patience Test

This pandemic has tested the patience of many, and I’d say many have failed. Possibly most. Never known as a patient guy myself, I’ve been in the unenviable position of waiting it out: continuing to avoid social situations, masking up, and generally acting like we’re still in the beginning of the pandemic.

In other words, although I’ve gotten two doses and a third booster shot, I behave as if I’d gotten no protection. I’m that careful.

Why did I think I got COVID this past weekend?

As you may know, vaccinations do not prevent COVID infection, although they do reduce the chance of infection by roughly 80%. They’re intended to reduce the likelihood of serious illness and death, and they are shown to be very effective. However…

 

What Happened This Weekend

I’m my mother’s son. Not that I’m a mama’s boy by any stretch of the imagination. What I mean is I take after my mother’s side of the family, and her in particular. If she’s got a physical issue that’s not specifically gender-related, chances are good that I either have it, will have it, or am susceptible to getting it.

Fortunately, I don’t have asthma or chronic bronchitis. Not quite. When I lived up north, I’d get a sinus infection every winter, and if I didn’t get it knocked out fast enough, it would go into an upper respiratory infection, a.k.a., bronchitis.

There’s your susceptibility.

This weekend, I finally took a little time to go out for coffee with a friend. He’s been almost the opposite of me throughout the pandemic. Though vaxxed and boostered, he’s also socialized frequently, traveled outside the U.S., and generally been out and about nearly every day. We had our drinks outside at a table, and took our masks off for about an hour or two.

The following day, I sneezed about 25-30 times, used up an entire box of tissues, and had a very runny nose. Interestingly, I quickly learned that sneezing is a common symptom among vaxxed people who get breakthrough infections.

Because I’ve been so cautious all these months (nearly two years, for goodness’ sake), I was upset to think I might have gotten infected so easily, even after three jabs. An at-home antigen self test revealed a negative result, so I’m relieved…though I’m not happy I had to blow $25 just to find out I don’t have a virus I shouldn’t have in the first place.

So, how was your weekend?

disturbances

New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #9: Distractions, Disruptions & Disturbances

This week's blog post has three sections: distractions, disruptions and disturbances, as if they were three unique items—which, of course, they can be. There’s a common “writer” meme that reads, “Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the...
answer

We’re All Looking For The Answer

Today’s post is a bit of a topic combo, if there is such a thing. What’s on my mind? Elements of a February 2019 post called No More For The Road and the March 2019 post I Survived Catholic School. Don’t worry. I won’t repeat what’s in them. You can read them for...
author

Are Authors Typically Obsessive-Compulsive?

Recently I’ve noticed a trend in author blogs toward the confessional. After all, no one wants to read about your characters all the time, and God knows that readers don’t want to read about marketing. They want to know something about you. Happy to oblige. Although...

Taking a Page from the Dylan Playbook?

Although he doesn't use the term himself, recent Nobel winner Bob Dylan's relentless touring has been referred to as the Never-Ending Tour. Taking a page from the Dylan playbook might seem like a weird idea for an author, but recently I have thought about doing just...
metaphysical

Five Ways You Can Help With a Local Book Launch Event

This week I want to write a bit more about my fourth novel, Whizzers. It’s my current Work-In-Progress, and I plan to have it finished this year in order to launch it in 2019. One of the few luxuries of being an independent author is that I haven’t set a firm...
can we talk

Can We Talk?

I don't know how many of my blog readers are familiar with Joan Rivers—possibly not that many—but there was a time when the catchphrase Can we talk? was known to just about every adult in America. Joan may be gone, but it seems like people are talking more than ever....

Who Are Your Greatest Connections?

When it comes to networking, making connections with people who have a greater influence in your industry can be beneficial in ways that go on and on. This has proven true for many people, I'm sure, and I know I've seen it in my own experience. Two recent examples...
cringe

Top Ten Words or Phrases That Make You Cringe

So I've been looking at some topics for blogs, and I find all kinds of great ideas.  One of the more amusing ones is posting about personal stuff or pet peeves, so your readers get to know you better. This idea can work, but it can also be a disaster. I've seen...
Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones and Storytelling

Writing is a funny game. You make stuff up and it goes from your head to your fingers, then to a screen via keyboard, or a page via writing implement. But of course, we all know that's not the oldest way of telling stories. Really, stories began with cave drawings and...
fumes

Running On Fumes: Pandemic Fatigue

Let’s face: the past four years have been exhausting. But 2020 is a whole other level of exhausting. If you’re running on fumes right now—and I’ll be the first to admit that’s the case for me—who can blame you? Ordinarily, I have a schedule for these blog posts, and...