Archive for the ‘Blather’ Category

No, You Did Not Get a Mandate

Posted in Blather  by John Brown on November 8th, 2014

“Mandate” is one of the stupidest words used in politics today.

You keep using that word

A mandate is an order, a command from the boss. A requirement.

Some restaurant owners mandate their employees wash their hands after using the bathroom. I personally like restaurant owners who mandate that.

States mandate that people who drive cars have car insurance. I like that mandate as well.

But do political representatives receive mandates?

When a politician wins an election, does he or she receive a mandate from the people?

For example, when Obama spanked John McCain in 2008, and the Democrats swept into power, did they have a mandate from the American people to enact certain legislation?

Obama had 52.9% of the voters behind him. McCain had 45.7% of them.

Many Democrats at the time claimed a mandate from “the American people.” But if you know some elementary school maths, you’ll quickly recognize that 52.9% is nowhere close to 100%. Or 90%. Or even 70%.

52.9% is close to, well, 50%. That’s half. As in half a pizza. Here’s a visual for the maths-impaired.

Half a pizza

Clearly, 52.9% is nowhere close to “the American people” or “voters.”

But this was lost on politicians who had the brain capacities of gerbils. They thought the elections magically evaporated the will of 45.7% of the people. They though the other half had suddenly disappeared. They thought government by and for the people meant government by and for half the people.

Hold on, John. In the Senate, Democrats won 57 seats, Republicans 41. In the House it was 257 to 178, or 59% to 41%.

Yeah, like I said. About half.

But such maths were beyond them. And so they began to push through legislation that only half the country wanted. Sometimes much less than half, as in the case of Obamacare.

They weren’t governing America. They weren’t leading America. They were leading half and oppressing the other half because they had “won the election.”

So, my fellow Americans, should winning an election give you the right to force something onto the other half of the populace they don’t want?

Is this what America is all about? Is that the freedom from tyranny we celebrate every fourth of July?

The Republicans won a great victory in this year’s election, taking back the Senate and expanding their seats in the House. In the Senate, it will probably be 53 to 45. In the House, 244 to 184.

But does this mean the American people have clearly given them a mandate to enact certain legislation? Does it mean they’re supposed to ignore the other half of the country and ram legislation down their throats they don’t agree with?

I’m a true blue conservative. Or true red, or whatever the color is. After the last six years, I never want to have legislation rammed down my throat again. And I’ve also come to the realization that I never want to do that to the other guy.

America hasn’t given the Republicans a mandate. Nor, as President Obama recently claimed, have they given Washington a mandate to “get stuff done.”

Getting stuff done is exactly the problem.

We don’t want you to get stuff done.

We want you to get stuff done that the vast majority of us agree on!

But, John, does that mean you want us to compromise on our principles?

No. I don’t want to compromise. I’m not interested in going along to get along. But I’m also not interested in a representative government that fails to represent HALF of us.

Here’s my proposal. Let’s go back and start over.

Let’s get rid of Obamacare and put something in its place that at least 60-65% of us can agree on. Maybe 70% of us. It won’t be a liberal weed dream. It won’t be a right wing vision of glory. But whatever gets enacted will be something all of us agree are good things.

And it will force us to win others to our way of thinking if we want to get the rest of the stuff we think is so splendid.

But, John, what if folks can’t agree?

Then we don’t enact. This forces us to use persuasion. It forces is to think win-win. It forces us to behave like a nation that loves freedom.

Immigration. Do we want an American where the president acts like a tyrant and forces something down half of our throats? Or do we want to enact something 65-70% of us can agree on?

The budget. Let’s roll back all the nonsense and get a spending plan that 65-70% of us can agree on.

What about the 30%? I don’t want to oppress them, but 100% ain’t never gonna happen. Let’s be practical. Besides, requiring a large majority means Washington will be at least by and for most of the people. And that’s better than what we have today.

So, do we have a mandate? If anything, I would hope the mandate would be to do stuff that represents America, not one party.

Edit 11/10/2014

And today I find this–an explicit example of the gerbil-brain thinking I reference above. This fine fellow is one of the architects of Obamacare, explaining that the law was written in a way to bamboozle the American voter. What we need in Washington is honest debate and persuasion. Not duplicity and lies. I’m appalled. This is the get-stuff-done-I-have-a-mandate mentality. Not the get stuff done that most of us agree on approach. These folks have completely misunderstood the purpose of government.


