I wish I could follow the Wil Wheaton Doctrine

WWHP2It seems Sheldon Cooper’s nemesis turned friend has stirred things up with his junk punch to HuffPo for not paying their contributors. Wil Wheaton of Next Generation/Stand by Me/Big Bang/proud nerd fame was miffed when an editor at HuffPo contacted him about re-publishing a post he wrote for his popular WIL WHEATON dot NET blog.  The miffing wasn’t in response to their request. He miffed-out because they informed him that they couldn’t offer him payment for using his content.  He refused and took to Twitter expressing his outrage.

Underpaid artists across the globe applauded his stance.  Those of us who are trying to earn a living via creative endeavors shouldn’t be expected to work for free. We should be paid for our art, especially if we’re contacted by a company valued at $50 million to reproduce our work. That’s the royal “we’re” and “our.” HuffPo has not contacted me, and I doubt they will if they ever read this post because I agree that it is absolutely ridiculous that HuffPo doesn’t pay their contributors.

HuffPo wants you take the gamble that the exposure you receive by appearing on their very popular website will eventually translate into cash, and to be fair, I do know of a few authors who have received a bump in sales because of their work being published on HuffPo. The benefit is not guaranteed, but it is a tantalizing carrot on a stick for struggling writers to chase.

I am torn on the matter. On the one hand, Wil Wheaton is right. HuffPo should pay its contributors. They shouldn’t have a business model based on a free-workforce.  For a liberal-leaning company, it is a terribly non-progressive and utterly disappointing policy.  On the other hand, as a struggling writer, I would take the gamble. Wheaton is in the enviable position of having a large number of followers.  He is a well-established brand that doesn’t need the exposure because he can generate his own.

Like it or not, HuffPo’s “exposure only payment” policy does have some value. It’s not completely ethical, but at the same time, it does have the potential to “next-level” a writer’s career. However, it’s a hit or miss proposition with no assurances that you’ll receive the golden ticket.  I hope to one day be able to follow The Wil Wheaton Doctrine, but I simply can’t afford to pass up opportunities to gain mass exposure at this point in my career.  So in case you’re wondering, HuffPo, you can republish this post.

Essentially, HuffPo views their entire website as advertising space. There’s the virtual real estate they charge actual money for, and then there’s the space they trade in exchange for content. In other words, they view contributors as advertisers getting free space.  And, an argument could be made to support that philosophy. We live in a brand driven society. Brands are supported by exposure. HuffPo offers a lot of exposure. I don’t make the rules. That’s just the way it works. For me and the millions of writers like me that need exposure to make a living, it’s an arrangement we are forced to accept.

The strange dichotomy here is that Wil Wheaton gained even more exposure by taking on HuffPo’s nonpayment policy, not because of the policy, but because HuffPo is behind the policy. If he’d gone after the Super Duper Nerd Gazette for making him the same offer, no one would care.

IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE: I have had a couple of contributors for this blog over the years that I did not pay. As you can see, this blog is free of advertisements (with the exception of links to my books), so that’s where I make the distinction.  If you’re a site generating direct income from outside vendors based on the number of unique visitors to an article or post, then you should pay that contributor for that work.  I don’t care how much exposure you can offer a writer.

The Walking Dead: Spoiler Alert

Another spoiler alert. Do not click if you don’t want last night’s episode of TWD ruined for you – Although I’m fairly sure it’s pointless to post the warning because I’ve seen “BLANKS” name all over the Facebooks and the Tweeters. Stupid social media.

This tweet by a fan gives a pretty good theory on how you know who could have survived the zombie herd.

It's a good theory.

It’s a good theory.

The Walking Dead: Kudos and What the hell, man?


You sons-a-bitches! You glorious, storytelling, sons-a-bitches! I hate and admire you!

This is your chance to bail on this blog post. I am going to talk The Walking Dead spoilers.  Last night was an emotionally charged episode that crushed a lot of souls and broke every fan’s heart. Yes, it’s just a TV show, and yes, it features zombies, and yes, it focuses on the worst of humanity in most episodes where even the good guys do very bad things. But damn it, it’s a great show, and when something as monumental as what happened last night happens, regular viewers go into a deep funk, and we want answers.  Like everyone else, I have my opinion – Scratch that. I have two opinions about last night’s episode: as a fan and as a writer.


