Randomness for 7/8

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1) How to save a rusty ruined cast iron skillet.

2) Dad photoshops young daughter into sf/f movies.

3) Insights from a real sword fight.

4) Authors dress up as their favorite characters.

5) “There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.” Frankly, I say this fossil isn’t scary enough for the name.

6) Ten ridiculous Kickstarter campaigns people actually supported

7) Conversation with Twitter bots draws in Bank of America. #lol

“So what then is an indie author to do?”

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I’m linking to a blog post from last January, but I think this is worth talking about. Besides, I only saw a link to it from @EvilWylie this morning. It’s supposed to be advice about reviews and what an author should do about them, but it’s the worst advice you could ever find, short of kidnapping reviewers so you can hunt them on your private game reserve.

[Update: that link leads to a 404 page now. Apparently he's pulled it down.]

Context: apparently the author sometimes receives Amazon reviews giving his books only one or two stars, and that is not allowed.

He starts by saying he never leaves reviews with less than four stars, which is perfectly sensible as policies go. There are a lot of people who prefer to be silent rather than talk a book down. Positivity, amirite?

Then he starts talking about the sort of people who *would* leave a two- or one-star review, and immediately it becomes about “holier than thou Grammar Nazi[s]” who don’t understand how hard indie authors work on their books! And are just like those awful elitist college professors. Or something. Plus, all books have errors in them, so why do these reviewers have to be so fussy?

But what to DO? The first suggestion he makes is, if it’s the first review, to unpublish and republish the book so the review will be lost. Also, maybe–just maybe–the author should consider the possibility that they need to take another editorial pass.

Next, he suggests talking to the reviewer, maybe asking for their help, because it’s possible that a person leaving a negative review is not a bad person.

No, seriously, that’s what he says:

Often a reviewer doesn’t take into consideration of the impact a bad review can have on your sales. They may not even be bad people.

Look at that fuckery. In fact, let’s highlight something: They may not even be bad people.

Let’s get to the point, because this is the point right here: Just because someone does something you don’t like and/or is actually harmful to you, does not mean that person is attacking you personally. How people manage to bumble into adulthood without learning this, I’ll never know, but it’s a simple fact. Okay? “I feel pain” does not necessarily lead to “You tried to hurt me” even if they’re college professors.

So the author suggests talking to the reviewer politely, asking for tips to make things better. In his first example, this works out fine because the reviewer takes the time to respond, offer help, and improve the author’s work. Wasn’t that kind of them? They even changed the review.

But what happens to a reviewer who leaves a negative review but doesn’t respond to the author’s request for help? What if they don’t want to take time out of their day to point out the errors they found or beta-read a project?

So what then is an indie author to do? Well this is where we as indies have to stick together. This is trench warfare people… anything goes.

Clearly, the solution is to find a bunch of other authors to go on the attack:

I called on some friends to discredit the review, promising to do the same for them should the need ever arise. I’ve made a lot of friends in indie author community through kindlemojo. I asked some of fellow authors to write comments in this fellow’s review.

OMG, I had no idea that some of them were going to be as vicious as they were. The looked up this guys history and saw that he mostly liked to review video games and painted him as a mommy’s boy living in her basement with nothing better to do. They got personal with him as well – it was getting quite ugly – but in a good way. One of the comments even accused him of being a mole of the big 6. However most were simple rebuttals to the unfair review. Someone even pointed him to the article I reblogged about how the first mass marketed Harry Potter novel had over 200 typos. After a few days of the onslaught he took the review down.

Let’s highlight something else here: They got personal with him as well – it was getting quite ugly – but in a good way.

Hey, there is no good way to get personal with a reader who left a negative review. The author includes a quoted text of the review in question (not a screencap, because as they said they bullied the reader into dropping it) that states the one-star is because the reader found four typos, but even if we were assume the review really was that extreme, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who posted the review or why, you leave it alone.

I have a one-star review that I know for a fact was payback for an online scuffle. Whatever. I leave it alone. There’s a one-star review on the Goodreads page for Game of Cages that mocks the book for an error that doesn’t actually exist: the reviewer misread the scene. What’s more, she has a ton of likes for that review and it pops up at the top of the page. Whatever. I leave it alone.