Indie Thoughts: Authors, We Are Not Amazon

Posted in Blather  by John Brown on September 28th, 2014

Angry-Tiger-tigers-31737545-1920-1440Sometimes I think some of us indies get this weird attachment syndrome and start thinking we’re Amazon.

Joe Konrath recently hosted a blog-conversation with Lee Child about the whole Amazon vs. traditional publishers thing. The Passive Voice had an active discussion about it as well.  Kudos to Lee Child for yet again showing up and injecting a new perspective into the conversation. It can indeed become something of an echo chamber in the main indie blogs, which I love, but which nevertheless do still tend to sometimes echo. Having someone with his experience come engage and share his two cents was helpful.

One thing his comments reiterated to me is that neither Amazon nor the publishers are in this as the author’s let’s-get-pinky-rings BFF.

I’m not going to carry an ounce of water for Amazon in their fight with Hachette. I’m not going to carry an ounce for the trad publishers either.

I think it’s helpful for all of us to try to understand the truth about the business, and spread that to other authors, but that’s very different from this knee-jerk Defender of Amazon thing that goes on, which seems so very much like Republicans and Democrats turning a blind eye to their own candidates and fixating a hyper-critical one the others.

Case in point: here’s a link to a description of Amazon’s Gazelle Project.

Why do indie authors care? Because we’re Amazon vendors as well.

Look, I love what Amazon has enabled me to do. I love that Nook and Apple are helping enable it as well. But was this Gazelle Project a good thing? A bad thing? If we stand by and cheer Amazon in such tactics, are we essentially standing by and cheering as Germany takes Austria, France, and Poland? Or are we like England cheering the USA coming in with their troops and bombers?

I’m NOT a traditional publisher. And I’m NOT Amazon, or any other retailer. Even when I contract with them. None of us are. I sometimes wonder if some of us have gotten a bit confused about this.

Konrath says don’t worry about the tiger (Amazon) when a wolf (traditional publishers) is gnawing on your leg. But if you’re an indie writer, you have no wolf gnawing on your leg. That’s someone else’s problem. But we are indeed in bed with the tiger.

Why haven’t we seen more posts about the Gazelle Project on the big indie blogs? Lee Child, darling of the traditional publishers, has to point me in its direction? Why haven’t we been more curious about this tiger’s behavior?

Let’s make hay while the sun shines. The tiger seems to be fairly decent right now. He’s not perfect. For example, eBay strangely enough only charges 15% to sell via their site while Amazon charges 30%. But let’s not forget that as decent as he is, he’s still a tiger. And he’s probably not like those poor guys being made to do tricks by Ringling Brothers.



Do you wish books had ratings for sex, violence, and language? If so I want to chat with you.

Posted in Blather  by John Brown on July 15th, 2014

MarshmallowMateysBack in 2011 I wrote a post titled “Since when did young adult fiction become the cure for cancer?”  It was a response to all the YASaves hysteria. The main point of my amazing post (grin) was that the people complaining about some YA content wanted not to ban books, but to simply have a way to more easily evaluate if they wanted to buy a particular book in the first place.

They want to avoid purchasing what they thought was a box of Marshmallow Mateys only to open it and find a bunch of bicycle sprockets.

Last year I decided to work on a solution. I have some ideas. But before I get ahead of myself and build something, I want to really understand if it’s a problem worth solving. I want to chat with others who do care about content to see what aspects of this are important to them and what they’re doing now to find this information.

So, if you wish books had ratings for sex, violence, and language, then I want to talk to you. It will take about 20 minutes. If you’re open to chatting, leave a comment, or click Contact above and fill in the form.

Because I live up in the middle of nowhere, we’ll have to chat via a web meeting. But never fear: I’ll host that. All you’ll have to do is show up and answer my questions :)



Thank you for putting your lives on the line

Posted in Blather  by John Brown on May 23rd, 2014
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To our soldiers, law enforcement officers, and firemen. What an awesome song and video for this Memorial Day.

I spent 7 days in a car with Larry Correia, International Lord of Hate, and lived to tell about it

Posted in Blather  by John Brown on April 30th, 2014

Larry-CorreiaSeven days.

San Diego, Phoenix, and a wild trip through Wyoming, around Denver, and back to Utah.

Seven days.

Five nights.

On the last trip, Larry, that murderous man, brought a bag of Walmart beef jerky that smelled like farts when you first opened it.

Oh, the humanity.

Now, here’s the thing. If you spend any amount of time with me, you will eventually tell me your life story.

You will.

