Saturday, February 25, 2017

Alexis Fegan Black is Dead

Perhaps Alexis's greatest fault was that she expected the world to be reasonably fair, she expected people to be true to their word, and she believed it when her mother told her the cream rises to the top.

Alexis was very naive.

Having any such expectations from the world today is rather like expecting Donald Trump and his cronies to do something reasonable for the people they pretend to represent. Might as well wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one gets full first.

All of this started when I received a rather snottily worded letter from AO3 (Archive of our Own, for the mercifully uninformed) telling me that my works on the archive were in violation of some obscure (and petty) little "rule" which prohibits "advertising" on the site. (As of this writing, I've just received an email from the same twerp who deleted my works, saying "there can be no mention of any commercial works at all." Nothing like making it up as they go along. Any site that expects authors to contribute FREE material, and then makes it impossible for that author to promote herself, is not a site I would promote, and not a site I would encourage any sane writer to contribute to.)

When I looked at the specific work that had allegedly been reported as offensive, all I could find were the typical mentions any self-respecting author would make in the end notes, as a means to guide readers to her more recent works - such as what might appear on the author's website, blog or her author page on Amazon. I should also point out that the author page on Amazon doesn't sell anything. There are no links to put anything in a cart or buy it now. The author page is nothing more than a listing of the author's works - and a link to that page from the archive seems a tiny price to pay in exchange for the stories and novels I had uploaded for their readers to enjoy, absolutely free of charge. In order to actually buy anything from Amazon, a potential reader would have to click on the title, and only then would they see anything offered for sale. So for the "powers-that-be" (term applied very loosely) at AO3 to make an arbitrary decision that I was attempting to "sell" something on their precious little site is not only ludicrous, but downright stupid in the extreme. Yes, stupid - a word I generally reserve for Irish Setters and anyone with an IQ below 70. Sorry, but if the shoe fits...

When no issue exists, social justice warriors crawl
out from under the rocks in their mommy's basements
to create one. Haven't we all had enough of this?
So here's the thing... when I was asked (no, when I was commanded) to remove all mentions of my website, my Amazon page, my blog, etc., I found the demand so completely unreasonable that I could only laugh at the self-importance of whatever social justice warrior had "complained" in the first place. First of all, I have some serious doubts that there was ever an actual complaint. Reason being - the author is not allowed to confront her accuser, so any half-baked "admin" on the site could simply decide for herself (based on rumors or based on nothing whatsoever) that she was going to make a stink and threaten me with taking down all of my works, even though the complaint was based on only one of my works (Private Possessions).

So I gave it some thought, and made the suggested changes to the novel in question. I removed all potentially-offending links & mentions, tidied up the front and end notes like a good little girl bowing to the whims of some over-zealous spawn of The Entitlement Generation... and then this morning I received notice that all of my works had been removed from the archive. Actually, this comes as no surprise - not even the fact that Private Possessions was also axed, even though it had NO violations of the petty little rules of the petty little dictatorship that apparently runs the petty little archive.

So I guess that makes it personal, right? I mean... if 13 works are in violation, but the 14th is perfectly fine, why would all the works be removed even if one is not violating any precious policies? Yup, I'm going to say it's personal. I'm going to say it's targeted harassment, and I'm absolutely going to say this is just indicative of the kind of crap that caused me to leave fandom many years ago. I know at least a dozen other authors who post direct (and clickable!) links to their websites or their Amazon author page, etc) and never have they been targeted for this kind of harassment which suggests prejudice and possibly even bigotry at a level which defies explanation. I'm a gay woman, after all. Perhaps I should be an SJW in my own right and say I'm being harassed for that. Makes as much sense as anything else.

I had originally chosen to upload my stories (including two long novels!) to the archive as a gift to fandom, to express my love for Star Trek and my appreciation to the fans who read my works for years when I was still producing fanzines back in the dinosaur days before the first social justice warrior crawled out of the belly of a jackal. The real sad thing here is that removing my works from the archive really doesn't hurt me in the least. The ones who are hurt are the fans who clicked on those stories, read them with obvious joy, and left kudos numbering in the thousands. The archive isn't hurting me by removing my works. It's hurting its own readers - and for absolutely No Thing whatsoever.

There were other ways to handle this. For starters, they could just as easily have removed the entire end notes or front notes, if they were so terribly offensive to all those social justice warriors seeking truth, justice and Having Their Way. Hell, I wouldn't have given a fat rat's ass had they done so, since time has proven that the "links" actually served no purpose whatsoever. They certainly didn't increase sales by even a single book that I can tell. They didn't lead to a multi-million dollar movie deal when some lost producer found my novel and realized it was the Holy Grail of possibilities. They did nothing for me, other than maybe give fans a clue as to where to find my other books should they ever have even the vaguest of interest. (No one did that I can tell). So, what was the harm? And why remove the entire work when it would have made far more sense to simply remove the tags some self-righteous twat found offensive?

