Two thoughts about the future U.S. Supreme Court

We come in peace to replace Antonin Scalia with Gort.

We come in peace to replace Antonin Scalia with Gort.

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Humans get justice at the Supreme Court. How about some justice for me?

The passing of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia last weekend turned national politics on its head. Not only will Americans elect a new president, but the Senate will debate the future direction of the highest court in the land. The situation makes me wake up in the middle of the night with meme ideas. What fun! Here’s what comes to mind.

Why homemade Valentines Day cards are a bad idea

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Mulder: I worked really hard on your Valentine’s card. Scully: I know. Mulder: The glitter. The little pink hearts. The pop-up flying saucer. Scully: I was fine until ‘Let’s do an alien three-way.’ Mulder: I can’t make you happy.

Be careful if you decide to make your own Valentines Day card for your honey today. Or at least leave the creativity to the little kids. They’re so much cuter than the awkward adults.

Star Trek 50th: Plomeek Soup? Again?

Kirk, Spock, plomeek soup

I suppose you’re going to make plomeek soup again.

The original Star Trek series marks the 50th anniversary of its first broadcast on September 8. It was just three weeks after my seventh birthday, but the series soon had a profound affect on my perceptions of popular culture. I don’t think I’d be who I am without Star Trek in my life. I’ll be posting my own interpretations of a half-century of “where no man has gone before” over the next months, maybe years. Let me know what you think!

For the uninitiated: Plomeek soup is a Vulcan comfort food that appears in the episode Amok Time, in which Mr. Spock suffers a Vulcan version of (sexist trigger warning) PMS.

A Tale of Disappointment and Two Endings

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You killed my favorite character in your book. It’s like you killed my favorite bunny.

Spoilers ahead, including details of book endings

You’ve invested days, maybe weeks of time in a relationship, but at the end, you’re disappointed. It happens in real-life relationships, and it happens to readers invested in a novel’s characters. Fortunately, the latter is a rare thing, but when it happens, it can be a gut punch. I was stunned by the ending of a book by one of my favorite authors, John le Carré, who’s best known for his espionage novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Le Carré has a storytelling style that reminds me of peeling layers off an onion while blindfolded. It’s a labyrinthine journey of discovery.

Disappointment with Le Carré descended on me while I was listening to the last few minutes of an audiobook version of Our Kind of Traitor, the author’s 22nd novel. It’s the story of a young Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend, who vacation on the island of Antigua and meet Dima, a Russian millionaire who came by his wealth by less-than-honest means. The plot focuses on a plan to rescue him and his family from the Russian mafia by giving him a new life in England. In exchange, he promises to tell investigators everything he knows about his money-laundering ways, betraying his criminal colleagues. Continue reading

What happens when you remodel your social media platform

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The writerly life is no longer just about writing stories, if it ever was.

If I were to list personal predictions for 2016, they wouldn’t include an email from an agent or publisher with a contract for one of my books. 2015 looked pretty hopeful for Carbon Run, with encouraging words from one agent, who suggested stronger interest if I’d only have a professional editor go over the manuscript. I’ve done that—twice—and the agent has gone silent, even after a couple of pings. Subsequent submissions to other agents have resulted in rejections or more silence. That means I’m facing a choice to keep submitting it to agents and publishers or self-publish the novel myself. I’d rather do the former, but I’m ready to do the latter.

Either way, I’ll need to build a marketing platform. Do I have to do it even if a publisher buys the novel? Yes. There’s a persistent myth among aspiring authors that once a publisher picks up your work, all you have to do is sit back and watch the royalties roll in. That may be true with the top 1 percent of revenue-generating authors, but for the 99 percent like you and me, you’re on your own as far as marketing is concerned. The main things that publishers bring to the table these days are distribution to bookstores, access to top-tier reviewers (really a marketing tactic), and the imprimatur of a brand in the case of the major publishers. In the case of independent authors, well, you have to do EVERYTHING except run the press. Continue reading

How a flu shot got me thinking about memes

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For the love of God, Fred. No one wants to see your Angela Merkel impressions.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of ways to make my blog more “likeable,” which is a way of saying “less boring.” It’s a well-established fact of online life that outrageous gets attention and traffic, but my posts tend to be on the ponderous side, mostly because I’m not very good at provoking reactions or ranting about every little thing. My writing voice isn’t suited to it. When I do write a rant, I feel that I just look angry, which doesn’t win friends or followers.

I’ve also got an instinctive aversion to self-promotion, a vital skill for a self-published author. My reluctance comes from a very old-fashioned value that regards ostentatious emotional displays as unseemly and distasteful. Talking about yourself too much is a sign of an ego out of control. It’s fine for politicians and celebrities, but not for ordinary people. None of this works to my benefit in a media environment where ego rules, and one has to shout like a maniac to be heard. Continue reading