Not because I’m a pryier. But because I’m simply and sincerely interested. In people. If you work for the sanitation department, I’m going to want to know about garbage trucks. If you bowl, I’m going to want to know about bowling. If you’re some kind of wackadoo, I’m going to want to hear your wackadooness. Sooner or later, you’re going to talk. And, yes, there will be things along the way that I just might put in my zing file. That’s not why I’m talking to you. But sometimes the slices of life are too good not to capture.

So you put Larry Correia, International Lord of Hate, into a car with me, and he’s going to spill his guts.

Let me tell you what I found. Oh yeah, wait until you hear this.

Larry loves his wife.

No, do not turn away in horror. You must hear the rest of the tale.

Larry has progressive ideas about gay marriage.

Can you imagine what it was like for me?

He doesn’t like taxes. Something I sure the rest of us pay any chance we get.

He’s a strong advocate of the right to bear arms. He figures people are safer with guns than without. And he was loaded. He had two guns on his person! Of course, I never worried about going anywhere with him, but the guns had nothing to do with that.

He doesn’t like the idea of a small group of people in Washington telling folks what they need to do. He’s not anti-government. He just likes a minimal amount of government.

He doesn’t like a lot of what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did. One of those things he doesn’t like is the rounding up of Japanese Americans and putting them in war camps. Another was Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court with justices who would rule his way, essentially eliminating that branch’s check on the presidency. Nor does he like Roosevelt for being the first president to explicitly embrace deficit spending. The list with Roosevelt could go on.

Larry honors the folks who serve in our military and law enforcement. Big time. Guys and gals who put their lives on the line or support those who do.

Larry’s a big believer in pulling yourself up by your boot straps.

He’s a believer and putting your big girl panties on and getting to work. From what I could tell, the one thing Larry thought would solve a lot of ills was work.

Work. Do you see how unreasonable the man is?

He’s an accountant and pretty good with numbers. Ergo he doesn’t like a lot of bureaucratic waste. It stinks to his accountant soul. And he saw a lot of that as a military contractor. I’m really for a lot of waste of taxpayer dollars, but I let him have his say.

Larry was once a bouncer.

He’s a big guy, but got his trash kicked in some early amateur MMA. But he still loved it.

LarryCorreiacismaleIn a friendly wrestling match, he injured his room mate, and said room mate responded by breaking the International Lord of Hate’s toe. Yes, the toe, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Larry is funny.

Larry has a lot of friends because, shocker, he’s a friendly guy.

He’s also kind of a sheepdog.

Larry is a capitalist. And it appears he’s the dirty greedy kind who uses his capitalistic ties for helping folks down on their luck.

There’s more. But let me tell you what I never heard. I never heard him make a racist remark. Not even when he told me about growing up in California’s Central Valley, or when some idiot kids who had been tasked with beating someone up to to join a Hispanic gang targeted him. Never heard him make a misogynistic remark.

I did hear how he loved to argue with folks on the internets. And then saw that later when I started reading his blog. It’s clear Larry likes a good fight. He’s a barbarian with big boots. But, in truth, he’s a friendly barbarian.

That’s the expose. I know. Shocking, isn’t it.

Now he’s gone and done this Hugo thing and calls people names and uses four-letter words on his blog posts.

I’ve found that Larry in person is not quite the same as Larry online when you disagree with him. In person he’s usually very conversational when you disagree.

Some might say he needs to be more polite online. Use more class.

They might have a point. Sometimes I think he steps over the line. Then again, they might not. He does get people to listen. And some of the things he has to say are insightful and worthwhile. Others are just plain funny.

Whatever your opinion, all I know is that if you’re wanting Abraham Lincoln, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. If you come out swinging, he’s not going to regale you with Kumbaya.

larrycorreiaAnd because he fights the way he does as Internet Larry, his posts seem to push some folks buttons to the point that they actually miss his intent.

For example, when Larry responded to Alex MacFarlane’s call for “an end to the default of binary gender in science fiction stories,” he never once suggested that we should discriminate against the folks MacFarlane wants to read stories about. He never suggested there shouldn’t be any such stories. Nor did he ever suggest folks who are discriminated against never have a case. His point was that the best way to write an entertaining story was to put the entertainment first, not some political agenda. His point was also that he’s sick of folks trying to foist their interests on him and everyone else. If you want to write about certain types of characters, do it. But don’t tell everyone else they must.

That was lost on some people. All they saw was someone who disagreed “rudely,” and they saw red.  I’d be seeing red too if I felt ruded upon. At the same time, they still missed his point. A lot have missed his point about the Hugos as well.