Yes, I am outraged, because this just dredges up all the reasons I left fandom in the first place. Sure, there are rumors of every description as to what Big Bad Della "did" to fandom. There are just as many stories from people she helped - with their writing, their art, their zine publishing, and so forth. Believe what you will. But the bottom line is that there came a day when I could no longer abide the back-biting, underhanded, duplicitous and outright lying that had become the norm in fandom, rather than the exception.

More times than I can count, unscrupulous zine editors lied to artists and writers in order to get those same writers and artists to write for their zines instead of mine. Unfortunately, most of those writers and artists never even bothered to ask me if the load of crap they were being fed was true. They simply swallowed it, hook, line and sinker, and pledged their allegiance to the liars at the same time they apparently sold their souls to the devil. No great loss - except for them. Because it really only validated what I had come to see over the years - Star Trek was no longer about the values and philosophies put forth on the show, but had apparently lost its true meaning and de-evolved into a shark tank of fangirls who were far more interested in "Shatner's package" than in anything remotely meaningful. Over the years, I watched even the genre of K/S de-evolve from stories about love into nothing more than sexual escapades between two characters who bore absolutely no resemblance to the Kirk and Spock anyone might have recognized.

During that same time period (very late 80s, early 90s) I was also seeing various articles in high profile magazines or newspapers talking about K/S, and occasionally some reporter would even ask the actors about their feelings on the matter. Both Shatner and Nimoy were always very gracious and never came out and said, "Don't do it," but the message was obvious for anyone who bothered to read between the lines. It made them uncomfortable - and who can blame them? It wasn't the fiction, one of them once said, but the artwork - which, let's face it, knew no restrictions. But be that as it may... I began to wonder if perhaps I was trespassing into someone else's life, and I certainly knew I had been trespassing into someone else's characters from the moment I wrote my first Star Trek fan fiction story at the age of eleven. No, it wasn't K/S, just a standard Mary Sue story, but those characters didn't belong to me, and they don't belong to "fandom", despite what many will try to tell you.

But in the big picture, I started having second thoughts about the "moral" implications of all of this. And when I combined that with the changing attitudes I had witnessed in the shark tank of fanzine publishing, I began to truly realize that I no longer wanted to be a part of it in any capacity. I'm certainly no prude. I've written some of the most explicit stuff out there in the world of K/S, and I have no regrets about that. I loved writing K/S, and still have dozens of stories and novels in my head... but I have no desire to write them because 1) I am a dinosaur and the ideals I hold about Star Trek would appear to be every bit as obsolete as the writer; and 2) The universe is ripe with so many possibilities that I don't need to trespass on the characters someone else has striven to bring to life.

There is certainly a split opinion of fan fiction in general. Some authors actively encourage it, while others have placed a "Do Not Touch" sign on their characters. Anne Rice, for example, expressly forbids fan fiction about Louis and Lestat, and personally I not only agree with her decision, I openly applaud it!  Why? Because as a writer, I know how important my original characters are to me, and while I would be flattered that anyone else might want to write about them, I would always feel that someone else's take on my characters would never be my take - and, let's face it, many writers are territorial, and with good reason. No one else can know what's in Anne Rice's head - Lestat is hers to do with as she pleases, and despite the cries of certain members of The Entitlement Generation, he doesn't belong to the world. He belongs to Anne until she says otherwise. Write whatever you want for your own entertainment, but when you start posting it to the internet because you believe you're entitled... maybe better re-think that and read up on copyright laws and what they actually mean.

Off topic, but such are the ramblings of a displaced writer. Let's just say that there came a time when I had to evolve and grow as a writer, or forever stagnate in the fields of fan fiction. And while I truly loved every story or novel I ever wrote as a fan, I don't think it's the be-all and end-all of a writer's career. My own life took a sharp turn to the left around 1992, when we moved to the desert and I embarked on a spiritual journey that truly and literally took me "where no man has gone before."  In order to devote the time and energy required by such an undertaking, I had to give up the pursuits that were no longer advancing me in the direction of my heart's desire. Sure, I still loved Star Trek. Still do. Always will. But I have watched fandom as a whole change (though not necessarily "grow" in any real sense). I'm sad to say that, and I hope I am wrong. I've made some good friends along the way, but I've seen into the dark and twisted hearts of others. I suppose that's true with anything in the world, but for myself, I am choosing to put the Star Trek I love and remember on a shelf, in a glass case, where no harm can come to it.

As for the archive... I can no longer support its "efforts," for I have come to view it as just another petty organization in a petty world. Hypocritical and self-serving at best. The publishers of tens of thousands of illegal works, yet they prohibit legitimate authors from posting a link to their quite legal books and remove an author's entire list of works on what appears to be a personal whim and personal vendetta.

I'm done. Simply. Finally. Absolutely... Done.

So it is without regret that I must announce...

Alexis Fegan Black is Dead.


If you want to read any of my fan fiction stories, a few of them are available on the archive at Fanzines Plus

You can also purchase out of print fanzines at Fanzines Plus.

To access my professional works, including male/male erotica and gay romance, please visit my Amazon Author Page

 Alexis Fegan Black

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Two Brand New Quantum Shaman Books!

Two new releases from Quantum Shaman!


