Book Five of the Oz Chronicles now has a beginning!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – I can relax.  I was sitting around minding my own business yesterday, and the first line of Book Five of the Oz Chronicles just popped up in my head!!!  Nice!  For me, once I have the first line, the rest is a breeze.  I had a major revelation about the story several weeks ago that actually made me really sad.  No, I can’t say what it is.  Let’s just say, it’s necessary.

"They surfaced."

The outline of the book was done a long, long time ago, but I’m going to make some pretty significant changes to the outline.  No title yet, and I haven’t decide whether I’m going to finish the manuscript I’m currently working on (a non-Oz story), or move this one up to the front of the line.  I wrote the first two paragraphs just to get a feel for the story, and it actually feels pretty good.

I’ll keep you posted.

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At the risk of getting hammered, I have to defend Amazon.

Since I was critical of Amazon a couple of days ago, I now feel compelled to defend them against some pretty outrageous claims that I’ve been reading and hearing out there on the Interwebs.  The most bizarre of which is that Amazon created this pedophile book controversy to get free publicity during the prime holiday buying season.

WHAT!?  That is the most ridiculous claim I have ever heard.  It’s akin to the Catholic Church saying, “Hey, attendance has been really down on Sunday’s.  How ’bout we accuse a priest of molesting some kid to get our name out there.”   I hope you people making this claim don’t work in marketing, but here’s a tip if you do, pedophilia is bad for business.

Another claim is based on a misunderstanding of how controversies work.  Way too many people have stated that Amazon is “promoting” this book.  They aren’t promoting this book.  They most likely never knew it existed until some customer’s brought it to their attention.  Let’s be totally honest.  The public outcry for a boycott is what is providing publicity for this book.  The book sold one copy before some bloggers found it and started spreading a viral protest.  If I had to guess, the person who bought that one copy was the author himself.  Between the time a boycott was first raised and before Amazon removed the book, it sold in the neighborhood of 3,000 copies (according to some reports I’ve read).  That’s how controversies work.  They benefit the person or group being protested by making their offenses public and sparking curiosity.  If you notice, when I address this situation on this blog, I’ve never given the title of the book or the author’s name.

A third claim that is misguided is identifying Amazon as a publisher in this case.  While it is true that Amazon has a publishing division called Amazon Encore, they did not publish this book.  The author used the Kindle digital site to upload his book as a “self-published” book.  As far as I know, beyond copyright confirmation and format checking, there is no editorial review.  And frankly, we (customers and authors) don’t want Amazon to create a review process of this nature because it is a process that will have to involve attorneys, and anything that is even the slightest bit controversial will never see the light of day.

Amazon is not without fault in this situation.  They handled the initial complaints with sanitized blurbs that didn’t really satisfy anyone.  But again, you can blame the attorneys and our litigious society for that.  In any publicly held company, lawyers vet public statements because if the wrong thing is conveyed, lawsuits are filed and stockholders get pissed and the price of shares go down.  But that still doesn’t excuse Amazon from using the first amendment argument.  It presented them as hypocritical since they do indeed ban material protected under the first amendment.  Their statement should have been, “A book that some customers find objectionable has been brought to our attention, and as a precaution we have removed the book from our site while we investigate the matter further.  We want to give our customers the widest possible selection of products that adhere to our stated policies of decency.  We take any breech of that policy seriously in order to insure that our customers have an enjoyable shopping experience.”  Or something to that affect.

I’m not going to advice against a boycott because that would come off as totally self-serving on my part.  I do sell books on Amazon, so I rely on the site for income (My previous post on this ordeal covered that).    But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that boycotting because of a book does put us all on  a very slippery slope.  If it’s successful, the response will likely be very heavy handed.  And not just by Amazon, any major book retailer will probably start going through all their inventory to make sure they don’t find anything too objectionable.  Literary works like Lolitta will be banned.  And no, I’m not saying the book that sparked this controversy is great literature.  The quality of the work is not the issue here. It’s the content that’s the issue, and Lolitta depicts pedophilia pretty plainly and without apologies.  If a guide to pedophilia by some sicko in Colorado costs Amazon money, they and other retailers will have to assume, a book like Lolitta could do the same.  And maybe even a number of Shakespeare plays.  And what about… you get the point.  No matter how reasonable we think it is  to ban a book that appears to advocate pedophilia, the line will keep moving when enough people find something objectionable.

I am in no way defending this book.  It makes me sick that it even exists.   I am saying be very careful what you fight for because as just as a cause may appear, the consequences of victory may be more far reaching and frightening than you could have ever imagined.