But whatever happens with this latest kerfluffle, I had to tell my tale. Because I spent seven days with Larry Correia, International Lord of Hate. It was nip and tuck the whole time, but I survived his horrible onslaught. And then we enjoyed some ice creams and tropical trail mix, which I can happily report smelled a lot better than the beef jerky.

EDIT: it appears I got some details wrong. Larry says: “I only wore 2 guns on that trip. My Kimber/Bul Poly .45 and a little Kahr MK9. I broke my roommate’s toe and he broke my nose, not the other way around. And that beef jerky was really gross.” Okay, the nose-toe bit I might have gotten wrong. But even though I updated the gun bit to placate him, I’m telling you that he had a shotgun in his back pocket (it’s a big pocket), a .45 on his hip, and a bazooka in the sock. That’s adds up to 3 in any establishment worth mentioning.


Indie Thoughts: When an author should self-publish and how that might change

Posted in Blather, On Writing  by John Brown on April 30th, 2014
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From publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

For a number of reasons, the belief here is that most of the time for most authors who can get a deal with an established and competent house, their best choice is to take it.

Sounds reasonable, but then we get to the money quotes.

The strength of the traditional publishers and the traditional deals is directly related to the amount of the market that is served by inventory in stores. When that proportion was “nearly all”, the power allocation was “nearly all” to the traditional publishers.


Self-publishing and new-style digital-first publishing can grow more to the extent that the book-in-store share of the market shrinks more. But while that’s happening, the big publishers are also adding to their capabilities: building their databases and understanding of individual consumers (something that all the big houses are doing and which the upstarts seem not to believe is happening, or at least not happening effectively), distributing and marketing with increasing effectiveness in offshore markets, and controlling more and more of the global delivery in all languages of the books in which they invest.

It will compound the pressure on the alternative players if Amazon continues to grow its global market share for ebooks. The bigger the percentage of the market that can be reached by self-publishers with one stop at Amazon, the less interest they’ll have in picking up smaller chunks of the market with additional deals and the more powerful will be any incentives Amazon cares to offer for making the title exclusive to them.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files, and thanks to Passive Guy for the original link.

Shatzkin’s discussion of the amount of the market served by inventory in stores is right on. But his “best choice” conclusion doesn’t follow.


Because the question for each author has to be which stores will I be in, what kind of floor space will I have, and how long will I be there? And in many cases the answers to those questions do not compete well with indie options.

For example, a lot of in-store sales come from the drug store, grocery store, airport, Walmart, Costco type venues. But it’s rare than an author getting an average deal will see the light of day in those places. Those are reserved for bigger sellers. And not very many of those. So unless you’re getting a big deal, you can’t count that floor space.

Poof. Tens of thousands of venues are now no longer part of the equation.

So you are now left with whatever number of stores the publisher can get you into at Barnes&Noble (a max of 675 stores), Books-a-Million (max of 200 stores), Hastings (max of 149 stores), non-chain stores,  etc. I think the total number of book stores in the USA is around 10,000 or so. But publishers won’t get you into all of them. Some don’t carry your type of book: they’re used books stores, or kids book stores, or Christian book stores. And even if it’s a store like Barnes&Noble, you probably won’t get into all their stores. So how many stores will you actually be in?

Next, you have to wonder where you’ll appear in the stores you do get into. Will you be face-out somewhere prominent? Or will you have two copies spine-out in the back? If you’re spine-out, that’s just reduced the value of the floor space publishers offer you yet again.

Finally, how long will you be there? If you sell your two copies in a store, are you done at that store? Will your books be there longer than 12 weeks? Will they be there even 8 weeks?

James Patterson can sell millions of books because he has multiple copies in tens of thousands of stores with great display. And he’s usually there for more than just a handful of weeks. If you have two books spine-out in each of 500 stores for eight weeks, how well are you going to do?

Here’s some math on author revenue and units sold. Is selling 1,000 books with the royalties and contract terms offered really worth it? What about 4,000 books? 7,000? Are you going to be in enough stores with a decent placement to get those numbers?

If you’re going to be in thousands and thousands of stores with good placement, and the terms of the contract are reasonable, then, good golly, working with a publisher looks great. But if you’ve got a book that’s good enough to make an editor somewhere want to buy rights to it and the publisher is offering to put you spine-out in a little over a thousand stores with all sorts of contract crap, then Shatzkin’s “best choice” is really a poor one. In those situations my money is on going indie.

EDIT: It seems there are about 12,700 book stores in the USA. But that includes big-box stores, which I think are the Walmarts and Costcos.