Questions Along the Way: Conversations With a Quantum Shaman
Book 3 in the Quantum Shaman Series
Available from Amazon or directly from

Into the Infinite: Opening the Door to the Unknown
Book 4 in the Quantum Shaman Series
Available from Amazon or directly from

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Effect of Moonlight on Tombstones

Available on Amazon
Also Available from Eye Scry Publications

A dark little collection of poetry gleaned from the gnosis of vampires and songs of the muse. The Effect of Moonlight on Tombstones is Della Van Hise's first full-length book of poetry, spanning more than 25 years of her writing. If you enjoy dark fantasy and gothic grimoires, this is one book you don't want to miss!


Moments Frozen In Time
(A Foreword by the Author)

Poetry has never been something I consciously set out to write. Instead, it is something that comes or not, entirely at the whim of whatever it is that writers call "the muse." Over the years, I have come to think of my own poetry as a form of shorthand - an attempt to capture a moment frozen in time. A wayward leaf caught in mid-fall. A glimpse of a shadow cast by nothing at all. The effect of moonlight on tombstones.

Though I write primarily novels and nonfiction, I do find myself pleasantly haunted by what my mentor once referred to as "the gnosis of vampyres." What does that mean? In essence, I would say it is the voice of silent knowing - the observer within all of us who possesses the ability to see the world clearly, and at times perhaps too clearly. As another dear friend once said, "Poetry is the streaming download from the broken heart of the universe." I have found that to be true, at least in my own humble attempts at the art form.

The poems in this anthology represent approximately two decades of those streaming downloads, most of which were scribbled hastily and in bad penmanship into cloth journals. If I have been at all successful in capturing some of those moments frozen in time, perhaps a line or two will resonate with you, hopefully bringing a smile to your face or a chill to your spine.

At the very least, enjoy the dark side of the light.

Della Van Hise
November 8, 2015


Candles keep journals
of time’s passing
in empty books of matches.


My heart is a haunted room,
sinister sanctuary.
When it breaks,
shattered by your sharp white smile,
all the shadows come leaking out,
phantoms of neverland
loosed on the world of men.

The cemetery lies empty,
pallid headstones only coloring books
for the idle hands of time.

To view all of my books, please consider...

Questions Along the Way - Just Released!

Available in print or digital format
On Amazon

Anyone on a journey of personal growth and enlightenment is sure to come face to face with difficult questions that will keep them awake at night and may even plunge them into the dark night of the soul. In Questions Along the Way, Quantum Shaman Della Van Hise talks frankly with seekers on the path of heart and opens wide the door to a new understanding that lies beyond the false belief systems and cultural programming all of us must confront when emerging from the dark into the light.

Just wanted to let everyone know I've completed the third book in the Quantum Shaman series. "Questions Along the Way" is a compilation of questions I've received over a period spanning more than 20 years - inquiries from seekers who find themselves faced with conundrums that run the gamut from 'Is there a God?' to 'How can I improve my relationships right here and now?'

Much of the work I've done with others on a path of heart - a journey of personal growth, enlightenment and evolution - has been previously scattered over a wide variety of groups, online forums and in-person talks and seminars, so it is my intent with this book to bring many of those questions together in an easily accessible format.  "Questions Along the Way" is available on Amazon, both in digital and print versions, as well as on the Quantum Shaman website.

I hope you will give the book a try, and as always - look me up on Facebook if you would like to follow my ongoing endeavors.  I do plan a second installment of "Questions Along the Way," most likely to be released in 2017. Also, I have another book in the works in the Quantum Shaman series entitled (tentatively) "A Love Affair With the Unknown: True Tales of Otherworldly Encounters," which will be released in January or February of 2016.

As always, thanks for your interest in my work.  May your path be filled with wonder, imagination and freedom.

Many blessings,
Della Van Hise

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bring Your Own Marshmallows

I've decided what I'm going to do for Halloween this year. A bonfire. A big one. I have a free-standing barbeque pit in my back yard - perfect for constructing wood-burning fires, and big enough to accommodate all the copies of my fiction books currently on hand. I estimate there are probably about a hundred books, so it should make for a full evening of roasting weenies and toasting marshmallows and saying goodbye to what I once (foolishly) thought might be my "writing career." Gotta laugh. In reality, of course, one cannot call writing a career, but only an obsolete hobby - at least that is how it has begun to appear in today's "market."

Market.  What market?

I have been doing the fiction writing thaaang for over 35 years, and other than KILLING TIME and a few short stories, I'm sorry to say I have not been especially successful. If I listen to my fans and critics, it's not because I'm not good enough. It's not even because I haven't been especially prolific in the past 10 years (hard to be a full time writer when one actually has to work for a living). It's largely (but not entirely) because the "market" has become glutted with garbage (and most of it actually IS garbage) so that anything with any substance 1) can't be found; and 2) if it IS found, it is generally given a wide berth because the reader has been burned far too many times by all the previous garbage; and 3) even if the book is found and the reader decides to give it a look-inside, chances are high that some clique of trolls has posted so many negative reviews that the reader ends up tucking her tail 'twixt her legs and fleeing in terror. Who can blame her? Certainly not I.