That’s it for this issue on this blog.  I’m done with it.  It’s taking up too much of my brainpower, and I don’t want to give it more attention than it deserves.

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When you boycott Amazon, you boycott me

This is going to sound crude and self-serving, but I got junk punched this week when Amazon decided to allow a pedophile to sell his self-published guide to pedophilia on their website.  I love Amazon for a lot of reasons, but that was a bone-head move that rightly sparked a boycott movement.  And, herein lies the aforementioned junk punching.  The boycott affected me – I think.

My primary source of income comes from Amazon’s website.  I am not an employee of Amazon.  I am an entrepreneur who uses their website to publish and sell my books.  I make more than a fair amount on each sale, and I have yet to find a viable alternative to the system they have created for authors like me.  In short, I rely on Amazon to sell my books and help pay my mortgage.

Yesterday, when the outcry for the boycott was at a fever pitch, my sales dried up. I cannot say for certain the boycott was the reason for the dip in sales, but it did make me stop and panic. Now, you should know, I don’t sell thousands or hundreds of books every day.  If I sell a dozen in a day, that’s an excellent day for me.  I rely 100% on word-of-mouth and my sales have gone up year after year.  In fact, I’ve already sold 30% more books than I sold last year.  If I get a similar holiday bump in sales that I got last year, I’m on pace to triple my sales over last year’s numbers.  Again, we’re not talking tens of thousands of books.  More like thousands, and trust me, I can barely make that plural.  The point is, just a little hit has a huge negative effect on my income.

Amazon is not a giant, faceless corporation – not entirely.  It is a publicly traded company with seemingly as many lawyers as managers on staff, but it is so much more than that.  It is a community of authors, musicians, filmmakers, small businesses, etc. trying to make a living practicing our craft of choice.  We have no say in company policy.  We have no voice in who the company hires.  We have no power at all within their system, save one, the power to make money.

Was I happy to find out that a pedophile was using that same system to spread his vile crap?  Of course not.  I was disgusted.  I agreed with the angry comments I read left by customers on the book’s sales page.  I didn’t understand Amazon’s first amendment stance, especially when they ban pornography which is also protected under the first amendment.  The move just made no sense at all.  But nonetheless, I am torn.  If I support a ban of the platform that is the major source of my income, I’m essentially committing retail suicide.  As I said, I haven’t found a system that even comes close to Amazon for what I do.  Say what you want about them, but they know ecommerce better than anyone else on the planet, and they’ve gamed the system so we artists can actually make a living doing what we love.

It is my understanding that the book is no longer on Amazon’s site, and my sales were back to normal today, but I’m still left with the metallic taste of worry in my mouth.   What if this happens again?  I realize I’ve made this whole unfortunate incident about me, but I never said I didn’t have narcissistic tendencies.  Plus, this is how I eat.

So, what do I expect from you, the Amazon customer?  Nothing. I’m not suggesting you never threaten to boycott Amazon again.  But remember, when the ‘B’ word comes up again, there will be a stocky, bald little writer on the East coast feeling the brunt of the boycott through no fault of his own.  And there are thousands of others like me, I might add… not that their stocky and bald.  They’re just entrepreneurs trying to make a living through Amazon.

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Missile? What Missile?

Well, there’s a story coming out of Cali-for-nia that a mystery missile was launched about 30 miles off the golden coast.  When a local TV reporter called the Pentagon for confirmation on the missile launch they replied, “Huh?” They don’t know of a missile launch.  They didn’t detect a missile launch.  They weren’t even sure how to spell missile launch. Here’s a report from local TV station:

I have to say it looks like a missile, but despite my belief that the US government willingly lies badly to the people of this country, I have a hard time believing they launched a missile in broad daylight, and then would disavow any knowledge of launching said missile.

This blogger actually makes a pretty good case that it’s nothing more than jet contrails: Jet contrails from some angles look like missile trails.  He uses math to bolster his argument, so needless to say, it’s over my head.

That brings up a puzzling question.  If it’s needless to say, why do we then say it?  Oh well, I digest.  What do you think, missile or jet contrails?

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Let’s trade for Moss so we can release him three games later.

The Vikings are nuts.  They make a trade for Randy Moss and then release him three games later.  What were they thinking?  It looks bad, like they don’t know what they’re doing.  I’m no Moss fan, but he didn’t deserve to be treated like that.  I just wish my Panthers would pick him up.

Love this video mash-up that Sports Remixes did on Youtube.

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