One thing indie authors like the dude I linked above could learn from traditionally-published ones is professionalism regarding reviews: Leave them alone. They’re written for the benefit of other readers, not for the author (or the author’s marketing efforts).

Don’t attack people because they say they don’t like your book. Even if you think they didn’t read it or they’re just taking a dig at you–even if you know both of these things for a fact–it’s completely unprofessional to silence readers’ opinions in readers’ spaces, whether by unpublishing the book or through an “onslaught” when they refuse to help you fix your mistakes for free. If it bothers you so much, do what other authors do: stop reading your reviews.

Five Things Make A Post

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First, my Father’s Day was pretty great. I asked to get no gifts and didn’t receive any but the cards were wonderful. We also went out to brunch. My wife is pretty cool on the idea of going to a restaurant for breakfast–and my son actively hates it–so this is something I sorta love but get to do only once a year. And yeah, I ate more than I should have.

We went some distance to a little place called Mulleady’s, mainly on the rule that we could get things we never make at home, like blood pudding, boxty, scotch eggs, and other things we didn’t order. Sadly, marrow wasn’t on the bfast menu, but maybe another time. One downside of going there is that it really doesn’t many people before it becomes uncomfortably loud.

Second, you may have seen news articles everywhere recently claiming that bike share programs increase head injuries. They’re wrong. Head injuries fell after bike share programs were introduced, but they didn’t fall as fast as other kinds of injuries. Therefore, according to the media, head injuries rose because, among those injured, a greater percentage of them had head injuries.

It’s statistical fuckery. To quote the linked article: “A more critical view would be that the researchers went looking for evidence that bikeshare programs are dangerous, and upon failing to find any, cherry-picked a relatively unimportant sub-trend and trumpeted it as decisive finding.”

My wife rides almost every day and she always wears her helmet. When I rode (back in my office job days) I wore a helmet all the time, too. We also have lights, reflective vests, and all the safety gear that people make fun of. But it’s important to remember that nothing makes the streets safer for cyclists than having a whole lot of cyclists on the streets.

Third, I’ve sent out copies of The Great Way in hopes of getting blurbs for them, and the first two have come back. Both are wonderful and make me feel like dancing around my apartment singing “I Feel Pretty.”

Fourth, I’m currently at work revising my pacifist urban fantasy, and never in my life have I had so much trouble making headway. My revisions are creeping along at a pace barely better than my first draft days. Stuff is difficult, you guys.

Fifth, I bought the first edition of CHILL (by Pacesetter) way back when it first came out. I bought the second edition enthusiastically, and when I made that six-figure deal for Child of Fire, I rewarded myself by buying up all the Chill books I didn’t already own.

Even though the game is pretty much unplayable.

Pacesetter’s first ed. was fun and had simple game mechanics. Mayfair’s second edition improved on things, but still couldn’t deal with Fear checks. You could prep a haunted house, prep the monster that would be there, arrange the clues the players needed to find or the person they needed to save, but what you couldn’t do was predict who would pass a Fear check. If all the players made it, the monster would not be able to stand against them. If only one made it, that player would have to face a villain designed to challenge a party while his compatriots ran screaming into the streets.

It was impossible to create a balanced confrontation, because you could never tell how many players would make that Fear check (the first thing to happen in every encounter), so you didn’t know which would stay in the scene.

And let’s be honest, any time a GM takes control of a player it sort of sucks, especially if you make the run in terror.

So, none of the games I tried to get off the ground ever went anywhere. My friends had no interest in horror games, since they’re pretty much the opposite of jokey power fantasies, and the only truly successful Chill game I ever ran was with my six-year-old son, and it was one session.

Still, it was great fun to read, and now I’m foolishly excited to see that, after a couple of false starts, there’s a third edition on the way. The previous attempt at a third edition got as far as informal play tests, which I took part in until assholes drove me away, but I’m hopeful for this. I don’t even know anything about the game, but I’m foolishly hopeful.

Not everyone celebrates Father’s Day, nor should they.

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C.C. Finlay talks about terrible fathers.

Let’s not make everyone celebrate. And let’s not ever talk about “all dads.” That’s a category without meaning. To everyone who doesn’t celebrate Father’s Day, to everyone who avoids it because it brings up too many painful memories, this post is for you.