My SO, Wendy Rathbone - who is a seasoned, published professional writer and highly-awarded poet - recently attended a "writer's retreat" in San Diego, which was geared specifically toward the kind of fiction she writes (male/male romance). Aside from the fact that the convention itself was organized in a very peculiar manner (no dealer's room, no place to actually SELL one's books even though readers were there allegedly wanting to BUY books), Wendy had an author signing on Thursday morning (worst possible time, since people are still arriving or won't even show up until the weekend) Not sure whose bright idea that was, but it basically sucks. But no matter...  

After much chaos and fuss to get everything in order, Wendy managed to sell precisely no books whatsoever, even though she had over a dozen titles on her author table, including two brand new ones which just became available this month. She received multiple compliments on the covers, but ultimately it was all for naught. I had originally been scheduled to attend, but as the time approached when I should have been getting in the car, my own "little voices" gave a shrug of screaming indifference and strongly suggested that I stay home with the new puppy and enjoy the rare desert rain. So, as it turned out, my own books weren't even put out (which is no one's fault but my own), but at this point I have no doubt that my sales would have been nada-times-nada as well. As Mr. Spock was fond of saying - "If I drop a hammer on a planet with positive gravity, I don't need to see it fall to know that it has, indeed, fallen."

Lotta truth to that.

Also a lot to be learned from the science of logic. It's one thing to have hope. It's another thing altogether to have false hope. And to be brutally honest with myself - if I haven't made a real dent as a writer in 35 years, logic dictates that I probably ain't gonna. So... no worries, no regrets. Just simply time to put my energy toward something else. Sure - who knows? - maybe I'll start a  new book next week, but right now, I can see no reason to keep writing book after book... only to watch them languish in total obscurity. 

Wendy's words upon returning home from the convention were, "But I had a good time."  Hmmm. The same words spoken by beauty contest runners-up and people who get thrown off the island. That's the difference between Wendy and myself. She's the positive one always finding that golden ray of sunshine and looking to the future, whereas I tend to be the darkling who can predict the future based on the past  - and I must say that the future of writing doesn't look the least bit promising. Wendy is already planning her next novel. And I'm preparing for a bonfire.

Bring your own marshmallows.  (And your own books, if you feel so inclined.)

Being a fickle bitch prone to occasional fits of drama, I reserve the right to change my mind. But right now... I've got a book of matches burning a hole in my pocket.  Bon appetit.

Just a few of the titles that will be smokin' this Halloween!  Get 'em while they're hot! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Indulgences, Negative Pleasantries and "Gaslighting"

A Personal Rant

(Having nothing to do with writing, quantum shamanism, or anything other than my personal observations of life, the universe & everything wedged in the crack in between)

In case of rant, break glass. (Then use it to slit the throats of any idiots standing within 100 yards).

With that said, there is nowhere to begin except in the middle.If you are offended by strong opinions and truth, you may want to go back to looking at pretty pictures on the internet or hook up with your "nice" friends who like to facilitate your ongoing whiny weaknesses that you've been milking for sympathy, attention and financial support all your life. The bottom line here is that a lot of people who call themselves victims also create themselves as victims - and with what turns out to be good reason. Hell, if I'd realized earlier in life that I could get stuff (including full financial and emotional support) by pretending to be sick, injured, mentally ill, or just plain lazy, I might have bought myself one of those patented "Victim Here!" t-shirts and hopped on that bandwagon that never stops at any workplace, and certainly doesn't make any layovers in Reality.

For some, the status of victim brings lots of attention, and you can always roll out that big banner that says (with great big tears), "Don't blame me, I'm the victim!" Well... how about this? How about not choosing to be a victim and watch how your life turns around? I'm not ignoring the fact that some people really are mentally ill or otherwise disengaged from reality - that's absolutely not what I'm ranting about here - but many (if not most) are simply milking the system and their family and friends for every ounce of energy, money, emotional support and whatever else they can get. No, I'm not an unfeeling monster. Yes, I know people who are legitimately "victims" of life. But I also know a lot of people who fall under the heading of Energy Vampire - and that's a vocation, not just an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Where is all of this coming from? you might wonder. Life experience, for starters, but also from a lot of stuff that makes the rounds on the internet from time to time. I'm simply tired of keeping quiet when it has become an epidemic of entitlement, self-indulgence and self-pity. In reality, most people choose to be the victim because - let's face it - it's a lot easier than being strong, much easier than standing on your own two feet, and a helluva lot easier than thinking for yourself. It's much easier to blame others in the aftermath of your failures, as opposed to taking the bull by the horns and living from the vantage point of your own strengths (and you have those strengths - believe me, everyone does!) So when someone whines about how they have "been a victim all their life," it just makes me want to grab them and shake them and ask them why on earth (or any other planet) they would choose to passively allow their weaknesses to rule their lives, while ignoring their strengths.

Most victims aren't born. They are (self) made.