As a fan: The thought that Glenn is dead is mind-numbingly depressing. He was the groups’ lighthouse of decency. When the others found themselves slipping deeper into depravity in the name of survival, he was the beacon that set them back on the righteous path. He always did the right thing, risking his life over and over again by doing so. If he is indeed dead, he died because of his goodness. His belief that everyone deserves a second chance cost him his life, not because he was wrong. Nicholas was in the process of redeeming himself, and that’s why he thanked Glenn just before shooting himself in the head. Glenn died for what he believed in, and there is no nobler way to die. If Glenn is gone, I’m as upset as anyone about it, but it was a perfect way for him to go out.

As a writer: Glenn had to die. Otherwise the audience is going to lose interest in the plight of the core characters. If they always find a way to cheat death, then there’s nothing to invest in from an audience member’s standpoint. You can’t have investment without risk. Kudos to the creators of the TV show for having the guts to kill off a beloved character when no fan would have blamed them for keeping him alive until they film their last episode in the series.

There’s a big BUT to all this. The way the scene was shot, with Nicholas falling on top of Glenn, there is an out here for the fans and creators of the show. It’s possible, but somewhat unlikely, that Glenn is simply watching in horror as Nicholas is being torn apart in a feeding frenzy by the zombie herd. As a fan, I hope that is the case. As utterly hopeless as Glenn’s situation seemed to be in that scene, I’m grasping at any straw of a hint of miracle that he will find a way out alive.

As a writer, I think it would be a huge mistake to give the audience that miracle. He has to be dead. For the sake of the fictional world they’ve so brilliantly created, Glenn cannot have survived. He has to be the consequence of risk that we all know is there. If he’s somehow survived, the show will lose some of its edge that keeps viewers terrified and unable to look away.

RIP Glenn or Thank God you survived, Glenn!

Saw the movie The Martian and …

The Book Rules!

The Book Rules!

The book is better. I know that a lot of people have the opposite opinion, but I beg to differ. The movie was good. I went to a matinee showing, and there were maybe eight people in the theater. I just didn’t think the movie had the same charm that the book does. I’m not a “the book is always better” snob. I swear. It just happens to be in this case.

I feel like Oskar Schindler

Rewrites are in. Did I do enough?

Rewrites are in. Did I do enough?

I just turned in my rewrites for the book formerly known as The Closeout Kings, and I feel like Oskar Schindler. I could have done more. I didn’t do enough. I could have done more. This ring, it could have saved Step’s line of dialogue in chapter ninety-two. I could have kept Randle as the character that drives Kenny to the hospital. This watch, it could have saved that poor state police officer’s nose. His nose!

At least I’m 10 days ahead of deadline. That’s got to count for something, no?

Ken Burger: The Passing of One of My Favorite Authors

A Southern novel filled with "OMG!" moments

A Southern novel filled with “OMG!” moments

I was sad to learn that Ken Burger passed away yesterday. Ken was an extraordinary Southern writer that didn’t receive nearly enough accolades for his work. Most of the people of South Carolina and the Lowcountry know Ken as a columnist. He spent much of his career covering sports, but he was much more than just a “sports guy.” He was a brilliant writer that could turn a Southern phrase like no one else. I just happened upon his book Swallow Savannah one day while killing some time in Barnes and Noble.  I Picked it up, cracked the cover and read the first line.

William often walked the back roads of Bluff County at night, his blackness lost in the shadows of low-hanging live oaks, his existence all but invisible to white people.

I was hooked. The book belonged to me, not just because I purchased it, but because it spoke to me in away that very rarely happens. Burger had a way of drawing you into a story and surprising the shit out of you with explosive moments mixed in with the serenity of Southern normalcy. He wrote with both charm and grit, daring the reader to not recoil and then turn the page to devour more of the forbidden text.

I went to the Post Office nearest my neighborhood one day, and as I was traversing the parking lot, I looked up to see Ken Burger walking towards me. My first thought was, “Holy shit! Ken Burger lives near my house!” My second thought was that this would be my best chance to tell an author I admire just how much his work meant to me. The problem is I am a painfully shy and awkward person in the real world. I don’t exactly possess the kind of extroverted qualities that require the kind of bold move it would take to walk up to a perfect stranger and introduce myself, much less fawn all over them like a fanboy.

But this speaks to the power of Swallow Savannah. I was able to suppress my inhibitions. I walked up to him, stuck out my hand, probably like a nervous idiot, and did something I never do, I initiated a conversation with someone I don’t know.