Randomness for 6/12

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1) 20 Terrible Real Estate Photos. It’s hard to believe some of these are real. via Beth Pearson

2) Man Builds DIY ‘Hidden Pool’ In His Backyard That Disappears Under a Grass-Covered Top When Not in Use.

3) Man trolls Craigslist ad searching for “disguisable” weapons.

4) The Holy Taco Church. It’s funny, but I just sold a story to John Joseph Adams about a (mobile) taco church for his anthology of sff kickstarters. You think you’re being outlandish….

5) Tracking Detroit’s Decay Through Google Time Machine.

6) A review of Ancient Germanic Warriors: Warrior Styles from Trajan’s Column to Icelandic Sagas.

7) Know your double. <– Funny

Randomness for 5/27

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1) A comparison of Zulu and Filipino stick fighting. Video.

2) The Oatmeal on the wonderfulness of the Tesla Model S electric car.

3) Five Details They Cut From My Season Of The Biggest Loser. We all knew this show was complete shit, but it’s even worse than I thought.

4) What happens when engineers own dogs. Video.

5) The 10 Commandments of Typography.

6) San Francisco “real estate magnate” hides $100 bills around city and leaves clues to their location via twitter account.

7) “In my view, the parties do not need a judge; what they need is a rather stern kindergarten teacher” Spiteful upper-class twits drive each other wild.

“Edit” is not synonymous with “fix”

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I just saw the umpteenth iteration of “If only this had been edited!” which I’m not linking to because why and also because it’s always and everywhere. You can’t swing a dead pixel without hitting some forum comment lamenting that There Are Errors Where There Shouldn’t Be.

So.

The verb “edit,” when it’s applied to text, does not mean “fix.” I don’t care what the dictionary says, it doesn’t. It means “change.”

Obviously, yes, we hope the changes we make will be improvements. We’re trying to fix things when they’re broken, correct inconsistencies, smooth out sentence structures, fix verb tenses, switch out that off-key word with a clearer one, whatever. Edits are an attempt at improving things.

However, sometimes an edit creates a conflict with something else in the text. Sometimes it’s just a flat out error. What’s more, as a reader we can’t tell if an error was added in the first draft and missed in revisions or if it was added on the very last pass through.

Hey, mistakes happen, even when you edit.

Randomness for Mother’s Day

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1) Map of boys names from around the world. I didn’t see one for girls.

2) Huge 3D printer built ten one-story buildings in one day out of construction waste and cement. The video is cool.

3) Sony wages a brutal 35 year war with record producer over their refusal to pay royalties.

4) New Zealand artists create 3D Sand pictures.

5) Movie Scripts Ranked by Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. Hey, the higher the reading level of the script, the more critically-lauded you’d expect it to be, right?

6) What are the most overrated and underrated movies?

7) How to tell if you’re reading a gothic, an infographic.

About Those “Big Name” Writers…

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Last Friday, a funny conversation popped up on Twitter. It started with Kameron Hurley, when she tweeted this:

Click through to read the whole thing, but there was also this:

I think it’s worth saying that science fiction and fantasy is a small, disparate field, even on the internet. Those writers whose names you see on popular blog posts or online articles, or who have award nominations, or several thousand Twitter followers? You might be surprised by how much they struggle getting their books out there. Getting noticed, convincing readers to try their work instead of that other author’s, racking up enough sales to keep going and maybe, just maybe someday earning enough that all those hours of writing pay off at something like minimum wage.

Sometimes I think of the internet as a huge cave complex with innumerable caverns. Where I am standing, it may seem crowded with people, and many of the voices I can hear seem so big they echo off the walls, but people just one cavern over have never heard of any of us and don’t care a whit for the drama that sucks up all of our time. And beyond that cavern is another and another, all filled with people that we can’t reach.

The U.S. has a celebrity culture, which seems to be spreading beyond our borders, that encourages folks to assume that “well-known” somehow means “powerful” or “successful.” I’m just saying it’s not so, not with writers. A footprint that might seem large to an individual is probably smaller than you think in real terms.

Anyway, Kameron Hurley has a cool series you should check out, and so does Tobias Buckell. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, you should. That’s how Big Name Authors are made.