I recently read an article about "gaslighting" - but to be honest here, a lot of it sounded to me like the author was trying to assign blame for every sleight she had received in her life. If your family is comprised of assholes and homophobic rednecks, why are you still there? If you're an adult, you can walk away (yes, it will be hard, but that's why you learned to walk). If you're a child, you (hopefully) have been schooled in the fact that you can report physical or psychological abuse to the authorities (teachers, police, priests - well, scratch that last one...). Bottom line - if you're willingly standing in the shit line, don't whine! If you need help, get it - report the abusers or simply walk away. It doesn't matter if they're your family members, your best friends or a stranger on the street.  If you really feel you are being victimized, get the fuck out of Dodge. What are you waiting for?

But on the other side of that coin... whether you decide to stay or go, don't then turn around and blame everyone but yourself. Don't run your passive-aggressive self-victimization performance on those who have been trying to help you for years despite what you might prefer to believe. I've had more than my fair share of people (mostly emotionally needy women) come into my life as "friends" but as time wears on (more than 30 years in some cases) it has a tendency to turn toxic when I begin to realize that these women who sought me out for my strength (their words) are now blaming me for their own weaknesses. Or, more precisely, they are defending their right to be weak, and annoyed that I see it.

This has happened to me at least 3 times, and not in any minor way. In my early 20s, a woman in fandom (who was twice my age, married with children and seemingly settled in life) attached herself to me under the guise of being a friend/mentor. For awhile, it was fun - having an older friend who shared my same interests (Star Trek, fan conventions, writing, etc), but it wasn't long before things turned weird. I suppose that all started when she would come to my house on weekends, half drunk and out of her mind on prescription pain pills, and begin to throw herself at me as if we were lovers. And this was with her two young boys tagging along for the ride - inappropriate, to say the very least.

At first, I thought I was mistaken - being young and naive allows one to live in a state of quasi-denial - but when she would unroll about a foot of tongue into my ear and call me "Baby," I started to get the idea that it was a great deal more weird than I had originally imagined. Of course, I'm no stranger to same-gender pairings (I've been with the same woman for over 35 years), so one time I responded... only to later be accused of raping her (even though the "relationship" never went any further than a kiss, and not even a memorable one at that). Bottom line - her strict Catholic upbringing wouldn't allow her to realize she was actually a Lesbian, and so her only recourse was to violently and vehemently blame the person she had been trying to seduce for months. Chalk one up to Crazyville.

Is that "gaslighting" on my part? I don't think so, though I'm sure I've been accused of that under more than one trendy psyche term over the years. Point being - it was to her advantage to play the victim. Got her lots of sympathy from people who blindly believed her, and made it easier for her to run back and forth from the east coast to the west and keep a "Baby" in every port (or so she originally hoped). Smart. And hardly a victim if you look at it with clarity rather than blind emotional empathy for the one who always whines the loudest. She created her own reality through her own actions. She simply skipped over first year physics, wherein we learn that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words... consequences. If this, then that... it ain't rocket science.

There have been other incidents, more recent and, frankly, even more unbelievable. A friend of over 30 years abruptly decided to write me a "Go fuck yourself" email  - which was probably not a bad idea under the circumstances, seeing as how any real "friendship" ended long ago as a result of her own inexplicable actions (not once, not twice, but dozens of times).  Though in all fairness to myself, I'd have to say that her agenda in finally breaking it off  is every bit as transparent as her behavior over the past three decades. It becomes impossible for any real friend to remain supportive when you have seen through the facades and the childish, immature, self-indulgent games. So the only way to protect herself from the potential scrutiny of her family members and other mutual friends was to make a "first strike" tactical maneuver and label me as the tyrant, thus allowing herself to go right on playing the role of the victim to those who do buy into the charades. *shrugs*  I don't take it personally. It's just business. If those closest to her knew the real truth about her agendas and her manipulations, she would stand to lose a lot more than she will lose by just unfriending me out of her life. Hell, I don't even blame her. Just wish she would stand on her strengths instead of always falling back on her weaknesses. Tried to tell her that a few times, which is probably why I am now the poster child for her dart board. *lol*

Another long-time friend (over 30 years) also recently told me to go fuck myself.  Damn - I'm starting to need a tube o' lube for all that self-abuse I'm being told to inflict on myself, but that's okay. I'd rather fuck myself than most other humans these days, so now all I need is a new bunch of D-cells. They get the job done and don't write me nasty emails in the morning.  The thing is... the consistent complaint in these last two cases ultimately boils down to... "You're not giving me enough attention."  If I boil away all of the other self-indulgent and self-entitled whining and attempts to twist reality (of which both are true masters), that's it in a nutshell. In both cases, I was essentially told that I wasn't playing the game right. I didn't say blue is my favorite color (because it's purple). I wouldn't tell them it's okay to say one thing and do the opposite (that's what a yes-man does, not what a friend does). I just wasn't playing the game the way they wanted to play it, and that was enough to get me thrown off the field. That's okay - I'm not invested in those games anymore anyway. Happy to know that the only winning move is not to play. Happier still not to need consensual agreements with pretenders.

And yet, I always ask myself, "Self, is it you?" Am I a bad friend? Am I a bad person? Am I a bad influence?