“Mr. Burger.”

“Yes.” He shook my hand, but eyed me with a suspicious glare. He was a columnist for the Post and Courier who had written a number of disparaging remarks about virtually every college football program in South Carolina at one time or another. He was never one to hold back. He was most likely sizing me up to see if I was about to rake him over the coals for some blasphemous remark he had made about either the Gamecocks or the Tigers.

“I just wanted to let you know that Swallow Savannah is one of my favorite books. You actually had me saying, ‘Oh my, God!’ out loud on more than one occasion.”

He chuckled. “Well, thank you. That is so nice of you to say.”

He let me know about his next book, and we parted ways. I didn’t get his autograph. I didn’t take a selfie with him. I didn’t even tell him I was a writer too. I just shared a private moment with one of my favorite writers and let him know what his work meant to me. It was all I needed, and I hope he got some satisfaction out of the encounter too.

To Ken Burger I say thank you for writing one of my favorite books.

The Third and Final Pass?

Project Rewrites 1, 2 & 3

Project Rewrites 1, 2 & 3

I’m about to make my third and hopefully final pass on the rewrites. With 5,000 new words, it has a different feel to it. Same tone and irreverence, but Deputy Dani Pearl is now the backbone of the book. There’s a new first chapter, and the other changes appear in the conclusion of the novel.

“It’s an exclamation point!” he exclaimed.

An exclamation point needs no exclamation!

An exclamation point needs no exclamation!

Pet Peeve Warning: It is not – I repeat – NOT necessary to ever use the verb exclaim when you want to attribute a line of dialogue to a particular character. Why? Because the exclamation point you used at the end of the sentence is a pretty good indicator that the character is exclaiming something.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

“I heard you!” Johnson exclaimed.

The fix could go a number of different ways, but the only way to definitely screw that sentence up is to use the word “exclaimed.”

Remember this little rhyme as you write your novel:

It’s lame to exclaim!

The Today Show Plays Fast and Loose with the Truth in Post-Debate Poll

I’m in the middle of my coffee-infusion ritual this morning, watching the Today show as I work up the energy to get back to rewrites. The morning show has been excitedly proclaiming from the opening bell about new poll results that show Hillary has “opened up” her lead against Bernie after the debate.  I was a little shocked because every online poll I’ve seen shows that a wide-margin of viewers thought that Bernie had won the debate. I realize online polls are easy to manipulate, so I had already decided that his numbers were somewhat inflated. More than Bernie supporters voted for him. Hillary haters of the GOP persuasion voted for him too as a “fuck you” to the Clintons.

I watched the segment on the poll results, and they had two columns in a graphic. The left column was for October poll results and the right column was for September poll results.  They showed the post-debate (October) results. Hillary is at 45% and Bernie is at 31%.  They didn’t show September results, not until Biden’s name came on screen. He dropped five points after the debate because – well – he wasn’t in the debate.  They still didn’t show September numbers for Bernie and Hillary, so there was no point of reference to gauge Hillary’s gains over Bernie.  They even showed the October and September numbers for two Republicans – Trump and Carson – to illustrate how the race has tightened in the last month.

Hillary hasn't opened up her lead over Bernie

Hillary hasn’t opened up her lead over Bernie

So why not show the September poll results? Because it didn’t exactly support their narrative that Hillary has “opened up” her lead against Bernie. I went to their own poll results to see if I could figure out the complicated math that prevented them from showing September numbers. This is difficult to figure out, so get ready with your calculators. In September Hillary polled at 42% and Bernie came in at 29%.  So, if you carry the one, and loop around the universe three times with a tape measure you will see that Hillary’s post debate bump was 3% and Bernie’s was 2%. Hillary “opened up” her lead by 1-point in a poll that has a margin of error of +/- 2-points. Even on the website, they describe the results as “fairly unchanged.”

I don’t believe the media is ignoring Bernie because they have a pro-Hillary agenda. I think what we’re witnessing is the influence of Superpacs on elections. The mainstream media outlets are the biggest benefactors of Superpac money. Billions will be spent this election cycle and a huge chunk of that money will be going to the major players in the corporate media cabal. Bernie has sworn off Superpacs. If he wins the Democratic nomination, they will lose a significant amount of revenue. They couldn’t care less if Hillary wins. They really couldn’t, but she brings much more money to the table, so they want her to play over Bernie. It’s really that corrupt and simple.