I honestly don't think so, and neither does anyone who really knows me. (I've asked.)  I'm strongly opinionated (who isn't?). I have my own ideas about the meaning of life. If you want to discuss them, ask me. If you want me to change those ideas to suit your notions... ask yourself why you so desperately need me to agree with you. What it really seems to come down to is a bad case of false expectations - and it's easy to play the victim when you think someone owes you something, even if in your own mind. The whole thing about "gaslighting" as it is being discussed on the internet usually isn't about real mental abuse. It's just life. Not everyone is going to agree with you. Not everyone is going to like you. And very very few people are going to love you. Why you would think everyone owes that to you is what might need to be examined.

Keep this in mind... when someone accuses you
of "gaslighting," they may not realize
that by pointing a finger at YOU,
there are 4 other fingers
pointing back in their own direction.
 In common English, it's also known
as the cat calling the dog a hairbag. 
People have disagreements all the time, but in today's world that seems to mean crying mental abuse and running to your friends and family in the hopes they will agree with you and give you all that "Oh poor baby" attention you seem to need-need-need so very desperately.  As far as I can see, in most (not all, but most) cases, what that really points to is just one more manifestation of the very thing the "victim" is crying foul about in the first place. In other words - instead of standing up for yourself, you turn and blame everyone but yourself (making yourself the victim in the process), often pointing the finger at the people whom you know full well have seen through your games and your manipulations. Deny it all you want. Turn and point the finger at someone else if that's what you need to do - but it won't change who you are, and it won't get you any closer to who you might want to be. It's just one more diversionary tactic, one more dive into the depths of your own self-deception rather than any attempt to climb the very real ladder of your strengths. And if you want to accuse me of "gaslighting" for that, you go right ahead. Maybe it will make you sleep better. Maybe it won't. But one thing is true: you created your own reality and now you are living in it. You know the truth about yourself (and so do 99% of the people you mistakenly believe you've been fooling).

There are all sorts of other tangents I could go off on. Okay, you talked me into it.  In the same vein as "gaslighting", let's talk about triggering - another buzz word that's gained popularity in social media and especially in fannish circles. Back in the day of the first fan fiction, nobody would have thought to worry about being "triggered." The word didn't exist. But no matter. What it comes down to is that some people are so overly sensitive that they request - no, they demand - to be warned about anything and everything that might maybe possibly probably "trigger" an emotional response. And, well, frankly I find that a bit... er... crazy. (Hope that doesn't trigger anybody, but I'm sure it probably maybe possibly certainly will).

I mean - let's get real. If you are reading fan fiction - particularly male/male or gay romance "slash" - chances are very high that nearly any such story may contain something that is going to trigger somebody somewhere. Granted, if the story contains a violent rape with a Wile E. Coyote as the perp and the roadrunner as the victim, maybe I could understand. But here's a little fact that will probably rattle a few cages and trigger a few hate mails - but it can be validated if anybody wants to go look.  I have posted several of my old Star Trek K/S fanfic stories on Archive of Our Own, and the ones that get the MOST hits and the HIGHEST kudos counts are the very ones that have "non-con" sexuality, or - gasp - feature one or the other of the characters as a sex slave with induced amnesia.

So let's be honest - do people want to be "warned" about non-con, or do they just want to get off on it? Doesn't matter to me either way - but here's another thing. If you know you are uber sensitive to rape stories or death stories or stories in which boy-meets-sheep, boy-loses-sheep, boy-eats-sheep... then why on Earth are you even reading in a genre where you might run across that?  Do you expect pro authors like Anne Rice to warn you about all that naughty sex in those Beauty books? Do you expect Stephen King to tell you somebody is going to tango with an ax on page 329? What do you expect - and why do you even expect it? Where is it written that you must be coddled and protected, when you are going out of your way to read the kind of material that might trigger your triggers? Isn't that rather... um... naive? And entitled? And... well... here's that word again... crazy?

If you don't like what I'm saying here, that's fine. Unfriend me. Tell me to go fuck myself (I'm starting to enjoy it). But by all means... don't try to blame me if you are twisting yourself up inside because you enjoy the wringer. It's called negative pleasantries - getting off on being weak or indulgent or entitled. Sure - you can do that and maybe even feel righteously justified in those beliefs. But somewhere inside yourself... you do know the truth. And that is what's really eating you up inside.


Just to be perfectly clear... my comments here are entirely personal observations, and I intend no disrespect to anyone who is genuinely victimized, mentally ill or emotionally damaged. Life happens. Bad things happen to good people. My comments here are wholly in response to what I see as a dangerous trend toward painting oneself as a victim instead of turning and embracing the real strengths you have earned through your own life experience. In at least 95% of all cases, you aren't the victim unless you choose to adopt that label. You are the most powerful being in the universe. Prove it! Not to me, but to yourself.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Interesting Times?

As anyone who is serious about writing already knows, we are living under the shadow of an ancient Chinese curse:  "May you live in interesting times."

Where the writing/publishing industry is concerned, there has never been a period of greater change and upheaval than we are now encountering. The rules are changing by the second, it seems, and what was right yesterday is wrong today, and at this point I'm not even sure how much of the current "trending" is even legal (but that's another can o' worms to be opened at another time by far more qualified people in nice suits).  My purpose here is to shed some light on current trends and ask writers and readers alike what they think of it all? My secondary purpose is to appeal directly to Amazon - asking them to specifically consider whether or not the new pay-for-pages-read policy is going to be a money-maker or a potential albatross.

As many of you already know, Amazon has recently unveiled its intent to begin (as of July 1, 2015) paying indie authors for "pages read."  (To read a more fact-based article, please visit... The Telegraph.  There are also lots of interesting (and occasionally heated) comments following the actual article, which are also worth considering.

When I first heard about this, I was understandably confused, but also more than a little concerned. On the one hand, I said to myself, maybe this could be GOOD for good authors, in the sense that readers can generally tell by 20 pages or so into a book whether or not it is 1) going to hold their attention; or 2) reads like it was written by a dyslexic first grader; or 3) is not at all what it was hyped up to be in the product description.  So, from that perspective, I thought maybe GOOD books would find their way to the top (like cream floating), but then I realized... there are a lot of OTHER things that also float... and some of 'em aren't very pleasant-smellin'.

Part of the "logic"  to this new policy is that it will theoretically (but, hey, it was once an accepted "theory" that the earth is flat, but never mind...) pay more to authors who write well-crafted novels of a reasonable length (50,000 words or more), and "punish" scammers who write 10-pages and charge the same as legitimate writers. Okay - good theory. But... when you look at it more closely, it's probably nothing so altruistic at the core of it.

So when I began looking into the actualities of this new pay-for-pages-read idea, what it really boils down to is that even the very best writers are going to end up receiving less because it's a fact that a LOT of people have opted in to the "Prime" program (aka "Kindle Unlimited") and the word "unlimited" means precisely that. For $9.99/month, folks can download as many books, movies and music as they want. And what that means is that a lot of people are going to essentially "buy" books that they may or may not ever read.  In months past, the actual sales of my books outnumbered the Kindle Unlimited (Prime) copies 2 to 1, or more. Now... quite the opposite. More people are "borrowing" through Prime than those who are actually purchasing the Kindle books. What this means is that most of my royalties are (or were) coming through the Kindle Unlimited avenue, and those royalties will undoubtedly dwindle dramatically because - let's face it, folks - people are fickle. Instead of buying a book for $2.99, they will download it through their Prime service, and if they never even open it, the writer never sees a dime, even though the reader has the full book at their disposal. Seems kinda... weird?

Okay, so maybe they will read it. Or maybe they will only read 10 pages because, ultimately, people place very little value on things they did not really "buy". It's kinda like being handed a library card with an unlimited number of check-outs, no expiration date, and no obligation, so the books sit on the cybershelf gathering dust because there is simply no incentive to read them. They were "free" after all, and so they are without value in the minds of most.

When I contacted Amazon directly through our publishing company (Eye Scry Publications) to express my concern, here is a transcript of what transpired.

Eye Scry Publications wrote:
Subject: Paying for Pages Read?

Your new policy of paying writers only for "pages read" is more scary than not. When I opted in to KU and KOLL, that policy was never mentioned. Then, suddenly, writers were only paid if the reader got 10% into the book.  Now... THIS?  I have to ask - is the same policy being applied to movies and music purchased/borrowed through Prime? If a customer only watches 10% of a movie, is the motion picture company only paid 10%

The problem here is that - as always - writers are being short-changed as a way for the company  to make more money. Clearly, the company is offering a service to its customers for $9.95/month and since the service has now become popular, writers are being used to make up the difference - which is completely unfair, especially since most of my titles were opted in long BEFORE this practice was instated.

Yes, I know I can opt out (and I probably will). But I wanted to try to negotiate FIRST, since I have always SUPPORTED Amazon's treatment of writers and indie publishers. If I went into a book store and bought a book just for one recipe, I still expect to pay for the WHOLE book, and I expect the writer to receive FULL royalties.

If you have "oversold" your "Prime" program, you need to raise your price to customers rather than trying to take it out of the pockets of writers. Without writers, Amazon would not exist as it does today.  Please consider that. And thank you for listening.
Amazon's response...
From Amazon:
I'm very sorry for any frustration this has caused.
I understand you're concerned about the recent change in our KDP Global Fund calculation for KU/KOLL borrows.
Please know, we're making this switch from July 1, 2015, in response to great feedback we’ve received from authors who have asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read.
In the current payment method, when a Kindle Unlimited customer chooses your book for the first time and reads more than 10% of it, their choice qualifies toward royalty payment for you. Though, the borrow will be counted only if the customer reads 10% of your book, you'll receive the payment for a complete borrow, not only 10% payment on the borrow.
Rest assured that, even if it takes the customer some time to read your book, we'll still pay you for the pages they read once they read them. For instance, if a customer borrowed a 200 pages book on July, and reads 20 pages in the same month, then the publisher will receive the share of KDP Global Fund for 20 pages on the month of July. Further, if the customer is reading the remaining pages in the September, the publisher will be paid for the remaining pages on September, and the publisher will not lose out the payment for any pages that read by the customer for the first time.
In some cases, the customer’s device might not be online, but once they connect, the pages they read will be counted. You will also be able to see total pages read and dollars earned from the KDP Select Global Fund in your Prior Months’ Royalties report.
However, I understand your concern and I've passed along your comments to our developers. We definitely value your opinion and will continue to listen and respond to our publisher’s concerns. We will make every effort to evaluate the information you have provided, and try our level best to lead it to program changes or enhancements.
It is always important for us to hear how publishers react to all aspects. Your feedback will help us to improve the selection and service we provide and we're glad you took time to write to us.
We look forward to support you as always.
Thanks for the understanding and using Amazon KDP.
It just seems to me (and many other writers I've spoken to) that this whole new policy is unnecessarily complex. If readers buy (or borrow) a book that they don't want, they have a very reasonable length of time to return it (yes, even digital books). That aside, I also find myself not completely trusting the software tasked with keeping track of how much a reader actually reads from here to eternity.  Seeing as how I get all sorts of ads for Viagra and penis enlargement strategies (and I'm not even of the male persuasion) it seems highly unlikely to me that computers can REALLY track whether a reader reads 10 pages or 12 or 2.5.  Big Brother is watching you? Really? Seems that Big Brother may be a bit myopic, since I also get ads thanking me for supporting the Republican Party (not!) and letters of appreciation from my own cell phone service provider thanking me for "choosing FiOS" (not!).

Ultimately, It's ALWAYS a case of "follow the money." I'm pretty sure Amazon doesn't work for free, so why is it expecting writers to essentially place their books in the Kindle Unlimited program and then NOT get paid. When the program was first launched, I opted in based on the contract at that time - and now that contract has been severely altered (more than once) to such a degree that it has gone from paying authors for their work to... well... figuring out ways not to pay authors for their work  Yes, writers and publishers can opt out of the Kindle Unlimited program and have their books only for actual sale, but in so many ways that seems like a drastically unfair alternative, since it is beginning to appear that there are more Amazon customers on the "Prime" program than those who might actually buy a book (even an e-book) outright. Cutting off nose to spite face... hmmm... is that really the only option here, or should Amazon perhaps reconsider this new policy? Surely there are other, more reasonable and viable solutions?

Instead of trying to punish scammer-writers who publish 10-pages of drivel, why not make a minimum-length requirement for books published on Kindle Unlimited? If you're going to call it a book, maybe it has to be a minimum of 100 pages or 30,000 words. And then there's the matter of quality-control - which is another issue for another time going off in another direction altogether, but it seems to me that a lot of GOOD writers are being buried in the mountain of garbage because there does not appear to be a way to auto-scan a book for "This is pure crap." I'm not talking about matters of taste. I'm talking about books that are one long paragraph, no punctuation, no comprehension of language, just run-on drivel that belongs (at best) in a 12-year-old's private diary and not on Amazon. Considering all the other cyber-spy technology, seems reasonable that some sort of quality-control software could and should exist.

Writing is an artform and also a creative right. But let's face it - much of what is written simply doesn't need to be out there for public consumption. In fact, since print-on-demand technology became easily accessible and the world opened up to "indie digital books," every other person I meet introduces themselves as a writer, when the harsh reality is that 99.9% of them have never sold a book professionally. Don't get me wrong - I'm not an advocate for traditional publishing. I've been screwed once too often through that avenue, but at the same time I see so many problems with indie publishing that I am inclined to conclude... we do indeed live in "interesting times."

I've also come to the conclusion that trying to make a living as a writer in today's world is ludicrous folly unless you happen to get struck by cyber-lightning for no reason anyone can discern. Mainstream publishers have cut advances and royalties to writers to such a degree that it would be professional suicide to go with traditional publishing, and now Amazon appears to be looking for ways to short-change writers as well. Personally, I think ALL writers should go on strike and just start asking, "Would you like fries with that?" Not a pleasant idea, but maybe the only realistic one. I'm tired of giving everything away to corporations who seem to think writers OWE it to them to line their pockets while our own bills go unpaid. It's absurd - but what can be done?

Then again - I just heard yesterday about Taylor Swift  forcing Apple to change its mind about its notion to give away a new streaming subscription service (free for 3 months, they say!). It was the fact that they would not be paying artists during those 3 months for any items streamed for free that caused a kerfuffle... and that's when Taylor Swift gave them a Swift kick... and good for her!  Too bad the writing world doesn't have someone of her stature to take this bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground! Any volunteers?

While I have always supported Amazon's treatment of indie authors and publishers, I am imploring them to reconsider this new policy, because it is really a poke in the eye to legitimate writers. If you want to punish the bad guys, Amazon, then punish the bad guys. The rest of us really are doing the work and the art we love, and when a writer and publisher can come together in a mutually beneficial arrangement, there's no limit to what can happen. Your new pay-for-pages-read policy may look good on paper, but the reality of it leaves a lot to be desired. There must be better alternatives.